Starman Secret Files Retro Review

Reviewed by: Mathan Erhardt
Story Title: Talking with Ted… Talking with Jack

Written by: James Robinson
Penciled by: Lee Weeks & Phil Jimenez
Inked by Robert Campanela & Phil Jimenez
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Jon Babcock
Edited by: Archie Goodwin & Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics

So one day, years ago I walked into the comic shop down the block from my then place of employment with and extra ten dollars burning a hole in my pocket. I perused the stands looking desperately for something so spend this money on. Something caught my eye.

I can’t say exactly what it was. I had the Batman Secret Files, and I enjoyed it. But I can’t say it lead me to pick up Starman Secret Files. I can’t say I knew anything about Starman before I picked up the issue. I knew Will Payton. But I also knew this wasn’t Will Payton. “Didn’t this book launch with Zero Hour? What good came from Zero Hour?”

Who knows why I picked the book up. The point is, I did. And at that moment I fell in love with Opal City and it’s cast of characters.

The issue tells two stories simultaneously. While getting a tattoo Jack discusses his father, Ted Knight, with his tat artist. And Ted tells Jack’s girlfriend Sadie, about Jack Knight. This features perhaps the most natural recounting of origins I have ever read, and I have been reading comics for a couple of decades. The divulging of information never seems forced. It just flows.

And even regular readers of the series learn a thing or two. We see some of Ted and Jack’s numerous confrontations. We also learn why each one thinks the other resents them. But in the end we learn that they are both proud of each other. This is a great issue.

In addition to the profile pages, and the timeline pages (as was customary at the time) we are treated to more pages from Shade’s Journal, a map of Opal, and the blueprint of Jack’s Cosmic Rod. I’m getting nostalgic just flipping through it.

Robinson is a great writer. He crafted an origin tale that doesn’t seem forced, which is difficult, but he also made it seem realistic. Anyone who has had ink done knows that you have to talk during the procedure. And what girlfriend wouldn’t pump the family for information about her beau? Some thought also went into the profile pages. Whereas other profile pages seem like just regurgitated pieces of information, these are ripe with minor details that make it obvious that they were a labor of love. The Shade’s journal of prose is another aspect of Robinson’s talent. He can write a journal, in character.

The art is equally splendid. Lee Weeks is an under appreciated talent in my opinion. His work on the story about Ted Knight looks truly amazing. He certainly captures the era. And the slash of Ted above Opal should be a poster. As should Jimenez’s splash of Jack above Opal. Jimenez is a talent. His detailed work is so beautiful. Lee Loughridge’s name pops up in many of my reviews, and to me the name has become synonymous with quality. The profile pages by Tony Harris, J.H. Williams III, Mick Gray, and Wade Von Grawbadger all match the consistency of the book, but what else would one expect from series regulars. And Tony’s map of Opal makes me wish I could visit.

If you only buy one Secret Files and Origins is should be Starman. Where some Secret Files and Origins seem like just rehashed material, this one feels simultaneously a stand-alone and a vital part of the series.