Pullbox Reviews: Starside #3- Alien invasion, crazy superpowers, & a fast-shooting pilot…

  • Starside #3
  • Created & Written by Dylan Klein & Lane Brettschneider
  • Illustrated & Lettered by Jordan Chao
  • Follow Team Starside on
  • Issue 3 coming soon to Kickstarter (issues 1 & 2 will be available as well, in print & digital)

Starside is an independent sci-fi/fantasy comic series about 16-year-old Jack who is ripped away from his life on Earth and taken deep into the universe where he discovers interplanetary slavers, a crusading army, and the origins of Humanity.

On a day that started out like every other before it, Jack got out of bed & got ready for school. He said goodbye to his sick sister Abigail, made it to the bus stop on time, and stressed out about his Italian class. Jack’s best friend Reese (who’s doing just fine in Italian but isn’t happy with chemistry) gave him a hard time about asking Jen out on a date, and then the aliens attacked with overwhelming technical superiority which pretty much crushed all resistance. The world spun on.

That’s pretty much how the first issue of Starside felt, beginning with a very slice of life tone before taking such a sharp turn that I almost fell off the couch. From issue 1 into issue 2, Jack & Reese escaped from the initial assault on their town only to find themselves caught in the middle of a much more widespread invasion. The two are separated and Jack is captured, branded, herded aboard a spaceship, and launched into the vast outer reaches of space. On the ship he meets Mary and Mitch, a pair of fellow prisoners who, during their capture, discovered that they’d developed what could only be described as super powers: Mary is able to project force shields while Mitch can create fierce bursts of fire. The second issue ends in a semi-successful escape attempt as the powerful teens take out their captors, but crash the ship onto an alien planet. Cut off from any other survivors, Jack is alone and stranded on a strange new world.

Riggs is a fast-talking, fast-shooting pilot making his way through a brutal galaxy made up of countless alien species. It’s obviously not a pleasant place and leaves no room for weakness or complacency as the inhabitants are sharply divided into the have nots & the want to takes. Everything you have is only yours so long as you can hold onto it, and opportunity doesn’t knock so much as kick. Riggs seems to understand this, and when he’s literally knocked to the floor by Jack- who’s trying to once again evade capture- he’s given a choice: do the smart thing and allow this strange, defenseless alien creature to be taken prisoner, or… y’know, the other thing.

Issue 3 spins the story on its ear as readers are abruptly introduced to Riggs trying to score parts for his ship. The shift in perspective was a little surprising, jumping from Jack to Riggs without so much as a “so anyway, suddenly” by way of explanation, but in an odd way it kinda worked. Where the first two issues were pretty much the standard alien invasion shtick, issue three starts to open the world(s) of Starside to a much greater degree. Doing so suddenly and without preamble also worked in that it tosses the reader into the middle of a life in progress, giving the chance to start working things out & coming to an understanding of the story on their own.

Another thing that happened in issue #3 is that it felt like writers Dylan Klein & Lane Brettschneider started to hit their stride in how they wanted to tell their story. Over the first two issues, things felt a little clunky and the dialogue seemed a little forced as Klein and Brettschneider worked to introduce readers to a world populated by people who already had lives in progress. On the one hand, the introductions were successful in that characters were portrayed as people who already had things going on and places to be, without sitting around waiting for a reader to come along and open their book. On the other, some of the dialogue read a little stiffly, possibly due to the writers skipping past the learning curve and trying to portray established personalities from the start. The third installment seemed to run its course more smoothly, the action and situations a little more under control.

So with everything Starside has going on in its pages a mere three issues in, it’s pretty plain that an artist is going to have a lot on their plate. Jordan Chao handles it in a rough-hewn style that relies heavily on single-shaded environments with splashes of contrast to single out the highlights in any given scene. I can’t really come up with a suitable comparison to Chao’s work, other than to suggest that there are early hints of Mignola in the stylized designs, or maybe Bruno Hidalgo who’s done some great work on indie titles like Heavenly Blues (Scout Comics) & Gryffen (Starburns Industries & ComiXology Digital Firsts). I used the word “rough”, but that’s not saying that Chao is just bustling along without an eye to details. That’s not even close, because holy crap are there ever details to be seen in Starside. Chao just sticks to what’s important in the line work, hitting on specifics in a given section to keep the reader moving along whether it’s polished or not. Then it’s off to the next panel through the use of some interesting layouts. Reading some of these pages was a little like getting off a boat (or spaceship) in the middle of a huge metropolis. The inexperienced eye has a LOT to take in, but the action doesn’t stop for your benefit. Keep up or you’re gonna miss something.

I’ve got to give a thank you to Lane Brettschneider for sending Starside my way. Fans of a solid, linear story told in a neat & tidy singular perspective are gonna want to keep moving. If you’re more interested in a story that makes you work for it a little, with artwork that puts more emphasis on a grim & gritty sci fi world than clean lines, you might want to take a hop over to the Kickstarter page where issue three is currently in full swing.

Final Score: 8

Issue 1 cover
Issue 2 cover
Team Starside, getting their hustle on…
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