Peter Parker in Space: Stan Lee’s ‘Starborn’ #6

Stan Lee loves the everyman. He loves the idea of the ordinary guy becoming extraordinary. Many of his creations, including Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk are great examples of that. His newest brainchild, Starborn treads the same waters.

Bearing his new weapon, a mysterious gauntlet, aspiring but struggling writer Benjamin Warner is literally thrust into an alien world straight from his imagination (or so he thought). The sixth issue of Lee’s latest superhero creation picks up right where the last issue leaves off, pitting Benjamin against several oversized alien beasts on a mining colony where even the enslaved humans he’s trying to save fear him. The question is why.

Eventually captured, Benjamin is rescued by Tara, his only childhood friend and his seemingly untouchable dream girl – as he has recently discovered – that has sworn to be his lifetime protector as a shape-shifting warrior from another world; one that he, in fact, created in his sci-fi stories. Not really. It’s actually his long-forgotten past. Try to keep up.

As more secrets begin to unfold, Benjamin is confronted by unwelcome news that alters his perception of who he is and what he’s meant to do.

The character of Benjamin harkens back to some of Lee’s greatest creations. He’s insecure, a daydreamer, and yearns for the woman he can’t have. Sounds a lot like Peter Parker. It sounds like a lot of people.

What’s fun about Starborn is that it gives the reader a chance to live vicariously through the main character as he gets to live out his fantasies, discovering what’s imaginary and what’s real.

The way Roberson draws on Benjamin’s childhood in the beginning of the book says a lot about our reluctant hero and his relationship with the beautiful yet dangerous Tara. She’s similar to Mary Jane Watson of Spider-Man fame; besides living next door to Benjamin during their childhood, she can appear to be confident yet holds a hint of vulnerability as the full extent of her character slowly begins to reveal itself.

If Benjamin learns to come into his own, I see a role-reversal of classic proportions in the not-too-distant-future; Tara will be the one who needs protection, in more ways than one. If I’m right, this could seem predictable, which would be true. But, it would also fall under a classic romantic scenario that’s imitates real life. After all, in relationships, everyone needs saving every now and then. Besides, Benjamin is the kind of character we’re rooting for to win the girl because, in reality, he’s us.

Speaking of classic, Randolph’s graphics are simple yet eloquent with bold line usage that accentuate the sleek looks of Benjamin’s and Tara’s oversuits as well as varying degrees of motion, which offers a slight hint of the old Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s. If you look closely and use just a bit of imagination, you might notice that during Benjamin’s childhood flashback, his spacefaring hero costume looks a bit like that of Flash Gordon’s, which is a fun little Easter egg surprise.

Beyond space travel, shape-shifting, weapons-bearing oversuits and lots and lots of aliens, Starborn, like many other successful comic books, is about forging relationships, confronting one’s past and discovering one’s true potential. If the current storyline is any indication of future issues, then Starborn is well on its way to becoming another Stan Lee classic.

RATING 7 / 10