Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Darkstar and The Winter Guard #1 (of 3)

David Gallaher & Steve Ellis

I've always liked Darkstar.  She may be an odd character to like out of the billions of obscure superheroes out there, but I think it was an appearance on X-Men: The Animated Series that sealed the deal for me.  She seemed badass, had cool powers and was a great visual.  So, of course, I picked up the first series featuring her alongside her Russian superhero teammates in the Hulk: Winter Guard one-shot last year, and really, really enjoyed it.  I'm very happy that David Gallaher chose to pluck her out of obscurity to feature in a Marvel comic, and I'm glad that that initial one-shot was successful enough to warrant another mini-series featuring the neat little team, with the original Gallaher/Ellis team intact for the new title.  The Winter Guard is a team of interchangeable superhero icons featuring Darkstar, Ursa Major, Crimson Dynamo and Red Guardian.  If one of them is killed in battle, they are swiftly replaced by an understudy as the same iconic character.  The public isn't aware of the switches, as their deaths could be seen as a weakness, and the Russian team must be perceived as a strong, unstoppable force for their people's morale.  It's a neat idea, a little twist on the whole X-Statix/The Order team roster changes.  And it works, with cool characters replacing the old, at the same time that former teammates are remembered by the current team.  The original Darkstar, Laynia Petrovna, died during Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men, but she's brought up time and again in the original one-shot, and in this new mini, because the repercussions of her death are still felt and haunt the team, especially the new Darkstar, Reena Stancioff, who feels inadequate in the role of the popular icon.  For anyone unfamiliar with any of these characters, there's a pretty seemless introduction for new readers here, as their superiors review the current roster, identifying weaknesses and contemplating replacements.  But the book starts out with quite a bang thanks to a guest appearance by the Agents of Atlas, who aid them in defeating Krang and his sea monsters.  It's a cool team-up, and one that has repercussions that will be felt over the course of the rest of the mini-series.  There's also an older issue of X-Men Unlimited featuring The Winter Guard included in the back of this issue that will continue through the subsequent issues, with some very 90's art courtesy of Joe Pruett, Brett Booth and Ron Lim.  If I had things my way, Darkstar and The Winter Guard would be an ongoing title.  It's a really great, straight-forward superhero title with a great dynamic to the team.

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