Friday, June 2, 2017

Short Lived Comic Series #5 - Media Starr (Innovation)

Back in the mid- to late-1980s, independent comic book companies saw a big boom.  Companies were popping in and out, left and right, and there was a plethora of series to be found at the comic book stories.  One such company, who put out a number of licensed titles such as Dark Shadows, Lost in Space, Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, Suspiria, Quantum Leap, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play, and others, was Innovation Comics.  Not everything they published, however, was licensed.  A few creator own projects were published, including a three-issue series called Media Starr.

Media Starr tells the story of Nancy Starr, a female boxer (who is secretly also a ninja and goes by the nickname "Ninja" in the boxing ring) who has a sordid past that unknowingly comes back to haunt her when her best friend, lover, and manager, Jeff, is killed.  While the comic was originally intended to be called Ninja*Starr and focus more on the ninja aspect of her life, writer Dennis Duarte took the story in a completely different direction, thus setting it apart from the other female ninja titles of that time (such as Whisper from First Comics and Ninja from Eternity Comics).  Duarte, instead, told the story of Nancy Starr, a woman who has finally made it, putting her past behind her and enjoying the life of a successful boxer and loving girlfriend.

And when she gets the chance of a lifetime, to be the first female boxer to challenge a male contender, someone wants her to lose - and will do anything to ensure it happens.  By the end of the first issue, Nancy loses the match because she is drugged, and she returns to the locker room to find her lover/manager dead from a supposed self-inflicted shot to the head.  While the police write it off as a suicide, Nancy knows otherwise - particularly since Jeff was holding the gun in the wrong hand!  Soon enough, she finds out from a friendly police officer that they were told to close the case, and that someone high up does not want there to be an investigation.

Touching on everything from television evangelists to stalkers to child molesters, this three-issue series is chock full of story and mystery.  Duarte doesn't pull any punches with these controversial issues, but they also are not thrown in without purpose.  All the threads are carefully woven, and seemingly unconnected events are eventually revealed to be all part of a larger picture.  And there are some rather interesting moments, particularly in the storytelling technique - such as the second issue's opening sequence, which is a game of Wheel of Fortune, in which the credits are seen as the contestant's names and the title for the issue's story is the solved puzzle.

The art, with pencils by Allen Curtis, is pretty standard of the time in which it was published, but the coloring is admittedly a bit off.  In places, it seems the colors bleed beyond the lines, with a lot of reds, yellows, and oranges throughout the books.  But it is not the cartoony or manga-style art that seems to fill so many comics today, so for that, I am grateful.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, and it's a shame the author never told any more stories of Nancy Starr - I have a feeling that after the final page of issue 3, Miss Starr had many more stories to be told.

RATING:  6 bottles of Presidential Pomade out of 10 for stepping outside the norm and giving comic fans a different take on the female ninja warrior.

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