BECSTAR, VOL. 1
Writer: Joe Corallo
Artist: Lorenzo Colangeli
Letterer: Joamette Gil
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
WHAT IS IT?
A space opera in the truest sense, with magic, scoundrels, and swashbuckling fun.
Think Solo meets...that's it, just Solo.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Space mercenary turned gambler Becstar is living out her deepest fantasies of being a down-on-her-luck loser in a spiral of failure and alcoholism despite literally holding all the luck she needs in the palm of her hand. One of four powerful artifacts claimed by her former crew, the "Luck Dagger" gives Becstar everything she needs, theoretically, to be successful. Despite this, as her first mate and only friend Sally is quick to point out, times are hard and they're forced to live and work under the radar of a shady crime syndicate run by one of Becstar's former partners, Mordecai.
When a mysterious girl named Paprika finds Becstar, she comes with bad tidings and another of her former crew's bounty, the Clairvoyance Rod. Gifted with foresight (and extreme paranoia), Paprika warns Becstar that Mordecai is both after her and plotting something on a universe destroying scale and that Becstar is the only one who can stop it. Will Becstar get her act together long enough to save the universe? Or will she find a way to screw this up just like everything else in her life?
Corallo has a knack for luring you in with familiar, charming characters and settings only to surprise you with genuine moments of character depth and growth that this sort of comfort-food approach to storytelling generally avoids.
Colangeli's loose, energetic style is perfect for the character of Becstar and the story that maypoles around her. It's easy to empathize with the feeling that her life is going sideways when the line art looks like it could unravel at any moment.
Gil's letters rise to the occasion and beautifully match the chaotic energy of the characters and environment. Frequently changing in size and scope, sometimes even mid-balloon, is an easy thing to overdo and create a sloppy, unpolished look, but every moment of warping and articulation feels earned.
Though clearly not shy about its pulpy Star Wars influences, Becstar manages to never come across as derivative or contrived. It's campy and fun in such a way that words like "original" become meaningless and the reader can't help but get swept up in the adventure.
Though written and drawn by men, the heavily female cast of Becstar are well-written, distinct, three-dimensional characters that never fall prey to fan service or force the reader to question their authenticity. Corallo and Colangeli want you to engage with their characters earnestly and the book gains so much texture and nuance as a result.
Colangeli's use of color slaps. A huge part of what makes Becstar stand out despite its genre trappings is its gorgeous use of purples, reds, and yellows to create a more vivid world than some of its less colorful counterparts.
Despite the loud nature of the narrative, the underlying themes of self-destruction and materialism as a form of spiritual decay are surprisingly subtle and never feel ham-fisted. Corallo's greatest strength as a writer is knowing when to give the reader the action they want and when to pepper in the things that make the story worth telling.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Content Warning: Gambling, Alcohol and Drug use, and Suicide, the latter being sudden and potentially triggering.
Dialogue is occasionally stilted, particularly when handling exposition, though it's never going to be a deal-breaker.
There are some editing mistakes where information is given in a redundant manner and, in a few cases, nearly identical lines of dialogue are spoken one right after the other. It's distracting at best and immersion-killing at worst.
The chaotic art style works for the most part, but much of the comic could have been improved with a bit more consistency and a smoother approach to characters and environmental design. The absolutely stunning covers betray what the world of Becstar would look like with just a slightly elevated art style, which is a shame.
The antagonist is underwhelming. Power-hungry, nebulously evil, and playing a cat-and-mouse game with our protagonist the entire comic, Mordecai feels like a combination of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine without any of the elements that make either iconic villain resonate. He's the only black mark in what is otherwise a really excellently developed cast.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Becstar is the book Mad Cave was made to publish: a sleek, fun-filled roller-coaster of action, twists, betrayal, and personality. Though it's first and foremost an epic space adventure with magical macguffins, zany characters, and thrill-a-minute space battles, it finds time to develop some truly compelling characters and create a world that is distinct despite being warmly familiar.
The creative team have done the impossible by making something special and noteworthy in the same genre as Star Wars, a swashbuckling adventure in an age where pulp heroes are all but retired and cynicism reigns supreme. It might not be the most original comic on the shelf, but it's one that will make you feel like a kid again, gleefully following along as the unlikely hero barely makes her way out of another impossible situation. It's a pulpy Space Western that never leaves behind the fun for the characters or the heart for the action, and I, for one, can't wait for Vol. 2.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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