Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Megan Levens
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Cover Artists: Megan Levens & Kelly Fitzpatrick; Colleen Doran
Release Date: May 3, 2023
A woman stands on a snowy hilltop. While others peer through telescopes, she gazes at the sky. Then she slams down another woman’s laptop and dismisses the Lieutenant and his troops. After the others depart, she climbs the hill with another man, who asks if she’s ready to become more than she’s ever been. No, we’re not seeing Jane Foster, Darcy, and Erik Selvig. No, it’s not an MCU movie. So, who are these people, and what’s about to happen? Let’s break out our astrological charts, study Starsigns #1, and see what we can divine!
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Instead of New Mexico, the action takes place in Northwest Canada. Tatiana and Mister Duke witness a unique conjunction of the stars. More than anyone else, she understands how much he’s sacrificed. All his plans will finally achieve fruition. Together they will watch the stars die. Unlike in Robert Charles Wilson’s novel Spin, only constellations relating to the zodiac vanish in Starsigns #1. Yet life goes on. For Lebanese caterer Rana Fawaaz, it’s not a fulfilling one. While her father travels the world, playing his oud with famous musicians, she smokes a joint and dreads serving “rich art world jerks who are going to yell at her.”
Still, now she dreams of glittering fire. When she awakens, she remembers the stars that vanished. Today, when Rana grows angry or irritated, a startling metamorphosis will occur. It’s too soon to say how this series will compare with Jon Tsuei and Audrey Mok’s comic series Sera and the Royal Stars, let alone Stan Lee and Stuart Moore’s Zodiac Legacy novels. Still, Starsigns #1 has its charms. I like how her roommate Tyler records people’s feelings about the stars’ disappearance before the media and the internet tell him how to remember it. I also like the cameo from one of the most legendary bands in rock music history. Ultimately, I’m left wondering how new new-found power relates to the cliffhanger ending.
Clad in her insulated pants and parka, Tatiana leaves her short-cropped hair uncovered. She strides purposely, stares intently, and snaps orders. She never draws the gun from her holster, yet people obey her instantly. She affords the Lieutenant a knowing smile as she says, “We can take care of ourselves.” Yet when Mister Duke appears, her gaze softens, and her expression grows subservient, even reverent.
Wearing an extralarge knitted hat over his long hair, Rana’s roommate Tyler is relaxed and unpretentious. He believes he’s doing important work. Rana’s father smiles and overflows with effervescent joy. I enjoyed comparing glimpses of his fellow musicians with photos of these legendary rockers. Sadly, only Rana—the central character in this issue—lacks appeal as she struggles to cope with her life. Artist Megan Levens brings us the pristine beauty of a snowy mountaintop, the sky showing through the window-filled walls of a modern airport, Rana and Tyler’s homey apartment, the sterile confines of a commercial kitchen, and an austere art gallery. Yet it falls to Rana to inform us that she lives in New York City.
All the snow drifting through the green, blue, and purple sky gives these opening pages a three-dimensional appeal. The first page showing the zodiac seemed simplistic, but the coloring in the double-page spread showing the missing constellations invokes awe. Throughout Starsigns #1, Kelly Fitzpatrick contributes bright and attractive colors. Walls receive texturing, marijuana smoke resembles billowing clouds, and characters wear eye-catching clothes. What little we see of NYC in the early evening appeals. Rana’s transformation reminds us of her dreams.
Letterer Shawn Lee delivers big, black, uppercase letters in white dialogue balloons and rectangular narrative boxes. Big white lettering locates us in time and space. Perhaps the lack of sound effects gives the colorful dialogue in the final panel more punch. But my favorite lettering moment in this easy-to-read comic comes when Rana’s unwinding after work. As she puffs away, the classic lyrics of David Bowie drift through the smoke-filled apartment. I wonder if his song inspired writer Saladin Ahmed’s new series.
Are you feeling overwhelmed today? The strong characters, appealing art, and intriguing premise of Starsigns #1 will converge to bring you joy. Despite the slow-paced introduction, you will look forward to seeing how Tatiana and Rana’s lives align and how they adapt to the changes destined to rock their worlds.