By Gavin Rehfeldt. Starlight. Star bright. Last Starlight is extra sized! Yes, the price jumps $2.00 with the finale, but it’s worth every dollar for the added drama and page count. Mark Millar delivers a solid conclusion to his space adventure, drawing together strong themes, fast-paced action, and moving pathos. Every character has a journey, and every promise in this story receives an elegant payoff. This is yet another stunner from Image Comics, a tireless producer of inspired graphic fiction. Plus, the art continues to be colorful, dazzling in its simplicity, and perfectly suited to the story. As far as negatives are concerned, there isn’t much to be said about Starlight #6.

Well, there might be one minor criticism: the primary obstacle our heroes face is overcome fairly easily. However, at story’s end, this narrative setback is held aloft by the idea that people are inspired to greatness by confidence in their beliefs and in their leaders. Nothing goes horribly wrong, and there is no Final Act sacrifice to the war machine, and the ending is decidedly happy, giddy even. But this is the ending I wanted even if it’s not the ending readers necessarily needed. The conflict could have gone horribly sour, but it is far more satisfying – once all is said and done – to have a blindingly optimistic conclusion. That is the kind of ending the main character ( and the story) deserve. Plus, it is a great pleasure to see Millar, known for the grim and gritty, to show these colors off and deliver so successfully.

Duke, the hero of the oppressed planet Tantalus, returns triumphant at the beginning of issue #6 after a great setback last issue. His battle mates, Space-Boy and Tilda Starr, have fallen into the dark clutch of the unholy enemy, and success seems impossible with so many working against hope for a free planet. But, of course, the hero rises to vanquish the enemy and align the downtrodden to his cause and win the day. Heroes inspire without need for recognition, and that’s the story we ultimately receive and the message worth repeating that too inspires the hero inside all of us.

Parlov’s art is of the highest caliber, with stunningly warm colors and consistently pleasant candy hues from colorist Ive Sorcina. The line work is detailed, yet loose and easy to decipher. Worth the cover price alone, we are so lucky the interior art is married to a moving and compelling story boasting Millar’s snappy dialogue. (John Cassaday and Cliff Chiang’s covers are eye-catching too!)

It is no wonder that 20th Century Fox is adapting this series to the big screen, as it has a big, tentpole feature feel while also appealing to broad audiences of genre film, though the two types of films are rapidly becoming one and the same. Starlight has edge, certainly, but it has a wholesome optimism essential for an escapist family movie with intelligence. It’s the rare book that knows its responsibility to its audience is to inspire as well as entertain. The property seems old fashioned, but also new and progressive. Audience members will love seeing an underappreciated father claim the respect he deserves on a distant planet and at home. When fictional fathers are all too often portrayed as louts, it is genuinely touching to see a father who fulfills his potential with humility, and sincerely cares about his offspring even when they exhibit skepticism about him.

You may have noticed I skimped on plot points for this review. I tend to like to break down important moments and survey dramatic beats to give readers a sense of the moment-to-moment interactions and conflicts, but this is a book best read unspoiled and with an open mind. I want cynical comic readers to read it and see charm, wit, and optimism infused into a space opera in an uncommon way. I have said before that Starlight draws influence and inspiration from thematic precursors (Flash Gordon, Star Wars, John Carter), but what I realized after completing the series is that what truly distinguishes this effort from those works is that there are no goofy aliens or an emphasis on over-the-top theoretical technology (telekinetic gloves withstanding). Instead, everyone is played as very human and grounded. The book proposes that the galaxy is one giant host to a bevy of humanity’s problems. Conquest and intimidation exist between humanoid creatures who don’t have contrasting physiology. There is no message of race or political conflict, just the barest of human conflict (age, strength, power, corruption, exploitation, etc.) that happens anywhere to anyone. Here, in the pages of Starlight, the conflict is universal and dressed in a stunning aesthetic to keep your eye engaged as well as your mind and emotion.

Starlight is a new essential by my estimation. Millar has added another to his list. It leaves our imaginations fired and hoping that we might be able to revisit this wondrous universe and the legacy it has built, hopefully with a further aged Duke along for the journey. I know I would be up for a sequel with a grown Space-Boy (now Space-Man) growing into his leadership role, his shock of pink hair set against the vastness of space. He now has one of the best hero-pointing-a-gun-at-the-enemy-gags, turning the tables on the object of his vendetta, with “Learn how to beg?”. You will have to read the whole series to know how that is one of the strongest character defining moments in recent comics history.

Image Comics/$4.99

Written by Mark Millar.

Art by Goran Parlov.

Colored by Ive Sorcina.

10 out of 10