STARFIRE #4 finds Princess Koriand’r continuing to acclimate herself to her new home of Key West in the wake of a devastating hurricane. However, a darkness is creeping over the horizon threatening her new life.

STARFIRE #3 by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Emanuela Lupacchino

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The third issue of STARFIRE begins with a cruise ship picking up a mysterious castaway. Initially, the man seems thankful for his rescue but quickly turns violent and begins murdering members of the crew. Meanwhile, Kori is aiding her possible love interest Sol cleaning up his family home from the damage caused by the hurricane portrayed in the previous two issues. They’re also preparing Kory’s new living space, much to Sol’s dismay as it’s where his and Stella’s parents lived before they died. Kory attempts to emotionally connect with Sol over his issues, but her alien tendencies continuously get in the way.

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The book then moves into a brief interlude showing a young couple at an unnamed beach, each of whom are brutally murdered by a mysterious creature. It then moves back to Kori exploring Key West. She shops and interacts with some of the supporting characters we’ve met previously until she runs into Sheriff Stella Gomez, who needs her help. The cruise ship we saw earlier is heading towards the island and not responding to any hails. Starfire flies herself and Stella aboard the ship and they then stumble upon the horrifying scene of the massacred crew. All hands on the ship appear to be lost except one mysterious crew member.

Gomez sends Starfire back to the island, but tells her to remain close. Kory takes refuge at a  local bar where she attracts considerable attention from the male patrons. A waitress beings commiserating with her when suddenly the bar is attacked by the monster who’d killed the surfers earlier. Initially it seems to be hunting Starfire, but it’s actually been after the waitress all along who reveals herself to be the Atlee version of the DC character Terra. The issue ends with Terra and Starfire confronting the monster while the cruise mystery drags on off-shore.

READ: Missed last issue?  Check out our review of STARFIRE #2!

STARFIRE #3 takes a darker turn than the previous two issues of the series. While the humorous set-piece tone is maintained in places, for example Kori’s encounters Javi and Adam while she’s shopping, the issue breaks from the previous format more often than not. The story is broken down in a more traditional comic book structure. The scenes aboard the cruise ship and on the beach are particularly brutal, and come as a shock due to the previously lighthearted tone of the book. None of this is a negative mind you, as it fits the story really well, but it certainly took me for a loop.

Starfire’s character takes a bit of a leap forward in this issue. While she’s still presented as a mixture of the traditional comics incarnation plus that of the animated version, the scenes early in the issue with Sol add a heft of emotional depth to the character. Her desire to make him feel better really bleed through the page, and the lines about having “hopes and dreams shattered” are really emotionally affecting.

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The introduction of Atlee to the book is an interesting one. For those who don’t know, she’s a version of the Terra character in name and powers only. She has a much different backstory than the original Terra from Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s NEW TEEN TITANS “The Judas Contract” storyline and was originally introduced by Conner and Palmiotti in the late 2000’s. If she becomes a mainstay character in the book, she could easily provide an interesting foil and superheroic ally to Kory.

Artistically, Emanuela Lupacchino continues to impress. Though the issue is more traditional staging and (relatively) action-packed, the art maintains the same vaguely cartoony look and still makes it work.  The highlight for me is early on in the book when Kory is swimming underwater collecting garden gnomes.

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STARFIRE #3 is a slight change of pace for the book, embracing slightly darker and more superheroic elements. However, the light-hearted nature that propelled the first two issues is still present. The set-up of not one, but two mysterious antagonists also ensure that you’ll want to come back next month.

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