Starling


By Sage Stossel (Penguin/InkLit)
ISBN: 978-0-42526-631-1

Once upon a time only little boys (of any age from 3 to 90) liked superheroes.

That’s all different now.

Just like always, girls eventually steal boy’s stuff and break it or point out how stupid it is and ruin it or decorate and fancy it up so that it makes proper sense and is generally better, but it was still ours first though…

Let’s start again.

Sage Stossel is a children’s book author (On the Loose in Boston, On the Loose in Washington DC, We’re Off to Harvard Square), editorial cartoonist (Sage, Ink.) and Editor at The Atlantic, whose smart, wry, ostensibly innocuous efforts have also appeared in The Boston Globe, CNN Headline News, New York Times Week in Review and scads of other extremely prominent and worthily impressive places.

A native Bostonian, she majored in English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard where she permanently succumbed to the cartooning bug, producing student-life strip Jody for The Harvard Crimson. She was instrumental in creating The Atlantic’s online iteration.

Starling is her first graphic novel and superbly takes a knowing sideswipe at the world’s newest fiction archetype, cleverly delving deep into the psyche of the kind of person who might actually fight crime if they had superpowers and how such a “career” might actually impact upon a sensible person.

Stossel also manages to tell a winning story about overcoming adversity, finding oneself and even having a shot at achieving true love, all lovingly ladled out in a savvy, self-deprecating, droll, artfully humorous manner…

Amy Sturgess has a secret. Up until now she’s only shared it all with her therapist, but balancing her job in the back-stabbing world of Marketing with the constant demands of the Vigilante Justice Association (who perpetually text her about occurring crimes she’s expected to foil immediately, no matter what she’s doing) is taking its toll.

At the Agency, a conniving male co-worker is actively stealing her work and sabotaging her career. Her cat-hoarder mom lives in a world of her own. Her brother Noah is a druggie lowlife – but at least he’s trying to get his life together, whilst her own (especially as regards dating) is a stalled and floundering disaster…

No wonder she relies so heavily on prescription meds and is plagued by bouts of crippling procrastination…

Things take a tortured upturn when her college sweetheart resurfaces. Russell is married to a wonderful woman (who actually becomes one of Amy’s best friends) but is clearly trying to rekindle those heady student passions with Amy and the situation soon begins to affect both sides of Amy’s work.

B-list costumed crusader Starling even begins to let certain offenders go: robbers stealing from banks who repossessed their homes, a homeless man trying to free his dog from the Animal Control impound…

A crisis point is reached when rival gangs begin a turf war and a modern Artwork is stolen. It doesn’t take much investigation to link Noah to both crimes, but when he disappears and Starling frantically hunts for him, she is incessantly stymied and interrupted by the hunky rogue and illicit gambling organiser Matt McRae.

The enigmatic hustler seems to have connected Amy to Starling and says he only wants to help, but he’s a crook.

A really, really good-looking, apparently unattached crook…

Amy isn’t Wonder Woman or Ms. Marvel. She’s just a well-intentioned young woman who found she was different and got pushed into a second (full time, secret and unpaid) career when she couldn’t even decide on how to make her first one work.

Now she has a really serious crime to solve, a brother to save, a romantic triangle to square and an unsuitable suitor to sort out…

Moe RomCom than Summer Blockbuster, Starling is a slow-paced, lovingly crafted, laconic, ironic and purely humorous tonic for lovers of the medium reared on adolescent wish-fulfilling, juvenile male power-fantasies who now yearn for something a little different, and even deliciously points out all the reasons why superheroes are dumb before wittily showing how that’s not necessarily bad and showing one way of making them better…
© 2013 Sage Stossel.