Rising Stars: Voices of the Dead & Bright by Fiona Avery

The artwork in this graphic novel was so beautiful that it called to me from the library shelf. I had never heard of the Rising Stars, mythology but it seems that each tale works in a standalone fashion. The two in this volume are concerned with two different characters. The common thread that unites the whole series is that each protagonist is a “Special.” Here’s what that means (from the back cover):

In the sixties, a fireball struck Pederson, Illinois granting all the children who were in utero at the time fantastic powers – 113 in all. Dubbed “Specials,” these children grew into adulthood cloistered together, forming rivalries, friendships and enmities. Some became heroes, some criminals, and others simply lived out an ordinary existence. After years of petty fights, squabbles and grabs for power, a new unifying mission became clear, a purpose for their existence that they had all been unable to see before … to change the world.

Somebody’s been watching The 4400 methinks. Well, I decided to disgregard the unoriginal concept, since the superhero genre offers plenty of scope for diversity of superpowers. Unfortunately, the two stories aren’t terribly original in that regard, either.

Voices of the Dead is about a man called Lionel Zerb whose power is an ability to see ghosts. Lionel’s obsession is to discover whether there really is an afterlife. You’d think that fact would be obvious to someone like Lionel, but unfortunately it’s not strictly true that he sees actual ghosts. He sees “afterimages” of a person. So, he goes from ghost hunt to ghost hunt, hoping one day to find “the real thing.” It all gets ultra weird after a while, and I found myself a bit confused by the end of it all.

Bright is the shorter (and better) of the two stories in the volume. This one is about a Special, Matthew Bright, who takes on a false identity in order to pursue his dream of being a police officer (a position of responsibility that a Special would not be permitted to fulfill; think X-Men and all the fear of “mutants”). Right in the middle of an important case, his identity is compromised, and things get sticky. The ending of the story involves Bright getting a “costume” as a gift. This is the only point where the story got a little silly.

It’s an above average read, but there are certainly better graphic novels out there. I’ll heap plenty of praise on the artwork, but not so much on the writing.