Comic Review: Starseeds by Charles Glaubitz

 

I took last week off to recover from a nasty cold, which gave me the chance to catch up on some reading, including an advance copy of Charles Glaubitz’s Starseeds from Fantagraphics. Glaubitz, a Mexican multimedia artist, is known for his art and illustration work, and Starseeds is Glaubitz’s first graphic novel. In it, the mystical Starseed Children are pitted against the Illuminati for control of the world and the cosmos, a battle that pits two super-powerful dichotomous forces against one another in a way that can best be described as mythological.

From the perspective of book design, Starseeds is a lovely 240 page hardcover with spot gloss treatment on the cover. The comics are two tone navy and yellow, and depict a multitude of strange creatures and machines, in the wilds of the forest and in the depths of the Illuminati secret headquarters. Glaubitz’s chosen style for the book seems to pull from a variety of sources, including Miyazaki and Kirby. The same could be true of the storytelling, which blends conspiracy theories, religious text, and science fiction and fantasy genre fiction in surprising ways. The comics have an undeniable dynamism coupled with a pattern-making I haven’t seen in comics this long. Repetition builds meaning over time, and recurrences of events in the book emphasize the similarities and differences between the characters. Glaubitz uses strong typographic elements to convey shifts in scene and time, giving the book an additional illustrative twist.

As an aside, It’s hard to look at the Illuminati in Starseeds without seeing Warren Craghead’s recent Trump illustration series, although clearly these comics were either completed or well underway when Craghead began his series. The similarities are striking, and the idea of evil as a dripping, oozing, pustulent thing seems to be in the zeitgeist. In both Craghead’s series and Starseeds, it could be said that the visual repulsiveness of the characters is directly proportional to their evil behavior.

At the heart of Starseeds is a conflict between the natural world and the human world. We see the Starseed warriors existing in peace in the wilderness, surrounded by spirits and trees, while on the other hand we follow a single member of the Illuminati straight from his suburban cookie-cutter home down into the bowels of the earth as he serves his dark lords. There’s also a clear differentiation between the two forces; the good guys, the Starseeds, are unique individuals with varied skills and powers; the bad guys, the Illuminati, are drones, and appear en masse to do the bidding of higher, darker forces. The intuitive is juxtaposed with the schemed. Beauty is juxtaposed with filth.

Glaubitz also uses the text to work through some deeply philosophical and religious concepts, and focuses on the coexistence of light and dark and their interplay between the characters. The nameless Illuminati member lives in darkness and allows the shadows to consume him, while the Starseeds vanquish the darkness by allowing it inside themselves and then conquering it with the light. It seems like the Starseeds see these forces as complementary, where the Illuminati see them as oppositional. You could see this as a juxtaposition of eastern and western philosophy, and in fact Glaubitz seems to emphasize that comparison by aligning the Illuminati’s power with the Christian seven deadly sins.

There is a lot to unpack in Starseeds, and I think there are plenty of themes and ideas Glaubitz is playing with that I haven’t picked up on yet. It’s certainly a comic that rewards rereading. But I think the defining characteristic of Starseeds is its ability to mix genre with the metaphysical, and in doing so, it generates an otherworldliness that is strange and compelling.

 

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