Rating: 3/5 – A Comic That Tied Into an ’80s Line of Toys.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.
After reading the latest issue of the Secret Wars tie-in book WeirdWorld, a character who hasn’t been seen in quite some time reappears…Crystar! Knowing I had his first appearance in my collection, it was off to my back issue boxes to find out as much as I could about this obscure Marvel character. On the inside front cover of first issue of The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior, Marvel’s then Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter recalls the creation of this all new fantasy franchise. In the very early 1980s, Shooter is invited into the office of the then Vice President of Publishing who tasked Shooter to have his creative team come up with a new world and characters set solely in the fantasy genre. Along the way Shooter recounts, toy company Remco would possibly be interested in producing a line of toys based on this creation if it was good enough. So editors Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio and artist John Romita Jr. came up with Crystar and the Crystal Warriors, which Remco did like enough to publish a line of action figures before the first issue hit the stands in 1983.
Writer Mary Jo Duffy, who around the same time was writing Marvel’s Star Wars comic was given the job to tell the story, and introduce all the main characters in this first issue. For the most part Crystar isn’t bad, but it does have its moments of corniness. Two brothers are about to ascend to the throne of Crystalium, a fantasy world with flying dragons, monsters, and buildings made of crystal. The two brother’s father had died years ago protecting the planet from the demon lord who the brothers learn is prophesied to return. That prophecy is delivered by the old wizard Ogeode who drove the demon lord back the first time. After that visit from Ogeode, the two brothers are then visited by an evil wizard named Zardeth who promises power and safety for their allegiance in the upcoming war. It’s at this point that the writing and script start to fail.
After the two initial meetings with opposing wizards, the brothers are somewhat split in their decision and begin fighting against each other, eventually splitting the kingdom between good and evil. The one brother Crystar eventually turns into the heroic Crystal Warrior while his brother Moltar becomes an evil being made of lava. The comic never really takes the brother’s split in one clear direction. At one point, it all looks as though the falling out happens because of an accident, while at another, brother Moltar is portrayed as just simply evil. You almost get the sense that Duffy didn’t want to commit to just one reason, which ultimately weakens the plot. There would be something more mature and more tragic about these two brothers if Moltar was played as a pawn in Zardeth’s attempt for control, but I do understand that this is a kid’s comic, introducing kid’s toys :). There’s also some blatant use of powers for no reason, some forced “advertising” for toys like the Shatterpult (Cystar’s catapult), and some cheap feeling origins for the supporting characters/toys like Warbow.
All that being said, this series did have eleven issues to flesh out the characters and the storyline so maybe I’m too quick to judge, but when compared to other toy tie-in books like ROM and The Micronauts, this doesn’t really measure up. At the same time, I’m still curious to see where this story ends up and if it’s as predictable as seems it will be. I’ll be heading on-line to find the rest of this series on the cheap and see just how and why Marvel characters like Alpha Flight, Nightctrawler and more make guest starring appearances in later issues. I just hope I’m not too disappointed in the answer.
Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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