[REVIEW] Stargirl Episode 1 is “Packed with Excitement, Hope and Optimism”

Air Date: 18th May 2020

This week saw the premier of Stargirl, the latest of DC Universe’s live action comic book series, based on Geoff Johns and Lee Moder’s character. Initially announced as a DC Universe exclusive, the series is also set to be airing each episode a day later on The CW, which initially seems like a smart choice given its similarity – in tone, at least – to that network’s existing slate of titles.

This debut episode doesn’t waste any time in throwing us right into the action, hurling us ten years into the past during a massive superhero throwdown between the Justice Society of America and the Injustice Society. The visual effects are actually surprisingly impressive for a TV show, with all manner of super abilities, lasers and mind control powers being brought to the screen with some big screen flair.

Things don’t go particularly well for the JSA as they end up being wiped out almost completely, with the only survivor being Pat Duggan (Luke Wilson), sidekick to the mighty Starman (Joel McHale), who finds himself entrusted with his former partner’s Cosmic Staff to pass on to a worthy successor (just not him, obviously). From here we flash forward to the present day, with Pat now married to Barbara Whitmore (Amy Smart), whose young daughter Courtney (Brec Bassinger) is poised to discover her stepdad’s secret life – and Starman’s Cosmic Staff – and embark on a little superheroism of her own.

Bassinger delivers a solid turn as Courtney Whitmore, AKA our titular hero. A little bit bratty and naive perhaps, but likeable enough in a “new girl struggling to adjust to a new town, family and school” kind of way. This first episode definitely features a sizeable chunk of a teen drama, with Courtney struggling to get on with her new stepdad, ignore her obnoxious younger stepbrother Mike (Trae Romano) and deal with all the usual trials and tribulations of high school cliques and politics.

While DC Universe’s previous live action offerings – Titans, Swamp Thing and Doom Patrol – have all been impressively well received, they have all undeniably stayed on the darker side of the DCU, complete with lashings of violence and horror. Stargirl on the other hand isn’t afraid to keep things light and upbeat, leaning heavily into its comic book origins, and capturing a real wide-eyed, Peter Parker-esque blend of excitement and confusion as our heroine gradually gets to grips with her new powers.

Cards on the table, I’m not overly familiar with either the comic book JSA or Stargirl herself, so I can’t really speak to the quote-unquote “accuracy” of this show, but to be perfectly honest, I find getting hung up on authenticity and “staying true to the source material” to be a complete waste of time when it comes to adapting comic books to any new medium. If a show is entertaining, who really cares if the costumes, origin stories etc. are comic accurate, right?

Fun is probably the best word to describe this opening episode, which lays out the origins and dynamic of Courtney Whitmore’s life, sets up some tasty threats for her to overcome, and feels very much like a passion project for Geoff Johns, who is running the series alongside Melissa Carter for Greg Betlanti’s rapidly expanding superhero factory.

If you’re looking for a comic book series that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also doesn’t feel the need to poke fun at itself, Stargirl is exactly what you need. Packed with excitement, hope and optimism, and boasting some truly impressive production values, this is definitely worth a look.

The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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