Captain Estar Goes To Heaven
By Winston Rowntree
Some of Captain Estar didn’t click for me until I poked around
the VirusComix site–the little that the author makes known about himself, and some of his very funny Web strip “Subnormal” (like this) reveal a sense of cleverness and whimsy (if, perhaps informed by Lovecraft). That sensibility bubbles beneath the surface of Captain Estar, but doesn’t quite make itself completely known.
The art’s also a bit inconsistent—a little awkward in places and some perspectives toward the beginning, though, to its credit, it finishes much, much tighter. One also has to wade through a lot to get to the meath of the story, which really gets good a little later in the game than it could. One final complaint: the hand-lettering is a bit tough to slog through in some cases. It’s perfect for Rowntree’s short-form, weekly strips, but in long-form sequential enterprises like Captain Estar, it’s a touch distracting.
Rowntree’s work concerns Shirley Estar, a bounty hunter/assassin whose character skirts cliché with some interesting wrinkles—she’s ugly, she’s poor,
she’s beyond a fuck-up. Some of the other initial scenes find the author perhaps trying a touch to hard to be fresh, bordering on melodrama
when Estar meets a figure from her past, while the conversation with a post-op transsexual woman with demonesque grafts could have been handled with defter touch.
Once again, reader patience pays off: Estar finds some proof that Heaven exists, taken from one of her marks. That bible-as-fantasy element, juxtaposed with the futuristic, science-based world is quirky and compelling. And when it went all Tarantino and, subsequently invoked some of the Lovecraft again, stories don’t come much more compelling.
In an interview on the subject, Rowntree calls Captain Estar, “more of a ‘practice’ graphic novel.” Still, I’m on board to read every last thing this man produces from this point on. The book dials back the adrenaline and is finished off with a very cleverly executed take on time travel/alternate reality element—and Estar’s actions and characterization in light of that situation ring true to the rest of the book very satisfactorily.
Captain Estar could have benefited from some more consistency, resources, and maybe a little more third-party feedback—but it’s brimming with ideas and I’m looking forward to Rowntree’s next long form project.