AmazonI originally wanted to do a review of J. Michael Stracynski’s comic book, Rising Stars, and the television show The 4400 since they cover the same territory and have basically the same sort of spiritual connections. But as there’s already a review of The 4400 (which is essentially Rising Stars: The TV Series, minus the spandex) I can focus on the comic book.

Rising Stars drew some early comparisons to Watchmen, which was fair to neither it nor Alan Moore’s seminal work. The only valid comparison is that Rising Stars, for its 24 issue run, started in 1999 and didn’t finish until this year, which sounds like the release schedule I remember Watchmen being under. With three, 8-issue acts, the story feels a little padded (it could’ve been told in 12-16 issues). However, as long-time fans of Stracynski know, he does character-, not necessarily plot-, driven stories (Amazing Spider-man, Babylon 5).

Rising Stars follows the journey of 113 people. A force struck the town of Pederson, Illinois—an event referred to as The Flash—and every in utero baby at the time was affected. Cloistered together, to be studied and for society’s protection, they grew up together. Some became heroes, some criminals, and some tried to be ordinary. The story is about a group of people given gifts, how they touched the world, and how the world touched them.

“The power was different for each of us, formed and shaped by our personalities just as we were shaped by the power.” Poet

AmazonWhat we come to find out is that their energy, the source of their powers, binds them. It was also not inexhaustible: as they use their abilities, they drain that “battery.” However, when one of them dies, that person’s energy is transferred equally to the rest of them. Or, as Poet put it,“We are finite in number and duration.” This is an important aspect of the series, as it provides the motivation behind a lot of the Specials’ internecine squabbles, as well as stoking the fears of the rest of the world.

“We’re in a spiritual war, a war of possibilities, one world or another and nothing in-between. Well that war has just come knocking on our front door, son. It’s time to take a side, and that’s just what we’re going to do.” Reverend William Kane

As previously mentioned, the series is made up of three, 8-issue acts. Act I traces the development of the Specials from accepted (albeit suspicious) anomalies to a threat. This is when they suspect that they have a call, that the power that imbued them was conscious at some level, directed, and gave out their gifts with a purpose. During Act II, the Specials wage a war within their ranks. Only through much bloodshed is their higher calling glimpsed and they figure out their purpose: a mission to change the world. As Patriot puts it, “The time for words is over. Time now to make a difference. Time to go to work.” Act III sees them fulfill their mission and what it means to the world.

“We cannot change the world… if we do not begin with ourselves.” Poet

AmazonThe Specials are “the elect.” The term “elect” is one of those Bible words that signifies a group that has been picked out or chosen. The Church, the world-wide body of people who claim to follow Christ, is sometimes considered the elect. Too often this has led to having the attitude and image of the church as a country club because those that have been elected, or chosen, have forgotten that they have been called for a purpose, not to form a club that keeps “undesirables” out.

More pointedly, the Specials, during the second Act, can’t act as a unified body. Their gifts are squandered in petty bickering, endless divisions, and power brokering. Almost too late do they realize that they have been gathered in order to be sent. The Church, too, needs to be missional, to be a particular people, empowered for the sake of the world. They need to remember that they are filled with God’s power and presence and purpose. They are to work towards a new heaven and new earth, to set an example, and to lead the mission while inviting others to join.

AmazonFor too long, the Specials had retreated from the world, into their “Special ghetto,” never engaging with the world around them. All this taught them was to fear the world and they had little to no sense of how to relate to it.

The good news was that there was still time for them to fulfill their purpose.

Free yourself from the burden of my fear… from the concerns of an old man. Look at the world anew.” Dr. Welles

The Specials from Rising Stars, like The 4400, are a perfect picture of the Church. They are to be a force unlike the world has ever seen. We each have our own gifts and an obligation to use them. We can say all we want, talk as good a game as anyone else, but when all is said and done, it is what we do with our gifts that define who we are.