Tag Archives: Brian Wood

A Star Wars #1 Review – A Bittersweet Beginning

Star Wars #1 (January 2015)TITLE: Star Wars #1
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLER: John Cassaday
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: January 14, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Seeing the Star Wars comic book license go back to Marvel was extremely bittersweet for yours truly. Dark Horse had more than done right by everybody’s favorite galaxy far, far away. Particularly in the last year and a half or so, when Brian Wood was penning a title simply called Star Wars, something of a throwback series featuring the classic characters we all know and love. It was the same thing, in essence, that this book is doing.

But while Marvel has no shortage of A-list creators at its disposal, and is undoubtedly capable of providing us quality books, the company’s first crack at Star Wars in the 21st century leaves something to be desired in the realm of depth and logic.

Star Wars #1 brings Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 to the Empire’s largest weapons factory, with the intent to infiltrate and destroy. But little to they know that Darth Vader himself is very near, and he’ll soon come face-to-face with the young rebel who destroyed the Death Star….

Star Wars #1, John CassadayOn paper, it’s a simple but effective way to kick off a Star Wars series. Stick all your main characters in the middle of an Imperial hotspot, and have them fight their way out. Just like they did on the Death Star, just like the did at Cloud City, just like they did on Endor, etc. Using this formula definitely helps capture the classic Star Wars feel they’re looking for.

Another crucial element in this respect is the issue’s four-page replication of the Star Wars opening title crawl. We’ve got a page dedicated entirely to “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” a two-page spread of the big Star Wars flash, and on the fourth page the issue gets its own title crawl. Then, in typical Star Wars movie fashion, we go to empty space, and a ship flies into frame. If you’re a Star Wars geek, they’ve easily got you at this point. And low and behold the first hero we see is Han Solo, doing his witty Han Solo stuff!

Star Wars #1, John Cassaday, Han SoloBut the biggest selling point of this issue by far is seeing John Cassaday draw Star Wars stuff. I once read his artistic style described as “instantly iconic,” and that’s certainly the case here. He’s got a great handle on the likenesses of ‘70s Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. His Mark Hamill isn’t perfect, but that’s forgivable. Hell, the man’s face literally changed between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. And unlike other artists who’ve done these characters, Cassaday’s take on the Darth Vader death mask and C-3PO’s ever-distinguishable headcover remain frozen and consistent throughout the issue. Elements from all three classic films are incorporated into this issue, and if I were a betting man, I’d say Cassaday had fun with this one.

All this said, this issue lacks a lot of the depth and heart that made Brian Wood’s stuff so good. It relies on spectacle over substance. Case in point, Luke’s use of the lightsaber. Yes, we all love lightsabers, but I’m a firm subscriber to the Harry S. Plinkett philosophy on their overuse, and how they can sometimes be a sign of lazy or bad writing.

In Star Wars #1 we see Luke use the lightsaber to fight off a guy with a laser-whip weapon. Shortly after cheaply paraphrasing a line from A New Hope, an off-panel fight ensues, during which all we see is the lightsaber swinging for two panels. A splash page of Luke soon follows, the ignited weapon in his hand. We also see Vader use his lightsaber later, though only for an instant.

Star Wars #1, 2015, Luke SkywalkerThis is where I get a bit nitpicky: How proficient was Luke with the lightsaber at this point? It’s heavily implied that this issue takes place shortly after the Death Star was destroyed. So Luke’s knowledge about his heritage and the Jedi ways, much less this new weapon (which he didn’t even use in A New Hope) are still rather limited. And yet he’s able to dispose of this guard pretty quickly.

My proposed solution? Give us a little more action by extending this scene a page. Have this guard with the whip get the better of Luke at first. But in the end, he perseveres and wins. This gives our young hero a small victory, and we also get a sense that he’s grown a bit in experience, but is still nowhere near where he wants to be.

An extra page for the scene with Luke might have eliminated the completely contrived and ridiculous one in which we see Leia question Han’s motivation for helping the rebels. In the middle of the Empire’s largest weapons factory, on a mission that’s rather time-sensitive, Leia stops to thank Han for his contribution, and ask him why he’d publicly associate himself with the Rebel Alliance. She literally asks: “What is it you really want, Han Solo?” At this point, even Han himself says: “Maybe now’s not really the best time…”

Star Wars, John Cassaday, Falcon, C-3POAlso, why is Leia even on this mission? Why is one of the Rebellions’ top leaders being sent into the middle of enemy territory? Hell, they don’t even keep her in the Millennium Falcon with Threepio. She’s directly in the line of fire. From a creative standpoint, it’s obviously so we can have our three main heroes together. But logistically, it makes no sense.

At the very least, Star Wars #1 is pretty. But it’s also frustrating. Look, we all love that classic Star Wars stuff. Darth Vader, lightsabers, the big title crawl, etc. But imagery from the classic trilogy can’t be the only thing your issue has going for it, or it’ll fall flat. Especially considering this is the first Star Wars issue Marvel has published in decades!

C’mon, guys. You can do better than this.

Image 1 from popmatters.com. Image 2 from littlestuffedbull.com. Image 3 from blacknerdproblems.com. Image 4 from starwars.com.

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A Star Wars: In the Shadow of Yavin Review – Galactic Throwback

Star Wars, Vol. 1: In the Shadow of YavinTITLE: Star Wars, Vol. 1: In the Shadow of Yavin


AUTHOR: Brian Wood
PENCILLER: Carlos D’Anda. Cover by Alex Ross.
COLLECTS: Star Wars #1-6
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASED: September 17, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With this new Star Wars series, Brian Wood was going for a throwback to the “classic” Star Wars era. Before The Clone Wars, before the prequels, before all the video games. Wood was going for the Star Wars of the late ’70s and early ’80s, and the universe he fell in love with as a child. That’s a very relatable sentiment for those of us who fell in love with the series before the prequels came out. What Wood and Carlos D’Anda give us in this first volume isn’t perfect. But it is special, in that it offers something very nice for an older generation of fans, without alienating kids in the audience.

One of the ways In the Shadow of Yavin accomplishes this is by keeping the story simple and accessible. Arguably, the only required viewing you need to understand what’s happening here is the original Star Wars film. The book is set a few weeks after the destruction of the first Death Star. While the Rebels have scored a major win over the Empire, they are now on the run after the discovery of their base on Yavin 4. What’s more, there is a spy in their midst, feeding valuable information to the Imperials. Princess Leia promptly pulls together a team of pilots, among them Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, to help expose the spy and find a new base for the Rebellion. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is under immense pressure from the Emperor to redeem himself after the loss of the Death Star. All the while, the name of the Rebel responsible for it’s destruction, Skywalker, weighs heavily on his mind.

Star Wars #4, Alex RossAs if a Brian Wood-authored throwback wasn’t enough to hook fans, Dark Horse gave fans buying the monthly books a heck of an added incentive with four months of Alex Ross covers. As anyone who’s seen his work knows, Ross is truly in a class by himself. So to see his take on the Star Wars is, to say the least, a treat. We’d seen him do some Star Wars art before. But these covers take the cake, particularly the first one (shown above). The image of Darth Vader with his lightsaber raised above his head is a nice nod to one of the original North American movie poster by Tom Jung, where Luke is in a similar pose. His characters are drawn with unparalleled photo-realism, and the colors are gorgeous. There’s just nobody like Ross. Period.

If you’ve read some of my prior reviews of this series, you know I’m a little more critical of Carlos D’Anda’s work. (Though in all fairness, anyone who has to follow Ross is in a difficult position.) His art certainly fits with the overall tone of the series, and perhaps of Star Wars itself for that matter. His shots of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, particularly on the first three pages when they’re in the X-Wing cockpits, are beautiful. As we see later in the book, he also draws a mean Boba Fett. And when he’s tasked with drawing all the trademark Star Wars hardware, he does a beautiful job. In issue #3 he’s tasked with drawing a two-page spread of the under-construction Death Star II, as it’s being guarded by four Star Destroyers (including Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer). The result is beautiful, and so detail-rich one can only imagine the hours of labor that went into it. So I’m by no means saying D’Anda does a bad job. The majority of his work here is awesome.

Star Wars #1, Darth Vader, Carlos D'AndaHowever, I’ve never been able to enjoy the way D’Anda draws Darth Vader. Some of this may be subjective, but I think D’Anda’s Vader channels a bit too much of the David Prowse bodybuilder vibe. This is especially apparent in issue #1, when we see Vader walking toward an Imperial officer (shown below). What is that pose, exactly? He looks like he’s stomping down an evil runway. I’m also not a fan of the way D’Anda draws the classic Darth Vader death mask. He seems to distort it to make it look angrier. But for yours truly, that mask is so distinctly ingrained in my memory, that any kind of stylized take on it just seems categorically wrong.

D’Anda has a similar problem with C-3PO. He has trouble nailing down the robot’s face, and in his first few appearances his positioning and posture seem a bit off. Thankfully, this issue corrects itself a bit as the issues go on. In any event, Threepio’s appearance doesn’t effect the book nearly as much as Vader’s, as the latter gets much more page time.

I give Brian Wood a lot of credit for making Luke a teenager in this story. It’s much more in line with the character we saw in A New Hope, and makes sense for the story being told here. One of the very first ideas Wood explores is Luke’s uncertainty about his feelings, his future, and what the next step is. Twice in the first issue alone, we see Luke’s father’s lightsaber used as a symbol of his uncertainty, and his unavoidable destiny. And yet, we also get to see him have a little bit of fun. He has an off-panel hookup with one of his fellow pilots, to Leia’s apparent dismay. This of course, raises various unspoken questions about Luke and Leia’s feelings for one another, which of course, most Star Wars fans know the truth about anyway. But it’s still interesting to see the characters try and figure out.

Darth Vader, lightsaber kill, Carlos D'AndaI also credit Wood for not making use of the easiest Star Wars parlor trick in the book. It’s something I’ll call FLA: Frequent Lightsaber Activation. The prequels, of course, were big on FLA. The trouble is, FLA ruins the novelty of the lightsaber, and waters down the coolest weapon in all of science fiction and fantasy. While we do see the weapon referenced in scenes with Luke, we only see a lightsaber actually used once, very briefly, in a scene where Darth Vader kills an Imperial officer. Seeing the weapon used so sparingly is reminiscent of the classic trilogy, A New Hope in particular. It also speaks to Wood’s talent as a writer.

For yours truly, this Star Wars series represents a return to, dare I say, a more innocent time in the franchise’s history. A time before fans debated about whether Han shot first, environments created entirely via CGI, or Hayden Christensen’s acting skills. It’s a return to the Star Wars that I, and countless other fans fell in love with. In that sense, for some of us it’s not only a trip back to a more innocent time in the franchise, but a more innocent time in our lives.

RATING: 8/10

Image 2 from comicsalliance.com. Image 3 from terrazero.com.

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First Impressions: Mara #1

Mara #1, 2012, Image ComicsTITLE: Mara #1
AUTHOR: Brian Wood
PENCILLER: Ming Doyle
PUBLISHERImage Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: December 26, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before he takes on the Star Wars universe at Dark Horse next month, Brian Wood tries to sell us something even more far fetched than worlds of wookies, ewoks and droids: That America will one day embrace volleyball as a major national sport. And yet in doing so, he manages to give us a story that is high on intrigue.

In an nation apart by war and racial divides, 17-year-old Mara Prince is the biggest sports star in the world. She’s “a global celebrity and commercial brand, worth more than she could ever spend.” Then, something happens during a game. As a result, Mara’s life and career are tarnished forever (or at least that’s what we can assume at this point). In this high-tech age of global turmoil and economic chaos, what happens to a sports superstar when she falls from grace? In any event, Mara’s life will never be the same.

Mara #1, 2012, Ming DoyleTo an extent Mara is very much a mirror into our own culture, not just in terms of sports heroes, but celebrities and public figures in general. Once your image is tarnished, it is often tarnished forever. In sports alone, we’ve got names like Tiger Woods, Pete Rose, Mike Tyson, and perhaps the most despicable of them all, Jerry Sandusky. Those are rather extreme examples compared to what we see in this issue, but it’s the same sort of theme. Wood and Doyle also explore the idea of sports as escapism, which is as prevalent today as ever. When we open the issue, Wood gives us some newscast dialogue, then tosses in some sportscast dialogue and gradually shifts the balance completely in that direction. It creates the feel of flipping channels back and forth until settling on the escapism, instead of the grim reality.

Ming Doyle is also in great form here. There’s an absolutely wonderful full page shot of a swimsuit clad Mara in a Sports Illustrated or Esquire-style photo shoot pose. Her cover is also very well done, with the blemish on Mara’s face obviously serving as a metaphor for her now blemished reputation.

Mara is one to watch. Obviously, there are a variety of ways any book could go wrong at this point. But I have a good feeling about this one.

Image 1 from fanboy.com. 

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