A Star Wars: Han Solo #1 Review – The Panel Duplication Effect

Star Wars: Han Solo #1, 2016TITLE: Star Wars: Han Solo #1
AUTHOR: Marjorie Liu
PENCILLER: Mark Brooks. Cover by Lee Bermejo.
PUBLISHER: 
Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 15, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Why it took so long for us to get a Han Solo miniseries from Marvel is a mystery to me. You’d think he’d have been one of the first characters they took a swing at. It seems like a lay-up. They could do a whole series on Han if they wanted to. Hell, I’d buy it.

In any event, here we are. In an attempt to flush out a mole in the Rebel Alliance, Princess Leia recruits Han and Chewbacca to fly the Millennium Falcon in a race that would put him into contact with the turncoat. But the race takes an unexpected and deadly turn…

Lee Bermejo’s covers are a nice selling point for this title. It’s fun to see him playing in this universe again. Though it must be said: His Han Solo doesn’t look much like Harrison Ford. His work on issue #2 isn’t much better, though it looks like by issue #3 he starts to get the hang of it. His Princess Leia, however, is spot on.

Han Solo #1, panel duplicateMark Brooks, however, does a pretty good Han Solo. The presentation we get here is very clean, and the colors by Sonia Oback pop in a way that really fits this universe.

Let’s talk about what I’ll call panel duplication, i.e. the process of using the exact same image Han Solo #1, panel duplication #2for two consecutive panels. Full disclosure: I’m not an artist. And I understand what deadlines are. But as a reader, this trick always feels cheap to me. By no means is Brooks the only perpetrator in the industry, and I don’t want to take anything away from his talent. But he did it twice in this issue. So I’m going to call him on it.

Typically, this trick is done to indicate the passing of a beat or two for comedic effect. But in the first instance, in which Han is talking to another bounty hunter, there’s no pay off for it. It’s just an image of Han and the alien dude staring off into space. At least in the second case, we get Han leaning into frame. But look at the renderings of Leia and General Cracken (Unleash the Cracken!). They’re the same as the ones in the previous panel. I can’t help but be jerked right out of the story.

We also see Han with a pretty bad case of puppy dog eyes (shown below). Brooks got a little too animated on that one. He even looks right into the camera.

Han and Leia, Han Solo #1Our story looks promising. Han and Chewie flying around in the Falcon, meeting different aliens and getting into trouble. It’s tough to ask for more than that. This issue is essentially a big pointer scene, where we find out where our heroes are going, what their goals are, etc. But it looks like the action will pick up next issue.

I’m hopeful this is the first of several Han Solo stories we have coming our way. I’m sure there are no shortage of creators looking for a crack at the galaxy’s most notorious smuggler. This one has its ups and downs thus far. But it’s a decent read, and will be worthwhile for Star Wars fans.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Star Wars, Vol. 2 Review – Mrs. Han Solo???

Star Wars, Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler's MoonTITLE: Star Wars, Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLERS: Stuart Immonen, SImon Bianchi.
COLLECTS: Star Wars #7-12
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASE DATE: January 9, 2016

For further reading, check out our reviews of issue 7 and issue 8

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Since getting the keys to Marvel’s Star Wars ongoing series, Jason Aaron’s writing has been fairly inconsistent in terms of quality. He’ll be great for an issue or two, then suddenly give us an eye-roller. Still, Aaron has definitely put together a book that delivers on the trademark Star Wars action and adventure that we love. So despite the eye-rollers, we still come back for more.

After a glimpse into the journal of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker sets out for the smuggler’s moon of Nar Shaddaa, hoping he’ll find someone who can get him on Coruscant and into the Jedi Temple discreetly. Unfortunately, Luke becomes the prisoner of a Hutt who fancies himself a collector of all things Jedi. Meanwhile, Sana Solo, the alleged wife of Han Solo, intends to collect the bounty on Princess Leia’s head. But first, they must survive a bombardment from the Empire. Plus, who’s going to rescue Luke?

STar Wars #7, Simone Bianchi, Ben KenobiThis book has a really strong start, as Aaron and Simone Bianchi give us a glimpse of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s maddening seclusion on Tatooine. Put plainly, it’s the best issue the Star Wars team has put out thus far. I’ve talked extensively about issue #7 before, but it bears a little repetition. Simone Bianchi’s art is haunting at times. Particularly memorable is a sequence in which Obi-Wan is meditating, and in his frustration, ends up lifting the bones of a long-dead creature out of the sand. There’s also a lone panel in which he’s sitting in his home alone in the dark, with nothing but agonizing time on his hands. I’m hoping we get more issues like this down the road.

We then get into the main story, which deals largely with Sana Solo, Han’s alleged wife. Han spends much of the story in a state of fluster, saying things like: “Sana. Where did you…how…how did you…?” and ““Leia, don’t listen to her. It was never like that…She’s not my wife!” That gets old after awhile. But on the plus side, it is interesting to see Han get the tables turned on him like that.

Han Solo, Sana Solo, Stuart ImmonenThe downside of a story like this is that the end is fairly obvious. From her reveal in issue #6, we knew the chances of her actually being Han’s wife were pretty slim. Even if she was his wife, shenanigans were likely involved. So we knew that by the end of the story she’d be gone. As such, it’s tough to fully get invested in her. But it is interesting when we finally hear her backstory. Her ship is also pretty cool. It looks like a cousin of sorts to the Millennium Falcon.

This book plays the lightsaber card pretty heavily. I’ve talked about the downside of what I call Frequent Lightsaber Activation (FLA) before, and it’s present in this book. It’s not entirely unjustified, because Luke does spend a lot of time in a combat scenario. But there’s a scene where Luke goes into a cantina on Nar Shaddaa, and his lightsaber makes him a target. The story then starts to revolve around Luke protecting the weapon, then retrieving it, then being confronted by a Hutt with a bunch of lightsabers strung around his neck. Then at the end, we get a stunt involving our main characters and a bunch of lightsabers. It’s all a bit much for my tastes. I don’t doubt there’s some sort of editorial mandate to play up Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, as it will appear in The Force Awakens. But there’s something to be said for not overdoing it.

Star Wars #11, Chewbacca, Dengar, C-3POOn the plus side, Aaron writes an excellent C-3PO. In Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon, Threepio travels with Chewbacca to Nar Shaddaa in an attempt to rescue Luke. But the duo go on a hunt for information before runing into Dengar, one of the bounty hunters seen in The Empire Strikes Back. Threepio’s dialogue in issues #10 and #11 is fantastic. I loved the line, “Oh, why do I always have to be the hero?” Aaron’s portrayal of Threepio is one thing he’s been consistent with from the start. The fact that I’m a sucker for ol’ goldenrod doesn’t hurt either.

Stuart Immonen does fantastic work here. The passion he’s putting into these pages is evident. He’s got the faces and mannerisms of the characters down pretty well. Immonen, inker Wade Von Grawbadger, and colorist Justin Ponsor do an excellent job with Nar Shaddaa as a whole. The sky is a gorgeous (relatively speaking) mix of browns, yellows, greens, and even light oranges to portray the pollution. They also give us a really good Chewbacca. A lot of artists forget that Chewie’s arms are relatively skinny. He wasn’t this big, muscled up gorilla, so much as he was really tall. Kudos to this team for giving us a pretty fair representation of Peter Mayhew in that costume.

Star Wars #9, 2015, Grakkus the HuttThis crew also does most of the covers, and give us a fantastic one for issue #12.

Our artists have definitely proven their worth as far as the Star Wars universe is concerned. As for Aaron, this volume shows definite improvement. He’ll be spending his next few issues on the Vader Down crossover. But he’s managed to keep my interest, and I’ll be sticking around to see what he does next.

RATING: 7/10

For more from Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Justin Ponsor, check out Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 1: The World According to Peter Parker.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1 Review – The Burden of Expectations

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1TITLE: Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
PENCILLER: Marco Checchetto. Cover by Phil Noto.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 9, 2015

***WARNING: Spoilers head for Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor Fanboy Wonder

If any single issue ever suffered from “the burden of expectations,” it’s this one. Shattered Empire #1 is Marvel’s first foray into the post-Return of the Jedi era. What’s more, the cover literally depicts the final shot in Jedi. Whether this was the intention or not, that cover says to us: “Those questions you’ve all had about what happened after Return of the Jedi? The answers start here.”

Talk about expectations…

Shattered Empire #1 is a satisfying read if you keep those expectations in check. The idea behind this issue, and everything under the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens banner, is to wet our appetite and give us clues. They were never going to give us any big answers here. Han and Chewbacca, however, get a decent amount of page time. We also get a little bit of Lando, and a glance or two at C-3PO and R2-D2.

Sergeant DameronBut the real stars of the book are Shara Bey and Kes Dameron. If you’ve been following the hype for The Force Awakens the name “Dameron” should sound familiar. I’m sad to say I didn’t pick it up until my second read-through: Poe Dameron is the name of Oscar Issac’s character in the movie. Fittingly, he’s a pilot for The Resistance, much like his parents are pilots for the Rebel Alliance. And apparently, he’s conceived in the pages of this issue. That’s right, folks. Poe Dameron was conceived mere hours after the Battle of Endor.

While we don’t know much about Shara and Pes (Is that pronounced like Pez?) personally, we do become invested in their relationship. This is partially because Shara is put over well, as we see her flying her A-Wing in the Battle of Endor. She even helps Luke Skywalker on his flight back to the Endor moon from the Death Star. But for my money, there’s also a certain foreboding sense about this romance. One can only tempt fate so many times, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if as early as issue #2, one of our romantic rebels dies.

Star Wars: Scattered Empire #1, LandoIn terms of the rebels we already know from the original trilogy, we spend the most amount of time with Han Solo. But we see him through Shara’s eyes, so he’s much more a general than the daring rogue of old. What’s disappointing about this is we don’t even get a hint about where Leia is, what she’s doing, or where she and Han stand at this point. One would assume they’d both be all business regardless, and not designing wedding invitations or anything. But I was hoping for just a hint. Again, expectations must be managed for this issue.

On the plus side, we do get a really cool moment between Han, Chewie, and Lando (shown left). The ol’ smoothie never changes. Marco Checchetto and colorist Andres Mossa are at their strongest when they’re putting the Wars in Star Wars. When they’re depicting the Endor battle, as well as the subsequent battle, there’s a sense of real energy and danger on the page. Whether it’s those all-too-familiar blaster bolts whizzing past, the placement of ships on the page, or the abundance of explosions, it truly feels like the characters are in real jeopardy.

In terms of books leading up to The Force Awakens, Shattered Empire should likely be a high priority among Star Wars fans. More than anything, it’s looking like this will be more about Poe Dameron’s heritage, and some of the broad strokes of how the Empire fell and the New Republic rose. But with the movie looming closer, who knows what hints they might drop? That, and a look into the post-Return of the Jedi era should be more than enough to keep fans flipping pages.

Images from author’s collection.

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Force Friday, and Confessions From A Recovered Star Wars Addict

B-88 , remote control toyBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Naturally, the geek community is buzzing today about “Force Friday,” as the first crop of Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys debut in stores. If you’re real quiet, you might even be able to hear the sounds of plastic lightsabers banging together…

But I will not be participating in the retail festivities.

I love Star Wars. I’ll always love Star Wars. It’s hard not to love Star Wars. I spend a decent amount of time writing about Star Wars. And I love Star Wars fans. It’s an immensely creative fandom, filled with people from all walks of life. No matter how old you are, that universe is a still fun place to be. But Star Wars and I have a weird relationship. When I was a tween and a teen, it was pretty much all I could talk about. Nowadays, it’s sometimes rather difficult for me to talk about.

I’ve been a Star Wars geek most of my life. In fact, you might even call me a recovered addict. When I was a kid, it was all Star Wars, all the time. Posters, books, school supplies, etc. I even had all those Pepsi cans with the Phantom Menace characters on them. And of course, the toys. Hundreds and hundreds of mom and dad’s dollars spent on action figures from all the movies. Even that first Princess Leia figure from original Power of the Force line. Remember that one? Totally looked like a dude. Power of the Force Leia was Caitlyn Jenner two decades before Bruce Jenner was…

Padme Amidala, pregnant action figureAs I got older, I stopped spending mom and dad’s money and started spending my own. I even attended a midnight madness sale myself. It was a little more than a decade ago, when the first Revenge of the Sith action figures came out.

Picture this: You’re 20 years old, standing outside a Wal-Mart with dozens of other Star Wars die hards, being told that once you enter the store at these special late hours, you may only shop in the toys section. Once you enter the store, the group starts off at a brisk pace, then speeds up into a full on run as amused store clerks look on. And once we hit the displays, we got grabby. Really grabby.

I’m pretty sure I still have most of those toys. In retrospect, the most notable one was a pregnant Padme Amidala. That might have been the world’s first pregnant action figure.

But as I got into my late twenties, the collecting, and my undying love for Star Wars started to wane. I attribute that to a lot of things. I grew up, of course, and money had to go elsewhere. But I also became more cynical about the franchise, largely thanks to my exposure to Red Letter Media’s reviews of the prequels. Like a lot of fans, I’d somehow convinced myself that the prequels were good movies. I had a terrible case of what I’ve come to refer to as “prequel denial.” But if you’re any kind of open-minded person, and you watch those reviews, it’s pretty tough to argue with what Mike Stoklasa (as Mr. Plinkett) lays out. Once that illusion was broken, I started to look at Star Wars as something entirely new: A business. And business was, and still is, booming. Gradually, I got so turned off by it that I swore off buying Star Wars merchandise of any kind.

I became one of those people who was really bitter about George Lucas, and how he wasn’t the person we all thought he was. Even after he sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney and donated most of the $4 billion to education, I couldn’t help but see him as a cold, calculating businessman whose artistic soul had been corroded. I wrote a scathing column about him on the old Primary Ignition, which resulted in me being taken to task in the comments section. And rightfully so. Ironically, the pendulum had swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. I’d gone from being overly devoted to Star Wars, to being overly critical.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Han Solo, ChewbaccaStar Wars was such a huge part of my childhood. It gave me an entire universe to escape to when my own universe got a little too dark. It held such a revered spot in my heart for so long that when I finally saw it for what it truly was, blemishes and all, there was a certain pain that came with it. I nearly rejected something I’d loved for so long. It’s almost like growing up and getting to know your parents as real people, and then being uncomfortable with the fact that they’ve got flaws just like anybody else.

This brings me to The Force Awakens. This is the first Star Wars movie I’m coming into without rose-colored glasses on. As such, it’s awkward for me to talk or speculate about it with anyone. I’m so passionate about it, but at the same time I’m keeping my distance. I’m not ranting or raving about anything I’ve seen, even when it comes the classic characters. I’m letting the movie speak for itself. Ergo, I’m not buying anything from The Force Awakens until I know if it’s worth investing my hard earned money in. They’re getting a movie ticket from me. But for now, that’s it. And if that’s all I give them, somehow I think Star Wars will survive.

Still, I will always have a special place in my heart for that galaxy far, far away. That’s why, about six months ago, I bought myself a Luke Skywalker action figure from “The Black Series.” I’ve since added Han Solo, Yoda, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi circa Episode III (Ewan McGregor was the best part of those damn prequels.).

What can I say? While it’s not quite the same as it used to be, The Force is still with me.

Image 1 from gizmodo.com. Image 2 from weddingbee.com. Image 3 from geeksmash.com.

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