Weekly Comic 100s: Power Rangers Double-Feature, Crossover, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Power Rangers #1
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Variant cover by Jung-Geun Yoon.
RELEASED: November 11, 2020

There’s a really cool scene in here between Jason and Rocky, where they talk about the latter being the Red Ranger, but not the team leader. Parrott is so good at creating character moments for characters who were pretty thinly written to begin with.

That being said, Mortarino draws Rocky like…there’s no other way to put it…a whiny little bitch.

Adding Drakkon to this book is smart. Between BOOM’s two new Power Rangers titles, I suspect this is the one that’s going to have more trouble staying afloat, simply because the characters aren’t the iconic Power Rangers.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #766
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Alejandro Sanchez.
RELEASED: November 10, 2020

Tamaki is taking a page out of Greg Rucka’s playbook and blinding Wonder Woman. For a few issues, at least. I’ll say this much: It makes for a pretty cool fight sequence in this issue.

It seems like they’re wrapping up the story of the reluctant Wondie/Maxwell Lord team, which is a shame. For my money, the concept had a lot more mileage to it. It had become something I looked forward to seeing with each new issue.

I know I’m a broken record, but I still miss Mikel Janin on this book…

TITLE: Darth Vader #7
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Daniel Acuna.
RELEASED: November 11, 2020

Boy, some of this is really dumb.

I like the idea of the Emperor giving Vader a sadistic test by leaving him to die on Mustafar. But early in the issue we once again backtrack to a location from the prequels, and literally see Nute Gunray’s corpse. Is that all this series has to offer? “Hey! This is something you remember from the movies!”

This character, and this universe, deserve better.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1030
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Bilquis Evely, Mat Lopes (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED: November 10, 2020

I think this is the first time I’ve seen Evely’s art. It’s got a cool sketchy look to it that doesn’t always go well with Batman’s world. But paired with Lopes’ colors, it works. Evely really gets to flex in this issue, drawing much of Batman’s surrogate family.

Tomasi is looping Damian into things, which bodes well for the book’s immediate future. His work with Bruce and Damian on Batman & Robin is some of his best. I’m interested to see if he can recreate some of that magic.

TITLE: Champions #2
AUTHOR: Al Ewing
ARTISTS: Simone Di Meo, Bob Quinn, Federico Blee
RELEASED: November 11, 2020

The division among civilians over Kamala’s Law, the law against teen superheroes, is really compelling. Mostly because it’s such an unsettling reflection of the actual division we’re seeing in the United States. It’s a tremendous example of how superhero comics can reflect what we see in the real world.

We open up this issue in a “reeducation center” that’s straight up chilling. It’s actually downright dystopian. I can’t remember the last time a comic book left me this unsettled.

TITLE: Superman #27
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Danny Miki (Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: November 11, 2020

Superman spends a small portion of this issue trying to avoid hitting the big scary alien. Imagine that. A superhero trying to dodge conflict with someone who looks and talks differently. God damn, Superman is so the hero this world needs right now. While I may not be in love with his work over on Action Comics, make no mistake about it, Bendis gets Superman. That’s so important, as the vast majority of writers don’t.

Reis, Miki, and Sinclair have been killing it, giving us some of the best art we’ve seen in Superman in years. Don’t sleep on them here.

TITLE: Crossover #1
AUTHORS: Donny Cates, Mark Waid (Story Edits)
ARTISTS: Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Cover by Shaw & Dave Stewart.
RELEASED: November 4, 2020

There’s a character in this book wearing a shirt that says “Wertham was right.” That’s a pretty cool Easter egg for people up on their comic book history.

Crossover is a book about comic book characters coming to life in the real world. All of them. It’s a silly concept, but the book treats it pretty seriously. As such, we have a series that people with a passion for the comic book medium will likely enjoy, but more casual fans may find a little too out there. Heck, I’m passionate about comics and it’s pretty far out even for me…

TITLE: Mighty Morphin #1
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Marco Renna, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Variant cover by Daniele Di Nicuolo.
RELEASED:
November 4, 2020

The way Parrott writes Zordon in this issue is a departure from how we’re used to seeing him. Less a wise sage and more of a friendly uncle. It’s a risk that doesn’t pay off, in my opinion.

So wait…Drakkon’s not the Green Ranger? I’m confused…

I prefer Marco Renna’s work on this book to what we’re seeing in Power Rangers, particularly when it comes to action sequences. His panels with the Green and White Rangers are particularly strong, and the colors really pop. I’m hopeful this book will keep building momentum going forward.

TITLE: Batman #102
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Carlo Pagulayan, Carlos D’Anda, Danny Miki (Inker), David Baron (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Jorge Jimenez & Tomeu Morey. Variant cover by Francesco Mattina.
RELEASED: November 3, 2020

Tynion says he came up with this new Ghost-Maker villain while he was writing back-up stories for Zero Year. That counts as a strike against him, in my book…

I’m not crazy about the name Ghost-Maker. But he’s pretty cool nonetheless. He’s got a cool costume, and a nice ninja aesthetic.

Carlos D’Anda pops up for a few pages in this issue to draw a scene where Harley Quinn gets a new apartment. It feels randomly dropped in. But I’m assuming that means Harley is sticking around in Batman for the near future.

TITLE: Star Wars #8
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Ramon Rosanas, Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, & Rain Beredo.
RELEASED: November 4, 2020

I’m in awe of just how much detail some artists put into these starships and the machinery. It’s a credit to not only to the talent of the artists they get on these Star Wars books, but the devotion they have to the franchise.

The writing, on the other hand, has been fairly stale across the entire line. In this book’s case, Commaner Zahra, a disciple of Grand Moff Tarkin, is a fairly interesting villain. But this just isn’t a terribly interesting story. She’s after Leia. Big whoop.

On the bright side, it’s not another story about a damn lightsaber…

TITLE: Young Justice #20
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED: November 3, 2020

Teen Lantern gets a nice spotlight here. Now if only this weren’t the final issue.

It’s an honest-to-God crime that this series is ending at only 20 issues. It’s one of the best teenage superhero books I’ve read in a long time, in that it delivers on both the action front and the teen angst front. I dig the expansive roster, as well. Sort of a Young Justice League Unlimited feel. If there’s any justice in this world, this team will be back with a vengeance.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Epic Covers: Darth Vader #14

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

ARTISTS: Giuseppe Camuncoli (Penciller), Elia Bonetti (Painter)

THE ISSUE: Darth Vader leads an attack on the aquatic planet of Mon Cala, home of the future Admiral Ackbar.

WHY IT’S EPIC: Machines and water don’t mix. Darth Vader is famously “more machine now than man.” As we’ve never seen Vader in an underwater scenario (at least not in the movies), this cover is instant intrigue. Apparently Vader’s suit is waterproof, so he doesn’t short out. But how does that work with his breathing?

Regardless, putting Vader in a shot reminiscent of Swamp Thing or Jason Voorhees is an absolutely brilliant move by Giuseppe Camuncoli. It’s the kind of thing you’d never see coming, and yet it works so well. It almost fits. Almost

This cover’s unsung hero is painter Elia Bonetti. Camuncoli gets the top billing, and even the sole credit in some places. But with due respect, Bonetti is the star here. Without her, you’ve got a completely different texture. Look at the water and the accompanying mist. Look at the moonlight, and how it reflects off both the water and Vader himself. Simply put, it’s beautiful work.

The red eyes are what really seal the deal. They pierce, intimidate, and bring life to the whole shot. It’s kind of a cute little nod to the faint red tinge the Darth Vader lenses had in the original film. It wasn’t even that noticeable, and they were gone in Empire and Jedi. But the costumers for Rogue One brought them back to be consistent with A New Hope.

The movie still sucked. But cheer up, guys! They got Darth Vader’s eyes right!

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Imperial Machine Review – Year One, Day One

TITLE: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine
AUTHOR: 
Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Giuseppe Camuncoli. Cover by Jim Cheung and Matthew Wilson.
COLLECTS: Darth Vader #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: 
November 22, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can we talk about the lightsaber for a minute? Because to be honest, I’m getting sick of them. Specifically, their overblown importance.

I’ve talked previously about how I subscribe to what I’ll call the Red Letter Media theory on lightsaber use. Generally, the less we see of them, the more impactful it is when someone finally ignites one. This becomes apparent when watching the prequel trilogy. But in recent years, lightsabers have been getting a strange in-universe reverence. Not just as cool or dangerous weapons, but artifacts with an increasing amount of personal and spiritual symbolism. They’re almost characters unto themselves. I understand this from a marketing standpoint, as a lightsaber is a fanboy’s wet dream. But to me it makes little sense from an in-story perspective.

Mind you, there is a certain precedent for it. Lightsabers act as an instantly recognizable symbol for the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, which later plays a prominent role in The Force Awakens. Luke builds his own lightsaber, which we see in Return of the Jedi. General Grievous collected lightsabers like trophies from fallen Jedi. So let’s not go so far as to say they have no significance at all.

But while I appreciated the use of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens as a link to the past, and a sort of symbol of for the Skywalker family, the notion that the weapon itself “calls to” Rey was a little much for me. What the weapon symbolizes is one thing. Giving it special powers is another.

Rarely will you find a better example of this strange lightsaber reverence than in Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine. Immediately after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine sends Vader on a mission to obtain a new lightsaber for himself. “I have very high hopes for what we might achieve together,” the Emperor says. “But first…you will need your lightsaber.” Vader must take a lightsaber from a surviving Jedi and use the dark side to corrupt the kyber crystal inside. Make it “bleed.” Obtaining this new weapon won’t be easy. But it is the first trial the former Anakin Skywalker must now face as a dark lord of the Sith.

So because the kyber crystals are “alive” in their own way, Sith lords use their anger to make them “bleed,” thus the red lightsaber. The idea itself is actually pretty neat. But did it merit an entire story based around it? Did Darth Vader’s lightsaber really need an origin story?  I don’t think so.

This strikes me as the kind of thing they could have explained in a scene before Vader goes off on his first big mission. Or maybe a one-shot where Palpatine gives Vader a kyber crystal, and shows him how to corrupt it. At first Vader has trouble, but he conjures up images of Obi-Wan and Padme and gets the job done. It didn’t need to be the motivation for an entire story arc.

More interesting than Vader’s quest to steal a lightsaber is the surviving Jedi he’s tasked with taking it from. Kirak Infil’a has taken the “Barash Vow.” Under said vow, the individual in question must cut themselves off from Jedi affairs, living only for the Force. It sounds suspiciously like what Luke is doing when Rey finds him on Ahch-To. Kirak also has his hair pulled back in two braids, just as Rey’s is in the Last Jedi footage we’ve seen. Coincidence? Probably. But you never know…

It’s almost always interesting to see Vader’s agony at the loss of Padme, the state of his body, and all that’s come as a result of his actions. It’s a glimpse into the hellish reality his existence has become. We see surprisingly little of that in Imperial Machine, given how soon this is after Revenge of the Sith. It is touched on effectively, however, in issue #5. As Vader is trying to bend the crystal to his will, a scenario plays out in his mind in which he turns on Palpatine and re-unites with Obi-Wan. He’s fantasizing about making things right, and perhaps atoning for his actions. In theory, that’s a path he can take. But of course, he doesn’t. Not yet, at least.

I spent a good amount of time ragging on Salvador Larroca for some of the work he did on the previous Darth Vader book. Namely drawing certain characters based off still shots from the various movies. The upside to this approach, however, is that Larroca draws a picture-perfect Vader. For me, if you can get that mask right then half the battle is won.

Giuseppe Camuncoli gives us a different kind of Darth Vader. It’s hardly picture-perfect. For instance, I’m not a fan of the panel at left. But I nevertheless find Camuncoli’s version more artistically pure. He’s creating of his own mind, and at no point do I feel taken out of this book when I see a familiar image of Vader or Palpatine, pulled from a movie still. That’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Camuncoli, along with inker Cam Smith and colorist David Curiel, waste little time in ripping up Vader’s iconic suit. It’s already in tatters by issue #2. Things only get worse when we get into the fight with Kirak Infil’a. We end up with a partially skeletonized version of Vader’s suit, which he pieces together using droid parts after being incapacitated and effectively broken in combat. In the opening pages of issue #4 we see him using the Force to put all the little pieces into place so he can haul himself to his feet. It’s an awesome visual, and a fun callback to Anakin’s expertise with machines. It’s later followed up on in issue #6, when Vader gets to repair the suit to his liking.

Issue #6 takes us into the next arc, which will feature the Inquisitors we saw in Star Wars: Rebels. We get a confrontation between Vader and the Grand Inquisitor in the Jedi Temple, which is pretty decent. Fittingly, Vader’s next target will be someone Star Wars fans recognize as a face from the Jedi Temple…

I maintain there was no need to end the previous Darth Vader book. We all knew Marvel would come back to the character eventually. There’s no shortage of creators to work on the life and times of the dark lord. While I have a major gripe with a lightsaber being Vader’s motivation in this story, Imperial Machine is still a solid read with mostly good art. Star Wars fans who aren’t as finicky as I am will enjoy it.

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A Darth Vader #25 Review – “Not like this. Please not like this.”

Star Wars: Darth Vader #25, 2016, coverTITLE: Star Wars: Darth Vader #25
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLERS: Salvador Larroca, Max Fiumara. Cover by Juan Gimenez.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: October 12, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I maintain that this Darth Vader series doesn’t have to end simply because Kieron GIllen’s story is ending. It’s not like there’s a shortage of creators out there looking for a crack at the dark lord. Nor is there a shortage of fans that will read stories about him. Nevertheless, for now this is the end for Vader’s ongoing adventures. Thankfully, he goes out on a hell of a dramatic note.

As this series has progressed, we’ve learned it’s essentially a bridge story between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Vader goes from being in the doghouse after the destruction of the Death Star, to being in a more powerful position and obsessed with finding his son. But it’s also about Aphra, a crafty archaeologist Vader forms an uneasy alliance with. She knows Vader will kill her when she’s of no further use. In issue #4, she flat out asks him to give her a quick lightsaber through the neck when the time comes. She also asks him not to eject her into space. That scene has hung over the entire series. Like Aphra, we all knew it was coming.

I didn’t think we’d actually come back to the space ejection thing. But low and behold…

Darth Vader #25, 2016, airlock, Doctor AphraLarroca’s face work with Aphra isn’t the best here, and this isn’t the most natural looking thing in the world. But that top panel on the page at right makes the whole scene. Her body language is perfect. Then on the next page you have the simple line: “Not like this. Please, not like this.” It’s a fantastic pay off to what we saw in issue #4.

And then she lives, which was actually a disappointment. While I really dig Aphra, that’s a waste of an awesome death scene. But we’ve got a Gillen-penned Doctor Aphra book coming in December that needs its title character. That could be a great book, if for no other reason than Triple-Zero and BT-1 will be in it. Plus, after what he gave us in this series Gillen deserves to stay at the table as long as he’s hungry.

Someone I could use a break from is Salvador Larroca. He’s extremely talented, he draws an incredible Darth Vader, and he’s a very natural fit for the Star Wars universe. But it’s so obvious he draws off of stills from the movie that it pulls me out of the story. Case in point, he was obviously looking at Revenge of the Sith footage when drawing Palpatine for this issue. Perhaps the key is to put him on characters that don’t appear in the movies, a la Aphra or Sana Solo.

On the plus side, Larroca’s final two pages are very good. First, we see Vader and Luke Skywalker reaching out to each other in a dream-like scene (shown below). It’s somewhat reminiscent of the climax of the Empire duel, where Vader beckons his son to come with him. Then we cut back to reality, with a long shot of the bridge on the Super Star Destroyer. Again, much like Empire.

Darth Vader #25, 2016, Salvador Larroca, Luke SkywalkerWe get a bonus back-up story here, pencilled by Max Fiumara. It turns out the Tusken Raiders had a rather unique reaction to Vader’s slaughtering of one of their villages back in issue #1. The story is silent, which is a nice change. There are a pair of pages where Fiumara switches to a more storybookish style, which is a cool textural change.

One thing I found confusing: Someone who’s apparently meant to be an elder of sorts appears after the attack. The “storybook” part of the back-up recounts a village slaughter by a man with a lightsaber. Is this supposed to be Darth Vader’s attack, or Anakin Skywalker’s from Episode II? I’d like to think it’s the latter.

At one point, Darth Vader stood head and shoulders above every other Star Wars book Marvel was putting out. Over time it lost it’s must-read status, but remained supremely executed and mostly well drawn. I’m sad to see it end. Hopefully some of its momentum will carry over into Aphra’s series.

But seriously, what a waste of a death scene…

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A Review of Darth Vader #24 – The End is Near

TITLE: Star Wars: Darth Vader #24Darth Vader #24, 2016, cover, Salvador Larroca
AUTHOR: 
Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 10, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The penultimate issue of Star Wars: Darth Vader invites Salvador Larroca to do something he does too much of for my taste: Draw stills from the movies. But in his defense, if there was ever an issue to do that, it’s this one.

The cybernetics in Darth Vader’s suit have been shut down by Cylo-V. His respirator having (presumably) been deactivated, Vader’s life flashes before him. His mind takes him back to Mustafar, and questions arise. What if Obi-Wan had killed him? What would Anakin Skywalker think of Darth Vader? What if he were to simply surrender and die…?

I’m a sucker for issues where Vader reminisces and agonizes about the events of the prequels. So I couldn’t help but be sucked in when Vader imagined an alternate Revenge of the Sith where Obi-Wan throws the amputee Anakin into the lava, and the man in the black suit emerges. From there, we go into pure fan service as we get an Anakin vs. Vader lightsaber fight. Larrocca gives us a striking near-full page shot of Anakin, and while brief, the fight is a thrill. Particularly poignant is the moment where Skywalker yells “I hate you!” at his future self. Less poignant, however, is the moment where Vader says he’s well-versed in killing children.

Darth Vader #24, 2016, PadmeWe then go into many a Star Wars fan’s worst nightmare: A Padme scene. Kieron Gillen keeps this one pretty simple, though. Anakin’s dead wife represents the temptation of surrender. A temptation I’d have thought would be greater. That relationship longed for depth and substance. But boy did Anakin love Padme. If the implication here is that they can be together in death, you’d think he’d just give in.

But Vader’s choice here is powerful, and telling as to just how far into the darkness he’s gone. Instead of going with his wife, Vader summons his anger and hatred to will himself into a comeback. To their credit, Gillen, Larroca, and the Darth Vader team made me believe Anakin Skywalker was dead.

HIs rendering of movie stills notwithstanding, Larroca does deliver some great imagery with Vader. Early the issue, as the dark lord is motionless and vulnerable, we get a shot of Cylo with his hand on Vader’s helmet. Someone being able to lay a hand on him like that is…unsettling. It’s certainly not something we’re used to seeing. Also, In the Mustafar sequence we see Darth Vader emerge from the lava like a black phoenix. Lightsaber in hand, of course.

This story also sets the stage for a confrontation in our final issue between Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra, which is what the ending should be. I maintain this series doesn’t have to end. For obvious reasons, a Darth Vader book will always have an audience. But 25 issues is a good run, and it’ll be good to see Gillen and Larroca finish what they started.

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A Darth Vader #21 Review – The Hunt For Aphra Continues

Darth Vader #21 (2016)TITLE: Darth Vader #21
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 8, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I was really surprised to hear Darth Vader is ending at issue #25. The series isn’t quite what it was when it began. But it’s got a solid cast in Doctor Aphra, Triple-Zero & BT-1, and of course, Darth Vader himself. It’s still very much worth picking up. But apparently Gillen is done. That’s fair enough. But I’m not sure why Marvel wouldn’t hand this series off to another writer. I guarantee you that’ll be the case when Jason Aaron is done with Star Wars. So why not here?

In any event, things aren’t looking good for Aphra, as the droids have been tasked with hunting her down. Meanwhile, the Emperor has tasked Vader with bringing an end to Cylo, a former servant of the Empire. But neither Cylo or his “abominations” will go down without a fight.

I’ve been turned off by Salvador Larocca’s art lately, particularly his drawing of the characters from the movies. At certain points it’s painfully obvious he’s rendering them based on specific shots and moments in the films. He’s hardly the only artist to have done this. But that doesn’t make it better. At this point, my favorite Darth Vader issues are the ones that don’t feature any classic characters other than Vader. The only instance of what I’ll call “movie rendering” in this issue is a shot of Vader in his TIE Fighter (shown below).

Darth Vader #21, Salvador Larroca, movie renderingI don’t consider this panel a major offense. I’m such a stickler on the rendering of the Darth Vader mask that I’m just happy to see it done this well. Plus, it’s the exact same cockpit we saw in A New Hope. There’s only so much Larroca could change.

On a happier note, Larocca’s work on Aphra is very endearing here. She looks tired, beaten down, and ready to give up. As if being hunted by the Empire isn’t enough, readers of the Star Wars ongoing know Aphra just narrowly escaped death at a prison. She’s not a sympathetic character per se. But you feel for her here.

Triple-Zero and BT-1 are great here, as usual, as they lead a battalion of Vader’s battle droids in search of Aphra. Triple-Zero’s dialogue is always the riot, as you can’t help but hear it in a prim and proper accent. He’s ever the diplomatic protocol droid with a delightful violent streak. His best line this month is: “I’m afraid we’re going to have to hunt you down like the human meatbag you are, Mistress Aphra.”

Darth Vader #21, Doctor Aphra, Salvador Larroca

Our final page also sets up a pretty epic fight for next issue. I won’t spoil it. But Vader must feel like he’s back in Jabba’s palace

Darth Vader may be ending, but I’m hoping the characters that were created in this book can cross over into other books in the future. Though it’s looking Doctor Aphra may not survive much longer. That’s what happens when you make a deal with the devil.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Darth Vader #14 Review – Familiar Faces

Darth Vader #14 (2015)TITLE: Darth Vader #14
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca. Cover by Mark Brooks.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 23, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is the first issue of Darth Vader where Salvador Larroca’s art has disappointed me. That’s really saying something, as his art has been tremendous up to this point, and a huge factor in getting me to come back month after month.

Continuing the big Vader Down crossover, this issue finds the Dark Lord face-to-face with Princess Leia, as Rebel forces continue to hunt the stranded Sith. But they aren’t the only ones hunting. Vader’s obsession with finding Luke Skywalker has driven him to face the Rebels head on. And he’s winning.

When an artist is working on a Star Wars book, it’s stands to reason that they’ll study the movies, and perhaps even work off of stills or screen caps to depict the characters. That’s likely how Larroca has been able to get the Darth Vader mask down so well. As we see in this issue, he also draws a hell of a C-3PO. But when it comes to drawing Luke, Han, and Leia, it’s evident Larroca is working off of specific moments from the movies, and it takes you out of the book. He changes certain things to he’s not blatantly pulling things from them, but they’re similar enough that you notice. I don’t so much oppose this practice. I just wish Larroca had made it a little less obvious. I pulled some images to illustrate. This first one took me out of the issue entirely.

star-wars5-movie-screencaps.com-9439

Han Solo, Salvador Larroca, Darth Vader #14

 

 

 

 

 

star-wars5-movie-screencaps.com-1254Leia, Salvador Larroca, Darth Vader #14

 

 

 

 

I have an issue with the way Luke’s hands are positioned on Mark Brooks’ cover. Typically, when someone is holding a lightsaber, their hands are together so they can have a strong hold, but also so their wrists can have an optimal range of motion. As much of a nit pick as this may be, I don’t like how Luke’s hands are spread apart. We’re so used to seeing them together that it makes the image look awkward.

Vader Down is having its share of fun being a crossover. We’ve already seen Han Solo match wits with Doctor Aphra, which was really entertaining. This issue sees Triple-Zero cross paths with C-3PO, in a meeting that pretty much goes how you’d imagine. Our old friend Krrsantan even pops in. That gives us an amusing moment where Han thinks the bounty hunter is looking to collect Jabba the Hutt’s bounty on him. But as we know from earlier issues, he’s actually after Luke. Based on the cover for Star Wars #14 (the next installment in Vader Down), this Krrsantan’s involvement could lead to a pretty cool fight.

Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Darth Vader #14, Salvador LarroaNot surprisingly, the star of the issue is Leia. When confronted by Darth Vader, a helpless and undoubtedly terrified Leia stands her moral ground. In the highlight of the issue (shown left), she tells Vader that he’ll pay for what he’s done, and that he can kill her, but not what she stands for. It’s a terrific character moment, as we’ve come to expect from Kieron Gillen. Later, we learn just how far Leia is willing to go to eliminate Darth Vader. It’s such an extreme that Luke and Han actually try to stop her, even if that means Vader survives.

Vader Down has been a fairly worthwhile crossover, with fresh character interactions, and a central story that holds it all together. Darth Vader #14 is hardly the story’s best chapter. It has artistic flaws, and Vader himself doesn’t do much. But it gave Leia an awesome character moment, and offers a bridge to what will hopefully be a strong next chapter. So while this is unquestionably one of Gillen and Larroca’s less successful outings, in the context of the Vader Down story, it’s still a worthwhile read.

For more Star Wars, check out our review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Issues images from author’s collection. Screencaps from starwarsscreencaps.com.

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A Darth Vader Annual #1 Review – The Dark Lord Doesn’t Dance

Darth Vader Annual #1 (2015)TITLE: Darth Vader Annual #1
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Leinil Yu
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: December 16, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Leinil Yu drawing Star Wars? That’s definitely worth a look. This particular issue might not be worth paying five bucks for, but it’s at leas worth a look.

Darth Vader Annual #1 deviates from the ongoing Vader Down storyline to give us a peek into the Dark Lord’s work as a political enforcer of sorts. Vader is dispatched to the volcanic planet of Shu-torun to reinforce their governments cooperation in the production of valuable ores. Little does he know he’s walking into a trap. But is it even possible to get the jump on Darth Vader?

Having Leinil Yu work on Darth Vader was a legitimate drawing factor for this issue. But surprisingly, Yu’s renderings of the titular character tend to be either misproportioned or awkward. There’s a panel where Vader is talking about the Empire “always building” where the angle of the headpiece on his mask doesn’t work. There are also several shots where Vader’s head looks too small for his body (below). It’s not a consistent thing, but it does pull you out of the issue.

Darth Vader Annual #1, Leinil Yu, 2015Despite this flaw, Yu does pretty well otherwise. I’ve always liked the sketchy manner in which he draws faces. Vader spends the issue with a young woman named Trio, and he depicts her very well.

I also find his renderings of angry old men very amusing. There’s a scene where duke demands Vader dance with his daughter at a celebration. The piss and vinegar in his face as he’s looking at Darth damn Vader is awesome. Even more awesome? When Vader levitates him 20 feet in the air and drops him. He then accents the moment with a line tailor-made for a Schwarzenegger movie: “Do any others wish to be my partner?”

Gillen remains fantastic at incorporating a very appropriate dark humor into these stories. This is embodied in Triple-Zero and BT-1. They’re perfect evil versions of C-3PO and R2-D2, to the point where I can hear Threepio’s voice when I read Triple-Zero’s dialogue. The droids tag along with Vader on this little mission to serve as a surprise of sorts to the royal family on Shu-torun. They have a lot of great little one-liners in this book. I won’t spoil them for you. But I will say my favorite involves the term “mass heart attacks!”

One might say Gillen gives us a glimpse of Anakin Skywalker in this issue. As Vader gets to know Trio, he learns about her relationship with her father, and starts to see things in her that her father doesn’t. As such, Vader offers her a little praise, including telling her that her father should appreciate her. Mind you, it doesn’t exactly end well for one of them. But that moment is still notable, considering Vader’s mindset at this point in his life.

Darth Vader Annual #1, Leinil YuThis issue does a nice job of spotlighting the key element that makes this series work: Its inverted view of the Star Wars universe. It casts Darth Vader, arguably the main villain of the entire saga, as the protagonist. Not the hero, mind you. He’s the protagonist, meaning our main character working toward accomplishing something. As such, we find ourselves rooting for Darth Vader, even though he’s often trying to do something terrible. In this story, for instance, he’s trying to impose the Empire’s will on an entire planet. And he indeed does awful things in an attempt to accomplish that goal. But we find ourselves rooting for him, even if it’s just on a subconscious level.

I’ve said something to this effect before, but it bears repeating: Darth Vader has consistently offered us the best Star Wars content Marvel has put out since they regained the license. I’m not interested in seeing anyone but Kieron Gillen write this book anytime soon. And for that matter, I missed Salvador Larroca on this issue too. They’ve got a really good thing going with this series, and I keep wanting more.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Star Wars #5 Review – The Jedi Bounty

Star Wars #5 (2015)TITLE: Star Wars #5
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLER: John Cassaday
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 20, 2015

Need to catch up? Check out Star Wars #4.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

“I’m never coming back to this planet again.”

Luke said that about Tatooine in the original Star Wars movie, of course. But it turns out you can go home again, and not just to rescue your buddy from Jabba the Hutt. Sometimes you’re looking for answers.

Star Wars #5 brings Luke Skywalker back to Tatooine, hoping to find clues on which path to take next. But our hero is gravely unaware that Darth Vader has sent one of the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunters after the young pilot that destroyed the Death Star. Boba Fett is on Tatooine, and he’s coming for Luke.

Star Wars #5, Boba FettI’ve been pretty critical of Jason Aaron’s work on this series. But in this issue he writes an absolutely bad ass Boba Fett. We find him in the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina looking for leads. When he finds a teen with answers, we see something that rings very true to the Boba Fett character: A capture and interrogation sequence. This man is a ruthless, stone cold killer, and Aaron and Cassaday are able to illustrate that to great satisfaction. They give the sequence more of an edge than we usually see in a Star Wars story. Yet it still feels like the universe we know and love, especially when Fett finishes with him…

This issue is actually a reminder of how sucky it was when they redid Fett’s voice for the Empire Strikes Back DVD. Jason Wingreen had a gravelly, malice-filled, Clint Eastwood-type voice that was perfect for the character. Temuera Morrison had an accent. That’s about it.

I’ve also come to respect the way Aaron writes Luke Skywalker. In this issue, as well as the previous one, Aaron has captured the spirit of that young man who met Yoda in Empire. He’s impatient, impulsive, reckless, and as we saw last issue, immensely frustrated at times. But we still see traces of a great hero and a brave leader. As such, Luke is pretty easy to root for here.

Star Wars #5, 2015, Han Solo, John CassadayThat’s not to say we’ve seen a 180 in Aaron’s writing. This issue also sees Han Solo and Princess Leia scout locations for a new Rebel base using a stolen Imperial shuttle, much like the way they used one in Return of the Jedi. We even get some familiar talk about clearance codes and what not. But that’s not the problem. Aaron gives us some of the angry flirting between Han and Leia that, again, serves as a precursor to Empire. A Han and Leia get into some deep doo doo, as they’re prone to doing, we get the following dialogue…

Leia: “I can’t believe I’m going to die here with you. You are without a doubt the worst smuggler I’ve ever met.”

Han: “Frankly lady, you aren’t much of a Princess.”

Leia: “I hate you.”

Han then kicks over Leia’s sandcastle, prompting her to plop down and cry.

Star Wars #4, Jesus ChristI’m a fan of Han and Leia being next to each other in this series, but the dynamic in their whole love/hate relationship shouldn’t be this stripped down. That’s part of the fun of the whole thing! They dance around it, and then when they finally get close to it, something happens to spoil the moment. C’mon, Jason. Let’s not turn science fantasy’s greatest romance into an episode of Rugrats.

This is the penultimate issue of John Cassaday’s run on Star Wars, which is a shame. This hasn’t been his best work, but he’s given us some memorable stuff. Not the least of which was the awesome pin up from last issue (shown left). Naturally, as the issues have gone on he seems to have found his groove in the Star Wars universe. He’s able to tap into the classic Star Wars characterizations strictly with his art. Case in point, the way he plays with Han Solo’s acting here (shown above). Boba Fett’s body language is also perfectly on point. There are also some little things, like the texture he gives to the robes Luke and the sand people are wearing, and the cracks on the outside of Obi-Wan’s hut. It all lends itself well to the “used universe” concept George Lucas was going for in that first movie.

I’ll be sticking with Star Wars through issue #7 at least, just to see what new penciller Stuart Immonen brings to the table. This series started off on a sour note, but it’s gradually been picking up in quality. I maintain what I’ve said previously, however. If you’re looking for great Star Wars comics, Darth Vader is the place to be.

Images 1 and 2 from author’s collection. Image 3 from comicvine.com.

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A Darth Vader #5 Review – “This is…Blasphemous.”

Darth Vader #5, coverTITLE: Star Wars: Darth Vader #5
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca. Cover by Adi Granov.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 13, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Darth Vader continues to be immensely better than any of Marvel’s other Star Wars titles. Trust me, folks. It’s not even close. Why? Oh, let me count the ways…

It captures its main character perfectly. It sprinkles in just enough prequel material to display Vader’s depth, but not turn die-hards off. It has added new characters that add both intrigue and humor. It’s also beautifully drawn, and does enough artistic justice to the classic Star Wars visuals that when it adds something new (For instance: A secret base on top of what can only be called “space whales.”), it’s that much easier to buy it as a part of this iconic universe.

In this issue, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca bring Vader, Doctor Aphra, Triple-Zero, and BT to a secret base in the Outer Rim, which supposedly houses those the Emperor has deemed worthy of replacing him. But the dark lord isn’t quite prepared for what he finds. In his own words: “This is…blasphemous.”

Darth Vader #5, space whalesOddly enough, Gillen and Larroca play with some visuals from The Phantom Menace here. We see Vader carving his way through a thick door, as various armed soldiers stand by. We then have Triple-Zero, a silver protocol droid just like the one we saw in Episode I, emerging from the resulting smoke. But then we’re hit with a swerve that’s nothing like what we saw in the movie. This is a team that’s great with playing with fan expectations, giving you what you want, but not necessarily the way you thought you’d get it…

On the subject of visuals, that two-page shot of the space-whales is amazing. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen in a Star Wars movie, but it feels very true to the cruel spirit of the Empire. Vader calls them an abomination. But the ironic thing is, he’s something of an abomination himself. That’s not necessarily a connection everyone will get, but it’s there.

Darth Vader #5, Triple-Zero, Salvador LarrocaI mentioned this last time, but Triple-Zero is a riot. The sheer notion of an “evil butler” type is hysterical. But when you put him amid the chaos of the Star Wars universe, next to a no-nonsense-type like Vader, the ensuing comedy feels very organic.

I’ll try and stay spoiler-free here. But what Vader finds on the base is, at face value, very compelling. Gillen seems to be playing with the notion of the Jedi and Sith being an “ancient religion,” which was introduced in A New Hope. At one point, someone even says: “The Force is obsolete.” This is made all the more interesting when you consider this base is sanctioned by Palpatine, a Sith himself. From an in-story perspective, I question Palpatine’s motivations here. Is he truly preparing for a world without The Force? Or is this part of a larger scheme? I’m inclined to think the latter.

The idea of The Force being obsolete or dormant might also be an interesting piece of forshadowing for The Force Awakens

Darth Vader #5, Doctor Aphra, Salvador LarrocaWe don’t get a lot of time with Doctor Aphra in this issue. But what we do get is enough to keep me invested in her. Tragedy follows Darth Vader wherever he goes. And there’s little doubt that tragedy is what lays ahead for this woman. It’s simply a question of how, where, and when.

But that’s simply one of many elements that makes this series a must-read for Star Wars fans.

Images 1 and 2 from author’s collection. Image 3 from jedi-bibliothek.de.

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