Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

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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Posted in Uncategorized

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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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Star Wars #4 Review – The Unlikely Alliance

Star Wars #4 (2015)TITLE: Star Wars #1
AUTHOR:
Jason Aaron
PENCILLER:
John Cassaday
PUBLISHER:
Marvel
PRICE:
$3.99
RELEASED:
April 22, 2015

***WARNING: Minor spoilers for Star Wars #4 ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Jason Aaron and John Cassaday’s Star Wars is finally starting to pick up a bit of steam. And go figure, it’s the issue that’s most interwoven with the far superior Darth Vader title that made it happen.

When we open issue #4, Luke Skywalker and the others have escaped the clutches of the Empire yet again. But where does either side go from here? Oddly enough, the answer for both Luke and Darth Vader is Tatooine. With some of the Empire’s resources depleted, Vader seeks help from none other than Jabba the Hutt. Meanwhile, Luke realizes that to become the warrior the Rebel Alliance needs him to be, he’ll need to find some answers at home.

I’ve picked on this book previously for relying too heavily on classic Star Wars imagery and dialogue to carry it. Granted, it’s almost impossible to have a Star Wars comic book without that factor being there to some extent. Thankfully, we see less of that here. But there are still needless pieces of it here. Hell, this issue’s biggest offense is right on the opening page via dialogue from Darth Vader and Jabba’s lackey, Bib Fortuna…

Star Wars #4, Darth Vader, John Cassaday– “The Illustrious Jabba bids you welcome to the humble sands of Tattooine…”

– “You may dispense with the pleasantries.”

Those are two lines plucked directly from Return of the Jedi. And why? What’s the point? You’ve got an iconic Star Wars character standing in an iconic Star Wars setting. Even if you’re not a Star Wars junkie like so many of us are, the visuals are enough to take you where you need to be. Peppering in dialogue like that only cheapens things, especially when you’ve already been pretty cheap thus far.

On the flip side, the SW junkie in me did highly appreciate one piece of dialogue in this issue very much. During a scene where Han Solo and Chewbacca are working on the Millennium Falcon (as Han has a somewhat comedic bandage wrapped around his head), Solo references Darth Vader using his lightsaber. The exact line is: “It was Vader. Him and his…whatever you call it. Laser sword.” I loved that. It’s very much fitting with Han’s irreverence for the Jedi culture, which we saw in A New Hope.

Star Wars #4, Luke Skywalker, John CassadayOn the subject of Jedi culture, we see a frustrated Luke trying to do the blind remote exercise again, this time with two robots instead of one. Cassaday strikes an interesting balance between pre and post-plastic surgery Mark Hamill here. The character’s frustration feels very natural. Why exactly he feels the need to go back to Tatooine is unclear, though based on the cover I assume it’s to go back to Obi-Wan’s home and look for clues. What kind of clues those might be, I’m not sure. But given what we’ve seen so far in this book, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t get a bunch of verbal and artistic references to A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.

While Cassaday draws a great Ralph McQuarrie-inspired Darth Vader, the sequences between Jabba and Vader in this book draw inevitable comparisons to the ones in the Kieron Gillen/Salvador Larroca Vader book. For this issue’s sake, that’s not a good comparison. Obviously Cassaday’s no slouch, but Larroca’s got him beat here. On the plus side, he and colorist Laura Martin are a solid combination. Their renderings of the Tatooine landscape reflecting off the Darth Vader death mask are really nice.

Still, I continue to be underwhelmed with this title at best. I’m willing to hang on for at least another month, as I still enjoy Cassaday’s art. Plus I’ve got some money to spare, as DC’s Convergence stunt has left a huge hole in my pull list. But c’mon, guys. You’re doing a Star Wars comic for Marvel! You HAVE to do better than this!

Image 1 from comicbook.com. Image 2 from kotaku.com.

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