Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

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 forĀ 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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Posted in Wrestling

A Batgirl Rising Review – The Blonde Bat-Bombshell

Batgirl RisingTITLE: Batgirl Rising
AUTHOR: Bryan Q. Miller
ARTIST: Lee Garbett. Cover by Phil Noto.
COLLECTS: Batgirl #1-7
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: July 14, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

No matter what characters are under the mask, it seems like there’s always a demand for certain heroes or certain groups. They become franchises unto themselves. Aquaman, Robin, the Justice League, the Justice Society, the Teen Titans. They’ve all had various facelifts and changes over the years, but they always have a certain degree of fan support.

Batgirl is no different.

After Battle For The Cowl, in addition to a new Batman and Robin, we got a new Dark Knight damsel. This time it’s Stephanie Brown, the college freshman formerly known as The Spoiler. Batgirl Rising collects her first few adventures, andĀ  breaks her in as Batgirl.

923527-batgirl__1_007_superWhen Cassandra Cain (the character who took on the Batgirl identity several years after the first Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, was incapacitated by Alan Moore in The Killing Joke) gives up her cape and cowl in the wake of Bruce Wayne’s apparent death, Stephanie adopts the identity, much to the chagrin of Barbara Gordon. Barbara reluctantly takes Stephanie under her wing as she battles The Scarecrow, Roxie Rocket, and whatever else Gotham City throws her way.

But will our new Batman want a new Batgirl flying across the rooftops?

Though I’ve been underwhelmed by Bryan Q. Miller’s work on Titans and Teen Titans, it looks like he was given a lot more room to be creative with this title. He takes the ball and runs with it. One of the cool things about this book is that it not only begins a new chapter in Stephanie Brown’s life, but Barbara Gordon’s as well. There are a few scenes where Barbara is trying to mentor a girl who, like her, had her legs taken away from her. They’re touching, and give Barbara that much more depth as a character.

What’s nice is that Miller hasn’t changed Stephanie’s character simply because she’s become Batgirl. This girl is a perpetual screw-up. She knows it, Barbara knows it, and the audience knows it. So why not have a little fun with it?

Batgirl Rising, Stephanie Brown, Damian WayneA writer once told me that when they’re working as a trio, Robin and Batgirl are actually more fun to write than Batman himself. The Caped Crusader always has to be the brooding straight man, while Robin and Batgirl can crack jokes and have a bit more fun. If Batgirl Rising isn’t evidence of that, I don’t know what book is. Miller writes some competitive banter between Damian and Stephanie that’s an absolute joy to read. When a perpetual screw-up teenage girl meets a 10-year-old assassin/superhero with authority issues, hilarity shall ensue.

Batgirl Rising isn’t an instant classic, but it’s a fun book to read. Certain things in this book don’t work as well as others (Stephanie’s attempt at a romance with a fellow college student isn’t a great beat), but nothing falls completely flat. Considering what Bryan Q. Miller books I had been exposed to prior to Batgirl Rising, this book offered him (and Stephanie Brown, for that matter) a measure of redemption in my eyes. Hopefully the best is yet to come.

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from comicsblog.fr. Image 2 from ifanboy.com.

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