Tag Archives: Star Wars comics

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.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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A Star Wars #20 Review – You’ve Upset the Wookie!

Star Wars #20, coverTITLE: Star Wars #20
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLER: Mike Mayhew
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 15, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Jason Aaron really came across something cool with these “Journals of Old Ben Kenobi” issues. It’s a great breather from the events of the ongoing series, and Obi-Wan’s time in exile hasn’t necessarily gotten the attention it deserves from storytellers. Having Mike Mayhew take a crack at it is, more often than not, a joy.

A short time after we last saw this younger Ben Kenobi and an even younger Luke Skywalker, the bounty hunter Black Krrsantan has returned to Tatooine to collect the price on Kenobi’s head. When Owen Lars gets caught in the crosshairs, Ben finds himself in a fight for both their lives.

I criticized Mayhew for getting a little too cartoony in Star Wars #15. I’m happy to say he’s scaled that back here. That’s not to say our characters aren’t expressive. But at no point during this issue did I roll my eyes. For obvious reasons, that’s important. And it makes this issue an improvement over its predecessor.

Star Wars #20, 2016, Mike Mayhew, LukeMayhew’s rendering of a young Luke has been the highlight of his two issues. That youthful exuberance radiates off the page. It instills you with the sense that this kid is important and we need to protect him at all costs. Because, of course, that’s really what Obi-Wan is fighting this wookie for. Yes, he wants to save Owen. But in the end, he can’t this monster find his way to Luke. That’s almost said outright during the fight. But it doesn’t need to be.

This version of Obi-Wan is interesting to look at. Not only have we never seen the character look quite this way before, but Mayhew’s photorealism makes it look like he’s being played by a new actor. An actor who not gives a fairly versatile performance, but (as I’ve said before) conveys both the charm of Ewan McGregor and the wisdom of Alec Guinness. That’s a lofty task for a comic book. But Mayhew pulls it off.

In reading these journal issues, I’ve found myself wondering just how old Obi-Wan is at this point. In this issue he talks about age wearing him down. But his age has always been somewhat ambiguous, hasn’t it? Wookiepedia indicates he was born 57 years before A New Hope. Luke looks to be 7 or 8 years old here….which would put this issue about 11 years before A New Hope…which would make Obi-Wan about…46? I’ll buy that.

Obi-Wan, Star Wars #20, Mike MayhewI’m not sure how many issues Jason Aaron has left in him. But if for some reason he were to leave Star Wars tomorrow, Marvel might consider keeping him around to do an Obi-Wan miniseries, ideally with Mayhew. These flashback issues have been the highlight of the series thus far.

Images from author’s collection.

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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 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.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

A Star Wars: C-3PO #1 Review – Ghosts in the Machine

Star Wars: C-3PO #1, 2016, James Robinson, Tony HarrisTITLE: Star Wars: C-3PO #1
AUTHOR: James Robinson
PENCILLER: Tony Harris
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 13, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Like many a moviegoer, I enjoyed the hell out of The Force Awakens. But one of the more bizarre choices made in that film was C-3PO inexplicably having a red arm. It was never even explained, despite Threepio pointing it out mere seconds after he first appears on camera. Because they didn’t tell us how he got it, it became a distraction. What’s more, this issue, which finally tells us how he got the arm, was supposed to come out in December. After numerous delays, it’s finally hit comic shops four months after it was originally solicited.

On the plus side, it’s a pretty cool story. I’m not sure I buy one of the central concepts James Robinson presents. But the core idea is definitely worthy of the iconic character on the page.

Set shortly before The Force Awakens, our story finds C-3PO stranded in the wild with a group of droids. One of them, a First Order protocol droid named OMRI, is their prisoner. OMRI contains information vital to the rescue of Admiral Ackbar, who has been captured and may soon be executed. But Threepio, OMRI, and their companions are more than vulnerable to the elements. It’s not just Ackbar’s life that’s at stake in all of this.

Star Wars: C-3PO #1, Tony Harris, image 1Fans of Robinson and Harris’ acclaimed Starman series are obviously in for a treat here, as the band is back together. Visually, this issue is unlike anything Marvel has put out since re-aquiring the Star Wars license. Everything here is much darker, with a lot of heavy inks. On the upside, this issue definitely stands out. Threepio and his robots comrades look great. On the downside, Harris’ style doesn’t lend itself to the richly detailed environments one often sees in a Star Wars comic. Granted, this world looks pretty barren. But I’d still like to be able to see where the robots are.

The theme of the issue revolves around the place droids occupy at the bottom of the galaxy’s pecking order. One of the reasons C-3PO and R2-D2 are such prominent characters in A New Hope is so the conflict between the Rebellion and the Empire could be seen from that unusual perspective. The galaxy’s underclass, so to speak. The move was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s work in The Hidden Fortress.

This issue suggests that protocol droids, like Threepio and OMRI, have an extra degree of sentience compared to other robots. As such they can question things, such as the actions of their human masters. Though his memory was erased at the end of Revenge of the Sith, Threepio can vaguely remember some of the events of the prequels (see the image above). Such memories are described by OMRI as “a phantom limb inside my memory banks.”

The idea of droids having sentience, personalities, and even referring to having a “life” isn’t new. But the notion of robots being able to remember things prior to a memory wipe is, at least to yours truly. Granted, this is all sci-fi logic. But there’s something I find hard to process about Threepio still having traces of his old memories. If you wipe a computer’s memory, there aren’t select files left over, are there? Unless you have them backed up somewhere…but that’s not what they said!

Star Wars: C-3PO #1, 2016, image 2Perhaps I’m reading too deeply into this…

Oh, and Threepio loses his arm to an underwater tentacle creature of sorts. Don’t worry though, he’s not too broken up about it: “This isn’t the first time I’ve lost that old thing.”

The red arm we see in the movie belongs to OMRI. He sacrifices himself to acid rain (which reveals red a red coat of primer) to save Threepio. While the two droids are on opposite sides, OMRI opts to choose his own destiny. It’s very much a fitting end to a story about robot existentialism. Still, it seems like Threepio and OMRI became friends awfully fast. Especially considering the whole prisoner dynamic.

Some of Threepio’s dialogue is also a little irritating, as he has to repeat (i.e. translate for the reader) what some of the other droids say. Lots of stuff in the vein of: “Yes Peewee-Ninety-Nine, I know you’re a military-grade class four security droid. You were quite vocal on the matter earlier.” But it’s very much in character for ol’ Goldenrod. So I can’t fault Robinson for that.

While not flawless by any means, Star Wars: C-3PO #1 is unique. Compared to everything else we’ve been getting from Marvel, it looks and feels very different. Plus, as it answers a pressing question from The Force Awakens, it’s also proven worthy of mainstream press. I can’t say I loved it, but if you’re a Star Wars fan it’s worth picking up.

Images from author’s collection.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

A Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1 Review – Before the Awakening…

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1TITLE: Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Phil Noto
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 6, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Star Wars: Poe Dameron has a lot going for it. Soule is an excellent writer who has experience in that galaxy far, far away. Phil Noto is supremely talented. There’s a lot of buzz coming off The Force Awakens, and there’s still much we don’t know about the events leading up to that movie. What’s more, Poe comes off very likable here.

So is it wrong that I left this issue disappointed?

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1 picks up shortly before the events of The Force Awakens. General Leia Organa sends her best pilot, Poe Dameron, in search of Lor San Tekka (the man we saw Poe with at the beginning of the movie). Leia believes him to be their best hope of locating her brother, Luke Skywalker. But as Poe will learn, the First Order will not hesitate to strike if opportunity arises.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1, Phil NotoThe solicitation for this issue told us this series would give us “backstory leading directly into the holidays’ greatest adventure.” So it’s not exactly surprising to see the story focus on Lor San Tekka, and the details on what brought Poe to him. But it bears repeating: There’s still so much about the state of the galaxy that we don’t know. How was The First Order formed? What was the New Republic like? Lor San Tekka was a member of something called the “Church of the Force.” What the hell was that about?

Sadly, we didn’t get much in terms of information. We also don’t learn much about our title character. It’s not like we need to have a big revelation. Just a nugget of new info would have done the trick.

On the plus side, it’s not like this series is going anywhere any time soon. As it’s an ongoing series, Poe Dameron has plenty of time to give us new insight into these characters and their world. I just wish we’d got something here to help hook readers. I know it would have helped me in that respect…

Phil Noto is a very welcome addition to this book, having just come off of the Chewbacca miniseries. He’s very good at capturing the actors’ likenesses, while still keeping his his flair for animation in there. The little touches he adds to Poe and Leia’s faces in this issue really make them come to life. He also draws a damn fine BB-8, and a gorgeous X-Wing fighter. Hopefully he gets a well-deserved chance to have a decent run here.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1, Black SquadronThis issue sees Poe assemble Black Squadron, i.e. the star fighter pilots from The Force Awakens. We see one of the member is L’ulo, a green-skinned alien we first saw in Shattered Empire, who flew with Poe’s mother. We don’t see them touch on that here, aside from a brief mention that L’ulo has fighting with Leia for years. But it’s definitely something they can touch on later.

Charles Soule writes a very witty and likable Poe. The issue sends him into a giant cavern of some kind, where he finds a group of people who worship a big egg of some kind. That’s not exactly the direction I hoped this issue would take, but Soule is good at writing Poe with his back against the wall. At one point, Poe is trying to get himself out of a jam, and says: “What’s with the tone? No one wants to hurt your egg. I like your egg!” Combine that sort of humor with the presence of the adorable and faithful BB-8, and our book is in good hands.

We also get a brief back up story by Chris Eliopoulos, which is very comic strip-ish in the vein of Calvin & Hobbes. We see BB-8 become the go-between for two pilots who are crushing on each other. The Earth didn’t move for me on this one. But no harm done.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1 is a good start. Not a great one, but a good one. There’s a lot of potential to continue expanding this portion of the Star Wars timeline, if Soule, Noto, and the team are allowed to. With Episode VIII getting closer every day, that might not be a bad  idea….

Images from author’s collection.

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A Star Wars #15 Review – The Next Chapter

Star Wars #15, 2016TITLE: Star Wars #15
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLER: Mike Mayhew
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 20, 2016

***For the last chapter in Obi-Wan’s Journal, check out Star Wars #7.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Mike Mayhew drawing actual characters in the Star Wars universe? Yes please!

Star Wars #15 brings us a new chapter in the journal of Obi-Wan Kenobi. A year has passed since the events of Star Wars #7, and the former Jedi Master continues to look after young Luke Skywalker from afar. When Luke is in a minor flying accident, and his Uncle Owen grounds him (literally), Obi-Wan goes to great lengths to get Luke back in the air. Meanwhile, Jabba the Hutt continues to search for the one who foiled his plans during the drought. Obi-Wan may not stay hidden for long.

Star Wars fans may remember Mike Mayhew as the artist on The Star Wars, the comic book adaptation of one of George Lucas’ early drafts in the ’70s. Mayhew’s photorealistic style is beautiful. He made the characters, who were ultimately never meant to be seen, come to life as if we were somehow watching an alternate version of the original movie. The only major flaw I find in his work is that his characters can go over the top with their expressions, and venture into cartoony territory. We get some of that here. But it almost doesn’t matter, considering how gorgeous things are.

Star Wars #16 (2016), Mike Mayhew, Young Luke SkywalkerFor instance, there’s a panel on page 5 that shows us Luke in the cockpit of his family’s T-16 Skyhopper. The sheer joy on his face, along with the superficial similarities to Mark Hamill in A New Hope, are enough to make you buy this kid as a young Luke Skywalker. As such, you’re immediately draw into the issue. I can’t understate how important this one panel is to the integrity of the entire story. You’re invested in him instantly. And as a bonus, we get a shot of a young Biggs Darklighter.

But just two pages later, things get cartoony in a shot of Owen getting angry with his nephew, and Luke crossing his arms in defiance. It’s an interesting trade off, but the upside makes it worthwhile.

Mayhew’s Obi-Wan Kenobi doesn’t look like Ewan McGregor or Alec Guinness, but still manages to evoke the charm of the former, and the wisdom of the latter. As such, he’s believable. As was the case last time, we only get one lightsaber shot, and it’s used toward the end. This is appreciated, not just because of creators relying too heavily on the lightsaber, but because this issue presents an ample opportunity to utilize it. At about the halfway point, we get a gorgeous two-page spread depicting a fight between Obi-Wan and a bunch of Tusken Raiders. If ever there was a good excuse to whip out the lightsaber, this is it. Instead, our creators show restraint, and show us Obi-Wan doesn’t need the lightsaber to be a formidable opponent. I wish we saw this kind of thing more often. It beats the hell out of the lightsaber frenzy we saw in issue #12.

Star Wars #16, Mike Mayhew, Obi-Wan KenobiI’ve had my share of bones to pick with Jason Aaron’s choices in this series. But these Obi-Wan journal issues have been fantastic. There’s so much potential for great storytelling here. Aaron uses this issue to give us a firsthand look at the dynamic between Obi-Wan and Owen Lars. It’s a fine supplement to A New Hope, and is consistent with what we saw from both characters in the film.

As evidenced by how we close this issue, this won’t be the last time we open the journal. As for Mike Mayhew, here’s hoping he comes back to Star Wars again in the near future. He’s got an entire galaxy left to explore.

Images from author’s collection.

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