Tag Archives: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi: Luke’s Exile

***Lots of people have lots of opinions about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. You have one. I have one. But you know whose opinion I want to hear? Rian Johnson’s. He wrote it. He directed it. Now let’s hear what he has to say about it. That’s what this space is for. This is “Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi.“***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: Picking right up from the ending of The Force Awakens, Rey has arrived on the planet Ahch-To to seek out Luke Skywalker. She brings him his father’s lightsaber, the same one he lost on Bespin decades ago. Luke tosses the weapon over the cliff, refusing to help Rey.

Rian Johnson Says (Via The Last Jedi Commentary Track): “This moment of Mark [Hamill] tossing the saber, that was always just something that made a lot of sense to me … The first thing I had to do as I was writing the script was figure out, why was Luke on this island? … So he knows his friends are fighting this good fight, he knows there’s peril out there in the galaxy, and he’s exiled himself way out here and taken himself out of it. So I had to figure out why. And I knew because it was Luke Skywalker, who I grew up with as a hero, I knew the answer couldn’t be cowardice. So I knew the answer had to be something active, he couldn’t just be hiding. It had to be something positive. He thinks he’s doing the right thing.

“And that kind of led to…the notion that he’s come to the conclusion from all the given evidence that the Jedi are not helping. They’re just perpetuating this kind of cycle. They need to go away so that the light can rise from a more worthy source. So suddenly that turned his exile from something where he’s hiding and avoiding responsibility to him kind of taking the weight of the world on his shoulders and bearing this huge burden of know his friends are suffering. And because he thinks its the bigger and better thing for the galaxy, he’s choosing to not engage with it.”

I Say: The notion that they handed this series off to Johnson without a plan, or answers to certain questions, is flabbergasting to me. Supposedly, that is indeed what happened. He sat down and wrote this movie with no idea why Luke had exiled himself, who Rey’s family was, who Snoke was, or any of that. He had to create his own answers. So I can sympathize with the position he was apparently put in.

The reason he came up with for Luke’s exile was fine. I like it a lot, in fact. I can certainly appreciate that it wasn’t simply cowardice. What I, and certainly numerous others, did not appreciate was the comedic chucking of the lightsaber over the cliff. That moment between Luke and Rey at the end of The Force Awakens had so much weight to it. It was the first time we’d seen Luke since Return of the Jedi. He was shocked to see this new person who’d discovered him, and Rey was vulnerable, silently asking for his guidance. It was a cliffhanger suitable to end the movie, and one we waited two damn years to get the payoff for…

It’s not Luke’s rejection of the weapon, and thus Rey’s question, that irks me. It’s the tonality of it. Instead of having Luke toss it, why not just let it drop to his feet? It’s less heavy-handed (no pun intended), and subtly speaks to his refusal to take on the responsibility of being a hero. Instead, he just tosses the weapon away like a discarded soda can or something. To do it the way they did was almost disrespectful to The Force Awakens

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Toy Chest Theater: Star Wars by Marcel Eisele

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

“Holy sh*t, this guy’s good!”

Did I say those words out loud when I saw Marcel Eisele’s images for the first time? No. But it almost happened. That’s got to count for something.

I’ve selected aside six shots for display, and narrowing the field was not easy. I opted to stick to Star Wars stuff, as that’s the arena he spends most of his time in. But on Eisele’s Instagram page, you’ll also see characters from Marvel, Planet of the Apes, The Walking Dead, IT, among others. Honestly, some shots were downright painful to leave out. So don’t be surprised if you see him in this space again down the road…

What I find so amazing about Eisele’s work is that he’s able to do so much with so little. Or at least what seems like so little. Take this shot of Mace Windu. It’s really just a tight shot with a lighting effect. But given the face sculpt, and Eisele using just the right amount of lighting to keep half the figure’s face in the shadow, the end result has so much gravity. Imagine walking into this guy on the dark end of the street. Yeesh. A little bit of pee just came out.

In a write-up done by BanthaSkull.com about a year ago, Eisele mentions taking a lot of shots in his backyard. I can only assume that’s where this was taken. It’s tough to go wrong with a silhouette. Don’t discount the timing element here. It feels like sunsets go by really fast when you’re trying to beat the clock.

Again, seemingly very simple. What we have here is basically a superhero shot of Luke on Ahch-To. You get the right angle, and the cape and the background do most of the work. But what is the right angle? How far back go you go? How much of the terrain do you show? How do you nail the figure’s positioning? Somehow, Eisele answered all these questions correctly. Because what he gave us here is damn near iconic.

Here’s one that hits you right in the damn feels. We never did get to see Luke and Han on screen together one last time. It might have a Grumpy Old Men vibe to it. But who cares? It’s Luke and Han.

Eisele also does some customization, as is the case with these next two shots. I appreciate this one because it sneaks up on you. When you’re scrolling by, it’s easy to assume that’s Luke behind Rey. But when you actually look at it, you’re surprised to see it’s an alt-universe Han Solo. Rocking the Jedi Master beard, no less.

Then there’s this last one, which I absolutely love the imagination behind. A custom-made “Dark Side Obi-Wan Kenobi.” There’s also a shot of this figure with a red lightsaber, thus unofficially classifying him as an evil Sith. But I like this image better, as I’m not in love with the idea of an evil Obi-Wan. By not drawing focus with the lightsaber, this pic allows us to take in all the differences between this character and the one we knew from A New Hope. The bald head, the longer beard, the bare feet, the tattered and dirty robes. I like to imagine this figure as Obi-Wan from a darker timeline, as opposed to being on the dark side himself. Perhaps not Old Ben Kenobi, but Older Ben Kenobi.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – The Burden of Expectations

TITLE: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega
DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson
STUDIOS: Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 152 min
RELEASED: December 15, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I had to sleep on this one. That’s partially why I waited a week before releasing my review. When I came out of The Last Jedi, I wasn’t sure what to think. That wasn’t the reaction I expected. When I walked out of The Force Awakens, I knew I loved it. When I left Rogue One, I knew I hated it. This one was in a weird “What did I just see?” zone.

In hindsight, the mountains of advance praise heaped on The Last Jedi harmed it in a way few seemed to anticipate. Not just praise from critics mind you, but from Disney themselves when they put director Rian Johnson in charge of the next Star Wars trilogy. That’s a hell of an endorsement. The biggest entertainment company in the world put this guy in the driver’s seat for the biggest movie franchise in the world. All signs pointed to: “Rian Johnson is great! The Last Jedi is going to be amazing and perfect in every way!” What else were we supposed to think?

Sometimes hype hinders. Just ask George Lucas. He learned that the hard way with a little movie called The Phantom Menace.

That’s actually an apt comparison, as The Last Jedi could be the most divisive Star Wars story since The Phantom Menace. Obviously, a portion of the adult Star Wars fanbase has been perpetually butthurt since before butthurt was even a thing. But even the even-tempered and reasonable among us have taken issue with the film.

So allow me to serve as a voice of the middle-ground. A life-long Star Wars buff who isn’t among those that creates petitions to make certain movies non-canon. For the sake of organization and simplicity, let’s make this a simple pro/con list…

Pro: Rey’s parentage
The Force Awakens left us with a lot of questions about Rey’s parents. There were plenty of candidates. Was she Han and Leia’s daughter? Was she Luke’s daughter? Was she somehow Ob-Wan’s daughter? Could she be Snoke’s daughter?

As it turns out, she’s nobody’s daughter. Nobody we know, anyway. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren (Or are we officially calling him Ben Solo now?) reveals that Rey is the child of junkers from Jakku who sold her off for “drinking money.” They’re almost trolling us with that one. The franchise with the most famous family revelation in cinematic history sets up another one, then gives us an anti-reveal.

But here’s the thing: It’s the right call. Not making Rey a descendent of Luke, Leia, or someone from the original trilogy gives her a refreshing independance. It makes her a self-made hero. I can also appreciate them not repeating the “I am your father” beat again.

Con: Snoke’s identity
Snoke was every bit the subject of speculation that Rey was, if not more. Who was this mysterious Force-wielder that taught Ben Solo the ways of the Dark Side? Why was his face so messed up? Was he even human? Was he the infamous Darth Plagueis?

The truth of Rey’s parentage may not have satisfied everybody, but at least we got an answer. With Snoke we got nothing. Nothing. Ben turns on him halfway through the movie, ultimately taking his spot at the top of the First Order food chain. While killing him off isn’t necessarily an issue, not addressing who he is, even if it’s just another non-reveal, is the movie’s biggest letdown.

You can make the argument we knew next to nothing about Palpatine in Empire and Jedi. Hell, they never even said his name. He was just the Emperor. But they then proceeded to make three movies chronicling his rise to power. Snoke’s identity is also wrapped up in the backstory of the First Order, of which we know so little.

I suppose there’s a chance we’ll learn a little more about who this guy was in Episode IX. But this was their big opportunity to explore him, and they missed it. That’s astounding. It’s not as if they didn’t know we were curious…

Pro: Mark Hamill as grumpy Luke.
There’s naturally a warm and fuzzy nostalgic quality to seeing Mark Hamill come back to Luke Skywalker. But he’s also perennially underrated as an actor. So to see him in a major motion picture again is very satisfying. He more than holds up his end of the bargain.

People have had mixed emotions about what they’ve done with Luke in these new movies. The execution hasn’t been perfect. But the idea itself isn’t bad. The events of Return of the Jedi happened more than 30 years ago. A hell of a lot can happen in three decades. People change. Luke has changed. I like that none of us were expecting grumpy old Luke Skywalker. It opened some interesting doors, and allowed Mark Hamill to turn in a different, more nuanced performance than he otherwise might have.

Con: Overstuffing the plot
The Last Jedi is so bloated that it may be the first Star Wars movie that overstays its welcome. It struggles to give both Finn and Poe Dameron something to do. As Rey, Finn, and Poe are supposed to have essentially the same level of importance, they all have their own plot threads. This leaves the story overinflated and less focused. As much as I like Oscar Isaac as Poe, he’s the one who needed to be scaled back.

While Finn and his new ally Rose are off on their big mission to a space casino, Leia is incapacitated. So Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) is put in charge of the Resistance. When Poe doesn’t like her more reserved and passive strategy, he stages a mutiny. We later learn Holdo is trying to be discreet while moving the Resistance to an old Rebel base on the planet Crait. She ends up sacrificing herself to buy them time.

While I enjoyed Laura Dern’s presence in the film, this whole subplot was unnecessary. I understand the lesson Poe is supposed to learn about seeing the bigger picture. But the movie already has so much going on, and they could have saved time by simply having Poe and Holdo work together in Leia’s absence. Then, inspired by her sacrifice, he can take charge and lead the Resistance forward into a new era.

Pro: New Planets
The planets in both The Force Awakens and Rogue One left something to be desired. None were particularly memorable other than Jakku, which is essentially the same world as Tatooine.

Crait isn’t a particularly interesting setting, at least not that we know of. But it does make for a unique visual during our climactic battle. You’ve got a thick layer of salt on the surface, with the red mineral content underneath. It’s a new kind of environment. That’s not an easy thing to give us after eight Star Wars movies.

The casino city of Canto Bight, which Finn and Rose travel to, is memorable as well. It doesn’t blow you away in terms of creatures or visual spectacle. But the novelty of basically seeing Star Wars characters go to Vegas is amusing.

Con: The Era
Here’s a little something Disney doesn’t want you to realize: We’re never going to get another universally beloved Star Wars movie ever again. Hell, we haven’t had once since The Empire Strikes Back, and even that’s debatable in some circles. The phrase “everyone’s a critic” has never been more true than it is in 2017. The advent of the internet, blogs, YouTube shows and the like have allowed for pop culture to be analyzed and re-analyzed to the point of absurdity. (And yes, I am indeed saying that on my own blog.) You can’t find something more heavily ingrained in our pop culture than Star Wars.

You also can’t find a more opinionated fandom. These movies and this universe connect with people on such a personal level. So something that’s perceived as wrong or harmful can spark a tidal wave of emotion. The prequels taught a generation of geeks (myself included) how to pick a movie apart and spit it back at its creators. We love Star Wars, but we are forever on guard from being burned again. As such, any and all future Star Wars films will be under a microscope as long as fans can access the internet. 

The Bottom Line
The Last Jedi does not live up to its hype. But that hype was so ridiculous that you almost can’t fault it for that.

Almost.

There’s a lot to like in this movie, and I appreciate that they surprised us, and are trying to avoid doing the original trilogy over again. But the plain and simple truth is that they tried to do too much with too many characters. As such, the movie’s focus is spread too thin. It almost feels like they shot their wad, and won’t have anything left for Episode IX. We’ll find out in two years, when thankfully JJ Abrams will be back in the director’s chair.

Help us, JJ. You’re are only hope… (No pressure.)

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Talking Star Wars: Looking Back at The Force Awakens

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Mrs. Primary Ignition and I are going to see The Last Jedi tonight. So naturally, last night we sat down to watch The Force Awakens. It was her idea, actually. Ladies, if you’re husband is a geek, ask him if he’s up for sitting down with some chili and a Star Wars movie. See what happens.

Obviously I’ve seen it a number of times already. In addition to officially reviewing it two years ago, I’ve discussed numerous elements here and there. The Force Awakens rightfully got a lot of flack for mimicking the original film. But I still love it. I can’t help it. There’s just something about Star Wars that brings out the inner child in so many of us. The Force Awakens did that in a way the prequels didn’t.

Moreso, The Force Awakens was a hell of an accomplishment. It breathed so much new life into the franchise, by introducing new faces and telling new stories. It restored some of the magic of the original trilogy by incorporating more practical effects, and not leaning so heavily on CGI. We had yet another epic score from the incomparable John Williams. In the end, it set the bar pretty damn high for Disney’s foray into the Star Wars universe.

What follows are a some notes I jotted down during the movie. This was my last stop on the road to The Last Jedi. Sometimes in order to appreciate where we’re going, you must first remember where you’ve been…

Mere minutes into the movie, Mrs. Primary Ignition asks: “Who built BB-8?” A fair question, I suppose. It’s sometimes tough to wrap your head around the idea that these robots, who play such pivotal roles in these movies, were mass produced in a factory somewhere. Unless you’re C-3PO, of course.

What The Force Awakens suffers from more than anything is a lack of exposition. When we were last in this universe, the Empire was being dealt a fatal blow. The implication was that they were gone for good. Then in the opening title crawl we’re told the First Order has “risen from the ashes of the Empire.” So where did they come from, and when? How did they acquire all their resources? Has there been relative peace in the three decades since Return of the Jedi? I understand certain things had to be kept a mystery. But little tidbits here and there to fill in the gaps would have been helpful.

Captain Phasma has a great look. Her armor is a nice extension of the stormtrooper get-up, and works as a symbol of the unwavering strength of the First Order. It’s also perfect to base toys off of. That always helps.

On a similar note, I’ve never liked the blasters the First Order troopers use. The mix of white and black makes them look like toy guns.

You can pinpoint the moment the audience is supposed to understand Rey is a good guy. When she’s sitting there cleaning off the parts she found in the old Star Destroyer, she looks at a frail old lady across from her doing some cleaning of her own. We see sympathy and compassion on her face. Thus, we make a positive connection with her. Remember, t this point in the film Rey hasn’t spoken yet. So it’s a nice subtle move.

The Empire’s last stand took place on Jakku. That’s why we see the crashed Star Destroyer, the downed AT-AT that Rey lives in, etc. But no one else us this. Again, lack of exposition. It doesn’t make or break the film either way, but it would have helped.

There are a lot of little details that are meant to make your brain associate The Force Awakens with the original trilogy. The noise the mouse droids make. The placement of the gas masks on the Millennium Falcon. The belch noise from the rathtar monster. That’s to say nothing of the more overt stuff, like the chess board and remote on the Falcon.

The Mos Eisley Cantina has to be one of the most imitated settings in cinematic history. Even within in the Star Wars universe, creators can’t help but put their spin on the idea. We obviously get that here with Maz Kanata’s cantina. It was fine. But it was pretty obvious what they were doing.

Should Kylo Ren/Ben Solo have had a pale, worn face that hadn’t seen light in awhile? When he takes his helmet off, he just looks like a normal guy. But I picture him never wanting to be seen without it, much like Darth Vader.

There’s a great little moment with Leia that was cut from the movie. Now that Carrie Fisher is gone, I really wish they’d kept it in. Leia is talking to someone about contacting the Senate and insisting action be taking against the First Order.

“Not all the senators think I’m insane. Or maybe they do. I don’t care.”

That line, and the way she delivers it, are so great. Considering how open Carrie Fisher was about her own mental illness, I bet she loved that line. I don’t think the line between Carrie and Leia was ever thinner than during those three sentences.

My favorite exchange in the movie happens between Han and Finn while they’re trying to infiltrate the Starkiller Base.

“Solo, we’ll figure it out. We’ll use the Force!”

“That’s not how the Force works!”

Han’s death scene is still hard to watch. Even when you know it’s coming, it doesn’t help. That horrified roar from Chewie might be the worst part of it all.

There’s a fan theory that Han actually pointed the lightsaber at himself, allowing Ben to turn it on and kill him. The idea being that he knew Snoke would kill Ben if he failed to carry out the deed. It doesn’t make the most sense. But stranger things have happened.

I love the fight between Kylo Ren and Rey. There’s very little fancy fight choreography, and neither look like extremely polished fighters. They’re just wailing on each other. It’s also a different environment than we’ve ever seen a lightsaber fight, which is accentuated when Rey uses the snow to extinguish Ren’s weapon.

The music callback from A New Hope when Rey catches the lightsaber is a touching moment. We heard it when Luke accepted his call to adventure, and now Rey is accepting hers. A hero is born.

On paper, you’d think the ending to this movie would be infuriating. We finally find Luke Skywalker, and then the movie ends. But it works.

Despite only appearing on camera for a matter of seconds, Mark Hamill did not have an easy job. He had so much to covey in so little time. This is the first time we’ve seen the character in so many years, and so much has happened. So the audience is just staring at him, taking in all the details.

I’ve heard that Hamill steals the show in The Last Jedi. I hope that’s the case. It’s time for mainstream moviegoers to see what we in the geek community have known for a long time: This man is a gem.

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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 Star Wars: Poe Dameron #5 Review – Droid Martial Arts

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #5, 2016, coverTITLE: Star Wars: Poe Dameron #5
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Phil Noto
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 17, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve curbed my expectations when it comes to this Poe Dameron series. I’m no longer looking for info regarding the state of the galaxy before The Force Awakens. This is simply an action-adventure title, which is fair enough. What I didn’t expect coming into issue #5 was for BB-8 to steal the show.

Poe, Black Squadron, and Agent Terex of the First Order remain trapped in Megalox Beta, a deadly prison run by the slippery and devilishly clever Grakkus the Hutt. Grakkus has struck a bargain with Poe and Terex: Whoever can break him out the fastest gets the location of Lor San Tekka, the man who reportedly knows the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker. Terex definitely has connections that Poe doesn’t. But Poe also has friends in high places…

BB-8 becomes the hero in this issue, leading the other Black Squadron astromech droids on a mission to compromise the prison’s security system. What follows is essentially Mission Impossible meets “Duel of he Droids.” The astromechs hide from guards, until we get what can only be described as a bit of droid martial arts (shown below). It’s a lot of fun, and very reminiscent of the BB-8 we saw in The Force Awakens.

Poe Dameron #5, 2016, droid martial artsSoule and Noto also do a tremendous job of capturing the charm and heart Oscar Issac put into the Poe character. He’s one for sarcastic quips, obviously. But he’s also a born leader. He’s compassionate and empathetic toward his teammates, and he stays positive even in the most dire scenarios. Soule gets Poe Dameron.

Phil Noto is pretty good at drawing him, too. Handling the pencils, inks, and colors on this series, Noto makes each setting in this issue very distinct. A sickly yellow haze hangs over Megalox Beta. Terex finds his way into a dingy and dimly lit cantina, not unlike the one we saw at Mos Eisley. The hangar the droids initially find themselves in is very calm, and has an almost relaxing quality to it with different shades of grayish blue. A stark contrast to the chaos they’re about to cause. And it all feels very familiar, very Star Wars. Noto also gives us a great cliffhanger shot, with the camera down on BB-8’s level as he looks up at a sizable new adversary.

Poe Dameron isn’t the book I wanted it to be. But the last two issues have been more fun, adventurous, and exciting than most of the Star Wars content Marvel has put out since it got the license back. It’s tough to sling mud at something like that.

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A Star Wars: Bloodline Review – Descended From Darkness

Star Wars: BloodlineTITLE: Star Wars: Bloodline
AUTHOR: Claudia Gray
PUBLISHER: Del Rey Books
LIST PRICE: 
$28.00
RELEASED: May 3, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Politics have always been a part of Star Wars. After all, one usually can’t have war without politics. Such things have the spotlight at some points more than others. It’s as much at the forefront in Bloodline as any Star Wars story you’ll ever read. That works to its detriment at times. But ultimately, Bloodline reveals something that may turn out to be a very important factor in Ben Solo’s turn to the dark side.

The book takes place over two decades after Return of the Jedi. The Galactic Senate of the New Republic is divided into two parties. First are the Populists, of whom Leia is a prominent member, who believe planetary authority should be retained by the individual worlds themselves. In contrast, the Centrists believe planets should be governed by a larger government and a more powerful military. Sadly, these two groups are more divided than ever, as such leaving the Senate largely unproductive. But when representatives from the planet Ryloth alert them to the emergence of an organized criminal element, Leia stumbles on to the foundation of a new war for the fate of the galaxy. But Leia is also about to face personal adversity. A secret will be revealed that few have ever known. Even two decades after his death, the shadow of Darth Vader looms heavily.

Star Wars: Bloodlines, postersThe imagery and marketing associated with Bloodline is somewhat misleading. It leads you to believe much of the book is about Leia being nominated for First Senator, more or less the equivalent to what the Chancellor of the Republic was in the prequels. It even comes with a double-sided “Vote Leia” poster, which on the flip side is defaced with an image of Darth Vader and the word “traitor.” In truth, the book has little to do with Leia being part of an election, and more to do with the unraveling of who the criminal group is. This is frustrating, but it doesn’t necessarily tarnish the book. Once we get into the second half, and the Vader element comes into play, things really pick up.

One of the reasons many fans soured on the prequel trilogy was the emphasis on politics, and the happenings in the Senate. Such fans will want to avoid Bloodline. It’s less about the action and more about the intrigue. There’s nothing wrong with that. But as much a die-hard as I am, I had trouble staying interested at times. Mostly during the first half.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Princess LeiaThough it plays the political card pretty heavily, Bloodline is somewhat timely for those who are so inclined. The book is largely about a political body heavily divided in its beliefs as they try to elect a leader. If you pay even the most remote attention to the news, that should sound familiar. It even offers us a little ray of hope, as we see Leia learning to trust and befriend a Centrist senator. Apparently even in a galaxy far, far away, one can reach across the aisle now and then.

One of the great things about new Star Wars stories in 2016 is that there’s so much fertile ground to cover between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. In various Star Wars novels and comic books (including Claudia Gray’s other Star Wars book, Lost Stars), we’ve been getting bits and pieces of the state the galaxy is in, what happened to the Empire, etc. Bloodline offers a lot of that, including how the First Order and the Resistance were formed.

But the major event of this book involves the revelation to the galaxy that Leia is Darth Vader’s daughter. What’s more, Ben Solo, who is off training with Luke Skywalker at this point, doesn’t know the truth about his heritage. That point is understated, but it’s perhaps the most notable development in the entire book. Ben doesn’t know. Imagine learning a secret like that, not from your parents, but from the news. How angry would you be? And in time, wouldn’t you want to know more about the grandfather you never knew you had? For a certain kind of person a fixation, or even an obsession, might form…

Kylo Ren, Darth Vader helmetReportedly, Rian Johnson, the director for Episode VIII, contributed ideas for this book. I’d be floored to learn that either Johnson, or someone on the inside at that movie didn’t float that to Gray. That’s too integral a detail to Ben’s turn to the dark side.

Bloodline isn’t the most thrilling Star Wars book you’ll ever read. Readers will definitely feel its length at times. But it offers an abundance of something many fans are looking for these days: Information. Casual fans may want to leave it on the shelf, but die-hards will gobble this up like a Sarlacc Pit devouring their favorite bounty hunter.

Image 1 from stormtrooperlarry.wordpress.com. Image 2 from cinemablend.com. Image 3 from screen rant.com.

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