Weekly Comic 100s: Darth Vader, Batman, X-Men/Fantastic Four, 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: Darth Vader #1
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Variant cover by Chris Sprouse.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

After the events of Empire, Darth Vader starts investigating Luke’s birth/origins. He journeys back to Tatooine (again). He then goes to Padme’s old apartment on Coruscant, which remains more or less preserved after 20 years. As if it’s a crime scene or something. Based on the ending, I assume we’ll learn more next issue.

I understand it from a storytelling perspective. But in-universe, it’s always a little too convenient that these landmark places all essentially look the same no matter when we see them. That Lars Homestead will still be standing 30 years later

TITLE: Batman #88
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

I wasn’t very nice to Guillem March last time. In fact, I’m rarely depict his work positively. But to his credit, he won me over with this issue. At least a little bit. His rendering of Catwoman in a graveyard on a rainy night is damn near beautiful. The scene with Batman, Penguin, Deathstroke, and the others is also very strong.

At more than one point, it seemed to me like this issue was laying the groundwork for the long-awaited Three Jokers book. Remember, we’re building toward a story in the pages of Batman called “Joker War.”

TITLE: X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Chip Zdarsky
ARTISTS: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson (Inker), Dexter Vines (Inking Assistant), Karl Story (Inking Assistant), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

I’m terrified of X-Men comics. Specifically, the decades worth of continuity and characters. But to this book’s credit, it’s fairly accessible.

Franklin Richards, the mutant teenage son of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, is summoned by Charles Xavier to live with Earth’s mutants on the island nation of Krakoa. This doesn’t sit well with Reed. Naturally, conflict and teen angst ensue.

I’ve been looking for a bridge back into the Marvel Universe. X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 might be it, as it does a nice job setting up both teams, and giving us a compelling main character in Franklin.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Simone di Meo, Alessio Zonno, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

We get a fight between Rita and Shredder in this issue. It’s a relatively lengthy battle. And you know what? I’m just going to come out and say it: I wanted this to be one of those fights where the guy and girl hook up at the end. You know how it goes. The passion overcomes them, etc. These two have a lot in common, after all.

What that says about me and these characters from my childhood, I’ll let you decide.

Oh my God. What if Shredder, not Zedd, was actually Thrax‘s father?!?!? Mind blown!!!

TITLE: Young Justice #13
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Michael Avon Oeming, Mike Grell, John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

Well hey there, Mike Grell! It’s been too long! What’s more, Grell gets to once again draw a character he created in Warlord. Warlord and Superboy actually have a pretty nice dynamic in this issue. The experienced elder statesman offering calm words of wisdom to an upset Superboy.

For the moment at least, the Young Justice cast has expanded greatly. If these additional characters stick around, it’s a lot to balance. But it’s still damn good to see a couple of them.

TITLE: Lois Lane #8
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

As much as I’m enjoying having Greg Rucka back at DC, I’m wondering if this needed to be a 12-issue maxi-series. This entire issue felt mostly like filler.

For instance, there’s a scene in this issue where Superman shows up after an attempt on Lois’ life. We take four pages to see husband and wife re-united, and then to see the attention the Man of Steel gets from the local police.

Am I missing something? Why are we seeing this?

On the upside, the assassin that comes after Lois has a pretty cool look.

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George Lucas on Star Wars: Anakin and C-3PO

***Think what you will about George Lucas, but in terms of Star Wars, it can all be traced back to him. That’s why I always find it so interesting to listen to him talk about it. His creative process, the reason certain decisions were made, and how these movies became the pop cultural staples they are. This space is dedicated to just that. This is “George Lucas on Star Wars.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: Anakin introduces Padme to C-3PO, the protocol droid he’s building to help his mother. Moments later, Threepio meets R2-D2 for the first time.

George Lucas Says (Via the Phantom Menace Commentary Track): “Not only is Darth Vader Luke and Leia’s father, but he’s also Threepio’s father. I thought that was kind of amusing irony in all of this. And I couldn’t resist it. It gives us the opportunity for Threepio to meet Artoo for the first time, and start what will ultimately become a very long and arduous friendship of sorts.”

I Say: Like a lot of people, my initial reaction to the revelation that Anakin built C-3PO was: “Bullsh*t.” Even in a world with laser swords and slug people, it was far-fetched.

But…when you hear George explain it like this, it actually makes sense. So much of Threepio’s character is based on him trying to relate to human beings. (“Sometimes I just don’t understand human behavior!”) So there’s fantastic comedic irony in the idea that like our main hero Luke Skywalker, Threepio is also Darth Vader’s son. It even casts an interesting new light on the “He’s more machine now than man” line from Return of the Jedi.

But that’s all subtext. To the average moviegoer, this Anakin connection is just a contrivance to shoehorn Threepio into the movie. And for no real reason, as there’s not much for him to do other than be introduced to Artoo. So while I very much like what George was going for with this, I don’t know that it was worth it in the end.

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Astonishing Art: Star Wars by Eric Tan

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m a sucker for a good Star Wars poster. So when I came across this set from Disney artist/designer Eric Tan, I fell head-over-heels very quickly. For a time, the posters based on the original trilogy were actually sold at the Disney store for hundreds of dollars. While that places them firmly outside of my price range, from a quality perspective I understand it. These things are friggin’ gorgeous…

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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.

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Panels of Awesomeness: Obi-Wan Kenobi by Mike Mayhew

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

CREATORS: Jason Aaron (Author), Mike Mayhew (Artist)

THE SCENES: Living as a hermit, Obi-Wan Kenobi watches over a young Luke Skywalker as he grows up on Tatooine.

WHY THEY’RE AWESOME: Lately I’ve been obsessed with the version of Obi-Wan Kenobi that Mike Mayhew drew for Marvel’s Star Wars title. Specifically, issues #15 and #20, which hit the stands in 2016.

Mayhew was by no means a stranger to the Star Wars universe at this point. Perhaps most notably, he was the artist for The Star Wars, which adapted an early draft of the original film. For Star Wars #15 and #20, however, he was tasked with depicting entries in what author Jason Aaron called “The Journals of Old Ben Kenobi.”

What I find so interesting about Mayhew’s version of Kenobi is that he didn’t take the obvious route, and draw him to look like Ewan McGregor. But he didn’t go the Alec Guiness route either. Mayhew opted for something more his own. A figure that captures the essence of the character, without being beholden to either one of the actors. That approach isn’t so far-fetched in the world of licensed comic books. Often it’s met with an eye-roll from yours truly.

This, on the other hand? This works. Something about it screams classic Star Wars. As if it’s transplanted from an era before the prequels, where we were still imagining what a young Obi-Wan Kenobi might look like. It achieves a warm and fuzzy nostalgic quality without feeling like it’s trying too hard for it.

Though Jason Aaron has been off Star Wars for awhile now, I’d love to see them revive this journal framework. If they can bring Mike Mayhew back for it, all the better!

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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 #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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