A Star Wars: Yoda’s Secret War Review – Size Still Matters Not

TITLE: Star Wars, Vol. 5: Yoda’s Secret War
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron, Kelly Thompson
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca, Emilio Laiso. Cover by Stuart Immonen.
COLLECTS: Star Wars #2630Star Wars Annual #2
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: July 5, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve referred to the “Journal of Old Ben Kenobi” issues of Star Wars the highlight of the series thus far. I stand by that statement in terms of the one-off tales we got in issues #7, #15, and #20. But they went a little too far here. A five-issue story from the journal? Which features Yoda instead of Obi-Wan? I can understand the temptation to try it. But no. This falls in the “too much of a good thing” category.

As Luke Skywalker ponders a current predicament involving C-3PO being captured by the Empire, he opens Ben Kenobi’s journal and begins reading. Ben weaves a tale of a Jedi being called to a remote planet not on any star maps. A world inhabited only by children, who speak of a mysterious “stonepower.” Little does Luke know that the Jedi unraveling the mystery of this planet is Yoda, the former Grand Master of the Jedi Order who will soon continue his training in the ways of the Force.

Our artist for the main story is Salvador Larroca, whose work I’ve talked about in great detail previously. Long story short: His art is largely based on stills from the Star Wars movies, and it’s incredibly distracting. You want to be into the story, but the art keeps reminding you of scenes from Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, etc. It works for characters like Darth Vader or C-3PO, whose faces never change. But for just about everyone else it’s a problem. It’s a shame, because otherwise this is pretty good stuff. Edgar Delgado’s colors really capture the magic and wonder of the Star Wars Universe, especially once Yoda is sent on a question inside a mountain. And we get a big monster toward the end that’s are a lot of fun.

To his credit, Jason Aaron gets Yoda right. He’s not afraid to play with Yoda’s ironic size/power ratio. In issue #26, we see him walk into the lair of a bunch of space pirates to save a Force-sensitive child. As one might expect, they initially laugh him off. But he dispatches them, and gets a pretty good line in: “Something more precious than wealth have I brought you. … Wisdom.”

During our story, Yoda becomes the student of a boy named Garro, who teaches him about the stonepower. Seeing our little green friend as an apprentice instead of a master is always a fun role reversal. Star Wars fans obviously know that he instructs very young Jedi at the temple on Coruscant. So the fact that he’s on a planet full of child warriors is a great little twist. We get some cool visuals of Yoda and Garro with the glowing stones, and the blue light reflecting across the Jedi Master’s alien skin.

But despite what Yoda’s Secret War has going for it, it’s simply too long. They could have trimmed at least one issue off of this and been absolutely fine. In issue #29, we see Yoda face a rock monster that’s as tall as a building. That’s a great match-up, and a perfect illustration of the grand yet unassuming power this little guy possesses. In terms of a grand finale for a Yoda story, it’s tough to ask for more than that. But as we move through issue #29 and into #30, we jump back to present day and see Luke mix it up with an adult Garro. Thus, a story that was already starting to feel it’s length officially overstays its welcome. I understand the impulse to connect the story to Luke. But the reader already knows Yoda eventually trains him. It’s needless filler.

We also have to endure the narrative convenience that, in telling this story, Ben Kenobi never identifies Yoda by name. This is a continuity hoop Aaron has to jump through so Luke doesn’t recognize Yoda’s name in The Empire Strikes Back. While I appreciate the attention to continuity, it’s just a little too convenient for my taste. Logically, why wouldn’t Obi-Wan use Yoda’s name?

We also get the obligatory scene at the end with Yoda on Dagobah, talking about how Luke will be ready soon. Again, needless filler.

Also contained in this book is Star Wars Annual #2, in which our creative team shifts to Kelly Thompson and Emilio Laiso. We meet a character named Pash Lavane on the planet of Skorii-Lei, which has been devastated by the war between the Empire and the Rebellion. While she’s an immensely talented former engineer, with the physique of an Amazon to boot, Pash opts to stay out of the conflict. But when she rescues Princess Leia from a stormtrooper attack, she’s irrevocably drawn in. She may have no choice but to pick a side.

I appreciate the story Thompson tells about how one can’t always stay neutral when it comes to what’s happening in their world at large. But what I came away thinking about was the Pash character herself. The juxtaposition of a big, muscled up character who’s also technically savvy is intriguing. Pash is almost the She-Hulk of the Star Wars universe. Laiso strikes a lovely balance, as he makes her both facially expressive and imposing in stature. Between Doctor Aphra and Sana Solo, Marvel hasn’t been shy about creating new strong female characters. Pash makes that list as well, and it’s a shame we haven’t seen her since this issue.

I’ve drifted in and out of Marvel’s main Star Wars series since its debut. As big a Star Wars geek as I’ve always been, this title has had trouble holding my attention. Sadly, Yoda’s Secret War is my latest exit cue. Hopefully I get a reason to return sooner rather than later.

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A Star Wars #27 Review – This Looks Familiar…

star_wars_27TITLE: Star Wars #27
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca. Cover by Stuart Immonen.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 25, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We haven’t seen much of Yoda since Star Wars returned to Marvel. He’s been around, of course. But to my knowledge this is the first story we’ve seen that’s actually focused on him.

Framed, oddly enough, as an entry in the diary of Ob-Wan Kenobi, part two of “Yoda’s Secret War” sees Yoda travel to a planet of primitive warriors. Warriors that also happen to be children. The planet’s society revolves around it’s strange blue mountains. The ore from these mountains is somehow strong in the Force. The Jedi Master is quickly caught up in the feud between the tribe that controls the ore, and the young outsiders. As a Jedi, Yoda’s mission is to bring peace. But as he’ll soon find out, peace is not on the table.

The artist here is our old Darth Vader buddy Salvador Larroca, who I’ve criticized for making it blatantly obvious that he’s duplicating movie stills. I’ll repeat that critique here, as you can tell exactly where he hit the pause button during Attack of the Clones. You’re into what’s happening in the book, and then these familiar images of Yoda pluck you out. Larroca is a very talented artist. It’s such a shame he waters down his own work like this.

star-wars, Yoda, Salvador Larroca, 2017Putting Yoda in a story with kids is obviously fitting. Star Wars lore tells us he teaches a lot of the “younglings” (a la that scene in Clones) before they’re assigned to a master. There’s an opportunity here for insight into how Yoda relates to children, and what makes him an effective mentor for students that age. It doesn’t have to be anything big or monumental. A small moment would do. Maybe even something as short as a sentence. We don’t get anything like that in this issue. But the door is wide open for it next issue.

Jason Aaron’s handle on Yoda has impressed me. In neither this nor last issue did we see a lightsaber, or any sort of flippy moves from him. What we have here is wise Empire Strikes Back Yoda, as opposed to CGI dancing Yoda. For that, I’m thankful. What we’re getting here seems that much more authentic as a result.

Jason Aaron came across something really cool with these “Journal” stories, as it allows him to take a break for a month and tell some cool stories with Obi-Wan. This is the first time he’s gone a little more long form with it, while also journeying away from Obi-Wan’s life on Tatooine. I much prefer the single issue stories (see issues #7, #15, and #20), but what we’re getting here with Yoda is still pretty good. But with at least two more issues, most likely three, left in “Yoda’s Secret War,” I’m just hoping our little green friend doesn’t overstay his welcome.

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A Review of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back – The Incredible Journey

The Making of The Empire Strikes BackTITLE: The Making of The Empire Strikes Back
AUTHOR: J.W. Rinzler
PUBLISHER: Lucas Books
PRICE: $85
RELEASED: October 12, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Though he has his critics, me being one at times, I could listen to George Lucas talk Star Wars for hours, specifically the in terms of plot evolution. So that was probably the aspect of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back I found most appealing.

Released for the 30th anniversary of the film, this coffee table book chronicles the movie’s creation and release, starting in May 1977 (when the first film was released) and ending in December 1980. It features old and rare interview content from the film’s cast and crew, a variety of photographs, unseen concept art by Ralph McQuarrie, and more.

The really cool thing about this book is that Rinzler more or less presents the content in chronological order. It almost feels like you’re reading a production journal that includes interviews with the cast and crew. That’s likely in part because the book borrows a great deal from Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back by Alan Arnold, which was published in 1980.

Irvin Kershner, The Empire StrikesThe book will likely tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the making of Empire, mostly looking at it from a director’s perspective, an actor’s perspective, and a special effects perspective. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, because if you’re reading this book from cover to cover, chances are you’re going to get bored at times. As I said, I love hearing George Lucas, and in this case Irvin Kershner, talk Star Wars. But as amazing as the special effects in the film are, their formative process doesn’t interest me as much.

But you can certainly argue that this book doesn’t need to be read to be enjoyed. For Star Wars buffs, the photos alone might just be worthy the hefty $85 price. We see some fantastic candid behind-the-scenes shots. For instance: Kersnher showing Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) how he might hold C-3PO’s severed head, Carrie Fisher sitting in the carbon freezing chamber alongside numerous stormtroopers and Ugnaughts (pig men) during a break, Mark Hamill in the swamps of Dagobah with Yoda…along with Kermit and Miss Piggy. Plus, there are lots of shots from the set that just show the actors being themselves. Those are fun to look at.

The detail on some of these photos is amazing. There’s a tight black and white shot of Yoda on Mark Hamill’s shoulder, and you can see not only the sweat on Hamill’s face, but a lot of the little details on the puppet. The creases in its face, the detail in its hands, how life-like the eyes look. It’s almost breath-taking.

Yoda, Luke SKywalker, The Empire Strikes BackThe book provides some insight into the behind-the-scenes tension that went on during the film. Apparently, Hamill was worried that Luke Skywalker was bring written out when he read Yoda’s “There is another” line. Also, Empire was way over budget, and we read about Lucas’ fear of having to turn the film over to 20th Century Fox in order to finish it, as opposed to owning it himself.

The only real drawback to the book is its price. For casual fans, $85 is a lot to ask for a book, and I consider myself more than just a casual fan. You get your money’s worth, but you might have to save up for it. Or you could always try the library.

Though the book in its entirety didn’t interest me, I can’t deny The Making of The Empire Strikes Back is a gem for both die-hard collectors and casual fans of the movie, by virtue of the sheer volume of content it contains. It’s a fitting tribute to one of the greatest films ever made. In a recent interview with StarWars.com, Rinzler said he’d do a book like this for Return of the Jedi if sales justified it, which I’m sure they will. Star Wars is recession-proof that way.

RATING: 9.5/10

Image 1 from grantgould7.tripod.com. Image 2 from curiousintentions.com.

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