Monthly Archives: October 2015

Review: “Star Wars–Dawn Of The Jedi Vol. II: Prisoner Of Bogan” by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

Title: Prisoner Of Bogan
Story & Script: John Ostrander
Story & Art: Jan Duursema
Series: Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi Volume II (Issues #6-10)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2013

Continuing my project to work through the backlog of Star Wars comics I’ve yet to read (or haven’t read for a long time,) we jump once more into the ancient history of the Galaxy Far, Far Away….You may recall my review of the first volume way back when, but here’s a quick recap. Over twenty thousand years before the rise of the Empire, the Je’daii and their descendants inhabit the Tython system. Instead of the polarized Light and Dark alignments seen in later eras of the timeline, the Je’daii strive for balance in all things. When the Force is out of balance, the planet itself rises against its inhabitants. Elsewhere in the galaxy, the Rakatan Infinite Empire spreads across the stars fueled by the Dark Side of the Force, finding worlds rich in the Force and stripping them for their own use. Their Force-sensitive hunters have seen a vision of Tython, and Force H0und Xesh was dispatched to find this world and guide his masters there. Xesh’s craft inexplicably crashed on arrival, killing all but the Hound himself and triggering a massive Force Storm. Now with his memories clouded by amnesia but still immersed in darkness, Xesh has been banished to Bogan until he can find balance in the Force. Also on Bogan is Daegan Lok, a mad Je’daii obsessed with a vision of invading armies carrying blades of energy and strengthened by the Dark Side of the Force. In Xesh, Lok sees proof of his vision’s veracity. The council won’t see reason, so he’s going to have to force them to take him seriously….even if he has to conquer Tython to do it!

Again, the team of Ostrander and Duursema is one of my absolute favorite in comics. I will read anything with their names on it, and have never yet been disappointed. This series is no different. Everything is fresh and different, yet you can see the future looming over the (distant) horizon at times. It’s fun to see some meat fleshed out on the bones of Star Wars‘s prehistory we’ve been given glimpses of before–the Rakata, the Kwa, etc. The similarities to other eras are fun, but even more interesting are the differences. The Je’daii are just as worried about being too in tune with the light as they are the dark, and if it takes channeling some anger to ignite a Forcesaber, well, they really want that energy blade to work. It’ll be interesting to see how this all wraps up next volume, as I suspect that the vision for this series was cut short by the impending move to Marvel. There were a few minor inconsistencies though. It was implied early on that only certain species were visited by each Tho Yor, and that there were a limited number of these ancient vessels. This volume, we have members of other species in the Tythan system. Not a problem, per se, but how? Also, Hawk Ryo seems a bit ambivalent on what he saw in the Rift. At times he admits to sharing Lok’s vision, then other times denies it with a passion. A relic of a rewrite forced by the impending loss of their license? Maybe. Without giving spoilers, the first scene here with Trill and her Rakatan boss is inconsistent with the revelation near the end of the book. Again, I suspect a shift in direction mid-series to accommodate the shorter run.

CONTENT: Some violence. Mild profanity. Mild sexual innuendo, including scantily clad females of various (mostly humanoid) species.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews, Star Wars

Review: “Star Wars–Rebels: Ring Race” by Martin Fisher & Bob Molesworth

Title: Ring Race
Writer: Martin Fisher
Artist: Bob Molesworth
Series: Star Wars: Rebels
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Egmont UK Ltd, 2015

Here’s another Star Wars: Rebels short comic! Why? Because I can, that’s why. This particular story first appeared in Germany, was translated and published in the UK in Star Wars Rebels Magazine #1, then reprinted stateside in the US version of the same magazine.

After a particularly nasty encounter with Imperial forces the Ghost is in need of repairs, forcing the crew to visit Osisis Station to acquire parts from Galus Vez, the owner of the station. Unfortunately, Vez is tired of dodging Imperial interest in our protagonists, and offers them an ultimatum: beat him on his private course through the asteroid belt, or he’ll take their ship and hand them over to the Empire. Not ideal, but since Vez has no intention of playing fair our protagonists don’t feel the need to either….

This one was fun. The ending is never really in doubt, but you can’t expect too high of stakes in a twelve-page tie-in to a series. They’re hardly going to do something drastic like kill a character or destroy their ship offscreen. The writing is spot-on, and all the characters are true to their on-screen personas. The art was decent, simple and clean without doing anything spectacular. Nothing special compared to comics from the larger publishers, but compared to other shorts like this, it shines. It matches the look of the show well enough, and that’s really all you can ask of it.

CONTENT: Mild violence. No profanity. No sexual content.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews, Short Stories, Star Wars

Review: “The Rewind Files” by Claire Willett

Title: The Rewind Files
Author: Claire Willett
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Retrofit Publishing, 2015

Time travel stories are the bomb, especially when they’re done well. On that note, you should read this one.

Sometime in the twenty-second century, humanity discovered time travel. Predictably, we set out to undo a lot of history’s more appalling moments. Also predictably, this was a horrible idea. History unraveled, and thus was born the Agency responsible for fixing the timeline. Regina Bellows is perfectly happy being a desk jockey, staying safely in the twenty-second century and watching operations in the late twentieth through her instruments as field agents patch various decaying points in the timeline…until she discovers evidence of a conspiracy deliberately manipulating the timeline for their own ends. Soon she’s on her own, back in the twentieth century, trying to figure out just what’s so important about Richard Nixon, arguably the most boring President our country’s ever had….

This was fun. If you’re at all a history buff, you really ought to read this. Obviously a basic working knowledge of mid-20th century American history would benefit you in understanding what’s going on and where the timelines are differing, but at a pinch anything you need to know can be gleaned from a quick trip to Wikipedia. The book was painstakingly researched, and that degree of care is obvious in all elements of the story. The plot keeps you moving at all times, and there were only a couple points where I saw the next twist coming. Even then, it was a matter of outsmarting the characters, seeing a consequence to their actions that didn’t occur to them at the time. The time travel mechanic is consistently applied all the way through, with only one minor potential plot hole that occurred to me later—something that could probably be explained away fairly easily, but wasn’t actually addressed. My only real complaint is that as a fan of Reagan I was slightly offended by the characterization of his alternate-history self as a warmonger and corporate stooge. For a debut novel, that’s impressive. I would heartily recommend giving this one a read.

CONTENT: Brief R-rated profanity, most of the book falls in the PG-13 range. Mild violence. Mild sexual innuendo.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Novels, Reviews

Review: “Star Wars: Shattered Empire” by Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso, & Angel Unzueta

Title: Shattered Empire
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso (Issue #2), & Angel Unzueta (Issues #2-3)
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

Did you ever wonder just what happened to our heroes after the credits rolled and The Return Of The Jedi was over? Yes, yes, I know, they foiled an invasion by the Ssi-Ruuk. But that was the alternate universe of the Legends canon. I’m talking the new, rebooted canon leading up to Disney’s triumphant (we hope) entrance into the franchise. Well, wonder no more! Marvel has brought us Shattered Empire to answer some of those questions and help set the board for Star Wars–Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Now, I know this is a four-issue miniseries, but I want you to try something. Instead of thinking of it as a unified story, think of it as a themed anthology, a collection of shorter tales all featuring the same main character with numerous side characters along for the ride and all loosely tied together by a common end goal. If you can do that, this earns the four stars I took the liberty of giving it–possibly even a fifth. If you can’t, if you go into this expecting a single unified story, that rating probably seems incredibly generous as the episodic plot rambles all over the place and sprawls out over a three-month period with sometimes little connective tissue between adventures. So please, go into this book with the proper expectations, because it really is worth the read.

Our story opens during the climactic moments of The Return Of The Jedi. While Luke engages his father in an epic lightsaber battle and Han’s commandos prepare to destroy the shield generator protecting the second Death Star, the Rebel fleet battles for survival between the Imperial Navy’s hammer and the Death Star’s anvil (or is that the other way around? Doesn’t matter, moving on.) Our protagonist, Shara Bey, is an A-Wing pilot caught in that battle, while her husband Kes Dameron is with Solo’s strike team on the surface. Following the battle, they get a brief respite during the victory celebration, but then it’s once more into the breach as comm traffic reveals a holdout Imperial base on the far side of the planet. Striking that base reveals a sobering fact: the war is far from over. The Emperor had a slew of contingency plans, and the Imperials control the airwaves. Palpatine may be dead, but most of the galaxy doesn’t know that. We then jump to several weeks later, as the Rebels work hard to liberate world after world. Off the front lines on light duty after her fighter is disabled, Shara accompanies Princess Leia to Naboo on a diplomatic mission to gain allies for the fledgling New Republic. Unfortunately, as the Emperor’s homeworld, Naboo is one of the prime targets of Operation Cinder, the Emperor’s program of vengeance from beyond the grave….Meanwhile, Solo’s strike team takes on an Imperial Security Bureau black site. Finally, we jump again to about three months post-Endor, as the grave reality is finally settling in for everyone involved–despite their recent victories, there is no end in sight for the ongoing war. Struggling with the question of whether or not to muster out and settle down with her husband and son, Shara joins Luke Skywalker on an undercover mission to recover an artifact of the old Jedi Order.

Like I said, if you come into this with the proper expectations, it’s solid gold. The writing is top-notch, and the art is incredible. In the middle the series gains a couple backup artists, I assume to help with backgrounds and such given the compressed publication schedule (the whole thing was published over the course of a month and a half), but it was surprisingly not an issue. The whole book is full of delightful blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gems, such as a sly, almost imperceptible reference to the fan theory that the Ewoks were serving roast Stormtrooper at their celebration party, a brief exhibition of Leia’s fledgling Force sensitivity as she feels “cold” when crossing paths with Maul’s imprint, and another semi-appearance of Commander Beck from Han Solo’s Smuggler’s Run (also by Greg Rucka, now that I think of it.) The ties to The Force Awakens range from the obvious (Poe Dameron is the son of Shara and Kes) to the more foundational, such as the war not ending where we all assumed it did. Bottom line: Find this, read it, and enjoy it. Just know what you’re in for.

CONTENT: Moderate violence. Minor to no profanity. Mild sexual content (Shara and Kes wake up together in one scene after one of their rare chances to be together.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews, Short Stories, Star Wars

Review: “Hellboy Vol. VI: Strange Places” by Mike Mignola

Title: Strange Places
Writer & Artist: Mike Mignola
Series: Hellboy
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2006

“Don’t mess with me, lady. I’ve been drinking with skeletons.”

Seriously, how many characters do you know who could deliver that line in all seriousness? Pretty much just Hellboy, which goes quite a ways towards explaining his appeal. The entire series is so….over the top, ridiculous, ambitious….not really sure of the best word to sum it up, but you have to admit it’s pretty great. This time around in The Third Wish, Hellboy is pitted against the Bog Roosh, an undersea witch who wishes to save the world….by ending Hellboy once and for all. Sure, Hellboy has rejected his birthright as Anung Un Rama, the Right Hand Of Doom and devoted his life to saving the world, but so long as he exists someone could use the power of his hand to loose the Ogdru Jahad and burn the world. The Bog Roosh would end this threat once and for all. Then, in The Island Hellboy washes up on a forsaken island and is given a lesson in the origins of the world and all things that culminates in his death. Kind of. Maybe. Guess we’ll have to wait for the next book to see how that works out.

I won’t pretend that I understood everything that happened here, but I don’t think you’re meant to. Mignola is giving you an inside look at the creation of his world, true, but what is left out is as relevant as what is shown. We’ll see where the path Hellboy is set upon leads, I suppose. The book is filled with scattered moments of Hellboy being delightfully himself, and that is most definitely worth the rest of what is undoubtedly one of the darker entries in this series so far.

Content: Minor language, some stylized violence and gore. Little to no sexual content. A fair amount of occult content, however. In Hellboy’s world, everything supernatural would seem to exist in….well, not harmony, but a unified worldview. This includes the Christian God and the Devil as well as more Lovecraftian things such as the Ogdru Jahad. God and the Church have power, but there are other things abroad in the world that have power as well and were old long before Christ was born in his manger. Hellboy is brought to Earth from another plane–implied to be Hell–in a dark ritual performed by Grigori Rasputin. He later tries to use Hellboy as the focus of another ritual to free the Ogdru Jahad (similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones) and bring an end to the world as we know it. One of the short tales implies that Hellboy himself is the son of the Devil and a mortal witch. Ghosts, vampires….the Beast of the Apocalypse…..

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews

Review: “Star Wars–Agent Of The Empire: Hard Targets” by John Ostrander & Davide Fabbri

Title: Hard Targets
Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Davide Fabbri
Series: Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire Volume II (Agent Of The Empire #6-10)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2013

I’ve been going through my backlog of Star Wars comics, and I realized that I never got around to the second arc of John Ostrander’s stellar Agent Of The Empire series! Obviously, that had to be remedied. And so, here we are!

Jahan Cross is a very dangerous man, willing to do whatever he has to in order to make the galaxy a better place. Unfortunately, he believes wholeheartedly that the Empire is the only thing separating the galaxy from utter chaos and ruin. In the interests of the Empire, Cross will do anything that is asked of him. But when he discovers that his most recent kill was less about removing a threat to the Empire and more about lining the pockets of an Imperial official, Cross’s loyalties are placed to the ultimate test….

The good news? This second arc is every bit as good as the first, maybe better. The bad news? This is all there is. The series was canceled after this for some reason, probably related to the loss of licensing rights. Whereas the first arc dealt with Cross very much secure in his belief that he was working in the galaxy’s best interests (rightly, in that case), this time out we see a slightly different side of our shadowy hero. This time he knows for certain that his orders have nothing to do with improving the galaxy and everything to do with the personal ambitions of petty politicians. The question is, can Cross manage to make things right without breaking ranks? You’ll just have to wait and see!

As with the previous arc, this story stands pretty well even if you’re not a Star Wars buff. Obviously you’ll be better off if you read Agent Of The Empire: Iron Eclipse, but aside from that its pretty much new material. You get appearances by Armand & Ysanne Isard, but you learn everything you really need to know about them from context. Leia and Winter make a cameo, but again prior knowledge is far from essential. The barest familiarity with the Clone Wars gives you the identity of Count Dooku, whose family features heavily, but as he’s a movie character I think its safe to assume anyone interested knows who he is.

CONTENT: Mild to no profanity. Some violence, occasionally gruesome. Quite a bit of flirting, but no overt sexual content.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews, Star Wars

Review: “Star Wars–Rebels: Learning Patience” by Martin Fisher & Ingo Romling

Title: Learning Patience
Writer: Martin Fisher
Artist: Ingo Romling
Series: Star Wars: Rebels
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Egmont UK Ltd, 2015

In honor of the fact that I finally got my Star Wars: Rebels DVD, here’s a story from the UK magazine! This particular story appeared first in Germany, then in English in the UK Star Wars Rebels Magazine #2. I believe it’s set to appear in the US in November’s issue of the stateside Star Wars Rebels Magazine, but I could be mistaken about that.

Ezra is having trouble letting go of his tension and just focusing, letting his task be completed in its own time. Instead, he gets caught in a self-defeating spiral of pressure to perform and impatience. Of course, this means that a situation is going to arise where his survival will depend on that very skill….The story itself was decent, if a little too cliched, and the art was serviceable without being remarkable. The offscreen mission Kanan and Zeb are undertaking has yet to be documented, so far as I know, but that could change as they publish more of these short comics. On the whole, a mediocre tale, but worth checking out if you can find it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Comics/Graphic Novels, Reviews, Short Stories, Star Wars