Category Archives: Star Wars

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.)

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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.

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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.

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Review: “Star Wars: Lando” by Charles Soule & Alex Maleev

Title: Lando
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alex Maleev
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

Who’s your favorite scoundrel from a galaxy far, far away? Han. Right, of course he is. But Lando’s a close second, right? In that case, you should check out the newest character-specific miniseries from Marvel Comics’ Star Wars line.

In over his head on a gambling debt, Lando Calrissian has little choice when offered a chance to settle his tab. The job should be easy: slip into a lightly-guarded shipyard and steal the pleasure yacht of an unnamed rich Imperial. The ship goes to settle his debt; the art objects inside are his to sell. Even splitting the take with the rest of the crew he assembles, they’ll all be rich…if they survive. What his employer failed to mention is that this particular pleasure yacht belongs to Emperor Sheev Palpatine himself, and it contains secrets that he cannot afford to see made public….

This was pretty good. We’ve yet to see Lando appear in any of the new Expanded Universe stuff, given the focus on the period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, so it was good to see his character expanded on a bit. Much like Han, Lando has a bad habit of getting his friends into trouble. Unlike Han, he also has a habit of running when things get hot. He never means to get his friends screwed over, but it inevitably happens anyway…until he reaches a point where he just can’t take it anymore, like we see in the films. This is mostly Lando being the slick charmer we see in the films, but that’s not to say that this doesn’t offer any new material. Lobot gets a significant backstory upgrade, including just how he becomes the silent presence we see in The Empire Strikes Back. Is the story must-read material? Not really, unless you’re a huge Lando fan. It is fun though, and the art is spectacular. I’d advise you not to miss it.

CONTENT: Some violence. Mild profanity. Little to no sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars–Kanan: The Last Padawan” by Greg Weisman & Pepe Larraz

Title: The Last Padawan
Writer: Greg Weisman
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Series: Star Wars: Kanan #1-6 (Official Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit behind on the Star Wars: Rebels front. Due to a marked lack of cable, I decided to wait til it hit DVD and catch up from the beginning. In the meantime, here’s the first arc of Marvel’s series filing in the backstory of Kanan Jarrus.

Before there was Kanan Jarrus, cocky and sarcastic renegade fighting the Empire at every turn, there was Caleb Dume, a young Jedi Padawan apprenticed to Jedi Councilwoman Depa Bilaba. Caleb and his master have just liberated the planet Kaller from the Separatists when Order 66 is given, triggering a pre-programmed command forcing Clone Troopers across the galaxy to turn on their Jedi leaders. Thank to his master’s sacrifice, Caleb escapes the initial slaughter only to find himself alone in a galaxy where being a Jedi is an instant death sentence…..

Even without more than a passing familiarity with the character of Kanan Jarrus, this was an incredible comic. The moment Order 66 is given Caleb’s world falls apart, and you can see the anguish and survivor’s guilt writ large across his whole existence. He is very much aware of the fact that Master Bilaba could have escaped, at least temporarily, but chose to sell her life so he could escape…and that he ran, leaving her to her fate. I very much look forward to getting to know this character better when my DVDs arrive in the mail…. It was also interesting to watch Styles & Grey come to terms with what they did during Order 66, seeing them react in different ways to the realization that they had slaughtered their beloved commander without a second thought. (Side effect: this puts paid to any Legends stories where Clones disobeyed the order, as their inhibitor chips would simply kick in the pre-loaded commands. Most Clones would never even think to question their actions after the fact.) The writing is top-notch, and the art is simply stellar. The last chapter is a Rebels-era adventure as Kanan returns to Kaller for the first time, haunted by the ghosts of the past.

CONTENT: Mild violence, including a bit of blood in a couple spots. No sexual content. No profanity that I recall; if there was any it was pretty mild.

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Review: “Star Wars: Moving Target” by Cecil Castellucci & Jason Fry

Title: Moving Target
Authors: Cecil Castellucci & Jason Fry
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Disney Press, 2015

Third time’s the charm! Moving Target is the third of three YA novels featuring the “big three” protagonists from the original trilogy, set in that era but seeding elements from the upcoming film. This time we catch up with Leia in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi as the Rebellion first learns of the existence of the second Death Star.

The Empire is rebuilding the Death Star. Once completed, it will essentially spell the end of the Rebellion, as any world that causes problems can be threatened with Alderaan’s fate. In order to buy time to assemble the fleet without the Empire noticing, Leia heads a decoy mission, drawing the Empire’s attention to the other side of the galaxy with a false recruiting mission. But such a course of action is dangerous, both for her team and for the various rebellious types responding to her beacons for a rendezvous that will never happen. Both Leia and the other members of her team are going to have to decide for themselves just what they are willing to sacrifice for the good of the Rebellion….

Whereas Smuggler’s Run and The Weapon Of A Jedi  served up lighthearted adventures with our favorite protagonists, Moving Target takes a slightly weightier approach. Throughout the book, Leia struggles with the idea of sacrifice, both how the rank and file of the Rebellion seem willing to sacrifice themselves to protect her and how her decoy mission threatens to make unwitting sacrifices of anyone responding to their spurious recruitment mission. During wartime, tough decisions have to be made…but does that truly justify the sacrifice of innocents, even to ensure the survival of the Rebellion? It’s not a question that has a concrete answer, and the authors don’t insult us by pretending it does. In the end, each of our characters are going to have to decide for themselves just what they’re willing to do in the name of freedom’s cause. The characterization was all spot-on, though it was occasionally odd to have Nien Nunb’s dialogue directly translated to English Basic. I get it, of course, its just slightly jarring given his only onscreen dialogue is in Sullustan. The authors seem to be trying to make up for the fact that most of the onscreen Rebels are human in the original films, populating Leia’s strike force with a Cerean (like Ki-Adi Mundi from the prequels), an Abednedo (like X-Wing pilot Ello Asty from the new film) and a Dressellian (like Orrimaarko, “Prune Face” from the original Return Of The Jedi action figure line. Yes, that was the character’s name for quite a while….), which is a welcome effort. Disney seems to be taking steps to make the Star Wars universe more diverse than traditionally seen, and I for one am not complaining. On the whole, this was a good book and a decent addition to the series.

CONTENT: Mild violence, including a discussion of torture. No profanity. No real sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars: Too Many Cooks” by Chris Cooper & Alex Sanchez

Title: Too Many Cooks
Writer: Chris Cooper
Artist: Alex Sanchez
Series: Star Wars (Legends Canon)
Rating: **
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Magazines, 2014

Here’s another of the UK short comics, from Star Wars Comic UK #7.4. I can’t find any confirmation of this, but it should also have been reprinted in Star Wars Comic #2 here stateside.

Here we have a tale set in the run-up to Attack Of The Clones, with Jar Jar and Captain Typho handling security for a diplomatic event on Coruscant. Little do they realize that certain members of the nascent Confederacy are seeking to gain their side an early advantage in the impending war…by placing a hit on Chancellor Palpatine!

Meh. This story was okay, I suppose. It suffers from the brevity required to shoehorn it into eight pages, jumping jarringly from moment to moment in an attempt to hit all the required beats before running out of space. The art also left much to be desired, at least in my opinion. It does raise interesting questions though. For example, what if Jar Jar didn’t foil the attempt? I very much doubt Palpatine would have been killed, he’s far too powerful to be taken by surprise, but he might have been exposed. As for the hit itself, either an independent thinker among the Separatists accidentally outsmarted its leaders or the whole thing was a setup by Palpatine to place Jar Jar where he wanted him. The story itself doesn’t say this, but you could read the whole conclusion as Palpatine acting through Jar Jar. Those probes land a bit too conveniently when they are powered down, which is either a weak point in the plot or Palpatine’s manipulation through the Force. Either way, I wasn’t really too impressed with this one.

CONTENT: Mild violence. No sexual content or profanity.

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