Tag Archives: Emperor Palpatine

Review: “Star Wars Annual #1” by Kieron Gillen & Angel Unzueta

Title: Star Wars Annual #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Angel Unzueta
Series: Star Wars Annual #1 (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

I’m annoyed by comics stories that don’t have a proper title. It makes things like this more difficult. Ah, don’t mind me. I’ll get over it….

Rebel agent Eneb Ray has spent years in deep cover on Coruscant as a minor revenue official. It’s not the most glamorous assignment, but it does allow him access to information on Imperial shipping that he can feed to the Alliance. Eneb Ray will be the first to tell you he’s no hero…until a small collection of Alliance-sympathetic senators are scheduled for execution. On orders from Princess Leia, Ray infiltrates the prison only to find himself presented with an unprecedented opportunity–the Emperor himself is scheduled to arrive in under an hour….

This was a pretty good story. As a one-shot it has little relation to the events of the ongoing series, and its not entirely clear when exactly this is set other than sometime after the battle of Yavin. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. Ray was an interesting character to get to know, and I look forward to hopefully seeing him show up again in the future. I think given the early setting and our knowledge of later events I can say without spoilers that the assassination attempt goes poorly, in no small part due to the machinations of Palpatine. You simply don’t outwit that guy, not usually. Bottom line: this story is non-essential but well worth the read.

CONTENT: Mild violence, no gore. No sex or profanity.

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Review: “Star Wars–Jedi Council: Acts Of War” by Randy Stradley & Davide Fabbri

Title: Jedi Council: Acts Of War
Writer: Randy Stradley
Artist: Davide Fabbri
Series: Star Wars: Jedi Council #1-4 (Legends Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2001

Shifting gears a bit, this time out we’re visiting a setting a little closer to the events of the films. The Dark Horse Comics miniseries Jedi Council: Acts Of War takes place only a year before the events of Star Wars–Episode I: The Phantom Menace (that’s 33 BBY, if you’re keeping track). This story was published as a standalone collection, and reprinted in Star Wars Omnibus: Rise Of The Sith.

Before the galaxy was engulfed in the Clone Wars, transforming the Jedi into generals, they served to keep peace across the galaxy-spanning Republic. One such threat comes in the form of the Yinchorri, a warlike species newly accepted into galactic society. When the Yinchorri begin trying to carve out a small empire for themselves among the stars, Jedi Master Mace Windu dispatched a pair of Jedi to manage the crisis. Their mutilated bodies were soon delivered to the office of Chancellor Valorum. Now the Council must mount a full-scale expedition to end this threat to peace in the galaxy, as well as seeking to uncover just who is pulling the strings of the Yinchorri….

This was a well-executed story. It can be somewhat difficult to keep an appropriate degree of tension in stories featuring characters you know will survive based on later appearances (Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Mace, Adi, etc.), but the large cast keeps this from being an issue. Each of the characters here is well developed, and some of the new characters introduced in this miniseries would go on to become fan favorites across the franchise. The art is also of high quality, serving the story well. Is the story essential? Not particularly. It’s the first appearance of K’kruhk, though, and Randy Stradley enjoys returning to the character of Micah Giett on occasion in the pages of Tales. Plus, it’s always fun watching Palpatine’s labyrinthine plots to pave the way for his eventual rise….

CONTENT: Moderate violence, occasionally a bit gruesome. No profanity. No sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes” by Jason Aaron & John Cassaday

Title: Skywalker Strikes
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Series: Star Wars #1-6 (Official Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

Okay, cards on the table: I loved the Dark Horse Star Wars comics. Almost all of them, especially anything featuring the team-up of Ostrander and Duursema. So I was very much saddened to see that company lose the Star Wars license. Not surprised, following the purchase by Disney, as that mega-company also owns Marvel. I figured it was only a matter of time, and that turned out to be the case. So I was saddened, just as I was saddened by the relegation of a bunch of my favorite stories to the status of Legends. But the one thing I never expected was that Marvel would drop the ball. I mean, it’s bleedin’ Marvel! If there’s anything they understand, it’s comic books. Now, having read the first arc of their eponymous Star Wars series, I can confidently state that my faith was well-founded.

We join our cadre of heroes as they attempt a daring assault on the Empire’s largest weapons factory, the entire planet of Cymoon I. Posing as a trade delegation from Jabba the Hutt arriving to negotiate renewed supply lines in the wake of the destruction of the Death Star, our heroes slip through security and set about rigging the automated factory’s reactor to blow sky-high. Everything is going to plan, until Darth Vader shows up to negotiate for the Empire….

I mentioned that this was amazing, right? The writing and art sync perfectly to sell you on the fact that you’re watching the continuing adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han. Luke is still a brash hotshot, still feeling his way with regards to the Force, and can be kind of whiny when he’s confronted with just how far he has to go. Han is just as sardonic and impulsive as ever, though the backstory they’re teasing for him may help ground him a bit. We’ll see how that one turns out. Leia is clearly in charge, driven to achieve justice for Alderaan and her family, and even Chewbacca knows to follow her orders. It’ll be interesting to see where they take her character in future arcs.

One potential point of annoyance for some readers is going to be how closely this series and the Star Wars: Darth Vader series that runs concurrently are tied. Events from one series are offhandedly referenced in the other with no explanation, and have major repercussions at times. For example, Vader fails to apprehend our Rebel heroes in this book, is chastised by the Emperor and hires Boba Fett in the Darth Vader book, and then Fett shows up in this book to try and capture Luke. Complicating matters further is the fact that there’s a particular order you need to read these in to get the whole story, and even then you’ll get ahead of yourself unless you stop in the middle of an issue at times. I wasn’t that annoyed by it, but I’d checked out the timeline first and knew what I was doing. (In case you were wondering, the proper order is Star Wars #1-3, Darth Vader #1, Star Wars #4, Darth Vader #2-4, and then #5-6 of both series happen simultaneously, both culminating in the same scene from slightly different perspectives.) This is set in the first year following the destruction of the Death Star, maybe a couple months at most.

CONTENT: Some violence. Minor profanity. Mild flirtation, and a few scantily-clad females in Jabba’s Palace.

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Review: “Star Wars: Lords Of The Sith” by Paul S. Kemp

Title: Lords Of The Sith
Author: Paul S. Kemp
Series: Star Wars (Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2015

New Star Wars! Always a pleasure. As you can probably tell from the title and cover art, this particular entry into the canon is focused on the most powerful duo in the Galaxy Far, Far Away: Emperor Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious) and his apprentice Darth Vader. Or at least it’s supposed to be, according to the marketing people. But since it’s really hard to write a book focused entirely on the villains, they share the spotlight with the rebellious Free Ryloth Movement. Also, the particular scene on the cover doesn’t actually happen therein–no AT-ATs appear, for example, and the Emperor doesn’t use the Force openly unless he’s assured there will be no survivors to let slip his secret. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive visual, and does accurately depict more or less what you’re in for. The details are wrong, but the impression is accurate. Clear as mud? Good.

It’s been five years since the end of the Clone Wars,* since the Old Republic transitioned to the Galactic Empire, and the turmoil across the galaxy is still settling slowly. On Ryloth, the Republic’s benevolent military occupation has transitioned into a much more authoritarian and exploitative arrangement, much as partisan Cham Syndulla feared. His dream of a free Ryloth is once more a long way from reality, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop fighting for it. So when word comes that the Emperor himself is planning to visit Ryloth along with his chief enforcer and mysterious right hand Darth Vader, it is an opportunity far too tempting for Cham and his Free Ryloth Movement to pass up. Without the Emperor and Vader, the Empire would be in turmoil, and Ryloth would have a chance to throw off the Imperial shackles it’s been forced into. Of course, to pull this off they’ll have to destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer, something that has never been done before, and even then there’s no guarantee that Vader and the Emperor would be taken out in the destruction. This is going to take all the resources the movement has managed to gather over the years, and even that may not be enough. Can they afford to take the shot? More importantly, can they afford not to?

As you can probably expect, I loved the book. It does have a few difficulties, though. From the title and cover, you’d expect more Vader/Palpatine focus than there actually is. Instead, while they are heavily featured, most of the novel is devoted to the heroes of the Free Ryloth Movement. You might remember them from one of the arcs of the Clone Wars television series, or because Cham Syndulla is the father of Hera Syndulla from the show Star Wars: Rebels and the novel A New Dawn. Newcomers won’t have that connection, but I think matters are adequately explained so they won’t feel lost. The book does an excellent job of getting inside Vader’s head and showing his damaged psyche, exploring how he has rationalized his past to justify his betrayal of all he held dear, every friend he ever knew. Unfortunately, we don’t get that same insight into the Emperor like I was hoping. Oh well. The other difficulty is that the ending is pretty proscribed. This is set before the original films, so Vader and the Emperor are going to emerge pretty much unscathed. There’s nothing anyone can do about that. Which means that the book really has to get you invested in the secondary characters to keep you engaged. For my money, Mr. Kemp succeeded in that, but I’ve seen some other reviewers who felt differently.

As for how this fits in with other works in the Star Wars universe, as part of the newly-rebooted official canon it’s undergone strenuous continuity checks to make sure it aligns with the rest of the works sharing that status. It ties in explicitly to The Clone Wars series, and I’m assuming the yet-unwatched Rebels series as well.** It does, however, depart significantly from previously-established Legends material. The Legends depiction of Ryloth was thrown out a couple years ago, with the planet’s appearance on The Clone Wars, and this is consistent with that, unsurprisingly. More notable is the change to the Empire’s attitude towards women. In the Legends canon, the Empire was fiercely sexist. Admiral Daala, despite her fierce ambition and competency, only got her position because she was Tarkin’s mistress. In contrast, Lords of the Sith gives us Delian Mors, a female Moff who isn’t even particularly competent. Maybe the Empire gets more sexist later, or maybe they’re discarding that element of the previous continuity. We’ll see. Mors also has the distinction of being the first homosexual character in the Star Wars universe, though that fact has almost no significance to the story.

CONTENT: Mild profanity. This is Star Wars, so they keep it tame. Strong violence, occasionally gory or disturbing. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing too explicit. There’s the implication that a character was a sex slave before escaping to the resistance, and we meet another character still in that situation.

*The opening crawl states that it’s set “Eight years after the Clone Wars ravaged the galaxy,” which would imply eight years after Revenge of the Sith, but an interview with the publisher made clear that this was referring to the start of the war, or Attack of the Clones. This makes little sense, either grammatically or thematically, so I’m racking it up to aftereffects of a change made late in the production of the novel. Maybe I’m wrong though, who knows….

**Since I don’t have cable, I’m waiting for the home release to catch up on that.

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Review: “Star Wars: Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison” by Haden Blackman & Agustin Alessio

Title: Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison
Writer: Haden Blackman
Artist: Agustin Alessio
Series: Star Wars (Legends Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2013

I shouldn’t have to preface these things with an explanation of my uber-fandom anymore, so I won’t. With no further ado, Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison!

The newly-minted Empire has only been in existence for a matter of months, but already cracks are beginning to show. General Gentis, Imperial hero and headmaster of the Academy, has orchestrated an elaborate coup. Strategically-placed explosives around the Imperial palace distract the guards while a powerful bioweapon is deployed, killing everyone inside with the exception of the Emperor who is barely able to sustain himself with the Force. Now the fate of the Empire is placed in the hands of Darth Vader, Moff Trachta, and young Lieutenant Tohm, fresh from the academy and one of the few cadets not included in Gentis’ plot. Coruscant is no longer safe for the ailing Emperor, and these three uneasy allies will have to seek out a secret Jedi facility in which to hide and regroup. It remains to be seen, however, how safe they can possibly be in a facility filled with prisoners deemed too dangerous to be turned over to Republic authorities….

Haden Blackman writes another stellar Star Wars adventure, following up his earlier successes and giving us yet another glimpse into the mind of Darth Vader in the early days of his new existence. In addition we gain some insight into the origins of Moff Trachta, the fan-favorite character first introduced in the first arc of Star Wars: Empire. Trachta’s run there was tragically short, but his character grabbed our imagination and even gained him an action figure eventually. New character Lieutenant Tohm rounds out the cast of protagonists, and is a character I was very much looking forward to seeing more from in later books. Add to this the chance to explore a secret Jedi prison, and there’s lots to love about the writing in this collection. Even better, however, is the artwork. Agustin Alessio turns in some really stellar work here, the kind of stuff I usually expect from Dark Horse and the lack of which I was complaining about in my last Buffy comic review. Anyone who can get Vader to show emotion (not easy, given the lack of facial expression his helmet imposes) can draw comics for me any day!

CONTENT: Quite a bit of violence, occasionally disturbing, such as the aftermath of the bioagent the conspirators release or the aftermath of a prison riot. No profanity, and little to no sexual innuendo. There’s some light flirting with a couple Twi’leks in a bar, but that’s about it.

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