Tag Archives: Han Solo

Review: “Star Wars: Showdown On The Smuggler’s Moon” by Jason Aaron & Stuart Immonen

Title: Showdown On The Smuggler’s Moon
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Series: Star Wars #8-12 (Official Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

I very much enjoyed the first volume of Marvel’s ongoing Star Wars series, but many other reviewers took issue with it for playing things safe and giving us a story like many we’d seen before. These criticisms are not completely unfounded, I’ll admit, but neither are they completely fair. Either way, this is not a problem the series has going forward…. This second volume also includes the one-off flashback story The Last Of His Breed, featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi adjusting to his exile on Tatooine.

Luke Skywalker has successfully escaped the clutches of the bounty hunter Boba Fett, but all he got for his troubles was the journal of Obi-Wan Kenobi–no small prize, but probably not all that helpful in furthering his Jedi training. So what’s the next logical step in learning about the Jedi? Try and sneak onto Coruscant to infiltrate the old Jedi Temple, of course! But when his attempt to find a discreet ship and pilot in a seedy bar on Nar Shaddaa goes horribly awry, Luke finds himself the prisoner of Grakkus the Hutt. In addition to the traditional crime and vice, Grakkus has made a name for himself as one of the foremost collectors of Jedi artifacts. Now Luke faces the battle of his life in Grakkus’ arena, billed as “the last Jedi” and pitted against a fearsome creature for the amusement of Grakkus’ fellow crime lords….Meanwhile, Han and Leia are out scouting potential locations for a new Rebel base when they run across a figure from Han’s past. Her name is Sana, and she claims to be his wife….

As with the previous volume, this was some stellar work. Jason Aaron nails the banter between Han & Leia, to the point where you can almost hear Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford delivering the lines, and Luke’s mix of cockiness and self-doubt is spot-on for his character and situation. Also of note is Stuart Immonen’s spectacular artwork. From the character closeups to the panoramic vistas, this was pure Star Wars. Also amusing was watching our entire cast wade into battle wielding lightsabers. Did Luke manage to salvage anything of value from Grakkus’ stash on his way out? I guess we’ll have to wait and see….

CONTENT: Moderate violence, not too gruesome most of the time. Mild profanity. Mild sexual innuendo and flirting.

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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: Smuggler’s Run” by Greg Rucka

Title: Smuggler’s Run
Author: Greg Rucka
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Disney Press, 2015

Amid the frenzied run-up to a new Star Wars film being released, fans who know what they’re doing will keep a careful eye on the various books being released for a glimpse at the fantastic world they’ll soon be inhabiting. Some are more relevant than others (Labyrinth Of Evil ended literally as the opening crawl for Revenge Of The Sith started rolling), but there’s usually a number of so-called Easter Eggs thrown in for sharp-eyed fans. The run-up to The Force Awakens is no different. While the body of the book is set immediately following A New Hope, the tale is bracketed by a prologue/epilogue set just before the new film. For that matter, it wouldn’t at all surprise me to have elements from the main tale become relevant later as well, thanks to the newly-inaugurated interconnectivity of the Star Wars canon.

The Death Star is destroyed! Against his better judgement, Han Solo pulled a last-minute about face and joined the battle, distracting Darth Vader long enough to allow Luke to make the fateful shot that saved the Rebellion from certain and immediate destruction. Now he just wants to get off-world and back to Tatooine and use his reward money to convince Jabba to cancel the bounty on his head. But when Leia comes to him with a desperate mission only the Millennium Falcon is fast enough to pull off, Han is surprised to find himself taking the job. In the wake of the destruction of the Death Star, the Empire is hitting every Rebel cell they can find. One such cell is run by Lieutenant Ematt, who also is the man in charge of exploring and setting up fallback points, rendezvous, and supply caches for the Rebellion. Though his team is dead, Ematt himself is still at large….for now. But the Imperial Security Bureau is hot on his trail, and the Falcon is the only ship that has any hope of reaching him in time….

On the one hand, this isn’t a very complicated tale. It’s Han being mercenary, trying desperately to avoid polishing the tarnish off his proverbial heart of gold. We’ve seen that before, quite a bit as it happens. We’ll probably see a lot more in the three years between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, as there’s now a brand new clean slate to draw on. On the other hand, Greg Rucka has an incredibly solid grasp of these characters and what makes them tick. You see the first twinges of conscience from Han as he realizes that every time the question of trust comes up, its not his integrity but Chewie’s that convinces even his oldest friends to trust him. You see Chewie’s willingness to throw in whole-heartedly with the Rebellion, restrained only by his friendship for Han. You see the bond between those two characters. Is the story anything incredible? No, but it’s well-executed and contains enough action and excitement to keep you turning pages long past when you’d planned to set it down. On the whole, I would recommend it.

CONTENT: No profanity. Some violence, not too gruesome for the most part. Mild flirting.

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Review: “Star Wars: Princess Leia” by Mark Waid & Terry Dodson

Title: Princess Leia
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Terry Dodson
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

I recently reviewed the first volumes of both Marvel’s ongoing Star Wars books (Star Wars & Darth Vader). In conjunction with those two series, Marvel is also rotating through a slate of character-specific miniseries focused on the likes of Chewbacca, Lando, or in this case, Princess Leia.

It is a time of celebration for the Rebellion. Striking from their hidden base, the brave pilots of the Rebel Alliance have successfully destroyed the Empire’s terror weapon, the Death Star. But that victory came at a terrible cost–both the pilots who gave their lives, and the very secrecy that the Rebellion depends on to keep their forces safe from Imperial attack. What’s more, the peaceful (though Rebel-friendly) planet of Alderaan was destroyed in a cruel display of the Empire’s military might and disregard for its subjects. Now, further angered by the destruction of the Death Star, the Empire has begun hunting down surviving Alderaanian refugees for reprisals. Princess Leia Organa has watched the Empire take her entire world. She’s not going to let them take her people too….

This one was….decent. The ideas were there, the characterization managed to walk the same tightrope between stately senator and reckless fighter that we saw in the films, and the art was excellently executed. The story itself though? A bit bland, a bit aimless, and a bit too riddled with plot holes. Leia sets out to gather her people and find them a safe home, and to a point she succeeds. She visits three planets with Alderaanian enclaves and evacuates them ahead of Imperial strikes, relocating them to a planet with a significant local militia that could supposedly keep them safe. But…really? You expect me to believe that this planet could successfully hold off the Imperial fleet if they put their mind to taking the planet? You could perhaps argue that such a high-profile operation would hurt their public image, but that doesn’t hold up. They just blew up Alderaan, reducing one of the major cultural centers of the galaxy to an asteroid field. We’ve not been told yet in this new canon how they spun that one in the news holos, but odds are they can do it again if they have to. Sure, the Death Star is gone, but even a single Star Destroyer could reduce all life on the planet to ash with an orbital bombardment once the planetary fleet is dealt with. A simple blockade to keep anybody from leaving, and then rain bloody hell on the entire system. I’m not advocating such a policy, obviously, but the Empire is certainly capable of such brutality. Then too, Leia visits three planets and then declares her mission a success. Are we to conclude that those are the only Alderaanians left in the galaxy? Surely not. Perhaps she simply intends to spread the word about the safe haven, allow any refugees to make their own way to safety. Which would be fine, except for the part where the Empire is actively hunting them….At the end of the day, this could have been better. Or at the very least, better explained. It really covers a lot of the same ground as Razor’s Edge back in the Legends canon, except that novel did it better.

CONTENT: Mild to no profanity. Some violence. 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–Empire And Rebellion: Razor’s Edge” by Martha Wells

Title: Razor’s Edge
Author: Martha Wells
Series: Star Wars: Empire & Rebellion (Legends Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2013

They keep referring to this Empire And Rebellion set of books as a series or a trilogy, but I don’t think that’s very accurate. From what I can see, these are three individual books not connected in any way aside from the fact that they are set around the same time (i.e. between Star Wars IV: A New Hope and Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back) and feature the “big three” characters from the films–Han, Luke and Leia–with one book primarily from each viewpoint. Razor’s Edge is primarily focused on Leia, with Han pulling a significant number of POV scenes as well.

Han and Leia are on yet another vital mission for the Rebellion, hoping to buy much-needed supplies for the construction of Echo Base on Hoth. Only when they come out of hyperspace to pick up the coordinates for their meeting, they’re met with an Imperial cruiser! Damaged and on the run, the Rebels barely escape to the rendezvous point only to find their troubles compounded–the smugglers they’re to meet have just fallen afoul of a local pirate band. Worse yet, the pirates are an orphaned Alderaanian defense crew forced into piracy to keep themselves afloat–and they’re deep in debt to a larger pirate armada who wouldn’t think twice before selling Leia to the Empire. Leia and Han are going to have to think fast and talk faster to maneuver their way out of this one….

This book was a lot of fun, and probably the best bridge between Episodes IV and V for adult readers–most of the other stuff in this period is either YA or side adventures. Getting insight into this stage of Han and Leia’s relationship was a great bonus, as well as seeing the evolution of the various interconnected friendships between the “big three” of the Star Wars films. I loved the biting humor of Han and Leia’s banter, it was great. The insight into Leia’s character was also excellent, and long overdue–Han and Luke both have a plethora of solo stories, but Leia-centric media is strangely lacking. The insight and exploration of her character worked incredibly well, with the band of Alderaanian pirates serving as a catalyst to allow the reader to explore her guilt and grief over the destruction of her home planet. All this emotional and relational drama doesn’t keep the story from being a thrill-ride full of death-defying stunts, however. You may have trouble finding time to breath between feats of daring-do.

There are always issues setting a story in such a heavily-documented part of the timeline, but on the whole the novel managed to either avoid them or handle them adroitly. Since the book wasn’t rooted in a throwaway line from the films, there was no need to explain away earlier stories based on that same line. Lando didn’t appear, so that convoluted relationship grew no more tangled. The only real issue it had to face was the one that’s unavoidable–how do you create drama when we know everyone (or at least everyone we knew going in) is going to survive intact for the film that happens right around the corner? Mostly the author handled this by creating emotional drama, forcing Leia to deal with these wayward members of her own people and the emotions that they call up. She also manages to make us care about most of the side characters she creates, so while we know Han and Leia will come out of all the death-defying exploits intact, you’re still riveted to the page to make sure your favorite side players are doing okay.

CONTENT: Mild language. Brief sexual innuendo and flirting from Han, but nothing too bad. A fair amount of violence, as would be expected from Star Wars.

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Review: “Star Wars: Crucible” by Troy Denning

Title: Crucible
Author: Troy Denning
Series: Star Wars (Legends Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2013

I’ve recently fallen a bit behind the Star Wars publishing schedule for, ah, budgetary reasons. But with an influx of birthday cash, that problem is solved! So now I’m catching up, and can share my thoughts on these newfound treasures with my helpless adoring readers. Lucky you! Next up, Crucible by Troy Denning.

Crucible is a standalone title in the ongoing Star Wars Expanded Universe, occurring about a year after the close of the Fate Of The Jedi series and X-Wing: Mercy Kill, or about 45 ABY.* We open on Han and Leia in a bar waiting for Lando. Lando owns a refinery in the Chiloon Rift, and has been having trouble with some pirates who coincidentally showed up right about the same time as the Qreph brothers, owners of an outside outfit who wants to buy Lando out. Oh, and they’ve got Mandos and bioengineered cyborgs running their security system. Throw in a couple other “coincidences” and one or two unsubtle power grabs, and you’ve got a crooked game even Leia can see without resorting to her Jedi powers. But when an “industrial accident” comes close to taking out his friends, Luke decides its time to join the investigation himself. What he finds is chilling–the stakes of this hostile takeover bid are far higher than Tendrando Arms’ small operation. The Qrephs want nothing short of controlling the entire Galactic economy. Sounds far-fetched? They might pull it off, between their Columi mental abilities and their cloning efforts. And into the bargain they have a shot at taking out Han Solo, with whom they have unfinished business. He doesn’t know them, but they know him–and they are not happy about it. Throw Vestara Khai into the mix, several missing Jedi and the ongoing hunt for Mortis, and you come up with Crucible.

Crucible is a standalone, and it does manage to stand fairly well on its own. The events of last decade and a half of publishing have shaken the Galaxy Far Far Away to its core, and everyone has to deal with that, but on the whole this book is divorced from the politics of the wider Galaxy. This is Han, Leia, Luke and Lando, joined later by Ben and Tahiri, fighting in a barren corner of the galaxy–to save it from an insidious threat, sure, but more viscerally to save their loved ones. So yes, you’ll need a basic overview of recent galactic history, but more importantly you’ll need to be aware of the character beats that have gone before. Most of them get explained in the book, but it’s good to know going in.

Galactic History for the newbies! Recently, Han and Leia’s oldest son Jacen fell to the Dark Side and plunged the Galaxy Far Far Away into civil war once again. Jaina, his twin sister, was forced to take him out to stop him and save innocent lives. In a surprise move, the war ended with Natasi Dalaa ruling the Galactic Alliance from Coruscant. After settling into power, Dalaa blamed the Jedi for the war and exiled Luke for the crime of failing to foresee Jacen’s fate. Luke and his son Ben set off on a quest into the Unknown Regions to determine why Jacen fell. Meanwhile, the descendents of the crew from a wrecked Sith warship set out to return to a galaxy much changed in the millenia they’ve been stuck on their lone world. Luke and Ben are forced to join forces with a small group of them to fight a powerful Dark Side creature, Abeloth, who may have been partially responsible for Jacen’s fall and has strange ties to The Ones seen in the Clone Wars TV series trilogy Secrets Of Mortis. Ben and Vestara Khai, a young Sith girl, even fall in love. This ends about as well as you would expect when the Sith attempt to seize control of the galaxy and even occupy Coruscant before the Jedi can stop them. In the wake of this invasion, the Jedi are once again pariahs. There are those in the Alliance who don’t blame them for what happened with the Sith, but these voices are few in number and the Jedi have relocated to Hapan space….**

I really enjoyed this book. It’s been a while since there’s been a standalone novel focusing on the original characters has been published in this part of the timeline–quite a few of them filling in explored episodes between films, but the later part of the timeline has been largely dominated by sprawling epic series that tend to have a darker tone, such as The New Jedi Order, Legacy Of The Force, or the most recent Fate Of The Jedi. I’m not saying this is lighthearted, by any means, as Del Rey is perfectly capable of killing off major characters in a standalone, but the focus on the original characters lends an air of the adventure of the classic films that has been slightly overshadowed by the darkness of recent events. That said, this is a VERY violent book. Our cast of characters gets shot, tortured, blown up and burned so badly that for a while I had a sneaking suspicion that one purpose of the book was to get the characters looking as rough as their actors currently do–with the possible exception of Harrison Ford, the cast has not aged nearly as well as the book covers would suggest their characters have. If you’re an old hand at the Star Wars EU, you’ll enjoy this. If you’re a newcomer unwilling to backtrack and marathon everything since The New Jedi Order, this is a decent jumping-on point. You may want to consult Wookieepedia occasionally to get a reference or two, but you shouldn’t be too confused.

CONTENT: PG language. PG humor and flirting, mostly between Han and Leia (what else is new?) Quite a bit of brutal violence, more than usual for a Star Wars book. Not too gory, generally, but Luke and company get banged up pretty good.

*Star Wars dates are typically given the designators Before the Battle of Yavin (BBY) or After the Battle of Yavin (ABY), functioning similarly to our BC/AD, with the Battle Of Yavin (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) as the turning point.

**Incidentally, the Columi come from a 1990 Choose Your Own Adventure book also by Troy Denning, Scoundrel’s Luck. Its not required reading, I had never even heard of it until I went digging.

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