Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

Review: “Star Wars–Darth Vader Vol. II: Shadows And Secrets” by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larocca

Title: Shadows And Secrets
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larocca
Series: Star Wars: Darth Vader #7-12 (Official Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

New Star Wars comics! No time to chat!

Still reeling from the revelation that the pilot who destroyed the Death Star is named Skywalker, Darth Vader redoubles his efforts to track him down off the books. For that, however, he’s going to need funds. Staging a heist is easy. Getting away with it is less so….especially when he’s partnered with a genius investigator and ordered to solve the crime at all costs! Vader is soon forced to play a deadly game, one in which his catspaw Dr. Aphra may just become a pawn to be sacrificed….

This was a lot of fun. Watching Vader scramble to work both sides of an investigation and cover his tracks was interesting, and the interlude on Tatooine was great. It makes perfect sense, of course–Vader’s just learned that the boy he’s hunting is named Skywalker and hails from Tatooine. The logical starting point is the Lars homestead. It’s not every writer/artist team that can wring emotion from Vader’s expressionless mask, but Gillen and Larocca manage it brilliantly. Unlike the first volume, this one has no tie-in with the corresponding arc of the main Star Wars series. They still happen more or less simultaneously, but separately. That will change again next time, and I look forward with great anticipation to the upcoming crossover event: Vader Down….

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

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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: The Last Of His Breed” by Jason Aaron & Simone Bianchi

Title: The Last Of His Breed: From The Journals Of Old Ben Kenobi
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Simone Bianchi
Series: Star Wars #7 (Official Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

Back to the Marvel ongoings! This is a one-off flashback story featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi as he tries to adjust to his “Old Ben” persona about eleven years before the events of A New Hope. It’s issue #7 of Marvel’s current Star Wars ongoing, and will be collected in Star Wars Vol. II: Showdown On The Smuggler’s Moon.

It’s been seven years since the rise of the Empire, seven years since the death of the Jedi and the Republic. Formerly one of the greatest Jedi of his generation, now Obi-Wan Kenobi lives a life of obscurity on the desert planet of Tatooine. Where once he protected the innocent of the galaxy, now “Old Ben” forces himself to look the other way lest he draw the Empire’s notice as Jabba’s thugs extort water from the locals. All that matters is protecting the boy, Luke Skywalker, on whose unknowing shoulders rest the fate of the galaxy. But there are limits to the patience of even the greatest of Jedi….

This was a good one. The story was solid, and it’s always interesting to see Obi-Wan’s state of mind during his exile. Was this done better in John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi? Yes. That goes without saying, if only because he had more than twenty-four pages to tell his story. At any rate, Kenobi isn’t canon anymore, so we’ll not dwell on it. Simone Bianchi’s art here was stellar, I must say, and his Kenobi managed to blend Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness superbly. I would very much like to see more of these one-off excerpts from Obi-Wan’s journal appear in future issues of the comic.

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

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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: 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.)┬áThe 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: 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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