The arc with the boys’ trip and the girls’ trip continues and things don’t really go all that well for our favorites in Black Squadron. (Are you surprised? I’m not surprised.) It didn’t take long for Team Capable Ladies to find the First Order acting suitably terrible. While that’s good from Suralinda’s point of view so she can get footage, Jessika is less than content to wait and record while the lives of innocent people are threatened. Meanwhile, Team Guys is inching along on their search for Oddy and not being nearly as successful yet. Point is… women, we get the job done.
I can’t get over how happy this arc is making me especially since it’s bringing characters like Jess and Karé to the forefront again. I love that Jessika Pava isn’t someone who can just sit back and let bad things happen for the greater good. It’s a lovely contrast to the First Order lieutenant who’s arrogant and comfortable in his assertion that the First Order is better than the Empire so obviously they’ll win.
Surprisingly, Oddy turned out to be another highlight of this issue. Honestly, I wasn’t terribly excited about him surviving but his pages end up being oddly delightful? Although admittedly, it feels strange to use that word here but I can’t quite think of a better one.
Mostly importantly, the War Stories arc is fun. Do their missions have weight to them? Definitely. Does the story still press upon you how precarious the Resistance’s continued existence is? Absolutely but it never stops being fun and in Star Wars? That’s crucial.
Poe Dameron #18: Charles Soule/Writer, Angel Unzueta/Artist, Arif Prianto/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
Anakin Skywalker had no chill and it’s very clear that Darth Vader has no chill either. Are any of us surprised? We shouldn’t be. At the same time though, everything about Vader is a tragedy. (Darth Plagueis the Wise has nothing on him.)
The Revenge of the Sith novelization told us what it felt like to be Anakin Skywalker forever. The answer, as Darth Vader #4 reinforces for us, is not great. Actually, being Anakin/Vader is rather awful. This is the second time in days that he’s been almost completely broken. (The First Order has a Kylo tantrum budget. The Empire has a ‘Put Humpty Vader together again budget.) As I said before, this mission is part of the slow murder of Anakin Skywalker but it’s also the birth of someone else. The birth of something else. It’s mildly disturbing to say the least but impossible to look away.
Are those Tholothians? If so, they may be the first non-black ones we’ve seen and the first male Tholothian
It sure is handy that Vader was a genius at mechanical things in his former life
Does that make him a mechanical genius now?
That was a very bad joke. I’ll stop.
If Soule goes where I think he’s going next issue… it’s going to be a rough one. Emotionally that is. But we knew that was bound to happen in this book, right? Badass with a side of emotional despair. Thanks, Vader.
Darth Vader #4: Charles Soule/Writer, Giuseppe Camuncoli/Pencils, Cam Smith/Inks, David Curiel/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
The X-Wing Gods must have heard my prayers because this next arc is another Black Squadron story and not just a Poe thing! Actually, it’s two Black Squadron things which makes it even better.
The first group (which I shall call Team Rad Ladies) is on a propaganda mission. Suralinda, Karé, and Jess are charged with capturing footage of the First Order doing some very bad things which sounds almost deceptively easy. Meanwhile, Team Dudes (Poe and Snap) are off to find Oddy Muva. I’m more on board with Team Rad Ladies. Because obviously.
Back in my review of Issue #13, I mentioned that this comic really feels like the spiritual successor to the X-Wing books and every time we get more of the entire team, it becomes truer. Admittedly, I’m biased towards Jess Pava but I love that we’re getting more of her background here. Her need to work on her own ships and modify them isn’t just a line on her character sheet anymore; it’s a fundamental part of who she is. Granted, I’m now mildly worried about how things will go for her during this arc but at least we know she lives.
Has Malarus always had one blue and one red eye or am I just now noticing it? Either way… very Ysanne Isard.
The blurred movement panel of Threepio looks like a bizarre alien head
Yay for old school starfighters!
Did Jess have an astromech in her x-wing during The Force Awakens? Someone should check.
General Organa Sass = A+
It’s painfully clear that this arc is going to be trouble for Black Squadron. I love it.
Poe Dameron #17: Charles Soule/Writer, Angel Unzueta/Artist, Arif Prianto/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
Darth Vader’s hunt for a Jedi to murder for their lightsaber continues and it’s clear that Master Infil’a won’t go down without a fight… and it might be more than Vader can handle.
In a previous issue’s review, I called this book the slow murder of Anakin Skywalker and that still holds true here. The book is also the (and Vader would hate to hear this) spindly-legged fawn days of a Sith Lord. He’s in a body that’s mostly machine and he doesn’t have total mastery of the dark side yet. Contrast that with Master Infil’a who likely took the Barash Vow years ago and who has mostly spent his time training and… yeah. This isn’t the simplest fight. The Prequel Trilogy mentioned the Trials that a padawan would have to undergo in order to become a Jedi Knight. Regardless of whether Palpatine what Jedi Vader would find or not, these are definitely feeling like the Sith version of the Trials. (Only Vader will remain the Apprentice afterwards.)
For the most part, I like the artwork with its more traditionally comic book style. It’s something we’ve been missing in the Star Wars line up since Pepe Larraz’s work on Kanan. There’s something about Vader’s helmet that looks a little off but it’s a relatively mild complaint.
This new Darth Vader book continues to be intriguing as it asks just how much further can you break down the man who was Anakin Skywalker before there’s nothing left to continue on as Darth Vader. You should definitely pick this week’s issue up along with the previous two if you haven’t yet.
Darth Vader #3: Charles Soule/Writer, Giuseppe Camuncoli/Pencils, Cam Smith/Inks, David Curiel/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
As Poe Dameron #16 kicks off, Poe’s still on a freighter that’s about to blow up and the rest of his squadron are in ships with very little fuel. Oh yeah and they’ve still got to get that fuel ship back from the First Order. No biggie.
Something that Charles Soule has done a good job with is something that’s been in the background of the entire book but that this issue really drives home. The Resistance isn’t that well off. It’s almost like they’re back in the early days of the Alliance where every ship, every shipment, and every life matters. In the grand scheme of the Star Wars saga, a mission like this doesn’t seem that important but in the context of the Resistance? It’s vital. It also makes the Resistance feel that much more real.
What this particular issue does very well is highlight the team aspect of Black Squadron. Poe is great and it’s his name on the front of the book but more than a few readers are here for Jess, Karé, and Snap too. More and more, they’re starting to feel like characters who just might have some staying power like the Rogues of old. I can’t decide what’s funnier: Jess’s reputation with he droids or Snap calling Poe Space Crazy multiple times.
There’s something about the coloring that’s just very… shiny?
Nice to see more women in the First Order
Cyborg Terex is disturbing
Commander Malarus’ eyebrows are a work of art
BB-8 continues to be the real MVP but you all knew that
Poe Dameron #16 is a win both for readers and for Black Squadron but… I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Commander Malarus quite yet. (Good for us. Not so good for Poe.)
Poe Dameron #16: Charles Soule/Writer, Angel Unzueta/Artist, Arif Prianto/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
If you’re a big fan of all the clones… you may want to find yourself something to hug before reading this issue. Just saying.
In Darth Vader #2, Vader has his mission but is seemingly freer to define the parameters. This post-Revenge of the Sith story is a different take on the previously assumed aftermath of Order 66 where Vader immediately goes out to hunt down what’s left the of Jedi simply to slaughter them. Now he has a far more singular purpose: find a Jedi, kill them, and corrupt their kyber crystal. His plan? Go to a Jedi Outpost and utilize their still existing records to aide him in his search.
There’s something about this that feels far more personal than Vader hunting lots of Jedi. When he locates a target in the archives, it’s not someone he’s ever (or we the readers have ever) met before. It’s going to be a very deliberate mission and part of the slow, continuous murder of Anakin Skywalker. The slips back from Vader to Anakin are here within the issue if you’re paying attention even as his actions say that he’s trying to be everything that Anakin wasn’t.
I’m unsure whether Charles Soule intended for Vader’s little droid assistant to be snarky or not but I was certainly entertained. It’s one of the few things that can successfully speak up to the Sith and continue existing. It’s also interesting that the most we’ve seen Vader talk in the entire book so far has been to this droid. Gives more meaning to more machine now than man…
Unsurprisingly, Darth Vader #2 stays on target as we get closer and closer to Vader finding a Jedi and a kyber crystal for his lightsaber.
Darth Vader #2: Charles Soule/Writer, Giuseppe Camuncoli/Pencils, Cam Smith/Inks, David Curiel/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
When this new Darth Vader book was first announced, I was admittedly dubious especially since it was arriving so (relatively) soon after Kieron Gillen’s fantastic run. However, the more I learned about the book, the more intrigued I was. Darth Vader #1 picks up immediately after the infamous “NOOOOO” in Revenge of the Sith. In other words, we’re going to see more of the transition from Anakin to Vader.
It shouldn’t be surprising given the characters in question but much of the dialogue in the book is given to Palpatine. In fact, Vader only speaks ten times and when he does, it’s for a reason and it’s effective. Just in this issue alone, the evolution of Vader is obvious. He feels far more like Anakin in the first half of the book than the second. It’s enough to make me wonder whether Vader’s tendency to speak infrequently started as a coping mechanism to deal with his new existence. If that’s true… I really shouldn’t be surprised that Charles Soule found a way to make the story of Vader even more tragic. Given that Vader’s now on a quest for a new lightsaber during which he’ll need to corrupt a kyber crystal, I forsee the book only getting darker.
The art duties for this book fall to Giuseppe Camuncoli who brings what feels like a more traditionally comic book feel to the book. It’s a welcome one though. Camuncoli’s pencils add a certain charm to what is otherwise a dark book without detracting from the feel.
And yes! Don’t worry: the issue does have a fun little droid tale in the back. This one stars a mouse droid.
Darth Vader #1 distinguishes itself right off the bat as its own series. The comparisons between this and the previous series are inevitably but to do so really is a disservice to both since they’re entirely different creatures. And this one? Definitely worth your time.
Darth Vader #1: Charles Soule/Writer, Giuseppe Camuncoli/Pencils, Cam Smith/Inks, David Curiel/David, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
After last issue’s emotional tribute to both L’ulo and Carrie Fisher, Black Squadron moves onward because the Resistance can never afford to remain still for too long. After all, they’re beginning to run critically low on supplies, including fuel. Leia’s gotten some smuggler names from Han but someone seems to systematically be taking them out. Unsurprisingly, she turns to Black Squadron to help protect this latest fuel vessel. Also unsurprisingly… oh yeah the First Order is totally involved.
Poe Dameron #15 feels like a soft reset for the series. While art duties may have shifted to Ange Unzueta last issue, this issue still feels more like the start of something new. Terex is still working for the First Order but he’s not quite the same threat that he once was. Meanwhile, Black Squadron has to find a way to move forward in the wake of the loss of one of their own. On the surface, supplies and logistics might not seem like the most exciting story choice but I rather like it because it helps make the Resistance feel more real. They don’t have infinite funds and people within the New Republic can only do so much to help them.
A few other notes:
I sincerely hope that someone nerdier than me takes the time to translate the names of all the smugglers from Aurebesh.
I like that the smuggler captain distinctly looks not-human.
The lack of fuel thing is totally going to turn into a plot point.
Poe Dameron #15 continues to live up to the feel of the series and would be a great jumping on point for anyone new to the series.
Poe Dameron #15: Charles Soule/Writer, Angel Unzueta/Artist, Arif Prianto/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
Poe Dameron #14 just might be one of those comics where it’s advisable to read with a tissue box nearby and not just because there’s a funeral.
I mentioned last time that it’s never been more apparent that the Poe Dameron comic is a spiritual heir to the X-Wing novels from Legends and it’s even more obvious that Poe Dameron is Wedge Antilles’ spiritual successor. Poe has a gift both in the cockpit and for knowing the right thing to say as squadron leader in a time of sorrow but he also needs someone there to tell him that it’s okay to take a minute to process things and it’s not only okay but that he needs to. Charles Soule has said that this issue was his way of playing tribute to Carrie Fisher and it’s very nicely done. You can certainly see his intent but he doesn’t hit you over the head and have the artist write “IN MEMORY OF CARRIE FISHER” in giant glittery letters across every page. The issue is about Poe figuring out how to move forward in the wake of L’ulo’s death but it’s also, in its own way, about reminding us that Leia is a leader for a reason. She understands both war and people and that’s what it’s all about.
Surprisingly, Agent Terex still has his role to play in the issue. He’s now a prisoner of the First Order and… things do not go quite as you might expect. It’s a plot line that just might make you look at Captain Phasma a different way.
Angel Unzueta takes over art duties permanently from Phil Noto and it’s certainly a shift. I don’t dislike it but it’ll likely take a few issues to adjust after a dozen issues of Noto’s ever fabulous work. Unzueta does do some very neat work with his panel layouts and telling both parts of the story at once.
For oh so many reasons, this is definitely an issue you should pick up on release day.
Poe Dameron #14: Charles Soule/Writer, Angel Unzueta/Artist, Arif Prianto/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
He hasn’t gotten any less busy since the last time we chatted but Charles Soule was kind enough to sit down with me after the big Marvel panel at Star Wars Celebration last week. We talked about his relatively recently announced Darth Vader book and his continuing work on Poe Dameron including a very in depth look at today’s issue.
Warning! This interview contains spoilers for Poe Dameron #13 and I mean major spoilers. They are all in the back half of the interview so you can safely read until the first mention of the Poe book. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Bria for Tosche Station: So you still haven’t talked them into giving you a Palpatine book then? Just a Vader one?
Charles Soule: Yeah but a Vader book is by definition almost a Palpatine book at the same time. They’re still very, very intertwined. The story that I’m telling in the Vader book has Palpatine as the only point of connection that Vader has left anymore. He’s the only person he can turn to for any sort of advice or guidance. His physicality is completely different and completely changed. He has no anchor point except Palpatine, which Palpatine of course knows and realizes and uses to manipulate Vader further in the great tragedy that is Darth Vader’s life. Continue reading →