The good news is that the trouble from the end of the last issue hasn’t showed up yet. The bad news is that different trouble has reared its far more immediate head. Really though: should anyone be surprised given the parties involved? (I’m looking at you, Aphra, I’m looking at you.)
The offer’s been made and now Aphra has to go talk to all of the interested parties. Everyone wants the Immortal Rur for their own reasons and certain groups do a better job of making their case than others. (Looking at you, Ezaraa. Try again with those zeroes.) For me, what made this issue work was how it showed Aphra as a fully faceted character. She’s not just a trope who likes credits although let’s be very clear that she does like the credits. She’s still an archaeologist albeit one with ambiguous morals. Aphra does things for a reason even if that might not be what you or I would do. I like her because of her flaws, not despite of them.
Aphra’s flair for the dramatic means that we get a little more of a break from seeing her in her trademarked red vest look and I have to say that I’m enjoying it. What’s the point of being part of the Underworld if you don’t get fancy sometimes? It makes the Star Wars galaxy more colorful in more ways than one.
As a standalone issue, Doctor Aphra #10 doesn’t necessarily stand out in a good or a bad way. It’s just a part of the story arc that I’ve definitely been enjoying so far. I’m impatient to see where the next issue takes us!
Doctor Aphra #10: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Kev Walker/Penciler, Marc Deering/Inks, Antonio Fabela/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
Darth Maul #5 ends about how you’d expect any book about the Sith Lord to: with death. All things Maul always seem to come with a heaping side of death. It’s a thing.
A theme of this series and particularly of this issue has been arrogance. Maul’s arrogance levels are so high in Issue #5 that is almost got nauseating at times and I found myself really hoping that Eldra would somehow manage to kill him just so he’d stop internally monologing about how killing Jedi is his purpose etc etc. (I’ll refrain from including a particularly ridiculous musical reference.) If nothing else, watching Maul get stabbed in various parts of Star Wars will now be even more enjoyable.
One of the smarter things that Cullen Bunn did in this book was to include Cad Bane and Aurra Sing. The bounty hunters added an extra level of interest to the book’s story that otherwise would have involved even more Maul Monologing. It not only offers a different point of view but makes things a bit more engaging at times. This will also add another dimension to any interaction they have in The Clone Wars. Star Wars: it’s all connected!
Overall, I found the series to be good but not mindblowing. It’s enjoyable. Would someone who’s more of a fan of Darth Maul likely get more out of it than I did? Probably. Do I think it’s on level with some of the top tier comics Marvel’s done? Nah.
Darth Maul #5: Cullen Bunn/Writer, Luke Ross/Artist, Nolan Woodard/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant 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
Forget hello: they had me at the cover. Don’t get me wrong: I love Aphra for being, well, her but seeing her in a fancy dress just makes me smile. (I have a weakness and I will not apologize for it.) Tragically, neither Aphra nor Krrsantan wear their fancy cover duds within the pages of the book but I suppose what they do wear partially makes up for it with what their fancywear actually looks like. Emphasis on partially.
Part I of ‘Doctor Aphra and the Enormous Profit’ continues the plot that’s been driving the entire book thus far. The Screaming Citadel plan didn’t quite work as she intended and so now she’s going to sell the Immortal Rur to the highest bidder. Because credits. However… there’s a twist. Which I will not spoil for you. (I will say that it made me drop the comic and shout a swear word when I read it.)
One of the neat things about Doctor Aphra is that it gets to show us more of the galaxy’s underworld, something we haven’t seen as much of in the new canon. This underworld also extends past bounty hunters. The fact that Aphra’s made them all dress up is just a bonus. It’s a big galaxy and it’s nice when Star Wars shows us a little more of it.
This issue also reminds us that Team Aphra doesn’t work together because of the Power of Friendship. They work together because to have to (for whatever reason it might be.) This isn’t a group of people like our heroes who will bail each other out because they care. It’s a contrast that’s most definitely going to come back with a vengeance. Undoubtedly, this is something we’ll see more of as the book progresses.
The doctor is in again and I’m very anxious to see what happens to her next. Very. Very. Anxious.
Doctor Aphra #8: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Kev Walker/Penciler, Marc Deering/Inks, Antonio Fabela/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
As far as self-contained stories go, Star Wars #33 is actually a really nice one even taking into account a painfully awkward looking panel of Luke Skywalker. The mission is supposed to be a routine one and it is until the Empire catches them and now Luke and Leia are stranded on an island on a planet within a nebula.
This issue was surprisingly more poignant than expected. At one point, Leia and Luke talk about how they’re both orphans in the galaxy now because of the Empire but they’re not alone. It’s within those same few pages where Leia mentions how sometimes, when she looks up at the stars, Alderaan is still there. As a reader, that bit felt particularly painful. One can only imagine how Leia must feel weeks, months, years after her entire planet was destroyed only to occasionally look up and still see it in the sky above.
Jason Aaron’s writing for this entire issue really is spot on. It’s a nice insight into both of the twins and really follows up on the friendship between them. Most people wouldn’t be able to handle being stranded like that for so many weeks. Plus? The level up in badass skills for Leia certainly doesn’t hurt.
In the wake of the less than great Yoda arc and the far more enjoyable Screaming Citadel story, Star Wars #33 serves as both a good place for new readers to jump on and as a nice way for existing readers to readapt to the usual feel of the series.
Star Wars #33: Jason Aaron/Writer, Salvador Larroca/Artist, Edgar Delgado/Colorist, Clayton Cowles/Letterer, Jordan D. White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
First things first: shout out to Phil Noto for yet another drop dead gorgeous cover. It’s a damn shame that Noto/Marvel doesn’t sell prints of these.
Much like the issues before it, Rogue One #4 does a great job of telling the film’s story without doing so verbatim. The key lines that everyone’s remembers are there but it’s not like you’re reading an illustrated version of the script. Also like the issues before it, this one has two lovely little added scenes that weren’t in the film. One features a conversation between K-2SO and Bodhi where he tells the droid that they’re the same because they were both Imperial but then Cassian and Galen reprogrammed them to help the Rebellion. The second is a brief one for Mon Mothma and Jyn. Mon Mothma, by the way, is a character who seems to routinely benefit from these adaptations. She’s becoming more and more of a fleshed out character beyond the woman we first saw before the Battle of Endor. On the downside, poor Chirrut and Baze do get the short end of the stick in this particular issue.
On the art front, Rachelle Rosenberg’s more muted coloring for the flashback panels on the first few pages is particularly effective and helps the memories really pop. There’s also a particularly lovely backlit shot of Jyn and Cassian towards the end of the issue that really stands out. The artist change ups over the book have felt a little strange at times but Rosenberg’s colors have been a nice consistency.
Rogue One #4 continues to be a great adaptation that will likely read even better in trade form.
Rogue One #4: Writer/Jody Houser, Artist/Emilio Laiso, Colorist/Rachelle Rosenberg, Letterer/Clayton Cowles, Editor/Heather Antos, Supervising Editor/Jordan D. White.
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
Doctor Aphra #8 brings Screaming Citadel to its end as our heroes defeat the Queen but everyone doesn’t made it out entirely unscathed.
Sometimes, it’s in a good way. Despite being betrayed, Luke seems to emerge from the Screaming Citadel stronger and more sure of his path as a Jedi. He didn’t learn what he thought he would but it’s been a worthwhile experience for him nonetheless. Plus… it’s unlikely he’ll be naively trusting someone like Aphra any time soon. (Sadly, there go my hopes for a Luke/Aphra buddy comedy book and hopefully, there go the ridiculous Luke+Aphra=Rey theories.)
One of the recurring bits of this crossover has been Triple Zero laying down some disturbingly accurate psychoanalysis on some of the ladies. Seriously though… who knew a droid could be obsessed with murder and still have psychoanalysis protocols? This time, it’s Aphra that he’s turned his sights on and she’s not exactly pleased by what he has to say. Can’t really blame her but I also can’t say she’s wrong.
On the art front, this was a book that had three very distinct artistic styles in it and I have to wonder if it would have felt more cohesive if Checchetto had drawn the entire crossover. His style just felt more right for the gothic tone of the story. That said, I certainly enjoyed Andrea Broccardo’s work and I hope he sticks around the Doctor Aphra comics in the future.
- I doubt the Courtship of Princess Leia shout out was intentional but when you read it, you’ll know it
- The friendship between Leia, Luke, and Han is pure and we need more of it
- Sana felt a little inconsistent over the course of the arc but I like how things were left between her and Aphra
- If anyone still doubts Aphra/Sana were an item after this… I dunno what to tell them.
- Even when he’s mad, Luke Skywalker is still adorable
While Screaming Citadel didn’t have quite the punch that the previous crossover Vader Down did, it was nevertheless a fun and quirky ride that Doctor Aphra #8 wraps up nicely.
Doctor Aphra #8: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Andrea Broccardo/Art, Antonio Fabela/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
Poe Dameron: not having a great day. Or week. Or month. Or however much time it’s been since the last mission. Conversations like this with Leia Organa cannot be fun.
In the Annual, Poe is somehow both Wedge Antilles and also the person that Wedge Antilles is dressing down. It’s really quite admirable and (honestly) probably why so many of us love him. There were even a few panels where Poe looked like a hybrid of Wedge and Janson from the old X-Wing comics. There aren’t many people in the galaxy who have quite the same luck as Poe and Wedge nor who also have the same skill in a starfighter.
The Annual is mostly a solo adventure for Poe and BB-8 as they end up in trouble they didn’t expect. Mostly, the issue feels like an excuse for Poe to learn A Thing and for Nik Virella to draw some truly fantastic facial expressions for both Poe and Leia. You’ve never before seen such an unimpressed eyebrow raise. That alone is worth the price of admission.
In a way, this issue feels like a bit of a callback to The Force Awakens in terms of Poe’s mission. It’s difficult to describe how without spoiling the plot but the vibe is there nonetheless.
The Poe Dameron Annual is a perfectly acceptable story with fun art that makes it worth it.
Poe Dameron Annual: Robbie Thompson/Writer, Nik Virella/Artist, Jordan Boyd/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Editor, Jordan D. White/Supervising Editor