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
It’s not a secret that I wasn’t a fan of the Yoda arc because it just draaaaaagged and made me want to take a nap. It made Screaming Citadel a very welcome reprieve. That said, I wasn’t sure what to expect from these follow up issues. Were we going to get something more like the Yoda arc or more like the far better Nar Shaddaa one? Turns out, the answer was neither and that’s a good thing.
The anthology style is so far really working for Jason Aaron and the main Star Wars book. It’s something that I would have loved to see them continue (with different artists) if Aaron wasn’t going to be handing the reins over to Gillen soon. This go-round, we get a team up between Sana and Lando who has been tragically mostly absent from Star Wars in canon thus far. While we haven’t seen the Han Solo film yet, it makes sense Sana and Lando would have history too. She’s got an insane heist to pull and he’s got the contacts she needs to help pull it off. What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out almost nothing because this story is great. (The art not so much but you’ve already heard my laments about how Larroca draws Sana.) Don’t be fooled: while this is billed as a team up, it’s definitely a Sana story. Lando’s just there to help out because Sana is several steps ahead almost the entire time. It’s awesome getting to see a capable lady kick some ass.
Star Wars #34 is one of those issues that’s both worth picking up and that doesn’t require much prior knowledge of the series. Check it out if you’ve got the time.
Star Wars #34: Jason Aaron/Writer, Salvador Larroca/Artist, Edgar Delgado/Colorist, Clayton Cowles/Letterer, Jordan D. White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
LISTEN MARVEL. We’re going to get to the talking about the comic in a bit but I have a complaint to register as an Aphra cosplayer. You guys are KILLING ME with these rad outfits you put her in for the covers but then never appear within the pages of the issue. This is so not fair. How am I supposed to make more Aphra costumes when you keep teasing me with these sweet new looks and only a cover to go by?
*ahem* Anyways. About the issue…
Everything’s going to hell at Aphra’s masquerade auction and it’s just going to get worse the more the issue continues and in the next one. This arc is a textbook example of why you don’t let murder droids become bored and then leave them alone. Bad things happen. Very. Bad. Things. Like the spirit of a very angry Jedi being put into the body of a droid with violent capabilities. At the same time, the arc is also a great example of why I love Aphra. Things have a tendency to go wrong around her but she finds a way to adapt to the situation and keep fighting. No one wants to live quite as much as Chelli Aphra. She might not do it how a more traditional hero would but dang does it make it look fun. And dangerous. Can’t forget the dangerous part. It’s why this character has resonated with so many people.
Hold on, I need to put my cosplayer (aviator) hat on again because while I love that Aphra committed to the hidden identity thing enough to wear a wig, there is no way her hair would have been in a bun look that good with some artful framing wisps after being under a wig for however many hours. Alternatively, Star Wars characters must teach us their ways for coping with wig and helmet hair.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this arc has had me at the edge of my seat and I suspect that the next issue will have me yelling at the comic. Again. Seriously though… it is not going to go well for someone next issue.
Doctor Aphra #11: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Kev Walker/Penciler, Marc Deering/Inks, Antonio Fabela/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
At last! The long awaited Cassian and Kaytu comic! It’s… fine?
Many of my feelings about the timing of this comic line up with some of my feelings on the Threepio comic from last year. While we don’t know exactly what they were supposed to be, there had been talk about prequel comics coming from Marvel related to Rogue One that would be released prior to the film… just how C-3P0 was supposed to be released prior to The Force Awakens. While I liked this particular comic far more than the red arm saga, both probably would have fared better being released in the hype period for their respective movies.
It’s not really Duane Swierczynski’s fault. There’s only so much you can do in 30ish pages with two characters meeting for the first time. He definitely keeps the action rolling as Cassian and Kertas and Rismor (two other Rebel operatives) attempt to infiltrate an Imperial facility and extract their security protocols. It should be simple enough but of course it’s not because otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. While he may have K-2SO in tow by the story’s end, Cassian most certainly doesn’t set out to get himself a reprogrammed droid which is where the fun comes in. There’s just not much else to talk about in this comic except a very interesting line from Kaytu regarding choice but that ties into a bigger discussion about droids in Star Wars.
I have no major comments on the art front. Fernando Blanco and Marcelo Maiolo do a nice job. I will point out that Cassian’s facial hair looks way more normal than it does in the Rogue One adaptation and that Kaytu’s glowing red eyes of evil are a nice touch.
If you were already thinking about picking this comic up, by all means do so! If you’re a big fan of Cassian and Kaytu, it’s worth a read too. It’s just a comic that would have played better as part of the pre-movie hype.
Cassian and K-2SO: Duane Swierczzynski/Writer, Fernando Blanco/Artist, Marcelo Maiolo/Colorist, Clayton Cowles/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/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
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint which of the little added moments in this Rogue One comic adaptation has been the best. It’s very likely that the ultimate winner will include K-2SO. If you want a droid that can go undercover without raising any eyebrows… don’t pick Kaytu. Not unless you can resort to violence soon after. (Which can be fun in its own way…) While I’ve said it before, it’s worth noting again that the added bits are what really make this adaptation worth it. I adore every little bit we get between Jyn and Chirrut and Baze. That was one arena where the film lacked thanks to time constraints. It’s wonderful that written materials can do more with the framework the movie put into place.
On the art front, Emilio Laiso is still on the tap and he draws a particularly good Tarkin. It may not be a 100% exact likeness (what’s the fun in that when it comes to comics?) but he gets the Grand Moff’s eyes right. They’re unnerving (and not in a CGI way.) I’m still not overly fond of how pale Bodhi comes off in some of the panels though. It’ll be interesting to see how the art handles the incredible, forthcoming space battle.
There’s not much else to say about this particular issue although that shouldn’t be interpreted as a mark against the comic. Rogue One has been a lovely adaptation thus far and I don’t suspect that will change with the last issue but for that? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Rogue One #5: Writer/Jody Houser, Artist/Emilio Laiso, Colorist/Rachelle Rosenberg, Letterer/Clayton Cowles, Editor/Heather Antos, Supervising Editor/Jordan D. White.
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