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
First things first: the cover for this issue by Rafae Albuquerque is drop dead gorgeous especially since the colors of the title complement it.
The tricky thing about a book like this is that it feels like we know how this story must end and the result is that the issues creep towards it as the inevitable doom looms. How else could this possibly go for Jedi Padawan Eldra Kaitis? Darth Maul #4 takes us right up to that moment, leaving it for the final issue but there’s still plenty that happens here. After all, Maul and his bounty hunters have to survive the droves of angry criminals who Xrexus has sent to hunt them down for sport since they stole her Jedi.
The story is split between Cad Bane, Aurra Sing, and the rest attempting to survive and Maul and Eldra doing the same. The former is a good excuse to see Cad and Aurra be badass. The latter is… interesting. It certainly makes you appreciate the doomed Eldra. She’s far braver than many of us would be in what seems like a hopeless situation. Even Maul appears to be impressed. It’s enough to make you dread the (likely) inevitable conclusion next month.
Darth Maul #4 brings the action in its penultimate issue and along with some more Maul food for thought.
Darth Maul #4: Cullen Bunn/Writer, Luke Ross/Artist, Nolan Woodard/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
Things aren’t going very well for our heroes (good guys and bad guys alike) at the Screaming Citadel. Not even Triple Zero and Beetee are having fun. In fact, the only person who seems to have maintained her cool is Leia but that probably shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is Leia Organa we’re talking about, after all. The issue’s filled with a plenty of violence and “oh crap oh crap how are we getting out of this?” moments and gives Screaming Citadel that still very Star Wars feeling in this very gothic tale.
What amuses me is how it’s the men who’ve managed to get themselves captured and/or compromised while the ladies (and droids) are the ones out there getting things done. It’s not entirely Luke’s fault that he’s the naïve sort who trusted Aphra but he’s been captured nonetheless. Speaking of Aphra, she’s got some really great moments in this issues; ones that reinforce my desire for her and Luke to have their own on-going buddy comedy series.
Aphra’s the key here for character relationships that I want to see more of. This issue in particular makes Sana seem very antagonistic towards Aphra… or at least more so than usual. Perhaps we could trade one of the Kenobi journal one-shots for a flashback to Sana and Aphra’s relationship that gives a little more context as to why they are the way they are.
Penultimate issues can be odd sometimes because they can leave a reader wondering how on earth everything’s going to get wrapped up in one final issue. Star Wars #32 is no different. It introduces an “oh snap” moment on the very final page and I’m honestly not sure how Kieron Gillen’s going to do this despite having every faith that he will. Despite all of that… I would like that final issue in my hands now. Please.
Star Wars #32: Jason Aaron/Writer, Salvador Larroca/Artist, Edgar Delgado/Colorist, Clayton Cowles/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
When it comes to comic adaptations, sometimes you can make a pretty solid guess as to how much of the film an issue will cover. Given where Rogue One #2 left off and Galen Erso’s presence on the cover… Yeah, it’s not hard to guess the territory that this issue goes over. (And yeah. It’s going to hurt.)
That said, Rogue One is able to do what The Force Awakens adaptation couldn’t: play with the material a little more. It has absolutely been to the book’s benefit. The story hasn’t so much been changed as much as it’s been supplemented. You might not think that Saw’s final moments could get more impactful but ohhhh no. Jody Houser finds a way.
Another thing that the issue does well is really build on the friendship/relationship between Jyn and Chirrut. Due to time constraints in the film, we didn’t get to see much of them interacting but there’s a sort of understanding between the two of them that’s understated but sweet.
The biggest problem that I have with this issue is the coloring. Bodhi Rook looks way too pale in any well-lit panels. It’s a little off-putting. On the other hand, Paolo Villanelli’s Cassian has far less strange looking facial hair so that’s a plus. I was also delighted to see some women amongst the X-Wing fighter pilots.
Overall, Rogue One continues to be an excellent adaptation of the film and I’m intrigued to see how they handle the rest of the story.
Rogue One #3: Writer/Jody Houser, Artists/Paolo Villanelli, Colorist/Rachelle Rosenberg, Letterer/Clayton Cowles, Editor/Heather Antos, Supervising Editor/Jordan D. White.
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
We’re at the halfway point in Screaming Citadel and this is the story arc that I never want to end. It’s so delightful and delightfully weird and I cannot get enough. Of course, that’s in direct contrast to how most of the characters in the arc feel because almost all of them want their time on this planet of horrors to end already. Understandably so.
Where Doctor Aphra #7 particularly shines is with its characters. The dynamics between Luke and Aphra continue to be a highlight because he’s just so sweet and earnest and she’s just so not. I could read an entire series of these two just gallivanting around the galaxy. Interestingly enough, Leia’s another character who really gets to take the spotlight in this issue even if there’s no real main character. Out of all “people,” it’s Triple Zero who lays down some fascinating psychoanalysis of her. It’s honestly a shame that we don’t get to see Gillen’s take on the Princess more often.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been watching the Pirates of the Caribbean films lately and they’re at the forefront of my mind but there’s something about Aphra in this series/issue that makes me think of Jack Sparrow. When you toss her into the mix with a bunch of Rebels, you’re not entirely sure what she’s going to do but you do know that her motives are always ultimately self-centered. BUT. She’s also likely to eventually do the right thing to help out people she likes… just in her own unique way. (Don’t give her a jar of dirt though.)
Finally, it’s worth noting that I adore Andrea Broccardo and Antonio Fabela’s art on this issue! Hopefully we’ll see them stick around on the book for a while.
Do you really need me to tell you to read this story arc again? Go read it!
Doctor Aphra #7: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Andrea Broccardo/Art, Antonio Fabela/Colors, 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
Luke Skywalker keeps trying to tell everyone that he’s not really a Jedi yet but no one seems to want to listen. (He’s just Force-shy, okay?)
Star Wars #31 picks up where Screaming Citadel #1 left off with Aphra and Luke as guests of the Queen and Sana convincing Han and Leia that they definitely need to go after Luke sooner rather than later. It’s a fairly fast-paced issue even if the Queen apparently does enjoy playing with her food.
However, there’s something… off about the art in this issue. I liked Larroca’s art on the Vader book but there’s something that feels very inconsistent about his work here. It’s almost like his style changes for some of the panels and I’m fairly sure that Aphra’s outfit inexplicably changes for a few panels. I also don’t care for how he draws Sana’s hair. Honestly, I wish Checchetto was doing this entire arc.
None of that should detract from how enjoyable the story continues to be though. While we may not get anything quite as good as Luke in formalwear wearing a spavat, the dynamics between Aphra and Luke continue to be fantastic. They’re such opposites that any of their interactions can’t help but be fun especially when they’re aligned together. I could read an entire comic series that’s just Aphra taking Luke to dive bars around the galaxy.
Screaming Citadel continues to be a delightfully gothic story with Star Wars #31 leading right into what I can only assume will be an even crazier ride next issue.
Star Wars #31: Jason Aaron/Writer, Salvador Larroca/Artist, Edgar Delgado/Colorist, Clayton Cowles/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
The Screaming Citadel crossover kicks off today and I’ll just be referring to it as the issue in which everything is delightful and wonderful and nothing hurts. Another potential title is ‘Everything I never knew I wanted until just now’ which would be equally accurate.
The premise is fairly simple. Aphra’s got the artifact with a Force user’s consciousness from the Ordu Aspectu and she needs Luke’s help to convince the Queen of Ktath’atn to activate it. The way Aphra phrases it, it’s a win for everyone. Luke gets a Jedi instructor and Aphra gets a front row seat to history. Of course, it’s not going to be as easy as that and if you think Aphra’s in it purely for the academic knowledge…
What makes this book so darn fun is the interaction between Aphra and Luke. She’s a woman who’s been around the galaxy a few times and sees things in shades of grey while he’s still far closer to being the fluffy-haired farmboy than anything close to a Jedi Knight yet. This isn’t a combination that we got to see much of during Vader Down but it’s possibly one of the most delightful character combinations we’ve gotten in the comics thus far. I sincerely hope that Luke comparing Aphra to Han becomes a running gag.
There’s nothing about this issue that I don’t love and honestly, it’s such peak Gillen that I’m almost surprised that McKelvie’s not drawing it. (Although there’s something quite pretty about Checchetto’s art that I’m a fan of and that definitely works here.) To borrow Gillen’s own words, “it all goes None More Goth” and Aphra and Luke both have a chance to get dressed up all fancy (especially Luke.) Related: I would like to have Aphra’s jacket collection because it appears to be fantastic.
Screaming Citadel starts out strong and grabs the interest from the start. Even if you’ve fallen behind one either Doctor Aphra or Star Wars, I absolutely recommend picking up this crossover because it looks like it’s going to be a fun and wild ride.
Screaming Citadel #1: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Marco Checchetto/Art, Andres Mossa/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Kieron Gillen & Jason Aaron/Story, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor