Review: Star Wars #31

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

Review: Thrawn (audiobook)

If you’ve listened to the Thrawncast, you know that I’m a big fan both of the character Thrawn and of Timothy Zahn’s writing in general. It was like Christmas when it was announced that not only would Thrawn be coming to Rebels, but that Timothy Zahn would be returning to the world of Star Wars literature to write a new novel featuring everyone’s favorite Chiss.

It’s a year later now, and, here at Tosche Station, at least, we’ve all been pretty happy with Thrawn’s portrayal on-screen in Rebels. How, then, does Timothy Zahn’s new novel Thrawn hold up? Is the magic still there? Is Zahn’s re-introduction of Thrawn to the Star Wars canon awkward, or hindered by trying to fit him into existing continuity? And how does the audiobook — narrated by Mark Thompson, the same performer who recorded the first unabridged audiobooks of the original Thrawn trilogy — represent Zahn’s characters and story? Continue reading

Review: Screaming Citadel #1

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

Review: Poe Dameron #14

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

Review: Rogue One #2

I’m not sure if this was a happy accident or if it was the result of excellent planning by Lucasfilm but releasing Rogue One #2 the same week as Rebel Rising and Guardians of the Whills feels like a stroke of genius. In fact, I’d go so far as to strongly recommend that you read through the two novels before picking up this issue if you want the full service emotional ride.

Issue #2 picks up where the last issue left off as Cassian and Jyn arrive on Jedha and takes us through her reunion with Saw. Plus, as the covers so cleverly conceal, we’re introduced to Chirrut and Baze. (Perhaps you’re beginning to see why reading the tie-in books might be relevant.) Saw might not be in the story much but Houser doesn’t throw away her shot to really emphasize the history and relationship between Jyn and Saw. There’s one panel (I won’t spoil it) that makes the entire, well-done issue worth the price of admission. You’ll know it when you see it and I have no doubt that it’ll spark some conversation.

Speaking of which, Laiso and Bazaldua may only have a page to show Saw raising Jyn but they sure do pack plenty of emotion and history into that one page that hits you all the harder if you’ve read Rebel Rising. That’s only one of the pages of very strong artwork in this book, by the way. There are some fairly significant and memorable action sequences covered in this part of the story that could have fallen flat on the page. Laiso and Bazaldua expertly use their panel layouts to make both fights feel dynamic and exciting. That said… there’s still something about Cassian’s facial hair that bothers me.

The comic adaptation continues to be very well done and (thus far) very worthy of your time.

Rogue One #2: Writer/Jody Houser, Artists/Emilio Laiso & Oscar Bazaldua, Colorist/Rachelle Rosenberg, Letterer/Clayton Cowles, Editor/Heather Antos, Supervising Editor/Jordan D. White.

Review: Rebel Rising

A common criticism from those who don’t actually read young adult fiction is that the stories are too juvenile and won’t connect with an adult audience. Star Wars is currently hellbent on proving them wrong. In the latest young adult novel in a galaxy far, far away, Rebel Rising, readers learn more about Jyn Erso’s less than ideal life from when Saw retrieves her to when we meet her again in the prison on Wobani. Beth Revis does not mess around as she takes Jyn (and readers!) through the years on an often rough yet fulfilling journey.

One of the most important things to know about this book is that it can be fairly unrelenting when it comes showing what Jyn’s life was as a child and a teenager. In a way, that’s to be expected. Rogue One tells us that she was on her own since the age of fifteen after she saw her mother murdered by Krennic and was subsequently raised by a militant rebel. In other words, we knew that Jyn didn’t have an easy life but knowing something and really seeing something are two completely different creatures. Jyn certainly has moments of happiness throughout her life but doesn’t really have a happy life. It will be impossible to watch Rogue One and ever think of Jyn Erso the same way after reading Rebel Rising and that’s definitely a good thing as Star Wars literature continues to expand upon and truly elevate what we see on screen.

Where Revis soars is with her portrayal of Saw Gerrera. Admittedly, I was biased against him because of The Clone Wars and Rogue One didn’t do enough with him to sway my opinion. The author makes him a fully realized character that feels like the logical transition between when we last saw him on Onderon and when we later see him on Geonosis.  Perhaps Revis is just hitting me in my very specific emotional weak spot of found/adopted family and gruff adopted fathers who really don’t know what they’re doing but are trying their best but she actually made me genuinely care about Saw. It wasn’t an easy task. He genuinely feels like a real human being now and clearly carries the weight of what happened to Steela with him every day even while continuing his unrelenting guerilla campaign against the Empire. We stay with Jyn’s point of view the entire book but Revis makes you want to occasionally detour with Saw and see more his fight against the Empire and his clashes with other rebels groups. It’s incredibly well done.

Revis also does a good job with her supporting cast, following up on some name drops from Alexander Freed’s Rogue One novelization. With a few exceptions, none of them quite live up to how fully realized both Jyn and Saw are but it’s a solid supporting cast nonetheless. If nothing else, it’s nice to see the supporting cast have noticeably more women present than in stories of old. Also worth noting is how seamlessly Revis handles the passage of time. Her Jyn immediately after Lah’mu feels noticeably younger than her Jyn who is now on her own but they still feel like the same character. All of this contributes to a very believable story.

Rebel Rising is another strong entry into the Star Wars canon and does a more than admirable job helping readers get to know both Jyn and Saw better. It is absolutely something that Star Wars fans should delve into when they have the chance.

Thank you to Disney/Lucasfilm Press for providing an advanced copy of the book for review purposes.

Review: Darth Maul #3

Darth Maul #3 goes about how you’d expect with a fun twist at the end. The real twist though is that Cad, Aurra, and the Jedi Padawan are the most intriguing parts of the book. It’s not what I expected. (Okay, maybe I sort of expected the Padawan part.) Honestly, it’s impressive that two issues of a comic have done what however many episodes of the TV show couldn’t. I’m genuinely interested in Cad Bane and Aurra Sing and wouldn’t mind seeing more of their adventures in this era.

There’s something that feels just a little bit strange about the pacing of this book. Things are most certainly happening in the book and yet it feels slow at times. Perhaps it has to do with how there hasn’t been a ton of action in the book and that Maul tends to internally monologue a lot. I know that I said I liked it last issue as opposed to hearing Maul talk a lot but I’m revising my opinion as it’s gotten to be a bit much. I think I would have been more intrigued by a comic that approached the main character how Chewbacca did by not putting readers inside of his head. Don’t get me wrong: Maul still feels very much like the pre-The Phantom Menace Darth Maul but, just like his later mechanical bottom half self, I want to strangle him a little bit.

As for the book as a whole, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Issue #4 might end up being the deciding factor as to whether this is a book that everyone will like or mostly a book that fans of the character will like. In the mean time, the book’s fine and, well, I guess we’ll see where it goes.

Darth Maul #3: Cullen Bunn/Writer, Luke Ross/Artist, Nolan Woodard/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor

Review: Poe Dameron #13

Thirteen might be an unlucky number for some but it’s definitely a lucky one as far as the Poe Dameron comic is concerned. In fact, this just might be one of the best issues of the comics thus far. There’s action, there’s humor, there’s comradeship, and droids get stuff done. In short, it’s never been clearer that this comic book is one of the spiritual successors to the X-Wing books from Legends and around here? That’s a very high compliment.

Spoilers after the jump… Continue reading

Review: Doctor Aphra #6

Listen. I know that usually I strive to keep reviews as spoiler free as possible but in this particular situation, I am not going to bury the lead because Marvel has finally confirmed what we all strongly suspected back in Star Wars #19: Chelli Aphra is totally gay. First we came for your former Imperial Loyalty Officers and then we came for your Rogue Archaeologists and we are so very not sorry. I’m incredibly pleased that this is something Kieron Gillen and company have confirmed within the text. The more representation within Star Wars, the better.

Oh. I suppose that you want me to discuss the issue aside from Aphra’s sexuality. Doctor Aphra #6 is a great conclusion to the first arc of the book. Gillen and Walker gave us a cool mystical archaeology story mixed with Imperial conflict while also making sure to not neglect what made this book so appealing: the characters. It has a feel to it that’s distinctly its own and Aphra’s proved that she can carry a fascinating book on her own merits without the Dark Lord of the Sith. Hopefully this book is here to stay for a good long while. Who knows what other sorts of trouble Aphra could get up to in the galaxy?

The only thing that’s been bothering me on the art front is that Aphra looks way younger than she should sometimes but that could be because of Kev Walker’s art style. On the other hand, Walker’s also giving Aphra some cool new outfits, which is always a plus.

If you haven’t been picking up Doctor Aphra, I cannot recommend it enough. This book is far too much fun and delightfully Star Wars while also getting to explore other genres. Honestly, there’s no time like the present to get caught up on this book especially with the Screaming Citadel crossover with the main book coming next month. What are you doing still reading this review? Go read Doctor Aphra!

Doctor Aphra #6: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Kev Walker/Pencils, Marc Deering/Inks, Antonio Fabela/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan D. White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor

Review: Thrawn

It’s likely that no book in the new canon thus far has been as highly anticipated as Thrawn. The announcement at Celebration London last year rocked both the ExCel Center and the Star Wars fandom watching around the world. Not only was Grand Admiral Thrawn making his return to canon but he’d also be starring in a book written by his creator, Timothy Zahn. In short… a beloved character written once more by a beloved author. What could go wrong? Continue reading