Review: Poe Dameron Annual

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

Review: Darth Maul #4

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

Review: Darth Vader (2017) #2

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

Knights of the Old Replay: Korriban (Again)

Welcome to Korriban where a mental screwball is the only option on the menu. Much like Dantooine, there’s not much to this particular planet because (unlike Dantooine) everyone’s dead. Sure you have to kill a lot of creepy creatures and Sith Assassins but it’s not like you’ve got  people to talk to. Hell, even the Jedi Master you came to find is already dead thanks to Darth Sleeps-With-Vibroblades. Oh yeah: you have to fight him to and then run away because Kreia says so. It’s uhhh… something. Honestly, this is a planet that’s way more fun if you’re playing dark side because at least you get to see Bastila. Sort of.

It’s also now occurring to me that you probably have to go to Korriban and Dantooine in this game since the basic maps for those planets already existed and they had to rush production. (Or at least that’s my assumption. I’m making things up.) It’s smart but also there’s a reason why these are the two fastest/most boring planets to deal with.

What makes Korriban worth it is the cave. Technically, it’s the tomb of Ludo Kressh but it’s a blatant take on Luke’s Dagobah cave except with 1000% more dialogue. Snark aside, I actually really like the writing in this part of the game and I think doing this planet close to last makes the most sense. The tomb confronts you with both the choices that you’ve made and the choices that have yet to come. It starts with taking you back to when Malak first returned to the Jedi Temple to recruit other Jedi to join him and Revan in fighting the Mandalorians. The next flashback is from a battle on Dxun where lots of soldiers under your command died. I like how the game lets you choose the exposition in regards to why the Exile decided to go fight and to also determine whether or not it was all worth it. It brings up some good questions because the Exile was responsible for (in the course of war) leading people to their deaths and for everything that happened at Malachor V. It’s nice that you don’t have to send the ghost versions of the soldiers to their deaths this time even though they’re totally still dead but all of it still really makes you think about choices and consequences. Continue reading

Review: Star Wars #32

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

Knights of the Old Replay: Dxun and Onderon

In retrospect, I feel like I erred and should have gone to Onderon before I went to Dantooine but that’s what I get for asking Twitter and abiding by the poll results. Onderon and Dxun are some of my favorite parts of the game to play through because we get Mandalorians and royalty! Space politics!

Everything’s going just fine when you arrive in the Onderon system until someone in their military figures out who you are and tries to kill you and you have to crash/hide on the moon of Dxun. Coincidentally, it’s also where the Mandalorian War started and where an outpost of Mandos still remains. Unknown to the Exile, Kreia tells Atton that he’s not allowed to be done with the ship repairs until she says so which means we have to find another way to Onderon. Ugh.

After fighting through the jungle and encountering the warrior race, Canderous—I mean Mandalore offers to take you with him to Onderon but only if you prove yourself useful and worthy first. That means (you guessed it) running around the camp and the jungle finding more beasts to beat up and things to fix. Along the way, Kreia even teaches you a totally useless power that’s supposed to work against beasts. (Spoiler: It doesn’t do crap.)

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Holonet Blast #15

News this week kicks off with something in the “humanity is awful” vein. Over $200,000 in collectibles were stolen from Rancho Obi-Wan and re-sold on the market. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the suspected thief is Carl Cunningham. Folks on the convention circuit are familiar with Carl, as he is known for running tours of hard-to-get-to filming sites and has consulted with Lucasfilm for various projects.

Keysha Ramos over at Screencrush explores Hasbro’s Forces of Destiny line.

This has been the case for the last two releases, so Europe folks be gentle with the spoilers and everyone else, avoid the Internet for a couple days.

Star Wars and other memorabilia from the Fisher/Reynolds estate will be going up for auction.

Another awesome B&N book cover? I’ll take it.

And finally, some audiobook news

Review: Rebel Rising (audiobook)

Beth Revis had a tough job in writing Rebel Rising, the YA novel chronicling the life of Jyn Erso prior to the main narrative of Rogue One. She not only needed to craft an engaging and exciting story, one that fit into the ever-widening new canon of the Star Wars universe, but she also needed to create a character arc for Jyn herself which both ended with Jyn being an angry, sullen, bitter person who wanted nothing to do with the Rebel Alliance (or, really, anyone or anything), but which at the same time was narratively satisfying. How do you craft a character arc that ends with the Jyn Erso we meet at the beginning of Rogue One and not have the entire thing feel like a let-down and a bummer, or like anything more than an extended prologue to the film? Can you even do such a thing?

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Review: Rogue One #3

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.

Review: Darth Vader (2017) #1

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