Category: Comics

Review – “C-3PO: The Phantom Limb” (2016)

C-3PO-The-Phantom-Limb-Cover“I see flashes–for just a moment… Places. Rocks…. A factory of droids… An arena, in the middle of a battle… My body not my own… A green world with hills… Underwater cities… A single city spread far as my optical sensors could see… A temple on fire… Smoky mountains of magma and fire. Suffereing. Yes… I have memories too… And yes. Sometimes I allow myself to wonder about them.” – C-3PO


 

C-3PO: The Phantom Limb is a single standalone comic book issue that tells the story of how C-3PO got his red arm that he has in The Force Awakens. Originally intended to be released as part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” series of stories, the comic got delayed over and over again until it was finally released on April 13, 2016, four months after The Force Awakens premiered in theaters.

The comic was written by James Robinson, with artwork by Tony Harris. Upon opening the book, the first thing that stuck out to my was Harris’ art. This is a very unique art style that I almost want to say feels like the middle ground between the art in Marvel’s original Star Wars comic series from the ’70s, and Marvel’s new Star Wars series from last year. It’s hard to describe, but I really like the art style. It’s dark, with lots of heavy black shadows. It’s definitely something different, at least in my limited experience with Star Wars comic books. I’m a fan.

Since this is only a single issue, it’s hard to get too into detail about the story without giving everything away. Basically, C-3PO and a group of other droids are on board a ship that crash lands on a strange planet, and the droids have to work together to find a way to contact the Resistance for help. Along the way, Threepio loses his arm, and by the end of the story he receives his red one. Very brief summary, but I can’t say much else. That’s basically already the entire story.

Tony-Harris-C-3PO

Having C-3PO in the lead role just feels like classic Star Wars to me. Threepio and Artoo were basically main characters in the original Star Wars movie. The movie opens with them, and they’re central to the plot and story for the entire movie, while in all other Star Wars movies since the droids have been reduced to secondary roles. Having Threepio take center stage again just feels right, and I like that.

Something the movies don’t let us do is get into the heads of these droids. In Star Wars literature, we realize that C-3PO is actually very thoughtful. Too much so, to the point of overthinking everything and driving himself into a state of panic all the time. In comics like this one, and in the novels, we have the chance to get inside C-3PO’s electronic brain and learn that he’s a lot more than just the worrisome, annoying gold droid we see on screen. There’s a lot going on inside this droid’s head, and it’s always fun to see what he’s thinking.

The one little thing I found fascinating about this story was that it is revealed that although Threepio’s mind was wiped at the end of Revenge of the Sith, his mind apparently wasn’t completely wiped. He still has flashbacks of his past life during prequel-era Star Wars. He remembers bits and pieces of Geonosis, of Coruscant, of Naboo, and of Mustafar. He doesn’t remember details, but this could prove to set up for some very interesting stories in the future, if C-3PO is somehow able to either regain his memories or make sense of the little bits of information he still has in his computer head.

For what it is, I like it. You can’t expect a whole lot from one-shot comics like this. They’re quick, short stories, and you can’t go into it hoping for something huge and immersive. The comic is written well. The art is great. It’s a fun, easy read and a neat little piece of backstory that explains why C-3PO looks different in The Force Awakens. I wish there was more to it, but honestly there doesn’t need to be. It tells the story it needs to tell, and I can’t think of anything else that could have been added to it.

Now, if we can just get an explanation as to why Threepio has his gold arm back at the end of The Force Awakens, that would be great. His arm suddenly being gold again at the end of the movie feels like a completely unnecessary continuity error that bugs me every time I see it.

C-3PO-Gold-Arm

Score: 7/10

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Review – Marvel: “Star Wars” #1-6 (1977)

Classic-Marvel-Star-Wars-1“General Obi-Wan Kenobi–I present myself in the name of my father, Bail Antillies, Viceroy of Alderaan. Years ago, Commander, you served the Old Republic in the Clone Wars; now my father begs you to aid us again in our most desperate hour . . . You are our last hope…” – Princess Leia Organa


 

The first six issues of Marvel’s original Star Wars comic book series make up the first ever comic adaptation of the original Star Wars movie. The first issue was released in April of 1977 (despite it saying “July” on the cover), a month before Star Wars made its premiere in theaters. This first issue was simply titled Star Wars, while all subsequent issues of the series had titles of their own.

The first six issues of the series were titled as follows:

  1. Star Wars (Apr 12, 1977)
  2. Six Against the Galaxy (May 10, 1977)
  3. Death Star! (Jun 7, 1977)
  4. In Battle with Darth Vader (Jul 12, 1977)
  5. Lo, The Moons of Yavin! (Aug 10, 1977)
  6. Is This the Final Chapter? (Sep 13, 1977)

Over the years these issues have been released over and over again in various omnibuses and trade paperback collections published by both Marvel and Dark Horse Comics. I have always been curious to go back and read these old comics, as it is something I had never done before, so I picked up the first few of Dark Horse Comics’ Classic Star Wars: A Long Time Ago… omnibuses so I could finally take a crack at this classic series.

The series ran for nearly a decade, spanning 107 issues. As mentioned above, the first six issues of the series are an adaptation of the original Star Wars movie. Apart from these six issues–and issues 39-44, which adapt The Empire Strikes Back–the series tells its own original stories starring our heroes from the original Star Wars Trilogy.

For now, I’m just going to talk about the first six issues; the adaptation of what came to be known as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. After reading Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the film, and enjoying the extra tidbits of information the book provided that the film didn’t, I was curious to see if the comic adaptation would likewise bring something new to the table.

Just looking at the front cover of the first issue, the first thing that really sticks out to me about this series is the artwork. I confess I have never been a big fan of comic books, and I haven’t read very many of them in my days, but the few I have read have for the most part been published within the last 15 years. So, in my extremely limited experience with comic books, I’m used to art that looks a little bit more, uhh… modern?… than this (see Shattered Empirefor example).

Lo-The-Moons-Of-YavinWith that said, I love the artwork in these books. I don’t think I can say that “it breathes new life into Star Wars” because it came out nearly four decades ago, but in a way I really feel it does. The comic doesn’t try to be an exact replica of the films. The characters all look quite different than their on-screen counterparts.

The colors are fantastic, and at times are wonderfully inappropriate. When did Han Solo paint the inside of the Millenium Falcon neon green? Why is Darth Vader green on the cover? Why are all the lightsabers pink? All the locations, settings, and characters are so vibrantly colored. Even the dogfights in space are full of color. Some images, like Obi-Wan’s death by the hand of Darth Vader, look absolutely ridiculous. Frankly, this all adds to the charm of the book, and I love it.

The covers of some of the issues are totally misleading. The cover of Issue #5, depicts our heroes on the surface of Yavin IV running desperately while the Death Star fires lasers at them from orbit. The cover of Issue #6 shows Luke and Vader having a lightsaber duel. Neither of those things ever happened in the movie, and they don’t even happen in the comic! They just looked nice on the cover I guess.

One thing that I noticed was that a lot of the panels in these comics felt really text-heavy. Some panels felt like they were just crammed with text boxes. Usually they were narration boxes, but sometimes speech bubbles did the same thing. You know that scene in the Special Edition of A New Hope where a big ol’ CGI alien walks right in front of the camera and literally blocks the entire screen for a couple seconds? Sometimes I felt like the text boxes were getting in the way like that. For the most part, this wasn’t an issue. But there were a few specific panels, or even specific pages where I noticed I sure was reading a lot.

As far as the story goes, these six issues are more-or-less a direct scene-for-scene adaptation of the movie. There are a few scenes in the comic that we don’t see in the movie, but they are the same extra scenes that appeared in Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the film. We get to see Luke on Tatooine earlier than we do in the movie. His “friends” like to make fun of him and call him “Wormie” (this is actually referenced in the 2015 Marvel Star Wars series, which made me smile). We get to meet Biggs here on Tatooine, before he joins the Rebellion.

Jabba-The-Hut-ComicWe also get to see Jabba the Hut (still spelled with just one “T”). In the movie Jabba is a giant slug. In the novelization Jabba was a human. In the comic, Jabba is… some silly-looking yellow humanoid alien. Apparently back then nobody had any idea who or what Jabba the Hutt actually was, so we have all these different versions of this scene spread across the various adaptations of the story.

There are little things that I found odd. Whenever the Force is mentioned it is always mentioned in quotation marks. Use “the Force!” Lightsaber is always spelled “lightsabre” with the “re” ending instead of “er.” Artoo Detoo is referred to as an “android” at least once. These are all very little things, but things that stuck out to me as they are not the norm in Star Wars literature.

What else is different? Leia says that her father is “Bail Antillies” when it should be “Bail Organa.” The funny thing is, Bail Antilles is actually a different character in Star Wars. Actually, there are two other characters in Star Wars named Bail Antilles, and neither of them are Leia’s father, Bail Organa. Is that sufficiently confusing?

Greedo speaks English. Luke says a line or two that Han actually says in the movie. Certain lines differ from what is said in the movie in a goofy way: “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the Cosmic Force!” Obi-Wan straight-up murders the aliens in the cantina who are giving Luke a hard time.

In-Battle-With-Darth-VaderLike in the novelization, Luke flies with Blue Squadron instead of Red Squadron. One of my favorite scenes from the book is repeated in the comic, where Blue Leader talks to Luke about knowing his father, Anakin Skywalker. Blue Leader knew that Anakin was a great pilot, and a Jedi. “The galaxy will be a lot better off when the sons of the original Jedi Knights are back on the scene!”

One thing I thought was funny was the overuse of the word “space.” After the Battle of Yavin is over, Luke finds Han and says “Han, you old space-devil! I knew you’d come back in time to keep me from winding up space-dust!” It’s a great space-quote, and it made me laugh. The word “space” is slapped in front of basically any word, and I just love it. This trend still continues in Star Wars literature today (though far, far less frequently). One of my favorite instances was actually in Chuck Wendig’s 2015 novel, Aftermathin which fan-favorite bounty hunter Dengar says “I was putting away bounties while you were still in your space diapers.” I wonder how space diapers compare to regular diapers.

One detail that I appreciated was that the comic actually goes out of its way to explain why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the story. The explanation is simple; Leia is just way too short to put a medal around Chewbacca’s neck. The narrator points out that Chewbacca will receive a medal of his own after the ceremony, but he will have to put it on himself.

The comic book adaptation doesn’t bring a lot of new information to the story. If that’s what you’re looking for, you may be disappointed. But it is very fun to read and look at the great artwork from the late 70s. This is probably the goofiest adaptation of Star Wars I’ve seen yet, but that’s part of its charm. I’m definitely glad I picked this up, and I’m looking forward to continue reading the series and seeing the other original (and even weirder) stories that Marvel came up with.

“What the future holds for these six daring souls, only time and the space-winds know. But, for today… For now… They are content.”

Medal-Ceremony.jpg

Score: 7.5/10

Review – “Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir” (2014)

Darth-Maul-Son-Of-Dathomir-Cover“The war you have waited your entire lives to fight is upon us, my brothers! Victory or death! – Darth Maul


 

Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir is a four-issue comic book series that was released over the course of four months in 2014. In October of the same year, all four issues were released together in a trade paperback collection.

Son of Dathomir was written by Jeremy Barlow, and is an adaptation of unfinished episodes of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series. Had the show not been cancelled after Disney bought Lucasfilm, Son of Dathomir would have been released as episodes of the TV series instead.

Son of Dathomir has the unique distinction of being the first story ever released in the new Star Wars canon, being released shortly after the announcement was made that all existing Expanded Universe stories were no longer considered canon by Lucasfilm. If for no other reason, that makes this story an interesting piece of Star Wars history.

This story takes place where Darth Maul’s story left off in The Clone Wars. If you haven’t seen the Darth Maul Clone Wars episodes, then I recommend watching those (specifically the four episodes in season 5 that Maul appears in) before looking into Son of Dathomir, as it is a direct continuation of Maul’s story in The Clone Wars.

For those looking for a refresher, here’s a quick summary of what happened to Maul leading up to Son of Dathomir:

After being cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi on Naboo, Darth Maul fell into a garbage chute and was dumped on the junkyard planet Lotho Minor. Maul managed to keep himself alive through the Force by focusing on his hatred of Kenobi. He created a spider-like makeshift lower body for himself that was held together by the Force.

In his exile on Lotho Minor, Maul slipped into madness over the course of the next ten years, tormented by the reality that he was a broken man (quite literally) and a failure as a Sith Lord. Alone with nothing but his thoughts, his extreme hatred for Kenobi continued to grow, and his head was filled with thoughts of revenge as he became more and more unstable.

During the Clone Wars, Maul was found by his brother, Savage Opress. Maul went with Opress to Dathomir, their home planet, to see Mother Talzin, a Nightsister witch who practiced dark magic using the Force. Talzin healed Maul’s deranged mind and built him a new pair of mechanical legs.

Darth-Maul-Savage-Opress

Maul set off to get his revenge on Kenobi, hellbent on torturing and murdering the Jedi Knight. After a few unsuccessful attempts at killing Kenobi, Maul decided to build up an alliance of many of the major underground crime organizations in the galaxy. His new alliance was called the Shadow Collective, and it included the Mandalorian Death Watch, the Pyke Syndicate, the Black Sun, the Hutts, and eventually the Dathomirian Nightbrothers.

With Maul amassing so much power, he caught the attention of Darth Sidious, who had previously been unaware that his former apprentice survived after his defeat on Naboo. Sidious eventually confronted Maul, killed Savage Opress, and defeated (but not killed) Maul in a duel, telling Maul that he was not done with him yet.

That’s where Darth Maul’s story ended in The Clone Wars, and Son of Dathomir picks up shortly after those events.

Darth-Maul-Count-DookuUpon opening the comic we find that Darth Sidious has locked Darth Maul away in a secret high-security prison on the planet Stygeon. Darth Sidious tells Count Dooku of his plan to use Darth Maul as bait to draw out Mother Talzinwho is revealed to be Darth Maul’s motherfrom hiding so that he can destroy her. The members of Maul’s Shadow Collective remain loyal to him, and Mandalorians from Death Watch come and break Maul out of the prison.

Maul and Death Watch go into hiding at one of their secret basis on the planet Zanbar, but thanks to a tip from Darth Sidious they are discovered by General Grievous and a battalion of battle droids. What follows for the rest of the story is basically an all out war between the Shadow Collective and Darth Sidious’ droid armies, as Sidious tries to find and destroy both Darth Maul and Mother Talzin.

The Jedi do get involved a little bit. One thing I liked about this story was that with the reappearance of Darth Maul, the Jedi are more confused than ever as to who the mysterious Sith Lord they are looking for is. Now that Maul has shown up, the Jedi begin to think that Count Dooku may have been the Sith Master all along, with Darth Maul as his apprentice. It works as a valid reason behind the Jedi’s continued confusion about the Sith Lord, and makes the Jedi’s relative lack of suspicion of Chancellor Palpatine feel more justified.

The series is short but an entertaining read. Though initially I was hugely against the idea of bringing Darth Maul back from the dead in The Clone Wars, the Darth Maul episodes ended up being some of the very best episodes of the entire series. I was glad to see that story continued in some form even after the show was cancelled.

Darth-Maul-Mother-TalzinSadly there was no satisfying conclusion to Darth Maul’s story on the TV show, and I had hoped to find one in this comic. There isn’t one. Though it leaves open the possibility for more Darth Maul stories in the future, which could be a good thing. However, they should not leave his story open-ended forever, because it just feels wrong knowing that there is even a slight possibility that Maul could still be alive during the time of the Original Trilogy, or even (though he’d be a very, very old man by then) during The Force Awakens. I would like to see a definite conclusion to Darth Maul’s story sooner rather than later. (It looks like we might actually be getting one very soon. We’ll see!)

That aside, this was a fun little story to read. Darth Maul is one of my favorite villains, and because of The Clone Wars I like him even more now than I used to. Son of Dathomir continues Maul’s Clone Wars story in a way that will be entertaining for anybody who enjoyed his appearances on the TV show. The story is not a very important one, but it does close up a few loose ends that The Clone Wars left open.

For fans of Darth Maul and fans of The Clone Wars I would definitely recommend picking this up. If you don’t care much about Maul or seeing continued stories from The Clone Wars, this story is very skippable. At the very least, the first official entry into the new Star Wars canon turned out to be an enjoyable read. Not brilliant, but good. I for one am glad I took the time to read it.

Score: 7/10

Review – “Shattered Empire” (2015)

Shattered-Empire-Cover“Signal Intelligence just finished decryption on a batch of Imperial transmissions broadcast before what was left of their fleet turned tail and ran. The good news is that they’re in total chaos. The bad news is we’ve got an Imperial holdout on the far side of the moon… Seems no one told them they lost.” – Han Solo


 

Shattered Empire is the story I have been waiting to read ever since it was announced that the Star Wars canon was being rebooted. It is a four-issue comic book miniseries that takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi, and stars the “Big Three” (Han, Luke, and Leia). It was released as part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” series, both in order to generate hype for the new movie and to start bridging the gap between the original films and The Force Awakens.

Shattered Empire was written by Greg Rucka, who also wrote the book Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo Adventure, which is also part of the “Journey” series. With both of these projects, Rucka has proved to be somebody I can trust with doing Star Wars justice, as I have thoroughly enjoyed both of his contributions to the new canon.

The artwork is also very well done. Some of the images take up nearly the full two-page spread, and they are beautifully filled with detail. The thing I like most is that the artist really captures the look of the main characters from the movies. Their likeness is spot on, which is something that is always important to me when reading comics based on movies like this.

This story is exactly what I had hoped the novel Aftermath was going to be; a direct follow-up to Return of the Jedi that followed all of my favorite characters. It takes place immediately following the events of Return of the Jedi–and when I say “immediately,” I mean it.

After a night of celebrating on the moon of Endor, the rebels wake up the next morning and get right back to business. Just because the Emperor was killed and his second Death Star blew up, it doesn’t mean the war is over. Han Solo tells the rebel soldiers that they have picked up an Imperial broadcast and have discovered an Imperial holdout on the far side of the moon. The Imperials are planning a counterattack, so the rebels have to attack them first.

Though the main characters of the original Star Wars trilogy are all featured pretty prominently in Shattered Empire, the main character of the story is a woman named Shara Bey, an A-wing pilot who fought in the Battle of Endor. She is married to a fellow rebel solider named Kes Dameron, and the two of them are the parents of Poe Dameron, who is the guy we see flying an X-wing in the trailers for The Force Awakens. Poe doesn’t make an appearance in this comic, he is only briefly mentioned.

Shara goes with the rebels to the Imperial holdout and pilots their getaway vehicle. The rest of the story focuses on the continuing war in the aftermath of the Battle of Endor, and what it looks like from the perspective of a rebel pilot. The Emperor had some plans that he wanted carried out in the event of his death, and they are causing the rebels a lot of trouble. Han, Leia, and Luke all get their time to shine throughout the story as well, with Leia’s portion of the story being exceptionally cool. I can’t go into much detail without spoiling it, but Leia’s portion of the story made me like the princess at lot more than I already did.

Luke-Skywalker-Shattered-EmpireLuke’s portion of the story is a pretty fascinating look at how for he has come as a Jedi. This is the most powerful we’ve seen Luke in the existing canon, and it is very cool to see. It reminded me quite a bit of Matthew Stover’s depiction of Luke in his post-Return of the Jedi Legends novel Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. Any time I can compare something to Matthew Stover’s work, it is a good thing, as he is hands down my favorite Star Wars author.

Another thing I enjoyed that Rucka snuck into the story were little references to other works in the new canon. Luke has Shara disguise herself as Alicia Beck, a commander in the Imperial Security Bureau who we meet in Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo Adventure. One of the rebel pilots also asks a question about Corona Squadron, which is the squadron Thane Kyrell flies with in Lost Stars. These little references are always fun to pick out.

Shattered Empire works more as a little taste of what’s to come, rather than a fully fleshed-out story of it’s own. The conclusion of the series is not satisfying, leaving you with more questions than answers. Overall I would say that it is a good introduction into what will become the post-Return of the Jedi canon, but ultimately that’s all it isan introduction.

With that said, I really enjoyed this miniseries. It was exactly the kind of story I wanted to see before going in to the new movie, and for that I am glad. I would definitely recommend this to any Star Wars fan, and I think of all the stories in the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” series, Shattered Empire is probably the one I would recommend the most. It is not the best story of the series, but it does the best job of paving the way to the new movie, and it is the only story in the series that shows us what the Big Three are up to after the events of the original trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Score: 7.5/10