Star Wars #5 – Review

by Matthew Langlois, CMRO Contributing Writer

Star Wars

Issue #5

Written by Jason Aaron with Art by John Cassaday and Laura Martin

Published: April 2015

Star wars 5My dad introduced me to Star Wars when I was around 6 or 7 years old. He sat me on the couch and put the Star Wars tape in the VHS. It was glorious. Since I obviously loved my first foray into George Lucas’ world, he then rented back to back Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi from the local video store. I was completely hooked and I started requesting Star Wars figurines of my favorite characters (Luke, R2D2, Chewbacca, Darth Vader). I was 9 when Phantom Menace came out. I was ecstatic. I was getting to watch a Star Wars movie in a movie theater! I am well aware that the movie suffers a lot in retrospect, but to a 9-year-old, it was just another incredible Star Wars movie with better than ever special effects.Where am I going with that? Not since I was 13 (with the release of Revenge of the Sith) have I managed to be that excited about the Star Wars universe. I was never interested in the books (to me Star Wars is and always will be a visual media) and the animated series didn’t have the right feel. Sure I had many chances to re-watch the movies, but it was never the same as experiencing them for the first time. The Star Wars comics changed all that.

I have shown nothing short of reverence for the new Star Wars comics since they started hitting the stands. Not because they are sensational, which they are, but because they make me rediscover every week the magic which use to marvel me as a child. Aaron and Cassaday’s opus is probably the biggest reason for that rekindling of my passion as they offer us a book that feels like the original trilogy and looks simply stunning.

Star Wars #5 is again split into two storylines as Luke returns to Tattooine in search of answers about his past and his future while Han and Leia begin to look out for a new planet to move the rebel base. Unfortunately, each party also has one of Vader’s bounty hunters on its trail. The issue has something for every fan. Light sabers fight? Yes. Space pursuits? Yes. Bobba Fett being his usual awesomeness? Yes. Chewbacca? Y… well not this time, but he’s sure to pop up again sooner than later. Aaron again presents us with great characterizations and enthralling dialogues. He manages to recapture the essence of the original trilogy: from Han and Leia bickering interactions to Luke’s quest to discover who he truly his. Cassaday’s art is again stellar as it perfectly sets the mood for Aaron’s writing and presents us with a book one can only want to re-read ad nauseam (I’ve already devoured it three times).

There are still seven months left until Episode VII is released in the theaters, but as long as Aaron and Cassaday are putting forth such an incredible series, the wait won’t seem so interminable.

Darth Vader #7 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Darth Vader

Issue #7

Written by Keiron Gillen with Art by Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado

Published: July 2015

Darth Vader 007- a3 Welcome to the difficult second arc. In much the same way as musicians always find their second album much harder than the first, torn between keeping their sound similar enough to retain listeners, but different enough not to be boring, comics are defined by the second story arc. For the first 4-6 issues (depending on the company and the size of their trade paperbacks) you effectively get a free ride. Obviously the comic still needs to be good, but your audience is pretty much locked in.

All no. 1 issues get a huge sales bump and then a crash for the second issue as people clock out of series that they do not like, but for the rest of the arc (if you did a decent job) your audience has bought into the book and want to see how the story ends. The problem comes when you transition from that first story and into the second one, the problematic 7th issue.

If you make issue 6 too dramatic and too conclusive then people have no requirement to pick up the next. If you do too good a job then people may think that was the end of the series anyway, but conversely if you wuss out and give them a feeble resolution and too many loose ends they will stop reading anyway. That means that the 7th issue has to incorporate the epilogue to the first story, the beginnings of the next, while still feeling like one complete issue with a start, middle and end in its own right.

It is a ridiculously difficult ask for any book to be all of those things and very few get it right. Some series use this book to give the artist a rest (looking squarely at you Thor God of Thunder) and make it a completely separate and self contained side story. I see the merits to this especially if your story could not fill the full 6 issues and you needed a filler book. However it is a risk when some comics change artists for good from arc to arc that people will assume the change is permanent and hate it, even if the regular artist is going to come back.

For Darth Vader the end of issue 6 was a dramatic arc closer, a huge character climax as he discovered the identity of the boy who destroyed the Death Star, the boy who was his son. We avoided the pitfall of the changing artist or writer, they have stuck with it at least for the next arc. However we may have fallen foul of making this into a cohesive comic in its own right.

Pages 1-5 detail Vaders trip to Tatooine, to the destroyed farmstead of his step-brother in search of signs of Luke. Then pages 6-14 look at his dealings with the Hutt clan on Son-tuul. The final 5 pages follow Aphra as she sets out seemingly on her own. It feels like a rather clumsy attempt to give us an epilogue to the first arc, a short story in this issue and finally a set up for the next arc. While each piece on their own work fine, as a whole there is no flow, no cohesion to the story and therefore this issue suffers a bit.

Then again, I am talking about one issue feeling less than perfect, from a series that has basically set the standard this year for a superb comic. Bizarrely the art has also seemed to suffer in this book too. There are times when Aphra’s arms become unnaturally short or Vader ridiculously tall, but they are in the minority.

In fact the art in this book has taken a turn for the ‘cinematic.’ Almost the entire book is shown in panels the width of the page, but very short, so 3-5 stacked on top of each other on each page. Occasionally this is broken by a large square panel showing a very specific character or moment, but the rest feels like stills stolen from a cinema reel. To add to that feeling everything has very defined light sources, so there are heavy shadows, bright highlights and moody colours. If Larroca wanted to do an advert for film storyboarding, then this is it. Perhaps he has missed his chance for this years Star Wars film, but with one scheduled each year, he should have no problems getting the gig.

Overall this is a necessary book that ties one arc to the next. It is rather formulaic in its structure and disjointed in its flow, but we are picking holes in a masterpiece here. It does the job it needed to do and resolves the plots it needed to resolve, but right now I am so much more interested in the new direction it is headed, to find out what happened to the character this series introduced us to and why she never made  it into one of the films. I can only assume a terrible end will befall Aphra, but how and why, I cannot wait to see.

Darth Vader #6 – Podcast Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Darth Vader

Issue #6

Written by Keiron Gillen with Art by Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado

Published: June 2015

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Synopsis: 
Vader must prove himself to the Emperor against the technologically advanced warriors that Cylo V has been training to impress the Emperor, with the intention of replacing Vader. The rift between Master and Student slowly grows larger in the light that one was gathering an army against the other. Then again perhaps the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett will bring Vader better news?

Thoughts: 
This is possible the best issue of the best Star Wars comic out so far. The tension set up between Vader and his Master gives us so much more depth into their relationship than we could have ever gotten from their limited interactions in the films. We also see much deeper into the fractured nature of the films productions as this comic neatly ties together the disparate parts of Amidala’s death with the origin of Luke and how Vader could possible not have know of his birth.

It also gives us more of the perennial fan favourite, Boba Fett and lets those of us who did not much about him into why we should all be so awed by him. His importance to the series and to Star Wars as a whole is growing with this comic, but please let him not crawl out from the Sarlacc pit and leave that as his permanent end.

Rating: 
This is about as good as it gets and shows the real limitation of scoring a book out of 5. I need somewhere to go with it to differentiate between ‘really good’ and utterly outstanding. In either case, it still would not be enough to describe this book or this series.

5/5

For the complete review, please check out the podcast – Highway 616 Episode #2

 

Darth Vader #5 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Darth Vader

Issue #5

Written by Keiron Gillen with Art by Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado

Published: May 2015

Darth Vader 005-1cThis is the first time I have read a Star Wars comic and thought that this might be a bit far from the subject material. It is really hard to put my finger on exactly, but there is a distinct difference between Star Wars and other ‘Sci-Fi’ films, to the point where there is a good argument that Star Wars is in fact fantasy, rather than Science Fiction. I am not sure I am convinced either way with the argument and it is why ‘Space Opera’ gets used so often to describe it as it sits in that gap between the two.

What really bugs me about this issue is the giant space fish. I have no idea why, but for me they just feel like something from Star Trek. I think for me if these sort of creatures exist in this galaxy, then they would have been used by the rebels in the war. Also, in a universe with hyperdrives, what would ‘swimming’ fish have to offer, surely they could not have organic faster than light travel? I know that none of this has any relevance to the story, but it is little things like his that annoys me. I complained before that some Star Wars books have too many parts copied from the films to, make them feel they are really ‘starwarsy’ but for me this is just a little too far the other way.

Anyway, enough of me complaining about one single throwaway page, the rest of this book is fantastic. I feel like with this series that sentence is probably not worth repeating; I should perhaps only say when it is not fantastic because, with the odd exception, everything about it has been astonishingly good. This book shows us quite how big a wedge there was between the Emperor and his apprentice at this point and I think it shows us what was going on in the background and why Luke became so important.

In the now defunct Star Wars EU (Expanded Universe) the emperor had all manner of other apprentices and dark-side servants; from the little know Cronal to Mara Jade. All of these were done to show the conflict between apprentice and Master and to give us ‘expendable’ villains. Well this is similar in that the Emperor is having questions about his apprentices loyalties, and for that matter, questions as to whether this half man, half machine is still the force the could have been. It is great to see how the Emperor either had questions as to Vader’s abilities and questions if he even needed a Force Apprentice in the way that the previous Sith had. That is until he found Luke, Vader’s son, the man his father could no longer be. But that is in the future, right now he is experimenting with all manner of possibilities and here we see the latest creations, soon to be pitted against Vader – Cyborg against Cyborg, the force against technology.

This is very much a continuation of the last book, both in tone and humour. The droids again are stealing the show with well placed quips about murder and blood draining, while Vader looks on impassively. We are still left with this nagging feeling that Vader is the hero, and that is an incredible ask considering he does nothing in this series to make us feel anything less than disgust at the way he treats people and uses them. The fact that the Doctor is constantly thinking he is going to kill her, while simultaneously being awed and amazed at her ‘master’ shows what an incredible presence he has in this book.

To be honest, it is getting hard to review this title any more. The reason being the same as in 2013 when I was reviewing every issue of Deadpool. What do you do when you run out of superlatives? I either start nit-picking over the tiniest of defects – the art on the potential female apprentice on the middle splash page is really wonky; or I just accept that I do not have a lot to say other than – Darth Vader #5 is another Star Wars comic out this year that utterly knocks it out of the park and deserves the massive sales it has been achieving.

Star Wars #4 – Review

by Matthew Langlois, CMRO Contributing Writer

Star Wars

Issue #4

Written by Jason Aaron with Art by John Cassaday and Laura Martin

Published: April 2015

Star Wars 004-000ac2015 might well go down in the annals as the year of Star Wars. We are finally getting the seventh installment of the movie franchise this December, the Rebels animated series ended on a strong note, new novels are being published at an infernal rhythm (five this year only) and fans are getting treated to new quality comics almost every week. Given that Marvel has put its best creative teams on the Star Wars titles, it is no wonder that they amount to some of the best comics coming out this year and, as a reviewer, I find myself sounding like a broken record with my continued applauses of its many series. At least, it shows that the big shots at Disney know perfectly well the potential of their latest franchise and are not dropping the ball by offering subpar material.

Star Wars #4 presents us with two distinct storylines. The first one should not surprise anyone as it follows our favorite team of rebels licking off their wounds after the end of the previous arc and planning their next moves. Obviously, they still have a lot to do before they can call it quits, but it is nice to see them in one of their too seldom moments off. The second story is more striking as it follows Vader negotiating with the Hutts. Given that he has his own solo title; it is quite puzzling that Vader is given half the issue of the main Star Wars title. I guess Aaron and Cassaday wanted to add their own spin on the character and I must confess that it is an interesting take with the exchanges between the two villains illustrating perfectly the situation facing the Empire between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Aaron is one of Marvel’s best talents and you can tell it by the perfectly paced plot and the right-on-the-spot characterizations of every character from Luke to Admiral Ackbar.

As it has been the case with every Star Wars title so far, this issue is full of references to the original trilogy. Most of the times it is well done and you find yourself smiling at scenes of Chewie and Han repairing the ship, Greedos getting shot at or Jabba taking Vader to the Sarlaac. However, and this has been my biggest pet peeves about the re-launch, sometimes it also feels a bit rehashed as the writers seem all too eager to recreate complete scenes from the movies. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say a certain wannabe Jedi clearly has a knack for getting sidetracked.

Cassaday’s art is again top notch as he sparks life to space shots as well as closed locales. His art is, simply put, one of the best out there and I could see myself just looking at the pictures and still enjoy this issue thoroughly (actually that is exactly what I did while writing this review).

I don’t think I can recommend this issue enough to any Star Wars fan, obviously, but also to any comic books fan out there. It is really that great.

Darth Vader #4 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Darth Vader

Issue #4

Written by Keiron Gillen with Art by Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado

Published: April 2015

Darth Vader 004-1c It is little wonder this book has been selling so well. It has obvious advantages, being about probably the best known villain in cinema history, but what is really making it work is Gillen’s story. One of the biggest pitfalls for me with anything Star Wars (post Jedi) is that it has become its own trope. There has been this feeling that in order for it to be a Star Wars film/book then it must hit the same story beats every single time. ‘I have a bad feeling about this’ is merely the tip of the iceberg as it gets said in every film, but it is not just the dialogue, but the exact same story flow. Everyone loses a hand, there are always droids, ships break and get fixed, you can watch films with a checklist waiting for events to happen.

Well what this book does is take those tropes and flip them upside down. Sure we have droids in this book, but what looks like a nice protocol droid is a homicidal maniac who has a penchant for torture; there is a Wookie, but not the cuddly loyal friend sort, rather the sell his own grandmother type; and then there is Vader himself. This book shows us that he is not the one note villain that he was all the way to the end of RotJ, rather he is Anakin Skywalker, a tortured soul trapped inside a mechanical suit who sees no alternative but to continue along his path. But that does not mean that he is not still human and does not still see the value of both compassion and sentiment.

Vader and his new accomplice are tracking down a Droid factory to furnish him with his new army, and the only one that is still left is in the hands of the sterile Geonosian Queen. Or should that be in the bottom of a Geonosian Queen…

There are some absolutely wonderful jokes in this book, ones that literally had me falling on the floor laughing, but I think you need a slightly warped sense of humour in order to find them that funny. Just to give you an idea one of the lines was ‘haha you are on fire and also dead.’ If you aren’t laughing now, then you either have no sense of humour, or you need to pick up this book to get the context, because its brilliant, I promise.

The little moments, as well as the jokes, are what makes this so special. As I alluded to above this runs that very narrow line between boring Star Wars clichés and superbly crafted moments that fit into the ongoing story. For those who aren’t aware these books are specifically being written so that they are, and will always be, part of the official Star Wars canon. What Gillen is doing so superbly is making sure that we get enough parts that perfectly fit into the existing story, while at the same time moving this book forward in its own right. It is an unenviable job because we all know how this plays out. We all know that in a few months/years this character will be burning on a pyre at the end of RotJ, but this makes you forget all of it and really makes you want Vader to win.

Normally for a villain to sustain his own title you have to make him a hero. So many times we have seen ‘bad guys’ like Magneto or Cat Woman played in an ambiguous space between hero and villain to allow us to empathise with them even when we know their actions are not exactly honourable. Well here we know that Vader is evil, it takes one moment right at the end to make him turn back, but there is nothing here that is anything except power hungry villainy, yet I still want him to succeed, I still empathise  with him, and that is a trick worth reading over and over again.

Princess Leia #4 – Review

by Matthew Langlois, CMRO Contributing Writer

Princess Leia

Issue #4

Written by Mark Waid with Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson and Jordie Bellaire

Published: June 2015

lFor all my love of the many Star Wars titles pouring out currently, I mostly went back and forth in my appreciation of the side title that is Princess Leia. First, it was the art which, while quite stunning, was bugging me in places. Then, it was about characters acting way too trustfully considering their status of wanted rebels. And finally, it was about Waid inability to convey thrilling action sequences and instil a climate of tension.

Princess Leia #4 doesn’t douse all these doubts and shortcomings away, but it does presents us with a great penultimate issue and sets the stage for what should amount to an explosive finale. Waid is back to a story which benefits greatly his style and the expositions and plot dumps flow perfectly through the pages. Many of Leia’s newly found allies are given greater roles and they do not disappoint (except if you’re looking at it in a succeeding-in-their-mission way). Leia is again shown to be reckless and a tad stupid by offering herself as a captive to the Empire, but the issue suggests she may have learned from her trials and she might have cooked up a plan after all. Evaan is the one paying for the new additions augmented presence as she gets very little “screen time”, but the lines she does get show that she has grown as a character too.

The Dodsons’ art is still at his high standards and at this point, if you are not on board with it, you might as well never be. Sure, Leia looks really young. But, as I’ve said repeatedly, this representation fits perfectly with Waid’s portrayal of the character. The only issue is one of continuity, as she appears way older and hardened in the main Star Wars title, which should occur only a short while after this series. I’ll chalk it up to creative choices and some miscommunications between the two creative teams.

All in all, this issue is back to the strong showings of the first two issues and I, for one, am impatient to pick up the final instalment.

Star Wars #3 – Review

by Eric Miller, CMRO Contributing Writer

Star Wars

Issue #3

Written by Jason Aaron with Art by John Cassaday and Laura Martin

Published: April 2015

Star Wars 003-1cThe end of the first story arc in the new title from Marvel, and this continues to be a great roller coaster ride all the way to the end. Aaron continues the level of momentum and action that has remain dominate in this story arc, and has brought it to a really good, epic conclusion.

Aaron continues to nail the characterizations of characters we’ve know for years. And once again the story gives us many moments for them all to shine. From Leia and Han bickering over how to deal with the crazy situation they are currently in, or Luke racing around on a speeder bike, like a bat out of hell, trying to save the day. Chewie is back in this one, and has some memorable scenes, but once again Vader is the highlight of the show, as he single handedly takes down the AT-AT Walker Han and Leia are trying to make there escape in, on foot with his lightsaber. Easily one of the most awesome things I have seen Vader do.

This overall story arc has just been fantastic, and everything you could want from a main title Star Wars comic taking place in the middle of the original trilogy. The artwork in this issue, once again is some of Cassaday’s best. The detail is amazing, and every panel is so alive. This is easily one of the best looking titles Marvel is currently producing and this issue was spectacular.

This series had to come out of the gate, swinging, and it has not disappointed in the slightest. This finale issue to the first story arc has exceeded my expectations and has set a very high bar for the rest of the series, and if this issue is any indication of what to expect going forward, I think Mr. Aaron has a pretty good handle on things, and we should just enjoy the ride.

Darth Vader #3 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Darth Vader

Issue #3

Written by Keiron Gillen with Art by Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado

Published: April 2015

Darth Vader 003-1cWe have a series based around one of the all time iconic villains; the series has been fantastic for the first two issues; so what do we do, carry on? No that would be silly, what we in fact do is dedicate practically the entire issue to a renegade who would be most suitable joining the rebellion. Doctor Aphria does not appear to be anywhere near old enough to hold a doctorate in anything as she jauntily flaunts herself on the cover of the book, but behind that cocksure look is a devious and maladjusted mind; just what Vader was looking for.

Vader needs an army, the Emperor does not trust him and he has little to no direct control over the Imperial Forces. In the previous issue we saw him being shadowed by an Imperial spy and now he needs to find people who can provide him with the troops he needs and no questions asked.

The Troops that Vader is looking for is an antiquated army from his youth; droids, and it turns out that Aphria is some what of a genius when it comes to mechanical lifeforms. We first meet her breaking into a quarantined facility in order to ‘rescue’ a memory of a droid, a special protocol droid called Triple-Zero and his homicidal astromech companion.

Normally I find homages extremely annoying; it was in fact the worst part of the prequel films, but here it is both endearing and hilarious. The pair of murderous droids are everything that 3PO and R2 are not, but at the same time so similar in their mannerisms and appearance. Just to give you and idea of the typical conversation that goes on, we have the moment that Triple-Zero is rebooted – ‘I’m a protocol droid, specialized in etiquette, customs, translation and torture.’ Its really clever and actually quite subtle as you read past it, only to have a brief moment where you wonder if you actually read what you thought you read.

I have to give Gillen so much credit for this, he took a risk with this book given how early in the series it is and it worked perfectly. Vader is not so much the protagonist of this issue, rather a plot point driving it forward with our new Doctor as the lead. It works so well because you actually start to see a character behind the mask, rather than just the dark imposing figure who would sooner kill you than look at you. For sure he is still a villain, but he is a villain with a purpose and a direction, rather than merely the antagonist in Luke’s story. You actually read this and start to see Anakin behind the mask. For sure a dark and tortured Anakin, but he is there none the less.

Despite containing very little Vader, this is actually a fantastic continuation of the series. For  those who have read my previous two reviews, I would like to congratulate Larroca for fixing the ‘short’ Darth Vader issues he was having previously. The few times we see him in full frame in this issue he does not appear to be 5′ tall and 5′ wide, so clearly it had been noticed and fixed. In addition to the line work being exceptional, I have to give a lot of credit to Delgado for the colouring. This book is full of reflective surfaces, especially the close ups of Triple-Zero, and they are really eye catching, especially up close.

Overall this issue continues the really strong start to this series and builds on it by expanding the characters in the series to more than just the dark presence of Vader. The art is exceptional, the dialogue clever and humorous and this looks to be the premier Star Wars title for me.