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Darth Vader (2015) #5 [Review]

darthvader(2015)005Vader part V

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Assistant Editor: Heather Antos
Editor: Jordan D. White
Executive Editors: C.B. Cebulski, Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I intended to drop this. I don’t like the lack of dialogue, and captioning, and how quick it is to read. The speed at which I can blast through an issue makes it a REALLY HORRIBLE “value” for what I spend. But DARN IT…this thing is great to look at, sure is pretty. And I already got the first FOUR issues, the first 2/3 of the arc, and I just had to go and look inside to see if this was a new story or still continuing the existing one, and it’s part 5. So…I bought this, against conscious prior intent…and so help me, I’m really enjoying this title when I get past the conscious, principled complaints.

It ALSO certainly did NOT help that I just re-watched the original Star Wars films, so have these characters–and this time period in the Star Wars canon–front and center in my mind, craving whatever else there is that looks good, looks like it fits, and…in some ways, perhaps I’m just a “sucker” for this stuff right now. The fact that as I sit and type this I feel like I have a stupid, silly grin on my face accentuates that.

Of necessity, we already pretty much know the ultimate fate–or lack thereof–that will befall most of these characters. These droids aren’t around come Empire Strikes Back–they’re not even significant enough to be referenced. Ditto Doctor Aphra. But that doesn’t excuse the feeling they matter right now, in this story, as it is presently unfolding.

I don’t care for the Doctor Who comics, and shoehorning in of new/different/”extra” Companions…yet I’m ok with this for Star Wars comics. Aphra is unlikely to survive, but she’s cool right now, and likeable, and written well and modern despite being set in a story between movies that saw initial theatrical release more than three decades ago.

There’s not a LOT of story in this issue, and I have to keep going back to the art as what makes this. I’m aware of Gillen having done a fair bit with the X-Men title/characters some years back, but largely have yet to read that run, so there’s nothing to the story itself here that I can look at as seeing/feeling this is a Gillen story. But the consistency of the characters and the witty one-offs (Triple-Zero being what he is yet having concern for politeness made me grin) and such give this a modern, contemporary feel while Larroca‘s art (though actually, credit’s gotta go to the ENTIRE visual team) really makes this book. And I don’t usually care about the art enough to gush like this.

I’d love to simply not like this book, because it’s published by Marvel and I’ve not been thrilled with Marvel for awhile as well as the fact that Star Wars and Dark Horse have been pretty much synonymous to me for basically the entire time I’ve been reading comics until just a few months ago.

But despite myself, it’s enjoyable and a fun read and quite worthwhile in and of itself. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, and Darth Vader…I highly recommend this. If you haven’t followed the single issues, it will definitely be worth checking out in the inevitable collected volume.

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Star Wars (2015) #2 [Review]

starwars(2015)002Skywalker Strikes (part II)

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Artists: Cassaday & Martin
Assistant Editor: Charles Beacham
Editor: Jordan D. White
Executive Editors: C.B. Cebulski & Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

On the surface, I’m not at all impressed with this issue. This is a #2, so it’s not the first issue, it’s not MY first issue, nor my first-issue-since-I’m-not-sure-when, and it reminds me that it’s just one chapter in an inevitable graphic novel/collected edition (I’m 99% certain it’ll get a shiny hardcover edition–possibly oversized if not a “premiere” edition).

On the surface, there’s not really a lot covered in this issue: Luke fights Vader; Han and Leia stomp around in a Walker; C-3PO is captured by the scavengers dismantling the Falcon; Though Han and Luke proved to be more of a threat than expected, Vader rallies and vows to personally deal with Luke.

The issue is mostly action, with a lot of little details to the fighting and such, to where if I tried to do a more detailed recap, I might as well write a “novelization” of the issue. The story itself is solid, with enough to the interactions to recognize the characters and get a feeling of authenticity that I definitely appreciate, feeling like this is truly stuff that (could have) happened between the films. Along with that authenticity, there’s an element of knowledge of stuff that comes later, sort of wink-and-a-nod toward stuff we as readers are assumed to know (but if one doesn’t “know” nothing is actually lost).

Visually, this is a strong issue…I definitely like Cassaday‘s work, though I can’t imagine getting more than one arc with it, for now (see above about the graphic novel). Still, taken in and of itself I like the art and have no real complaint…I flew through the issue without trouble being able to tell what was going on, and simply enjoyed the experience without anything in the art tripping me up.

But this isn’t the first issue, a first issue–it’s very much a second issue. While the opening page recap is good and reminds me of key stuff from the first issue, and I like the style, it’s also of necessity a bit briefer than I’d prefer. Having read the first issue, it works well; but trying to consider the recap and then this issue’s contents by themselves, the brief recap doesn’t quite work for me.

My lack of being impressed comes primarily from this not being a standalone issue as well as being able to “see” how it’ll fit quite well into a collected volume as part of a longer, continuous reading experience. Additionally, I can’t imagine many in this day and age actively seeking this issue and reading it without the context of the first issue.

That aside, the quality feels consistent from the first, though I don’t have that issue handy for comparison. If you enjoyed the first issue, and don’t mind (functionally) getting the graphic novel in 6 or so chunks, this is well worth getting. If  you missed the first issue and don’t already have an interest in seeking that out, I’d suggest waiting for the collected volume or such. With this being a $3.99 comic, I definitely do not recommend seeking out #2 as a one-shot/standalone thing.

Star Wars (2015) #1 [Review]

starwars(2015)001Skywalker Strikes

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Artists: Cassaday & Martin
Assistant Editor: Charles Beacham
Editor: Jordan D. White
Executive Editors: C.B. Cebulski & Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $4.99

I truly was not going to buy this. I don’t like that the license was–in my eyes–“taken” from Dark Horse, and envisioned this being like the “taking” of the various Disney-based books from Boom! Studios. But Marvel‘s immediately gotten into things rather than letting the license(s) languish, so here we are.

Another factor is the cover price–$4.99 is way, Way, WAY too much for a single regular issue of a comic. Where I’d intended to boycott this on principle, it occurred to me that it might just be an extra-sized debut issue…so I asked, and the store owner looked it up, and a later issue is solicited at $3.99, so I decided to step off that particular “moral high ground” and check this out.

It’s been several years since I’ve read a Star Wars comic. I’ve bought ’em here and there through the years, usually one-shots or full mini-series after the fact; though I dabbled for a few months back in 2005 with a couple series post-Revenge of the Sith

This has a completely different feel to me. I don’t know what it is–perhaps the Marvel branding, perhaps the hype; maybe something subconscious with the art and associating Cassaday with Astonishing X-Men and/or Aaron with Wolverine.

The art–by Cassaday–is quite good. I dig the way the characters have a good likeness of my memory of the actors’ portrayals. Yet, while the likenesses are obvious, they don’t feel gratuitously so to me. The characters are thus quite recognizable without feeling stylized or like effort was put into making them more comic-book-like than likeness-based. 

The story itself is solid enough; I know there was time between the films, so there’s room to play with and insert new story content that fits continuity without detracting from the films, so I can accept this. At the least, whether this is being pushed as “canon” or not, I can very readily accept it at face-value on the premise of being set between films; Canon or Extended Universe or New Extended Universe or whatever label might be appropriate.

The classic characters are here; the primaries. The issue opens on Han with a disguised Luke and Leia infiltrating a weapons factory as negotiators. The negotiator they’re to meet with, though, proves to be far more dangerous and certainly no lackey to simply be fooled…resulting in deadly combat and plenty of action throughout.

The issue FELT thick and heavy; though I was discouraged to find a SEVERAL-page “preview” of the upcoming Darth Vader title or one of the other related Star Wars books), this issue itself still manages to carry 30 story pages. If 20 pages are $3.99, then technically this could’ve been a $5.99 book for that page rate; but it’s “only” $4.99, so that makes the price point SLIGHTLY more “tolerable.” We also have a page of credits, as well as a very effective OPENING sequence of pages.

I say effective because I actually sighed and rolled my eyes at the first page and that classic line

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

I thought to myself: Really? Had to go back to that again, huh?

Then I turned the page, and I swear I heard the opening strains of the familiar, classic John Williams score…and found myself smiling.

A fact that certainly lent itself to enjoying the issue overall.

I’m not convinced this issue is worth that $4.99 any more than any standard comic is worth $3.99. But the issue made me smile, I enjoyed reading it, I MIGHT actually try subsequent issues and/or the other titles…I’ll give this round of Marvel‘s take a chance. Issue by issue.

If you’re a die-hard fan of Star Wars, I expect you’ll enjoy this; if you’re thoroughly invested in what’s come before (besides the films) you may be disinclined to enjoy this. Either way…this felt to me like something special in spite of resisting the hype (and for BEING so hyped).

On a buy/borrow/pass rating scale…this definitely gets a “borrow,” and something closer to a “buy.”

What If..? Fallen Son #1 [Review]

What If? Fallen Son: What If… Iron Man Had Died?

Writers: Marc Sumerak
Artist: Trevor Goring
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Production: Joe Sabino
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Cover: Ed McGuinness
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This issue derives its story from the intent of answering the question “What if Iron Man had died [instead of Captain America]?” Opening with a recap of events we already know–the heroes’ Civil War, Captain America’s surrender, the bullets on the courthouse stairs–we see the outcome of the trial and where events could have gone had Cap not been assassinated. It is then that Tony Stark falls to events also tied back to the heroes’ war, and we see the world deal with Stark’s death, with snippets we get to check in on tied to the stages of grief. Without Stark to keep things moving as he’d tried, we see that certain more recent events are likely to have played out much differently.

While an interesting concept, I found this issue to be rather weak. I don’t know if that is the writing, or simply the amount of space to play with. We lose several pages to moving events forward without Cap’s death to get to Tony’s…and THEN cram in elements to tie to each of the grief stages, which makes things feel rather forced. Additionally, it seems that one ought to be up to date on subsequent Marvel events to fully appreciate certain moments here to fully appreciate the depth of this story’s events.

The art’s not bad, though not wonderful; it does the job and fits the story.

In addition to the main story, we’re treated to a brief story segment detailing the answer to the question “What if the Runaways became the Young Avengers?” (Written by C.B. Cebulski, Penciled by Patrick Spaziante, Inks by Victor Olazaba, Colors by John Rauch, Letters by Jeff Powell, Production by Joe Sabino, Assistant Editor Michael Horwitz, Associate Editor Chris Allo and Editor Justin Gabrie)

This is a four-page story segment; I don’t have the context nor the interest in it, and would have preferred the few extra pages to have been available to the main story. The art here is not bad, but the story seems a complete waste without having the earlier chapter and not having (nor intending to get) the later chapters. If this story is really worth telling, it should have gotten its own issue and not simply be broken across however many of the What If? issues we have this year.

For me, this issue was a real disappointment, only really redeemed by the fact that against general trend, it is a mere $2.99 cover price, so at least I didn’t waste my money on the new “in” price of $3.99.

Story: 5/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 5.5/10

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