Comics: Star Wars – Doctor Aphra

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Happy Star Wars day!  That’s right, the release of Rogue One is finally here.  Well, technically the film releases on 12/16. But as usual, theaters nationwide will begin showing the movie this evening. So, in celebration of this event I will be posting two Star Wars related reviews today. First up – Marvel’s new Star Wars comic: Doctor Aphra.  **THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS OF DARTH VADER #25**

Doctor Aphra is a name that might not be familiar to everyone. Casual fans, or fans of the films-only have likely never heard the name before. So who is Doctor Aphra? Aphra is a character from Marvel’s “Darth Vader” comic.  She is a criminal mastermind that partnered with Vader for the majority of his solo series. In Vader’s book, she helped him with his secret quest to track down Luke Skywalker. Along with her black Wookiee bounty hunter and two sadistically programmed droids, she worked in the shadows at Vader’s command, doing his dirty work and laundering credits to help fund his search.  In the end, when the whole plan fell apart, she tried to save herself by revealing Vader’s plans to the Emperor himself. This only resulted in Vader ejecting her into the void of deep space, presumably to die. Of course, as the final pages of the the comic showed, she managed to survive.

Now, Aphra has her own comic book. Along for the ride are her droids and menacing black Wookiee. This first issue follows Aphra as she tries to slip back into her old lifestyle. However, unforeseen complications occur that may result in a few changes in Aphra’s near future.

Overall, I found the comic to be off to a good start. It’s always hard to take a non-core character and make them the focus of a new story. But so far, Marvel has done a great job of not only introducing us to a new face in the Star Wars universe, but also making us interested. I look forward to see where Aphra’s story goes in the coming months.

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Artwork: Very good. The art work here is on par with Marvel’s other Star Wars entries so far. Crisp, clear, and enjoyable.

Story: Great job so far crafting an interesting tale about a 2nd class character. The addition of BT1 and 0-0-0 to the book make for some great dark-humor laughs.

Recommended:  Yes. Fans of the Darth Vader comic will really enjoy this book as it seems to be a continuation of the tale found there. Casual Star Wars fans might even find something to their fancy here.

Comics: Star Wars – Han Solo

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Marvel has certainly not been slouching when it comes to their Star Wars books. Currently, we have three ongoing series (Star Wars, Kanan, and Poe Dameron), one retired series (Darth Vader), and a number of minis and one shots. Han Solo is the latest in this crop of 5-issue minis. Now the final issue of Han Solo has arrived! I’ve read it, and I’m ready to share my thoughts on this latest entry in the Star Wars canon.

This book takes place between episode IV and V. In this story, as part of his cover in a top-secret mission for the rebellion, Han Solo participates in a high-stakes race across the galaxy – one that, if he actually won, would afford him enough credits to square his debts with Jabba. As one can expect, losing is not in Solo’s playbook. So despite being only a ruse for a larger mission, Solo takes it upon himself to both complete the task given to him by the rebellion AND do his best to win the race of a lifetime.

All in all, the book is masterfully done. This series does a fantastic job of portraying the internal struggle that Han Solo is going through at this point in the saga. His desire to return to his independent, loner ways vs. his new found friends and a sense of belonging to something greater than himself. The writers for this series also managed to nail the unique personality and humor of his character. (A task that’s often done very poorly on paper). All in all, this is a fantastic entry into the new canon. As 2017 arrives and some new comics are on the horizon, I hope to see Marvel continue this trend in quality Star Wars comics. These five issues were not enough. I was left wanting more.

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Artwork: Very well done. Wonder use of color and the character portrayals are realistic, without looking traced or photo-sourced.

Story: A fun action/adventure romp. Classic swashbuckling Han Solo. Just what I was hoping to find in a Han Solo title.

Recommended:  YES. For everyone.  Even casual fans of the series will find an enjoyable comic here.

Comics: Star Wars – Poe Dameron #1

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As promised, I’m here with my review of Poe Dameron #1. (Better late than never!). Despite having been out for a total of eight issues now, I’ve only just gotten around to catching up with this series. Generally speaking, I usually like to collect 4-6 issues of a comic before diving into it. This way I can get a good chunk of the story before waiting a whole month for the next chapter. That works great for someone that is only reading a comic, but not so good for someone who is reviewing them.

Regardless, I’ve finally sat down with my copy of Poe Dameron #1 and I’m ready to share my thoughts. As you may have guessed, this comic is focused mainly of the character of Poe Dameron. Fans of The Force Awakens are undoubtedly familiar with this character. Poe is the star pilot of The Resistance, and personal friend of General Leia Organa. This book begins shortly before the events of The Force Awakens. This is the story of Poe on his search for Lor San Tekka (the old man from the beginning of Episode VII). So fans of the new film should feel right at home with events of story presented here.

Aside from Poe, we also see a lot of attention on the other X-Wing pilots in Poe’s “Black Squadron”. As well, receive an introduction to a new character from The First Order. One thing I’ve really enjoyed about these new Marvel comics is the introduction of new and interesting characters. Marvel’s done a great job of creating some really fantastic characters who fit wonderfully into the existing Star Wars mythology. Those found here in the Poe Dameron comic are no exception.

I found myself enjoying this book a lot more than I expected to. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting such a deep tie-in with Episode VII. The storyline presented in this first issue serves as a great launching point for this book. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

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Artwork: The artwork in this comic is similar to that seen in the earlier issues of Marvel’s main Star Wars line. Overall well done.

Story: The story-line here is a prequel to The Force Awakens, and a sequel to Poe’s story in “Before the Awakening”. We are given a little insight into the event’s leading up to the opening scene of Episode VII.

Recommended:  Yes. I recommend this series to any Star Wars fan. Fans of The Force Awakens especially will find a lot to like in this premier issue. I can’t wait to see where the story goes and check back in the near future.

Comics: Star Wars – Darth Vader #25

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I’m lagging a bit behind in my Star Wars comic book reviews. But fear not! I will catch up soon with my thoughts on the Poe Dameron and Han Solo comic. I plan to do so before the release of Rogue One next month, But first, I want to discuss the final issue of Marvel’s Darth Vader.

When Marvel took over the mantle of Star Wars comics from Dark Horse, it launched with both a generic Star Wars title as well as a Darth Vader comic. For awhile, these two comics ran parallel of each other. Then, Darth Vader took a bit of a turn and veered off into it’s own story line. The Darth Vader series has now come to a close with the release of it’s 25th issue.

During the course of this excellent comic, we learned how Darth Vader discovered Luke Skywalker’s identity as well as his early plans to circumvent the Emperor and reunite with his long lost son. This comic introduced us to a number of wonderful new characters; Dr. Aphra, BeeTee, Triple 0, Cylo-IV, etc. All of which I found to be fascinating and worthy additions to the Star Wars universe.  As a result, even though this book has come to an end, I’m very excited for the upcoming Dr. Aphra comic.

Star Wars fans who are curious about the era between the fourth and fifth films will find a treasure trove of material in these twenty five issues. I can’t recommend this series enough. Marvel has proved itself to be a fantastic steward for the Star Wars universe and this comic is a prime example of why.

If you have not yet experienced this part of the Star Wars canon. Now is an excellent time to catch up. Combined with the main Star Wars books, Darth Vader makes a great starting point for anyone interested in getting into the series. I’m sad to see that it has come to an end.

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Artwork: The artwork in the course of the Darth Vader comics was top notch from beginning to end. Even across the span of 25 issues, I found it to consistent and often times some of the best out of all the new Star Wars books. High praise here.

Story: Originally, this book mirrored the events of the main Star Wars series but from an Imperial perspective. During this time, several new characters were introduced. After a while, these characters and their relationship with Vader became the focus of the book. The Darth Vader comic did a wonderful job of bridging the character of Anakin Skywalker with the cold and ruthless Darth Vader that we know from the original trilogy. The story presented in this book was nothing short of fantastic.

Recommended:  Yes. I recommend this series to any Star Wars fan. Followers of both the prequels and the original trilogy will find a lot to enjoy here.

Comics: Star Wars – Obi-Wan and Anakin

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A little late with this review, so I apologize. But here are my thoughts on the Marvel Comics: Obi-Wan and Anakin mini-series. This was a five-issue event that ran from January to May of this year. The story focuses on an adventure shared between both Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi and is set during the early days of Anakin’s apprenticeship.

In the story, our heroes find themselves stranded on an alien planet in the midst of a civil war between two semi-primitive factions. Anakin and Obi-Wan must work together to unite the warring groups and secure their escape.

Hidden amidst the main plot, are some very interesting glimpses into the nature of Obi-Wan’s relationship with Anakin in the early days of his training. It also sheds some light on the origins of Anakin’s relationship with Palpatine, a subject that is a huge fascination with many fans. Despite what initially appears to be a fairly generic storyline, Marvel did a fine job weaving in details that hardcore fans will be eager to soak up.

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Artwork: This book has a very modern art style. Similar to that of the main Star Wars series. Crisp and clean with good use of color.

Story: Set between Episodes I and II, that’s a surprising amount of information packed into this series. Hints are given into Obi-Wan’s private thoughts on the state of the Jedi Order and well as a surprising reveal regarding Anakin’s intentions in the early days of this training.

Recommended:  Yes. This is a great mini-series and a prime example of the new canon done right. Fans of the prequel trilogy will really enjoy this title, but in truth is appeals to nearly any Star Wars fan.

Comics: Star Wars -C3PO

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So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that there was a new Star Wars movie recently. In this film, we see one of our favorite robotic Star Wars characters, C3PO, sporting a strange looking red arm. The arm is mentioned in the film as a bit of a side note, but no explanation was given regarding its origins… until now.

Marvel has produced a one-shot C3PO comic book that provides a bit of backstory on the mysterious origins of the scarlet appendage. The books is fairly short, and is centered upon a scenario in which C3PO and a number of other droids embark on a bit of an adventure. I don’t want to say much more or I risk giving away a bit of the story. But I will tell you that there’s actually a lot more insight into the inner workings of droids provided here than one might expect. I found the story to be both entertaining and touching.

So if you were on the fence, wondering just how entertaining a comic featuring a handful or robots might be, you can place your fears to rest. This comic is surprisingly well done.

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Artwork: The art in this book has a dark and gritty feel to it, which seemed a bit off to me. But, it is well done.

Story: Set shortly before the events of EP VII, this story focuses on the working relationship between droids, and serves as an explanation for C3POs strange red arm.

Recommended:  Yes. For $4.00, this book is worth the price. There’s really nothing groundbreaking here, so I can’t really call it a must-read. But fans should find something enjoyable here.

Comics: Star Wars – Chewbacca (Mini Series)

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I know I’m a bit late on this post. But with the flurry of Star Wars posts coming to a head back in December, I thought it would be best to give things in the Star Wars universe a bit of breathing room. Happily, we’ve all had a few months to decompress, so I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on Marvel’s Chewbacca mini-series.

When this comic was announced, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I like Chewbacca just as much as any other Star Wars fan, but it seems awfully difficult to center an entire 5-part mini-series around the character. Then when I learned that Chewy’s dialogue would remain un-translated (when he roars, it literally just says “Roooaaaaar!”) – I began to wonder even harder how they would manage to pull this off.  —  It wasn’t pretty.

The story in this book takes place shortly after the events of Episode IV. It features Chewbacca running a solo errand when he gets caught up in an Imperial situation on a remote planet. Teaming up with a young local girl, Chewy puts in some pro-bono work by helping a group of citizens strike at their Imperial oppressors. The problem is, the story itself is only mildly interesting and the characters introduced in the book are forgettable at best.

I can’t say that this series is particularly bad. But, it really seems unimportant in the overall scheme of things. In a nutshell, it’s just not very interesting and the execution feels flawed. This might be the first real dud in the new Marvel Star Wars lineup.

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Artwork: Good. The art here is well done, but nothing spectacular.

Story: Besides a little bit of fan service in the final issue, there’s little here that I actually found interesting. The Empire is still evil and oppressive, Chewbacca’s actions reflect his good nature, etc. All things we’ve seen before. I would have liked to see Marvel take this opportunity to explore more about the Wookiee homeworld or reflect a bit on Chewbacca’s relationship with Han Solo instead of what seems like shoe-horning him into this brief adventure.

Recommended:  No. I can’t really recommend spending your money on this title unless you’re a hardcore Star Wars collector.

Comics: Star Wars – Shattered Empire (mini-series)

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In one month Star Wars: The Force Awakens will hit theaters worldwide. The hype is real. So now is the time to catch up on all the Star Wars media you can. A great place to start is right here with the Shattered Empire mini-series from Marvel.

Shattered Empire picks up during the final scenes of Return of the Jedi and follows our heroes on their adventures immediately after. Of course, all of the expected faces are seen during the four-issues that make up Shattered Empire; Han Solo, Luke Sky Walker, etc. But we’re also introduced to two new characters; Shara Bey and her husband, Kes Dameron.  If you’ve been paying attention to the character bios from the upcoming movie, you may recognize the name “Dameron”. Episode VII features a character by name of Poe Dameron. So, it’s a logical conclusion that these new characters are his parents. But, who knows for sure. We’ll have to wait and see.

There’s so much packed into the four issues that I’d love to dive into, but discussing them here would be a disservice. It’s killing me not to talk about the hologram of the….  nevermind….   or how Leia seems to have a….   nevermind.  I’d better stop now. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, this mini-series is a MUST READ. So many new questions are ignited just through this book alone. I’m eager to see how much of what is presented here ties in to the new movie. So if that’s your cup of tea, Shattered Empire makes for a great read.

The four issues are combined into a trade paperback that goes on sale tomorrow.

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Artwork: Excellent. The art in this book is very modern and standard for today’s books. Some of the best in the Marvel Star Wars prints so far.

Story: This story serves as both a finishing touch to the original trilogy, while also planting some of the basic seeds for what may be coming with Episode VII. How much remains to be seen. But I have feeling revisiting this mini-series after the movie is released will be very enlightening.

Recommended:  Yes. This book is a must read for any Star Wars fan. Those who are fans of the original trilogy and are looking forward to the new film should not hesitate to make this purchase.

Comics: Ultimate Marvel

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A while back, I wrote a post about my on again-off again affair with comic books. As a kid, I read Marvel comics almost exclusively. It wasn’t until just a few years ago, with DC’s recent reboot that I found myself sucked back into the world of comic collecting. These days, it seems like everywhere you turn there’s comic heroes. Being a nerd has become fashionable, it seems. It may seem somewhat amusing to old grognards like me, but the fact that nerd-culture has become mainstream is actually a great thing for us. The floodgates on the nerd market have been opened, and getting our hands on hard to find items has become a bit easier.

After realizing that I still enjoyed comics books as an adult, I decided to revisit my roots a bit and catch up on some Marvel. But I have a problem you see. I tend to be the type of person who, when interested in a certain brand or subject, likes to collect EVERYTHING no matter how trivial. Maybe I’m a bit OCD, who knows. But the fact is, this is just impossible. There’s no way I could ever acquire and read every issue of The Amazing Spider Man, for example. But I did discover a nice alternative. Ultimate Marvel.

Launched in the year 2000, Ultimate Comics is an imprint of Marvel. It is an “alternate” Marvel universe that re-establishes the story of all of our favorite heroes in the modern times. Meaning, in the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker gains his spider-powers in the year 2000 instead of the 1960’s. It seemed like a great entry point my re-introduction to the world of Marvel Comics.  I’ve spent the last year reading the ENTIRE Ultimate Marvel line up through the Cataclysm event of 2014. At which point, Ultimate Marvel and the regular Marvel Comics universe begin to merge. For me, this was a nice way to segue into the mainstream Marvel universe. Having read these comics, I wanted to make a brief post and share my thoughts on this imprint.

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The line was launched with Spider Man, X-Men, Ultimates (Avengers), and Fantastic Four to very strong start. The stories were fresh, but still largely true to the original Marvel universe. What was changed, was done to keep things interesting and didn’t feel forced. Over time, other familiar characters were introduced and all remained well. I was really enjoying the Ultimate line.

Then, around the 9th year in Ultimate Comic’s publication history, there was a large-scale cross over event called Ultimatum.  This is where things got weird. During this event several popular heroes and main characters were killed. The storyline took a large turn for the worst in most of the books. X-Men was especially brought to a low-point as a result. I soon found that post-Ultimatum, the only comic that I really enjoyed reading was still Spider Man. But I pressed on.

To me, it really seemed that the team in charge of Ultimate Marvel began taking huge risks with their storytelling just for the sake of being shocking and unpredictable. In what was certainly a controversial move, the character of Peter Parker was killed off. Of course, a new replacement for Spider Man appeared in the character of Mile Morales, who is actually quite a wonderful character in his own right, but still – people love Peter Parker.

Eventually the line was effectively brought to end following a special event called Cataclysm. After this event only Miles Morales as Ultimate Spiderman remained the surviving publication.

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As we speak, there is another Marvel crossover event going on that finally ends the Ultimate line and merges the two universes. This is event is called Secret Wars. I have switched gears for the time being so I’m not quite ready to dive in the new ongoing Marvel series, but I’m sure in time I will. Despite my disappointment in how Ultimate Marvel ended up, I did enjoy the series as a whole. Spider Man of course, remained the best book in the series for me. Reading these books really took me back to my youth. As a result, I’ve managed to acquire another collection from a Marvel imprint that I loved as a teenager: Marvel 2099. I’m going to spend some time revisiting these stories and I’ll be sure to share my thoughts as I look back on these as well. So if you’re like me, and you’re looking for a way to get back into reading Marvel, but you’re not sure where to start, or you’re largely unfamiliar with all of the characters; Ultimate Marvel may be a good launching point. It just depends on what you’re looking for. Either way, the bulk of these stories are available in trade paperbacks for a pretty affordable cost.

Comics: Star Wars – Princess Leia (miniseries)

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July first finally brought us the conclusion of Marvel’s Princess Leia mini-series. I had been waiting for all five issues to drop before diving into this one so that I could consume the whole story at one time. I’m glad I did, because, to be honest it was a very slow moving plot. I feel if I had tried to read these month to month I would have quickly became disinterested.

The comic starts immediately at the end of Episode IV, which I liked. You see the transition from the medal ceremony to the rebels already planning their evacuation of Yavin. I was immediately drawn in by this, but then the comic takes a quick turn as Princess Leia decides to play hooky from the rebellion for a moment to seek out scattered remnants of Alderaan in efforts of recruiting them into the empire. The plot sounds pretty solid, but in execution, it just didn’t feel right to me.

For a number of reasons, this book just didn’t seem to work. The dialogue was off, the writing seemed very “meh”. Not to mention, Leia’s personality in the book just didn’t really feel true to the character portrayed in the films. At least to me. So far, I’d call this the weakest entry Marvel has brought to the table so far. I’m curious to see how the new Lando mini-series will fare. (Starts next week).

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Artwork: Very good. Not as well done as some of the other SW comics out right now. A little cartoonish.

Story: A lot of potential, but I felt like it was very sloppy and unguided.

Recommended:  No. Although a must have for rabid fans and collectors, most people could skip this and not miss anything of value, in my opinion.