In recent years, my relationship with the Star Wars franchise in its entirety has been in flux. Whether it be the disappointments of Episode VII: The Force Awakens or some of the recent novels like A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller or Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, I haven’t been enamoured of the franchise at all. There have been stand-outs such as Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith and James Luceno’s Tarkin, but there haven’t been many. And I won’t even get into the new comics from Marvel since most of them are retreading the area already covered extensively under Dark Horse and I don’t have much interest in them. However, when Rogue One was announced as a stand-alone movie in the franchise, and a prequel to the original Star Wars no less, I was excited because it was going to focus on almost entirely new characters and present us with something that we hadn’t really seen before on such a major platform.
Cue this past Thursday when the movie finally released. The trailers had built up a lot of hype for me, who was desperately looking for something to cheer for after the failings of The Force Awakens. Yes, the story would go over some material from Dark Horse and what some of the earlier video games had covered, but it was still mostly uncharted territory. Additionally, the period of the Galactic Empire’s dominance of the galaxy is one of the most fascinating periods in Star Wars lore, and I was totally ready for this movie. It looked to have a really awesome cast with some great promised cameos and I was all-in. And you know what, the movie didn’t disappoint. It was almost everything that I wanted from The Force Awakens but never got, and then some.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers from the movie, especially the ending, so read at your own risk.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
Marvel launched its new line of Star Wars comics in January/February and one of the many new titles is Darth Vader, which is set in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin and has Darth Vader trying to make up for his mistakes. Or at least, that’s what I think writer Kieron Gillen is attempting to do here, but the first issue fell flat for me as far as the story and the characters go, though the art wasn’t so bad and was fairly decent in places. Being a huge fan of the titular character, this did not seem like a good start to me at all, especially as I’m still sour on the whole deal with Marvel getting back the rights to these comics.
Darth Vader #2 continues the story of the titular character having been verbally punished by the Emperor and going on a crusade to hunt down the rebels who so confounded him at Yavin, particularly the young pilot who destroyed the Death Star, a supposedly impregnable battle station the size of a moon. And my issues with the story continued, what with General Tagge being an absolute ass in this issue, acting just like the pompous fool of an Imperial officer I’ve come to expect. The art was marginally better too.
As part of its bid to “revitalize” the Star Wars franchise, having recently acquired it from George Lucas, Disney last month launched a new Star Wars comic that resets the entire comics-verse established by Dark Horse Comics to just the six movies, the ongoing Star Wars: Rebels show, and something else that I can’t quite recall. The new comic is set in-between the original movie and its sequel, and it follows on from what the Rebels and the Empire did in the intervening time. It was a somewhat better comic than I expected, but also of a letdown in some ways.
So I was expecting this past week’s Darth Vader #1 to be different and be better, but I had my doubts about it since Kieron Gillen’s writing is extremely hit-and-miss for me, which the writer proves yet again with this issue. The artwork here is actually pretty good, which you expect from a team that boasts of Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado, but the writing definitely did NOT impress me, and it is frankly one big mess that I really didn’t get. Plus it seems to show Darth Vader and the Emperor both as very petty and one-sided characters, which didn’t help things.
By now, pretty much everyone knows that Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney and that the giant mega-corp is going to be putting out new Star Wars movies through its own studio and comics through its Marvel publishing arm. Since this whole thing kicked off, I’ve been very dead-set against what Disney is doing with the Star Wars franchise, especially once it was made known last year that pretty much the entirety of the Star Wars Expanded Universe was junked in favour of new continuities and new characters and so on. Very disheartening.
But, at the same time, I have to say that Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron reads a lot better than I expected it too. It is set just after the events of Star Wars (1977) and follows the new adventures of the Star Wars Trinity (Han, Leia, Luke) as they continue to further the goals of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire. This is actually a fairly good story, and the art too is pretty good actually. John Cassaday, Laura Martin, and Chris Eliopoulos do right by the setting and the characters, which is all that can be asked at this stage and I hope that the series is consistently good, so that it takes some of the bitter sting away of the whole “reboot”.
For me, the start of Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels has been bug-ridden. The animations are often poor and the characters are little beyond the typical Disney caricatures and cliches. The hour-long special Spark of Rebellion, following in the wake of several shorts that introduced the various characters, is my first introduction to Disney’s reboot of the Star Wars franchise, and by the looks of it, things look pretty bleak and dire to me. It was a decent special, if we want to stretch the truth out, but the fact is that I just couldn’t go along with it. It was too childish for me.
The first three episodes proper of the show are now out, and I have to say that I noticed almost nothing in the way of improvement from Spark of Rebellion. Stormtroppers still can’t hit worth a damn, making them the most inept army in the history of fiction, ever. Dialogue and characterization is still firmly on the side of clunky. There’s no real story here other than madcap adventures of the characters in question. The third episode ups the quotient a little bit by bringing out the show’s big bad, the Inquisitor, but even that fails to impress as much as it should have.
Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels is the first big production in the Star Wars franchise released after Disney acquired Lucasfilm a couple years ago. Set 14 years after the terrible events of Revenge of the Sith and just 5 years before A New Hope, it follows a group of do-good mercenaries as they rock it out with the Empire again and again. With (relatively) recent news that Disney has basically kicked out all previous Star Wars Expanded Universe canon in favour of a new canon centered around the six movies and The Clone Wars, it is an uncertain future at best for the franchise, and how Rebels performs in the coming weeks is going to be a big indicator of that uncertain future.
Disney kicked off the show with four shorts focused on the various characters, and then an hour-long special a little over two weeks ago. Titled “Spark of Rebellion“, it introduces the characters to the audiences and gets them all together after the (somewhat) scattered adventures of the shorts. It is a decent series opener, as such things go, with the characters being interesting all of them, though some of the hallmarks of Disney are prominently visible character-wise. And as for the animation, well, it is certainly problematic in many ways and nowhere near the smoothness of The Clone Wars.
Once Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the rights to pretty much all future Star Wars movies and cartoons and comics and what not was finalized last year and news began filtering in of all the new things being planned, one of the ones to come out was that the House of Mouse was going to deliver on a new Star Wars animated series set in the period between Revenge of The Sith and A New Hope. The first trailer released was somewhat decent, though problematic, but I was kind of excited that a different period was being considered for the format, given that most of the previous work was so focused on the Clone Wars themselves.
And this past week at San Diego Comic Con 2014, Disney released a new trailer that also contains some extensive footage of the animated series, and this is kind of where I am beginning to lose some interest because the story appears to be rather haphazard and the characters appear to be cliches in the way that only Disney can do, though sometimes to great net-positive effect, and the animation doesn’t really work so well for me either, especially not after having seen three excellent seasons of The Clone Wars (it rain for a total five seasons!) and other previous Star Wars animated work, from what I remember.
I did two “Best of the…” lists last year, one for the half-year from January to June, and the other for the half-year from July to December. The lists proved to be quite popular, and I was recently asked if I was going to be doing any more. To which I said yes. I like putting together lists like this. It gives me a chance to reflect a bit on all the good stuff I’ve been reading in novels and comics, or listening to in terms of audiobooks, audio dramas and so on.
You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!