While I should put myself onto a lengthy Star Wars comic review hiatus, I had to come out of temporary retirement when I saw a new Tarkin Age of the Republic comic book on the shelf the other week. Wilhuff Tarkin is one of my all time favorite Star Wars characters and all time nerdom characters. While he only appears in 1 movie as well as his CGI appearances in Rogue One, Peter Cushing’s role as the Grand Moff is pure brilliance. Tarkin’s additional comics and books throughout the years highlight what the original Star Wars movie introduced: a strategically brilliant and ruthless military leader able to stand next to the ever intimidating Darth Vader with confidence. His wholehearted allegiance to the Empire makes him a fascinating character to watch and read, and I’m always excited to see more of him on the page or the screen, so here’s hoping Tarkin #1 delivers.
Interestingly enough, most of this short one-shot Tarkin comic takes place shortly before and shortly after the events of Alderaan’s destruction, even reconstructing the scene between Tarkin, Leia and Vader where Tarkin interrogated Leia and ends up destroying her home planet with the Death Star anyway. Tarkin compares much of his daily life with his early days, hunting and scavenging from a young age and learning to strive on his own, all callbacks to his recent Tarkin novel a few years ago. His crew is young and while loyal to the Empire aren’t exactly the military machine that Tarkin has proudly become. The destruction of an entire planet is no easy task to carry out. As Tarkin discovers hesitancy from many of his crew tasked with carrying out the steps necessary to actually fire the Death Star’s weapon, he questions their loyalty to the Empire. Despite them coming through with the weapons activation and doing their jobs, when Tarkin learns that one of his crew members was from Alderaan, he understands why there was a moment of hesitancy. It means little to Tarkin however. Duty above all else is Tarkin’s m.o., and anything less makes for a bad soldier.
I give some major props to this comic book for choosing this story to tell. There was a lot of directions they could have gone but they chose a very short period of time within the Star Wars universe and told a very tight knit, meaningful story. I don’t completely love Tarkin’s treatment of his men in this comic book, I always got the impression from other stories involving Tarkin that he was a fairly merciful military leader, despite his ruthlessness on the battlefield. He always gave off battle-hardened old man vibes to me and I think this comic takes away from that a little bit. That being said, stories are stories, and Tarkin’s character development isn’t exactly multiple movies or books in length. Overall, I think this comics choice of timeline and storytelling is really powerful, and it was an ambitious choice to go here instead of somewhere else, specifically before the events of a New Hope. Moreso, it really just makes me want more Tarkin stories. This character is great.
(4 / 5)
As far as I’m aware the X-Men comic franchise as of late has been doing alright for itself. It’s separation of its vast array of mutant characters into color-coded teams and styles has been pretty interesting, and for now, a fresh take on the X-Men and its many villains as a whole. With a giant mix up of the timelines the personalities and tendencies of every well known X-Men character has been kind of up in the air. I suppose the benefits of having a really convoluted and overblown history that Marvel is constantly expected to keep intact while doing new things is that anything goes, and if it doesn’t work, you just try something different. Magneto has been all over the place in terms of story for the past many years. Before the apparent disappearance of X-Men from the Marvel comic lineups Magneto had a very decisive solo comic book series, but since then he’s been M.I.A.. Now with X-Men Black, Magneto makes a welcomed return to the comic book world, though sadly, only in a single issue for now. As a character that succeeds most in a very anti-hero setting, I’m curious and hopeful that they bring this character back in the best way possible. But with the range of quality that the X-Men comics have been across their many new stories, I’m ever skeptical.
In the light of the political turmoil of today’s world, X-Men is a welcomed take and spin on the issues of immigration and nationalism. The idea of Mutants as unwelcomed foreign entities has been an in-world political issue for as long as X-Men has been around and works just as well today as it did when it first appeared. Magneto is a champion of the Mutants, a believer in not only their right to belong but often a believer in their superiority over non-mutants. These sometimes radical beliefs has put him at odds with the X-Men over the years, always advocates for peace between the Mutants and Non-Mutants. Fuel has only added to the fire however, as the constant struggle for the X-Men’s peace is met with a non-mutant hate for all mutant kind. With a bunch of mutant children being kept prisoners by the government, Magneto sees no reason not to utilize his unstoppable power to destroy the prison and break the mutants out. He quickly realizes however, upon easily defeating the guards and destroying the prison’s thick walls that perhaps the kids don’t want what Magneto has to offer them. Violence beyond reason isn’t what these young Mutants want. As they explain to the X-Men villain, maybe there’s more to earning respect than fear.
This comic does an admirable job of modernizing the Mutant-Problem that Magneto’s character is so often built around. X-Men’s issues with acceptance has always been a political statement, as comics often are. There are obvious under and overtones of the current political climate in here, and I think despite the comic book world’s liberal leanings, it does a good job of showing every side of the issue. X-Men does a great job of blurring lines. Magneto believes in the freedom for all Mutants, but at any cost. He’ll gladly kill any non-mutant that gets in his way for the betterment of his race. Meanwhile the X-Men want to live peacefully among the non-mutants, but they fear those with powers, and suppress them for it. It’s a never ending battle, and I think this Magneto comic book does well capturing that endless cycle. Magneto is an awesome character, and they seem to be writing him as fans of his classic style. I’m on board with anything for the future of this character.
(4.5 / 5)
Darth Maul has finally returned in comic book form in this 5 issue miniseries from Marvel. One of the opening concerns with his one was the lack of Marvel’s consistency with their short Star Wars runs. Some are phenomenal, some are extremely lack luster and to do a disservice to Darth Maul fans everywhere is a dangerous game. With that in mind, I went into this comic book expecting Marvel to impress me, because if they didn’t at least meet my expectations, as they must do with all of their Star Wars comics, I’m going to be fairly disappointed. In the wake of a mixed bag of great and not so great star wars comics, Darth Maul’s uprising during the time of The Phantom Menace is a time period rarely explored in any Star Wars medium and Maul is a fan favorite, so there’s a lot of potential here, but also a lot of room to fail.
Darth Maul #1 takes place early in Maul’s apprenticeship with Palpatine, whose plan to overthrow the government and become the Emperor is still in very early works. Unfortunately for Maul, this means a lot of waiting in the shadows for the opportune time to strike, but this completely goes against Maul’s vicious and violent nature. He seeks challenge and the hunt, and without it he feels he’ll go insane. In order to sate his hunger, Palpatine sends his apprentice on various low key but bloody missions, keeping the Sith’s leash short enough to pull if Maul gets too out of hand. However when a new lead arises, Maul learns of a young Jedi vulnerable and exposed, he immediately takes the opportunity to prove himself to his ever meticulous and unimpressed master. Maul sees this as his one true chance to exceed his master’s expectations, and as a challenge to himself to destroy his first Jedi, one who he hopes will be of many.
Darth Maul #1 offers a new and often unexplored look into the Star Wars universe. Young Darth Maul is canonically completely unexplored, The Phantom Menace’s story line is barely touched and the Sith viewpoint, especially behind the scenes is always a treat. There are a lot of aspects to Darth Maul, and while we get to see so much more of him outside the first movie in The Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows, he’s still a character shrouded in mystery. In this first issue, we get to see a young, savage sith apprentice hungry for battle and for blood and it’s pretty convincing. The art is beautiful, the comic feels like Star Wars, and the writing up to this point is top notch. While this first issue wasn’t a mind blowing page turner by any means, Darth Maul shows a ton of promise, and is easily working up to be one of the best, if not the best 5 issue Star Wars series that Marvel has put out so far.
(4.5 / 5)
I stopped reading All New Wolverine half-way through. I felt like it was lacking an important aspect of what every comic book should have – an identity. Laura Kinney, better known as X-23 is a really cool and likable character. She’s an equally violent but less serious version of Wolverine and in the midst of the extremely well written but extremely dark comic Old Man Logan that was in its prime, All New Wolverine was an equally action packed but much lighter rendition of the clawed mutant. About halfway through, however, it began to falter in its storytelling. Many of the issues felt filler and boring to read. They weren’t leading anywhere, and the characters, say for Laura and her younger quippier sister Gabby, we’re uninteresting. The comic really began to lack in telling a story that mattered, and as such became somewhat of a shell of a comic. X-23 is a chance to revitalize the ongoing story of the young wolverine clone and give it some structure where it had lost it previously, and while I hold some of the same fears that this comic will take a similar path and fade into obscurity, these first issues may be worth the time and effort to hope.
It’s X-23’s birthday, but she’s pretty lukewarm on the whole thing. Her birth and upbringing aren’t really anything to celebrate, at least in her eyes. She’s a clone created out of a malicious science. Meant to be used as a dangerous weapon to kill countless lives at the command of some pretty bad people. On top of that, there’s hundreds, maybe even thousands of clones just like her, just like her sister Gabbie, all with the Weapon X serum running through their veins. All used as weapons and killers. Is X-23 different? She’s not so sure. Nevertheless her journey continues to find information, anyway she can, about the mutant scientific experiments constantly creating newer and more dangerous versions of the Wolverines. Those responsible are few and far between, and they’re hard to find. With a myriad of villains and Weapon X clones waiting to stop her at her every move, Laura fights tirelessly, though not without the upbeat company of her little clone sister, to uncover secrets of her life and the Weapon X programs.
X-23 #1 finds its footing pretty quickly here by throwing its readers back into the action and forgiving anyone who didn’t read the entirety of All New Wolverine by offering a few points of review. The reality is that A.N.W. really wasn’t that impactful from the story perspective say for the first maybe 15 issues so it’s easy to say a few lines to refresh or quickly catch everyone up to speed. Laura and Gabbie are sisters, they’re Wolverine clones, they have claws, there’s a lot of other Wolverine clones running around, they’re trying to stop them. That’s 35 issues read, here we are. X-23 offers both a good, clean opening story and some great inner dialogue from X-23. Life can be a little difficult when you’re born and raised as a clone and a killer drone, and this first issue, by using Laura’s birthday, does a really great job of delving into her thoughts about the whole thing. Not only that, the mystery and investigation aspect of trying to uncover the secrets of the Weapon X programs makes for a compelling read. With the inclusion of the X Mansion and a bunch of other X-Men to boot, this comic was surprisingly easy and fun to read. Now the question remains: will this comic retain its interesting story and maintain its theme? Or will it go off the rails similarly to how All New Wolverine did. I think we have a great, strong start here. Now we just wait, and read.
(4 / 5)
Ah Lando.. The ultra suave, seductive scoundrel we all know and love. There’s something about Lando and comic books that just click, and after the 5 issue mini series a while ago for the more familiar older version of the character, Double or Nothing brings us back to Donald Glover’s young and less jaded version of Lando, bringing us a new story in the wake of the Solo movie which just hit theaters a short while ago. Star Wars comics seem to rarely go wrong, and for as much as I like Lando as a character, I was pretty excited to see what Marvel would do with this comic. It’s worth noting that Double or Nothing may fall solely as a marketing ploy for the movie. It’s really the only reason it exists after all, so there’s always the opportunity for Marvel to really drop the ball here and make a passable, forgettable story because they’re forced to. But, these shorter runs and short stories open up the spotlight for less known and up and coming comic book writers / artists to shine. Surprisingly enough this comic is written by Rodney Barnes, who’s much more well known for writing television, and I love seeing what non-regulars in the field can dish out.
Lando is a scoundrel. He’s not a master of chance or the hero of the tale, he’s a self centered cheater. He doesn’t win at cards because of an amazing skill at the game, he wins because of the card up his sleeve. The best thing about him as a character is that his charm only covers up his scumbaggery and his taste for a lavish life. Those traits mix together to make one of the best smugglers in the galaxy, and he’s got the reputation for it. When the wealthy daughter of a slave approaches him and offers a lump sum of credits for his skills in the field, Lando can’t turn it down, so with his trusty droid L3 he takes off on another money earning adventure which of course is going to get him and his allies in more trouble than he’s bargained for.
Double or Nothing does a great job of not only extending the character development of Lando set up in the Solo movie, but also showcasing Lando’s character in a way that feels like a smuggler / scoundrel comic. Unlike Han Solo, who despite being a smuggler and a scoundrel like Lando, will always be expected to save the day or adhere to some protagonist morals, Lando has no limitations. That’s why he’s awesome, and this comic does a pretty decent job of at least showing the smuggler as the pompous slippery scum that he is. Lando doesn’t have to save the day if it’s not beneficial to him, even if he’s a decent guy at heart, and that sets up for some pretty cool stuff for the future of this comic. The excessive dialogue and slow moving pace of the comic itself gives hints toward the script-writing nature of the comic writer, but it’s easily passable with the pleasing looking art and decent beginning. Lando, if written well, will carry any story, and that’s what we’re seeing here. So as long as the writer keeps what he’s doing going with Lando, Double or Nothing will be another notable entry to the Star Wars Marvel gallery.
(4.5 / 5)