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)
Away from all the Age of the Republic comics flooding the shelves, as well as the regular line of Star Wars comics printing on a monthly basis, I was surprised to see this comic book on the shelf. Usually if I see a SW comic I haven’t seen before, it’s strictly promotional material. A Solo movie adaptation, maybe a random Last Jedi side character one off. I get it, but they don’t really do it for me. To see this however, was a bit of a treat. Conceptually Tie Fighter is really cool. A comic about a random Tie Fighter pilot deep within Empire ranks. Novels and comics alike have taught fans throughout the years what it was like to be a soldier in the Empire. Maybe they were in the right place at the wrong time. Perhaps they simply wanted to do what they felt was right. The more stories told about these people the more the lines between good and evil are blurred, and the universe as a whole becomes less black and white. One of the reasons the book Lost Stars was so incredible was because we got to explore that dynamic. Good people joined for what they believed was a good cause, and if this Tie Fighter comic book continues to explore that world, I’m totally in for it.
Tie Fighter #1 focuses on a squad of elite level Tie Fighter pilots. Some veterans, others not long out of the Imperial Academy. We’re given a flashy demonstration of their coordination prowess and learn quickly about an upcoming escort missions they’re to be tasked with. While they’re someone disappointed that it seems their skills on the battlefield will go to waste on a simple Imperial escort, they’re assured there’s much more than meets the eye to the situation, and that they’re likely to encounter some unexpected obstacles. The team is comprised of a variety of individuals. Those truly sympathetic to the Empire. Others somewhat doubtful when it comes to their military brutality. A little bit of reading has lead me to discover one of the pilots is returning form the Imperial Cadet comic series, which is pretty neat if you read that one. One thing is abundantly clear however: the destruction of the first Death Star is a rallying cry to many troops that lost friends and family to its demise. It also becomes clear however, that discord does exist within the group, and it has an important role to play in future issues.
This comic provided a lot of the things I was looking for upon first glance of this comic. Some of my all time favorite stories (seriously, everyone read Lost Stars) have been told through the eyes and the experiences of regular people living within this universe. There are only so many stories to tell from the perspective of these larger than life characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. To see someone more down-to-Earth characters both experiencing these events and watching these larger than life characters is really fun and it creates a more grounded story in a very fantastical universe. I love Star Wars in all its sci-fi goodness, but there’s room for these stories too, and I think Tie Fighter fills that room nicely.
(4.5 / 5)
Finding the next proper comic book for Vader this past year or two has been a controversial task. With multiple series cancellations and ideas shifting around all over the place at Marvel, I questioned the validity of any Star Wars comic announcement until it finally arrived on shelves. Dark Visions promises to be a unique look into Vader and the people his mercilessness crosses paths with. The primary aspect that made the most recent run of Vader so good (in addition to great writing and art), was the time period it took place. Young Vader between episode 3 and 4 was untouched territory in the current canon, and it really shined, especially with the other comic’s focus on the period between 4 and 5. Dark Visions however seems to jump back to a much more familiar time with Vader, and that means writers can’t rely on the freshness of its setting and its mood. Dark Visions is going to have to be impressive all on its lonesome, and as always I’m a little skeptical, but ready to see it succeed.
Dark Visions #1 is narrated through the eyes of a young citizen of a fairly low-tech civilization. Their people have obviously been affected by the raging war between the Empire and the Rebellion, but they know little of it. Wars wage above them in the upper atmosphere of the planet. Dog fights and blockades ensue. Our narrator watches intently, despite being called to evacuate by the rest of his village and it isn’t until Darth Vader makes an emergency landing planetside that the young observer begins to regret his decision to stick around. As the menacing dark lord of the Sith steps out of the cockpit of his Tie Fighter, the boy knows he’s way in over his head.
Like many characters, specifically villains, Vader works best as a mysterious figure. You can’t write a Darth Vader comic from the perspective of Vader. It simply doesn’t work. He’s a quiet, dangerous, and unpredictable killing machine. To dive into the mind of Darth Vader would be unfitting for the aura of unsettling mystery that Vader gives off. To see that this comic book was indeed written from a completely outside perspective, through the eyes of a completely new and disposable character is a clever choice. We’re not dedicated to this new person, and through their insignificance, we begin to understand the sheer power that Vader’s presence demands, and that’s really cool. Considering Dark Visions is a 5 issue series, I have to gripe on this comic’s lack of actually getting anywhere. I do love seeing Vader well drawn, which he is in this comic, but Dark Visions has yet to provide something about the Sith Lord that I haven’t seen before. Hopefully issues going forward can get the ball rolling, because if they can’t, it’s going to be a slow 5 issues.
(3 / 5)
My hiatus from the Age of the Republic anthology series was never going to last. I won’t lie to you, I did get a little tired of reviewing them week after week, so I took a little break, but I was so eager to see and talk about this comic book specifically, figuring I could skip reviewing Padme. She’s an interesting enough character when written properly, but Grievous in concept is a really cool character. On top of that, Age of the Republic’s more mundane and psychological approach to storytelling might be challenged with a character like Grievous who has been shown in recent memory to be a somewhat two-dimensional character: bad dude with 4 lightsabers. That being said, originally Grievous was an extremely powerful badass with a mysterious backstory. This comic could go either direction with him, and having absolutely no idea where or when Grievous #1 takes place makes me eager to see what kind of route they take this coughing cyborg separatist who’s always had a soft spot in my heart.
Grievous #1 follows the mechanical menace hunting Jedi deep in the jungle world of Ledeve which is, as far as I know, a new planet in the Star Wars universe. We get to see a very old Clone Wars-esque Grievous here, proving to be an unbeatable monster by mercilessly and easily striking down the Jedi in his path with their own weapons. His goal: a Jedi temple hidden away among the trees on this planet. While it remains a bit of a mystery what exactly he’s after besides the utter destruction of ancient Jedi remnants we do get to see his arsenal of built-in tools and abilities that make him such a force to be reckoned with. Despite booby traps and various other means of keeping intruders out of the temple, Grievous simply can’t be stopped with his mechanical body ready to climb any walls or make any jump. When confronted by an ancient force spirit however he’ll be stopped in his tracks and put to the test. Little does this entity know, Grievous has the entire Separatist army on its back door.
There’s a couple of really awesome things worth mentioning about General Grievous #1. The writer finds a perfect balance between the Clone Wars Grievous from 2003 (the overpowered Jedi killer widely considered to be the best iteration of the character) and the actual movie Grievous who’s much more politically focused and cowardly. It’s incredibly refreshing to see Grievous in his old form again completely destroying Jedi and claiming his vast superiority despite not being able to use the Force. That being said, the writer makes a couple of really great choices I won’t spoil that will likely remind you of the movie version of the character, and it manages to be equally awesome. The creative team here managed to provide such fine amount of fan service while keeping the character real, and that’s really respectable. Additionally somehow this comic still manages to follow a lot of the same themes that Age of the Republic has been following. The spiritual side of the Force makes yet another appearance in this comic albeit feeling a little forced. I still dig it. This comic is awesome. It feels like a tease and a taste of what a General Grievous comic series could be when written correctly, and I really want it. It’s way, way too short though. Can’t have it all I guess.
(5 / 5)
The late and great Christopher Lee is one of my all time favorite actors, and despite the shortcomings of the prequel Star Wars movies, Lee’s involvement as the old and wise Sith Lord Count Dooku isn’t one of them. Despite his minimal screen time, Dooku has one of the more interesting lores in the prequel movies: A Jedi Master who decided to leave the order and pursue his own path away from the growing corruption of the Republic. Despite his fall into the dark side of the Force, Dooku was one of the few, like Qui-Gon, to see the issues blooming within the Jedi Order. Called Count Dooku now within in the timeline of the prequels I was eager to hear that this comic book takes place between Episode 1 and Episode 2, when Dooku was simply considered a man no longer a Jedi Master. It’s not until Obi-Wan discovers Dooku’s involvement with the Sith that we learn of his true intentions. This meant something important already before going in: that this comic book would likely follow the Age of Republic’s pattern of less action packed comic books by telling of a supposedly diplomatic Dooku secretly working under Lord Sidious, his Sith Master, and secretly planting the seeds of corruption as they slowly put together Sidious’s master plan of overthrowing the Republic. What better for a more psychological and slow comic book anthology than to present a story about the cunning and diabolical Count Dooku?
Dooku #1 begins with the Count landing on Sullust in what the reader can only assume is a diplomatic mission of sorts. His intentions are originally unclear though it becomes quickly obvious that there is an ulterior goal here for the still uncovered Sith Lord. Unexpectedly, while meeting with the Sullustan representative, Dooku runs into a young Jedi Knight who recognizes him on the street. Uncertain about the Jedi’s mission on the planet and what how exactly he wants to deal with his presence there, Dooku invites him to dinner, to which the star struck Jedi Knight couldn’t refuse. With a little sprinkle of manipulation and some heart warming talk about his now passed old apprentice Qui-Gon Quinn, Dooku manages to uncover the Jedi Knight’s purpose on Sullust: a discover and report mission issued by the Jedi Council to find a group that Dooku just so happens to be looking for as well: a crime syndicate working in the Sullust underworld. Dooku sees his opportunity, and involves himself, a win-win for dealing with both this gang and the Jedi Knight. Now it’s up to Dooku to play along with the ever naive Jedi while maintaining his facade until the right time.
This is the perfect kind of comic theme for Count Dooku. Despite his skills with a lightsaber and his proficiency with the dark side, Dooku exhumes intelligence and nobility. He’s a professional manipulator and in many ways a politician. This slower style of comic book that’s focused more around the war-torn political landscape that the prequel movies tried (and succeeded in many ways) to implement works impeccably. This isn’t a time of Dooku’s life that’s explored. The Clone Wars cartoon gave us a lot of Sith Lord Dooku, which I really loved, but these early days of the Jedi-turned-Sith political idealist are something I never knew I wanted, and now I just want more. Dooku deserves more spotlight. He’s an old character with a lot of life to tell stories around. Hopefully Marvel doesn’t sleep on this, because this is one of the best Age of Republic comics yet.
(5 / 5)