Attack of the Trades: Skywalker Strikes Vader

marvelcoversWith the first salvo of the trade collections of Marvel’s Star Wars material now out, it’s an excellent opportunity to kick off a new series that takes an askew look at the trades. This inaugural edition will be looking at Star Wars: Volume 1: Skywalker Strikes, Darth Vader: Volume 1: Vader, Princess Leia, Kanan: Volume 1: The Last Padawan, Shattered Empire and Star Wars: The Marvel Covers: Volume 1.

On their superhero lines Marvel have often used a core book technique, with one book being the high-profile one where the big events happen, with a second in a supporting role. One of the things they like to claim is both can be read on their own. To a degree, that is true, to another degree it’s utter rubbish. You can read the Darth Vader book without reading Star Wars, yet what goes on in the latter is often in response to what goes on in the former! Kieron Gillen does his best to enable the reader to know what they need to for the story he’s spinning, but it’s still a reductive summary at best.

The main book does indeed start off with a bang and if Marvel are doing one thing very well – it’s setting up excellent creative pairings for particular arcs. John Cassaday is not – as anyone who ever read Planetary will attest – a monthly artist, but Marvel gave him enough lead time to have all six issues done! What he has going for him is an excellent narrative style that gives a great sense of energy and movement to the panels. The story also works on the basis that while people may talk of the Force, they know little of it or what command of it permits the likes of Vader to do. Had they known? Events would have played out very differently! » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Who is Sabine Wren?


Ben: Star Wars Rebels‘ cast is full of larger than life, colorful characters that all fit broad stereotypes: Zeb’s the bruiser, Hera’s the team mom, Ezra’s the snotty kid, etc. There is, however, a layer of nuance that makes them special and standout characters in their own right. Zeb has a great tactical mind, Hera longs and loves to fly, and Ezra is steadily growing into a worthy Jedi apprentice. But there is one character for whom the nuance is even more obscured than the others. I’m talking, of course, about our favorite young Mandalorian, Sabine Wren.

Sabine has been largely an enigma since her first appearance, with only bits and hints as to her past and her own reasons for fighting against the Empire. “Blood Sisters” opened that door up just a bit wider, but not a whole lot. We got some more information, like that Sabine was once a bounty hunter but didn’t stay one for very long, and that her friend Ketsu helped her break out of the Imperial Academy on Mandalore, but we really didn’t learn much more about the girl herself.

And here’s the rub: that’s not a bad thing.

Sabine is a character with a lot of potential. She’s a Mandalorian, a former Imperial cadet, an artist, an explosives and weapons expert, and an ex-bounty hunter. There are all sorts of fascinating stories that can be told about her, around her and with her, from her past and into her future. The fact that we, until now, haven’t gotten any stories that revolve around her is a bit vexing for those (like me) who want to see some of that potential get realized. There’s nothing more frustrating that seeing a character with wasted potential. But, as backwards as it may seem, in a lot of ways it’s actually better for the character to tease things out. » Read more..

In the Spotlight at Last: The Return of the B-wing


This past week, Star Wars Rebels brought out of the shadows one of the coolest and most unique of Rebel starfighters, the B-wing. The craft, a longstanding part of the veritable “alphabet soup” that is the Alliance Starfighter Corps, hasn’t received much love compared to its far more common & iconic cousins over the years, but that has begun to change in the new canon that has cropped up in the leadup to The Force Awakens. While nearly anyone can recognize an X-wing, the B-wing fighter has been overlooked and in the shadows since its appearance back in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. In honor of this awesome craft and it’s newfound glory, let’s look back at the history of the B-wing over the past thirty-plus years.

The B-wing began its life as concept art for Return of the Jedi. Designed by artist Joe Johnson & ILM modelmaker Bill George, it began it’s life as a series of sketches, referred to as “B fighter” or “Rebel Alien Fighter”. The second name is rather telling, as the very nature and design of the fighter varies significantly from the more traditional rebel fighters like the X-wing and Y-wing. When Return of the Jedi was being developed, George Lucas instructed his ILM team to create new designs for the rebel fleet, showing that the entire Alliance was assembled to take on the Empire’s second Death Star. This team created numerous new craft that ultimately made it on screen, including Admiral Ackbar’s iconic flagship Home One, two other variants of the Mon Calamari star cruiser (winged & wingless), a smaller vessel now christened the Dornean Gunship, the speedy A-wing, and the B-wing. » Read more..

On “Forwards Coordination”, and those other Star Wars Rebels comics


When you’ve been an Expanded Universe fan as long as I have, the different tiers of canon become sort of a sixth sense. I’m partly referring to the old Lucas-era system of letter grading—G-canon for the movies, C-canon for the novels, and so on—but even now, in the post-reboot phase where everything is considered canon, the more jaded fans out there will be happy to point out that no big-budget film director is likely to change his story because of a line in a years-old novel. That was certainly true of the Thrawn trilogy and its ilk, but many see it as equally true for books like Tarkin or Twilight Company, both of which lay down a lot of pipe, so to speak, regarding the status quo of eras that could easily be the subject of a spinoff film one day. What will happen, on that fateful day? I don’t know, but at a minimum I can understand skepticism on the matter.

But in the meantime, that same forgone conclusion—that the different forms of media constitute a hierarchy rather than a totally level playing field—is already playing out at the fringes of the franchise. Last month saw the US debut of Star Wars Rebels Magazine, a very child-focused periodical that’s been coming out in the United Kingdom since January. The bulk of the magazine is simple puzzles and little splashes of trivia not unlike Adam Bray’s recent Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, but each issue also features an original twelve-page comic story, most by English writer Martin Fisher. The stories are simple, befitting their length, but they’re solidly told and with nice art (Ingo Römling’s in particular) to boot. Twelve pages is about half the length of an issue of a typical American comic book, and with issue #10 having hit the stands in the UK last month, that means these comics have amassed almost as much material on the lives of the Rebels cast as the ongoing Kanan series from Marvel.

But while the latter is written by one of the series’ creators and has even been referenced, if obliquely, in episodes of the TV show, the Rebels Magazine comics are hermetically sealed—they utilize the first season’s complete bag of tricks, but nothing gets out. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Congratulations, Captain Hera


One thing that we’ve known about Hera right from the get-go is that she is a fantastic pilot. She’s taken the Ghost to some places that should be utterly impossible to go, and saved the lives of her crew a dozen times. We’ve also seen that she’s a compassionate leader, a true team mother, wholly devoted to the welfare of those with her and around her. She can wrangle even the most extreme of loners and rally them to a cause: the cause of freedom and justice.

As captain of the Ghost, she’s served in both capacities for the first season and now into the second. But as Rebels has evolved and the scope of the story expanded, the status quo has been shaken numerous times and in several ways. But the most realistic thing is how actions and choices made have had consequences that are both good and bad. The Grand Inquisitor was killed, but that caused two new Inquisitors to take a great interest in hunting down those responsible. The Spectres were chased off of Lothal by Darth Vader, but they joined up with a larger, more formal rebel task force shortly thereafter. What “Wings of the Master” did was present an opportunity for the status quo of the show’s most steady character to be shaken up in a way that may not necessarily be either one. » Read more..

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