Comics Review: Star Wars (2015-2019)


Following on reading the Darth Vader comics series, I read all the books currently available in the standard Star Wars line.  The stories are set in the period between the destruction of the first Death Star and the events of The Empire Strikes Back. I was never clear how long it was supposed to be between the first two movies of the original trilogy, but apparently it canonically three years, same as the production time between movies.

I like these comics because it builds on the camaraderie among Luke, Leia, and Han from the first movie that we don’t get to see as much in the later movies as they are separated in The Empire Strikes Back and relationships have changed by Return of the Jedi.  It also fills in some details on Leia and Han’s growing romance, Luke developing his Jedi skills, and why the Rebellion is on its back foot in Hoth in ESB despite destroying the Death Star. Most of all, it’s just fun, old-fashioned serialized adventures as our favorite characters fight tit for tat with the Empire, with some goofy stuff thrown in.

Below are some quick thoughts on each volume.

 

Title:  Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes
Writer(s): Jason Aaron
Penciller(s): John Cassaday
Letterer(s): Chris Eliopoulos

Luke, Leia, and Han attempt to follow up on the destruction of the Death Star by attacking an Imperial weapons factory.  Things go wrong, and Luke has to go face-to-face with Darth Vader!  This is a gutsy move and yet it is done well and really works within the existing storylines.  Also, there’s some great C-3PO comedy.


Title: Star Wars Vol. 2: Showdown on Smuggler’s Moon
Writer(s): Jason Aaron
Penciller(s): Simone Bianchi & Stuart Immonen
Colorists: Simone Bianchi

Luke finds Obi-Wan’s journal and reads a story about Obi-Wan’s time on Tatooine watching over young Luke. These Obi-Wan journals stories become a recurring feature.  In the present day, Han and Leia are trapped on the “smuggler’s moon” and are rescued by Han’s wife?!? Meanwhile, Luke is captured and forced to battle in Grakkus the Hutt’s arena, trained by the mysterious Gamemaster who knows things about the Jedi.  After a strong start, the second volume is Star Wars comics veering into the silly.


Title: Star Wars Vol. 3: Rebel Jail
Writer(s): Jason Aaron & Kieron Gillen
Penciller(s): Mike Mayhew, Angel Unzueta, & Leinil Francis Yu
Cover artist: Terry Dodson

An uprising on a Rebel prison ship causes headaches for Leia who must ally with none other than Doctor Aphra. Aphra is the best character introduced in Darth Vader comics, so it’s good to see her again.  In a more comical plot, Han and Luke attempt to raise money for the Rebellion through gambling and smuggling.  The stories are entertaining, but the comics series still feels like it’s treading water after the great debut.


Title: Star Wars Vol. 4: Last Flight of the Harbinger
Writer(s): Jason Aaron & Chris Eliopoulos
Penciller(s): Chris Eliopoulos, Mike Mayhew
Jorge Molina
Cover artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.

The Rebels steal a star destroyer, but then have to fight a special ops team of stormtroopers, the SCAR Squad lead by Sergeant Kreel.  Also, more Obi-Wan adventures on Tatooine, and a cute R2-D2 story.  Good stuff.


Title: Star Wars Vol. 5: Yoda’s Secret War
Writer(s): Jason Aaron & Kelly Thompson
Penciller(s): Salvador Larroca
Cover Artist: Stuart Immonen

R2-D2 goes off on a solo mission to rescue C-3PO. Stranded in his X-Wing, Luke reads another journal entry that tells a story of Yoda in the times before The Phantom Menace.  Yoda is drawn to a planet with warring children, and a mountain of stones made of the force? I don’t know, I like seeing a Yoda story, but this one doesn’t make much sense.


Title: Star Wars Vol. 6: Out Among the Stars
Writer(s): Jason Aaron & Jason Latour
Penciller(s): Salvador Larroca
Cover Artist: Mike Mayhew

Luke and Leia get stranded on a desert island (on a deserted planet?) and spend time bonding as they work to escape. Sana and Lando pull a con, while Han and Chewie work for the Hutts.  And Artoo becomes the action hero who rescues Threepio!


Title:  Star Wars Vol. 7: The Ashes of Jedha
Writer(s): Kieron Gillen
Penciller(s): Salvador Larroca

Kieron Gillen, writer of the Darth Vader comics, makes his first contribution to the Star Wars main line.  The story also interacts with story ideas from Rogue One, the planet partially destroyed by the Death Star and the surviving partisans.


Title: Star Wars Vol. 8: Mutiny at Mon Cala
Writer(s): Kieron Gillen
Penciller(s): Salvador Larroca

In Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Alliance is reliant on ships of the Mon Calamari and leaders like Admiral Akbar. This story shows how Leia plans to get the Mon Calamari to rise up against their Imperial oppressors, which involves a shape-shifter and an opera performance.


Title:  Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies
Writer(s): Kieron Gillen & Cullen Bunn
Penciller(s): Salvador Larroca

Seeming ally Queen Trios of Shu-Torun has been working with Darth Vader all along and has allowed the Empire to initiate a plan that could lead to the destruction of the entire Rebel fleet!


Title:  Star Wars Vol. 10: The Escape
Writer(s): Kieron Gillen
Penciller(s): Salvador Larroca

With the Rebel fleet scattered through the galaxy, Luke, Leia, and Han end up trapped on a planet of isolationists and must convince them to help the cause.


Title:  Star Wars Vol. 11: The Scourging of Shu-Torun
Writer(s): Kieron Gillen
Penciller(s): Angel Unzueta & Andrea Broccardo

Leia devises a daring plan to take revenge on Queen Trios, and more importantly knock out a key source of resources for the Empire.


Title: Star Wars Vol. 12:  Rebels and Rogues
Writer(s): Greg Pak
Penciller(s): Phil Noto

Han and Leia are caught up in a noir mystery which involves Leia’s old flame. Luke tries to lure away the Empire from a strategic location. And Chewbacca and Threepio team up to destroy a planet before realizing it has an indigenous life form.

Classic Movie Review: Paths of Glory (1957)


Title: Paths of Glory
Release Date: December 25, 1957
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Production Company: Bryna Productions
Summary/Review:

Paths of Glory is the earliest major motion picture directed by Stanley Kubrick.  Released just over a decade after World War II when Hollywood was still releasing heroic war movies, Paths of Glory is stunning in not only being anti-war but in depicting the military leadership as incompetent and cruelly cynical. Now this is set in World War I in the French Army, so there’s some distance from the American World War II movies, but all the actors are Americans with clearly American accents (except the Generals who affect something like a British accent).

Kirk Douglass portrays Colonel Dax, commanding officer of the 701st Infantry Regiment caught between the gloomy low morale of the troops who see no point in losing their lives to maybe gain a few meters of land, and the Generals who consider a 55% casualty rate acceptable.  When an attack on  German position called the Anthill fails, Brigadier General Paul Mireau (George Macready) wants troops shot for cowardice, and eventually settles on having one man arbitrarily selected from each of the divisions to be executed as an example.  Dax acts as the defense attorney for the three men in the farcical court martial that ensues.

I don’t like all of Kubrick’s films I’ve seen, but I’m always impressed with the things that Kubrick does in his movies.  The film is crisp and clear for a movie from 60+ years.  He makes good use of excess space, setting the small trial in a colossal ballroom much like Jack Torrance would later be seen writing in an oversize hotel lobby.  And there are great tracking shots of Dax walking through the trenches and the condemned men walking to the firing squad.  The depiction of the battle is a startling scene of war that’s not only impressive for its time but impressive for any time.

If there’s one great flaw for this movie is that it lacks any subtlety.  The generals are basically mustache-twirling villains while the condemned men are woeful villains.  Only Colonel Dax is allowed to have any complexity as a character.  Oddly, the most humanist scene of the movie comes at the end and doesn’t appear to have much to do with the rest of the story. A German woman (Christiane Harlan, the future spouse of Kubrick) captured by the French is forced to perform to the soldiers in a tavern, and they jeer her at first, but then as the song becomes familiar, they start to sing along, many of them weeping.  It’s a heartbreaking moment of shared humanity in an inhumane setting

Rating: ***1/2