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.

Comics Review: Star Wars: Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca.


Title: Book I: Vader
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Summary/Review:

Set after the destruction of the Death Star, Darth Vader is in hot water for allowing a Rebel victory on his watch.  The Emperor has put Vader’s rival in control, and Vader sets in motion a plot to both regain his position of influence as well as the personal goal of finding the young pilot who fired the shot that destroyed the Death Star.  To accomplish these goals he recruits archaeologist Doctor Aphra to carry out missions for him.  In turn she teams up with her assassin droid companions, 0-0-0 (Triple-Zero) and BT-1 (Beetee), kind of a perverse version of See Threepio and Artoo Detoo.  Aphra is a great character and addition to the Star Wars universe.  Kind of a morally gray person willing to do the bidding of Darth Vader more out of fear than loyalty, but also capable of doing a great job.

Rating: ****


Title: Book II: Shadows and Secrets
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Summary/Review:

In this volume, the Emperor’s plans to have several rivals compete for Vader’s position are revealed.  Darth Vader also works secretly with bounty hunters to carry out an attack on an Imperial ship to gain Imperial credits.  And Dr. Aphra uses the credits to track down the identity of the Rebel pilot, Luke Skywalker.  Another entertaining volume of Star Wars intrigue.

Rating: ****


Title: Vader Down
Writer: Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Mike Deodato, Jr. and Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks and Jordan D. White
Summary/Review:

This volume collects crossover stories with the standard Star Wars comics run. Darth Vader tracks down Luke Skywalker to a planet but finds himself in the middle of Rebel training.  The Rebel Forces are no match for Darth Vader on his own.  It’s an interesting plot that almost brings Vader and Luke together but without spoiling their first real meeting in Bespin Cloud City. It’s great to see the familiar characters – Leia, Han, Chewbacca, etc. – brought into the Vader story.

Rating: ***


Title: Book III: The Shu-Torun War
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Kaare Andrews and Mark Brooks
Summary/Review:

Darth Vader is responsible for suppressing a rebellion on the mining planet of Shu-Torun. To accomplish this, he assassinates much of the ruling family and manipulates the youngest daughter, Trios, into being the puppet ruler.  He fights on two fronts against the rebellious Ore-Dukes and his rival for the Emperor’s second-in-command, Cylo.  I did not enjoy this volume as much as the others.

Rating: ***


Title: Book IV: End of Games
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler & Inker: Max Fiumara and Salvador Larroca
Letter: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks, Juan Gimenez, and Salvador Larroca
Summary/Review:

In the culminating story of the arc, Vader battles Cylo and his other rivals that get him back into the place of power we see him in Empire Strikes Back.  Meanwhile, Dr. Aphra works on a plan to escape the servitude of Vader while still living.  A good conclusion to an entertaining addition to Star Wars lore.

Rating: ****

Comics Review: Prisoners of Time by Scott Tipton and David Tipton


Author: Scott Tipton and David Tipton
TitlePrisoners of Time
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, January 2016.
Artist: Simon Fraser
Colourist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer:  Tom B. Long
Summary/Review:

The 50th anniversary comic tells one story for each Doctor, One through Eleventh, with the inevitable team-up in the last issue.  The stories are generally good, albeit short and easily resolved leading up to the conclusion of each story where a mysterious figure kidnaps the Doctor’s companions.  It’s eventually revealed to be Adam of The Long Game from the Ninth Doctor’s season, which is a bit underwhelming. Still, I like how the artistic style is a bit different for each Doctor, and how they pay tribute to the history of Doctor Who comics through the appearance of Frobisher, who appeared first in comics, and the essays at the end of each issue.  It’s nothing spectacular but it checks off each box of what an anniversary, crossover comic should do.

Rating: ***