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: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor


Here are reviews of all nine volumes in the Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor series to date.

Author:  Al Ewing & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser, Boo Cook
Colorist: Gary Caldwell, Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 1: After Life
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

The first set of Eleventh Doctor comic adventures introduce a new companion (between the Ponds and Clara), Alice Obiefune.  I immediately love Alice, because she’s:

  1. a library assistance, and her job skills are shown as valuable on adventures with the Doctor.
  2. she’s a character who is depicted as grieving and depressed, and her storyline is handled accurately and sympathetically.
  3. she stands up to the Doctor’s condescending ways and challenges his assumptions.

There adventures include picking up another companion, John Jones, who is a thinly veiled David Bowie from the late 60s before he becomes famous.  Basically he’s there for running Bowie gags while the focus remains on Alice as companion.  They also visit with Robert Johnson in 1930s Louisiana, who happens to already be acquainted with the Doctor.  But the main conflict in various places in space and time is standing up to the evil SERVEYOUinc, and not always meeting their agents in chronological order.

The Eleventh Doctor comics are refreshing and fun, and I hope keep up the good work, because the Tenth Doctor comics kind of became as slog.

Rating: ****


Author:  Al Ewing & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, Warren Pleece
Colorist: Gary Caldwell, Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 2: Serve You
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

This volume starts off with a terrific story of the Doctor figuring out how to escape the destruction of the TARDIS while repeatedly hopping backwards in time.  ARC joins the TARDIS crew for a distinctively odd trip of companions: grieving human, parody of David Bowies, and blob of something that’s not quite defined yet.  Other stories put the TARDIS Team in the middle of an endless war that threatens to capture Earth in collateral damage and the gravest threat yet from SERVEYOUinc, which appears to take over the Doctor. It’s a bit of a step down from the first volume, but still a rollicking good adventure.

Rating: ***


Author:  Al Ewing & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, Warren Pleece
Colorist: Gary Caldwell, Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 3: Conversion
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

Another spectacular visual and storytelling device in the comics sees the four main characters split into different parts of the TARDIS, with distinctive art for each concurrent story.  The Doctor also goes through the humbling experience of having the TARDIS turn against him for his misbehavior.  There are also Cybermen in ancient Rome and a motorbike race on the Berlin Wall in 1976.

This volume ties up the threads in the SERVEYOUinc and Talent Scout stories, as well as the Jones and ARC, uh, arcs.  I look forward to reading more adventures of Alice and the Doctor.

 

Rating: ***


Author:  Si Spurrier & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser & Warren Pleece
Colorist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 4: The Then and the Now
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2016)
Summary/Review:

A new story arc has the Eleventh Doctor being tracked down for a genocidal crime he can’t remember quitting. New companions join in the form of Abslom Daak, a rageful man with a vendetta against Daleks, and The Squire, a soldier who previously fought alongside the War Doctor. The plot is a complex muddle of things brought up from the Time War that probably don’t need to be explained, but it does feel like it’s going somewhere.

Rating: ***


Author:  Si Spurrier & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser, Leanrdo Casco, Warren Pleece
Colorist: Gary Caldwell, Arianna Florean, Nicola Righi, Azzurra Florean, Rodrigo Fernandes
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 5 The One
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2016)
Summary/Review:

The pursuit of the Then and Now continues, with some revelations and a lot of confusion, and effort to be “epic” without really earning it.  River Song and The War Doctor and The Master all join the plot.  And that’s not all.  It’s okay, I guess.

Rating: **


Author:  Si Spurrier & Rob Williams
Artists: I.N.J. Culbard, Simon Fraser
Colorist: Marcio Menys, Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 6 The Malignant Truth
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

The Doctor’s secret revealed!  Shocking surprises!  Really?  I just wanted this storyline to finally be over.  It does finish up better than a lot of what preceded it, for what it’s worth.  I did enjoy the War Doctor getting to act as the main protagonist, and Alice being awesome.  She’s a great companion and deserves better stories.

Rating: ***


Author: Rob Williams, Alex Paknadel
Artists: I.N.J. Culbard, Leandro Casco, Wellington Diaz, Simon Fraser
Colorist: Triona Farrell, Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 7: The Sapling: Growth
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

A new storyline, with a new character – The Sapling – who is basically Groot with the ability to steal memories and cause genocide.  There’s a cool sequence where every year on Earth is happening at the same time and the Doctor and company have to take a double decker bus to 1968 where the people have erected a wall around their time. It’s much cooler in illustration!

Rating: ***


Author: James Peaty, George Mann
Artists: I.N.J. Culbard, Andrew Leung, Ivan Rodriguez, Wellington Diaz, Klebs Junior, Leandro Casco
Colorist: Triona Farrell, Stefani Renne, Thiago Riberio
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 8 The Sapling: Roots
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

The Sapling is growing, the Doctor and Alice are still missing their memories, and Ood Sigma needs help. They also visit a Memory Ark and a medieval village where the Sapling becomes a renown historical figure.  Good fun.

Rating: ***


Author: Alex Paknadel, Rob Williams
Artists: I.N.J. Culbard, Ivan Rodriguez, JB Bastos, Luiz Campello
Colorist: Triona Farrell, Thiago Ribeiro, Stefani Rennee
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 9 The Sapling: Branches
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2018)
Summary/Review:

The finale of The Sapling saga.  Like all these comic storylines, my patience begins to wear thin with the plots as they go along.  But at least this one is only three volumes along.  There’s also a renegade member of The Silence known as The Scream behind it all, but it’s kind of a meh idea since I think the tv shows did all they could with The Silence.  Still some awesome Alice moments though.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Hellraisers by Robert Sellers


Author: Robert Sellers
TitleHellraisers
Illustrator: JAKe
Publication Info: London : SelfMadeHero, 2011.
Summary/Review:

This graphic biography tells the exploits of the Irish & British actors Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Oliver Reed, and Peter O’Toole.  I’ve long admired the work of Harris and O’Toole, and familiar with Burton by reputation, but Reed was new to me.  What they have in common is that they were part of new class of post World War II actors who were gritty and real, and lived a wild and hardscabble life off the screen and stage.  The book focuses on the legendary exploits of the quartet’s drinking and partying but also their feelings of inadequacy and failed relationships.  It’s common to romanticize their wild lives, but the book does not shy away from the harm they caused, the violence, the sexual harrasment, and general arrogance. Cleverly, the author ties their stories together by having the Burton, Harris, Reed, and O’Toole appear as ghosts to a character named Martin who is drinking his life away. The four hellraiser actors are able to help Martin to focus on his life and family. Oddly, when I checked this book out, the librarian told me he’d read the book and said it was “good, clean fun.” I’d say it’s anything but, a cautionary tale more than anything else.  Burton, Harris, Reed, and O’Toole lived lives of reckless abandon so that you don’t have to.

Rating: ***1/2

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: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension 


Author: George Mann, Carl Scott, and Nick Abadzis
TitleDoctor Who: The Lost Dimension Vol.1
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2018.
Illustrator: Rachael Stott
Colourist: Rod Fernandes
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
Summary/Review:

Another multi-Doctor story.  Unlike The Four Doctors, this one does a good job of having each Doctor’s story have a stand-alone aspect while adding to the overall story arc.  It also gives a good amount of time and agency to the supporting characters, the many companions and the Doctor’s Daughter, Jenny.  It also cleverly spins some history of  Galliferey and TARDISes without being overly fan-wankery.

Rating: ****


Author: Gordon Rennie
TitleDoctor Who: The Lost Dimension Vol.2
Illustrator: Ivan Rodriguez
Colourist: Thiago Ribeiro
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2018.
Summary/Review:

The second part is not as strong as the predecessor.  Once the Doctors get together the writing lazily relies on Doctors bickering with themselves and being brilliant together.  The conclusion is also highly derivative of The Day of the Doctor.  Still a fun romp though

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: Four Doctors by Paul Cornell


Author:  Paul Cornell
TitleDoctor Who: Four Doctors
Artists: Neil Edwards
Colorist: Ivan Nunes
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2016.
Summary/Review:

Paul Cornell is a legendary writer of Doctor Who books and television scripts for the new series, so I had high hopes for this comics’ outing.  It brings together the Tenth Doctor with his companion Gabby Gonzalez, the Eleventh Doctor and Alice Obiefune, and the Twelfth Doctor with Clara Oswald (whom the Eleventh Doctor does not yet know).  I’ve never seen Gabby or Alice before, and although they seem interesting, they don’t get to do much beyond generic companion stuff.  Clara is running the show as she initiates the story by trying to tell Gabby and Alice that a photo of the three Doctors on Marinus must not be allowed to become a reality.  Which of course it does.  And with all of space and time on the line, the three Doctors have to figure out how to stop the Voord and an alternate version of themselves.  It’s a complicated timey-wimey story with some good fantastical bits, but it seems a bit rushed and undercooked to me.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Alpha: Abidjan to Paris by Bessora and Barroux


Author: Bessora
Illustrator: Barroux
TitleAlpha: Abidjan to Paris
Translator: Sarah Ardizzone
Publication Info:
Summary/Review:

This graphic novel made up of simple felt-tip drawings follows Alpha Coulibaly as he attempts to migrate from Côte d’Ivoire to France.  Alpha’s wife and child left earlier to live with a sister-in-law in Paris, and he’s not heard from since.  The dream of reunion carries Alpha for 18 months as he travels in crowded vehicles across hot deserts, lives and works in refugee camps, and sees the suffering and deaths of the companions he meets along the way, including a child traveling unaccompanied.  It’s a heartbreaking yet matter-of-fact story of what far too many people encounter as refugees today.

Recommended books: Aya by Marguerite Abouet
Rating: ****

Book Review: The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks, Caanan White


Author: Max Brooks, Caanan White (Illustrator)
Title: The Harlem Hellfighters
Publication Info: Broadway Books, 2014
Summary/Review:

In graphic novel form, Max Brooks (curiously enough, the son of filmmaker Mel Brooks) tells the oft-overlooked story of 369th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard.  The largely African-American infantry regiment was among the first American troops to be sent to the front lines in France in 1919 during World War I, where they became known for their toughness and valor and earned their nickname “The Harlem Hellfighters” from their German opponents.  It’s an interesting story although Brooks relies on a familiar story of racial discrimination at home and the horrors of war abroad.  While the story is told from the point of view of a soldier named Mark, there isn’t much to distinguish the characters and personalize the story.  White’s illustrations seem to revel in depictions of gore that would fit in with The Walking Dead, but it’s actually difficult to distinguish the characters – black, white, French, and German – from one another.  One nice touch is that Brooks includes fragments of contemporary songs and poems to accompany scenes of the war.  It’s very cinematic, in fact, which is not surprising since Brooks originally intended to write a screenplay.  The graphic novel has it’s flaws but overall it’s a good introduction to the story of the Harlem Hellfighters.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh


Author: Allie Brosh
TitleHyperbole and a Half 
Publication Info: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2013.
ISBN: 9781451666175
Summary/Review:

The deliberately crudely-illustrated comics from Allie Brosh’s classic Hyperbole and a Half blog are collected here in book form.  Brosh’s writing and drawing based on her life is both hilarious and poignant.   Her works on depression and motivation (or lack thereof) are particularly brilliant, and make me feel that she gets me.  She also writes a lot about her dogs and their lack of intelligence and a particularly belly-guffawing story of her house invaded by a goose.  The colorful pictures also attracted my two-year-old  daughter who kept picking up that book whenever I wasn’t reading it.  This book should be read by one and all.

Recommended books: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Rating: ****

Book Review: Doctor Who. Volume 2, Tesseract by Tony Lee


Author: Tony Lee
Title: Doctor Who. Volume 2, Tesseract
Publication Info: IDW Publishing (2010)
ISBN: 9781600107566
Summary/Review: The Tenth Doctor’s adventures from Fugitive continue with his new companions Emily and Matt heading on divergent paths.  Emily becomes a stronger character driven to action while Matt consumed by jealousy is drawn to evil.  There’s also a 5D spaceship, Martha Jones and UNIT, and Greenwich Park under attack by trees. As I noted on the previous volume, the comic format allows for a visual imagination that would not likely be convincing in a televised format but on the other hand the dialogue seems spare and simplistic.

Rating: **1/2