Sunday Star Wars: Darth Maul by Cullen Bunn – Graphic Novel Review

I enjoy works set out as prequels to the prequel trilogy – Master and Apprentice is one of my most favourite reads. I didn’t always like Darth Maul, but catching up on the Clone Wars series has warmed me up to ol’ Red’n’Spiky! And if I needed another reason, just look at that cover. It would make for a great effin’ movie poster in its own right. To make things better, the internal art is no less impressive from the get-go:

What’s this graphic novel about?

Darth Maul grows restless as his master bides his time and weaves his web, awaiting for the opportunity to strike. So restless, in fact, that when Darth Sidious sends him on a task to aid the Sith’s allies in the Trade Federation, the dark apprentice jumps at the mention of a Jedi Padawan caught and held for sale to the highest bidder by a criminal, Xev Xrexus, on the planet of Nar Shaddaa. Maul’s help to the Trade Federation, for the record, is offered by way of executing dozens of aliens unhappy with the illegal operations the Federation deals in. Just in case you thought he was a good Samaritan or some such nonsense.

As you plainly see, Maul is all too happy to help his friends and allies at the Federation.

His first appearance on the very particular hive of scum and villainy that is Nar Shaddaa is stylish:

The Sith definitely have a stylistic edge over the Jedi. Might that have something to do with how Palpatine got one over that little green muppet?

Of course, criminals don’t like the kind of questions Maul asks, and before long, he’s fighting a good half dozen of them. Enter a few familiar faces from Season 2 of the Clone Wars!

I never was a fan of Cad Bane but plenty of folks out there are. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the appeal – he’s very much the kind of character that draws inspiration from the Western aspects of the Star Wars Saga – the kind of mercantile villain riding from one town to the next, caring precious little about the moral hue of his actions, long as his pockets line up. Something always bugged me where he was concerned. Aurra Sing is more my speed – she’s observant and has fine intuition.

There’s a tragedy to Maul, too. Stolen from his birth mother by Palpatine, fed the worst of his poison, taught only to hate and to destroy — there’s plenty appealing to the Zabrak warrior. As the result of the training he has received, his philosophy is very different to that of Sidious:

These panels, digging into Maul’s way of thinking and revealing aspects to him hitherto unseen are likely my most favourite element of this entire graphic novel. The parallels he draws to his Master, the differences he sees, make him an awful lot more interesting a character:

Eldra Kaitis, the Jedi Padawan captured, makes for an excellent foil to Maul. He wants her to fear him, yet she does not; he seeks vengeance for past wrongs but she has little interest in them; The conversations they have in issue four are only equaled by their excellent duel in the final issue in this volume. From her first appearance to her last moments, she encapsulates some of my favourite elements about the Jedi Order.

Also, she’s a very hot twi’lek, and y’all know I can’t say no to that.

Every page of the duel between Maul and Eldra showcases the finest in the art of Luke Ross. Listen to Duel of the Fates while you read Issue #5, I promise, you will not regret it.

I cannot heap enough praise on that last issue, in fact. It does so many things right – as does the entire volume. The consistent art, the excellent characterization, even the bounty hunters’ side adventure; these make for an excellent, self-contained story that I won’t soon forget.

And here’s one of my favourite quotes, on a panel that isn’t much to look at (one of those panels that set up location, I don’t mean that it’s drawn badly or anything of that sort):

My Master…
If he knew about my plans…
Would likely find this amusing.

Like the very best Star Wars comics in the neo-Marvel era, this easily fits to the Clone Wars animated format – it reads much like It’s solid work, and one of my favourite graphic novels in the Star Wars universe. I’m happy to give it a score of five out of five stars on Goodreads!

Join me again next week for another dose of Sunday Star Wars!

Star Wars Sunday: Wot I’ve Got to Catch Up On! Comics and Books!

No matter how widely you read, there’s always new Star Wars titles to check out. I have no ambition of reading all of them; I don’t even have the desire to do so. Not all Star Wars releases are good – something the latest movie has reminded us all too well. But I refuse to dwell on the bad *glares in Mickey Mouse*; instead, I will look to works in the universe which might be worth looking at over the next few weeks!

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I haven’t seen all of Rebels! If that’s not a reason for a black mark in my nerd resume, I don’t know what is. Maybe what I need is a shove…maybe what I need is to read more about one of the show’s main characters – Kanan.

Or maybe I’m going to read this because someone requested that I do, a unique new connection I’ve made, a young personage of unquestionable taste and one with whom I cannot wait to discuss every last page of this.

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Asajj Ventress is one of the most memorable characters of the Clone Wars era. Her evolution from Dooku’s apprentice and assassin to a suave bounty hunter should’ve seen its conclusion over an eight-episode arc in the last season arc of the

I was hoping that maybe Disney would animate part of this novel now that they brought back the Clone Wars for one last season but when I found out they would only be doing a 12 (13?) episode run, that hope was quickly dashed. Now that I’m finally catching up to the sixth season of the Clone Wars, the time is right to look to this novel, adapted into a proper story by franchise veteran writer Christie Golden.

Mace Windu: Jedi of the Republic

I’m not sure this title should be on the list.

The reason is, the art of this particular run is beyond bad. Look at Windu’s face in the third panel, in the last panel:

The droid’s fine, I guess…

I’m sorry, but this isn’t stylized, it’s just bad.

That said, I’ve heard the writing isn’t half bad, and I genuinely, unironically think old Mace is a badass – so I might bite the bullet and read through this. Plus, the cover art isn’t half bad:

A few Doctor Aphra Volumes

I love Aphra – even though she doesn’t carry a story as well on her own two feet as when she plays a second fiddle to Vader, this amoral archeologist is one of my favourite post-Disney additions to the universe, and her misadventures are a ceaseless source of entertainment. Last I read about Aphra, she had ended up in a well-guarded Imperial prison; I have to wonder, however will she get out?

This would be a great time to catch up with Aphra, as a brand new ongoing series is set to release anyday now! Or has it released already?

The New Darth Vader Run

Kieron Gillen’s Vader run is my favourite Star Wars comic book ever, closely followed by Soule’s take on the character post-Episode 3. Both were 25-issue runs, both had amazing art and fantastic character moments, and I can’t recommend them enough.

This new run has an intriguing concept – something-something, Vader is working with someone who looks like Padme Amidala – what, why, how?! No clue. I would like to find out, though. Yes, I very much would.

That said, I’m not sold on the interior art – compared with the two previous runs, this one leaves a little something to be desired. I’ve only seen a few pages, but this one will take me some persuadin’.

Which of these are any good? Which suck? Find out over the coming weeks and months, right here, on my Sunday (or Saturday!) Star Wars column!

Thursday Recommendations: Doctor Aphra, vol. 01, “Aphra”

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Kieron Gillen is one among a very limited number of comic book writers who never fail to deliver excellent works. Whether you look at his heartbreaking “Journey into Mystery,”( exploring the life of a young Loki), or his multiple collaborations with Jamie McKelvie  — Young Avengers, Phonogram and the godly Wicked/Divine — you are bound to get your money’s worth, and much more besides.

Kieron’s 25-issue run on Darth Vader in particular, was the best Star Wars comic book I could’ve hoped for, and furthermore succeeded in two very important ways; first, it made the iconic villain even more multi-layered than I thought possible; and second, it introduced Doctor Aphra, a brilliant archeologist, unburdened by morality, and  a bit too clever for her own good, if the end to Kieron’s Vader is anything to go by.

Minor Spoilers Incoming: After faking her own death by Vader’s hand, the good Doctor is back to what she does best — scouring the galaxy for artifacts from a by-gone age and selling them to the highest bidder! All is not well, however, when Aphra discovers her Doctorate suspended…by none other than her father!

That’s how this six-issue volume starts off, and with a few memorable characters — two psychopathic droids who enjoy murder way too much, as well as a very angry, scarred Wookie ex-gladiator — it’s a volume worth picking up!

“Aphra” hit all the right notes a comic book in the Star Wars universe should — laughs, space opera goodness, some Imperial conflict, a brave adventure, and even some strong emotional moments between father and daughter. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’d really enjoy seeing an amoral Indiana Jones in space, helped along by evil Chewie, C3PO, and R2-D2,” that’s just the comic book for you!

And if you haven’t…you should! It’s fantastic! The art is great, too!

To finish this off, I’ll say, without spoiling, the last page in the volume is such a fun character moment, which speaks volumes about who Doctor Aphra is.

That’s it, my Thursday recommendation, returned from the longest hiatus yet! Here’s to hoping content will resume in a more normal fashion! Sorry to any of you folks who enjoyed getting a daily tidbit from the blog; I’ll try to do better in the coming weeks and during all of 2018! What’s important is, I’m back…

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Sunday ComiX: Kitty Pryde and the Scary X-Lady!

Sundays are for–What do you mean, they’re not for poking fun at everyone’s favorite team of mutant misfits, the X-Men? Of Course They Are!

Today’s focus is — you guessed it! — set on one of my most favorite X-Women, Kitty Pryde.

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Kitty Pryde, aka Spryte, aka Shadowcat, aka about fifty other code names: This one, she’s got loads of things going for her — Kitty started out as the clever smaller sister of the X-Men, and particularly of a newly grown-up Illyana Rasputin;  she was the youngest X-Men at the time of her introduction by Chris Cleremont in the 70’s; Kitty rose to be one of the best and brightest graduates of Xavier’s, and currently leads nearly all the X-Men (!); her greatest feats include saving the entire planet from a gigantic planet-killing space bullet (look upwards…yeah), and is an absolute joy to read about in nearly every comic book you pick up.

She was also Star-Lord’s girlfriend, and Star-Lord.

Yeah.

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Lockheed, aka Lockheed, aka…wait, I’m just doing this by force of habit now;

Lockheed is the dragon companion to Kitty Pryde; he once imagined Kitty as a female dragon, and she imagined him as a human male so make of it what you will — what makes the situation even slightly more complicated is that Kitty was 14-15 at the time; kinky!

He will become a full-grown and intimidating draconic horror someday, but is currently a mixture of cute and downright sociopathic!

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Emma Frost, aka The White Queen: Started out as one of the more persistent and powerful enemies of the X-Men, on account of being telepathic — the diamond form you see in the picture above is a secondary mutation, triggered about the time she joined the X-Men, some 20(~ish) years ago; Kitty loathed her and still is very antagonistic towards Emma, and for good reason; Frost used to run an evil version of the Xavier Institute and Kitty was to be one of the first students there…unfortunately, things didn’t quite go according to the plan, and Kitty joined the X-Men, thus cementing a powerful grudge between two scary powerful mutants!

Also, the picture above actually shows Emma clothed a bit too properly for her tastes. This is how she started off looking:

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I wish my schoolteachers dressed like that.

On second thought — better that they didn’t!

Sunday ComiX: Defining the X-Men, Vol. 02 — The Second(ish) Generation

Sundays are for my favorite activity – Defining the X-Men in a sentence!

This week’s picks are some of the most important, influential and beloved of all X-Men characters…as well as some less-known characters, which never the less have great importance within the X-Men continuum!

Hold on to yo butts!

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Lorna Dane, aka Polaris: Magneto’s daughter who inherited his magnetic powers, somewhat questionable fashion sense, and occasional homicidal tendencies!

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Alex Summers aka Havok: Cyclops’ smaller brother who’s got similar powers and better hair but a worse taste in sunglasses; hates being called the M-word. (See picture on the bottom of this post.)

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Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler: Looks like a demon of Hell; is in fact a swashbuckling gentleman who’s the emotional heart of any X-Men team he’s in; used to be dead, no longer is.

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Pyotr Rasputin aka Colossus: The nicest Russian guy in the world; constantly battles Magneto despite his mutant power turning him into solid metal.

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Ororo Munroe aka Storm: Street rat worshipped as a goddess in Egypt as soon as her mutation activates — because what else can someone who controls the weather amidst the desert be?

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Sean Cassidy aka Banshee: Very Irish, very self-descriptive alias and also — very dead.

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Shiro Yoshida, aka Sunfire: Bit of an arsehole, I reckon, and not much of a team player at all.

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Thunderbird: He dead.

 

There we go with this week’s installment of Sunday Comix! Short, concise and to the douchebaggy point, in Sunfire and Thunderbird’s cases, anyway. Hope you enjoyed and looking forward to seeing you next week for some more one-sentence description of my favorite superhero team! 

Here’s your bonus Havok/Cyclops image, courtesy of the Internet:

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Sunday Comix – Defining the X-Men in a sentence, Vol. 01

Sundays are for…defining comic book characters in a single ridiculous sentence!

It seems only right to start off this incredible, mind-blowing series with the original five X-Men! But what kind of a monster would I be if I didn’t start off with the most overused and well- known Canadian runt in the entire multiverse?!

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James Howlett, aka ‘Wolverine’: Let’s face it… He is your favorite mutant murder-uncle.

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Scott Summers aka ‘Cyclops’: He was the major douche in the 90’s animated series and everybody hated him, except that now he’s super awesome and also dead.*

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Jean Grey, aka ‘Marvel Girl’, aka ‘the Phoenix’: She had no personality for a while there, other than being the token girl in the X-Team, and then she died; only it wasn’t her, it was her clone, and she turned out alive and alright, only she died; and then she left a phoenix egg and got revived in the future; only it never happened; and then someone *wiggles finger at Hank McCoy* decided to bring back young Jean Grey from the past into the present/future, and she finally exhibited what psychologists call… a ‘personality.’

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Hank McCoy, aka ‘Beast’: Big, furry man turned big furry man-thing, all too clever for his own good, and prone to venturing on morally-grey territory one time too many.

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Robert ‘Bobby’ Drake, aka ‘Iceman’: The cool younger kid-turned with cocky personality and retconned sexuality which served to anger some; to be fair, there have long been signs.

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Warren Worthington III, aka ‘Angel,’ aka ‘Archangel’: Thinks he’s a literal angel, except when he’s Archangel — then, he’s just a kind-of cool dick who’s also a Horseman of Apocalypse.
Y’know…the X-Men are weird. I love it! The absolute mess that’s their fifty-something year long continuity is such fun, and I ought to do a lot more comic-related content on this blog! If only time were to allow it…

*These two things don’t necessarily go together, but I understand why you’d think that they do, if you watched the 90’s TAS.