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!

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 Special: Marvel’s The Defenders– A Spoiler-Free Discussion! …Mostly

Sundays are for…gushing about how awesome Marvel’s The Defenders is!

I’ve been following the Netflix Marvel shows with great interest ever since the first season of Daredevil came out three years ago. Daredevil was amazing, and so was Jessica Jones, while both Luke Cage and Iron Fist stumbled and struggled with several issues, respectively.

The Defenders sees the title characters of these show unite to take on the Hand, the organization of ninjas, whose different clans have given both Matt Murdock and Danny Rand a run for their money. Now, the five fingers of the Hand are closing around New York and its protectors, and they’re led by the queen of science fiction…Sigourney Weaver!

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This enchanting badass takes on the role of Alexandra, a completely original character, not affiliated with anyone from the comic books. The role was written with Weaver in mind, and–boy!–does she deliver. Her performance is nothing short of beautiful, hued with class, power and the occasional unintentional hilarity. The humor  I speak of is intentional in terms of making the audience of the show grin, of course; what I mean is that Alexandra dines in Istanbul and calls it Constantinople, she speaks of Beethoven with familiarity, and it’s hilarious.

Alexandra is easily on par with D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and Tennant’s Kilgrave, and while she has less screen time than either, because the 8 episode order, instead of the usual 13, she shines just as bright; if not even more so. It’s such a rush, seeing Sigourney Weaver play a villain who steals the spotlight in every scene she’s in, who dominates every room with such natural ease that it’s…nothing short of brilliant.

There is much more to like to the Defenders, but if I were to go in any greater detail, I would be spoiling a great show; and we can’t have that, can we? Instead, let me assure you that the Defenders manages to create a show that plays to each of its core characters’ strengths while leaving very little space for their weaknesses. If you’ve grown attached to Matt, Jessica, Luke and Danny’s stories, this is a wonderful culmination of the individual paths these four have taken…and it sets Phase 2 of the Netflix/Marvel project in a wonderful way.

Expect a spoiler-filled post later down the line, once a little bit of time has passed and more people have seen the series. Thanks for reading!

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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