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Comic Review: Star Wars (2015) #8

Star_Wars_8_CoverStar Wars #7 left us with a doozy of a plot twist in the appearance of Sana Solo, Han’s wife. So although I was pretty ready to abandon Star Wars with John Cassaday, that cliffhanger got me picking up #8. The continuation of the story doesn’t disappoint. And though I do miss Cassaday’s art, Stuart Immonen does right by the characters and keeps the world familiar.

Spoilers ahoy!

One of the great things about Jason Aaron’s writing of Star Wars is that he’s clearly having fun. On the opening pages of #8, Imperial ships fly above the planet where Han and Leia have found refuge and then complications. The captain of the fleet orders the TIE fighters to attack. Upon receiving the order, a pilot responds, “I love my job. Long live the Empire!” We wouldn’t need this nobody’s dialogue to finish the scene. The scene is there to progress the rising action coming down on our heroes. But the addition of it lightens an otherwise dour two pages filled with military language. Seeing the personal joy this TIE pilot has is also fun for the reader.

When we get back to the point of the cliffhanger–the reveal that Sana is Han’s wife–Aaron immediately gives us blustering, back-pedaling Han, a mirror of the greeting with Lando in The Empire Strikes Back. What I loved about the development of this story is how ambiguous the truth is. Sana insists they’re married, that he’s a con artist scamming her as he’s done to other women in the past. Han denies that the two are married, denies the long cons, while Sana sticks to her story and tells him the time to run the con is up. Since we see Han as a hero, we want to believe his side, but how truthful his denials are is questionable. Sana’s got her own plans for the Princess though and blows up their shuttle to keep them from escaping. She wants to sell Leia to the Empire.

To add to the twistiness of trust, Leia herself doesn’t know who to believe and ends up acting against Han to protect her freedom, figuring Han might be in cahoots with Sana. I love that Leia doesn’t wait for Han to try to rescue them from the situation, that she takes control of her own rescue.

Also enjoyable is Aaron’s peppering of diction from Empire to add weight to their meaning. Han, attempting to sweet-talk Sana into letting them go, admits he’s a “scoundrel”. For the reader, then, watching the scene in Empire where he tells Leia that she likes him because he’s a scoundrel has new resonance, now calling back to this encounter.

Meanwhile Luke’s looking for Jedi answers, dismayed that he nearly lost his life over a bunch of stupid stories. Oh, Luke, don’t you know stories are everything? I appreciate how spot on Luke’s character is to the timeline of the films. He’s got the naive cockiness of A New Hope, easily dismissive of Obi-Wan’s gift to him. But there’s a growing awareness of his limitations. He’s still uncomfortable in his Jedi knowledge, forming the path to who he is at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back.

Immonen doesn’t have the shadowy realism of Cassaday’s art, but his likenesses to Hamill, Fisher, and Ford are strong. The facial expressions and body language were frequently spot on to similar emotional moments from the films.

Immonen Pencils

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Star Wars Saturday: Review of Marvel ‘Star Wars’ #6

sw6coverI was not expecting a new issue so soon after #5 was released, but I’m glad. If you remember, I felt #5 was a touch “slight.” It was a transition issue, to be sure, so it was probably wise to get the next one into hands more quickly.

CONCLUSION OF SKYWALKER STRIKES! Luke vs. Boba Fett! Han Solo in hot water! This is the comic book you’re looking for!

Warning, this will be a spoiler-laden review. Cuz things got a little crazy. And this crazy is now canon, so says Disney. So say we all.

First, Luke and Boba Fett meet, and fight, and Luke levels up. Jason Aaron is deftly transitioning Luke from the noob of A New Hope to the much more adept Force-wielder he becomes by The Empire Strikes Back. The fight with Fett starts with a flash bomb to blind Luke. This taps that same trust of feelings Luke had to develop in the sparring with the probe on the Falcon in A New Hope or the bombing of the exhaust shaft that makes the Death Star go boom. By being blind and more or less outgunned by Fett, Luke gets into a space where new powers open up to him. He wins the fight by knocking Fett out by telekinetically dropping the box Obi-Wan had left for him on Fett’s head. The Force push isn’t something we’ll see him do until Empire.

luke boba fight

When Fett reports back to Darth Vader, he has to admit he lost the boy, but he does know his name: Skywalker. Vader’s response is wordless. His fists clench. He makes no more acknowledgement of Fett’s presence. Fett leaves, and Vader repeats the name: Skywalker. He cracks the plating of the window in his anger. Obi-Wan hid a son from him. If it wasn’t bad enough that he took appendages, he also took a son. Vader is not happy, and he wishes Kenobi were still alive so he could kill him again.

Of course, the real talking piece of this issue is the reveal of issue #4’s unknown bounty hunter looking for Han on Tatooine. Han has emergency landed Leia on a secret paradise planet perfect for the on-the-run seduction. There’s even a hidden stache of Corellian wine, which Leia throws back in his face upon realizing he’s taken this opportunity to put the moves on her, you know, when there’s important rebelling to be done. Then a ship that looks like a variation on the Falcon comes out of orbit and heads straight for them. Han recognizes the ship and tells Leia to run. The woman who disembarks is one Sana…Solo. She’s Han’s wife.

Star_Wars_6_Sana

Hrrm. So that just happened.

On the one hand, it changes nothing. Han’s a scoundrel. Having a wife he’s been dodging fits the type. And after six issues of seeing how well Jason Aaron is handling these characters, how true he’s being to them, I’m leaning towards trusting him and seeing where he goes with all of this. There are plenty of ways this story could unfold that wouldn’t involve Han being a total jerkwad. But even if he’s a partial jerkwad, well, we kinda already knew that.

But on the other hand, unless the marriage was of some sort of convenience or coercion, the romantic in me is disappointed to see Han possibly once having been in love with another woman. Sure, I’m completely down with flings aplenty. But I like the idea that it took Leia to make him want to commit–in this case to a cause more than to a settled life.

Plus side, she’s a female character of color. Minus side, she’s relegated to wife.

Although it might be a bit contrived, I’d love to see her be related to Lando. A sister maybe? When we first saw her as a bounty hunter, she wore a helmet that was reminiscent of Lando’s disguise in Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi. Plus then she could be the “what you pulled” Lando nearly punches Han for, not the Falcon.

But truly, the biggest upset has nothing to do with Sana–it’s in the announcement that John Cassaday will no longer be doing the illustrations. I’m hooked enough on Aaron’s story to stick with it another few issues to see if the new artist can evoke the films and characters like Cassaday did.


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Star Wars Saturday–Comic Review of ‘Star Wars’ (2015) #5

starwars5coverTHE GREATEST SPACE ADVENTURE OF ALL TIME CONTINUES! As Luke goes home in search of the truth about his late mentor… …Leia takes Han on a secret mission of vital importance to the Rebellion. Unfortunately, they both run into some unfriendly encounters.

Jason Aaron and John Cassaday continue their run filling in the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The writing and art stay true to the characters, and the pacing remains similar to that of the original trilogy films. We see more of everyone’s favorite bounty hunter as he attempts to track down the young Jedi now on Vader’s radar. Luke nearly repeats a mistake his father once made. And Han and Leia explore the hate part of their love-hate relationship. There are a few call-backs to deep fan knowledge–Luke gets referred to as “Wormie” by a Tatooine local.

As far as single issues go, this one is a bit of a let down. It’s clearly a transition installment, bridging the end of the first act and kicking off the start of the second. Reading it alone, it feels less substantial than the other issues. I imagine, however, that collected in trade paper back, this wouldn’t be a concern. It would just be one of those middle ones you blaze through on your way to the more climactic issues. Still, even in this regard, Aaron is true to the nature of this particular beast. It feels very much like the few scenes following the Battle of Hoth where our heroes split up to follow their various paths and the new narrative arcs get established–Luke going to Dagobah and Han and Leia attempting to lose their Imperial tail.

It leaves me thirsty for more.

sw5previewbf


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Star Wars Saturday: Review of Star Wars Issue #4

Star-Wars-004-coverIt’s good to see Jason Aaron perfectly following the pacing of the original films. In the first three issues he presented the opening mini-mission, quick on the action, pulling the reader into the story and establishing the story’s tension. In this case, the Rebel Alliance trying to seize their advantage after the destruction of the first Death Star and the realization in Luke that he’s not quite the Jedi he imagines himself to be.

But that mini-mission concluded at the end of #3, and in #4 we pick up with the character-building second act. Han and Chewie rebuilding the Falcon, Leia negotiating with Ackbar and Mothma about resources to continue striking out at the Empire even as the Rebels are on the run, and Luke dealing with the volatile teammate he is as he attempts to grow and learn to control his use of the Force. Aaron, with Cassaday’s evocative art and spot-on likenesses, develops what fans already know about these characters while also adding new insights, especially with Leia’s role in the Rebellion and Luke’s Jedi growing pains.

But that’s not all! Issue #4 also brings together two villains–Vader, now doing the Emporer’s resource-gathering negotiating, and Jabba the Hutt. Their interaction is largely humorous thanks to the personality clash and the off-kilter observances of the Hutt, who loves the smell of freshly slain Bantha in the morning. And we get a mysterious new player on the scene in Tatooine and the surprise appearance of an old favorite. jabba issue 4

The young woman working at my local comic book store on Wednesday reported that every person who had come in that and bought comics had picked up the new Star Wars. Here’s why: issue #4 continues to deliver the characterization, pacing, and tone of the original trilogy films we love so dearly. I thank Aaron and Cassaday for filling in this time period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back with deep insights and a light touch.


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First Images of Mark Hamill Reprising Trickster on ‘The Flash’

A new The Flash trailer hit previewing the next month’s array of villains that start with tonight’s episode. Among them is Mark Hamill reprising a role he played in the 1990’s television series The Flash: Trickster. While looking this up, I realized that the previous Flash was played by John Wesley Shipp, who currently plays Barry Allen’s father. Nice bit of cameo casting there.

Here are screenshots from the trailer showing Hamill as the Trickster.

hamill trickster 1

First, Hamill looking very The Empire Strikes Back era. Perhaps this is a flashback to earlier years? They’ve done a nice job with his hair and shadowing to give the illusion of youth. Alternatively, it is a heavily shadowed shot to suggest imminent DOOM from Trickster escape/release from prison.

hamill trickster 2

Next one shows a current era Trickster. His hair is severely cut and messily styled to suggest a touch of madness. Though his coat is dark, the shirt underneath shows the parti-colored design of a jester, or, ahem, trickster figure.

hamill trickster 3

hamill trickster 4

These two shots come from what appear to be files (and clips) from the Trickster’s arrest in the 90’s. Nice bit of work actually using footage from the original show in the news articles the current team accesses.

hamill trickster 5

And here’s a classic manic look from Hamill. Although he’s best known for Luke Skywalker, a character devoid of mania, his voice work as The Joker takes a close second and combined with Trickster show his gift for loose cannon criminals. Hamill parodied his own panache for manic villains in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’s Cocknocker. Be warned, the clip is NSFW.


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Star Wars Saturday: Marvel’s Star Wars #3 Review

Jason Aaron keeps the climax going at hyperspeed in the third issue of Star Wars, which hit shelves on Tuesday. We left our heroes in dire circumstances. Han and Leia were attempting to stay alive in the Walker, waiting for Luke to get to them for some back up fire and hoping they’d reach C-3PO and a working Millenium Falcon. 3PO, meanwhile, was being taken by planet scavengers from a still non-functional Falcon. Chewbacca’s whereabouts are unknown.

SW3 Luke

This issue closes out the series’ opening adventure with . Our heroes, against tremendous odds, get out with their skins. That’s not a spoiler–everyone clearly survives to live The Empire Strikes Back. The issue does present some crucial aspects. This arc has made Vader all the more aware of Luke and his fledgling Force powers. Additionally, we have a wonderful little moment that cements the growing romance between Han and Leia. Finally, the final pages tease upcoming story in an enticing visual hook. 

Aaron and Cassaday have done a tremendous job bringing this familiar world to life on the page. The story arc has been fun, exciting, significant to the characters’ development, artfully executed. If you haven’t picked up the series yet, I highly recommend doing so.

If you have read the first two issues, you’ve likely already got this under your belt. For more specific, spoilery info, check out Comicbook.com’s article on easter eggs and references in the issue.

SW3 page 3

 


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Star Wars Saturday: Comic Review of Star Wars #2

star wars 2Jason Aaron increases the action in the second issue of Star Wars, which hit shelves on Tuesday. We left our heroes in a bit of a lurch. Han and Leia were taking charge of an Imperial Walker to break out of the facility, C3PO was dealing with scavengers dismantling the Millenium Falcon, and Luke was about to confront the murderer of Obi-Wan Kenobi and, supposedly, Luke’s father–Darth Vader.

As these scenes reopen, the focus is on Luke and Vader and the dramatic irony is prevalent. Neither knows yet who the other is, but Vader begins to put together clues while Luke struggles with his amateurish Force powers. Our hero of Yavin finds himself in the midst of a messy situation he made for himself as the slaves he freed in the previous issue enter the fray.

As the story moves from Luke to Han and Leia in the AT-AT to 3PO on the Falcon, the characters strive to overcome their individual struggles and make it off the planet alive, but they find a mixture of successes and failures. As Luke, Han, Leia, and Artoo makes steps towards the Falcon, 3PO suffers a sizable setback to their ultimate escape.Marvel-Star-Wars-2

The writing and interactions of characters continue to be spot on. Han and Leia’s fighting and veiled flirting blends with the action surrounding them. The illusion of this being an actual movie grows with each page’s panels, influenced heavily by the speed of action. John Cassaday’s art continues to wonderfully evoke the actor’s emotional nuances. When he cannot show a face, as in the case of Vader, he uses shadow to fill in emotional content.

With our heroes’ backs up against the wall, the story’s tension is high. I can’t wait to see how they get their hinneys out of this sling.