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The Star Wars #1 Review

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The Star Wars #1

Written by J.W. Rinzler

Art by Mike Mayhew

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

To quote the other guys “Its life Jim, but not as we know it,” based on George Lucas’ original draft of Star Wars, this series contains a lot of familiar names and locations but all played out very differently to its eventual cinematic incarnation. It’s an issue that demands repeat readings as it is next to impossible to read first time on its own without comparing it to the finished film. Once the novelty of recognizing characters and spaceships wears off, only one question remains – As a standalone comic is it any good? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. The tone has changed enough to differentiate it from Lucas’ space opera. The action is entertaining and characters, both new and old, have no trouble holding the reader’s attention.

The story opens with a Jedi, Kane Starkiller, hiding on a remote planet with his two sons, Annikin and Deak. A ship arrives containing a Sith Lord, that looks like a cross between Darth Vader and Bebop from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and attacks the two children killing Deak. Kane arrives, and in a beautiful panel, slices the attacker in half. Mike Mayhew’s art throughout the issue is a delight. It looks very cinematic and adds heft and scale that is required with an event book. He has managed to adapt Ralph McQuarrie’s conceptual art while adding his own touches without ever feeling like he is rethreading existing works.

The next arc of the book suffers from some of the same problems that affected the later trilogy, it gets bogged down with a lot of political to-ing and fro-ing. It is not quite Trade Federation blocking Naboo levels of boring but it isn’t far off. There is nice exchange between Kane and a man who looks like a ringer for George Lucas himself, called Luke Skywalker no less, when he is asked to continue Anakin’s Jedi training. Against the backdrop of this is an as-of-yet unnamed Emperor’s political plans to stop the Rebellion, before sending in the Empire’s troops to eradicate the Jedi once and for all.

There are a couple of nice cameos and nods to the original, Antilles gets a small scene, Princess Leia is introduced briefly as she leaves for university, General Vader is revealed and bears more than a passing resemblance to the crazy ghost chaser from “The Frighteners.” If there is one area where I felt let down it was with Vader who I thought deserved a far more memorable introduction then simply arguing with his underlings.

Overall the issue was a positive if flawed one. There are a number of potentially interesting threads and it is a nice sideways version of the movie. Hopefully the exposition heavy middle segment will not reoccur in future issues, the nice final line of the book seems to confirm that. The artwork is the real stand out, Mike Mayhew’s work is gorgeous. His designs of both ships and characters elevate the book above its sometimes clunky dialogue, as Harrison Ford famously said “you can type this $hit, but you can’t say it,” turns out even when typed it is still as clunky. Names like Darklighter, Starkiller, and Whitsun seem like they came from a small child’s playtime. There are a number of wonderful panels including a standout moment when Kane reviles the full extent the battle against the Sith has taken on his body. There is more than enough here to keep me interested in future issues and now that the mental hurdle of comparisons to the original has been overcome I can’t wait to see if the book can stand on its own two feet.

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Batman Annual #2 Review

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 13.54.48

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In the second annual of the Batman comic book title, new writer Marguerite Bennett delivers a solid issue that will leave readers with many emotions regarding the Anchoress. After reading and reflecting on this issue, the Anchoress is simply creepy and a character filled with rage. Bennett characterized the Anchoress perfectly and the art by Wes Craig is a nice complement throughout the issue and specifically regarding his illustrations of the Anchoress.

One of the significant supporting characters in the annual is an orderly named Eric Border who is beginning his employment at Arkham Asylum and he is introduced to Batman himself. After the interesting misdirection of having Batman appear he is being locked in Arkham it is revealed that Batman is present to test the security at the asylum.

Eric, who maintains a positive perspective throughout the issue, which is a fresh take given how people in Gotham are characterized as being more cynical than being hopeful. Even though Eric is from Metropolis, which is a different environment from Gotham, the character is written well and his attitude stands out because it is different than the somber tone that usually surrounds Gotham City.

Eric does not understand the mystery behind why the Anchoress has been forgotten about at Arkham but she lets him known when the characters meet. The Anchoress imprisoned herself at Arkham many years ago after feeling guilt over the death of her parents and believed Arkham was a sanctuary that would help her. It is revealed that the Anchoress blames Batman for what has happened to Arkham and she holds him accountable for the evil villains that have been placed in Arkham throughout the years and that are present throughout Gotham.

In an emotional sequence, the Anchoress confronts Batman after she is able to escape from her cell. She is able to enter his mind and see the tragedies that have and continue to haunt Batman. From the death of his parents to the physical encounter Batman had with the individual who revealed himself to be Bruce Wayne’s brother during the Court of Owls story arc along with the death of Bruce’s son, Damian, the Anchoress reminds Batman he could not save any of those individuals. The Anchoress is having her revenge on Batman in the process for what she believes the Dark Knight should be held accountable for which is what Gotham and Arkham has become due to his presence. After Eric returns the Anchoress to her cell, he maintains his positive outlook during a conversation with Mahreen, his employer. He reminds her that Arkham can become a sanctuary again.

Marguerite Bennett delivers an excellent issue in her first comic book as a writer. The small tie-in to Zero Year is interesting and it is a very good issue that stands on its own, which is what makes an annual comic book issue exceptional.

Batman Annual #2 by Marguerite Bennett, Scott Snyder and Wes Craig is available now.

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Infinity #3 Review

Infinity 3 Cover

As many readers know, most stories feature at least two plots – A plot follows B plot to break up the first one in order to keep things, at least in theory, lively. Infinity has two plots but one is (pardon the pun) infinitely weaker than the other and doesn’t keep the story interesting per se but rather the opposite. The first plot sees Thanos taking his army to Earth to reclaim the Infinity Gems (or so we thought) with the Inhumans ostensibly being his biggest obstacle; the second features Captain America and pretty much all of the Avengers heading out to another galaxy to join with numerous alien forces to defeat Marvel’s version of the Borg, known rather blandly as The Builders (who’re ironically all about destroying in this series). This second story is by far the least interesting of the two but it’s this story that takes up almost all of this issue.

It’s also narrated in Hickman’s passive voice so we see scenes happen almost in retrospect or from an ethereal perspective, intangible to get to grips with and therefore difficult to become involved in. Avengers and Allies fight the Builders – ships blow up, aliens die, Captain America looks stern; and then after a few more explosions, suddenly the Allies are winning and the Builders are on the ropes. Ya…awn. Unfortunately by then the issue is pretty much over by the time we get to the cover scene where Black Bolt confronts Thanos and – speaks. If you’re unfamiliar with Black Bolt, he’s a silent character because his speech is so devastating, he can never speak. Well, he speaks in this issue – but then the comic’s over!

I don’t know about you but what sold me on Infinity was that we’d see Thanos but so far he’s barely featured in any of the comics. He’s been hiding in the wings rather than taking a prominent role and this trend continues in Infinity #3 where he peeps out, appears in a few panels, smiles, and then we’re done. I felt kind of cheated when I read this issue because it’s sold on the idea that we’re getting this great scene between Thanos and Black Bolt and what we get instead is a lot of dreary space battles and then the beginning of that scene.

I did like seeing the intergalactic council convening with Captain America basically leading the meeting with his strategies. He’s like the blue version of Batman in the JLA, a powerless human amongst superpowered beings yet somehow the most dominant figure in the group. Readers of the current Guardians of the Galaxy series will recognise the intergalactic council and see some of those characters like King J’son of Spartax (Star-Lord’s dad), which was cool. And once more the art is the best feature of the issue – Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver producing incredible work, especially Opena who draws the bulk of the issue in space. The space battles, alien worlds, it’s all so impressively presented – I’d say this issue is worth it just for the art alone.

But the script is what lets down the comic. Hickman’s story is only half interesting and unfortunately we got the boring half in this issue. The comic ends on a really excellent high point that sets up a (hopefully) great fourth issue, provided we stay away from space and spend more time on Earth, but I have to say now that we’re at the halfway point, Infinity has been a really dull Event. It’s lacked a consistent charge of excitement despite it’s epic scope. Hickman has some really interesting characters to play with but fails to give them scenes to make them pop. The result is a completely flat story that has barely made any impression at all. Thanos invading Earth while the Avengers are light years away – how could this storyline not be interesting? Hickman has somehow found a way. Maybe the second half of the series will be better – maybe – but readers who chose to give this Event a miss seem vindicated so far.

Infinity #3 by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver is out now

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