Star Wars: Thrawn #4 (July 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #4

All of a sudden, Thrawn is about Thrawn again. The issue covers a few years, sometimes emphasizing some of Thrawn’s achievements, sometimes just hopping ahead. It’s just really nice to have Thrawn and sidekick Vanto back. They’re so fun together.

There’s also the analytical stuff, which is what makes Thrawn engaging. Not the action or intrigue–the issue even determines Thrawn’s no good for intrigue–but the plotting and the contemplation. Well, the contemplation when Thrawn gets to quiz Vanto about it.

It’s such a nice return to form, it barely matters the issue doesn’t really go anywhere, just does a bunch of summary to set up the next issue. It’d be even nicer if writer Houser had employed a similar tactic on the previous issue, which lost its leads to world build.

Good art from Ross. He’s able to mix in some silly composition choices–floating heads talking across an action panel–to reasonable success. Thrawn isn’t strict; Ross uses its fluidity to good result here.

So. Perfectly fine stuff. Especially for a licensed tie-in novel adaptation.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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Star Wars: Thrawn #3 (June 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #3

Thrawn really isn’t important this issue of Thrawn. Instead, it tracks the adventures of a young woman from the Outer Sim who ends up on the Imperial homeworld and discovers corruption and manipulation in politics. But she sees an opportunity for advancement, and calls on Thrawn to help her.

For a while, it’s a decent issue. It seems like Houser is building to something. He might be–the issue has a hard cliffhanger–but he’s immediately overdue on it. An indulgence issue. Maybe it’s to the eventual trade paces out well. But in floppy? It’s a little much.

Especially since it’s so confusing. There’s so much dialogue, so much exposition. But then an event will occur and it won’t seem like anything previous discussed. And you reread the previous discussions and it certainly doesn’t seem like they’re talking about planning the immediately occurring events. The issue’s lead–the new woman–keeps a lot to herself.

The book is getting to be a bummer. But Ross’s art is awesome this issue.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Wars: Thrawn #2 (May 2018)

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One of the amusing franchise realties for Star Wars is Imperial officers aren’t bright. The movies established early on only Darth Vader had any brains. Darth Vader, then the Emperor. Otherwise, the Imperials were twits.

So Thrawn, which has a genius alien ascending the ranks of the racist Imperial Navy, has a somewhat peculiar problem. How can writer Houser show Thrawn’s ability to excel amid a group of twits. Even allowing for some intelligence, they’re still a bunch of racist twits. It’s kind of an interesting thing. Houser doesn’t really explore it because you don’t get to acknowledge a problem with a franchise in a licensed title. Well, whatever Star Wars is to Marvel.

It’s a successful issue. Maybe a little less impressive than the first; Houser thinks the big reveal is a lot more dramatic than it turns out to be. Thrawn is still all about Thrawn and his human flunky, Ensign Eli. Eli’s supposedly Thrawn’s handler (and is his assigned aide), but Thrawn’s really two steps ahead. Or ten steps. Whichever. Eli’s not too bright.

Decent art from Ross. Little too much with the computer shading, but decent art. He doesn’t do the action well. Like when there are fistfights and prison breaks and whatever. Those scenes, which are rushed in the script, are confusing on the page. Too little information and not the best panel subjects.

But a fine enough, sci-fi comic. It’s a little Star Wars, but not a lot Star Wars. It’s just the right amount.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Wars: Thrawn #1 (April 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #1

Even through Thrawn gets a fair number of close-ups in Thrawn #1, I finished the issue feeling like he didn’t. Thrawn is a Star Wars comic–one of the new official ones so all those old official ones from Dark Horse starring Thrawn are out of continuity. Though, since they’re all based on Timothy Zahn novels, there’s got to be crossover.

This issue deals with how blue super-intelligent alien Thrawn gets into the Imperial Academy. There’s even a cameo by the Emperor (which is maybe the comic’s only draggy scene). Otherwise, it just moves and moves.

Some of the brevity is thanks to the narrator. It’s not Thrawn, but some Imperial cadet who gets stuck translating and babysitting him. The cadet’s not a jerk, but he’s completely disinterested in his assignment. Writer Jody Houser uses the cadet as the reader’s vantage point, but the cadet’s got more information than he’s sharing in narration. Got to keep it dramatically compelling.

And Houser and artist Luke Ross are able to keep it compelling. Even when the comic hits a second or fourth talking heads sequence. There’s sporadic action, but most of it is just seeing how Thrawn reacts to this new world around him. There’s Star Wars minutiae but the better, not-created-by-George-Lucas minutiae (i.e. the Galactic language being called Basic–it’s immediately self-explanatory).

It’s an exceedingly competent comic book. Good art, good scripting.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Princess Leia 1 (May 2015)

Princess Leia #1

You know, I almost like Princess Leia. Oh, the Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson art is lame cheesecake–though they draw Chewbacca well enough–and Mark Waid’s script isn’t lame cheesecake. Waid’s doing this whole “young Princess Leia” comes into her own thing, really playing into the original Star Wars idea of her being young.

Waid’s dialogue makes Leia feel like a good “Disney Princess” Leia; not so much believable Carrie Fisher would be speaking the lines, which are far too modern and not seventies (or Lucas) enough. And it raises an interesting question about this new Star Wars line of comics.

As these first Disney Star Wars titles start, serving as direct sequel to the original seventies film, with the new film with that cast imminent, can these characters be bigger than their actors?

No. No, they can not.

Leia is still okay. Waid’s engaged, even though Dodson isn’t.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Waid; penciller, Terry Dodson; inker, Rachel Dodson; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Charles Beacham and Jordan D. White; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Wars 1 (March 2015)

Star Wars #1

There’re a lot of politics in the first issue of Star Wars. Some of it is just Jason Aaron trying to make the Star Wars universe makes sense for thinking reader, which is always been a problem. Star Wars is not deep.

And Aaron’s script for Star Wars turns out not to be very deep either. He has the obligatory Darth Vader appearance, some throwback references to the last movie. Marvel’s Star Wars series is set immediately following the original movie, just like that Marvel Star Wars series from the seventies. So why read another one? Is it supposed to be the John Cassaday art?

Hopefully not, because the art is pretty lame. Cassaday doesn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for the spacecraft or the setting and he goes for photo reference on the main cast but gets lazy almost every third panel.

Star Wars is lame, lazy and redundant.

CREDITS

Skywalker Strikes; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, John Cassaday; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Charles Beacham and Jordan D. White; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Star Wars 8 (May 2014)

The Star Wars #8

If the letters pages didn’t swear Rinzler was sticking to the original rough draft, I don’t think I’d believe it. Because this issue–adapted from a script written in the early seventies–has the standard modern action movie third act thing going on. When they attack the Death Star (it’s called something else, I think), Annikin and Leia are still on the station. They’re fighting to get away.

The original movie doesn’t try to overdo the dramatic tension–though Return of the Jedi basically does the aforementioned tension boosting. It reads more like what came later, in the genre created by Star Wars, than Star Wars itself.

There are some interesting twists and turns this issue too. The problem is more the length–Rinzler could have used two more issues for all the stuff he works out in this one–but The Star Wars concludes a somewhat successful curiosity.

Even with all the terrible names.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Star Wars 7 (April 2014)

The Star Wars #7

This issue isn't bad. It's got some of Mayhew's best art on the series–though not his giant Wookie battle, but the moments before those scenes–and Rinzler keeps the action going. But the comparisons to the original films, particularly Return of the Jedi, reveal just how much texture Rinzler has sacrificed to fit this comic into eight issues.

For example, there are these attempts at banter between Annikin and Artwo and they're incredibly forced–it's as though Rinzler remembered at the last minute Artwo could talk here and had to get something in.

The issue is preparation for the Wookie battle, which includes the introduction of Chewbacca and his single dialogue exchange with Han Solo (who's just around to give Luke Starkiller someone to talk exposition with), the huge Wookie battle, kids getting kidnapped, Darth Vader interrogating, Annikan infiltrating the Death Star stand-in.

Too bad Dark Horse couldn't give Rinzler twelve issues.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Star Wars 6 (March 2014)

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After some unimaginative issues, The Star Wars definitely feels a lot more on track this time around. Even with some way too static art from Mayhew. He has lots of problems with Princess Leia react shots. She looks completely nonplussed by the chaos around here; it's not a one time thing, it's every time she's in a panel.

But this issue gives writer Rinzler the chance to utilize that fantastic Star Wars device–divide the cast into separate story lines before bringing them back together. Annikin gets separated from Starkiller and Han Solo as they both run across the Wookie tribes on this jungle planet. Lots of interesting, unexplored threads from the original films, which is something this series apparently needs (and initially promised).

Before I forget–having an older lead in Starkiller, not a guest star, really helps.

It's definitely one of the better issues. The second half's fantastic.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Star Wars 5 (February 2014)

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It’s an all action issue, which is good since Mayhew’s faces are way too static. Everyone is either grimacing or smiling. Maybe he was in a rush. Or maybe doing all the action took up too much time.

The action’s all rather familiar. It’s a mix of sequences from the first Star Wars movie, the spaceport subterfuges and then the Death Star rescue. It’s not bad, just kind of boring. See this version of Han Solo–an alien who looks a lot like the seventies Swamp Thing, only orangish–is about the only standout. And he doesn’t do anything.

Oh, Mayhew drawing Threepio slightly feminine might be interesting, but I think it’s just a coincidence.

One thing I did notice was the lack of strong female presence. The Princess in The Star Wars does about as much as a handbag. Except when she gets mushy.

Still, it’s slick and entertaining.

C+ 

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Star Wars 4 (December 2013)

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Mayhew has some fantastic panels this issue. Unfortunately, Rinzler has the single goofiest moment in the history of George Lucas goofy moments to try to pull off and he can’t do it. Mayhew even makes it worse somehow. He goes with this grand panel and then follows it up with a little normal one, like the event is immediately pedestrian.

It’s too bad, because besides forgetting about Leia as a character for almost the entire thing–Rinzler also downgrades Annikin’s presence too much, but not near as bad–it’s a fairly good issue. Rinzler gets a very strange, almost comedic moment out of the last panel, something very non-Star Wars. This issue might be the first where it feels like something other than an adaptation.

There’s also this ambitious–and not entirely successful–juxtaposition of the Imperials torturing prisoners, but at least Mayhew and Rinzler are trying for something.

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Star Wars 3 (November 2013)

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And once more, The Star Wars is interesting again. Rinzler introduces a lot this issue–the original Lucas treatment must have been a disaster, as even the issue is plotted like a movie serial where a new major character is introduced every four minutes.

Except in this comic, the major character relates to the Star Wars movies already made, so one gets to see how things changed. In some ways, this series reads like a good version of the prequel trilogy, like there’s a low ceiling on how far Lucas can go with sci-fi action without a lot of help.

Mayhew’s art is also rather good for the first half of the issue. The droids show up and he does well with them and the desert setting. Later on, he loses track of them and Princess Leia during a lengthy vehicle action sequence. It’s too confusing.

Still, interesting stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Star Wars 2 (October 2013)

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I wonder why George Lucas went ahead and decided not to have a main–heroic–character who tries to force himself on every female character he encounters. If you’ve wanted to see Annikin Starkiller punch out Princess Leia, here’s the comic for you.

That summary is a bit of a low blow but Annikin really is the dumbest part of The Star Wars. Rinzler doesn’t know where to fit him into the story (probably because he just doesn’t fit) and, otherwise, it’s a rather decent comic book.

Once again, it reads like a mix of the original and the prequels, only without the stupid toy stuff. R2D2 and C3P0 show up–with R2 speaking in English, which is funny–and they have their own subplot getting off the Death Star.

Rinzler still can’t figure out how to do a cliffhanger in a comic.

Mayhew’s somewhat static but good.

It’s fine.

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Star Wars 1 (September 2013)

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I went into The Star Wars expecting nothing. It’s Dark Horse’s adaptation of George Lucas’s original Star Wars script, with the sillier character names and less character twists, but it’s also pretty engaging stuff. Some of it’s a curiosity, seeing how things changed, but it works out to be perfectly acceptable sci-fi.

It feels less like the original Star Wars and more like a smarter version of The Phantom Empire–except they kill off the annoying kid early on. Have to make the reader care as soon as possible, after all.

J.W. Rinzler’s sequential adaptation of a film script is surprisingly good. The comic moves right along; there’s a lot of expository dialogue, way too many characters introduced, but it’s digestible enough. Rinzler’s enthusiastic, which helps a lot.

Mike Mayhew’s art style is too static for action, but it’s fine.

I can’t wait for the next one. I’m shocked.

CREDITS

Writer, J.W. Rinzler; artist, Mike Mayhew; colorist, Rain Beredo; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Star Wars 1 (January 2013)

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During the first scene, with Luke Skywalker whining, I thought Brian Wood had figured a good way to do Star Wars. It’s a concept book–the comic is just a sequel to the original movie and avoiding the things fans have seen or read since. In other words, it’s the original Marvel Star Wars comic.

It’s also lame.

Luke’s not the worst characterization though. Wood saves that honor for Princess Leia. It’s impossible to imagine Carrie Fisher saying any of the lines. Han Solo’s weak too, but nowhere near as bad as Leia.

The comic might at least move if it weren’t for Wood’s exposition rectangles. He explains not just character’s emotions and motivations, but recounts scenes he’s just shown.

Carlos D’Anda’s art feels vaguely cartoon and manga influenced; neither seem appropriate.

It’s not a terrible comic, just a pointless one without any redeeming moments.

Inane’s probably the appropriate word.

CREDITS

In the Shadow of Yavin, Part One of Three; writer, Brian Wood; artist, Carlos D’Anda; colorist, Gabe Eltaeb; letterer, Michael Heisler; editors, Freddye Lins and Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 6 (April 1999)

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The series ends with some undeniable problems–the Romeo and Juliet aspect is idiotic–but Richardson and Stradley manage to reign in their big conspiracy storyline.

They don’t resolve some of their threads, which is both a good and bad decision. It’s good because there’s not enough room for the resolution, but bad because they sort of promised it for the first half of the series.

There’s a lot of content to this issue–it’s not just a wrap-up. The wrap-up is saved for the last three pages or so… and it isn’t enough. This issue’s problems with pacing sort of reveal the series’s problems with it in general.

Gulacy is rushed here. He can’t make it all fit. It’s the least impressive art on the entire series, though there are some good space battles at the open.

The series nearly succeeds, overcoming a few major story problems.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 5 (March 1999)

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It’s a romance now? Seriously? Wow.

After a solid first half, Richardson and Stradley are running off the rails. They set up a convoluted set of schemes and subterfuges and are now rapidly resolving them. And what solves them all? Sworn enemies kissing.

But the issue has a bunch of great Gulacy sci-fi action so it’s impossible not to enjoy it. There’s spaceship battles, there’s blaster fights, it goes on and on. Even the talking heads stuff is great; Gulacy’s got lots of Star Wars technology around to draw.

But the writing has just gone off the deep end. The writers introduce a major new character this issue (more important than any other new character in Council of Blood actually) and reveal he’s been working behind the scenes the whole series.

It’s a complete mess. It’s like Richardson and Stradley changed their minds about the series’s plot halfway through.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 4 (February 1999)

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I’m not sure it’s possible this issue could have a softer cliffhanger. Soft as it may be, it does signal a change in Council of Blood… it’s finally a sequel to Crimson Empire.

Until this issue, Richardson and Stradley have been avoiding what they promised at the finish of the first series. While the previous issues touched on it, they more concentrated on the overall Dark Horse Star Wars universe. This issue brings Sinn (I finally remember her dumb name) and the Imperial Guard together.

And it does so on a strange planet with stranger aliens and Gulacy has a great time with all of it. There’s a lot of action this issue; Gulacy has to condense approximately twelve action panels to one page.

It’s a packed issue.

Sadly, bringing back the first series’s character relationship, the writers start to stumble. It’s an okay comic, but the characters are nonsensical.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 3 (January 1999)

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Interesting. The series is now half done and Richardson and Stradley haven’t shown much of their hand yet, as far as future events go. Instead, they’re still raveling the narrative. The reader gets to be a little ahead of the characters, but since there’s still no protagonist, it doesn’t hurt the comic.

This issue spends most of its time going over the business practices of the Hutt character. They’re sensational, which makes them engaging, and the writers hint just enough at how everything connects to make it intriguing.

There’s also some more business with the Imperials, with the writers identifying the villains among the villains.

It’s effective. It even makes one (stupidly) consider reading more Star Wars comics.

Nice art from Gulacy and Emberlin. Gulacy’s got some great page compositions to mix action and dramatics. He also takes the time to indulge his humorous side.

It’s a very strong issue.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 2 (December 1998)

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Once again, there’s the item you can tell Gulacy just went gloriously overboard with. This time, it’s one of the squid faced aliens–but as a Hutt dancing girl. Emberlin inks are especially good; there are some great alien worlds panels in the first few pages.

Richardson and Stradley are slowly developing the overall story. The dialogue is good, the characters are all good. The issue passes without many hiccups, but it also passes without a real character. Crimson Empire II is apparently a licensed Star Wars comic first and a narrative second.

In fact, this issue is still setup for whatever’s going to come, big and small. The previous issue introduced two general story lines. This one expands it out to three or more. The writers are enthusiastic about whatever they have planned and it helps.

It’s still too soon to decide on the series, but the issue’s good.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 1 (November 1998)

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Once again, Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley are deliberate in their setup. Council of Blood has some fight scenes–well, some violent acts without real bloodshed (just the threat of it)–and some space stuff, but it’s all about the politics.

Just from this issue, it’s clear the dialogue’s better than the first series, at least for the politicians. While the comic obviously owes a lot to Star Wars–specifically Jedi–it’s hard not to see some Dune comparisons too.

I’m not sure how it reads to regular Dark Horse Star Wars readers, but it’s incomprehensible without reading the first series. Sadly, the Western flavor to the story isn’t back–there’s way too much planet-trotting–but Richardson and Stradley have a good tone.

Paul Gulacy (inked by Randy Emberlin) does fairly well. Emberlin’s a little thick for Gulacy. Gulacy’s best work is in the little details.

Blood starts fine.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire 6 (May 1998)

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Why couldn’t they have just done it as a Western? It would have been perfect.

The final issue of Crimson Empire has the best and worst from the series. The woman–her name is Sinn, which is stupid so I probably forced myself to ignore it–declares to the “holy stars” she’ll hunt down the main guy because it turns out he’s kind of a bad guy. Now, “holy stars” (Star Wars was always a little areligious, wasn’t it?) aside, it’s terrible writing from Stradley and Richardson. Sad the series ends on a bad note writing-wise.

Luckily, Gulacy does fine. His art’s really complex this issue. There are these side scenes to an issue long fight scene, so Gulacy’s got to concentrate on supporting cast while fighting goes on in the background. There’s lots to track; the reader has to pay attention.

Except for bad writing, it ends well.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire 5 (April 1998)

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This issue, if I’m adding right, takes place over a couple hours. Maybe the reason Star Wars comics aren’t taken seriously is because in those two hours, not only is a space battle determined, but there’s also time for the woman and her sidekick to fly to an entirely different solar system to save the protagonist.

The protagonist doesn’t get any lines this issue, which is too bad, but does fit in with the Crimson Empire is a Western feel. It’s unfortunate Gulacy and Richardson didn’t cultivate that genre and reign in the story. Seriously, the leaps in logic (I mean, the Star Wars movies establish how long space travel takes) might be what keeps this franchise down.

Russell doesn’t ink Gulacy too harshly; it’s nice to see the Gulacy eyes return this issue. There’s a lot of good art and the battle scenes are all very well-paced visually.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire 4 (March 1998)

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This issue concentrates on the Rebels, specifically the woman. I can’t remember her name though. Stradley and Richardson repeat all the other names so much, she and her lizard-man sidekick are sort of nameless. I’m sure they say it a few times throughout… just didn’t make any impression.

There’s a lot of excellent Gulacy composition here. He might not be spending as much time on his art as he did in the eighties, but the panel design is still there.

Gulacy’s art gets the issue through. There’s really not much going on, just the woman being tortured and giving information in a scene a little too reminiscent of the first Star Wars. Stradley and Richardson might have considered it homage but it’s really quite lazy.

While the issue’s fine, it could have easily been half the length. There’s a lot of padding. Lots of filler for a bridging issue.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire 3 (February 1998)

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From the second panel, it’s clear something off with the art. Either Gulacy hurried through faces and let Russell finish or Russell got eager and got rid of all Gulacy’s rounded lines. The former would just be unfortunate… the latter would just piss me off. This issue doesn’t feel like Gulacy until about halfway, which is too long.

Even though very little happens–there’s a battle scene, some talking among good guys, a flashback, bad guys talking–it’s probably the best issue of Crimson Empire so far. Richardson and Stradley aren’t being coy about their protagonist anymore and, in fact, reveal him to be a rather complex character.

Hopefully some of these complexities will have room to play out. There’s also a lot with the Imperials infighting and politicking, which is amusing enough (but probably the worst scenes as they look so silly).

Art problems aside, it’s getting rather entertaining.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire 2 (January 1998)

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For some of this issue, the Gulacy sci-fi art makes one forget it’s a Star Wars comic and imagine it’s just a Gulacy (with Doug Moench) comic. Then Richardson and Stradley have some awful dialogue from the big villain and the illusion comes crashing down.

It’s like the comic can get away with bad dialogue because Star Wars got away with it. But there’s a lot more of it here, as the bad guys bicker with each other.

Still, the story’s compelling enough the dialogue doesn’t matter. Oddly, the good guys’ dialogue is fine. It’s just the insidious declarative statements.

By the end, when the bad guys attack, Gulacy nicely gives the art a cinematic pace.

The story’s somewhat predictable, save a couple details, but with the action scenes sold it’d be hard to not be enjoying it. It’s a Western set in Star Wars land. Lots of fun.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire 1 (December 1997)

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Crimson Empire answers the burning question… what’s with the guys in red from Return of the Jedi. The ones who had fabric capes on the action figures.

Of course, it’s mostly just backdrop for the story of a fugitive. It probably could fit a Civil War story too. A stranger comes to town, kicks butt, has to hide with possibly duplicitous newfound friends. Meanwhile there’s a big villain out to get him, along with all the little ones.

But the real attraction so far is Paul Gulacy’s art. Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley’s script is fine, it’s just not compelling on its own. But Gulacy always does interesting sci-fi, even when he’s working from existing designs, and Crimson is no different.

The action scenes are a little too static, but the vistas are great. P. Craig Russell inks Gulacy well.

It’s a decent comic, with a lot of possibilities.

Dark Horse Presents Annual 2000 (June 2000)

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It’s the “all female” issue… without a single female creator working on the book.

The best is in the Buffy story, when they turn rape prevention into a pun.

The Buffy story is the worst–Fassbender and Pascoe’s writing is, tasteless jokes aside, awful. Their dialogue is weak as is their plotting. Richards and Pimentel’s art isn’t awful.

Motter writes an indistinct Star Wars. But Owens’s artwork on it is fabulous.

The Xena story, from Edginton, Deodato and Nelson, is probably the best. Though Deodato’s photo referencing is annoying and ineffective. Edginton writes funny dialogue and comes up with solid plot developments.

Kennedy’s Ghost story isn’t bad. Brunner’s artwork varies. He has some good panels and some weak ones. Kennedy’s able to manage a good pace with a lot of details.

The one from David and Henry–Spyboy–is amusing. It’s breezy action; David gets in a good closing joke.

CREDITS

Star Wars, Aurra’s Song; story by Dean Motter; art by Isaac Buckminster Owens; lettering by Steve Dutro. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Take Back the Night; story by Tom Fassbender and Jim Pascoe; pencils by Cliff Richards; inks by Joe Pimentel; lettering by Clem Robins; edited by Scott Allie. Xena: Warrior Princess, Atlas Shrugged; story by Ian Edginton; pencils by Mike Deodato; inks by Neil Nelson; lettering by Dutro. Ghost, Haunted Past; story by Mike Kennedy; art by Chris Bruner; lettering by Robins. Spyboy, Blowing Your Cookies; story by Peter David; art by Mark Henry; lettering by Chris Chalenor. Edited by Randy Stradley and Philip Simon.

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1999 (August 1999)

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It’s a “theme” annual—characters in their youths.

It opens with Wagner, Chin and Wong on Xena. The art’s a little rough, but Wagner’s writing is solid.

Mignola’s Hellboy is adorable (as young Hellboy stories tend to be). It’s a cute couple pages.

Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo drags. It’s way too didactic. Sakai’s art some okay moments and some not okay ones.

Shockingly, the Ghost story is good. Zanier and Mariano’s artwork is excellent and Kennedy’s writing isn’t bad. It’s confusing for a new reader, but quite decent.

This issue also has the first Groo I’ve read. Though Aragones’s art sometimes gets a little too dense, he and Evanier write a fine story.

Chadwick’s Concrete story is lame. It’s maybe the worst writing I’ve read from Chadwick.

Norwood’s Star Wars thing bores. Surprisingly weak art from him too.

The finish is Geary’s take on The Mask. Some decent art, but pointless.

CREDITS

Xena: Warrior Princess, The Worm; story by John Wagner; pencils by Joyce Chin; inks by Walden Wong; lettering by John Workman; co-edited by Scott Allie and Dave Land. Hellboy, Pancakes; story and art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Pat Brosseau; co-edited by Allie. Usagi Yojimbo, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Tournament; story, art and lettering by Stan Sakai. Ghost, My Sister’s Keeper; story by Mike Kennedy; art by Christian Zanier and Marvin Mariano; lettering by Steve Haynie. Groo, Groo for Sale; story by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier; art by Aragones; lettering by Sakai; co-edited by Allie. Concrete, Orange Glow; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Star Wars, Walkabout; story and pencils by Phill Norwood; inks by Shannon Denton; lettering by Amador Cisneros. The Mask, Angry Young Mask; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Edited by Randy Stradley, Adam Gallardo and Chris Haberman.

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