Elstree 1976 Written by Jon Spira Directed by Jon Spira …
Reuniting the creative team of DC Comics’ acclaimed Starman series for the first time in decades, and sold with the promise of revealing the story behind Threepio’s one red arm in The Force Awakens, this issue was delayed numerous times (it was originally intended to be published shortly before the film’s release, not months after) due to a long script approval process from LucasFilm (according to Harris, he and Robinson didn’t receive final approval until about a week before the issue’s first solicited release date). As a result, expectations for this issue grew to possible unreasonable proportions: no story could possibly live up to the hype generated just by virtue of its constant rescheduling.
The oft-tumultuous publication history of this series ends with this issue, the series’ final. Originally announced as six issue miniseries, it was promoted to ongoing before the first issue went on sale. Then, when issue #12 was solicited last December, it became the first casualty of Marvel’s new Star Wars line (sort of, because again, it technically was conceived as finite series to begin with). At any rate, it’s not really a surprise; despite strong sales relative to many other mainstream Marvel and DC series, the back half of the series were some of the lowest-selling issues of any of Star Wars books, and quality-wise, the book always seemed to land thoroughly in the middle of the pack, rarely awful but just as rarely never excellent, either.
Like Darth Vader #16, this issue picks up on threads left over from “Vader Down”, helping make that crossover feel more like a part of the overall narrative and not just a one-off stunt. It also features Sana Starros, the character introduced as Han’s wife in the series’ second story arc, which also helps add to the impression that these issues are part of a larger whole, and not just a series of self-contained stories.
January 2016 marked the one year anniversary of Marvel’s new Star Wars line, launched in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm and the transfer of the comic book license to Disney’s in-house comic book company. In that year, Marvel has churned out comics on a level that is somehow both restrained and filled with gusto, in that, they released a ton of Star Wars comics in that first year, but at the same time, it would have surprised nobody if they’d released a whole lot more. The quality level of those comics, in three ongoing series (Star Wars, Darth Vader and Kanan: The Last Padawan) and five limited series (Princess Leia, Lando, Shattered Empire, Chewbacca, and one issue of Obi-Wan Kenobi & Anakin Skywalker) has remained remarkably consistent, maintaining a level of above average quality alongside some top notch issues and a (surprisingly) few out-and-out stinkers. Looking back over that first year, here are the ten best moments from across the line, the moments that made reading Star Wars comics this last year worthwhile.
Like most of the “Vader Down” crossover, Star Wars #14 is filled with plenty of epic moments, like BT taking out a squad of stormtroopers with a flamethrower, every time Darth Vader gets a line, or the fact that R2D2 has some kind of poison antidote needle in his chassis. And Jason Aaron makes these moments cohere into some kind of a whole with the shared Obi Wan Force Ghost voice for Luke and Vader. (For all of its fun, the Han and Chewbacca vs. Krrsantan plot is just filler in the larger scheme of things.) Add slightly improved art from Deodato and Martin, and the “Vader Down” finale can’t come soon enough. (It comes out today as well and will be quite the family affair.)
Obi Wan and Anakin #1 boasts some beautiful setting work and planet designs from Marco Checchetto although his faces are inconsistent, especially with Anakin and another padawan, who looks like a more cartoonish version of Mace Windu. Charles Soule gives his lead character distinct voices and a tense kind of camaraderie as they leap and explore this supposed abandoned planet. However, his plot runs out of steam in the last third of the book, which seems like the first few minutes of an away mission in Star Trek. So despite its interesting conversations about ethics and politics, Obi Wan and Anakin #1 ends being a bit of a mixed bag as far as plot and art and definitely has room for improvement.
Continuing the “Vader Down” crossover, Darth Vader #14 continues the incremental pacing, but does manage to widen the scope of the story as the end draws near. Picking up where the previous highly entertaining chapter left off, with Luke rescued from Vader’s associates by Han, Chewbacca and Artoo while Leia finds herself face-to-face, alone, with Darth Vader, this issue manages to resolve the Leia cliffhanger in a mostly satisfying way, using that widening of the narrative to both resolve the immediate cliffhanger and provide an interesting look at Leia’s character.
Marvel’s Star Wars comic, featuring the continuing adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, etc. in the time following A New Hope and before The Empire Strikes Back, is clearly positioned as the flagship series of the company’s line of Star Wars ongoing, limited and one shot series. Yet for all the top-notch artists that have worked on the series and exciting moments that have unfolded in its pages, it has consistently played second fiddle in terms of pure quality to its sister series, Darth Vader. Comic books starring super-villains are routinely difficult to pull off, but in the fourteen issues released in 2015, Darth Vader has stood head and shoulders above the rest of the line. Here, then, are five reasons it is the best of Marvel’s Star Wars books.
Star Wars Tales is a quarterly anthology series published by Dark Horse from 1999 to 2005. Each issue was 64 pages long and contained a variety stories, in both number, length, content, and tone. Most stories were considered non-canonical “Infinities” stories unless canonized elsewhere (though of course, now all such stories are deemed non-canonical “legends”). In the course of its six year run, Star Wars Tales featured stories from dozens of different creators, covering numerous facets of the Star Wars universe, from serious, thoughtful tales to comedic ones to straight-up fan-demanded “what if?” type stories. Here are ten of the best, entertaining in their own right but also representative of the breadth of content available in this series