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The Pull List: STAR WARS EDITION

The new batch of Star Wars comic books released by Marvel has received critical acclaim and for very good reason.

There are four titles telling different stories with some of the most popular creators in the industry injecting the true essence of the Force into these colorful pages. The most intriguing part about this endeavor is that everything we read from here on end, whether it’s in novel or comic book form, is officially cannon. This will give fans the opportunity to fill in some of the blanks between Episode IV and Episode V while taking a detour into the Clone Wars era.

Consider this your Rebel Transport to the latest issues of Star Wars comic books.

Princess Leia #2
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

Mark Waid crafts an interesting tale of resolve and survival as it is a time for celebration on Yavin 4.

The Death Star has been destroyed, Luke and Han have been awarded their medals, but Princess Leia quickly brushes off the pomp and circumstance to focus on her next objective: to search the galaxy for any and all survivors of Alderaan.

Waid seamlessly adds more depth to a character that we all thought we knew by highlighting Leia’s inner strength as a leader, even if it comes at the expense of her reputation, as her fellow Rebels feel she is cold and callous for not mourning the destruction of her home world.

In this issue, Leia, her copilot Evaan, and R2-D2 head to Naboo in order to seek out anyone from Alderaan who happened to be off world at the time of its explosion. Just hearing the words “Leia” and “Naboo” in the same sentence conjures up all sorts or intrigue and Waid doesn’t disappoint one iota.

Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson’s illustrations augment the emotional complexity of the story with a few key moments including one where Leia stumbles upon a beautiful mural and feels a strong connection. We are also treated to flashbacks of Leia’s childhood where we get a glimpse of her evolution from the child she was to the princess she is becoming.

One of the shining examples of Mark Waid’s storytelling is his ability to give every character a purpose beyond their means. R2-D2 doesn’t just hack into computer terminals, he is a robotic bad ass who is just as loyal to Leia and won’t let anything happen to her, as long as he can help it. Evaan is the kind of character that we are unsure of. She acts like she hates Leia, but she is bound by honor and duty to stand by the side of the Princess.

Speaking of the term Princess, I think the biggest takeaway from a character perspective is how Leia looks at herself during this time period. Leia considers herself a soldier in the Rebel Alliance, but everyone treats her as this fragile piece of royalty that needs to be preserved. It’s a struggle that Leia has difficulty with, but she is able to put those feelings aside when the time comes to deal with Imperial entanglements.

This is ultimately the foundation of this series as Princess Leia is the essence of Star Wars through and through.

Star Wars: Kanan – The Last Padawan #1
Writer: Greg Weisman
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: David Curiel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

The familiar yellow crawl opens up this introduction to one of the newest characters in the Star Wars franchise, Kanan. While this book is a great companion piece if you watch the Disney XD animated series, Rebels, you don’t need to know anything about the show in order to enjoy the story Greg Weisman has put together.

However, if you have read the first canon novel A New Dawn, you learn nothing new about Kanan’s past besides that he was sitting with two clone troopers by a campfire right before Order 66.

If you didn’t read the novel, then this is the place to start with a story that sends us back to fifteen years as Kannan reminisces about the day his life changes forever.

Kannan was a very inquisitive child whose questions felt like a challenge to some, but an opportunity to teach for others.

Enter Jedi Master, Depa Billaba, who has drawn a liking to young Kannan as Weisman firmly establishes their teacher, student relationship in under twenty four pages. Most people already know how this ends for Billaba so it was nice to see the focus on the character dynamic as opposed to the central story.

The artwork was serviceable, but very rigid at times. The coloring brings a lot of energy to the pages and highlights different aspects of the visual landscape.

Overall, The Last Padawan serves as an excellent launching point into the life and times of Kanan Jarrus. While this isn’t as strong of a debut as Star Wars, Darth Vader, or Princess Leia, I think this six issue mini-series will either sink or swim with direction of Greg Weiseman. He has a firm understanding of the Clone Wars era and makes it his own while developing interesting characters, no matter how little time we have with them.

Darth Vader #4
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

To say that Darth Vader has fallen out of favor with Emperor Palpatine would be an understatement.  The old wrinkly Lord of the Sith talks down to his apprentice in a manner that would get most people force choked into oblivion. However, Vader is playing it cool for now, and he needs to.

The Emperor has hired a mysterious bounty hunter for a secret mission and is keeping Vader out of the loop. Vader uses some of his own resources and comes to the conclusion that he needs to build a secret army to combat whatever might come his way.

In this issue, Kieron Gillen brings Darth Vader back to Geonosis where he is looking to reactivate a battle droid factory in order to create his army.

Now, the robots who said “Roger. Roger” throughout the prequels doesn’t seem to be the best idea Vader has ever had.

However, for the sake of the story where those droids did some serious damage in the Clone Wars, we can pretend it is a good idea. Plus, Vader is on the outs with Palpatine and this could be an act of desperation, as it the quickest way to create an army in record time.

Gillen also introduces some new characters who aid Vader in his quest for power and they shine on multiple occasions. Archaeologist Dr. Aphra is a spunky female Indiana Jones in space who helps Vader acquire items that were thought to have been lost forever. I was worried at first that she would only serve as comic relief, but she holds up her end of the bargain while consistently coming within an eyelash of crossing the line with Vader.

We also have the droid duo of Triple Zero and BT-1, who are a homicidal version of R2-D2 and C-3P0. Salvador Larroca does a great job of making their presence felt as their likeness to the lovable counterparts gives the reader a false sense of security. Then BAM! BT-1 ejects a bazooka out of his top compartment and cleans house without a second thought.

Most of the past Star Wars comic books did a great job of accentuating the fact that Vader is not to be trifled with. However, this time, Vader’s back is against the wall and it kind of feels as if he is on the run. Gillen puts Vader’s ruthlessness on full display when he makes a unexpected discovery in the catacombs of Geonosis. You think he would show a little leniency given his current predicament but who are we kidding? Vader takes out his lightsaber and goes to work and Edgar Delgado makes the imagery stand out with his detailed coloring.

This series is becoming one of my personal favorites. Darth Vader is an iconic character in pop culture and Kieron Gillen along with the rest of the creative team have not only produced a work that makes you say “This is Star Wars!”, but also makes the reader feel that this is the Darth Vader they have paid to see.

Star Wars #3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

In the first two issues, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie attempt to destroy the Empire’s largest weapons factory.

They get in, they seemingly get out, until they discover slaves being held captive and decide to free them which alerts the Empire to their presence.

Leia and Han make a break for it while Luke and Vader have a brief confrontation where the young Skywalker is hilariously outmatched and probably would have been killed until Vader noticed a certain lightsaber being wielded against him.

Luke escapes and now everyone is trying to make it out alive.

In this issue, Jason Aaron goes big as John Cassaday complements the narrative with action, action, and more action.

One of the best images in the book comes when a plethora of AT-ST walkers fire upon an AT-AT that has been hijacked by Han and Leia. It looks grim for our favorite galactic couple, but they somehow manage to stand tall. Of course, Darth Vader is not amused with his troops apparent lack of progress so he takes out his lightsaber and chops off the legs of the AT-AT. Han’s reaction of “Geez, doesn’t this guy ever die?” as they go timber to the ground is priceless.

The conclusion of the book brings us back to Tatooine as it is revealed that Obi-Wan Kenobi has left something in a container for Luke in his home. This is interesting on a number of levels because how can something of so importance be implemented to the point where it has a lasting impression on the comics and beyond.

Jason Aaron and John Cassaday have inspired a lot of confidence with just three issues into the series. They totally get it, and are able to balance the nostalgia of what we know and love while introducing us to new elements that fit like a glove.

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