Adaptive Panels Presents… Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets

(Sorry this is late everyone, I have been seriously burnt out this week. Hopefully by next week I’ll be out of this slump and back to my regular schedule.)

Shadows and Secrets does two things I never imagined would work in a Star Wars story: One, it riffs on Sherlock Holmes of all things; and two, it casts Darth Vader as Doctor Watson.

I’m making it sound like a parody, despite the scenario being played completely straight, and yet it works. It’s bizarre, but it works, and goes to show that a storyline genuinely comfortable with itself can make just about anything engaging, even making Darth Vader of all characters in many ways a sidekick in his own series. Okay, in truth it’s not quite as simple as that, but we’re still in very new territory. While Vader in a way has always been a subordinate (he is the Emperor’s apprentice and is technically outranked by most of the Imperial high command), throughout the Star Wars films he is easily the most threatening presence of any room he’s in, and acts like he knows it. He’s not the kind of character I expect to respect anyone as his equal, be they enemy or ally; and yet, on both counts, Shadows and Secrets proves me wrong.

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Overview


Shadows and Secrets, naturally, has a lot of twists and turns to unpack in its plot. As a result, I may be skimming over a lot of it here.

After busting another crime syndicate in the Outer Rim (because there can never be too many of those), Vader confiscates a mother-load of Imperial credits, and makes arrangements for them to be delivered to Grand General Tagge. However, he then secretly hires a band of mercenaries through Doctor Aphra to steal the shipment while in transit, making the raid look like an accidental collision in an asteroid belt. HOWEVER, he then has Aphra fake most of the shipment getting lost in the vacuum of space during the raid, so he only has to pay the mercenaries a tiny fraction of the original take, and keeps the rest for himself to finance his continued scheming.

I wonder what part of Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi training covered con-artistry?

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Reporting back to Tagge, a spanner is thrown in Vader’s plans when he is ordered, not to track down Luke as he had hoped, but to instead to investigate his own heist, Tagge’s intelligence having apparently seen through the ruse. To make matters worse, the man perceptive enough to suspect foul play, Inspector Thanoth, is assigned as Vader’s new minder. With an intellect to match, or possibly even exceed Vader’s, Thanoth proves to be far more of an obstacle to the Sith Lord’s plans than the last escort he was saddled with. Now Vader must find a way to succeed on three opposing fronts. He must find a way to succeed in his mission in order to score points with Tagge against the candidates to replace him, all the while removing any evidence that could implicate him from under Thanoth’s nose. Finally, he must also find a way of sabotaging his competition, as they target both the Rebellion and Luke. It’s a dilemma that pushes Vader’s cunning to the limit, and makes anyone close enough to him to be an asset also a potential liability. It isn’t long before Thanoth is hot on the trail of Doctor Aphra, whom Vader has sent to learn more about Luke and his whereabouts. Will loyalty to Darth Vader end up costing Aphra her life as surely as betraying him would?


Analysis

While the whole ‘Vader gets a supervisor’ thing in the previous book was such a short and ultimately meaningless detour I’m honestly not sure why they even bothered, here it’s the main thrust of the narrative, and so it’s incredibly fortunate that it works. It’s not quite perfect. There are a couple of occasions where Vader should come off as looking guilty as hell but Thanoth lets it slide. However, it’s also entirely possible that he’s playing a longer game, because hey, if your mission is to prove Darth Vader guilty of treason to the Empire, you probably don’t want to make a move unless you’re going to catch him red-handed. That’s what makes the relationship between these two characters fascinating. They’re both playing games with each-other to an extent the audience cannot be entirely sure of, and yet we know is probably going to end badly for at least one of them. Yet, throughout it all there’s a genuine undercurrent of respect. You actually get the sense that, even though he is an adversary, Vader genuinely likes this guy, as much as Darth Vader is capable of ‘liking’ anyone. Thanoth in turn is fond of the manner in which Vader conducts himself. This culminates in a moment where Vader has a chance to use Thanoth as a scapegoat in front of Tagge, perhaps ridding himself of this most stubborn obstacle, but chooses not to take it. Is he trying to get Thanoth on his side? Is he sending him a message that he’s got nothing to hide? Is it simply not how Vader operates to try and vanquish his opponents in a debrief rather than on a battlefield? Whatever the answer, it’s clear that both of these characters enrich each-other, and I’m eager to see more of their dynamic.

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Elsewhere, Aphra and the rest of Vader’s team that were introduced last time get somewhat of the short end of the stick. They’re still entertaining (Triple-Zero and Beetee in particular), they just for my mind don’t get enough to do. Aphra’s investigation doesn’t end up fielding anything that Vader doesn’t already know. Along the way, we get some back-story on her and are shown a little more about her nature, but to be honest I could have done with not knowing. The book even comments on itself that her ‘sob-story’ is nothing new, but the fact remains that her personality is more interesting if the audience is left to guess the reasons behind it.

I don’t want to nit-pick too much, but I can’t deny it’s easier to point out elements that fall short versus those that don’t, so as a final point I really wish Marvel, when given a whole galaxy to explore, wouldn’t take me to quite so many underground bars and gambling dens. I get it guys, the criminal underbelly of the Star Wars universe is a huge part of its law, many of its most compelling characters are scoundrels of one brand or another and a story like this in particular is ripe to exploit that. All that said, it is starting to get a little stale. You keep taking me to ‘new’ locales and then not showing me anything I haven’t seen before. A prime example here is when the various parties converge at a galactic holiday resort. When I saw that I was excited, because its something I’ve never seen the likes of in Star Wars before. However, all I ended up seeing inside was more shady drinking establishments and holochess tables. Really? Come on! You couldn’t have used your imaginations just a little bit? Is Darth Vader not allowed to go to the beach even once!


Conclusion

Despite a dew hiccups, Shadows and Secrets is an engaging and genuinely surprising read, and probably the best this series has to offer so far. Don’t hesitate to get your hands on it.

Adaptive Panels Presents… Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol.1: Vader

Hey, with a subtitle that creative you know it’s good…

In all seriousness, yes, Darth Vader Vol. 1 is good, living up to the bar of quality set thus far by this Marvel series. It’s better than Skywalker Strikes, but in many ways presents me with the same problem.  In the way I’ve mentioned before that nobody needs me to tell them that Star Wars is good, that goes double for a story entirely focused on Darth Vader. I mean, come on! It’s Darth Vader, perhaps the greatest cinematic villain ever created, and the benchmark to which all others have, and will, be compared. There exist no adjectives here, he’s replaced them! I genuinely cannot think of the words to describe to a complete Star Wars virgin why this character has become perhaps the most iconic in all of popular culture. Fortunately, I don’t need to, because unless you just came out of a coma you’ve been in since 1966, you already know!

And just in case you really have just come out of a 50 year coma, and for some reason my ramblings are the first thing you’ve tuned into, here are some things you should know: This thing you’re on right now is called The Internet, and it’s great… most of the time; we landed on the moon, that was fun; the Berlin wall came down; and, what else? Oh yeah, Star Wars was awesome and Darth Vader was the most awesome thing about it!

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So yes, if my babbling didn’t tip you off, I’m finding it kind of difficult to expand on simply telling you that Vader doesn’t disappoint the legacy of its namesake. I reckon about tw-no, three shots of whiskey should do it. I’ll just be a moment…

Overview


Vader’s story-line runs roughly in parallel to the events of Skywalker Strikes, and after the destruction of both the Death Star and Cymoon 1, the Sith Lord appears to be on something of a losing streak. The Dark Side does not forgive failure, and so Vader is called back to Coruscant to answer to the Emperor. After making it very clear that his apprentice is on thin ice, Palpatine puts Vader under the orders of Grand General Tagge, the new supreme commander of Imperial forces, and sends him off on a mission to re-secure the Empire’s supply lines. Vader, however, suspects that his new duty is meant to get him out of the way, so Palpatine can replace him, and he’s not so far under his Emperor’s thumb to take that lying down.

Before he can do anything about it though, Vader must escape from under Tagge’s control. Tagge proves to be a far less accommodating boss than Tarkin, considering both the Death Star and Vader himself to be vanity projects when next to increasing the strength of the fleet. He assigns a young officer to tail Vader and evaluate his every move, on a mission to take out a pirate space station, which Vader suspects is getting intelligence from an Imperial mole. Vader accomplishes his task; and all too conveniently uncovers Tagge’s officer as the mole, freeing him up to pursue his own agenda.

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Next, Vader starts building a small team from outside Imperial ranks, to avoid any information getting back to the Emperor. He recruits Triple-Zero and BT-1, a pair of droids who operate as a psychotic reflection of C3PO and R2D2, as well as doctor Aphra, a rogue archaeologist with an… appreciation for violent people and droids. They journey to Geonosis to recover a company of old battle droids from the Clone War, and then on to a station, built into the carcass of a live space-whale on the edge of the galaxy (and that’s a sentence I never thought I’d say), where Vader believes he will find and put an end to his replacement.

However, when they arrive, Vader discovers Palpatine has been on to him this whole time, and allowed him to make his way to the station in order to begin a set of trials against other cybernetically enhanced warriors, to prove he’s worthy of retaining his place as the Emperor’s right hand.

Analysis


If there’s a big problem with Vader then it’s a common one found in most arc-beginning books, in that it feels like mostly set-up while providing very little pay-off. What action is here is just fine, but the final brawl the book spends all its time building up to isn’t actually final at all, and none of Vader’s opponents spend enough time on the page to really get a handle on whether they’re going to be interesting or not. In any case, if you’re at all familiar with Star Wars, then you know the outcome of this contest must be a forgone conclusion, so it’s hard for me to get invested about any of it. Hopefully the following books will make it worth my time, but for now it’s fortunate that Vader has a lot else going for it.

There’s really no getting around it, Doctor Aphra is the stuff fan-fics are made of. A young, attractive, rogue scientist and adventurer who probably also writes love letters to death row inmates in her spare time meeting Darth Vader? The hormones practically leak out of the page…

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Actually, no. Don’t think about that too much.

To the book’s credit, it doesn’t go so overboard with this that it becomes icky, and jokes aside it’s actually a fascinating dynamic. This is a scenario where the limitations of writing expanded universe fiction are a help rather than a hindrance. Obviously, the relationship between these two characters can’t actually amount to anything, because we already know how Vader’s story ends. The comic does an excellent job of letting Vader’s moments of silence, and the fixed expression of his mask, do the work, allowing the reader to, well, read into them. However, regardless of whether or not Aphra really is stirring the ghost of something human in him, he’s not going to change, and if he did she probably wouldn’t like him as much. These characters are on an inherently destructive collision course, and they both know it… and they’re both just crazy enough to roll with it.

Another interesting relationship is that of Vader and Palpatine. In the original Star Wars trilogy, it was always left as a fairly open question just how loyal Vader was to his master, versus his own interests. In The Empire Strikes Back, he seeks to turn Luke to the dark side in the name of overthrowing the Emperor. Is violent usurpation just the nature of the dark side, that places so much stock in hate, cunning and ambition, or are Vader’s objectives personal?

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It was a question the prequels raised, and never answered, that irritated me (when I bothered to think about the prequels at all). Why would Anakin Skywalker, after his rebirth as Darth Vader, bother to keep doing Palpatine’s bidding when his original reason for betraying the Jedi is lost to him? It can’t be gratitude for saving his life, not after what his life has been reduced to, and it’s not as if Vader is overly invested in the success of the Empire. Victories of the fleet and gains of territory are mundane compared to the power of the dark side, which is the only thing he openly shows any reverence towards. Most of the time, it just seems like his position gives him an excuse to take out his rage on the rest of the galaxy, and that’s the closest thing he has left to a will to live. However, when Vader finds out that Palpatine has been considering replacing him since long before the Death Star, he seems to feel genuinely betrayed. This is shortly followed by the discovery of Luke’s real identity, and the book seems to interpret this as the moment where Vader truly understands what his relationship to his master is, and the first moment where he desires to be rid of him. Could it be that Vader has for all this time still been clinging to the image of Palpatine as a father figure, and only with the knowledge of his own fatherhood does he realise how ridiculous that idea was?

Conclusion


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If you think Darth Vader is cool, read this book. If you don’t, then I find your lack of faith disturbing.

(P.S. Apologies for the delay. Normal scheduling should resume next time.)

The BearSleuth Week Geek Out – LaMarr And Snyder And Bears…Oh My!

This week I am determined to get this feature up at a reasonable time! Last week was just a trial run but this is absolute prime time professionalism in article form. Unfortunately, to my knowledge their is very little to talk about in the world of television so I’m going to jump across and examine what’s going on over at YouTube. Apart from that all I have to say is that it’s been a damn good week and I hope all you back-to-schoolers are settling in well.

The Week In Comics


 

This week is looking pretty strong in the world of comics, the shelves are pretty densely packed and their is certainly a lot of talent to be found. An underground hit of the week has to be Scarlet Witch #10 which is pretty much a perfect self contained story for the character looking at her role in the magical community. Over with the Team Aqua that is DC we have some awesome titles including All-Star Batman #2 and Suicide Squad #2 showcasing talent from two of the greatest creators in the comic book industry, Snyder and Lee.

Marvel’s Team Magma are looking sound all round with some brilliant tie-in titles but my pick of the week has to go to Amazing Spider-Man Civil War II #4, which has to be one of the most complex titles I have ever written. The finale of the Amazing Spider-Man tie-in is probably going to place the series as the strongest of the Civil War II tie-ins to date as it fully succeeds in an examination of the main themes of the event. If you are only going to pick up one tie-in make it this one…then maybe squeeze your budget for the X-Men tie-in as well!

The Week In Film


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Well this week I actually went to see a film which I can talk about, Don’t Breathe. This film was pretty much schlock of the highest order with a particular scene added in just for shock value and so the film can be ‘the film that went there’. I actually think this is a horror targeted at a more female audience as the shock scene is harder to relate to from a male perspective, which probably goes a long way to spoiling it. The male characters are embarrassingly weak but the female lead, played by Jane Levy, seems to have a good amount of depth to her. The villain is essentially, old and evil Daredevil and I find that the film makes a lot more sense in that light.

Like I said up top, there’s not really much in the way of TV news from me at the moment, just finished Stranger Things which gave me a new appreciation for child actors and small-town sci-fi. Heading over to YouTube, Fatman On Batman just interviewed Phil LaMarr and you have to see it if you are in anyway a geek. My YouTube tastes are fairly vanilla but I recommend Yahtzee19,  KaptainKristian and Vuepoint’s Jack’s World if you are looking for something new.

The Week In Gaming


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Pre are in the ten week countdown for Pokemon!!! Like any good fan I’m attempting a run through of HeartGold, Pearl, Black, White 2, X and finally Omega Ruby before grabbing a copy of Sun. I’m going to be grabbing a bunch of grass starters in the way, the unloved Ringos of Pokemon starters, and basically getting myself back in that ten-year-old mind-set. Apart from that I’m continuing a play through of Dark Souls with Ollie from LoneWolfGaming and playing Until Dawn with Will, the BearSleuth camera man.

In Other News…


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The world is teetering on the brink of disaster from a take over of regional pronunciation starting with a plague of government sponsored academies and there will be more news coming on the new BearSleuth writer later this week. That’s about it for this week folks but be sure to come back next week for more sleuthing!

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Week Geek Out!!! Check back on Friday for a brand new article!!!

BearSleuth Week Geek Out

Like I said in my last post, it’s becoming a lot hard to find time for my normal Sleuthing, which is why this new feature is coming to you a little late. I wanted to make sure I gave it my full attention and due to a quick trip to A&E that became borderline impossible, I managed to tear some muscles in a fight with a bird table (don’t ask). Anyway, I have a lot to talk about so I think it’s time to stop faffing about and get stuck in!

The Week In Comics


It’s been a really good week in the world of comics. While the shelves were a little sparse, DC knocked out a few brilliant books with the new Tom King Batman Issue Six probably taking the top spot from the blue corner. Over in the red of Marvel is my top pick for the week, Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight. This book is complex, intelligent and really shows what the modern industry techniques developed in the independent market can add to the mainstream. I also read Asterios Polyp this week and I can whole heartedly say that it is the only graphic novel to have changed my life. If you are able to get your hands on a copy you 100% should.

The Week In Film (And TV)


The run up to Doctor Strange is gripping a lot of comic book fans now with the inevitable ‘I want to get into Doctor Strange…’ posts slowly creeping onto reddit. For anyone looking for a Doctor Strange recommendation, it’s pretty hard as most of his stuff comes from the silver and bronze age of comics which can feel very dated. Check out ‘The Oath’ and maybe Jason Aaron’s new Doctor Strange series as they present the more modern take on the character.

In other news, Rogue One is struggling, to no one’s surprise (this is what happens when you put a Godzilla director on a Star Wars flick). Also a Dark Tower trailer will be airing next month so keep your peepers peeled. Turning to TV quickly, apparently the Luke Cage series looks good and the new Ghost Rider looks okay enough to get people to notice Agents Of Shield still exists.  Personally, I’ve been getting into Stranger Things and I’m going to surprise no one by saying it’s a great show, likely to become the next massive hit.

The Week In Gaming


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This week saw the world of console gaming reveal its massive throbbing erections for the PC master race as consoles take that one bold step into becoming computers. I don’t really care for 4k optimisation so I can’t say this affects me but if you are one of those graphics snobs then this…probably doesn’t matter to you because you already have a gangster rig (or whatever the cool kids are calling it). Deus Ex is gracing the shelves again, which is cool as we don’t have enough ultra-gritty cyberpunk dystopia running around. This week I’m replaying Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne because I’m a masochist when it comes to gaming.

And Finally…


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In other news, the world is teetering on the edge of destruction from the imminent threat of a mass custard pie orgy at the top of Trump tower and I am proud to announce that we are adding another writer to the BearSleuth roster. While I’m not ready to say much yet SHE is a perfect fit for the team and I’m sure HER articles are going to be a great hit!

Subtlety was always one of my strong points.

…That’s this week’s BearSleuth Week Geek Out!!! Check back on Friday for something new!!!

BearSleuth Announcement: Life And The Sleuth

I have been sitting at my keyboard for the best part of two hours now. After a lot of internal and external debate with myself I have decide to make a few changes to BearSleuth. I love this website but I am also overjoyed to tell all my loyal readers that I’ve just started a job as a copywriter and so my time is becoming very limited. BearSleuth originally started as a way for my to hone my skills while talking about all the stuff I love like comics and writing. Then it became a family with OpinionatedDavid, VuePoint and the Covert Coot. We have seen a lot of success and a lot of  support of the last years and it has been nothing short of amazing. I am not going to lose that.

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The New Normal


After a talk with the rest of the team I have decided to keep BearSleuth running at a slightly slower pace so this is how your week is going to look on this most awesome of sites:

Monday: BearSleuth Week Geek Out: This is going to be my only article going forward and it will be a quick-fire rundown of all the geeky highlights from the previous week.

Tuesday: Nothing.

Wednesday: Adaptive Panels: OpinionatedDavid’s bi-weekly examination of comic book adaptations of films and other mediums.

 Thursdays: Nada.

Fridays: Occasionally Covert Coot: Your favourite Coot is currently on the road touring with his band so when he has time between rocking out he will attempt to get you your fix of anime and geeky observations.

Saturday: OpinionatedDavid: David’s weekly rant about everything wrong in the world of entertainment.

Sunday: Vuepoint: The jewel in the crown of gaming journalism that is Jack’s weekly observations on the state of gaming and it’s histories.

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I am also assisting the writing team in learning how to use WordPress for themselves, so forgive any rookie mistakes.  This is a new and slightly more relaxed era for BearSleuth but I think it will be a step in the right direction for everyone involved including you folks at home as me and the team will be able to be more focused in our approach and writing. This is your humble BearSleuth signing off on my BearSleuth Opinion Pieces, Comic History 101 and The BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle. I hope you have enjoyed them all and I hope you enjoy this next step.

…That was the BearSleuth Announcement!!! Check back over the weekend for a brand new VuePoint and Opinionated David!!!

Adaptive Panels Presents… Star Wars Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon

Getting straight to the point, Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon is a lot more interesting than its predecessor, and in many ways is the kind of story I wish Skywalker Strikes had been to begin with. It’s not perfect (there is such a thing as too many bounty hunters Marvel), and in my opinion some of the characters and storylines get a little too spread out before converging. However, I feel like this book is far more creative filling in the cracks of the original story, which is after all what I believe good expanded universe material is supposed to do.

In the end, I define what deserves a good write up from me on whether reading it does or doesn’t feel like work, and I blazed through Showdown mostly in a single afternoon, and at no point felt like I needed a break. In all honesty, as far as consumer advice goes I could stop there. Everything else is just me showing off…

Overview


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Picking up where the Skywalker Strikes left off, Han and Leia have been joined unexpectedly by Sana Solo, a woman claiming to be Han’s wife, on Han’s Incredibly Convenient Invisible Smuggler’s Planet. Misunderstandings and hijinks ensue, as first it seems Sana is only after Han, only to become more concerned with collecting Leia’s Imperial bounty once she discovers the other woman’s identity, only to then reluctantly help both of them escape Imperial forces when she finds out Han is wanted by the Empire too. All the while, Han remains adamant than Sana isn’t really his wife, but naturally, is never given the opportunity to explain himself properly. Much to Han’s chagrin, Leia agrees to give him back to Sana as payment for her help in rescuing Luke, who’s managed to get himself in more than a little trouble.

His return to Tatooine having seemingly borne little fruit, Luke’s last and most desperate idea for learning how to be a true Jedi, involved getting himself smuggled into Coruscant, the galactic capital and heart of Imperial power, in order to locate the old Jedi Temple. In order to find some smugglers, he heads to Nar Shaddaa, the titular smuggler’s moon (not to be confused with Han’s smuggler’s planet from before). Predictably, Luke’s plan soon goes awry, as he is separated from R2D2 and falls right into the clutches of crime lord and collector of Jedi relics Grakkus the Hutt, who plans to enter Luke in a gladiatorial battle as the Last Jedi for the amusement of the rest of the moon.

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Meanwhile, Han, Leia and Sana meet up on Nar Shaddaa with Chewbacca and C3PO, who were in the middle of their own rescue operation gone wrong (I swear this all flows a lot better than I’m making it sound, and from there the race is on, to rescue Luke from Grakkus as well as approaching Imperial troops, and for the prize of dozens of Jedi holocrons locked inside Grakkus’ vault.

Oh, and by the way, all of this is just from chapter 2 onwards. Chapter 1 is its own special story within a story, following Obi-Wan Kenobi during his years in hiding on Tatooine. The aging, but still powerful Jedi master struggles to adjust to his new life as a fugitive and a hermit, protecting Luke as a child while avoiding suspicion. All this, while Tatooine threatens to die of thirst around him, with Jabba the Hutt’s thugs ready to pick its scraps off the bone.

Analysis


I left the first chapter for last in my summary because it was just easier to pick up where the last book left off, but also because I believe it deserves special attention. It works entirely as a standalone story, without having to have read the previous material to follow it. At most, all you really need to understand is a basic overview of Star Wars lore, for which I think you’d have to journey to the far side of Ganymede before you found any lifeforms that have no knowledge of it at all. As a standalone story, it’s one of the best tails I’ve encountered in this universe. Firstly, the art is beautiful, heavily emphasising harsh lines and shadows and with a washed out colour palette that reflects how everything on this world at this point in time is fading away (in more ways than one). The Kenobi presented in this story is a far cry from the unflappable Jedi seen in most other material, yet it makes sense for his predicament. What struck me most was the anger. Not an angst-riddled, overdramatic rage like we’ve seen in some depictions in this franchise before, but below the surface, everything about Obi-Wan’s final duty grates with him, and he desires to lash out against his better judgement. It’s sort of how I imagine a Star Wars story written and directed by Clint Eastwood would feel, and I mean that in the best possible sense.

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As for the rest of it? Yeah, it’s all still pretty good. The galaxy far away was never hurting for crime-riddled slums, so Nar Shaddaa may not be the most original or interesting locale, but the characters inhabiting it make up for that in large part. Grakkus is a very different Hutt from Jabba; more refined, but in many ways far more brutal. While I think in the end the question surrounding Sana and Han’s past to answered a little too neatly, she’s still a fun character to have around, who definitely enhances the banter between Han and Leia rather than feeling like a third wheel.

I’d like also for special attention to be paid to Chewbacca and C3PO, especially seem as theirs is the storyline that really gets short-shrift in this one. Their own rescue mission, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn’t get very far, and they end up in the most unnecessary and uninteresting diversion on the story. Despite that, the two characters play off each-other really well, and it’s not very often we get to see Chewbacca actually take the lead on anything. The wookie is definitely more than Han’s burly sidekick in this one.

Conclusion


Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon would be worth picking up for the first chapter alone. Fortunately, the rest of it is a damn good read too.

…That was this week’s OpinionatedDavid check back on Friday for a special BearSleuth Announcement!!!

 

BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle Week Fifty

For the first time in recent memory the shelves in my local comic book store looked a little bare. With the exception of a handful of tie-ins, there is now Civil War II has ground to a halt, leaves us to wait another week for a main book. On top of that this week there are no DC Rebirth titles, well to be honest there’s a Suicide Squad mini-series but nothing of any substance. So this week we are looking at the fringes and a few highlights I’ve been wanting to cover for awhile which, for one reason or another, haven’t really shown up on my list. Trust your humble Sleuth, I’ll see you right!

All images are screenshots taken from the Marvel and DC Comics apps [Accessed:02/09/2016]

Civil War II: Choosing Sides Issue Five By A Whole Phalanx Of Artists


 

I love Justin Trudeau! I might not know that much about Canadian politics, and the little I do know has come from a close friend and John Oliver, but it is great to see the Canadian Prime Minister turning up in the pages of a Marvel comic. I can’t say there is much more in this book to write home about but Trudeau’s presence is pretty cool. His section is written by Chip Zdarsky who delivers his usual mixture of tongue-in cheek humour and heart. The book is fairly mediocre from there on out making it hard to recommend but as a piece of political-comic book history it’s a highlight of the year.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Issue Eleven By Brian Michael Bendis And Valerio Schiti


 

The Guardians have just come off a monster arc, a planetary-wide cataclysmic arc that is 100% worth your time and attention. This issue is more of the calm before the storm. A brief reprieve setting up the major players in the next epic arc. There’s a lot of interesting character interactions as well as plenty of nods and winks towards the fans. It’s an issue that build heart and character. There really isn’t much to say past that, Schiti’s art is fairly tight and the set up for the big Civil War II tie-in is nice but if you want a big action set piece this is not the one for you. If you like the Guardians grab this book.

Han Solo Issue Three By Marjorie Liu And Mark Brooks


 

When you think of Han Solo you think of the rogue with the heart of gold and this story is entirely based around this concept. Marjorie Liu has created the perfect boys own adventure storyline in space and it is no small wonder that I am completely wrapped up in it. Han gets the cool lines and the brilliant stunts while the pulse racing action hammers on in a plot that will satisfy any Star Wars fan. The art by Mark Brooks is nice and has a lot of subtle detail for an eagle eyes reader. This is a big winner all round for me and is fully worthy of your time.

Ms. Marvel Issue Ten By G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa And Alphona


 

Most of the time the high school drama of super heroics wears thin with me. I don’t like the whinny emo stuff as I’ve been there and I know how much it makes you want to gouge out your own eyes years later. However, in Ms. Marvel G. Willow Wilson has worked hard to make the high school drama mean something, for it to deeply effect the heroine and her heroics. This book is a big Civil War II tie-in and I feel that it will be known as one of the hidden gems of the event for years to come. I like this book and if you are willing to try something different this is a great choice.

Rocket Raccoon And Groot Issue Eight By Nick Kocher And Michael Walsh


 

Well Skottie Young has left the building…whether he will come back or simply leave us hanging while he pens ‘I hate Fairyland’ is unknown as of writing this but I dare say he will emerge with another great idea soon. What isn’t unknown is that Nick Kocher was the only man who could have stepped into Young’s clownish shoes. His take on the title partnership is fantastic, funny and fierce. The story is a loose Civil War II tie-in with more of the group hijinks bubbling up to the surface. If you like the Guardians and you fancy a laugh this is the place to be.

Spider-Man Issue Seven By Brian Michael Bendis And Nico Leon


 

Can something finally happen in these issues? I love Bendis’ slow approach to character development with a lot of brilliantly handled teenage drama but I’m really getting sick of Spider-Man struggling to be Spider-Man. I feel like this story is just ticking over until Bendis can move off his other nineteen projects and give it full focus. I know that next issue or the one after my thoughts will be completely different again but for now I’m a little bored of Spider-Man. If you are a fan of Bendis or Miles or Spider-Man then stay tuned but this might be one you can miss.

BearSleuth Pick Of The Week: Tokyo Ghost Issue Ten By Rick Remender And Sean Murphy


 

Tokyo Ghost is over. Perhaps one of the greatest comics of the last year and it is finished, with chances if a sequel looking middling at best. So how did it all pan out? Perfectly. I know I’m speaking with a bit of fan boy biased here but, I cannot find a flaw in this finale. It’s a brilliant end to a brilliant book and I want every one of you reading this to go pick up the first trade paperback. This is the quiet riot we need in this digitally swamped age and it’s truly beautiful. If that doesn’t sell you on it I’m not sure what will.

Uncanny Avengers Issue Thirteen By Gerry Duggan And Ryan Stegman


 

Another issue of set up as we ease into a Civil War II tie-in. I don’t have much to say about this issue as it simply runs through a few team members and show us their roles in the coming war. It’s fun and if you wanted a little more depth after the main Civil War II books then I can highly recommend it but past that this is in one ear and out the other. This is the worst sort of book to review as its so on the fence, there is nothing offensively bad or angelically good to talk about so I will leave the recommendation to you. Sleuth. Out.

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Spoiler Free a Comic Book Bundle!!! Check back later today for a new OpinionatedDavid article!!!

Comic History 101: Flashpoint

There will only ever be one Flash. Barry Allen is the scarlet speedster we all love and he will forever be the fastest man alive. Geoff Johns knew that when he asked for Allen to be revived during the DC event ‘Final Crisis’. This brought back the Flash in a big way and brought a lot of attention back onto the series after a waning interest from the readership. Then, for his next trick, Johns wrote Flash Rebirth (in a similar vein to his previous Green Lantern Rebirth series which had been a resounding success) and blew fans away with a great story and origin redesign that is now considered to be the only Flash origin. With a Flash fever gripping readership the corporate higher ups wanted a big Flash event. Johns sat at his desk and then after several minutes began to pen the liquid gold that would be the Flashpoint script.

Alternate Realities


 

Flash had recently discovered an ability called the ‘speed force’ which gave him lots of new abilities and so Johns wanted to dig deep into how the character would react to such power. This lead to Barry using the speed force to time travel back to the past in an attempt to save his mother from her death. Barry managed this feat and then returned to the present to find himself in an alternative dimension. However, unlike many weaker alternative dimension storylines, this DCU was packed full of great characters and ‘what if?’ moments. We were introduced to a Thomas Wayne who had taken up the Bat-mantel I when his son had been killed in front of him and a warring version of Aquaman and Wonder Woman. It was a fun and vibrant universe that then lead to the Flash having to correct himself and allow his mother to die in an emotional climax you could find in few other books. The fallout carved the path for the new 52 and a completely different DC Universe.

A Flash In The Pan


 Image result for flashpoint dc comics

I searched across a lot of websites in preparation for this article and so I can say with absolutely certainty that Flashpoint has never received a one-star or below rating on Amazon and only 1% of readers from Goodreads gave it one-star or below. That’s better a better record than industry classics such as Watchmen or the Killing Joke. There are a lot of reasons for this of course, less people have read Flashpoint than either of those greats for example, but I think a main reason is that Johns manages to nail the emotional heart of the situation. In the main book we get all the set up and pay off needed for both the Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne arcs which is a sign of great writing. The sales of the time show Flashpoint selling out and topping the charts at release. This was a success in all directions and it didn’t stop there.

The Rise Of The New 52


 Image result for flashpoint dc comics

This book showed that comics can be crazy and play with high concept sci-fi, without resorting to the grim-dark ultra violence of the nineties scene. It heralded a new age over at DC where characters could undergo vast redesigns or backstory shifts, such as Snyder’s Swamp Thing or Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, as long as the plot was tied to great writing. It created a shift in the industry and left ripples that we are still feeling today with events like Secret Wars and Rebirth. This is a modern classic with a brilliant legacy to leave. Join me next time when I will be looking at The Walking Dead and how Image comics used a zombie apocalypse soap opera to rise from the dead.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!!

BearSleuth Opinion Piece: Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Awhile back I was asked to do a game review for another project the review never got used so here are my thoughts on Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens…

This week I have been playing the newest nostalgia infused release from Tt Games, Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens, and I have to say I was mildly surprised. I was concerned that the game would simply not have enough source material when compared to previous instalments in the Lego games series. However, through a deep delve into the recently rebooted Star Wars expanded universe as well as lots of interesting new approaches to design, this game delivers a Star War experience that fans young and old can enjoy.

Image result for lego star wars the force awakens

The gameplay has had a facelift (even when compared to the previous Lego release, Lego Marvel Avengers) with a new first-person combat mechanic and a multi-builds system which adds a new sense of replayability. These mechanical changes add more depth and have given the designers more options for set pieces but there is only so far the game can stray from its predecessors.

Image result for lego star wars the force awakens

At its core, Lego Star Wars the Force Awakens is simply another strong instalment in the proud Lego lineage. If you enjoy the humour from previous Lego games, in all its pop culture referential glory, then there will be a lot for you to love here. On the other hand, hard-core gamers unfamiliar with the series will still find the same issues with thin gameplay and a lack of complexity that have always been both a blessing and a curse of the series. In conclusion, if you are a fan of Star Wars or the Lego games then I would strongly recommend Lego Star Wars the Force Awakens.

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Opinion Piece!!! Check back tomorrow for a new Comic History 101!!!

BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle Week Forty Nine.

Finally I can afford to buy my comics and eat! This week the line ups from both Marvel and DC are looking a little thin but I am not complaining. Marvel are taking, what can only be described as, a brief reprise from the war before everything results in a complete meltdown of the Marvel Universe. As for DC, they seem to have found something strange out there in the swamps of rebirth…their artistic integrity. The great publishing house is putting out the best work in a decade of its history and I’m loving it. Finally, Image have Brian Lee O’Malley’s Snotgirl which is nothing short of genius. Which all these great titles what’s a geek to do? Call the Sleuth.

All images are screenshots taken from the Marvel and DC Comics app [Accessed: 25/08/16]

 

Action Comics Nine Hundred And Sixty Two By Dan Jurgens And Stephen Segovia.


 

Despite what 70% of comic book readers will tell you, there are actually a lot of ways to do a great Superman storyline. These break into a few categories but one of my favourite groups of stories are the ones where Clark is able to just cut loose. To use all his abilities on a being so powerful that he will only defeat it with a super human barrage. In this issue we see one such confrontation and it is a wonder to behold. Jurgens has built up to this moment across the previous issues in the arc and now it’s time for the pay off. I love this issue as it just ties everything together so perfectly. The art from Stephen Segovia is strong throughout. I would recommend this to any Superman fan.

 

Blue Beatle Rebirth One-Shot By Keith Giffen And Scott Kolins.


 

May I just came into DC at the wrong time but I never quite got the whole Blue Beatle craze, I feel this way about quite a few DC heroes such as Static Shock and Dial H. I have always liked the Blue Beatle design and I think that has carried me through his appearances in other books, so it was nice to actually sit down and learn a little about the character. My opinion now I know a little more, this is a weird book, the actual super heroics are awesome and the visuals of a suit constantly changing kind of rock but I’m not a fan of the character’s alter ego life. The writing in the book is good but I feel the plot is lacking something, although that could change over the course of the series. Regardless, the art by Scott Kolins is great and I do enjoy this book. If you are a Blue Beatle fan then this is a must, but I feel that if you are new to character this isn’t going to change your mind.

 

Intentional Ironman Issue Six By Brian Michael Bendis And Alex Maleev.


 

This was always going to be a difficult pitch.  Talking about the origins of Tony Stark’s real parents, a recent mystery that undid a big chunk of Marvel Comics lore and displeased a sizable portion of the fanbase. I do believe the Bendis might have been the only man capable of pulling off the feat of making this work and it’s a good think that he managed to exceed all expectations. The chosen couple are a brand new edition to the Marvel universe and they make a lot of sense, they have qualities you can see in Tony and they are different. This is only the first nugget of information though, and it’s hard to judge the book off such a move, but I have to say, so far so good. The art is knocked out the park by Maleev and there are some fantastic moments of writing here. I don’t know where this arc will do next but for now it’s fantastic. If you are an Ironman fan you need this in your collection.

 

Snotgirl Issue Two By Bryan Lee O’Malley And Leslie Hung.


 

I feel like this book is still finding it’s footing but as an offering from Bryan Lee O’Malley it already has the trademarks of his classic smash hits. There is a good degree of introspection and building background cast of characters I have instantly fallen in love with. The plot is starting to build with a lot of intrigue which is a new tool from O’Malley. I am thoroughly enjoying this series and I feel that once it picks up the pace a little it will be a lot of fun. The art from Leslie Hung is fantastic and serves to separate the book from O’Malley’s previous repertoire. If you like Scott Pilgrim, Lost At Sea and Seconds then you should pick this one up before it becomes a forgotten gem.

 

Star Wars Issue Twenty Two By Jason Aaron And Jorge Molina.


 

There are somethings in the Star Wars Universe you don’t know that you need to see until you see it. For example, in a ‘what if’ storyline from a few years ago we saw what would have happened if Vader had gone and faced Yoda on Dagobah and it was nothing short of fangasmic perfection. This book is another one of those moments in the Star Wars Universe that you just need to see.  Jason Aaron knows how to please Star Wars fans and I am sure this arc is going to become an absolute classic in amongst the fan base. I have nothing else to say apart from, when looking for a first edition copy, may the force be with you.

 

Steve Rogers Captain America Issue Four By Nick Spencer And Javier Pina.


 

I don’t like seeing Captain America work for Hydra. My brain doesn’t like it. With every scene I see where he does something evil I immediately try to contrive the plot and warp it so that Steve is actually acting for the side of the angels. But alas, there is no redemption for Mr. Rodgers. Nick Spencer has crafter the perfect malformation of Cap’s personality but I have to say that I despise it as a long-time fan. Which only means its working. If you are a hard core Captain America fan you may want to steer clear of this book, but for everyone else I have to say this is a hell of a read.

 

BearSleuth Pick Of The Week: Hellblazer Issue One By Simon Oliver And Moritat.


 

Way back in the mists of the early nineties there was an amazing series known only as John Constantin Hellblazer and it was awesome. Many people have conflicting views on how the series changed with time but every comic book fan I have met enjoyed at least one era of the heroes life.  Then DC cancelled the series, tried a few other Constantine series which quickly flopped, and promptly relegated the character to the b-list. Now Constantine is back with the Hellblazer moniker and it is a wonder to behold. Simon Oliver has put together something really special right here that calls back almost perfectly to the old days of Hallblazer. It’s fun, dark and chocked full of black humour. If you want a modern classic get your grubby little mitts all over this.

 

Extraordinary X-Men Issue Thirteen By Jeff Lemire And Victor Ibanez.


 

Jeff Lemire just rocks the mic when he stands up to deliver a brand new X-Men sermon. There is no other way to put it, he balances the heart which has always been the series strength with the madness that has always kept readers coming back for more. This issue is no different, incorporating both aspects of Apocalypse and Limbo storylines making for an insane mix. There are some fantastic sections of dialogue in this book that are worth your time even if you are not a huge X-Men fan. I highly recommend this book to anyone that likes strong character interaction as well as great action.

…That’s this week’s BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!! Check back tomorrow for a new VuePoint and OpinionatedDavid!!!