Open Mike Night - Star Wars Double Feature

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Open Mike Night

Maillaro: Welcome to Open Mike Night.  Although, since this is a relaunch (new home…same creative team), maybe we should call it Ultimate All-New 52 Open Mike Night Now!  Okay, maybe not.

Just a quick introduction.  My name is Mike Maillaro.  I am a newcomer to Critical Blast, but I’ve been writing reviews and columns for various sites for a long time.  Actually, the first comic review I ever wrote was for Crossgen’s Way of the Rat #1 way back in June 2002.   

I have been reading comics regularly since my mom used to buy me Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventure issues at our local taxi stand.   

Weaver: My story is pretty similar to my associate’s, down to the point where I first wrote a review of a comic in 2002 or so.  It was for an issue of Christopher Priest’s Black Panther, not sure which issue.

Where my story differs is that I’m just a hair older, and had read various comics in the 70’s and 80’s when I was growing up.  I got out of comics for some time, and this column was one of my impetuses for getting back into them...sorta.  I read very few comics of the modern age beyond what we review here.  So we try to do one new comic suggested by Other Mike, and one old comic suggested by me.  Frequently, we try to theme them together, thus...

Maillaro: Thus this week, we end up a long time ago...in a galaxy far far away...


Star Wars (2015) #1

Written by: Jason Aaron

Art by:  John Cassaday

Colored by: Laura Martin

Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos

Cover by:  John Cassaday

Published by: Marvel

Cover Price: $4.99

Weaver:  This is a beautiful comic.  I’ve always liked Cassaday, and he does a great job here. Everything looks “right,” when compared to the source material.  Stormtroopers, AT-AT’s, Vader, Luke, Han, Leia, the Millenium Falcon, R2...basically everything looked like a slightly comic stylized version of the film characters.  Chewbacca was the only one I thought was a bit of a miss, but that’s completely forgivable.

Maillaro: Wookies looked pretty awful in Rebels too. Not sure exactly what it is, but for some reason, they don’t translate into art or animation all that well.   I remember reading years ago that Pixar said hair was one of the things that was a real pain to deal with...and Wookies are all hair, so that might explain it.

Admit it.  As you went through the first few pages, you could hear John Williams going through your head.   The opening sequence is just perfect.

Not only the art, but the whole design of this book just screamed Star Wars to me.  

Weaver: Yeah, definitely.  The plot was even very much like the movies, where we start out with A Story Already In Progress and get quickly caught up to where we are.  The characters had dialogue that fit them pretty well, and used just the right amount of catchphrases and movie plot references to sell it without going overboard.  That said, I’m not sure I like the pacing.  Are we really ready to do Luke vs. Vader this early in the run?  Also, I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I didn’t really like how the escaped slaves were exactly two each of a wide variety of species, like this is Palpatine’s Ark.

Maillaro: One thing that has always been odd to me is that the period between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back seems like a popular one to try and fit stories in.   Dark Horse’s most recent Star Wars ongoing was set in the same time period.   I know a lot should be going on then, but I think there are some pitfalls there.

The Luke vs Vader face off was a badass image.  But I agree with you, I am not sure that they should have a lightsaber duel here.   I was reminded of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.  That was a Star Wars novel that came out right after A New Hope.  In the book, Luke ends up thoroughly defeating Vader (though they do suggest that Vader survived).  Which was kind of crazy since there were more movies coming.  I kept hoping Luke would say in a later movie, “Remember that time I kicked your ass?”

I also thought Luke was kind of too hardcore.  At the beginning of Empire Strikes Back, Luke still has a lot of naive farmboy to him.  I actually think if they set this story a little later in continuity, it would have fit a little better.

Weaver: On the same front, those fake Gamorrean Guard outfits that I always wondered how they possibly could ever fool anybody...that was something that they pulled off in Return of the Jedi, and their presence here made me feel like all the cloak and dagger of Jedi’s first few scenes was pre-empted.  I think if you set it in the middle of Return of the Jedi, after the Tatooine parts and before the Endor parts, it works reasonably well...or that’s what I think, not having seen Jedi in a while.  Plus, that gives you the automatic explanation for off-paneling them hijacking Jabba’s emissary.

Maillaro: I don’t want to come off as too petty here, because on a whole I did enjoy this comic. I just thought there were a lot of little things that kept it from quite being a perfect book.  On a whole, it was still one of the better written Star Wars comics I’ve read.  The characters were well written, and it was a pretty cool story.  It hurts that the art was so gorgeous I really, really wanted to love this book. But I basically just really liked it instead.

Weaver: I also liked it, but it had some flaws.  The art, as stated, was not one of them.  Most of it was pacing and setting issues, and both are things they can iron out as the run goes on.  I think the book has a lot of promise.

Maillaro: One thing I need to vent about.  Marvel needs to stop with the $5 cover prices on 1st issues. To me, you lower the price of the first issue to entice new readers.  It’s not so much a big deal here, as Star Wars has a built-in audience, but Marvel has done this on quite a few new books lately. Ant-Man was probably the biggest culprit.  That is a niche character with a niche writer...and we’ll charge 5 bucks for the first issue.  I get that there are extra pages here, but there was definitely fat you could have trimmed here to had it for a more reasonable price point.  DC still has most of their books at 3 bucks...and Marvel is selling $5 first issues.

Weaver: They need to learn from the drug dealer mantra: the first hit is cheapest.  Heh.  But here, while there is extra pages, I believe two of those pages are giant Star Wars logo.  It was a neat effect, but are those really “extra pages” worth paying for?  Also, Ant-Man is the best hero ever.  Shut up.

Maillaro: It’s Lang, not Pym.

Weaver: Okay, second best.  Just kidding on that, there’s maybe a few dozen heroes I’d put in between Pym and Lang.  But the point stands.  Yeah, the double logo page was a great image.  But was it so great you were willing to shell out extra money?  Not really.

Scores.  Five for art.  It’s practically a 6 on the 5 scale.  This book looks great.  Story...I had some quibbles with it, but it was enjoyable enough.  Let’s say...3.5.

Maillaro: 5 for the art.  No questions asked.  The story, I would go a little higher.  There is a degree of difficulty issue here. Most Star Wars comics I’ve read were kind of terrible.  This was entertaining  story.  I’d go with a 4.5.


Star Wars (1977) #7

Written by: Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin

Art by: Howard Chaykin and Frank Springer

Colored by:  Carl Gafford

Lettered by: Joe Rosen

Published by: Marvel

Cover Price: 35 cents/ $19.99 (as part of Star Wars Omnibus Vol. 1)

Maillaro: You know what was really odd about this issue?   It was only 17 pages long. Before I started reading it, I really thought there was a printing error in the version I had, but I checked in a few places and they all confirmed it was just a short issue.  I wonder if there were some pin-ups or even a back-up story in the original comic.

But, on the bright side, they did really make the most of these limited pages.  When you are doing a licensed book, it often feels like the creative teams have been given a mandate to make the most out of the license.  Every issue has to feature familiar characters and settings.  Characters overuse catch phrases, things like that.   What I really liked about this issue is that it definitely seemed like an attempt to expand the reader’s understanding of the Star Wars universe.  It dealt with some things you never really got to see in depth in a Star Wars movie: religious believes, anti-robot sentiment, and piracy.  

I also thought they did an excellent job featuring a wide variety of alien species and worlds.  Because of limits in budgetary restraints, in a movie or TV show (especially from the 70’s) most of the aliens basically have human bodies.  Two legs. Two arms. One head.  It’s an understandable limitation, especially in a pre-CGI world.  This comic didn’t have any of those constraints, so you get to see a pretty wide variety of alien races and worlds throughout this issue.  I thought that was a really nice touch.

Weaver: I didn’t notice it was short either.  The more we do this “one old issue, one new issue” format, the more I realize how much decompression has really taken over comics.  In some ways, I see it as a necessary evil, because I do believe that there’s only a limited number of stories you can tell with one character before it gets stale, and if you pad those stories out more, you get to keep the comic going longer.

I liked the plot of this issue a ton.  It fit in continuity really well, which is somewhat surprising given that they had no idea what the post-A New Hope continuity was going to be.  We had a mix of alien looking aliens and human looking aliens, and who doesn’t love a warrior monk.  We also got to see Han Solo’s general disdain for bigotry of any sort.  That’s one of his more subtle traits, especially since he masks some of it with the “I don’t care about anything” act, and it really comes to the forefront here.  They also found a way to integrate the visual of Stormtroopers without actually having Stormtroopers.

Maillaro: The reason I knew it was short was because I had to print it to read on the bus from the PDF (I got it as part of a Humble Bundle) because I still have no tablet.  But, like you said, they managed to pack a lot in these 17 pages, so it’s barely noticeable.

This story actually answered one of my biggest questions I had from A New Hope...whatever happened to all that loot the Rebels gave Han.  Stolen by pirates.  Oh, okay!  That actually makes a ton of sense!  

Basically, the plot of this issue is: Han and Chewie get robbed by pirates.  They end up heading to a planet called Aduba-3 looking for work as freelance mercenaries.  When they arrive, they see a big commotion going on.  A cyborg pilot had died recently, and many of the inhabitants of the planet refused to give him a proper burial because he’s part machine.  A local priest is fighting this.  Han and Chewie help him fight the local spacers and bury the cyborg.  In the end, three mysterious figures (and horribly stereotypical Asians) show up and offer them a job. Which they must accept...OR DIE!!

Weaver: I liked that you got a lot of the “been there, done that” vibe from Han Solo.  When he was ambushed by pirates, he was essentially facepalming because he knew he should have seen it coming.  In fact, I thought the writer did a very good job with Han, especially only having one movie to work with.  And there weren’t many catchphrases or movie references sprinkled in here, which was refreshing.

Also.  Note that over a decade before Star Trek: The Next Generation, we’re calling cyborgs “Borgs” here.  Heh.  It was a pretty cliche story as far as stories go, but there’s nothing wrong with a cliche story that’s well executed.

Maillaro: I also liked that they didn’t shoehorn characters in here just for the sake of having them here.  This story is all Han and Chewy.  No Luke or Leia subplot.  No Darth Vader as the wacky neighbor.  It had a story to tell, and it wasn’t worried too much about trying to do a lot of fan service. Although, to be fair, this wasn’t the first issue of the series, so I guess that gave them a little more leeway.  

When reading this, I also realized that this was basically the first thing that even came out of the “Expanded Universe.”  For a first attempt, this was very well executed.   

I was also surprised by how big name the creative team was (especially looking back from now).  Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin are legends.  

Weaver: I’ve actually never really cared much for Roy Thomas as a writer, but yeah, he’s definitely a big name...he wasn’t too far removed from being Editor in Chief of Marvel at this point.  Typically, licensed works get whoever’s hanging around the bullpen because it’s the characters that are selling the story, but that’s not the case here.

I also liked that we didn’t see everybody for the sake of seeing everybody.  C3PO and R2-D2 don’t even appear on panel, and Luke and Leia are just there long enough to say goodbye to set the story. Although I’d pay to see Darth as the wacky neighbor.

Even without most of the recognizable characters, this was definitely Star Wars, even moreso than a lot of the Expanded Universe things.  I wonder if Lucas gave them a heads up that Han had to lose the money before Empire, or if they just went with it.  

Maillaro: I definitely have my own issues with Roy Thomas...one day we really need to review one of his awful issues of X-Men.  I remember two issues in a row ending with the shock revelation “It was me, Charles Xavier, in disguise. And walking...only for this issue...because...reasons.”

Weaver: I believe he also did the Avengers issue where Scarlet Witch demonstrates a previously unknown sewing talent to have creepily made a new Giant Man costume...in case Giant Man ever returned...and didn’t know what to wear...and wanted to wear something made by some woman he had met twice who had bothered to spend time making clothes for him in total secrecy.  I was always surprised that issue didn’t end with a restraining order.

Maillaro: So the lesson here is keep Roy Thomas on just barely established sci-fi characters.  OH!  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one last thing.  Crimson Jack’s outfit.

In space, no one can hear your fashion faux pas.

Weaver:  His associate Jolli also has some crazy threads...she’s like Street Fighter’s Cammi, before Street Fighter (much less Cammi) even existed.  But with purple hair.  Actually, that character has a serious case of the crazies in general, basically asking after every sentence, “Can we kill him now?”  She’s like Scott Evil.

Anyway, scorewise, I can’t imagine doing any better with the first foray into Expanded Universe.  It has a decent plot, the characters are written well, and it doesn’t try to force movie movie movie down your throat.  I’m actually going to give Roy a 5 on that.  And I think that will be the only time, ever, Roy Thomas gets a perfect score from me.  I like Chaykin’s ideas, sometimes the execution was a little wanting, though.  It’s enough to get a 4.5 from me.  Especially with gratuitous “space chick cleavage” shots at the end, that definitely buoys it a little.

Maillaro: I felt your art score is WAY too generous.  Chaykin did a decent job, but I am forced to compare it with the new issue of Star Wars.  I loved the character designs and settings, but I still think it falls closer to a 3.5 on the art.   I would go a solid 4.5 on the writing though.  They managed to do a lot here in just a few pages, and they deserve a lot of respect for that.

Weaver: Wow, usually I’m the Romanian judge pulling the scores down.  I understand your scores, I think mine are partially from having read a lot of comics of this era, and knowing what the art typically looks like in them.  We got a ton of detail in this, dozens of characters drawn in several panels, and all unique.  But I agree, it’s not as good as the modern one.


Maillaro: Next week….I am sort of bouncing around between a few ideas.   Powers #1 could be interesting, but each new Powers series I’ve read has done a terrible job catching new readers up.

Galaxy Quest #1?  Odd, but could be fun.

Groo: Friends and Foes #1?  Yes, I love Groo.  Sue me.

Weaver: I love me some Groo too.  I’ve never read Powers, so that would be rough to review if it’s as bad as you believe at catching up.  Galaxy Quest...tempting, but yeah, let’s do Groo.

Maillaro: Sweet!  Classic book?

Weaver: If we’re going Groo...do you have access to The Tick?  It could be a good complement.

Maillaro: I definitely have the trades someplace.  The Tick it is!!


Final Scores

 

Maillaro – Story

Weaver – Story

Maillaro – Art

Weaver – Art

Star Wars (2015) #1

4.5

3.5

5

5

Star Wars (1977) #7

4.5

5

3.5

4.5