STAR WARS: CRIMSON REIGN – REVIEW ROUNDUP

The next Star Wars event begins here, with the opening issues of Crimson Reign. Roundup collects Star Wars #19, #20 – Darth Vader #18 – Crimson Reign #1.

STAR WARS: CRIMSON REIGN REVIEW ROUNDUP

The next Star Wars event begins here, with the opening issues of Crimson Reign, the second arc in what has been dubbed ‘The Qi’ra Trilogy’. But will it be another epic barnstormer to follow up War of the Bounty Hunters, or will it be the start of a descent into event fatigue? We round up some of the latest Star Wars releases from Marvel Comics to find out…


DARTH VADER #18

Written by: Greg Pak
Art: Leonard Kirk
Colours: Alex Sinclair
Released: 01/12/2021

Following the reveal of Ochi of Bestoon’s dramatic double-cross, and the Empire’s utter decimation of the Hutt syndicate, Darth Vader looks set to be the title most closely intertwined with the events of Crimson Reign. From the outset, this issue examines some of the effects of the emergence of Crimson Dawn and Vader’s response to them. It makes for a non-stop, galaxy hopping narrative but, as usual, under Greg Pak’s stewardship, the big man himself makes the biggest impact possible in the few panels in which he appears. He may not be at the front and centre of every skirmish, but his influence is what always drives the narrative – he’s a smart, shadowy, sinister controller of events that Crimson Dawn’s Qi’ra could only ever dream of being…so far.

The highlight here is the introduction of a ragtag group of assassins on personal missions to take revenge on Crimson Dawn, something which Vader seems set to use to his advantage. It’s clear that Pak is going to give us more reasons to love and empathise with each of them before dispatching them in the cruellest fashion possible – it’s good to know that some things never change!

Artist Leonard Kirk does a solid job throughout and his presentation of action and chaos is clear and assured, making the splash pages that highlight the bigger moments all the more impactful. Alex Sinclair takes full advantage of the shift away from the Imperial colour scheme of greys and blacks, as the reds and oranges of battle practically pop off the page.

Special mention must also be given to Aaron Kuder and Richard Isanove’s stunning cover – this is simply begging for a frameable print!


STAR WARS #19

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Marco Castiello
Colours: Rachelle Rosenberg
Released: 08/12/2021

The effects of Crimson Reign look set to be a little separated from the core Star Wars comic, at least for the next couple of issues, as Luke goes off in search of more lessons of the Jedi to aid him in his quest to finally be ready to face Vader.

#19 also sees the introduction of a new artist, Marco Castiello, who steps in to cover a few issues for the incredibly talented Ramon Rosanas, who lends this series a real classic comics feel. Castiello’s approach is a beautifully sketchy one, which gives an appropriately otherworldly feel to each of the alien vistas that Luke visits as he tries to find a Jedi outpost that hasn’t been ransacked or completely destroyed by the Empire. Castiello’s dense inking makes for some suitably shadowy close-ups of a Luke Skywalker in turmoil, contrasted eye-catchingly with Rachelle Rosenberg’s dynamic colours.

Some of Charles Soule’s best moments in his consistently excellent run on Star Wars so far have been in his character work around Luke, filling in the gap between the boy at the end of Episode V and the man at the beginning of VI. This issue is no exception, as we see Luke fluctuating from doubt to confidence and back again in a realistically human way. He also receives guidance from a character that some fans may recognise from Soule’s short run on Darth Vader back in 2017 – it’s little nuggets like this that make the interwoven world of Star Wars comics so rewarding and beguiling. (More on that when we look at #20!)

The only slight problem that rears its head at the beginning of this issue is the sudden realisation that so many threads were left hanging during the six months or so that War of the Bounty Hunters was going on. While the reminder is handled in a way that fits the narrative and avoids clunky exposition, there is a slight risk of the reader being taken out of the moment as they scrabble around to remember what happened not only a good six or so months ago in this particular book, but also before the events of a line-encompassing, 34 part event series. That said, the threads that look due to be picked up soon should be exciting ones and give more signals that this book won’t be quite as interdependent on happenings elsewhere as during the previous event.


CRIMSON REIGN #1

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Steven Cummings
Colours: GURU-eFX
Released: 08/12/2021

And so we come to the headliner – the first of five issues of Crimson Reign, the backbone of the event of the same name. Soule is at the helm once again and wastes no time in setting up a number of intriguing prospects whilst driving the narrative forward simultaneously. While the core of the story is formed around a war between the various crime syndicates across the galaxy, there is a lot more at play here, and Soule drops in mystery after mystery and tease after tease, making for a tantalizing read and an agonising wait until the next issue!

The older, wiser Qi’ra continues to be an interesting character in Soule’s hands – the potential for true cunning and guile we saw in her at the end of Solo: A Star Wars Story is truly realised here as she plays seemingly half the galaxy off against each other to her own ends. Those ends don’t yet seem to be entirely bad ones from what little Soule reveals here, but it’s certain that her methods are questionable – the final panel hints that dire consequences approach…

Steven Cummings has an unenviable task with this issue – so many characters are featured, so much ground is covered, so many locations are used, that it must be one hell of a task to realise everything that pops out of Soule’s head for this one. It’s a challenge that Cummings grasps with both hands – he takes a cinematic approach, his images acting as a perfect partner to the narration of the Archivist. There’s also an early 90s feel here too – shades of Ron Lim abound, panels featuring alien creatures or space battles could well have been lifted from that legendary artist’s almost as legendary run on Silver Surfer.

A promising start to an event that looks set to be altogether different to the one that came before it.  


STAR WARS #20

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Marco Castiello
Colours: Rachelle Rosenberg
Released: 12/01/2022

Luke’s search for Jedi knowledge continues in another issue that takes a step back from the goings-on in Crimson Reign. Soule once again shows just how much he gets Luke and the struggle he is facing to become the Jedi he wants to be whilst grappling with the expectations placed upon him.

All of this is dealt with in an incredibly exciting manner for any fans of other parts of the Star Wars comics and books range. There have been hints and references to the incredibly successful The High Republic publishing initiative throughout Soule’s run (he also forms part of the writing team for that project), but here we finally get a moment to make High Republic fans cheer. No spoilers here, but Soule has picked just the right character to compare and contrast with Luke, as they speak to each other through the power of…magic mushrooms…?

With that comes some trippy visuals, which Castiello makes even more alien than the landscapes in the previous issue. Again, his dense inking really serves the issue well and Rosenberg’s colours are intense and solid, lending some of the more nightmarish panels a satisfyingly bloody hue. This isn’t an action-packed issue, and both artists make use of the space to great effect, providing striking images throughout and evidently revelling in their little trip into the days of the High Republic.

VERDICT

So far, it seems that the approach to event storytelling is a different one with Crimson Reign – less all-consuming than War of the Bounty Hunters, right down to the lack of an event banner on the covers for Star Wars and Darth Vader. It’s encouraging that the main Star Wars book especially has been given a little space to breathe and to deal with the fallout of the last event before diving headlong into the next. Pak and Soule continue to be two writers at the absolute top of their game, showing that Star Wars comics can work whether the storytelling is on a grand, bombastic scale or whether it’s dealing with the inner turmoil and doubts and fears that will eventually be the making of the galaxy’s greatest hero.

Review by Nathan Harrison


STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS – CONCLUSION REVIEW ROUNDUP

As the massive War of the Bounty Hunters event comes to an end, we take a look over some of the final parts that close out this sprawling, 34-part behemoth from Marvel Comics.

The second half of this year has seen Star Wars fans treated to some of the most exciting, surprising, and epic storytelling that the comics have had to offer. As the massive War of the Bounty Hunters event comes to an end, we take a look over some of the final parts that close out this sprawling, 34-part behemoth from Marvel Comics.


STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #5

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Luke Ross and David Messina

Colours: Neeraj Menon and Rachelle Rosenberg

Released: 13/10/21

First up is the fifth and final issue of the core mini-series, which truly delivers on the ‘War’ of its title. Panels are chock full of space battles, laser fire and things generally going ‘BOOM!’ Luke Ross’ art and the truly unique colours of Neeraj Menon have been the standout aspect of this series and they give their absolute all once again in depicting the massive scale of this final hurrah, ably assisted by David Messina and Rachelle Rosenberg respectively. Each page leaps out at the reader, the layout of most of them making for fast-paced reading before indulging in the occasional impactful larger panel or an astonishing splash page to really grab the attention. Here’s hoping they both return to the Star Wars universe before too long.

This is one jam-packed comic but that doesn’t stop almost every key player in the event having their moment in the spotlight to wrap up their involvement. The highlight is, as ever, Boba Fett, and his team up with cyborg bounty hunter Valance is beautifully pitched by Charles Soule, who continues to prove to be one of the best writers to ever grace the pages of a Star Wars comic. This issue, he delivers stunning character moments in rapid fire fashion interspersed with frenetic action, but the speed at which they come never reduces the impact or importance of each one, some of which will lead on nicely to be paid off in each character’s respective book.

There is, of course, also a huge teaser for the upcoming Crimson Reign mini-series, the second part of Soule’s Qi’ra trilogy. Soule has given new life to a character who could easily have been forgotten and ignored, given the underwhelming reception of Solo: A Star Wars Story – he has seized a golden opportunity to do exactly what Star Wars books and comics are supposed to do: make something much bigger of the comparatively tiny part of the story that the films make up, and he does it convincingly. Qi’ra’s return has been fully justified in this event, and her final words here promise intriguing things to come for the new leader of Crimson Dawn in the upcoming mini-series, Crimson Reign.


DARTH VADER #17

Written by: Greg Pak

Art: Raffaele Ienco

Colours: Alex Sinclair

Released: 27/10/21

Considering the events of his own book and the core mini-series, Greg Pak is left with a lot to wrap up here, but he handles it with an eye on pace and detail, which have both punctuated his run from the start. A lot of ground is covered – the conclusion of Vader and Luke’s chase, the ongoing scuffle between Ochi and Sly Moore, Vader’s confrontation with Bokku the Hutt and, of course, setting the scene for what comes next, but every aspect of this issue stands well on its own and as part of a cohesive whole which makes for a very satisfying issue with a shocker of an ending that makes Crimson Reign an even more enticing prospect.

Raffaele Ienco’s art is as great here as it always is – cinematic in its scope, but intimate and detailed when it needs to be, even when dealing with the featureless blackness of Vader’s shiny bonce. Ienco never puts a foot wrong, giving us what quite simply looks like a Star Wars movie in pencil and ink. Alex Sinclair takes over colouring duties – he handles the blacks, dark greys and washed-out blues the make up the colour palette of the Empire with skill and then cleverly slips in one panel of bright, alarming neon in one of the final pages, just as the rug is pulled from under the reader’s feet. 


IG-88 #1

Written by: Rooney Barnes

Art: Guiu Vilanova

Colours: Antonio Fabela

Released: 27/10/21

Next, Rooney Barnes and Guiu Vilanova bring us the last of the one-shots that have been peppered throughout War of the Bounty Hunters.

Given his merciless dismantling at the hands of Darth Vader, you’d be forgiven for thinking that IG-88 would be out of the game for good. However, Barnes resurrects him here in quite a sinister fashion, almost reminiscent of Frankenstein, with the ambitious engineer RB-919 getting more than he bargained for at the hands of his creation. The dark tone fits well with the unrelenting killing machine that IG-88 is supposed to be, with the art working effectively in tandem, focusing on the droid’s unnervingly blank face, his skeletal form often in shadow.

The tone changes ever so slightly for a showdown with Boba Fett in the closing pages, as everyone’s favourite bounty hunter just couldn’t be written without the overwhelming sense of badassery that pervades every page he features on. However, this is in no way jarring and works well with the dry humour that IG-88’s matter-of-fact dialogue brings to the table.

This issue slots neatly between the end of the main part of War of the Bounty Hunters #5 and its epilogue, acting as a nice little coda to the fight over who gets to keep the helpless Han Solo, and as a potential set-up for future reappearances from IG-88. ‘Born to Kill’ is the story’s title – let’s hope that, as far as IG-88 goes, it’s also a promise.


STAR WARS #18

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Ramon Rosanas

Colours: Rachelle Rosenberg

Released: 03/11/21

And finally, after 34 issues across 4 ongoing titles, a mini-series and several one-shots, we have the conclusion, presented in Star Wars #18 by the dream team of Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas, whose work together on this run has been consistently brilliant.

That winning streak remains unbroken here, in a much more stripped back, action-free issue than this event has generally brought us. The linchpin of the book is a confrontation between QI’ra and Leia as the true nature of the former’s failed plan is revealed and they both reckon with Han’s fate and the hardships they have both been through in recent issues. Given the fact that one man’s whereabouts have formed the crux of the whole narrative, this was never going to be a chat that would pass the Bechdel test, but it’s fascinating and scintillatingly written nonetheless. Though Qi’ra does much of the talking, Leia only needs a few words to show that Soule understands her top to bottom. The same goes for Rosanas, who captures Carrie Fisher’s expressive cynicism beautifully.

The conversation also yields a flashback sequence to Han and Qi’ra’s childhood, before the events of Solo, living under the command of Lady Proxima. It’s only a handful of pages, but it has real impact on the issue, leading to a somewhat ambiguous conclusion to the conversation which leaves us wondering what Qi’ra might be capable of when it comes to twisting the truth and manipulating events to her own ends, something which Soule will almost surely expand upon in Crimson Reign.

VERDICT

By its very nature, Star Wars is massive in scale, and is only getting bigger and bigger as more movies, Disney+ shows, books and, of course, comics fill the pipeline and promise to further develop and intertwine the beloved characters that are spread throughout the galaxy. With that in mind, an event like War of the Bounty Hunters is a natural fit, and these final parts live up to that promise, whilst offering a real variety of styles, tones, and approaches – from chaotic dog fights in the depths of space to hushed, private character-defining conversations, from dark droid workshops to inhospitable ice planets, the sheer scope of just these 4 issues out of the complete 34 is seriously impressive and pure Star Wars.

Taken as a whole, War of the Bounty Hunters has been just that from the very start – the depth and scale of the storytelling, balancing both action and character, humour and high stakes, dark and light, across multiple writers and artists whilst remaining cohesive (aside from the occasional issue where the release schedule doesn’t seem to match the reading order) is an incredible feat. The inevitable arm-straining omnibus will make for a thrilling read to be devoured in one greedy sitting.


Review by Nathan Harrison


Star Wars #17 – Review

The showdown between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker continues in another beautiful balancing act of an issue by Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas…

Star Wars #17

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Ramon Rosanas
Released: 29/09/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The showdown between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker continues in another beautiful balancing act of an issue by Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas.

‘The Chase’ of the title that graces the stunningly put together cover of #17 makes up the first, frenetic half, which sees Luke and Vader’s…well…chase finally coming to a head in truly cinematic fashion. Ramon Rosanas’ work continues to be absolutely top notch, with each beat of the action rendered in expansive, eye-catching panels, that flit between widescreen and a page-stealing, taller style – Rosanas may as well be drawing in IMAX at this point, and it works so well for the flagship title in Marvel’s cinematic fleet.

Luke’s lack of confidence in his own abilities continues to pervade his every move, and Soule writes it convincingly. In his element, swooping above Jekara in his X-Wing, Luke confronts Vader’s taunts head on. However, when faced with the prospect of finally ending the life of the man who he’s recently found it is his father, he is less sure of himself. Soule makes the switch between each state of mind natural and completely understandable. Luke’s inner turmoil has been a key focus of the run so far, as he progresses as a Jedi and a pilot while constant flashbacks to the traumatic events of Empire continue to haunt him.

The second half of the issue is an altogether less action-packed affair, which only serves to further show the dexterity and versatility of this team. Soule and Rosanas move from semi-mute action scenes with near full-page panels, to dialogue-heavy character moments in the cramped confines of the Millennium Falcon, reflected brilliantly in the tightening of the visual focus.

The particulars of the situation that Lando, Leia, Chewie and Lobot find themselves in allow Soule to do something for a second time that was impressive enough the first time around. In a quiet, intimate moment between Lando and his beloved former ship, Soule gives new life and relevance to an element of the somewhat patchy Solo: A Star Wars Story. While certainly not as big as the return of Q’ira (and her upcoming continued adventures in next month’s Crimson Reign mini-series), it’s a nice moment that comes as a real surprise and will certainly raise a smile for those who enjoyed elements of what was otherwise a movie about the origin of Han Solo’s bits and bobs!

This moment leads wonderfully into a real change in Lando and the other characters’ perception of him, which is the first sign of the pieces being put in place for where everyone is as a character by the time Return of the Jedi rolls around. Here’s hoping this isn’t a sign that this consistently brilliant run is nearing its end!


VERDICT

Soule and Rosanas’ winning streak continues unabated in this latest issue which manages to be both thrillingly epic and beautifully small. Soule never neglects character, even in the most action-packed of moments and that skill is used to full effect here, allowing Rosanas to flex all his artistic muscles throughout.


Review by Nathan Harrison

Star Wars: Boushh #1 – Review

Boushh is certainly tough and knows what he is doing, but it’s his personal background and how the cruel laws of his home planet of Uba have shaped him into who he is that make him a truly engaging character

STAR WARS: BOUSHH #1

Written by: Alyssa Wong
Art: David Baldeon
Colours: Israel Silva

Released: 15/09/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics


The massive, line-wide War of the Bounty Hunters narrative has rumbled on for several months now, with characters, major plot points and events spreading and intersecting across all the ongoing Star Wars titles. The slight outliers, however, have been the one-shots that have been thrown into the mix. While the stories of Jabba the Hutt and 4-LOM & Zuckuss have certainly depended on the happenings of the main series, they haven’t had the biggest impact on the overarching tale. Each has been fun, but not much else besides.

The same sense of playfulness runs through Alyssa Wong and David Baldeon’s Boussh #1, but while it may still be another title that has little impact on the core mini-series, it is an essential read in its own right. Wong and Baldeon deliver an action-packed, emotionally driven, self-contained narrative that brings to the fore everything that makes this event’s focus on the seedier side of the Star Wars galaxy so appealing.

Making one of the many bounty hunters that litter the Star Wars universe (and filled the toy boxes of many a child of the 80s) stand out can’t be an easy job – each of them is appealing in their own way but, no matter how badass a writer might try to make them, they will always be eclipsed by the man himself, Boba Fett. Wong takes a slightly different approach here. Boushh is certainly tough and knows what he is doing, but it’s his personal background and how the cruel laws of his home planet of Uba have shaped him into who he is that make him a truly engaging character. Wong has done a sterling job of making us care not only for Boushh but for his entire crew of exiles who, in just a few short pages, are convincingly positioned as a sort of family who could probably carry their own ongoing series (especially if Wong were at the helm).

What’s even more astounding is that Boushh isn’t even the best part of this book (though he comes a very close second). That honour goes to ruthless crime boss Domina Tagge, featured recently in Wong’s ongoing run on Doctor Aphra. She’s at once sexy and scary, a force to be reckoned with who would evidently do anything to maintain supremacy, as skilled of a talker as she is a fighter. Her dialogue drips with charm and malice and, in the moments where words aren’t required, Baldeon does just as good a job as Wong of imbuing her with a sense of self-righteousness and power – a raised eyebrow here, a half-smile there; every little detail is beautifully considered and skilfully conveyed.

Baldeon’s subtlety, quite rightly, goes out of the window for the more action-oriented panels. They have the vibrancy of work by Pepe Larraz and the eye-popping, cartoonish gorgeousness of the pencils of fellow Star Wars artist, Luke Ross and are wonderfully embellished with colours by Israel Silva. Burnished oranges leap off the page throughout the book, from Boushh’s tragic backstory to the humming plasma blade wielded by Domina Tagge, to the fiery backgrounds that compliment the book’s dramatic and satisfying conclusion.



VERDICT

While it may be part of a bigger story, Boushh #1 is a near-perfect standalone story, and we can only hope that this one-shot morphs into something much bigger in the future. A wish list for the attention of Marvel, Disney and Lucasfilm:

  • More Boushh
  • More Domina Tagge
  • More Alyssa Wong


Review by Nathan Harrison

Darth Vader #16 Review

Raffaele Ienco’s art remains simply stunning throughout, from the opening broad panels continuing the trippy fever dreams of an obsessed Vader…

Darth Vader #16

Reviewed by Nathan Harrison

Written by: Greg Pak

Art: Raffaele Ienco

Released: 15/09/2021

Publisher: Marvel Comics

One of the biggest advantages of a major crossover event such as War of the Bounty Hunters is that stories can be told from all sides. Comic books only have so many pages that they can fill, so telling a story with an epic scope and dozens of key characters can sometimes be hampered by simply not having enough space to cover every potential aspect. This issue is a prime example of the comic book event doing what it always should, as events depicted in Darth Vader #16 run in tandem with the recently released fourth issue of the core mini-series and it makes for a thrilling aside which could not have been given adequate room to breathe had it been placed into the already very hectic main issue.

What we’re presented with is a heart in mouth, cat and mouse chase of an issue, which sees Luke feeling the hot breath of Vader’s TIE fighter down his exhaust ports once more, while a number of ongoing plot strands come together at breakneck pace. The shift between each aspect of the issue is deftly handled by Greg Pak, and Raffaele Ienco’s art remains simply stunning throughout, from the opening broad panels continuing the trippy fever dreams of an obsessed Vader (rendered in a wonderful murky crimson by Jason Keith and Rachelle Rosenberg) to the frenzied space chase that forms the crux of ‘Target Skywalker’.

One of the most iconic aspects of Star Wars (among an absolute plethora of them) is the masterful sound design of Ben Burtt. Without the imposing scream of the TIE fighter, the phasery slap of the lasers and the instantly recognisable beeps and woops of a concerned R2-D2, original trilogy dog fights would be a shadow of what they are. Props, then, to VC’s Joe Caramagna for his lettering across this issue, which shoots each sound straight between your eyes. His letters sometimes almost take over entire panels, just as the sounds themselves take over the senses when watching one of the movies – it’s pitched just right and shows that even a comic book, usually made up of no more sound than the occasional turn of the page, can become an absolute cacophony in the right hands.

Amongst all the action and the noise, however, Pak continues to deliver some of the best dialogue across all the Star Wars comics, especially when dealing with Ochi of Bestoon and Administrator Moore, whose face-off towards the end of the issue almost makes for a bit of light relief before the devastating conclusion which, much like its equivalent in the core series, sets up one hell of a final battle to come.


VERDICT

Pak and Ienco continue to produce an excellent book, which turns into a white-knuckle roller coaster for its 16th issue. The pace is such that it almost feels as if it’s over in the blink of an eye, but what that eye sees for the duration of the issue is some beautifully conceived space battle art and some of the best storytelling in the Marvel Star Wars roster.


Review by Nathan Harrison


Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters #4 – Review

The focus of the series has understandably been on the heroes of The Skywalker Saga, but the ongoing story of the cyborg bounty hunter, Vallance, and his connection to Han Solo has been a truly compelling one…

STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #4
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Luke Ross with David Messina

Colours: Neeraj Menon with GURU-eFX


Released: 15/09/21

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Though issues of their own title have formed part of the wider narrative of the War of the Bounty Hunters event, the main characters from the excellent Bounty Hunters series have been (mostly) conspicuous by their absence in the titular mini-series that acts as the linchpin of the 34-part narrative. That is, until now, and it was certainly worth the wait.

The focus of the series has understandably been on the heroes of The Skywalker Saga, but the ongoing story of the cyborg bounty hunter, Vallance, and his connection to Han Solo has been a truly compelling one. Finally seeing this play into a narrative which, despite not actually featuring him, is all about Han pays true dividends here. Seeing Vallance and Dengar tussle with Boba Fett is a punch-the-air moment, especially as it is depicted in the dynamic style of Luke Ross and the bright, characterful colours of Neeraj Menon. This title is where the disparate parts truly come together, not just from a narrative perspective, but visually also, as the approach to every character is brought under the umbrella of one incredibly skilled team.

Like all the best final acts of any Star Wars story, this lead-up to the conclusion jumps between sets of characters at the drop of a hat, whilst keeping the reader engaged with each thread of the events. Soule is the master of the balancing act – between swathes of characters all in different places, in altogether different situations, and between plot and pace. The plot drives forward inexorably and without any awkwardness or ham-fisted exposition, yet action and fun are still placed firmly at the forefront. This issue goes from the aftermath of the Scoundrel’s Ball to the surface of the planet Jekara, to the depths of space filled with swarms of ships in the blink of an eye without missing a beat. Soule’s impressive pacing must be a challenge for any artist, but it’s one that Ross and Menon rise to with aplomb, imbuing every distinct scene with oodles of charm.

All this flitting about leads to a corker of a final page, which sets the stage for an epic final battle as various chickens come home to roost, with major implications for the final throes of the narrative.


VERDICT

As the core mini-series of this massive event nears its conclusion, it’s great to finally see some more major players enter the fray as things hot up for a final showdown that’s bound to pop right off the page. After many, many issues across 5 titles, the majority of the pieces are in place thanks to Soule’s continued uncanny ability to perfectly blend plot and fast-paced action. Roll on issue 5!


Review by Nathan Harrison 25/9/21

Darth Vader #15 Review

Every panel is eye-catching and the colours by Jason Keith gel wonderfully with Ienco’s lines, his use of various shades of red creating a cohesive look for the whole issue, whether Pak is progressing the plot or taking the reader into the heat of battle…


DARTH VADER #15
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison.
Written by: Greg Pak
Art: Raffaele Ienco
Released: 25/08/2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics

One of the bigger flaws with Disney’s expansion of the Skywalker Saga on screen with Episodes VII-IX was the feeling of everything being rushed. Many plot points that could have done with some expanding upon were introduced with very little in the way of explanation and simply brushed aside as unimportant (see ‘Somehow, Palpatine returned’). The same could be said for a number of characters who were given very little development and backstory. 

While he didn’t appear in The Rise of Skywalker as a living, breathing part of the action, Ochi of Bestoon falls firmly into this category, his existence simply used as a way of progressing what little plot the film offered. What we do learn about him, a Sith devotee and the killer of Rey’s parents, is enough to make him an intriguing prospect for further investigation, something that Greg Pak has taken on and delivered brilliantly since issue 6 of his run. And now, in issue 15, Ochi gets his time to shine, as ‘The Assassin’s Choice’ sees his faith and loyalty to Vader put to the test.

Such a story requires a slight gear shift, which is a little jarring – the events here take place before those of War of the Bounty Hunters #3, which was released first. Once this slight frustration is put aside, however, what we’re left with is an issue that manages to progress the plot of the WOTBH event, at least from Vader’s perspective, whilst also serving as a fun diversion from the wider arc. Pak balances this beautifully despite the blistering pace of the issue, just as he does the interactions between Ochi and Vader. Ochi’s motormouth, almost nervous energy plays so well against Vader’s laconic terror and yet they both show the same level of skill, the same number of reasons to be feared – it’s a partnership that pays dividends, so here’s hoping that Pak doesn’t separate them any time soon. If Ochi’s fate in Episode IX is anything to go by, he’ll certainly be making waves amongst the Sith for some time to come. 

Raffaele Ienco’s artwork is as solid as ever – his consistency across this run has been something to behold, as is his consistency across single issues when moving from static conversations to all out action. In a title whose two main characters both wear face covering helmets, Ienco shows incredible skill in still managing to convey a sense of each of them, lending the right emphasis to the dialogue in the reader’s mind, as if he were in fact showing the features underneath, whether it’s Vader’s stoic near silence or Ochi’s talkativeness he’s approaching. The action scenes virtually pop out of the page, giving an astonishing sense of movement to Ochi’s fighting style whilst also allowing each panel to be simple to follow and understand. So many artists can create fast, frenetic sequences that are so busy that the reader has to force themselves to slow down to take in the detail, to the detriment of the pace they are trying to convey – this is a trap that Ienco never falls into as the issue zips by with every nuance intact. 

Every panel is eye-catching and the colours by Jason Keith gel wonderfully with Ienco’s lines, his use of various shades of red creating a cohesive look for the whole issue, whether Pak is progressing the plot or taking the reader into the heat of battle. 


VERDICT

Further insight into the relationship between Darth Vader and Ochi of Bestoon is expertly mixed with high stakes action to create an issue that simply has everything, right down to the stunning final splash page that seems designed to finally cement these two characters as an unstoppable duo. 


Reviewed by Nathan Harrison.


Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters #3

Fans of the myriad twists, turns and surprises that Soule has crammed into the previous two issues will not be disappointed, and what transpires across the second half makes for some of the most dynamic and impactful panels of the series so far…


STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #3
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Luke Ross
Colours: Neeraj Menon

Released: 18/08/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

We have a saying here in Britain – ‘you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once’. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but you get the idea. The same can be said, it seems, for unexpected but fun as hell fights in Star Wars comics, as Charles Soule and Luke Ross pack this latest issue with not one but two scraps for the ages.

Last issue saw Leia, Lando and Chewbacca almost quite literally bump into Boba Fett, teasing what promised to be one hell of an interesting collision of worlds. What follows here more than delivers on that cliffhanger, with everyone’s favourite Wookie facing up against the infamous bounty hunter. Across only a handful of panels, Ross delivers what must have been many a fan’s dream brawl for years, with Chewie egged on by a vengeful Lando.

But it’s not just the fight that makes this moment so wonderful to behold. The way Soule can write a conversation between characters who have historically been at each other’s throats that convincingly brings them on to something like the same side whilst still maintaining what makes each of those characters who they are is uniquely impressive. Amidst all the chaos that we’ve seen, not just in the mini-series but across the whole event, it’s great to be reminded in no uncertain terms of what drives Fett and nowhere is this more evident than in this brief encounter with the heroes of the Skywalker Saga.

As for the other fight…well…that’s probably best not spoiled, but fans of the myriad twists, turns and surprises that Soule has crammed into the previous two issues will not be disappointed, and what transpires across the second half makes for some of the most dynamic and impactful panels of the series so far – and that’s saying something when the quality of the art has been so high throughout. Neeraj Menon’s colour work is something really quite special that deserves to grace the pages of many more of Marvel’s titles, and its pastels and neon perfectly compliment Ross’ semi-cartoonish approach.

Like the previous two issues, Soule leaves things on a doozy of a cliffhanger, which still has real impact despite what we know about the fates of the main characters. It serves as a fitting end to a pulse-pounding, gasp-inducing third part to this story, and with the events of this issue driving the plot forward at a fair old lick, even amongst all the action, things only look likely to get more and more intense from here on out.


VERDICT

Soule, Ross and Menon continue to be the perfect team to put this series together. The consistency on show here proves that they were the best choice to create the core of this story. 34 parts overall is a lot and while most of the issues released so far have been excellent, there is room for bloat in such a vast project, as if often the case with such massive, all-encompassing events. This fast-paced, fun and energetic centrepiece could not be further away from such problems and represents some of the finest Star Wars storytelling on the stands right now.


Review by Nathan Harrison

Star Wars #16 Review

The doubt and fear that has plagued Luke Skywalker throughout this top-quality run finally comes to a head as he faces down the possibility of another showdown with Darth Vader at a crucial and climactic moment in the War of the Bounty Hunters event…

STAR WARS #16
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison


Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Ramon Rosanas
Released: 18/08/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The doubt and fear that has plagued Luke Skywalker throughout this top-quality run finally comes to a head as he faces down the possibility of another showdown with Darth Vader at a crucial and climactic moment in the War of the Bounty Hunters event.

From the start of his time on Star Wars, Charles Soule has focused in on one of the key gaps that needs filling between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – namely, Luke’s transition from the broken, defeated young man we see at the end of Episode V to the confident, formidable, powerful Jedi we see stride into Jabba’s palace when Episode VI kicks in. Soule’s exploration of the darker side of Luke’s psyche has been delivered in flashbacks that make the iconic scenes from Empire more horrifying and devastating each time they’re revisited, and that approach continues in issue 16 to wonderful effect, delivering a pay off that adds further to the corker of a cliffhanger that closed out War of the Bounty Hunters #3.

Luke really is put through the wringer this issue, with another dog fight to contend with on top of everything going on in his head – Ramon Rosanas again delivers spectacularly on this front, conveying a real sense of movement and speed that is really needed for such an essential piece of the Star Wars puzzle. Whenever enemy ships swarm and Rosanas is the one bringing them to life, expect fantastic results.

The action also briefly shifts to the events of the second half of the latest issue of the event’s mini-series (which Soule himself recommends should be read before Star Wars #16) as we see Leia, Lando and Chewie contend with the spiralling, chaotic events at the Crimson Dawn auction. Cutting between this and Luke’s escapades makes for a pacey read, flitting between a tense stand off at the auction with our heroes watching on, Luke’s dogfight and more horrific visions across large, eye-catching panels before culminating in a devastating conclusion that shows that Luke really has reached rock bottom.


VERDICT

The character development that Soule has been carefully and skilfully putting together since the first page of his first issue now helps to deliver a gut punch of an issue. It should be fascinating to see where Luke goes from here and what Soule does to bring him back from the brink.


Star Wars: 4-Lom & Zuckuss #1 Review

While the earlier comic was a tense, nail-biting, white-knuckle ride of an issue, Daniel José Older’s approach is a much more light-hearted and humorous one which is no less refreshing….


STAR WARS: 4-LOM & ZUCKUSS #1
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison 12/8/21

Written by: Daniel José Older
Art: Kei Zama
Colours: Felipe Sobreiro
Released: 04/08/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Much like Star Wars #15 before it, 4-LOM & Zuckuss #1 (at least seemingly for now) acts as a bit of a diversion from the main narrative of the War of the Bounty Hunters event that has been running through various Star Wars comics for the past few months.


While the earlier comic was a tense, nail-biting, white-knuckle ride of an issue, Daniel José Older’s approach is a much more light-hearted and humorous one which is no less refreshing. Could any less be expected from the man who brought us the Jedi affectionately known as Buckets of Blood in his work on The High Republic Adventures?

Insectoid bounty hunter Zuckuss and his lethal droid companion 4-LOM have proven surprising fodder for comedy in their appearances in the ongoing Bounty Hunters series and Older takes this even further with a truly madcap approach to his story, bringing in an almost Guardians of the Galaxy style sense of humour to proceedings. Heck, there’s even a raccoon-like creature with a penchant for removing limbs…

That’s not to say that this issue doesn’t have substance and depth – we see Zuckuss in a whole new light by the end of this issue and 4-LOM is certainly transformed, albeit in an altogether more out there, slightly terrifying way, wonderfully revealed in one of a number of Kei Zama’s splash pages. The Japanese artist’s lines are satisfyingly clean, creating a cartoonish feel when paired with Felipe Sobreiro’s dynamic colour work. A lot of this issue’s colour palette is on the darker end of the scale, but when brighter bursts are appropriate, Sobreiro makes the most of them, especially when blaster rounds start firing.

Deva Lompop, the new bounty hunter character introduced in the previous Jabba the Hutt one shot makes an altogether too brief appearance, although that does mean that the focus here is squarely on the title characters, which wasn’t quite the case with Jabba. That said, it would have been fun to see Older take on the character, as her anarchic presence seems like it would fit right within his wheelhouse.


VERDICT

4-LOM & Zuckuss #1 acts as a fun, exciting and somewhat bonkers side-line to the War of the Bounty Hunters, although no doubt the events of this issue will feed into the greater narrative at a later juncture. Older’s script is fast-paced and frenetic and the fun he’s had here is evident. And if the writer has fun, especially in a world like Star Wars, so does the reader. Those who haven’t had a chance to get into the wider event will have a tough job catching up at this point, but this issue stands on its own nicely and thoroughly entertains.


Review by Nathan Harrison 12/8/21