Luke Skywalker and Starlight Squadron bring the fight to the Empire in ‘Star Wars no. 15′

Ever since leaving the Lars Homestead on Tatooine due to the tragic deaths of his beloved Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, Luke Skywalker has had quite the hero’s journey. He would meet the wise Jedi Master Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi who would introduce him to the ways of the Jedi. Skywalker would also meet the smuggler Han Solo and his wookie partner Chewbacca which would baptise Luke on the perils of adventuring. He would then go from farmboy to Rebel Alliance hero almost in one night when he rescued Princess Leia and destroyed the Death Star. After having several adventures with Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, he eventually would further connect with his Jedi heritage when traveling down to the swamp planet of Dagobah. 

Skywalker’s biggest trial would come when he went face to face with Darth Vader on Cloud City in the cloudy skies of Bespin. Vader would reveal himself to be Luke’s father much to the aspiring Jedi’s horror and disbelief. In addition, Luke would also lose his hand and his lightsaber that once belonged to Vader when he was still Anakin Skywalker. 

However, the latest “Star Wars” comics have shown Luke slowly maturing after his ordeal on Cloud City. He has begun to take his training seriously and has also realized that he should not dwell on his failures but to learn from them. In the process, he had to let go of finding his first blue-bladed lightsaber and in the process, he found a new yellow-bladed lightsaber. 

Now as Leia, Chewie, Threepio, and Lando Calrissian are on Jekara taking part in the mission to rescue Han, Luke joins Wedge Antilles and Starlight Squadron to rescue the Rebel Alliance 11th Fleet Division. But along the way, Skywalker has encountered something familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time. 

Warning Spoilers Ahead 

Issue no.15 begins with Luke Skywalker volunteering to join Wedge Antilles and Starlight Squadron to rescue the 11th division. Although the Rebels have been successful in creating a new code thanks to the talky droid and having a few victories, not everyone is feeling hyped. A-Wing pilot L’ulo Lampar voices the condition of the scattered Rebel Fleet and the missing Shara Bey (Future mother of Poe Dameron). Luke tries to give his comrades hope by telling people that he, Leia, and the other heroes are planning on rescuing Han Solo from Crimson Dawn on Jekara. Wedge acknowledges this but tells the pilots that saving another fleet division would be more important. With that, Luke and Starlight Squadron blast off into hyperspace to find their fellow Rebels. 

Property of Lucasfilm and Marvel

When the Rebels jump out of hyperspace, they head to the orbit of Ab Dalis which should be familiar with fans or people who have read Charles Soule’s novel “Star Wars-The High Republic: Light of the Jedi.” Freyta Smyth, one of the Starlight Squadron pilots, makes a reference of the fragments from the doomed Legacy Run space freighter which is a part of the planet killing billions of inhabitants. Since the incident, which was about centuries before the Battle of Yavin, the planet had been abandoned. 

I feel that it was awesome that Soule’s writing bridges the High Republic era with the Skywalker Saga. From Luke’s new yellow-bladed lightsaber to the name of Starlight Squadron being named after Starlight Beacon (a space station created by the Jedi and the High Republic to unite the galaxy), it shows that the High Republic era was such a huge influence to the galaxy,  

Starlight Squadron picks up a transmission from the planet which is confirmed to be from the 11th Rebel Alliance Fleet Division. The 11th division is getting pinned down and overrun by Imperial forces which consists of a Star Destroyer Ultima II, tanks, AT-AT’s and an army of stormtroopers. The beleaguered Rebels and their Colonel, Chouch, receive news that among the six Rebel starfighters coming to rescue them are Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles. However, the Imperials aboard Star Destroyer Ultima II  are overconfident that they can crush the Rebels. The commander plans on reporting his success to the ruthless Commander Zhara and orders  TIE Fighters to intercept Starlight Squadron. 

While Luke, Wedge, and Starlight Squadron fight the TIEs, one of the Rebel soldiers comes up with a crazy but brilliant idea. The soldier tells Colonel Chouch that when she was a part of the geological survey team, she was examining the stability of the planet. Her plan is  to have one of the pilots fire their weapons at a small target on the surface  just above the Ultima II which will create a chain reaction.

While the Imperial commander on board Ultima IIis confident that he will be victorious, the pilots of Starlight Squadron are contemplating on whether they should go through the coordinates given to them by the rebel ground forces. Freta discovers that since the target is so small, this task looks like a job for Skywalker, who destroyed the Death Star which also had a small target in the form of the thermal exhaust port. Now, we see the inspiration behind the soldier’s plan and who better than Luke Skywalker to take the shot? 

Property of Lucasfilm and Marvel

As Luke goes in for the shot, he feels that he is in familiar territory. He’s back in the Battle of Yavin with his sights set on the thermal exhaust port with proton torpedoes ready to fire. However, as  Luke is cornered by Vader, he sees Han coming to his rescue with the Millennium Falcon. But to his horror, he also sees the Corellian YT-1300 freighter getting destroyed by Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced.  As Luke questions the  memory, he is in an unfamiliar situation. This is clearly not how things went during the Battle of Yavin. 

Luke sees Vader aboard his TIE advanced  telling him that he will fail to save Solo and that he belongs to him. Then Luke sees Vader blast the Falcon with his ship. This is when Luke realizes that this is a Force vision. Horrified by this nightmare, Luke freezes up but Wedge snaps him out of it and Luke fires his torpedoes but misses! However, as Luke plans on making another run, Wedge and the other pilots fire their torpedoes onto the targeted area which causes a chain reaction. Suddenly, the surface erupts in an volcanic explosion which destroys the Star Destroyer Ultima II

I feel that Soule adding a very familiar scene was the best part of this comic. This scene takes you back to that moment when Luke hops aboard Red Five for the first time and takes the fight to the Empire. The moment that made Luke Skywalker a hero and a legend. However, in this scene, Luke gets a little cocky as he thinks that the task as of him will be a piece of cake. However, the Force vision of the Millennium Falcon getting destroyed causes Luke to freeze up and miss the shot. This shows that Luke still has a lot to learn as a Jedi since he still has an arrogant streak about him which he inherited from Anakin. 

Property of Lucasfilm and Marvel

The Rebels are victorious but Luke is a little bummed that he missed the target. Wedge assures his Force sensitive comrade that everyone misses and that he should not beat himself up for it. Wedge thanks Luke for assisting Starlight and wishes him luck with the mission to Jekara. The Rebels are elated to more good news when they receive a transmission from Rebel Alliance leader Mon Mothma who is accompanied by Mon Calamari Admiral Ackbar. 

Meanwhile, as Luke heads to Jekara, he tries to contact Leia who, along with Lando and Chewie, is cornered by Boba Fett. Leia cuts off the transmission as Luke tries to tell her that he had experienced a Force vision warning him that Darth Vader is coming after Han (and if you have read “War of the Bounty Hunters no.2,”  “Doctor Aphra no. 12,” “Darth Vader no. 14,” along with the end of this issue, you would know Luke’s vision comes true.) 

The art done by Ramon Rosanas and the coloring by Rachelle Rosenberg made this issue vibrant as Soules’ writing. One of my favorite panels is of Luke reliving the memory of flying his X-Wing Fighter into that Death Star trench only to see an alternate version where Han gets shot down by Vader. My favorite splash is of the volcanic explosion on the Star Destroyer.  It symbolizes the Rebels’ tenacity to never give up despite insurmountable odds.  

Now that just about everyone and their mother has come to Jekara to bid for Han Solo, how will Luke react when he learns that his vision has come true. How will the young Jedi react when he discovers Boba Fett has Princess Leia and his friends cornered? And how will Luke react when he learns about Qi’ra’s history with Han? “War of the Bounty Hunters  no. 3” is, without a doubt, going to be another explosive issue but the next issue seems to be teasing a rematch against father and son before their fateful encounter on Death Star II!

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Ramon Rosanas 

Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles 

Publisher: Marvel 

Synopsis: “Friends and Enemies” Luke Skywalker embarks upon an epic mission with Wedge Antilles and the brave pilots of Starlight Squadron to rescue a lost division of the Rebel Fleet. Leia Organa, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian attempt to save Han Solo from the evil clutches of Boba Fett. But what hidden vision will the Force send to Luke about the troubles to come?

Administrator Sly Moore conspires against Darth Vader

Administrator Sly Moore has been in Emperor Palpatine’s inner circle when he was still Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. A cunning political figure hailing from the planet Umbara and  who is Force-Sensitive, Moore is dangerous, possibly much more so than the Emperor’s other right-hand person, Grand Vizier Mas Amedda. 

When Darth Vader was punished by Emperor Palpatine for his side quest of finding out more information about his son, Luke Skywalker, Moore was one of the allies the Emperor ordered to eliminate the former Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. After Ochi of Bestoon, a Sith assassin, thought that he had defeated Vader on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, the Administrator felt that she had to pick up the pieces due to knowing that Vader could not be kept down that easily. After Vader got off Mustafar with Ochi as his prisoner, Moore was on board a Star Destroyer pursuing Vader and sending an entire fleet of TIE Fighters after him. However, the Sith quickly defeated the TIEs thanks to his skills as a pilot, his abilities in the Force, and a giant space creature enroute to the planet Exegol.  

After she, Vader, and Ochi witness the Emperor’s true power and his plans involving Exegol, Moore also witnesses the Emperor’s armored enforcer being restored. However, this has the administrator concerned and by the end of “Darth Vader no.13,” she is revealed to have conspired with IG-88 and a secret group of followers to finally kill Vader.

Warning Spoilers Ahead 

“Star Wars: Darth Vader no. 14” begins on the Imperial throne world of Coruscant where two Imperial cadets are in awe at how Darth Vader survived his ordeal  on Mustafar by just being held together by Separatist droid parts. They comment that Vader is basically unstoppable. As Vader strides triumphantly with his new right hand man Ochi of Bestoon at his side, Administrator Sly Moore is not at all impressed. 

Seeing her disappointment, Emperor Palpatine instigates jealousy within the Umbaran when he asks if she is satisfied with Vader being restored to full function and health. Sly admits that she failed to defeat Vader which the Emperor agrees and then chuckles as he walks away from her. To make matters worse, as the Umbara follows the Emperor, Grand Vizier Mas Amedda tells her that she is needed at the Prescreen Department. Moore quickly learns that due to her failure, she has been demoted to Sub-administrator. The Umbaran looks on as Amedda and Palpatine take the turbolift toward the Imperial Palace. Several Imperial officers and stormtroopers look on at the now Sub-administrator Moore. 

Property of Lucasfilm and Marvel

As I continue to read this series, I continue to praise Greg Pak as one of the many writers who knows how to write Star Wars along with Charles Soule. In this issue, the story’s main focus is on Sly Moore and the ongoing battle for supremacy within the Emperor’s inner circle. The inner conflict within the Galactic Empire is nothing new in Star Wars. We have seen plenty of Imperials conspire against each other or their allies. For example, there have been several past stories where the Grand Moff Tarkin has traded blows with Darth Vader. In addition, there have been previous comic issues where the Emperor has sent potential new enforcers or apprentices to kill Vader so that he can replace him. Furthermore, there have been other stories in the Star Wars Legends lore, like “Shadows of the Empire, ” where Vader has deep animosity for the Emperor’s ally and leader of the Black Sun criminal syndicate, the Falleen Prince Xizor. In this latest “Vader” issue, Paks narration and dialogue between the characters  are a reminder of how the Sith operate with each other and their allies. I also feel that Pak’s inclusion of the subtle infighting within the Emperor’s inner circle is a reminder of  the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis with Wise. 

While toiling away at the Prescreen Department with two Imperial officers, the now Sub-administrator Moore discovers that a high-ranking Imperial has been given an invitation to attend the auction of the carbonite frozen Han Solo from Crimson Dawn. Moore also hears the name “Skywalker” and sees this as a potential opportunity to enact revenge on Darth Vader. 

Moore begins to put her plan into motion by heading to the repair block where Vader was fully restored back in “Darth Vader no. 12” so that she can get the schematics on his machine-infused anatomy. Mas Amedda catches her and the two discuss their roles within the Emperor’s inner circle and how they serve the Sith and do not have the power to “indulge in their pleasures.” Sly being sly tells Amedda to pretend that he did not catch her while she, unbeknownst to the Grand Vizier, creates a holodisk containing the schematics on Vader’s anatomy. 

It is here that we learn how bounty hunter assassin droid IG-88 was able to track down Vader and  temporarily have the upper hand on him during their fight in the last issue. It was Moore and her fellow conspirators who provided the assassin droid and his army of droids with the disk.

Property of Lucasfilm and Marvel

Toward the end of the comic, we are left off at the part where IG-88 meets with Moore and her followers. The droid tries to terminate his bounty contract since Vader defeated him during their last encounter. Much to Moore’s horror, Vader sneaks behind IG-88 and slices the droid with his crimson-colored lightsaber. Moore and her followers flee from the Sith Lord while they try to kill him. Moore also tries using the same mechanism IG-88 used to defeat Vader but ultimately, Vader overpowers her. 

With no choice and admitting defeat, the Umbaran bargains with Vader by mentioning the Crimson Dawn invitation to the auction of Han Solo and also how Luke (who would not be far behind to rescue the smuggler) could potentially kill Vader. Sly makes a promise with the Sith Lord to purchase Solo for Vader so that the Sith could not only take Solo but also potentially fight Luke. The two come to a compromise on the plan. However, at the auction, things go south when Jabba the Hutt and his fellow Hutt, Bokku (who has allied with Vader) outbid Sly. The administrator is puzzled as to why Bokku, who is allied with Vader, is bidding against her. Ochi responds that it is the Hutt’s way to humiliate her and himself which in turn would expose her weakness to the Emperor.The assassin further explains that although Sly was very power with uniting her allies to defeat Vader, the Sith Lord is too powerful to let that happen. The end of this issue leaves off toward where   “War of the Bounty Hunters no. 2” ended but with Vader inviting himself to the auction by force choking several Crimson Dawn guards. 

As I mentioned before, the character of Administrator Sly Moore is very dangerous and shrewd. Greg Pak brought this character to life. Before the “Vader” comic, Moore was just a character who stood on the sidelines with a brooding expression in the “Star Wars” prequel films.  Pak’s take on Sly Moore is a high ranking Imperial official who is an opportunist and a quick study. She is willing to do whatever it takes when an opening presents itself to execute her plan. She also is no push over when it comes to executing that plan by mentioning Luke Skywalker being the only person who could kill Vader and take his place. This shows that she is as much of a manipulator as the Emperor. In the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who dies in the fight between Vader and Luke (who she may or may not know are father and son). One way or another, whoever dies, she would probably go for the killing bow.

I also like the direction Vader is going in this arc also. Yes, he knows that Luke is his son however, it seems that the Emperor wants to use that in order for him to have one less Skywalker to worry about. The Emperor is hell bent on manipulating Vader to kill Luke or vice versa since having an enforcer strong in the Force would serve his agenda. Especially if the Emperor was able to seduce someone as powerful as Anakin to the Dark Side. It will be interesting to see if Vader really is set on killing Luke or if this is just a ruse to get the Emperor off his scent of his own plans which involve having his son rule at his side. 

Property of Lucasfilm and Marvel

The art by Raffaele Lenco and the coloring by Jason Keith played just as huge of a role  as Pak’s writing did in bringing Sly Moore to life. The drawings of Sly Moore show the stark differences between her time as administrator in  the Galactic Republic to her time as administrator for the Empire. When she was administrator for the Republic, she was wearing a silver, or lighter, gown while under the Empire, she was wearing an all black short trench coat with black slacks and boots. In addition to her clothing, Moore’s facial features are further darkened and chiseled, possibly to show her age throughout the 23-years she has been in service to Palpatine. But I also think that those additional lines and shading on her face make her far more brooding than she did in the prequel films. 

Overall, the “War of the Bounty Hunters” arc has been the blockbuster of the summer that has rocked the Skywalker Saga in the Disney era. There hasn’t been such an arc since the Shadows of the Empire that has changed the landscape and expanded the Star Wars Universe. With the inclusion of Han Solo’s ex girlfriend Qi’ra, from “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” pulling the strings by gathering all entities in the galaxy, there is no way that it would be a “Star Wars” blockbuster without Darth Vader. Greg Pak’s post “Empire Strikes Back” Vader is ruthless, determined, and cold-blooded. From what I read, he knows that he cannot take on the Emperor alone but he also knows that Luke could very well defeat him. With that, Vader has no choice but to kill Luke or at least defeat him enough so that he could have one less potentially powerful enemy to worry about. Or, as I mentioned before, Vader is likely playing possum and secretly wants to have Luke at his side (which he actually does) so that they can overthrow the Emperor. 

“Star Wars: Darth Vader no.14” is now out wherever comic books are sold.

Writer: Greg Pak

Artist: Raffaele Ienco

Colorist: Jason Keith

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagnna

Publisher: Marvel
Synopsis: “The Blade Behind the Curtain” For decades, no figure has stood as close to theEmperor with so much mystery surrounding her. Who is theUmbaran? What is her role within the Empire and in the War of the Bounty Hunters? And what happens when she emerges from the darkness to challenge Darth Vaderhimself? Featuring an unprecedented look at the inner workings of the Emperor  inner circle – and the return of IG-88!

Earth-16 Comics Wire Podcast Season 3, Episode 2: The Comic Collector

In this episode, Brendon Rooney and I speak with Psychiatrist Dr. Paul Rashid, the creator of The Comic Book Collector, a short documentary film about his mission to giveaway his comic books to children. We had fun chatting about this awesome story and so much more. 

You can follow the Earth-16 Comics Wire on Twitter: @Earth16Podcast

Instagram: earth16comicswire

If you want to find out more information on the Comic Book Collection, you can go to the Kickstarter page: 

Earth-16 Comics Wire Update

Hello Constant Readers and Listeners,

I hope that all of you have been having a happy new year. So far, this year has been all about staying committed to my goals. One of those goals involves writing. And speaking of writing, I am writing an update in regards to the Earth-16 Comics Wire.

The Earth-16 Comics Wire Podcast is partnering with the Daily Planet to produce episodes involving comic creators. The news site, which is based on the fictional Daily Planet from the Superman mythos, has become a new platform for the podcast. In addition, I am planning on posting most of my comic book reviews on the Daily Planet. However, I still plan on writing on this blog page but it will be geared towards updates on the podcast, comic book commentary that piques my interests, and comic book events/conventions.

2021 looks to be an exciting year and I continue finding more people to have on my podcast and talk about their comic book projects. I am also planning on talking to pro-wrestlers since I enjoy watching professional wrestling, whether its WWE, AEW, Impact, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, or Ring of Honor. Wrestling is awesome. I have been writing some wrestling content for the Daily Planet and plan on writing more in the comic months.

I also am planning on writing my first book. Writing a book is a process but I am taking it easy rather than rushing into the process. I have already outlined the first three chapters of the book. In the future, I plan on sharing some details of the book in the blogsite. This project has stuck with me since my second year at college and I feel that right now is the right time to start building on it. I am very excited to see this project goes.

I am also planning on doing more video game streams on my Twitch and Youtube where we can talk about anything (especially comic books) in a fun and safe environment. Also, this is a way to ward of the negativity from what is going on in our society. I am also going to be streaming some of my podcasts on Twitch and Youtube.

I hope that this year brings more awesome surprises and adventures. I plan on writing about those moments and sharing them with you on this awesome platform. So having wrote that, Let’s make 2021 and awesome year and lets look cool doing it. And as I always say….lets dream and work toward a better tomorrow!

And that my friends…is undisputed!

-Brian of Earth-16

Review: Scouts Honor

Writer: David Pepose

Artist: Luca Casalanguida

Colorist: Matt Milla

Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual

Publisher: Aftershock

The first comic review of the new year has arrived in the form of the comic book, “Scout’s Honor.” The comic is written by David Pepose (“The O.Z. and Spencer and Locke”), illustrated by Luca Casalanguida, colored by Matt Milla, and lettered by Carolos M. Mangual. There will not be too many spoilers in this review as I will only be talking about the aspects of the comic and not telling the full story. But if you have not read the comic yet, I suggest you give it a read before reading this review.

“Scout’s Honor” takes place more than two centuries into a post-apocalyptic future. The world is a barren wasteland after a nuclear war. A violent version of the Boy Scouts of America, called Ranger Scouts had emerged from a bunker and saw what had become of the world they once knew. The Scouts decide to survive a new world born of nuclear destruction.

Courtesy of David Pepose and Aftershock Comics

When reading this comic, I felt that Pepose borrowed several themes from the Judge Dredd, “A Handmaiden’s Tale,” and Mad Max. The Ranger Scouts, like the Judges from Judge Dredd, are an police force of Boy Scouts used to enforce order by brutal means. The scouts are also able to rise in the ranks by gaining merit badges due to their feats out in the badlands. The highest honor for a Ranger Scout is the Valor Badge which any scout can procure before becoming an elite Eagle Guard.

And the order that the Ranger Scots are enforcing is one of patriarchy in which, under the third law, they are “forged in brotherhood, beyond our sisters and wives,” which is not too different from the Republic of Gilead. In addition, like Gilead, the order is a pseudo-religious order that is derived from the Ranger Scout Survival Handbook written by a Dr. Jefferson Hancock. Six laws, like the aforementioned third law, have been derived from the handbook that the scouts have to follow to enforce their order.

Courtesy of David Pepose and Aftershock Comics

Pepose has written an ensemble of characters that are going through several challenges. The first character, Kit, is a rising star within the Ranger Scouts. However, nobody, with the exception of Kit’s father, knows that Kit is actually a girl and if the Ranger Scouts were to find out, she would not be a Ranger Scout. The second character is Dez Shepherd, a fellow Ranger Scout who is a friend and rival of Kit. Dez is portrayed as a young man who wears a chip on his shoulder due to trying to gain approval from his father, Thomas, who is the ordained Scoutmaster. Dez is seen as more proficient with vehicles and technology, much to his father’s dismay. In addition, Thomas favors Kit over his own son and perhaps, may choose the former to become an Eagle Guard which is an elite Ranger Scout. Then there’s Kit’s father who is very concerned for the safety of the young lady especially when it comes the the third law.

When seeing these characters, I remembered speaking with David on the Earth-16 Comics Wire podcast about how he created characters for his comics. Like in “The O.Z.” and “Spencer and Locke,” Pepose usually wrote characters who have experienced trauma of some form. For instance, Dorothy Gale in “The O.Z.,” the granddaughter of the original Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” had PTSD from her experiences as a soldier fighting in the War in Iraq. The one character I see having the most trauma would be Dez since his father puts a lot of pressure on him to be a capable Scout, like Kit and I have no doubt that this will play a huge role as the story progresses.

The art done by Casalanguida has a lot of action-to-action sequences with the panels. We see this in the beginning of the comic where Kit, Dez, and a rookie Ranger Scout name Eddy are hunting for a gamma boar. A scene-to-scene transition was used at the beginning of the story to give readers the idea of how the Ranger Scouts rose from the ashes of the old world and to take us to the present day where we are introduce to Kit. Casalnguida’s art also had some powerful scenes which included the aspect-to-aspect panels which showed a statue of Jefferson Hancock, Eddy being laid to rest, and Thomas Shepherd orating an eulogy for the fallen Scout. Another power scene was the aspect-to-aspect scene in which showed the panels showed Kit conversing with her dad and the revelation of Kit’s secret. The coloring done by Milla set the mood within the comic. One my favorite panels showed Kit lending a hand to Dez. In this panel, a light is shinning right behind Kit which signifies that she is indeed the gallant hero of the story and also the shinning example that Dez’s ios expected to follow, by his father.

Courtesy of David Pepose and Aftershock Comics

As the story progresses, there is a dark twist on the real history Ranger Scouts that set’s Kit’s world upside down. There is doubt that this twist will cause a chain reaction as the series progresses. What will Kit do with this new knowledge and will the Ranger Scouts stay the same once this twist is revealed to them?

You can grab “Scouts Honor #1” at your local comic book shop.

Review: Crossover #2

Writer: Donny Cates

Artist: Geoff Shaw

Colorist: Dee Cunnifee

Letterer: John J. Hill

Story Edits: Mark Waid

Publisher: Image

Synopsis: “KIDS LOVE CHAINS,” Part Two The event continues to unravel as Ellie, Otto, and Ava rise from the ashes of their comic shop to begin their four-color odyssey to find the truth beyond the dome. Meanwhile: super-prisons! Magic guns! Mysterious government agents! And other stuff, too!

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Issue #2 begins with a television news reporter informing the public that comic book writer Brian K. Vaughn was found murdered. The unknown narrator says that this is an “second arc storyline” and that he or she “shouldn’t have even brough it up” and reminds us that comic book fan Ellipses and the son of a religious zealot Ryan Lowe are destined to become lovers. But right now, Ellipses has no love for Ryan as she is seen spiting at his face after he set fire to the comic book ship

Property of Image Comics

This story was split into two arcs for Ryan and Ellipses after the burning of the comic shop. Ryan is arrested by the cops and taken to an office of a government official, Special Director Nathaniel Abrams Pendleton who was appointed by the President to incarcerate comic book heroes and characters. It is also revealed that the director has been working with other comic book characters to install power-dampening lights in the cells of the imprisoned characters. Pendelton gives Ryan a briefcase which a pistol and letter that mentions Ellipses and also advises him to travel to the dome. Pendleton advises the young man to complete his job or he would place him somewhere where his zealot father would not be able to bail him out.

Property of Image Comics

The arc with Ellipses involves her plan to take Ava back to her family and also find her parents who are believed to still be trapped in the dome. This arc had more revelations involving the loss of family for both Ellipses and Ava. Elipses and Ava are staying over at Otto’s house, still shaken by the events from last issue. Otto learns that Ellipses has been living in his comic book shop since she started working there.  In addition, Ava reveals that she did not escape a dome but a interment camp where the government is imprisoning comic book characters and experimenting on them. Ellipses decides to bring Ava to the camp to reunite with her family much to Otto’s protest. Otto is wary of Ava and mentions that if reading comics taught him anything, it was that Ava could have powers or be a mutant. While Ellipses shoots down Otto’s suspicions, they are confirmed when the ending of the comic reveals a splash page of Ava using heat vision to roast a rodent.

This issue continues to deliver. One of the things I enjoyed about this issue was the artfully subtle references of well-known comic characters in the government that were drawn by Geoff Shaw and colored by Dee Cunifee.  Donny Cates’ writing also keeps on having me want more Crossover and to see where the next issue takes us. 

Who wrote that letter that mentioned Ellipses? Who is Ryan supposed to use the gun on? How will Ellipses react when Otto’s suspicions about Ava are proven true? And is the man with the “S” on his chest who we think it is?

Crossover#2 is out now and can be purchased at your local comic book store.

Property of Image Comics

Review: Star Wars #9-Operation Starlight: The Ancient Relic

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Jan Bazaldua

Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Publisher: Marvel

Synopsis: The heroic Rebel Alliance is scattered and on the run from the evil Galactic Empire after losing the Battle of Hoth.

But the Empire’s cunning Commander Zahra has broken Rebel security codes and will stop at nothing to crush the Rebellion once and for all.

Princess Leia attempts to rally her friends before all hope is lost….

Warning Spoilers Below:

Star Wars #9 continues after the events from the battle in last issue where although the Rebel Alliance sent the ruthless Commander Zahra and the Empire packing, they are not out of the woods yet. Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and the Rebels start commencing Operation Starlight which is the mission to unite all the remaining Rebel cells. However, the Imperials have cracked the Rebellion’s secret encryption codes which leaves them vulnerable if they decide to communicate the other surviving cells.  Luckily for the Rebels, everyone’s favorite golden protocol droid C-3PO comes up with an idea to solve their dilemma. Threepio tells the Rebels of an ancient droid that can speak a forgotten language called Trawak which could help replace the previous codes. However, the protocol droid tells the Rebels that the droid is located in a museum in the heart of the Empire: Coruscant.  Leia tasks Des Dameron (Poe Dameron’s father) and his Pathfinders to fly to Coruscant, with the help of a reluctant Lando Calrissian and his friend/droid Lobot, and steal the droid. And who better to help pull off a heist than the former Baron Administrator of Cloud City?

Courtesy of Marvel and Lucasfilm

When I read this issue, I felt that it was an issue that placed the focus on Lando, Lobot, Des, and the Pathfinders. And since this issue is the commencement of Operation Starlight, Soule decided to place a heist as the first mission for the ragtag rebels.  When I read this issue, I wondered how the Millennium Falcon was able to slip through Coruscant. Sure, even though the Falcon is indeed a smuggler ship, isn’t Darth Vader still in search of that ship? And if so, wouldn’t that put the Pathfinders in some danger? After all, Vader is still searching for Luke, especially after revealing that he is his father.

I was surprised by the pace of this issue in which the Pathfinders were able to easily steal the ancient droid from the Imperial Museum. Lando and the Panthfinders are able to infiltrate the Imperial Museum and break into the curator’s office without getting spotted. However, the curator sentences one of the Panthfinders, Needle, a Quermian to death for protesting a work of art native to his species. Needle’s protest was used to distract the curator and his guards while Dameron and fellow Pathfinde Frell sneak into the curator’s office to steal the droid.  However, the issue is thrown a swerve that shows while the mission was completed, the ancient droid has malfunctioned due to a corrupted memory bank. Des questions Threepio on what they are going to do but droid responds that he does not know.

Courtesy of Marvel and Lucasfilm

One of the things that I enjoyed about the comic was that it shifted the focus on other characters. Des Dameron and his Pathfinders were portrayed as brave and capable soldiers of the Rebellion. We also see more of Lando Calrissian and his slow road to becoming an eventual official member of the Rebellion though he does not know that yet.  

The curator was a filler character that was flamboyant. The unnamed curator sat on a chair with legs which I felt was a call back to the prequel trilogy in which Palpatine’s hologram projector walked on legs. He also had a monocle and a Victorian Era moustache that I feel symbolizes the Empire’s wealth, power, and rather growing complacency which probably explains why the Rebels were able to slip past a world that the Empire was supposed to have on lockdown.

The one thing I wanted to see is the psychological effect that Zahra had on Leai after their scuffle. In the last issue, Zahra has taken residence in Leia’s mind after almost killing her. However, in this issue, Leia seemed unfazed, probably due to focusing on gathering the remaining Rebel cells. We will see Leai questioning her confidence in the next issue? And will the Imperial firebrand Zahra be thorn at her side as Operation Starlight continues?

Courtesy of Marvel and Lucasfilm

Speaking of Imperials, I liked that this story took place on Coruscant which was another call back to the prequels and a reminder that the planet is the center of galactic power in Star Wars. But the Rebels sneaking in the giant city-wide with very little effort made the setting of the Republic-turned Imperial world appear weak.  Like Frell, I was expecting this to be more of a challenge with the Imperials, granted the guards were not stormtroopers and they were guarding a museum. And I have to remember that Needle sacrificed himself to help his comrades steal a droid that was malfunctioning. But it would have also been cool to see how the Millennium Falcon slipped through Coruscant with Vader knowing about the YT-1300 freighter.

Overall, I am enjoying Soules run on Star Wars and I am excited to see what the Operation Starlight arc brings.

Star Wars #9 is out now and can be purchased at your local comic book store.

Review: GRIT #1 – 3

Publisher: Scout Comics

Writer: Brian Wickman

Penciler: Kevin Castaniero

Letterer: Micah Myers

Colorist: Simon Gough

Scout Editor: James Pruett

Scout Production: David Byrne

When I was introduced to GRIT, I decided to give it a read. The comic centers around Old Man Barrow, an “ageing monster hunter” who is very brutal in his monster hunting methods with the use of his axe. As the comic progresses, Barrow unexpectedly joins forces with Ari, “a hot-headed young witch dead set on breaking him of his ultra-violent habits.”  When I read the first two issues following issue #3, several things made me a fan of the comic.

Courtesy of Scout Comics

The first thing that got me glued to the comic was the character dynamic between Barrow and Ari. The protagonist Barrow is a loner who hates people and witches. He spends most of his time hunting mythical creatures. He is a cleaner of the land hired by the local townspeople to hunt monsters. Barrows is also a hack and slash monsters first and asking questions later character.  But we learn that this monster hunter has a unique past that involves his mother doing horrible things.

Next, we are introduced to Ari, who is a firebrand witch that disapproves of Barrow’s brutal methods. Ari is seen as foil to the more calm but savage Barrow. As a witch, Ari can cast spells. In addition, she loves nature and is able to communicate with animals. She also is more methodical and strategic as seen in Issue#3 when she and Barrow take on the blood demon at Black Dog Bottom. Throughout the series, the two characters are hilariously almost at each other’s throats with Ari calling Barrow names and criticizing his violent behavior while Barrow, annoyed with the witch, tells her the nature of his job as a monster hunter. It is towards the end of Issue #3 that Ari’s view about his methods towards other creatures seem to have some effect on Barrow as he is seen giving up his sword to a man crying for help because monsters in his attic.  

Courtesy of Scout Comics

Another thing I liked about the comic was that both Wickman’s writing and Kevin Castaniero’s art help to create a unique world that was a fusion between fantasy and “southern-fried” wit. This is a fantasy story told in an almost Western theme. When I read Barrow’s dialogue, I can hear a deep Southern accent, almost like Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Walking Dead) or maybe Sam Elliot voice (The Hulk, Ghost Rider). As for Ari, I can only hear Monica Rial’s (Dragon Ball Super) voice which made me realize that it had a bit of a hilarious North vs South vibe in a fantasy world. Or maybe a millennial vs baby boomer vibe.  To me the art is a little reminiscent of anime or manga art when the facial reactions are used to express emotions, like Samurai Champloo. The way the characters and creatures are drawn by Castaniero and colored by Simon Gough give the comic a noir and rustic style. And I definitely cannot forget how awesome lettering done by Micah Myers was in this series, especially with the explosion scene in Issue #3 in which was caused by Ari.

Courtesy of Scout Comics

I wonder if we will be seeing more of the misadventures of Barrow and his unique relationship with Ari. Issue #3 cannot mean the end of his monster hunting ways forever. And what about Ari? What is her story? And will she become someone who will become the closest thing Barrow has to a friend or family? I am looking forward to see how the gritty fantasy of worthy of the name GRIT unfolds.

Review: Black Cotton

Black Cotton

Publisher: Scout Comics

Writers: Patrick Foreman and Brian Hawkins

Art: Marco Perugini

Letters: Francisco Zamora

Patrick Foreman’s and Brian Hawkins’ (Don’t Ever Blink) latest comic Black Cotton is set an alternate universe where the black race is the majority and the white race is the minority. The story centers around the Cottons, a powerful and wealthy black family who owns Black Cotton Ventures, a successful business that has roots dating back 400 years in America’s history. The elite family’s world is rocked when the news of a black police officer shooting a young minority white woman hits the airwaves. That police officer is Zion Cotton, the son of Black Cotton mogul and Elijah Cotton.  As a result, a furious Elijah puts his daughter, and Zion’s sister, Qia up to the task of cleaning up the family’s image while the entire country becomes embroiled with protest from white minorities.  

Courtesy of Scout Comics

When I read this comic, it took me to a parallel universe that is a mirror of our world. This comic portrays an alternate reality where minorities are still affected by the presence of the majority. Only difference is that the majority is a different skin color. In a sense, this alternate reality is a character in the comic. And like our world, it has been teetering on the edge of division caused by political and discriminatory strife.

One of things I enjoyed about the comic is that it shows that had the roles been reverse, society would mostly be the same. If a shooting from a cop, who is of the majority race, on a minority were to occur, protests and riots from minorities would still be triggered. Police officers, especially ones from elite families, would be marked by the media and protests.

Courtesy of Scout Comics

When I read the scene where the news of Zion shooting of the young white woman begins reaching the door step of the Cotton family business, I began to think back to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two African-Americans murdered by the very people sworn to protect and serve: the police officers. Like the murder of Floyd and Taylor, the murder of the young white woman at the hands of Zion has sparked protests from white minorities. We see the organization the minorities protesting under “White Lives Matter” signs in front of Zion’s apartment. And we also see that the matriarch of Black Cotton, Zion and Qia’s mother, is willing to give money to the white woman’s family to brush everything under the rug.  

Courtesy of Scout Comics

With the familiar themes of racism and privilege, this comic’s writing does an amazing job of having the reader ask questions about this world that seems, again, similar to our own. Were whites subjugated to slavery like African Americans in real life history were? Did the Civil War end in a different way? Were the Native Americans treated any different? And I know that these questions will be answered with the help of Zion and Qia’s brother, Xavier who is tasked with doing a school project on the history that his family has been a part of for 400 years.

Courtesy of Scout Comics

The comic art along with the pacing of the panels compliments the writing. The panels from the first scene had me asking why Zion was chasing the young white woman. A part of me almost feels that there was more to the story as to why Zion shot the white woman. I also liked how the comic ended on Qia and Zion’s mother asking the family on how much she would give the Nightingale’s, the white woman’s family which the panel was used as a cliffhanger.

I am looking forward to learning how the relationship between Elijah and Zion became strained. Did Zion believe he had a bigger calling that taking over the family business? Does Qia enjoy working for Black Cotton? And what secrets will Xavier find out? Scout Comics will launch Black Cotton on February 2021 and it is on my list of comics to read.

 As many of the characters would say: Black Cotton.