Review-Star Wars #8-The Will of Tarkin: Prey

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Ramon Rosanas

Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Warning Spoilers Ahead:

Star Wars #8 continues the Will of Tarkin arc that began on issue #7. Imperial Commander Zahra is on a mission to kill Princess Leia and crush the Rebel Alliance which is still reeling from the defeat at Hoth. We learn from the last issue that Zahra had a mentor-like relationship with the ruthless Grand Moff Tarkin. We also learn that Zahra is taking part in this mission to avenge Tarkin and to get back at the Rebels for taking away her opportunity to redeem herself to her mentor.

Courtesy of Marvel and Disney

At the beginning of the comic, we are taken to several flashback panels where Darth Vader, via hologram, tasks Zahra with hunting down the Rebels. The former Anakin Skywalker refused to take part in the mission as ordered by Emperor Palptine since he is still fixated on his personal mission to find his son Luke Skywalker after the duel on Cloud City.

We are taken to the present where the Fourth and Seventh Rebel Fleets have the Imperials trapped in a pincer maneuver. However, Zahra plans on boarding the battleship ship Leia is on and kill the princess. Zahra is able to successfully board Leia’s ship and easily kill the Rebel Troopers try to contain her. Zahra hacks into the comm systems and threatens to destroy the ship from within unless she confronts Leia.

Courtesy of Marvel and Disney

Leia and Zahra come face to face as the ship’s interior is darkened. The Imperial Commander relates to Leia as she mentions that they are both orphans. Zahra mentions how her parents were killed by rebel terrorist and she joined the Empire to save little girls from the same experience she went through. She also mentions that Tarkin mentored and made her who she is. While talking with Leia, Zahra swiftly injures the princess with a sword that resembles a kitana. Then the Imperial commander blames Leia for orchestrating the attack on the Death Star which led to Tarkin dying “thinking that she was a failure” and that the Rebels took away her opportunity to redeem herself.  Zahra concludes that the only thing she can do is avenge her mentor but Luke, with the new yellow-bladed lightsaber he acquired from the previous issue comes in the nick of time to save the day. The Imperial escapes along with the retreating Imperial fleet.

During a Rebel briefing and while recovering from her wounds, Leia tells Luke that she saw something in Zahra’s eyes that told her that the Imperial wanted to hurt her and feel her pain. Leia concludes that Zahra was expressing darkness and hated.  

The comic ends with Zahra, in pure ruthless Tarkin fashion, boasting how Leia bleeding from her sword was a good day for her. She tells her lieutenant that she won’t stop going after Leia and vows to use her blade to finally kill her. She also boasts that she planted seeds of fear in Leia’s head so that she would be unable to galvanize the Rebel Alliance.

Courtesy of Marvel and Disney

Charles Soule’s writing continues to remind me that he knows how to write Star Wars. His notable work on Darth Vader in 2017, which explored Vader’s early days in the Empire and running the Inquistorious, was an enjoyable run.

The art done by Ramon Rosanas and Rachelle Rosenberg in this issue was also reeked of Star Wars. There were some favorite panels in the comic which included Vader recruiting Zahra to hunt down the Rebel Fleet, the Splash that showed Wedge Antilles leading a squadron of Rebel Star Fighters, and Leia’s showdown with Zahra.  The meeting between Vader and Zahra reminded me a lot of the prequel films in which the holograms were used frequently. Even in holographic form, Vader looks intimidating. The starfighter scene was just a reminder that the Rebel Alliance is always ready to fight even against seemingly insurmountable odds. The scene between Leia and Zahra parallels Luke and Vader’s duel in the carbon freezing chamber with the light vs dark themes and shadows being used.

However, the one thing I scratched my head on was why Soule added Luke into the scene between Leia and Zahra. I felt that this was Leia and Zahra’s fight, even though Luke too was responsible for blowing up the Death Star and killing Tarkin. I guess Luke was added probably to make this scene a teaser to the real fight between Leia and Zahra. In my opinion, however, Princess Leia is capable of taking care of herself and probably would have put up fight against the passionate Imperial. Luke probably would have come after Leia and Zahra exchanging blows against each other with the latter surviving but not without having injuries. It would have further planted more seeds of doubt in Leia and to start changing her perspective on her tactics against the Empire.

Overall, I am enjoying the Will of Tarkin arc as well as Soule’s run. I am looking forward to see how Zarha takes residence in Leia’s head rent free. Will Luke help her regain her confidence like he had regained his? And what is in store for the unbroken Rebel Fleet?

Star Wars #8 is out and can be purchase it at your local comicbook shop.

Review: Crossover#1

Publisher: Image Comics

Writer: Donny Cates

Artist: Geoff Shaw

Colors: Dee Cunniffe

Letters & Design: John J. Hill

Story Edits: Mark Waid

Cover: Geoff Shaw w/Dave Stewart

When I read Crossover #1, I was expecting Donny Cates (God Country) to bring us something in the magnitude similar to a Crisis on Infinite Earths or a Secret Wars. I was expecting Images characters like Invincible, Mark Grayson to end up on the Walking Dead Universe and encounter Rick Grimes. Or other characters like Lil’ Depressed Boy ending up in the world of Chew. But what Cates and his team have bequeathed to us was a not just a crossover of heroes battling it out. He gave us a crossover on an alternate version of our own world in comic book form.

Courtesy of Image Comics

What was described by the unknown narrator as a “superhero summer event,” occurred above the skies of Colorado on January 11, 2017. And when the narrator said that if the cataclysmic event “was a comic, it would be the greatest selling book of all time” but “it was real,” chills went down my spine. And that was when I knew that Crossover was going to be more than just a meeting of the heroes. It was also going to be a meeting of heroes that would lead to a lot of deaths and change the lives of everyone involved forever. The result of the infighting of the heroes caused Colorado to be enveloped in a force field.  And that is when the story begins.

Courtesy of Image Comics

Since the incursion of the Crossover, the public is against comic books or anyone who worships them. Comic enthusiasts, cosplayers or comic shop employees are ostracized from the public, especially the ardently religious. At the center of this story are three characters: Ellipses, a survivor of the Crossover, a comic shop employee, and daughter of writers who are still trapped in Colorado; Otto, the owner of the comic shop Ellipses works at; Ryan Lowe, a son of a religious zealot and bully of a father and a closeted comic book enthusiast who may have some connection to Ellipses, and Ava, a comic book character that came from the force field with the help of a certain superhero.

The events in Crossover #1 implode when Ryan, albeit reluctantly, obeys his dad by throwing a Molotov cocktail onto the comic shop when Ava’s presence terrifies the store patrons. The comic’s story become more climatic when Ellipses looks at Ava’s drawing of the hero who had let her walk out of the force field. The drawing appears to be a hero with a “S” on his chest which could mean that it was Superman who let her escape.

Courtesy of Image Comics

One of my favorite parts of the story is the narration. It is very subtle since the narrator is unknown or unseen. The narrator brought up interesting comparisons between humans and the fictional characters. I also liked how he mentioned that the story of Crossover is about “believing in something when the whole world tells you that you’re wrong, about trying to find a home when the one you have feels broken or gone,” “it’s also a love story,” and “a story about hope.”

I must confess, I haven’t read anything by Donny Cates before this comic. I actually gave God Country a read which also starts off with a narrator. When I read the first issue of God Country, I became as instantly hooked to that story as I did this one.  I will probably cover God Country in another review of video in the future.

Courtesy of Image Comics

Going back to the story, I feel that one of the powerful things about this story is how it relates to our everyday lives. Ellipses is an outcast due to her love for comic books which parallels how some people to this day put down comics or graphic novels as a medium nor being serious or making young children degenerates. Speaking of that sentiment, the shirt that Otto wears to be ironic was of Fredric Wertham, a German physiatrist who believed comic books warped the morals of young children.

I am also a huge fan for Geoff Shaw’s art which I also saw in God Country. His drawings of the force field made the Crossover event in Colorado look ominous yet beautiful since you cannot have a comic book crossover without heroes battling it out. His drawing of the comic book character Ava had me react the same way Ellipses and Otto did. Ava’s comic book-like appearance had my jaw drop; she’s a little girl who resembled a comic book drawing with dots all over her face. And we definitely cannot forget about the lettering done by John J. Hill which gave the scenes depth. Notable examples were when the red neck threw a bottle at Ellipses, Otto alerting Ellipses of Ava stealing a comic, and the explosions at the comic book shop after Ryan throws the Molotov cocktail at it.

Courtesy of Image Comics

Crossover has already got me hooked and I’m already excited for what is in store for issue #2. Who is Ava and why did someone let her out of the force field? What is the relationship between Ellipses and Ryan? Will we see some familiar heroes or catch glimpses of them? And, will the force field enveloping Colorado break?

Cates and his team have created an exciting story that I feel will change how people, whether avid comic readers or not, will view comic books and graphic novels forever. Don’t believe me, just give this a read.

Crossover#1 is out now and can be purchased at your local comic book store.

Comic Review: Ax-Man

As Earth becomes populated due to advancements in technology and the assimilation of people, all seems to be good. However, disease and pandemics spread just as rapidly. And you would think that with all of the world’s improvements, these diseases would be dealt with. But, what if the diseases cannot be cured? This is where the Ax-Man comes in.  An Ax-Man is a hitman aimed at killing patient zeroes, or people who carry these rare diseases, before an outbreak can envelop the globe.

Courtesy of Plastic Sword Press

Ryan Little’s “Ax-Man” centers around Jason Burke, an Ax-Man who is tasked by a black ops department of the CDC to kill patient zeroes. As the comic progresses, we learn in Issue #1 that Jason is also a doctor when he is conversing with his colleague and friend Allison. We also learn that Jason starts to become disillusioned with his work as a hitman for the CDC and that he has a tragic past involving a plague during a school field trip.

Courtesy of Plastic Sword Press

In addition to Jason struggling with his demons, we also see some of characters, like the aforementioned Allison, and Ian, another one of Jason’s friends and colleagues, clash with Moore, the director of the CDC’s black ops wing. While Ian and Allison want to find a way to cure diseases, Moore is hellbent on weaponizing them against terrorists. We see some of Moore’s sick experiments including a “blood melon,” which is front an infected human woman who turned into a tree.

When the plagues begin to spread, Jason abandons his mission to kill more people infected with incurable disease. He, Ian, and Allison decide on a new mission to help cure rather than kill those with the incurable diseases. If anything, this may seem like n tall order for Jason. However, given his past and his inner conflict between wanting to save lives as a doctor and take them as an Ax-man, he knows someone has to do it. And who better than him and his team of doctors?

And as the reader goes into the three issues of “Ax-Man,” one may notice that Little’s writing showed Jason’s inner conflict puts into question his upholding the Hippocratic Oath which is it is to “do no harm.” Jason clearly wants to help those who are sick rather than put them down. Moore’s black ops can argue that his organization is doing no harm by killing patient zeroes so that the pandemics do not spread. But we all know that not even the Ax-Men can stop the incurable disease pandemic from spreading.

Courtesy of Plastic Sword Press

The art, done by Briane Andan and Yuri Pinzon, brilliantly gives a gritty attitude of the story. One notable scene was at the very beginning of “Ax-Man” when Jason is infiltrating the hospital. We see a self-immolated Ax-Man, an infected patient who gets killed by Jason. and the scuffle between Jason and the looters in a darkened and abandoned hospital. Another notable scene was in Issue #3 with the infected become inflammable which evokes horrors created by the growing pandemic.

In addition, we cannot forget about the lettering done by Nikki Powers which evokes the same grittiness. From the gun shots fired from Jason to a notable patient, Albert, coughing out blood, the lettering also gives depth to the graphic novel.

In conclusion, “Ax-Man” is a story about how even a technologically advanced world is not always prepared to take on a serious pandemic. Look at the events today surrounding the current Coronavirus pandemic. Many countries are handling the pandemic in so many different ways and by different means. This does not mean that the world is doomed but Ax-Man is a reminder that there is no cookie cutter or perfect way to handle a pandemic. The struggles that Jason and other characters are facing are not too dissimilar to ours.

Courtesy of Plastic Sword Press

Will the rogue Ax-Man Jason and his intrepid medical team be able to save the world one disease at a time? Or will Moore succeed in creating bio-weapons to use against the terrorist? We may never know but I am excited to find out as more issues of “Ax-Man” come out!

Ax-Man is written by Ryan Little under his publication company Plastic Sword Press. The graphic novel is illustrated by Briane Andan, colored by Yuri Pinzon and lettered by Nikki Powers. The book is being funded at Kickstarter. If you want to back the project, click here.

Batman: The Three Jokers – A Classic Villainous Sidekick Returns

Spoilers Ahead

Gaggy Returns – Photo Courtesy of DC Comics

“Batman: The Three Jokers” #1, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jason Fabok had brought back several throwbacks from the Batman comics including the Hawaiian shirt Joker seen in Alan Moore’s “Batman: The Killing Joke” and Batman’s light up symbol, or “Bat-light,” on his chest. The comic also brought back an original henchman of the Joker.

Gagsworth A. Gagsworthy, or Gaggy, made his return in Three Jokers #1 to lead an army of thugs to take on Batman, Red Hood, and Batgirl in the Gotham Aquarium.

Gaggy’s Debut in Batman#186 – Photo Courtesy of DC Comics

Gaggy, who debuted in “Batman” #186, was the Joker’s court jester and the original sidekick of the Joker before Harley Quinn took on that role. The villainous and mischievous Gaggy was seen as the antithesis to the heroic Robin, Dick Grayson. The stooge hated the Boy Wonder so much, he had a Robin punching bag in which he would vent his anger out on much to Joker’s amusement. In addition, both Gaggy and Grayson were brought up in Haly’s circus.

After Batman and Robin defeated Joker and Gaggy, due to a miscommunication which involved Joker accidently clobbering his new sidekick, the villainous duo ended up in jail.

Gaggy vs Harley Quinn – Photo Courtesy of DC Comics

Gaggy is not seen again until Paul Dini’s “Gotham City Sirens” #6 where he is disguised as his former boss to lure Harley Quinn and get revenge on her for making Joker becoming psychotic. The comic has a flashback into a Gaggy’s relationship with the Joker during their time in prison after their defeat at the hands of Batman and Robin. Gaggy told Harley that he had tried to cheer Joker up but eventually, the Clown Prince of Crime was sent to Arkham Asylum and the former court jester ended up getting out of jail. After returning to the streets of Gotham, Gaggy decided to start his criminal life over and relive his past that he had with Joker. He tried to entactt his revenge on Harley but, with the help of Catowman and Poison Ivy, Harley was able to defeat Gaggy by blasting him off with a rocket from Joker’s lair. After being blasted off into a harbor, Gaggy swore revenge against Harley the next time they crossed paths.

In “Three Jokers,” Gaggy and his goons are unable to subdue Batman and his team. And the court jester seemingly ends up becoming lunch for a Joker-ized shark after the Red Hood uses his pistol to shoot an aquarium tank housing it. Although it can be assumed that the shark enjoyed his meal is “Batman: The Three Jokers” the last we have seen of Gaggy?

Joker Shark Eats Gaggy – Photo Courtesy of DC Comics