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Star Wars #3 (Dark Horse): Honestly, it’s a little difficult to review a book that’s basically perfect because there’s no room left to do anything other than restate the obvious. The first issue went to a third printing, Brian Wood mentioned on Twitter that his original 12 issue contract has been extended to 20, and if what happens in my LCS every month is any indication (wherein a steady stream of regulars purchase multiple copies), then the book is clearly resonating. Brian has always told stories about flawed protagonists amid a torn, or tearing, social fabric, be it New York City, the entire globe after a cataclysmic environmental disaster, or even here in the Galactic Empire. That makes for a perfect segue to show off his skill with characterization while staying true to the familiar characters at the same time. For example, Leia can be an overcompensating young leader. Luke can be an arrogant little bitch (until he gets his world turned upside down and his ass handed to him in Bespin). Vader is basically just a soldier following orders, Emperor Palpatine is the real villain (aside, but this is the story I’d be pitching to Dark Horse, sort of a Palpatine: Year One type deal, show him as a kid growing up, how he kills his mentor, etc., not sure if that’s been done?). Like Stefon on SNL hyping a quirky NYC club, I’ll just say that this Star Wars book has everything. It’s got Wedge, Mon Mothma, Han shooting first, flashbacks to the original, call-aheads to RoTJ, multiple story threads, love triangles, and satisfying technobabble. It’s that thing, where like, you have a bottle of Whyren’s Reserve and a Wookie goes “RAWWRRR.” Carlos D’Anda and Gabe Eltaeb are a powerhouse creative duo. The end result of their combined efforts are these gorgeous full page reveals, ferocious action, depth of emotion, and a slick glossy aesthetic that’s just as astounding now as the feeling was sitting in the theatre when we were kids and watching this universe come to life for the first time. Threading a needle like he’s making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, Wood and company are hitting all the right nostalgic buttons, yet still managing to precariously balance that with innovative world-building in a very well-explored property. I’ve been writing reviews at this site since 2005 and it’s relatively rare I give a Grade A+. I’ve never ever given a book three Grade A+ marks in three consecutive issues. First time for everything. Grade A+.
Todd The Ugliest Kid On Earth #3 (Image): Can I just say that I love the wit and sharpness of the “Previously…” page? Yeah, I love the wit and sharpness of the “Previously…” page. Todd’s still in prison, Chief Hargraves literally comes face to face with his cluelessness, and the subversive parody of common storytelling archetypes and our collective social ills continues. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this issue, other than the fact that I enjoy every second of it and I have absolutely no clue where it’s going next. Ken Kristensen clearly has a gift for biting commentary on the writing end, and M.K. Perker knows how to vary the visual style on demand, more caricature when it needs to be, more realistic when it needs to be, in order to wring a lot of impact out of the proceedings. The jab at Battlefield Earth made me laugh out loud. This is one of the most unique books currently being published. Grade A.
Ultimate Comics: X-Men #24 (Marvel): I really enjoyed the dire tone of this issue. I think it lends a real sense that this small band of mutants is putting everything on the line. Kitty and company are either going to make Ultimate Utopia work, or die trying. I thought it was an interesting spin to see people like Storm and Magma actually using their powers, not even defensively, but for humanitarian purposes, by radically terraforming the desert and almost making their own little micro Savage Land. There’s a ton of threads unfurling, the Kitty/Rogue/Storm group taking center stage, the Nomi/Warpath/Psylocke ring looking to upset everything, the imposition of the Karen Grant storyline (am I the only one seeing Tian as a sort of social corollary for Muslims?), and government machinations behind the scenes. Like Star Wars up above, there are multiple players on the board, and Wood is able juggle deftly between them and throw enough at the audience to keep them engaged. Mahmud Asrar is a welcome addition to the art stable. His style almost reminds me of early Sean Phillips, where there’s a blocky angular quality to the work, but no loss of emotive expressions and a real sense of movement brewing just below the surface. Grade A.