JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – SHATTERED EMPIRE

It was easy to frown upon Disney when they made their $4 Billion galactic conquest with the purchase of Lucasfilm. Regardless of how well they did with their last $4+ Billion splurge (Marvel), Star Wars is sacred ground for pretty much all of geekdom. I cringed at the thought of the relentless mouse empire taking over a galaxy far, far away. Three years later, I’m happy to admit that I may have judged them too quickly.

Since that time we’ve seen a resurgence in Star Wars everything (not that it ever went away). Knowing more movies were on the horizon was enough to build (cautious) excitement but that wasn’t enough for the suspiciously-evil efficiency of Disney’s marketing. A little later we got the new animated DisneyXD series, STAR WARS REBELS. It started out a little goofy… then it quickly found its footing and turned into a worthy entry to the Star Wars Saga. Minor updates about the movie were gradually released to whet our appetite. New merchandise with unfamiliar characters flooded stores like a maliciously deliberate tease. Throughout there were superbly composed trailers for THE FORCE AWAKENS released that periodically incited a riot of anticipation. Now we’re two months away from a new era of Star Wars! My first showing tickets are pinned to my fridge ready to be redeemed. Before the movie hits you can peak into what happened after the fall of the second Death Star in Marvel’s four-part series…

JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – SHATTERED EMPIRE

Cover from the final issue (my favorite cover art of the four)

SHATTERED EMPIRE (written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Phil Noto and Marco Checchetto) picks up right where Return of the Jedi stops. The war didn’t end with the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star. Think about it – the Galactic Empire has ‘galactic’ in it for a reason… it’s flippin’ huge! Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the fighting would continue throughout the galaxy as the Imperial war machine churns on without Palpatine at its head regardless of their ‘loss’.

Through a four issue arc we’re treated to the characters we know and love while being introduced to a few new players. Rebel Alliance pilots Shara Bey and her husband Kes Dameron are used to illustrate the desire for a return to normalcy after the supposed fall of the Galactic Empire.

I found it refreshing to have a look at the smaller aspects of the Star Wars universe that are normally glossed over in the traditional properties. Unfortunately, the concept isn’t properly expanded upon which turned it in to a bit of a hindrance. Shara and Kes are both likable in their own right, however, the short story arc doesn’t give readers enough of a chance to become attached to either of them especially when the core characters share the page. SHATTERED EMPIRE would have carried more emotional weight if we had the opportunity to become emotionally invested.

With that said, there’s still plenty to like in SHATTERED EMPIRE. The art is phenomenal. Phil Noto and Marco Checchetto do a fine job bringing life to the war-weary Empire. There are a few issues when in regards to the portrayal of the core cast but it is easily compensated with the intricate battle scenes. My favorite part is the attack on Naboo; it was one of the few points where tension was successfully created. The final issue was sadly the weakest (especially following the third issue which was the strongest by a healthy margin). It left me with a “is that it?” aftertaste.

JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – SHATTERED EMPIRE is worth a read for any Star Wars fan. Even with its shortcomings, it succeeds in building the excitement for Episode VII higher than ever. My rating is 7 out of 10.

7 out of 10

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: Volume 1 by Peter Milligan & Mikel Janin

Justice League Dark Vol. 1: In the Dark by Peter Milligan & Mikel Janin

I had really, really high hopes for this series. Prior to this I hadn’t read anything written by Peter Milligan or illustrated by Mikel Janin, so I didn’t know what to expect from them. My anticipation, however, came entirely from fascination of the Justice League Dark concept. I’m sorry to say I felt rather unfulfilled after completing Volume 1.

The art is great and writing is just fine. I think the problem is that there is a lot of material crammed into only 144 pages. Story lines with the regular Justice League can get away with this because the core characters are about as developed as a character can get. You’re already invested in the key players before cracking the first page. Without having to worry about much character development, authors/artists can run with a central story line while giving it proper treatment. This wasn’t the case here yet it was still approached as if the characters had the same status.

Justice League Dark struggled with character investment because the characters are largely obscure. I’ve seen all of them at some point in other JLA books; some come up way more than others. Zatanna is a solid player who pops up frequently in JLA books and shows like Young Justice and Justice League Unlimited. Deadman was familiar only because I’d recently read the Darkest Night/Brightest Day books. Constantine is the strongest of the lot by far. HELLBLAZER is a worthy favorite series for the charming “old sod” even after decades. I still hold a grudge against NBC for cheating John Constantine out of what he deserved and hope his coming appearance on Arrow turns into something more frequent.

Constantine was too much of a minor player in this volume. Sure it wouldn’t have been fair for it to focus on him, however, he deserved to be featured more than Shade the Changing Man. If given the chance, I’d read an entire volume that primarily focused on Zatanna and Constantine because chemistry between the two is strong enough to carry the book.

I still like the concept of Justice League Dark but don’t feel compelled to seek out Volume 2. If I stumble across it in my regular used book store visits then I’ll grab it, otherwise I think I’ll pass. It wasn’t a bad book… but I wouldn’t call it a good one. In rating I feel Constantine and Zatanna earn an entire point each.

My rating of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK Vol. 1: In the Dark is a disappointed 5.5 out of 10.

5 out of 10

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LEGO Star Wars General Grievous

LEGO Star Wars General Grievous 75112

I was worried when I first saw the New York Toy Fair reveal of LEGO’s buildable Star Wars figures. The overall appearance was too rigid for something that was supposed to be modeled after a person. Things started looking up once they showed the Jango Fett and Vader. It fits to have a non-humanoid character for a product rooted literally rooted in blocks. Then LEGO revealed General Grievous and… eureka!

General Grievous is, in my opinion, one of the highlights of the prequel entries to the Star Wars Saga. Say what you will about the prequels, you can’t deny that Obi-Wan’s light saber battle with the asthmatic General was great. Not to mention, a character that actually is a robot is a perfect fit for this type of building component. General Grievous easily bumped to the top of my priority list for all these reasons – even ahead of Lord Vader.

I immediately noticed a few great qualities. Firstly, the key characteristic pieces did not have to be applied by the builder with decals. No one wants an evil robot general with lazy eyes – this almost certainly would have been the case if I had to apply those decals!

Note – his eyes are NOT lazy. Thanks for that, LEGO.

Next, I was blown away by how enormous this set really is! The build itself is very similar to the recently retired LEGO Ideas Exo Suit 21109. Each leg is like a mini-build contributing to a menacing final product. During the initial build it’s hard to grasp the full size of the set until the legs are mostly complete. When it comes time to place the legs onto the main body, you start to see the full scale of what you’re creating. Here’s the one I built along with an awestruck Comic Book Guy Minifigure for size comparison:

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LEGO could have priced this set in the $49.99 range but kept it at a very reasonable $34.99. It is absolutely worth every penny! The end product is true to the character, incredibly poseable for long term display, and worthy of being shown right along with my other favorite Star Wars collectibles.

My rating of LEGO Star Wars General Grievous 75112 is 10 out of 10. If my rating scale went higher than 10, the General would still be at the top!

10 out of 10