Sunday, September 15, 2019

Modern Marvel: Star Wars Shattered Empire #2

No fandom has ever had it as good as Star Wars fans have it today.  Think about it; we get a steady supply of new stories and they matter to the overall Star Wars narrative.  These stories matter when we watch the latest movies or television series, play the newest video games, or read the newest novels and comic books.  Star Wars characters and concepts are used across the different media and each story contributes to a single canon.

Contrast how the Star Wars brand handles this to the Marvel brand.  Marvel has a wildly successful cinema universe, but the stories in the comics do not matter to the movies.  Sure, the creators of Marvel movies stitch together characters and concepts from the comics for their stories, but there is no canon that ties both together and the movie creators are free to mold what they borrow into whatever they want.  Marvel will change the character in the comics to more approximate the character in the movies.  For example, an African-American Nick Fury Jr. was invented to replace the Caucasian Nick Fury as head of SHIELD so the comic character resembled the Nick Fury in the movies played by Samuel Jackson.  Another example is Tony Stark's personality change in the comics to match Robert Downey Jr.'s wisecracking portrayal in the movies.  (This is a personality change that many Marvel character's undergo when they make the leap from their four-colored world to the big screen which is a huge part of the successful Marvel cinema formula.  Anyone who is familiar with the Marvel cinema and comic universes can immediately tell that the traditionally stoic Thor in the comic had little in common with the more jocular Thor in the movie except his costume, hammer, some of his associates, and the fact he calls Asgard home.)  Despite altering the characters in the comics to resemble the characters in the movie, Marvel's comics and movies do not tell one story and neither is important to the other.

This difference is huge to me as a Star Wars comic fan.  Emperor Palpatine's Operation: Cinder first shown in the 4-issue Star Wars: Shattered Empire mini-series and expanded on in the video game Star Wars Battlefront II and the novel Aftermath: Empire's End will provide a backdrop for events that occur in the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker movie.  We've all heard Palpatine's cackling in the teaser trailer which hints at a return of the main villain of the Skywalker saga and Shattered Empire lays the groundwork for that potential return.

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2015)
Shattered Empire was released as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens branding used for books and comics that tied into the first sequel movie.  It deals with the aftermath of the Battle of Endor that ended the reign of Palpatine and Darth Vader and famously introduces Poe Dameron's parents, Shara Bey and Kes Dameron.  The four issues follow Bey, a rebel pilot who fought at the Battle of Endor, as she participates in mop-up operations but it is the opening pages of the second issue that introduce Operation: Cinder.  Captain Duvat, aboard the Star Destroyer Torment in the Outer Rim, orders the bridge cleared after Lieutenant Gulin tells him the messenger has arrived.  The bridge clears as the red robed messenger approaches the Captain.  Upon verifying the Captain's identity the messenger's blank black face screen displays Palpatine's and exclaims:

Captain Duvat.  You, and a handful of others unknown to you, have been selected for a particular honor.

Resistance.  Rebellion.  Defiance.  These are concepts that cannot be allowed to persist, Captain.  You are but one of many tools by which these ideas shall be burned away.

Operation: Cinder is to begin at onceHeed my messenger.  He shall relay to you your target.

The messenger swiftly exists the bridge and the crew return to their stations.  Captain Duvat tells Lieutenant Gulin: "The message was from the Emperor himself, Lieutenant."  The issue ends a few days later with the Star Destroyer Torment releasing climate disrupting satellites over the planet Naboo as Captain Duvot tells Lieutenant Gulin his orders are to scour the planet.
Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2015)
Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2015)
Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2d - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2015)
Disposable Heroes exclusive

As explained in media beyond the comics, Operation: Cinder is enacted not to benefit the Empire, but to deny the Rebellion knowledge that Palpatine possessed and to hasten the downfall of an imperfect Empire that was unable to protect it's Emperor.  When you are in the theater this December, think about how cool it is knowing the seeds for what are transpiring on the screen were first revealed in a comic book tie-in for The Force Awakens published over four years earlier!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Modern Marvel: Star Wars: Captain Phasma #2 Greg Hildebrandt Variant

While the character's use in two of the sequel movies has been underwhelming, Captain Phasma is one of those characters with cool visuals that screams for more stories.  To date, we received a novel simply titled Phasma from Del Rey and a 4-issue mini-series from Marvel both published prior to the Last Jedi.  The Del Rey novel delves into Phasma's backstory while the Marvel mini-series explains how Captain Phasma survived the Battle of Starkiller Base.

One of the most striking covers from the Captain Phasma mini-series has to be the one painted by Greg Hildebrandt.  Greg Hildebrandt, along with his twin brother Tim Hildebrandt, are best known for their work on one of the original 1977 Star Wars movie posters.  The brothers also worked together on an exquisite Shadows of the Empire trading card set from Topps in 1996.  Unfortunately, Tim passed away in 2006.

Star Wars: Captain Phasma #2d - Marvel Comics, U.S. (September 2017)
Greg Hildebrandt variant
Not related to the story inside, the cover shows Phasma leading a squad of First Order Flametroopers.  It is dark on the planet's surface which juxtaposes nicely with the yellow and red flames that are glistening off Phasma's armor.

This variant cover was initially released in a 1 to 50 ratio with the standard cover.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Modern Marvel: Star Wars #38 - 43 Mile High Comics Exclusives

Rahzzah Murdock's artwork has adorned many Star Wars variant covers and he provided the artwork for the Mile High Comics exclusive covers for issues #38 - 43.  The covers are themed, showing a hero of the Rebel Alliance in the foreground and a leader in the background.  The leaders are all shown in front of a screen in a Rebel communications room.

Issue #38 show Mon Mothma, the leader of the Rebel Alliance, and Luke Skywalker.

Star Wars #38g - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 2017)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Davits Draven and Han Solo are on the cover for #39.  General Draven is a leader in Rebel Intelligence and led the rescue of Jyn Erso from Imperials.

Star Wars #39c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 2017)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Admiral Ackbar was introduced in Return of the Jedi and is featured on the cover of issue #40 along with Princess Leia.

Star Wars #40c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 2017)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Jan Dodonna was instrumental in the Rebellion win at the Battle of Yavin.  General Dodonna was prominent in early Marvel Star Wars comics from the 1970s as the leader of the hidden base on Yavin IV.  Issue #41 shows General Dodonna and C-3PO and R2-D2.

Star Wars #41d - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 2018)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Carlist Rieekan commanded the Rebels at Echo Base on Hoth.  General Rieekan and Sana Starros are featured on the cover of issue #42.

Star Wars #42c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 2018)
Mile High Comics exclusive
Crix Madine planned the attack on the Imperial shield generator on the moon of Endor.  Issue #43 shows General Madine and Chewbacca.

Star Wars #43d - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 2018)
Mile High Comics exclusive
The leaders of the Rebel Alliance do not get many cover appearances, so I find this set of six covers to be a nice addition to the myriad of variant covers that have been published by Marvel.  The appearance of the other heroes on these covers seems superfluous as the images of the leaders would have been sufficient.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Retro E.C. Publications: Mad Magazine #196

DC Comics currently publishes Mad Magazine.  In 2018 the magazine was restart with a new #1 with a new editorial staff, but that wasn't enough to save the publication.  It has been announced that Mad Magazine will ceased publishing new content on a regular basis with issue #10.  Subsequent issues will include reprints except for an annual issue which will contain new content.

The first issue of Mad was released in August 1952.  This standard comic-sized publication changed to the magazine format with issue #24 published in July 1955.  Mad Magazine is known for its satire and pop culture parodies.  Not surprising, one of the first non-Marvel Star Wars comics was published in Mad Magazine #196 with a cover date of January 1978.  That issue contains a 7-page parody titled Star Roars and a cover by Jack Rickard that features the heroes of the movie along with Alfred E. Newman dressed up as Darth Vader.

Mad Magazine #196a - E.C. Publications, U.S. (January 1978)
At the time Mad Magazine #196 was published, there were several competing satirical magazines in the United States including Cracked, Crazy, and Sick.  All of them poked fun of Star Wars during their runs and I'll create a posting in the near future highlighting some of the Star Wars issues.  Mad Magazine proved to be resilient when all these competing publications ceased decades ago.

Mad Magazine has continued to feature Star Wars content (and covers) to this day and hopefully they will continue to parody future Star Wars movies in their future annual issues.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Modern Marvel: Star Wars Galactic Icon Variant Covers (Part 6 - Droid Characters)

The last group of characters to be featured on the Galactic Icon variant covers are the droids.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #23b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 31/36
Star Wars #56c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 32/36
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #26b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (November 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 33/36
Star Wars #58c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 34/36
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #27b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 35/36
Star Wars: Darth Vader #25b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 36/36
Noticeably absent are 0-0-0 and BT-1 who are far more important to modern lore than IG-88 and 2-1B.

I would like to see more of these Galactic Icon variant covers.  There are some big omissions from movie characters like Padme Amidala, Jar Jar Binks, Bail Organa, Lando Calrissian, Mon Mothma, and Admiral Holdo.  None of the Rogue One characters were included and soldiers from the Republic, Federation, Empire, and the Rebellion would also be nice additions.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Modern Marvel: Star Wars Galactic Icon Variant Covers (Part 5 - Scum and Villainy Characters)

The next six Galactic Icon variant covers feature an eclectic group that can only be called the scum and villainy characters.

Star Wars #53c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (September 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 25/36
Star Wars: Darth Vader #21b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (September 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 26/36
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #24b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (September 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 27/36
Star Wars #55c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 28/36
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #25b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 29/36
Star Wars: Darth Vader #22b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 30/36
One character not present that come to mind is DJ, the back stabbing slicer from The Last Jedi.  I like how Doctor Aphra is included and I would have liked Black Krrsantan to join this motley group of characters.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Modern Marvel: Star Wars Galactic Icon Variant Covers (Part 4 - Jedi Characters)

There are only three Jedi characters on the next three Galactic Icon covers.  Granted, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Yoda are the most prominent Jedi from the movies outside of Luke Skywalker and Rey who are with the sequel trilogy themed characters.

Star Wars #52c - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 22/36
Star Wars: Darth Vader #19b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 23/36
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #23b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 2018)
Galactic Icons variant 24/36
Since we have covers for Thrawn and Hondo Ohnaka, I would have liked covers for other prominent animated characters like Ahsoka Tano, Ezra Bridger, and Kanan Jarrus.