Saturday, December 16, 2017

Star Wars 3-D #2

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Kid’s Stuff
Star Wars 3-D #2

All the things you never wanted to know that happened between movies

"Havok on Hoth”
Writer – Len Wein
Artist – Patrick Zircher
Letters – David Cody Weiss
3-D Effects – Paul Tallerday
Editor – John Stephenson
Summer 1988

Now that everyone has seen the new Star Wars flick we can get back to the toy tie-ins...

What? One more day? Seriously?

Alright then, I’ll give you that one more day with a look back at Blackthorne Publishings’ Star Wars 3-D series, made possible by the little loophole that could that allowed Blackthorne to publish these right after Marvel’s short-lived Droids and Ewoks books at the tail-end of a decade of holding the licensing.

Blackthorne got three issues out of the 3-D title, which were later reprinted in black and white, non-3-D format by Dark Horse in their 2013 Omnibus called Star Wars: Wild Space. I’ll be color correcting them here on the blog so you see them in black and white too, given that my scanner drops out the non-repro blue used in the 3-D process. However, I will state that the 3-D isn’t that great. Either that or my glasses that came with the Journey to the Center of the Earth DVD are sucky, one or the other.

This is what an unaltered page looks like out of my scanner:

On we go with Len Wein an Patrick Zircher’s “Havok on Hoth”. This story is set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, telling details we never though were important and really aren’t. Wein does a good job covering ground that Marvel had already paved into highway-sized thoroughfares over the course of nine years and 107 issues. Let’s see what he can do with it here, because Wein was a professional storyteller who could spin a good yarn when it came down to it.

Luke, Han, Chewie, and Threepio make their way back from a little jaunt in the Falcon…

…to Tatooine (which we find out, care of the last issue block) so that Luke could be sure his late Uncle’s moisture farm passed on to someone worthy of having it. As story hook, I suppose it is somewhere to start hanging things off of A New Hope, but for me this doesn’t work so well. Luke and Han both had bigger fish to fry than a dried-up plot of land on a planet that is in Luke’s own admission off the beaten path. 

Han and Luke are headed back to Yavin base, but they receive no answer on the comms and Threepio starts bothering them…

…with good reason. A sit appears there is a small army of Star Destroyers between them and Yavin’s moon. Including … an Imperial Shuttle?

And on one of those crafts is none other than Darth Vader himself, hanging out in the best Christmas ornament ever …

To escape all this mess Han has little options here except for…

…diving into an asteroid field which he would do again in Empire Strikes back to avoid the exact same fate. There’s something very odd about seeing Han repeat something before he does it the first time. I’m not certain I like it very much.

Oh, and that admiral failed Vader so…

HR is going to have a field day with Vader before that next movie is through. If only they had some kind of “Force Sensitivity” training to send him through.
Luke and Han arrive to find the base empty and off they go to the secondary rendezvous point that Luke knows by memory.

Which leads to some neat shots of the classic fleet (sigh, The Last Jedi did TOO!) and an awkward reunion of the Skywalker siblings, who didn’t know at the time were siblings, but the audience at the time the issue came out knew were siblings since the publication date was AFTER Return of the Jedi and…whoa, got dizzy there for a moment. STOP TOUCHING YOUR SISTER LIKE THAT!

Also, I’m not sure Wookiees make that noise.

We get our droids back together, then Han and Leia share a moment of that thing they do so well, that looks like fighting but really is something completely different.

And then HAN suggests they hide out on Hoth. Not the two of them, I mean the rebellion.

Since this is Han’s big idea, he, Luke, Chewie and the droids go to scout it out.

And it’s a desolate, inhabitable frozen world, for sure, except where it isn’t. Which happens to be where they’ve landed.

We get to see the group discover a Tauntaun pack, which I’m pretty sure couldn’t happen as my inner Star Wars geek says those weren’t native to Hoth. Wookieepedia says they were, but if so why does Han’s  die of exposure when he went looking for Luke. Thanks for making me feel like I spend way too much time ruminating about Star Wars, comic book. I’m sure the area holding that tidbit of information could have probably been used to store something waaaaay more beneficial. 

Anyway, Luke tries to make like a “Space Cowboy”…

Which leads to a couple of pages of funny physical humor, enough to make me forgive the book bringing up the whole logical Tauntaun puzzle. The physical humor in that top bit is both silly and wins points with me in a story that I felt was very much “been here-done this”. 

And if I thought that moment of levity lightened up the mood enough for me to give the book some points, the page that follows with Luke attempting to tame the strange furry lizard thing made ticked its score up even higher.

Then we are back to a standard adventure tale with some smugglers who have also picked Hoth as the perfect hiding place, taking pot-shots at our intrepid band.

Until they realize that their target is Han Solo, still wanted by Jabba and having a huge bounty on his head. Which only increases the barrage of fire coming at them.

The group turns the tables on the bad guys by using a little blaster created steam to cover their retreat…

…but quickly find themselves pursued into the smuggler’s cavern / den, which I thought was exactly the type of cave they were looking for to hide the rebel base…

…but obviously wasn’t meant to be as Luke’s plan causes a massive cave-in which kills all the smugglers…

…and which they barely escape from. Or maybe it IS how the find the cave the rebellion uses, they just spend issue #3 clearing out the crushed corpses of the dead smugglers.

But it is here that we take our leave of the Star Wars universe for a time, and I can’t think of a better stepping off point as this felt like a faint tint of nostalgia that tried to fit in all the pieces to a universe I like with some mystery left in it.

While I may be leaving the Star Wars Universe, you don’t have to. The Last Jedi is worth an admission price ticket. Just remember to join us here tomorrow as we unwrap a few more toys before heading into a week of the odd and out there Christmas books.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Steam Wars: Princess Legends #1

Kid’s Stuff
Steam Wars: Princess Legends #1

It’s Princess Ray-peat Vs. Kylo-Renfaire

Story and Art – Rod Espinosa
Editor – Doug Dlin
Steam Wars created by – Fred Perry
May 2016

Okay, I don’t know what to make of Steam Wars.

The original was perhaps a clever almost parody of Star Wars, taking the same character architypes and twisting the science fiction-fantasy genre in a slightly different way. Created by Fred Perry, the guy behind all those Gold Digger comics, the story came off like a sweded version of Star Wars.

You had an evil empire called the Hegemonic Crux led by a guy named Lord Baron who wore a face mask. He’s got some dreadnought things that the "Princessy" Duchess Imoen steals the formula for running. She stumbles across Bo, a swordsman who happens to be Lord Baron’s son, bounty hunter Hansel Lowe, and Hansel's companion Smokey, a large brown bear. TV Tropes calls these “Expy” or “exported characters,” someone unambiguously and deliberately based on a character from an older, more well-known series. The run of Steam Wars wasn’t quite parody or satire, but it certainly hew to the story and character models of Star Wars too closely to be its own thing.

Around here we really try not to pay attention to most of that and just concentrate on “is it any good?” or “did you like the story?”. I’m simple that way.

Steam Wars: Princess Legends came out two years after the first series wrapped up and it feels like it is aping the retitled Expanded Universe comics from Marvel and Dark Horse along with some bits of Force Awakens toys and Phantom Menace setpieces. The story in this first issue is so slight that it is hard to believe it clocks in at 17 pages. It is the same experience you would get pulling in to The Phantom Menace and only seeing the final Darth Maul fight, with everything else edited out. 

There is an 8 page preview of the Steam Wars: First Empire book at the back, which is an issue that I feel assured is also only 17 pages of story that could be told in 4 pages and contains an 8 page preview of Steam Wars: Princess Legends or Steam Wars: Bounty Hunters as some kind of “prize” to the reader.

The book feels like a total and complete cash grab. The Asylum*-like title in faux Star Wars font on the front cover (and back, so if you aren't careful you might end up buying the issue twice) and graphics that evoke the actual Star Wars characters, settings, and weapons all look to be designed so that it gets accidentally dropped into your pull box or picked up while rushing through the comic book store. I get the “joke” in making this a story “like” Star Wars, but the moment they start aping the look of the actual books this closely (and doing that swiveled second cover thing) is the moment it feels like they don’t care if you bought it intentionally or mistakenly (or twice!).

Let’s dive in anyway, because the Last Jedi is calling me and I want to get this out of my system first.

So, I complained about page count above and how is this for an opening:

Cold, sterile establishing shots with brief narration. Well, that wouldn’t be the way I’d go if I wanted to tell a story in an abbreviated format, but you do your thing, writer/artist Rod Espinosa. We are on a quiet, out of the way planet and the Inquisitors are here. I’m just going to assume that no one expects them.

Well, I guess no one except this woman.

This dark figure cloaked in a …uh, cloak? …comes wandering down the darkened streets.

Meanwhile, a green glowing marble, like a tiny Loc-Nar, floats into the woman’s hand.

Just then, the hooded figure walks into the bar stating the “last of the light warriors are within our grasp.” And Oh dear god! Jar-Jar’s Rastafarian, Bob Marley-loving cousin has been serving her drinks…

Turn page: The Rey…er, ray of sunshine at the bar meets the very “Kylo Ren”-like Lord Kyder. Kyder identifies her as the Last Warrior of Light. She calls him Last Knight of Shadow. Art has taken a downturn in quality. They trade barbs and then “You know what must happen now.” gets thrown in and I feel there will be a duel of some sort.

Bar-girl has a shit-eating-grin as Lord Kyder tries to turn on his...very hashpipe like lightsaber only to find it won’t light up because bar-girl stole his magic marble.

She then breaks several of his bones and gouges out his eye. Which is all very Star Wars like. Or not. One of those things. 

What follows is all mindless action setpieces where we hope we have read the subtext of the two sides in this conflict correctly because otherwise we are rooting for some random girl to murder and maim several government officials trying to apprehend her justifiably.

Like these Albattur Shock Forces, who don’t seem to be able to hit anything they aim for…

…but, like good cannon fodder, die in droves. Whether from being run through by Princess “didn’t catch your first name’s” glow sword…

…or from her turning their own shots against them and flinging them hither and yon. The more I look at all this orgy of death and destruction, the more brutal it seems.

But it’s all good because they are just full of anger. Think of this like a Dr. Phil episode where instead of getting the people to talk out their issues, he calls them fools and kills them instead. Take that, anger.

All this leads to Princess warrior of light being the last one standing...or so it looks appears...

…until more Darth Maul-lites step out of the glowing green fart-fog talking trash.

We know where this is going, too. Everyone has a lightsaber.

And all of them get brutally maimed (nice dig on Kylo’s cross guard being made of the same thing as his blade, I’ll give them that.)

OR horribly killed.

Wow, that’s…just completely bloodthirsty. And we end back at the bar to learn that Jamaican Jar-Jar is Master Badara and her name is Matzarehannia. So the book is one long extended fight scene with stakes we don’t know about until the end and with more dead bodies than the entire book has word balloons.

This is the very definition of forgettable.

And if you see these on the shelf, now that you’ve been warned, you’ll know to look elsewhere unless you are looking for lame action and no story. Here’s to hoping my Friday night finds the new Star Wars movie to have more going on than this. And for me to say goodbye to Carrie, who was a crush back when she wore her hair in honeybuns on the sides of her head.

See all of you in the theater.

(* The Asylum is a movie company that makes knock off direct-to-video titles like “Transmorphers,” “Snakes on a Train,” and “Atlantic Rim” that they hope your nearsighted Grandparent buys as a present to you. “Here Jimmy. I got that new Transformers movie you like so much.”)