Star Wars: The High Republic – The Edge of Balance/Guardian of the Whills by Shima Shinya

Star Wars: The High Republic – The Edge of Balance/Guardian of the WhillsStar Wars: The High Republic – The Edge of Balance/Guardian of the Whills by Shima Shinya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely the strongest of the two Star Wars offerings this Free Comic Book Day, this comic previews two upcoming releases from Viz Media, who publish manga. While they generally been publishing manga adaptions of existing novels, such as with Guardians Of The Whills, The Edge Of Balance, set during the High Republic era, is their first original Star Wars manga.

If this preview is anything to go by it’s going to be great! We’re introduced to a young Jedi Knight, Lily Tora-Asi, who’s just starting out on her own. Reflecting on being a padawan while also preparing to take on a padawan of her own. It’s a perspective we haven’t seen too much of in Star Wars fiction, and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

The extract from Guardians Of The Whills is also charming, and made me regret not having read the novel yet. I really must get o that soon…

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Star Wars: Darth Vader #15 by Greg Pak

Star Wars: Darth Vader #15 (Star Wars: Darth Vader (2020-))Star Wars: Darth Vader #15 (Star Wars: Darth Vader by Greg Pak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is cracking stuff!

Both the art and the writing are top notch. Vader’s presence is felt throughout the comic, despite him not being physically present for much of it. Instead a plot is woven which, on the surface, seems to be about finding out who Bokku the Hutt is working with. However, this story isn’t really about testing Bokku’s loyalties, it’s about testing the loyalties of Ochi of Bestoon. After all, he was originally hired to kill Vader, so it’s understandable that Vader would want to test him to find out if he can really trust him…or, at least, rely on him to be loyal.

As I said, the writing is great, as it has been throughout Pak’s run, and Ienco doesn’t fail to deliver artistically either. The cover art by Aaron Kuder also feels suitable iconic.

This book has been consistently excellent and this issue is no exception.

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Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #13 by Alyssa Wong

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #13 (Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (2020-))Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #13 (Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Alyssa Wong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, this was a definite improvement, as, Aphra being Aphra, she decides that rather than simply run from Darth Vader, who will surely kill her if he sees her again, she decides to try and use the distraction of his presence to rob Crimson Dawn blind…but instead gets herself and Sanna Staros captures, because of course she does.

It feels like Wong is finally getting a handle on the character, as the dialogue feels snappy and dynamic in a way that it hasn’t for a while. Aphra comics succeed or fail on the quality of the dialogue, and that’s something that the writers who’ve handled her previously really excel at.

The art, by Minkyu Jung, is solid but still not quite up to the standard of the rest of the line, sadly, although it’s definitely improving. Also, the cover, by Sara Pichelli, is definitely worth the price of admission.

All in all, this is a fine return to form for Doctor Aphra.

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Star Wars #16 by Charles Soule

Star Wars #16 (Star Wars (2020-))Star Wars #16 (Star Wars by Charles Soule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The War Of The Bounty Hunters crossover is increasingly frustrating me as some of the tie-ins are just regurgitating large chunks of the main book. I get that all these events are happening simultaneously and so there’s bound to be some overlap, but when you know EXACTLY WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN in a comic because you’ll already read it, almost word for word, in another comic, it leaves you feeling a little cheated…no matter how good that comic might actually be.

On top of that you get glaring continuity errors, like Lando destroying his cape by using it to put out an on fire Chewbacca in the pages of War Of The Bounty Hunters, but the cape’s fully intact in this comic, some of which happens after that fight. It’s ultimately trivial but it still takes you out of the story.

This comic does score points over war Of The Bounty Hunters for having Lando and Chewie discuss the fact that they both know Qi’ra, and Lando even mentions to Leia that Han used to know her too.

But overall, there’s just not enough in here that wasn’t in War Of the Bounty Hunters #3 to make it feel worth the money.

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Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters #3 by Charles Soule

Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters (2021) #3 (of 5)Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters (2021) #3 by Charles Soule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The War of the Bounty Hunters rumbles on!

So, Darth Vader hired Boba Fett to track down Han Solo, which he did, Vader then presumably paid Fett, had Han encased in carbonite and then let Fett take Han to Jabba. On the way to Jabba’s palace, Solo was stolen from Fett by Crimson Dawn, resulting in Jabba putting out a bounty on Fett. Jabba then bids a million credits at the auction Crimson Dawn hold for Solo’s carbonite encased body, but Vader then insists that they give Han to him, because he wants to use Han to lure Luke to him. Which was the plan in the first place. But that plan didn’t, uh, go according to plan, which is why Vader needs Han back so that he can do it again. Confused? Just don’t try to think about it too much…

There’s also a fight between Vader and Qi’ra, which would be ridiculous if she wasn’t a master of Teräs Käsi, the Star Wars universe equivalent of Kung Fu. I mean, it’s still ridiculous…

This issue is definitely the weakest in this series so far. While it’s felt like the tie-ins have been, to extent, treading water while waiting for the main book to get to the auction, it now feels like the main boo is treading water for…some reason?

Hopefully the back half of this event will actually do something interesting with Qi’ra, but this just left me wondering why Chewbacca didn’t say, “Hey, Leia, you’re gonna find this funny, but the woman auctioning off Han’s carbonite encased form is his ex…the woman he was so obsessed with he left Corellia, joined the Empire, then went AWOL, all in a bid to find her again, and then when he finally found her she was working for Crimson Dawn and totally double crossed him. But I’m sure he’s told you all about her… Anyway, how wild is it that a martial art invented for a rubbish Playstation 2 game is now canon?”

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Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures FCBD 2021 by Daniel José Older

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures FCBD 2021Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures FCBD 2021 by Daniel José Older
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Billed as “a prelude to IDW’s Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures series” this is, in fact, not that. Instead it’s set after the novel Race to Crashpoint Tower and before the second arc of High Republic Adventures, plus is reprints some of High Republic Adventures #1.

The story, such as it is, is very slight, little to nothing happens and the art is nowhere good as it is in the regular High Republic Adventures book. I’m a little disappointed. I know these IDW books are aimed at a younger audience, but the High Republic one, so far, has been a lot more grown up and truly “all ages” than the regular Star Wars Adventures comic.

This is really only for completionists, of which I’m one, and young kids who you’re just introducing to comics. Although, for them, I’m not sure they’d have any clue as to who anyone is or what’s going on.

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Star Wars: The High Republic #8 by Cavan Scott

Star Wars: The High Republic #8Star Wars: The High Republic #8 by Cavan Scott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is some classic Star Wars action. It’s Jedi vs Drengir with the fate of the galaxy in the balance!

I’ll be honest, I’m surprised that the Drengir have been defeated in a comic, given that they were introduced in a novel. That’s no bad thing, I’m glad that the story is crossing media in this way. That said, I wonder I this is the last we’ll actually see of the Drengir, given that they’re now in stasis at the heart of Starlight Beacon (I keep wanting to call it the Starlight Citadel, but that’s something else entirely, from a whole other fictional universe). Surely it’s only a matter of time before the station suffers a major power loss and the Drengir get free. After all, when we first met the Drengir they were trapped on a space station…

But this is good stuff. This is the Jedi in their prime, which is what we were promised with the High Republic. This arc got very dark in places, so to end it on such a note of light and hope feels good.

That said, it actually ends by setting up the next arc, and it seems like that’s going to be just as dark.

The art, as ever, is excellent, and Phil Noto’s cover is simply gorgeous.

The High Republic continues to be a high point for the new Star Wars canon.

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Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters – 4-Lom & Zuckuss #1 by Daniel José Older

Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters - 4-Lom & Zuckuss #1 (of 1)Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters – 4-Lom & Zuckuss #1 by Daniel José Older
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was, indeed, correct in my assumption that the events of this one-shot take place before the events of Bounty Hunters #15, despite what the official reading order for this event says. Not that this spoils the book in any way, and the fact that 4-LOM and Zuckuss end up fighting is spoiled by the cover art.

Of course, what makes this interesting is why they end up fighting. And in explaining that Older also takes time to establish the closeness of their relationship, and the 4-Lom is Zuckuss’s only friend. Which is kinda’ sad. Older very much establishes Zuckuss as something of a tragic figure here, someone who deserves our pity. 4-LOM is given little to no characterisation, and in the “present day” part of the book is reduced to a mindless drone, programmed to kill Zuckuss in revenge for a hit they pulled off together, in which it turns out they killed the wrong person.

Ultimately this is a lot of fun. Well written and well drawn, and while it does nothing to further the plot of the War of the Bounty Hunters, it’s well worth a read.

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Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #15 by Ethan Sacks

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #15Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #15 by Ethan Sacks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an improvement, even if the cringe inducingly badly named Deathstick is still here, with her ridiculous font. Do vowels sound different if they have dots under them? I don’t think so…

I mean, this is still a confusing mess, made even more confusing given that the events reading order places this before the 4-Lom & Zuckuss one shot, the events of which it clearly references. There’s the usual cast of indistinct, unmemorable characters, all doing something or other…I’ve honestly found it impossible to keep track of who is who or what they’re all doing. And, of course, Dengar and Valance continue their weird buddy cop routine.

Oh, and Tasu Leech turns up, the future leader of Kanji Club, and his depiction once again bears little resemblance to the actor who played him. I know he’s a lot younger here, as these events take place between episodes five and six, and we only saw him in live action in episode seven…but I don’t think he’s likely to have changed race in that time.

A rather welcome appearance, however, is The Punishing One, Dengar’s ship from Legends, which makes its first canon appearance here (although I believe it was mentioned in the short story collection From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back.

The art on this book is still superficially flashy while being difficult to read. I don’t know if the issue is Villanelli’s pencils or Prianto’s colours, but Prianto’s dark palette is certainly not helping things here.

For all that, this comic isn’t a bad comic, and I enjoyed seeing Zuckuss out of his mask, and the whole “putting a team together” part of this comic was fun (don’t ask me the name of the character that’s putting a team together or why they’re putting a team together though). This issue is an improvement over the last and a definite step in the right direction for this title. That said, past experience doesn’t give me much hope that this is a trend that will continue with the next.

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Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #5 by Daniel José Older

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #5Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #5 by Daniel José Older
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is probably the weakest issue in this otherwise excellent series yet, and it’s not helped by the use of multiple artists. I know these things are unavoidable at times, because deadlines are deadlines and artists are only human, but the issue’s storytelling definitely suffers for it.

Ultimately, this story concludes the first arc of High Republic Adventures, with Zeen and Krix choosing the paths that each of them will follow. Krix chooses the Nihil and Zeen chooses the Jedi, something which was fairly inevitable from the start, but it’s been interesting to see them both essentially start from the same place but follow wildly diverging paths.

We also get a reveal of Marchion Ro’s face, and we see he has blue skin. Some have taken this to mean that he’s a Chiss, but it’s a big galaxy and he doesn’t appear to have red eyes, so I shall reserve judgement where this is concerned. He also gives Krix a helmet very similar to his own, not only inducting him into the ranks of the Nihil but seemingly taking him on as some kind of apprentice, which is an interesting development. It seems certain that Krix and Zeen’s paths will lead them back together, but when next they meet they’ll be enemies. It’s a classic trope, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Despite this slightly weak ending, the first arc of this series has been excellent, and I look forward to reading more. I just wish it was a little easier to get hold of here in the UK!

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