I mentioned this last week: the above picture was my “to read” pile of books from about six months ago; that pile has only grown. Summer vacations, my newfound excitement for Warhammer’s Age of Sigmar game (and getting an campaign prepared for it), the Edmonton Comic Expo, a Flames of War tournament, painting (sort of) miniatures …and of course work: these are all the things on my plate that regularly push my ability / motivation to read comics to the back burner. So I’m trying to amend that.
The biggest culprit behind my ever-increasing pile of “to-read” comics is that I mostly collect monthly comic books instead of Trade Paperbacks. (Trade paperbacks–TPBs–are the soft cover books that combine five or six monthly comics into one book for ease of reading …and bookshelf storage. It’s because of the popularity of the TPB format that comics now tend to be written as six-issue story arcs, with each monthly being a single chapter in that arc. When you collect monthly comics, you’re essentially waiting a month in between each chapter you read.
Despite the long-ish waits between issues, I still prefer to collect monthly comics rather than TPBs. Yes, it can be maddening to wait a whole month to read the next snippet of a larger story, but I’ve found it to be far worse having to wait the lengths of time it takes for Trade Paperbacks to come out (TPBs commonly come out eight to twelve months after their initial shelf date—though Marvel can be a bit faster).
I’ve also found the secret to coping with those month-long waits between, believe it or not, is to collect even more monthly comic titles: somewhere between ten and twelve titles seems to be the magic number to collect. What happens is that enough books show up each and every week, keeping me too busy reading to notice the wait between issues of the other titles I read. And as much as collecting twelve books per month sounds like it’s a big commitment, it isn’t: doing so means that one gets two or three books each week and spending roughly ten to fifteen dollars to do so.
Anyways, enough of me and my meta-game strategies about how to collect comic books. This week, Marvel just released the first volumes for both the ongoing Star Wars series and the Darth Vader series. So I took that as my cue and decided to get caught up on all the Star Wars books I’ve been leaving unread lately.
This is the regular ongoing series that follows our favourite Rebel heroes Luke, Han and Leia. The series starts shortly after the Rebel victory at Yavin and looks to be aiming to fill in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s not the first time that this has been done (Marvel did it following the original movies back in the seventies and eighties…and Dark Horse Comics did it again just over a year ago when George Lucas’s sell off to Disney removed his imposed barrier of no stories set right before, during or right after his movies was allowed). What makes the new ongoing Star Wars series especially good is that, with Marvel and Star Wars both living under the same Disney roof, these stories are now canon. And the stories feel like it. All in all, Star Wars is a satisfying read, month in and month out.
The Darth Vader comic is the great book you never expected. Yes, it follows the Dark Lord following his defeat at the Death Star’s destruction, but the Vader we see in this series is an emasculated one, demoted by the Emperor….and being watched and commanded at every turn. Because of that, we get to see a more driven, cunning and complex Vader that is obsessed with discovering who it was that destroyed the Death Star. It’s a real treat to see how intelligent Vader is and how adept he is at manipulating others, all as he strives to regain his rightful rank in the Empire. I think my favourite parts (found in almost every issue) are when there’s a panel with just Vader standing there, not talking; it’s amazing how much presence he has even in comic book form, and these oft-used panels also serve to show how Vader broods and plans all his moves. As good as the Star Wars comic series is, Darth Vader has been the stand-out series so far from Marvel’s foray into the Star Wars universe.
This is a five-issue limited series that made me care about a character I’ve never cared about before–much the same way as Marvel’s Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction made me an ardent Hawkeye fan. Is this an amazing book? No. But it’s a good story that is quick paced and light most of the time. It even gives us some glimpses at life under rule of the Galactic Empire in ways we haven’t seen before. What’s best is that this comic knows what it is: unlike, say, the first Lando novel, The Mindharp of Sharu (which I read when it was a NEW release ….back in 1983!), this comic isn’t trying to pull off Lando as the headlining lead role in Star Wars. No, it’s content to have us follow the supporting characters, Lando Calrissian and Lobot as they go through the ups and downs of a side quest, predating their time at Cloud City. And it’s a fun read.
Kanan: The Last Padawan
Marvel’s Star Wars comics continue their string of successes with this ongoing series. I don’t watch the Rebels show, so I’m sure I’m missing out on some nuances with this book. It’s pretty good, but in its striving to outdo the regular Star Wars’ end-of-the-issue cliff hangers, almost every issue feels like you should proclaim, “DUN DUN DUUUHNN!” every time you get to the last panel on the each month’s issue’s last page–which is fine, especially if being read by kids. But after a few issues in a row of that type of ending, I appreciate how most of the Vader comics end their issues with that much more. (The Darth Vader book tends to close with a panel or two that portent to something more going on in the background…or some clue for the next issue; Star Wars tends to have straight forward cliff hangers—just not as melodramatic as Kanan’s cliffhangers.)
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Star Wars Shattered Empire
I’m not sure what’s made some people say that this series is really so-so; I’ve read the first two issues and, while not the best of Marvel’s Star Wars comic books (Vader’s gets that accolade), it’s enjoyable. The series takes place practically moments after the credits start to roll in Return of the Jedi and focuses mostly on side characters who seem to be the bridge between the old trilogy and the new trilogy. I’m in. Sure I don’t know who these characters are; but the story’s pace is good, and the art is good—if not downright cinematic at times. And despite the book’s title being incredibly Byzantine (seriously, the book’s full proper title is Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Star Wars Shattered Empire), it’s been entertaining and engaging throughout.
So check them out: if you like Star Wars, these titles are definitely worth the read; you may not love all of them, but you will like at least one of them!