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  • atom | Male | Utah

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!
 
It's Star Wars month here at Longbox Junk!  Unfortunately, with pandemic restrictions being lifted and life getting back to (somewhat) normal, I've been super-busy at work (night manager of a hotel) and haven't had the time I would normally like to spend on readin' and reviewin' some great Star Wars comics.
 
That said, I think I can squeeze in another visit to that galaxy far, far away before the month ends.
 
The comic at hand is one of the more unusual items in my collection, and I've been meaning to spotlight it here at Longbox Junk for a while.  It's a hardcover one-shot comic from Dark Horse's days holding the reigns to the Star Wars comic franchise.  
 
It's one of the many tie-ins to Dark Horse's multimedia Star Wars "Event" called "Shadows of the Empire", which included interconnected novels, comics, trading cards, toys, a soundtrack album, a video game, and a handful of other items revolving around a tale set after Empire Strikes back and setting the scene for Return of the Jedi.   It was actually a really interesting and ambitious project.
 
What makes the comic at hand different than other comics is that it's a pop-up comic!  As far as I can tell, it's one of the few that's ever been made (until recently) with adult readers in mind, and was actually the first pop-up comic book produced.  Due to the unusual nature of the comic and the increased bulk of the pop-up mechanics, the comic is a short one. . .at 14 pages it's more of a vignette than a complete comic story.  
 
Because it is such a short comic, I decided to go ahead and scan it in full for this review.  I quickly found out that pop-up books are NOT scanner-friendly at all, so please excuse the iffy quality of the pictures below.  They don't do justice to how great this comic looks in the hand.  I've included a few pics of the comic folded out as well, to try and give more of an idea of how it actually looks.
 
Enough introduction!  Let's take a look at this unusual little artifact of Dark Horse Star Wars, shall we?

STAR WARS:

BATTLE OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS

DARK HORSE (1996)

 
SCRIPT: Ryder Windham
ART: Christopher Moeller
COVER: Christopher Moeller
 
THE COVER:
 
Christopher Moeller might not be the most famous or prolific comic artist out there, but he's got a detailed, gritty style that fits the Star Wars universe perfectly, especially when it comes to the darker corners inhabited by characters like Boba Fett.  This is a fantastic example of his work. . .a collage of images held together by a very nice portrait of the fan favorite Bounty Hunter.  If this wasn't an awkwardly-sized hardcover, this cover would definitely take some turns up on the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside and feast our eyes on some more of Moeller's art!
 
THE STORY:
 
We start off shortly after the events of The Empire Strikes Back.  Bounty Hunter Boba Fett is delivering his target, Han Solo, to crime lord Jabba The Hutt on Tattooine.  Solo has been frozen alive in carbonite by Darth Vader.  The bounty hunter anticipates an easy time collecting on Solo, but when he comes out of hyperspace over Tattooine, he spots a rival bounty hunter waiting for him. . .the droid called IG-88!
 
 
Acting quickly, Fett targets and destroy's IG-88's ship, but his easy victory is TOO easy.  It was a distraction from IG-88's actual ship, which attacks Boba Fett, taking him by surprise!
Once again, apologies for the way the pictures look flattened on a scanner.  Here's a camera shot of the first couple of pages folded out, so you can get more of an idea of how this comic actually looks. . .
 
 
After damaging Boba Fett's ship with his surprise attack, IG-88 demands that Solo be surrendered to him and he MIGHT let Fett live. . .
 
Despite the iffy situation, Boba Fett isn't one to be taken down like a chump.  The bounty hunter pulls one of the many tricks he holds up his sleeve and hits the inertial dampers (the brakes) on his ship, putting him behind IG-88 and lined up for the perfect shot!
Boba Fett takes the shot, destroying IG-88 in a spectacular explosion!  His rival now out of the way, Fett continues to Tattooine to deliver his bounty to Jabba The Hutt.
 
 
As Boba Fett lands, his ship is noticed by an Imperial patrol.  They investigate and confront the bounty hunter, telling him it's a restricted area. . . 
 
 
Unfortunately for the stormtroopers, Fett doesn't care much about Imperial restrictions.  He opens fire and quickly decimates the patrol before continuing on to Jabba's desert palace, where the crime lord's lieutenant, Bib Fortuna, meets him.
On his way into Jabba's palace, Boba Fett is attacked by a giant sand dragon!  However, it's no match for Boba Fett, who takes the creature down easily.  Suspecting that the conniving Bib Fortuna tried to lead him into a trap, Fett forces him at gunpoint to lead the way to Jabba The Hutt's throne room.
 
Below is another pic of the comic folded out, to give more of an idea of how it actually looks.
 
 
In Jabba's throne room, Fett negotiates for an extra bonus because he brought Solo in alive.  Jabba agrees, but has another proposition for the bounty hunter. . .
 
 
Knowing that Solo's friends will eventually attempt a rescue, Jabba offers Boba Fett more money if he stays on for a while as protection.  Fett agrees without hesitation. . .setting the stage for the opening scene of Return of The Jedi.
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Like I said in the introduction, this is a very short and simple story that's really more of a vignette.  It's actually an abbreviated version of some of the same events as depicted in (mostly) the first issue of the main "Shadows of the Empire" comic series, but featuring the fantastic painted art of Christopher Moeller instead of the more standard comic art (Which is still some pretty darn nice work by Kilian Plunkett, with inks by P. Craig Russell) in the regular comic.
 
Shadows of the Empire, Issue #1
 
Despite the extremely slim story to be found here, the real star of THIS show is the pop-up mechanic, featuring the painted art of Moeller.  As I mentioned in a couple of places above, the flattened images of the comic on the scanner don't really do it much justice.  Even the couple of regular camera shots don't quite display just how nice this unusual comic actually looks when it's folded out. 
 
I was familiar with Moeller's gritty, realistic, painted style from my favorite series to come out of DC's short-lived Helix imprint, "Sheva's War".  A fine little nugget of Longbox Junk gold itself, and highly recommended for any fan of good hard military science fiction.  I've always wanted to track down and enjoy more of his work, but he wasn't the most prolific artist.  His art in this comic doesn't disappoint!
 
With interesting angles, perfect colors, and gritty realism, the art in this short comic is simply a feast for the eyes!
 

CONCLUSION

 
There's not much story to be found here, and what little there is, is a retelling of events in another comic.  But the story isn't the draw here.  This unusual pop-up comic book features some really great painted artwork that makes me want more!  At the end of the day, there's not much to Battle of The Bounty Hunters, but it IS fun.  Say what you will, there ain't nothing wrong with having some fun in a comic book!
 
It might be a little hard to track down a copy, but Battle of The Bounty Hunters is just a fun little Star Wars artifact that Star Wars fans both young and young at heart will surely enjoy.  I give it an official Longbox Junk gold seal of approval.
 
 
Until next time, remember that comics are worth more than money!

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Longbox Junk - Star Wars: Rebel Heist

268 views • 10 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the best place to find comic reviews you never asked for!

 
Once again, apologies for my sketchy posting "schedule" this time of year.  The summer tourist season is starting to gain some steam and my spare time at work for readin' and reviewin' comic books is getting a little sparse.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
It's the merry month of May! Spring is in the air, the grass is green, the flowers are blooming.  Summer is just around the corner.  But most importantly, it's STAR WARS month!  
 
Star Wars is what got me into comic collecting in the first place, so when May rolls around I like to spotlight a few of the comic book adventures that have taken place in that galaxy far, far away.
 
For quite a while, Dark Horse had the rights to publish Star Wars comics, and they definitely ran with it in a big way.  They went WELL above and beyond the established lore of the movies and put their own stamp on Star Wars. . .for better AND for worse.  The Dark Horse Star Wars mythology is dense, convoluted, and a little hard for newcomers to jump into.  
 
That said, toward the end of their time holding the keys to Star Wars comics, Dark Horse stepped away from their tangled continuity and started to return to the basic foundation of what made Star Wars great in the first place. . .the tight relationship between the original heroes of the Star Wars saga, Luke, Han, Chewie, and Leia, as they fought against the evil Empire.  
 
The comics at hand are a perfect example of Dark Horse's return to the simple roots of Star Wars, being a look at the four main heroes of Star Wars through the eyes of others.  A bit of research tells me that it's actually the LAST original Star Wars item published by Dark Horse before they handed things over to Marvel.  Did they go out on a high note?  Let's find out!
 

STAR WARS:

REBEL HEIST

DARK HORSE (2014)

 
SCRIPTS: Matt Kindt
PENCILS: Marco Castiello
COVERS: Adam Hughes
 

ISSUE ONE

 
THE COVER:
 
Adam Hughes really knocked it out of the park on ALL the covers for this series!  This one showcases the reluctant rebel and smuggler, Han Solo.  Frozen in a moment of gun-slingin' action and with a vibrant background, this cover perfectly captures the roguish essence of the character.  
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin the series on the planet Corellia, where a young rebel recruit named Jan is unexpectedly thrown into a chaotic adventure when he meets with his contact (none other than one of the most wanted men in the galaxy, Han Solo) and Imperial agents burst onto the scene .
 
Through a series of mishaps and narrow escapes, Jan becomes convinced that Solo is less of a hero and more of a lucky maniac with a death wish.  Eventually, the pair are captured and imprisoned on an orbiting Imperial space station.  But is there more to the story than Jan knows?
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This first issue shows us Han Solo through the eyes of someone not used to Solo's brand of improvisational adventure.  I found this issue to be pretty funny as the situation got more and more out of hand while Jan desperately wondered what sort insanity of what he'd been dragged into.  Of course, to Star Wars fans, we know that's just how Han Solo does it.  But to the narrator of the story, it was sheer lunacy.
 
Overall, a lot of adventure and a few chuckles make this a great start to the series.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

 
THE COVER:
 
It's Star Wars' rebel Princess showcased in a confident pose that lets you know she's not one to be messed with!  I really like how the stark white of her outfit contrasts with the cool blues of the background.  Another great Star Wars portrait from Adam Hughes.
 
THE STORY:
 
We shift scenes to the pleasure planet of Feddasyr, where neutrality in the galactic conflict and easy access to any sort of vice makes it a perfect world for the "cold war" of spies and intrigue between the Empire and Rebellion.  Our narrator is a very rare red Twi'Lek, whose one in a million color allows her to hide in plain sight as a highly-desirable dancer, able to infiltrate Imperial ranks as a Rebel agent.
 
When her cover is blown and she fails to deliver an Imperial code, her contact, none other than Princess Leia Organa, enlists her to assist with plan B. . .Leia infiltrating a high-class party thrown by a wealthy industrialist who has the code the Rebels need.
 
Although the Twi'Lek is unimpressed at first by Leia's royal background, she quickly comes to realize there's more to the princess than meets the eye as Leia accomplishes the mission and makes a narrow escape with a turncoat specialist "code carrier' stormtrooper who has the Imperial code imprinted in his DNA.
 
In the end, the Twi'Lek watches Leia allow herself to be captured in order for the code carrier to escape the planet and deliver the Imperial code to the Rebels.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Where the first issue was about the madcap insanity that follows Han Solo wherever he goes, this issue tells a tale of Princess Leia as a highly-focused undercover operative.  Each move is meticulously planned, and even when things go wrong, Leia thinks of nothing but accomplishing the mission.  It's less humorous than the first issue, replacing the chuckles with tension and danger.  
 
Overall, this is a great little espionage story set in the Star Wars universe.  
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE THREE

 
THE COVER:
 
CHEWIE!  Everyone's favorite Wookie stands ready for action in another great portrait by Adam Hughes.  Hughes really manages to capture the essence of these characters on these covers!  I love the detail on Chewbacca's fur, the fierce expression on his face, and the contrasting green background on this one.
 
THE STORY:
 
We continue the story from the viewpoint of the Imperial code-carrier Stormtrooper rescued from Feddasyr at the cost of the capture of Princess Leia last issue as he makes contact with the next Rebel agent, the Wookie warrior Chewbacca, on a backwater Imperial planet.
 
As an Imperial trooper, he looks down on Chewbacca as an uncivilized beast, but slowly changes his mind as Chewie helps him infiltrate the Imperial base where a "Galaxy Drive" needed to unlock the secret code in his DNA is located.
 
After a tense battle where Chewbacca saves the code carrier's life, they manage to transmit the code to the Rebels, but in the end they are captured and thrown into a Rancor pit, where they are left to die!
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Where the first issue was humorous and light, and the second issue dark and tense, this third issue is focused more on combat action and adventure as Chewbacca and the turncoat Imperial code carrier fight their way to the Galaxy Drive in order to release the Imperial code from his DNA.  I liked the whole "reluctant allies become comrades through battle" storyline running through this issue.  
 
Overall, this issue doesn't stand alone as well as the first two (Ending on a cliffhanger setting up the final issue), but it's still a very nice combat-oriented story, packed with explosive action and gunplay.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
 

ISSUE FOUR

 
THE COVER:
 
And we finish off this series of four fantastic portraits of the original Star Wars heroes with the young, but determined, Luke Skywalker.  I REALLY like the warm colors and the interesting background montage, making this one my favorite of the bunch.
 
THE STORY:
 
This story is told from the viewpoint of an Imperial spy tasked with following a suspected rebel on Corellia.  We see the events of the first issue from another viewpoint as Luke Skywalker helps Han Solo get captured.  
 
We then follow the spy (and Luke) to Feddasyr, where he frees Princess Leia from captivity and the two head out to rescue Chewbacca.  The spy is confused as to why all the rescue missions when the rebel operatives have obviously been successful at their tasks.  He stows away on their ship to learn more.
 
Arriving at the Imperial base, Luke and Leia find that Chewbacca and the turncoat code-carrier have already defeated the rancor.  They help the pair escape the base and flee off-world to rendezvous with Han Solo, who has managed to escape and steal an Imperial freighter.  At this point, the spy reveals himself and surrenders, wanting to be part of something that values friendship just as much as success.
 
At the end, it's revealed that the whole plot was to find the freighter and its cargo. . .a shield generator that will be used to protect the rebel base on Hoth.  
 
We then quickly revisit the various narrators of the issues for a glimpse of them in the near future. The rebel recruit from the first is now a recruiter himself.  The red Twi'Lek from the second continuing to spy for the rebellion.  The turncoat code-carrier of the third as the leader of a rebel combat squad.  And the Imperial spy of the fourth now a double agent and discovering the first hint of the second Death Star being constructed.
 
THE END
 
THE REVIEW:
 
A very nice ending to the story, wrapping things up with plenty of action and adventure, and giving the reader another viewpoint of the events taking place in the previous issues.  I liked how (just as in the original movies) Luke Skywalker is the glue that holds everything together.  This issue is very much focused on the bond of friendship that is between the main heroes of Star Wars and, as a huge fan of Star Wars, it had a pretty heartwarming feel to it.
 
Overall, a great ending to the story that hit this old Star Wars fan in a surprisingly heartfelt way.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I said in the introduction that this was Dark Horse's last original Star Wars project and wondered if they went out on a high note.  In my extremely humble opinion, I say YES!  This has everything a Star Wars fan could want in a story. . .action, adventure, humor, friendship, and more!  
 
In these four issues you get a madcap chase story, a tense spy story, a rousing battle action story, AND a heartwarming story about the bonds of friendship. . .all tied together to make one big entertaining tale about a band of rebels stealing a shield generator.  
 
There's no two ways about it, if you are a Star Wars fan, you'll like this story a lot, and I highly recommend you checking it out if you haven't already.  
 
If you're not a Star Wars fan you might not get as much mileage out of Rebel Heist.  It's definitely written with existing fans in mind.  That said, give it a try. . .because it touches a few different genres and is told from several viewpoints, you might find it to be a pretty entertaining piece of science fiction action/adventure despite the Star Wars framework around it.
 
Up Next. . .
 
One of the more unusual comics in my collection. . .a strange little experiment by Dark Horse in their Star Wars line.  You'll see what I mean.  It's the Star Wars: Battle of The Bounty Hunters one shot!
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - Star Wars: Tie Fighter

374 views • 18 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comic reviews are free, and if you're not completely satisfied, you're entitled to a 100% refund!

 
I've probably mentioned it before, but I am a HUGE Star Wars fan.  As a matter of fact, it was Star Wars that got me into comic collecting in the first place! Bear with me a moment while I tell the tale.
 
I was but a lad when the original Star Wars movie roared into theaters like nothing else that had ever come before (or since).  It may make me sound a bit old, but you sort of had to be there to understand the full impact Star Wars had when it first came out.  To call it a nationwide phenomena is underselling it.  
 
But to make a long story (sort of) short, when Star Wars finally came to the small Utah town I was living in, they were giving away the first issue of the Marvel comics adaptation to kids 12 and under along with your ticket.  I had read comics before (mostly random Batman and Justice League comics), but that Star Wars comic was the first time I ever felt I HAD to get the rest of the story!  
 
That chunky Chaykin art! That overblown dialogue where every! Sentence! Ended! With! An Exclamation point!  I LOVED that there were little scenes in that comic that weren't in the movie.  And guess what. . .I STILL have that very issue!  It's pretty battered, but I wouldn't sell it for a million bucks (Okay. . .MAYBE for a million, but I'd have to think about it for a few minutes).
 
Yeah, I loved the first Star Wars movie, but that ONE comic book some stranger gave me in a movie theater started me on a lifetime love of the stories and art to be found in the four-color floppies that is just as strong this very day as it ever was!

So I'm a big Star Wars fan, to say the least.  But as big of a fan as I am, I still have to be honest and admit that Star Wars comics have been a bit hit or miss through the years.  Don't get me wrong. . .there have been some great stories, but I'd be tellin' you false if I didn't say that there have also been some REALLY bad Star Wars comic stories (Off the top of my head, I'm looking straight at YOU Dark Empire II).
 
But enough of that.  Let's turn our attention to why we're here.
 
The comics at hand are a fairly recent offering from Marvel that takes a sort of unusual look at Star Wars by giving us a story focusing not on the Skywalker family saga or the heroic Jedi Warriors of times past.  Instead, the heroes of THIS story are the villains of all the rest!  That's right, this series features the skilled and deadly ace pilots of (Dun-Dun-DUNN) The Empire.
 
Can there be a good Star Wars story without flashing lightsabers and plucky rebels?  Let's find out!

STAR WARS: TIE FIGHTER

Marvel (2019)

 

ISSUE ONE

The Shadow Falls, Part 1

 
SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Michael Dowling (backup)
COVER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
 
THE COVER:
 
This is the sort of cover that pretty much tells you what to expect inside.  A very nicely-painted, almost photo-realistic, close up portrait of an Imperial Tie Fighter pilot moving in on his target while a battle rages around him.  It's simple, but effective.  It makes me want to get right inside. . .so let's do it!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin the story shortly after the battle of Hoth as an elite Imperial Tie Interceptor Squadron called "Shadow Wing" finish destroying the pilots of a hidden Rebel base as the Empire sweeps the galaxy searching for the scattered remnants of the Rebellion.
 
Upon returning to their base on the Star Destroyer "Pursuer", we are introduced to the ace pilots of Shadow Wing: Teso Broosh. . .The squad leader.  A veteran commander with a bad reputation for surviving battles where everyone else is killed.  Ganem Kahi. . .7th generation fighter pilot with a proud family military tradition going back to before the Clone Wars.  Known for always getting the job done.  Zin Graw. . .compassionate and caring.  The "Mama Bear" of the squad.  She's in a "don't ask - don't tell" relationship with Ganem.  Jeela Brebtin. . .Focused, cold, lethal.  She's a killer without remorse.  And finally, Lyttan Dree. . .a hard-charging professional who plays as hard as he works.
 
Before Shadow Wing can enjoy much down time, they are summoned before their Commander, Colonel Nuress, and given a new mission. . .escort duty for the Imperial Cruiser Summit as it heads for the Kudo System to render possible aid to the Star Destroyer Celerity, which has reported hyperdrive issues preventing it from a scheduled rendezvous with the rest of the Imperial fleet in the sector.
 
Despite Commander Broosh's protests that escort duty is hardly a good use for an elite interceptor squad, Shadow Wing is quickly under way and on their new mission.  Upon arrival in the Kudo System and finding the Celerity, the Summit is unable to communicate with the Star Destroyer. Someone is jamming transmissions.  
 
Shadow Wing takes flight to investigate the silent starship and suddenly the Summit is blasted by an ion cannon from the Celerity!  The surprise attack renders the cruiser helpless while a wave of Tie Fighters from the Star Destroyer launches to intercept Shadow Wing!
 
To be continued. . .
 
In a short backup story, we see that there's more to Zin Graw than meets the eye as she covertly contacts an unknown person and prepares to transmit information to them.  Dun-Dun-DUNNN!
 
BONUS: There's also a short text excerpt from the Star Wars novel this comic ties into, Alphabet Squadron.  It's set before this series and tells how a former member of Shadow Wing managed to fake her death and defect to the Rebellion.  It's not bad and does a pretty good job of making me want to read the whole book.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
An outstanding first issue!  Even if you're not a Star Wars fan, this is some good hard military science fiction!  There's no Jedi Knights, no Galaxy-Spanning epic tales of the dark and light sides of the Force clashing, there's no heroes. This is a tale of a close-knit team of professional pilots doing their duty, following orders, and falling into a trap.  The characters are interesting and their relationships, both conflicting and complimenting, are fitted together quite nicely.  
 
It's a sort of strange Star Wars story without any real heroes to root for.  Commander Broosh lays it out there for the reader in a conversation with Lyttan Dree when he says that the Empire considers even their best pilots expendable and the most they can hope for is to survive the next mission, and then the one after that.  It's strange for a Star Wars story, but interesting. . .even compelling reading.  This isn't a story of brave heroes and dastardly villains, it's a military tale of duty and survival.  
 
As far as the art goes. . .
 
The artist on this series was a perfect pick!  Complimenting the "No Heroes" hard-edged military tone of the story, the art is likewise hard-edged and detailed, with thick outlines, interesting cinematic angles, and heavy inking.  The art style lends itself especially to action scenes, which almost seem to move across the page. . .but the artist also brings life to the characters in more static scenes with some really good work on facial expressions.  This is one great-looking comic!
 

Overall, we have a great start to this series with a first issue that delivers in every way that it should.  It introduces the characters, background, and initial conflict naturally and with a minimum of exposition.  It tells an interesting story in a familiar setting, but from an unusual viewpoint and with characters I want to get to know more about.  It makes me want to see what happens next.  What more could anyone want from a first issue?  
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

The Shadow Falls, Part 2

 
SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Josh Cassara (backup)
COVER: Tommy Lee Edwards
 
THE COVER:
 
Tommy Lee Edwards! One of my favorite artists giving me a SWEET Star Wars cover! I love the unusual composition of this cover.  The colors are great.  There's a very nice sense of motion.  There's nothing I don't like about this cover!  It's the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic without knowing anything about what's inside.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing directly from the first issue, elite Tie Interceptor squadron "Shadow Wing" find themselves being ambushed by the Tie fighters of the Celerity, a Star Destroyer they came to render aid to.
 
As the outnumbered Shadow Wing fights for their lives, the commander of their cruiser transport tries to escape, despite commands to surrender from the Celerity.  After the cruiser is destroyed by the Star Destroyer, Commander Broosh realizes the hopelessness of the situation and surrenders his squad.
 
On the planet below, Shadow Wing are disarmed by stormtroopers and taken before their commander, Admiral Gratloe.  He informs them that he and his forces haven't joined the Rebellion, but aren't part of the Empire any longer, either.  He has taken control of the Kudo system's mining operations and plans on sitting out the remainder of the war.
 
Shadow Wing is offered a place in Gratloe's operation.  The squadron rejects the offer, but Commander Broosh seems to show interest.  Later, he reveals his interest in Gratloe's offer is a ruse to buy time and he intends to somehow carry out the mission they came to Kudo for. . .to recover the Star Destroyer Celerity.
 
Jeela reveals a hidden weapon and Shadow Wing kill their guards, arm themselves, and escape captivity. . .determined to finish their mission and reclaim what belongs to the Empire, or die trying.
 
To be continued. . .
 
In a short backup story, Lyttan Dree talks to his brother, Tamu, who is stationed on an Imperial Medical Frigate.  They fondly recall their days in the Imperial Academy (Lyttan and Tamu were both characters in the "Han Solo: Imperial Cadet mini-series") and share rumors of a huge upcoming operation that are slowly spreading through Imperial forces (Luring the Rebel fleet into a trap using the second Death Star as seen in Return of The Jedi).
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This series continues to deliver some very solid military sci-fi as Shadow Wing find themselves the prisoner of a rogue Imperial officer and rejecting his offer of an easy way out of the war.  It's not exactly "Apocalypse Now", but I like the angle of Admiral Grotloe just getting tired of the war and deciding to carve out a little piece of the galaxy for himself and those loyal to him.  
 
I like that Gratloe isn't an Imperial defector to the Rebellion.  That's the easy way out for most Star Wars Empire-focused stories, and I'm glad it's not the motivation here.  If it were, I probably wouldn't be enjoying this story so much because the "Imperial Defector" story path is an extremely well-worn one.
 
I also like how Shadow Wing are shown as loyal military professionals.  From Broosh surrendering rather than die needlessly, to their united front rejection of Gratloe's offer, to their use of teamwork and the scant resources at hand to make their escape and continue their mission.  They are written as acting in the manner of a well-trained, practiced unit that knows what the intentions of each other are, often without speaking.  This rings true to how things tend to become in close-knit military units, from my experience in the Marine Corps.
 
The art maintains the same gritty, military, "no heroes" style as the story.  I really like how the artist manages to make a story set in an Imperial scenario of drab gray ships and equally-drab military uniforms pop with color and excitement.
 

Overall, the second issue keeps the story going strong as Shadow Wing are taken out of their starfighter element and forced to rely on their close military bond to work together on the ground as a unit and somehow continue their mission.  It's writing like this that makes me want to jump right into the next issue.  This isn't just a good Star Wars story, it's a good story period.
 
NEXT!

 

ISSUE THREE

The Shadow Falls, Part 3


SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Geraldo Borges (backup)
COVER: Tommy Lee Edwards
 
THE COVER:
 
I don't like this one as much as I did the cover for Issue #2, but it's still Star Wars by Tommy Lee Edwards, so I'll take it anyway.  It has great color and detail, but just doesn't have the eye-catching composition and sense of motion of his previous cover.  
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Shadow Wing have escaped captivity and are fighting their way toward their ships, determined to somehow finish their mission of reclaiming the Star Destroyer Celerity.
 
Commander Broosh manages to convince the commander of the base's stormtrooper garrison to step away from Admiral Gratloe's criminal plan and do his duty to the Empire by unlocking the access codes on Shadow Wing's Interceptors.  During the negotiations, Broosh learns that Gratloe has a mysterious buyer for the stolen Star Destroyer that is on the way to pick the ship up.
 
Once Shadow Wing is in the air and on route to the Celerity, they discover that a battle is raging on the Star Destroyer between Imperial loyalists and Gratloe's conspirators.  As Commander Broosh comes up with a plan, Gratloe's buyers suddenly appear from hyperspace. . .escorted by a large group of rebel starfighters!  
 
Lyttan Dree is immediately killed in the initial exchange of fire as Shadow Wing desperately speeds to the Star Destroyer.  Before they can make it, Zin Graw is also taken out by the attacking X-Wings. 
 
Finally, aboard the Celerity, Broosh learns that the Imperial loyalists have gained the upper hand and he commands the Star Destroyer jump to hyperspace and rendezvous with the Imperial fleet.
 
To Be Continued. . .
 
In a short backup, we see Broosh being given command of Shadow Wing six months previously.  He initially declines, but eventually he's convinced that his doubts about being responsible for the lives of his squad are the reason why he was chosen for the job.  He finally accepts, promising to keep them alive.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
In a totally unexpected turn of events, two of the main characters are killed in one issue!  Not only that, but Lyttan Dree is killed in the middle of a sentence. . .driving home the random nature of death in combat.  
 
Dree was actually one of the more fleshed-out characters in this series, with his past established in the "Han Solo: Imperial Cadet" mini-series, as well as having one of the short backup flashback stories (more like vignettes) in this series devoted to him.  I was actually shocked and surprised that he was killed in such a random and offhand manner.
 
But in keeping with the gritty military nature of the story, Broosh keeps his team together and functioning as their comrades are killed in front of them.  It's just some really good hard military science fiction writing.
 

Overall, this chapter of the story illustrates that the writer isn't afraid to show the deadly consequences of combat.  The two deaths in this issue are random and genuinely surprising, which is definitely a change of pace from your average Star Wars heroes being fully protected by their shiny "plot armor" as they rush through a hail of blaster fire.  The writer takes a big chance in killing off two of the best characters on the team, but it definitely pays off.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE FOUR

The Shadow Falls, Part 4

 
SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Ig Guara (backup)
COVER: Tommy Lee Edwards
 
THE COVER:
 
Edwards gets some Rebel ships in on this one!  I really like the unusual angles of the A-Wing, Y-Wing, and especially that beautifully-detailed B-Wing! The contrast between the high-flying Rebels in the blue sky above and the crashed and burning Imperial ship below really gives this cover a very nice color punch.  
 
THE STORY:
 
At the Imperial Flight Academy, we are introduced to two cadets, Rac Syrmo and Bansu Ro. Both are cocky, competitive, and at the top of their class.  They are pulled from a training exercise to be informed that the Empire has decided to assign the entire Academy class early.  Their first assignment is as replacements for pilots recently lost in the 204th Interceptor Squadron. . .Shadow Wing.
 
Shifting back to Shadow Wing aboard their base, the Imperial Star Destroyer Pursuer. The squadron is given some shocking news upon their return from their mission in the Kudo system. . .their deceased comrade, Zin Graw, has been discovered to have been transmitting information to the Rebellion as part of a sort of "Underground Railroad" for Imperial defectors.
 
Zin's lover, Ganem, doesn't believe it, but Commander Broosh realizes from her past behavior that it's the truth and blames himself.  Fortunately for the Empire, Zin's betrayal has left behind information of use. . .the location of a mobile secret Rebel base used to rendezvous with defectors.  Shadow Wing is tasked with providing fire support for Imperial bombers during a planned attack on the base.
 
En route to their new assignment Shadow Wing's replacement pilots arrive.  The veterans of the squad are shocked to find that their unit is being assigned cadets.  Commander Broosh does his best to try and get them up to speed before their first real mission, but the task seems overwhelming.
 
To be continued. . .
 
In a short backup story, we join Ganem on Coruscant shortly after his graduation from the Academy spending an afternoon with his Grandmother, a former fighter pilot for the Republic.  They discuss the long and proud military tradition of their family. . .Ganem is the seventh generation of fighter pilots. . .and how even though things change over time, their family fights for the people, not the government.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Hmmmm. . .interesting.  It seems a bit strange to be introducing new characters and new storylines in the fourth issue of a five-issue series.  It's still very well written and backed up by some consistently good artwork, but there's something that feels a little bit off.  Not to get ahead of myself, but looking at the oddly-abrupt ending in the next issue, I wonder if this was originally supposed to be an ongoing series. . .or maybe a six issue mini-series.  I'll get into that a bit more down below.  
 
In any case, this issue serves mainly to introduce new characters, Shadow Wing's new assignment, and some conflict within Shadow Wing itself as they are divided over the news of their fallen team member's betrayal of the Empire.  There's not much action to be found in this issue, but between the good military writing and the artist's solid facial work, this dialogue-heavy issue still delivers.
 
The backup story in this one is probably the best of the series, with Ganem and his grandmother talking about how Republics and Empires rise and fall, but the average person remains the same.  It's a really nice little macro view of the Star Wars "universe".
 

Overall, this one has a strange feel to it because it's introducing new characters, conflict, and storylines in the fourth issue of a five-issue series.  That said, it's still some very solid military science fiction backed up with some very nice art , both of which show that there doesn't have to be a lot of action to tell a good war story.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ISSUE FIVE

The Shadow Falls, Part 5

 
SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Juan Gedeon (backup)
COVER: Tommy Lee Edwards
 
THE COVER:
 
WOW! For the final issue, Tommy Lee Edwards pulls out all the stops for some explosive battle action!  I like the giant Star Destroyer looming in the background a lot, but it's the brilliant colors with the smaller ships silhouetted against them that really sells this outstanding battle scene.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, we join Shadow Wing as they begin the attack on the mobile Rebel base used to rendezvous with Imperial defectors.  Their new recruits struggle to keep up with Shadow Wing's veterans, and one of them (Rac Syrmo) is shaken when his inexperience leads to the destruction of one of the bombers they are supposed to be escorting.
 
During the battle, Ganem's connection with the deceased Zin Graw causes him to stray from the mission as he seeks personal revenge, but he is brought back from the brink of insubordination by the skilled leadership of Commander Broosh.  
 
After the base is destroyed, Shadow Wing returns to their transport for debriefing, but their discussion of the events of the battle is cut short by a fleet-wide emergency announcement. . .the second Death Star has been destroyed by the Rebels and the Emperor is presumed dead!  
 
Commander Broosh maintains his squad's composure while panic ensues around them.  They are Imperial fighter pilots and THEIR command chain doesn't end with the Emperor.  We end the story with Shadow Wing wondering what is next for them.
 
The End.
 
In a short backup story set a few days before Shadow Wing's attack on the Rebel base, Commander Broosh and Jeela Brebtin discuss how both of them have a bad reputation.  His for surviving, hers for being cold and unapproachable.  They bond over the shared fact that nobody likes either of them.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
And so we come to the end of the comic book adventures of Shadow Wing.  They're (sort of) continued in the "Alphabet Squadron" and "Shadow Fall" novels (the first two of a trilogy).  But this review ain't about the novels, it's about these comics, so let's break it on down!
 
Truthfully, the ending of this series has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.  
 
It ends abruptly with the announcement of the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of the Emperor when it seems like those are major events that need a little more exploration. . .not to mention the dangling story threads of one of the new recruits causing Imperial casualties through his overconfidence and lack of skill, as well as Ganem's growing instability over the death of his lover and the budding relationship between Commander Broosh and Jeela.
 
That's not to say this is a bad issue by any means.  The story is well-written and engaging.  The art remains consistently outstanding.  This is still one fine piece of hard military science fiction.  The problem here is that it feels incomplete and unsatisfying.  There's too much meat left on the bone.  Too many things left behind that aren't explored in the novels (which focus on other units of the 204th).  The ending of this story is abrupt and not in keeping with the rest of the series.
 
In considering the ending of this series, I wonder if it actually IS complete.  It feels to me like there should be one more issue.  Five issues is sort of a strange number for a modern comic industry that tends to write for trade collections of six or twelve issues, as a general standard.  I'm wondering if this series was supposed to be a six issue mini, or even an ongoing series.  
 
It just seems strange that new characters, new relationships, new conflict, and new storylines are still being introduced in the fourth and even the last issue of a five-issue series.  The strangely-abrupt ending (on an unresolved cliffhanger) just sort of taints my enjoyment of the series as a whole.
 

Overall, what we have here is a sort of strange and abrupt ending for the series that makes the whole thing feel incomplete.  It's still a fine piece of hard military science fiction and very enjoyable to read, but introducing new conflicts and relationships in the final issue, and then ending on a cliffhanger, makes me wonder if there was supposed to be more to this.

CONCLUSION

 
I wondered when I started this review if a good Star Wars story could be told without flashing lightsabers and the powers of the force.  The answer is yes.  Of course, gritty military Star Wars comics HAVE been done before, with Dark Horse's "X-Wing: Rogue Squadron", but those stories focused on the Rebellion and gave us heroes to root for in their fight against the evil Empire.
 
Here, there are no heroes.  There is no glory.  This is a tale of military professionals relying on each other to get the job done.  It's very well written, has interesting characters, and some really good art.  The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. . .like the series is incomplete by at least one issue. . .but that doesn't take away from the fact that this just isn't a good Star Wars story, it's a good story period.
 
I'd go so far as to say that if you are NOT a fan of Star Wars, but enjoy military-style science fiction, then you'll probably enjoy this story as well.  It does away with most of the standard Star Wars trappings and boils things down to a personal level that will be familiar to just about anyone who has ever served in the military.  If you ARE a fan of Star Wars, then this is a great little story set in a familiar universe, but told in a little bit of a different way.  Either way, I give Star Wars: Tie Fighter an official Longbox Junk gold seal of approval.  Keep your eye out for it in the bargain bin and give it a try.
 
Up Next. . .
 
What happens when you mash up Zorro and H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos?
 
Let's find out!
 
Zorro: Rise of The Old Gods 4 issue mini-series.
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - One-Shots (Part 2)

500 views • 23 weeks ago • (1) Comment

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and nobody asked me to review them!

 After spending several months grinding through all sixty issues of Marc Spector: Moon Knight, I've decided to cleanse my palate a bit by returning to my favorite kind of comic. . .One shots!  Tight little packages of comic book goodness where the creative team is tasked with giving the reader a complete story in one and only one issue.   

With a single issue to work with, the creative team has nowhere to hide.  It's easy to fail, but when the team is up to the task, the results can be some of the best stories to be found in comics.  

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Longbox Junk - One-Shots (part 1)

352 views • 24 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

I've said it before and I'm gonna say it again.  Of all the different kinds of comic books out there, I'd have to say that my ultimate favorite is the one-shot.  To me, the one shot is a supreme test for a creative team. 

 By giving a team one and ONLY one issue to tell a complete tale, their storytelling ability is put to the test.  There's nowhere to hide.  No room for error.  To fail the test is easy, and actually pretty common.  There's PLENTY of bad one-shots haunting the bargain bins.  But when a team succeeds?  It's often pure Longbox Junk gold!

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So what we have here is a five issue standalone story that crosses over between the regular Marvel Star Wars and Doctor Aphra ongoing series, with an introductory one-shot.  It can be read on its own, but a bit of background knowledge on both Star Wars and Doctor Aphra is needed to fully get into it. . .but really all you need to know are the following basic bits:

Luke Skywalker is searching for a way to learn more about the Jedi, now that he's had a taste of what can be accomplished with The Force.  Doctor Aphra is a rogue archaologist who used to work for Darth Vader and has managed to get her hands on the archived (Read: Imprisoned) personality of an ancient Jedi that she can't access.  They've met before and are sort of frenemies.  

So there's the background.  Let's do this!

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Captain Phasma has been hyped up by the promotions for both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi as some sort of awesome and mysterious villain. . .and she DOES look badass with her chrome stormtrooper armor and flowing black cape.

BUT. . .

Let's face it.  The hype isn't the truth.  Captain Phasma is pretty much the new Star Wars movie's Boba Fett.  Sure, she LOOKS awesome, but she has what. . .five minutes total screen time over two movies?  That and SPOILER she dies (maybe) a weak- death in The Last Jedi, just like Boba Fett went out like a chump in Return of The Jedi.

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I said in the review for the first part of Star Trek: The Modala Imperative that I probably love Star Wars more than I ever loved my first wife. . .and I meant every word of it.  I'm gonna make myself sound old here, but kids today don't understand what a game-changer Star Wars was back in the 70's.  It was like a pop culture atomic bomb.  Fallout from Star Wars impacted EVERYTHING. . .including me.  The original 6 issue mini-series of Star Wars comics were the first comics I bought and they are the reason I love comics today.

So, my enduring geek love of Star Wars now well-established, let's take a look at what Dark Horse was doing with Star Wars during the period of time when nobody thought there would be any more movies and things were just sort of. . .strange.

STAR WARS: DARK EMPIRE II (Dark Horse)

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More one shots. . .YAY!  I love 'em.

OUR ARMY AT WAR Featuring Sergeant Rock (DC 2010)

Sergeant Rock is one of my favorite characters. As a Marine Corps veteran, I can appreciate how Rock is actually one of the greatest ANTI war characters ever created. This modern take on Rock is one of the strongest comics I've read in a LONG time.

It is written to perfection with the story flashing back and forth between WWII and either Afghanistan or Iraq (not made clear), with the characters finishing each other's dialogue across time, showing the old soldier's adage "The more things change, the more they stay the same." to be true. The ending of the story, when we find out why the modern character fights, is an emotional punch to the gut, and comes out of nowhere. I won't spoil it, but it's the kind of ending that puts everything before it in a whole new perspective. . .

The art is superb in every way, from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, the whole issue is rendered in incredible detail. And then there's that fantastic cover by the legendary Joe Kubert. . .

From the cover to the last page, this one shot delivers on every single panel.  Highly suggested.

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Longbox Junk: Star Wars Princess Leia

5988 views • Dec 26, '16 • (0) Comments

Can it really be called Longbox Junk if there's a $250 variant cover?  

I only have $4 covers, so in my case. . .yes.  

ISSUE 1

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