This particular round-up is the sister piece to The High Republic one that hopefully if you’re reading this, you can go check out now! I covered all of The High Republic comics up to the most recent in one place, here, it’s all about The Crimson Reign. Even though it’s not technically a crossover event, it’s definitely become an era of its own. On a side note, it’s strange how it’s, “crossover, or not to crossover” with these issues. It was announced as its own thing, then said it wasn’t an event, but some of the covers even say Crimson Reign on them. All of the issues even have a “Next on the Reign” section in which all the series are labeled under the Crimson Reign banner. Confusing, but irrelevant! Do you know why? Because all of this stuff is top-notch, excellent Star Wars. This rivals the mid-2000’s era of Dark Horse as we enter what I think could be yet another golden age of publishing for the brand. No point in waiting any longer, let’s jump in!
Darth Vader #19
The negatives: No Sabe, we have to wait another month. The positives: Darth Vader rides a death-dealing hamster ball into battle, and that is a BIG positive. Of all the Vader series thus far, Greg Pak’s will undoubtedly be remembered as the wackiest, and I mean that as a compliment. In comics, Darth Vader has kinda been done to death, we know for the most part what makes Anakin tick. What we don’t know as fans is how much further we can fall in love with Ochi of Bestoon. That’s not to say though that there isn’t good Anakin content here. This issue, Dark Order, plays a lot with his dialogue from Attack of the Clones, exploring his dissatisfaction with the state of the galaxy Crimson Dawn and the Emperor have crafted. In terms of plot, Vader is cutting a bloody swathe across the Outer Rim hunting for intelligence on the Dawn, bringing along a fun cast of side characters that often steal the show. There’s Ochi and his assassins of course, as well as the “Revengers”, straight out of Thor Ragnarok. Valance is also pulling double duty here as he headlines his own series and continues to appear as a prominent secondary character in Darth Vader. This issue captures the same Legends vibe as I’d mentioned in a previous round-up for Darth Vader #18. I suppose it should’ve been no surprise that this arc will maintain that theme. It’s just the right blend of thematic storytelling and plot-based zaniness that keeps it feeling like fun a Star Wars comic. This one was a fun one, definitely give it a read if you can!
Star Wars #20
Charles Soule has outdone himself in what is without a doubt, one of the best issues of the Star Wars mainline there’s ever been. Dangerous Lessons is a love letter to every kind of Star Wars fan, from Original trilogy to Sequel. Soule has created an ingenious storytelling plot device in the form of Gazian, a living planet that can reproduce imprints of every mind that visits it. That means that Elzar Mann, yes THAT Elzar Mann, gets to have a conversation with Luke Skywalker about the nature of the force and the Jedi. How freaking sweet is that? All the while cinematic Star Wars backgrounds from Ach-to to Coruscant are diegetically displayed for Luke.
This bears many similarities to issue #18, Collision Course, where the bulk of the content is one long conversation. Then, it was Qi’ra and Leia, two characters who we never thought would interact. Now, it’s Elzar and Luke, another two characters who we never thought would interact, and yet, here we are. Like that issue though, it’s hard to break down a conversation as dense as this in a succinct way. You get Introspective Luke, rich Jedi history, and most importantly; Beautiful. Leather. Boots. Instead, I beg you, go read this for yourself. If you read no other Star Wars comic this year, at least give this one a shot, it’s that good.
Bounty Hunters #19 & #20
On the other side of the entertainment spectrum, we have Bounty Hunters. If Star Wars #20 was the conversational piece de resistance of comic books, then Bounty Hunters #19 is the action equivalent. Hot damn, Ramon Bachs has delivered a legendary issue of Star Wars art and thrills. Of course, Ethan Sacks is writing what is quickly becoming one of my favorite Star Wars runs, but credit has to be given to Bachs for executing the vision. A flight of TIE Defenders, The Dark Squadron, is central to the action and the final set piece involves Valance crashing one into the bridge of a ship and blasting fools with his hand lasers, all while confronting moral trauma. It’s some warring in the stars that’s for sure. Meanwhile, in issue #20, T’onga and crew are tracking down 4-LOM to use his slicing skills to get Cadeliah before Crimson Dawn and the Unbroken Clan. Speaking of the Clan, Vukorah has promoted herself to Grand Leader from General in a seriously badass scene, usurping power from her adoptive father. When I say usurping, I do mean stabbing through the chest with an ancient sword gifted to her by Qi’ra, if that wasn’t clear. With 4-LOM and Zuckuss reunited, there is the ample amount of hijinx we’ve come to expect for the two, while also conveniently pushing the plot forward. All sights are now set on Cadeliah as Deathstick and Crimson Dawn move in and make their final play, all the while hiring Dengar to kill our heroes! Overall, Bounty Hunters continue to impress, and these two issues should act as a ringing endorsement for the series as a whole.
Dr Aphra #17 & #18
Kho Phon Farrus, yet another one of Aphra’s academic colleagues from the University of Bar’leth (that school just pumps out main characters), is back with a vengeance! Someone scorned by Aphra in the past? No way! Well, yes way. Farrus is a fun addition to the canon, their over-the-top villainy equates them to a true chaotic evil version of Aphra. On the hunt for Ascendant technology, Aphra and Sana at the behest of Domina Tagge and Farrus Crimson Dawn, our Bar’leth alumni clash across the galaxy seeking potentially the secret to eternal life (although it’s most certainly a monkey’s paw)! This Doctor Aphra run has returned squarely to the archeologist roots of the character, reemphasizing the dangerous ancient tech that was a hallmark of the Gillen era of the series. On the other side of the galaxy with our other power couple, Just Lucky and Ariole get some much-needed development in the form of flashbacks, contextualizing their relationship and giving good reason for the latter’s frustration with the former. Slowly but surely we are eeking out what happened to them on the Vermillion after Gallin Crae revealed himself to be alive, but in the words of Maz Kanata, it’s still a story “for another time”. This arc so far is jam-packed, so the only downside thus far is that some characters aren’t getting much page time. Ronen Tagge, for example, has some sweet scars, but hasn’t done much yet. Other than that it’s fun action, witty dialogue, and an all-around rollicking good time. Check it out!
And that’s this week’s comic Round-up!
On the next round-up, after months of waiting, issue #2 of Crimson Reign finally hits, promising to bring the Ochi and Deathstick story we’ve all been waiting for in The Assassins! Along with that, a slew of other comics including a new series! We start our journey with Halcyon Legacy #1 by Ethan Sacks, the Disney Galactic Starcruiser tie-in. Before you roll your eyes, the Galaxy’s Edge tie-in was surprisingly great and Sacks helmed that as well. More broadly I think he’s proved himself to tell some kickass Star Wars stories beyond Disney tie-ins, so I’m actually quite excited. Until then reader, may the force be with you, and see you on the next one!