Marvel Comics has been expertly mixing their ongoing serial Star Wars stories with one-shot, character-focused narratives under a familiar theme, like the recent heroes “Age of Rebellion.” Now the villains get their turn. It’s a clever package that allows fans to enjoy these beloved characters all written by the same writer. Greg Pak gets his chance to cover the villains in the new trade paperback this week — is it good?
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Writer Greg Pak (WEAPON H and WEAPON X) teams up with artists Chris Sprouse (BLACK PANTHER) and more to tell stunning adventures starring the most dangerous villains from the original Star Wars film trilogy. What other schemes did Grand Moff Tarkin hatch aboard the Death Star? STAR WARS: AGE OF REBELLION fills-in the gaps between and complements the fan favorite, iconic Star Wars moments, shedding new light on the fi lms’ eternal confl ict between the light and the dark, good and evil.
Why does this matter?
The very best villains get stories here, including Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Grand Moff Tarkin, and a special IG-88 story that will knock your socks off. This might be the best Star Wars trade paperback yet. Who is more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him? Well…follow me…
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Stay with me here, but the Grand Moff Tarkin story is by far the best of the bunch; a perfect 10 out of 10 story that does a good job fleshing out Tarkin and making him an edgier and tougher man than we might think. The films show a man who is ruthless and puts the job before all else, and this comic begins to show why. In a key opening scene, Pak and Marc Laming (with colors by Jordan Boyd and Neeraj Menon) reveal Tarkin as a boy. His father is ruthless and seems to not care for his son’s well being. It’s a moment that lives with Tarkin into his adulthood and it is called back to more than once in the narrative. From there, this issue explores the character and how he manages the Death Star. I won’t spoil what we get out of the issue, but know it takes place after Rogue One when the Death Star is still in a testing phase. It doesn’t blow planets out of the star system with ease just yet.
The next best has to go to Boba Fett, who is silent but deadly. This issue has a good plot, opening with Boba Fett riding a mechanical horse and rushing right at us. This leads him through the camp of a scoundrel, but he has no desire to stop since he’s rushing his bounty back for payment. As the story moves forward we learn a bit more about the duo Boba Fett ran through, but more importantly learn how much of a workaholic Boba Fett is. By the end of the story, it’s clear he lives for the hunt and cares not for anything else. He’s strong but silent. You get the sense he doesn’t tire. Greg Pak nails the character down as if he’s a force of nature.
The Jabba story gets a bit silly in its approach, showing how lucky and dumb Jabba is as a gangster. It opens with super-rich folks enjoying a drink and then cutting to Jabba’s palace where we learn he’s quite good at trading the drink. His words set in motion a series of events, seemingly proving his lazy utterances can, in fact, be a stroke of genius. His familiar minions, including Boba Fett, are all great in this too.
The Darth Vader story does an equally good job of showing how Vader stays in line, doing as the Emperor says, knowing full well it will lead to good things. He must combat a Governor who has higher standing but is dooming himself by allowing the Emperor to make Vader his plaything. It ends in tragedy for the Governor and it shows how Vader is very good at following orders.
The last few pages might have folks scratching their heads the most, but also expanding their minds. Hickman delivers an explanation of a hive-mind structure that is filled with rules and levels. The concepts are explained well but also require a bit of logic and following along to truly get it. If that’s even possible. Hickman is dealing with large concepts involving the mind, consciousness, and purpose in the universe. The graphics by Muller help in conveying the relation to these layered types and it’ll be interesting to see how such a huge concept connects to the lives of the characters we’re currently following.
Last but not least is the IG-88 story written by Simon Spurrier with art by Caspar Wijngaard. It’s exceptionally efficient as it tells its story via captions. IG-88 is a mystery to most fans, and he’s a mystery in this story. As it unfolds we learn his logical computer brain is capable of great things which include not turning in bounties to avoid risk. By the end, you’ll gain new insight into the character and respect him a lot more too.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Most of my negative points are nitpicks at best. Jabba isn’t in the story that much — his true power is explained via word of mouth — and Boba Fett’s character isn’t explored so much as just there. On some level, it’s clear Pak is exploring each character via outside sources, including Vader, who simply does as he is told but gets his way in the end. Grand Moff Tarkin is the standout because it tells a backstory and reveals something about the man, which shines a spotlight on the fact that the other villains aren’t probed as well.
Is it good?
No matter the character being probed in its chapters, this is a must-read Star Wars trade paperback. Read this to revisit your favorite villains, a revealing Grand Moff Tarkin story, and an exceptional IG-88 story.