We now officially have every Tom Taylor-written Star Wars one-shot in collected format and that’s a very good thing. I already glowed over Heroes and now it’s time to open up his “Villains” line of stories. Collected in this new trade paperback are three issues of pure villainy featuring General Hux, Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren and Snoke. Each tale gives us a taste of the character that’s in focus as well as builds on what we already know. It’s a good time.
The book opens with Captain Phasma’s story, which is set during a terrible war. Phasma is using the Stormtroopers as cannon fodder. This issue revolves around a battle on the iron planet Demir in “unknown regions” and it’s a setting we don’t see a lot of in the movies. We’re talking No Man’s Land style chaos of war, with Stormtroopers lying in piles and men getting their heads blown off. Enter Phasma, calm and cool as she manages to give orders and stay alive. There’s definitely a reason Phasma is one of the most badass soldiers in the First Order’s army and this issue proves why. Taylor has a good handle on Phasma’s voice and it was hard for me not to hear Gwendoline Christie as she spoke. This issue also digs a bit into the culture of Stormtroopers and how some may have hopes and dreams. They just can’t escape the violent churning of the First Order.
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Following this is the General Hux story that reveals Hux is well aware of who Kylo Ren’s parents are now that the twist is revealed to everyone. This issue opens with Hux as a little boy living on an Empire or First Order ship. He’s bullied at a young age and demeaned quite horribly. You can quickly see why the poor guy turns out to be such a bastard later on in life. Cut to Hux waking up as his ship barrels down on a planet and he quickly snaps into action. His actions do nothing however, and the ship crashes. Soon he finds himself the only survivor save for Kylo Ren on an alien world. Taylor does an impeccable job reminding us how much these two hate each other and it’s made clear the only reason they don’t kill each other is that it would displease Snoke.
Next up is the Snoke issue which is actually more of a Kyle Ren and Snoke combo. We get to see Snoke’s behavior as a teacher. This issue opens with Snoke pushing Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo to become a better Sith. Taylor and artist Leonard Kirk show some pretty harsh training that reveals how powerful Kylo can be. It’s not completely clear when this takes place but in some panels, Kylo Ren looks to be a teenager. As the issue progresses Kylo goes through another test that many will love thanks to it connecting to The Empire Strikes Back. I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers, but it’s quite a cool callback that’ll have fans reeling. It’s also another instance where seeing characters speak of Kylo’s past and parents makes the story feel new. There is also a strong emotional story here for Kylo Ren.
Finishing the book off is a Kylo Ren specific story. This issue is about how Kylo Ren is without a doubt more powerful than Darth Vader. He lives in his grandfather’s shadow and we see him effectively take on a war his father couldn’t actually complete. It shows the pride of Kylo Ren and how powerful he is when fighting.
Art throughout is by Leonard Kirk with colors by GURU-eFX and inks by Cory Hamscher. From capturing Snoke’s creepy head, cool vehicles in the Phasma story, or Kylo Ren’s force powers being visualized excellently, there is a lot to love in this book. Hamscher keeps the book looking dark and evil as it needs to be. GURU-eFX keeps the colors muted and cold with a spark of light and color when it comes to alien worlds or lightsabers. All of it looks great and the team captures the villain aspect well.
Negatives for this collection are few, but stand out. The Snoke story was probably the most anticipated, yet it tells very little about Snoke, focusing more on Kylo Ren. It’s neat to see him interacting with Kylo in person, but he’s more of a guiding force to the side more than a direct influence on Kylo in this story. The Captain Phasma story doesn’t add much to the character either, instead opting to hammer home one simple point: that she’s ruthless. The Kylo Ren story is also a bit simple in its approach.
Fans will love reading these stories thanks to nice connections to the Original Trilogy, clear statements about character personality, and simply because we get a little more time with the best villains in the galaxy.