Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Carlos D’Anda
Publisher: Dark Horse
In the wake of all the recent Star Wars news, it’s kind of surprising that this new Star Wars series by Dark Horse has gone almost entirely unnoticed. The good news is that we’re only three issues in. The bad news is you’re probably too late to get the kick-ass Hastings variant for cover price. (If you’re a gamer, though, you can totally cash in like eleventy-hundred dollars worth of Power-Up Reward points at Gamestop and get their variant. You’re welcome. Not really, that’s pricey.)
Anyhow, three issues in and we’ve seen plenty. Leia in a cockpit? Check! (Also, get your mind out of the gutter.) Boba chasing Han? Check! Han trading quips with Chewie while the fuzzball indecipherably roars and rawrs? Check! Obi-Wan whispering instructions to Luke from beyond the grave? Check, Luke.
While that may be enough for some, anyone looking for Lightsaber-wagging action may be a bit disappointed. Like many Star Wars gaiden – that’s “side-story” for those of you that may not have Nerd to Japanese dictionaries handy – this tale is heavy with political intrigue and light on the Force-pushing action. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, as it does take place after the events of Episode IV, so you’re privy to action that, as of yet, had been mostly unexplored.
While this may sound exciting, it does have its drawbacks. As our Nerdlocker guru, James Palmquist, pointed out last month, the series does paint a lot of well-known characters in a new light. And in many of those cases, it creates small, but noticeable inconsistencies with their characterizations in later media, from movies to other novels.
Want an example? Take on this exercise for a minute: picture early Luke Skywalker as a romantic ladies’ man. Thought so. How about this one? Imagine early Darth Vader shamed by the Emperor into giving up his ship to an up-and-coming officer in the Republic. Yeah, I had trouble with that one too. Or better yet, picture Chewbacca as a three-headed Endorian on a leash. Yeah, I made that one up. Chewie is still Chewie.
Luckily, despite the small, yet noticeable shifts, the main core of each character remains the same. In this issue, Leia continues her secret mission to out the Republic spy and, in a very Battlestar Gallactica-esque twist, continues to jump from rendezvous point to rendezvous point in search of a new home for the Rebellion. She’s motivated, driven, and exceptionally strong, but she’s not without her personal hang-ups – one of which is a blossoming relationship between Luke, her brother, and a hot-shot pilot named Prithi. (Remember, we know, but at this point in the Star Wars saga, she doesn’t know. So we can let it slide, right? Still, eww.)
Like Leia, this issue inches closer to mission completion despite a few significant hang-ups. The search for a new home for the Rebellion and Leia’s chess-game with the Republic spy deepens. Han evades Boba only to find himself in another precarious situation. That scamp! And Darth Vader’s successor steps into the foreground as a legitimate badass ready to make his mark within the Republic. All in all, a great way to set the stage early on, in a new and promising series.
Oh, and for the record, this issue is a great reminder that Han shot first. If you’re into that, then add a fourth Nerdskull to my score.
I give this 3 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
Sledgehammer 44 #1
Writer: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art: Jason Latour
Publisher: Dark Horse
If I told you that Mike Mignola was working on a series starring a ham-fisted creature that fought for the Allied forces in 1944 World War II, my guess is that your response would sound something like this, “Hell, boy! Of course he is!”
Well, it’s not what you think.
Sledgehammer 44 is a new series that can almost be described as Mignola’s Hellboy meets Iron Man. That being said, we should probably get this out of the way first: Epimethius is a huge, hulking robot…thing. Not FF Thing, but lower case T thing. As in we’re not entirely sure yet if it’s a robot or a Tony Stark situation.
Anyhow, Sledgehammer 44’s inaugural book is nothing less than a stellar first issue. It does just enough to introduce and intrigue, without revealing too much. Within the first few pages we’re introduced to the conflict, the company, the creature, and the crazy-cool lightning-controlling superpower from the titular hero. If you’re not left wanting more after the first 7 pages, friend, you’re better off moving onto the next book in your stack.
Luckily, the creative team behind Sledgehammer 44 smartly uses Epimetheus’s supporting company to frame the action. As Redding, Bunkers, Dale, Glesham, and the rest of the support squad, are introduced to Sledgehammer (heretofore known as Project Epimetheus) we experience the same sense of shock and awe as they do as he obliterates enemy forces with ease. In effect, we the reader, join the rest of the squad as Sledgehammer goes to work. They vocalize the questions we’re pondering as Sledgehammer goes about his business.
Those familiar with Hellboy will definitely feel at home in Sledgehammer 44’s world. Lines create motion and just enough character definition, while colors create grit, fill volume, and even create a patina reinforcing the notion that we’re in war-riddled 1944 France. Some might argue that the pages tend to be a bit too monochromatic, but this is France in 1944 people! It wasn’t necessarily a vibrant place to be at the time. A word of caution, however, if you aren’t a fan (or even okay with) Hellboy’s aesthetic, then you might not be drooling over these panels.
Overall, the first issue is so well crafted that one an easily overlook the small missteps it takes. Outside of Sledgehammer, you’ve little reason to invest in the rest of the support squad. They’re soldiers, and that’s all you need to know for now. Also, where’s the villain?! I know that Nazis suck and all, but I need more than that to set the chess board! (For the record, the final panel may hold an answer to that last question.)
So who is this for?
I’ll tell you. This is for anyone looking to get into a new series. And people who like robots. Also, it’s for people who own the Iron Giant or Real Steel and Band of Brothers on Blurry (read: Blu-Ray. Get it? Because it’s ironic). And Mike Mignola fans. Oh, and people who would were looking for the next Hellboy meets Iron Man meets X-files (because there’s always a “meets X-Files”) series.
Fun fact: Epimethius was Prometheus’s brother. I don’t know what that means for the series just yet, but I figured I’d save you the trouble of Googling it.
I give this a solid 4 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
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