Seeing the textures of this series put together doesn’t diminish its tale at all but gives it a fuller conception as a cautionary tale. “Star Wars Adventures: Tales From Vader’s Castle” [Cavan Scott/IDW/120pgs] tells the approach of a rebel team into the planet of Mustafar which has become Anakin/Darth Vader’s home either by conscious or unconscious perception. It is fitting but also bathed in metaphor as it should be. As seen in parallel to say “The Mummy” from 1999, every character has their own flaws but also must know their limits. The lead character, a female pilot Llla, does not seem aware of Vader but the stories here correlate to the actual confidence building of a small insect-like crew member in Skritt (honestly the weakest part of the story). Different characters tell different stories like Han Solo on one of his misadventures where he is caught in the path of one of the disgraced witches who helped resurrect Darth Maul or an Ewok who was led astray in his aspect to avoid strife and appease his predators. Ultimately this reflects back on Vader’s merciless pursuit of the rebels until they leave. He takes down one of their ranks in Hudd, a gluttonous thief but does so off-screen while also dismantling one of the droids with his light saber. But ultimately there is a sadness in Vader simply because you almost understand he wants to be left alone but yet is brought out as a blunt instrument as that is his purpose.
By Tim Wassberg
The Emperor Of The Universe is always a good ally to have in your corner especially if a motivated invasion force is trying to make their way in perpetuity onto your planet using an impenetrable metal sphere that can break certain elements of time space. In “XO Manowar – Vol 6: Agent” [Matt Kindt/Valiant/112pgs], Aric, who seems resigned to his exile, is brought back by the one mortal woman who can connect to him (though that exact pull without reading earlier volumes does not truly connect). Capshaw, said connected woman and a colonel with a special division of the US Government, asks him to help even though he knows she is using him and vice versa (though what would an immortal stand to gain except ego). He attacks the sphere only to find his thinking armor which usually protects him has no said defense against his foe who seems a nomad by appearance whose behavior is rendered inert. Either way he is able to still able to battle them which seems almost antithetical. It turns out this warrior is searching for his Sky Princess whom he believes has been taken by a man named David Camp. Camp is a personification of the religious sector that wants to govern its people’s whether it be a David Koresh or Jim Bakker. The Sky Princess soon turns against him but the damage is basically done. Aric defeats Camp but the last third of the graphic novel looks like it is washed in ash since it shows Camp opening up a portal to bring down a meteor or perhaps the sphere. Capshaw is able to claim victory but the end seems a bit misaligned since it doesn’t build to a specific perception. Like other ideas, the overall arch especially with those moving towards immortality loses the identifiable connection in its wake. The ash based conclusion of the graphic novel is not as detailed as it needs to be which causes the illustrations to lose their way.
By TIm Wassberg
Referred in many plays in his marketing as akin to “Beauty & The Beast” thereby giving away part of the story, “Belle – Beast Hunter” [Dave Franchini/Zenoscope/148pgs] plays more like a mix of “Aeon Flux”, “Ghost In The Shell” & “MacBeth”. Belle comes from a long line of beast hunters. like Xena in many ways, she is invariably striong but also at times invariably vulnerable depending on who she is close to. In this paragon, her closest friend over the years (like in many ways Gabrielle in Xena) is Mel who knows nothing of her powers until they come running straight through the front doors of Mel’s apartment and take her away. Some of the action is undeniable and the fact that Belle is led by Candlestick is obviously the other hark back to Beast beyond a late story reveal. The reveal of a sister to Candlestick who runs a hard edge weapons division is both too coincidental but also convenient although it gives the story push and a Jane Bond ploy that actually could be amped up. The family dysfunction that paints most of the story between an absent mother, a drunk father and a pissed off step-sibling who lost his original parents and the story points to an invariable conflict in terms of both control and power, While the themes are good, the story shifts around quite a bit in time sometimes without being ergonomically clear in its progression. Belle has a good sense of humor but sometimes retreats too much into action cliches despite an interesting penchant for a simpler life at times. The art is colorful and vivacious in many ways especially in a final battle with a Medusa like creature, However the cliffhanger which brings together 3 disparate forms of creatures with family secrets again seems too coincidental without enough details to support its stakes fully without more explanation.
By Tim Wassberg