Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 2/1/17

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Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, we discuss Star Wars 28, Darth Maul 1, and Faith 8. We discussed The Woods 29 today, and will be discussing Paper Girls 11 on Wednesday, so check those out too!  As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

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Star Wars 28

star-wars-28Patrick: Last week (geez, that was just last week), Mark and I expressed some confusion about the framing device for this “Yoda’s Secret War” story arc in Star Wars. There are so many layers of dramatic irony built in to the structure “Luke reads a story about Yoda written by Obi-Wan,” but I’m starting to suspect that I’m executing on writer Jason Aaron’s expectations every time I wince at a possible continuity wrinkle or yawn at the prequel-ness of this story. It is very easy to say “oh, this is where Yoda gets the idea for the cave on Dagobah” or “shouldn’t Luke reading this story lessen his first impression of Yoda?” or even “isn’t this panel ripped directly from Attack of the Clones?” So easy, in fact, that we posed a lot of those question last time, secure in our knowledge of Star Wars and storytelling in general.

But issue 28 introduces new twists and connections that challenge those earlier preconceptions. While on his spelunking journey, Yoda discovers Garro, a child exiled for not following the violent cues of his peers. Yoda asks Garro to teach him the ways of “stonepower,” even going so far as to address Garro as his “Master.” That’s our first indication that the reader’s expectations are running afoul of the story actually being told. “Master?” Yoda has never previously claimed a master — unless you want to count the force. And it’s not even like this is the Adventures of Baby Yoda or anything; he’s already small and frail. Presumably this story takes place within a decade of Phantom Menace, which still makes Yoda at least 800 years old. Essentially, it takes a Jedi Master admitting that he knows nothing to trigger the same in me, the Star War Master.

Because immediately after that “My master” moment, the story flips to Obi-Wan’s middle-age exile on Tatooine. Obi-Wan uses some force powers to stop a fight in Mos Eisley and inso doing, outs himself to Garro.

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That’s right — the connection between timeliness has nothing to do with movies, despite my references to three different Star Wars films, and everything to do with the comics themselves. If there’s a lesson Yoda gleans from Garro in the past, it’s going to play out with Obi-Wan in this middle time. That, in turn, gives Luke a forehead-spiral shaped map to Vagadarr system, another genuine surprise story connection. But the biggest surprise — fittingly — comes on the final page when Yoda comes to the realization that though they have found the heart, they are not really in a mountain, but a living creature. I love having these kinds of surprised built into Star Wars as it plays so neatly off my irrepressible assumptions about the franchise. It’s cool to see this arc go from “fun, if disposable” to “vital and daring” in just one issue.

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Darth Maul 1

darth-maul-1Drew: It’s a testament to just how bad The Phantom Menace is that Darth Maul holds up as one of its better parts. As a completely undeveloped character (George Lucas famously told voice actor Peter Serafinowicz to make all three lines of dialogue “sound real evil“), he’s more memorable for his striking design and his double-bladed lightsaber, which math tells me must be twice as cool as a single-bladed lightsaber. Point is, as someone who hasn’t seen Maul’s subsequent appearances on Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels, he’s not so much a character as he is a vague force of evil; a convenient way to kill off Qui-Gon Jinn, a character who arguably didn’t need to exist in the first place. So: writer Cullen Bunn could reasonably take the character in any number of directions, fleshing out his motives or relationship with Darth Sidious in hopes of finding some real characterization. Unfortunately, with all of the lightsaber battles (though I would be remiss in not pointing out that they are double-bladed lightsaber battles) and overbearing voiceover narration, Bunn seemed to settle to once again make Darth Maul sound real evil.

To be fair, Bunn doesn’t have a whole lot to work with here. Maul was necessarily unknown to the Jedi before the events of The Phantom Menace, which means he can’t really do anything of substance before then. Bunn makes that intertia part of the text, having Darth Sidious insist on waiting while his long-gestating machinations click into place, forcing Maul to seek quiet outlets for his violent outbursts. It certainly fits with what we know of the character — literally all he is is violent outbursts — but seems to lack any real imagination. Dude just wants to kill some Jedi.

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Some of this may be intentionally vague — I suspect we will eventually learn what offense Maul means to avenge by killing Jedi indiscriminately — but others seem like missed opportunity. As a seething balls of hate and rage incarnate, it’s unclear why Maul would defer to Sidious’ authority (especially when you consider the history of Sith proteges killing their mentors). He seems to resent having his Id checked in this way, but he submits anyway — surely there’s some interesting backstory that would explain this anomaly. Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t seem interested in exploring why Maul behaves the way he does, and settles for simply reminding us that he was never a particularly well-developed character in the first place.

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Faith 8

faith-8Spencer: I think many of us are our own worst critics, but that clearly doesn’t hold true for everyone. In fact, that key difference is essentially what makes Faith Herbert and Sidney Pierce arch enemies. Throughout Faith 7 and 8 Sidney’s gotten to Faith by projecting holograms of Faith’s dead friends and families (as vicious ghosts) blaming her for their deaths, a plan which succeeded in crippling Faith with depression. It takes a major pep-talk to snap Faith out of her existential crisis, but the only reason she was hit so hard in the first place is because she cares so much about people that she can’t help but bear the weight of their loss. Faith’s worried that she’s dangerous or a bad person, but if she was, she certainly wouldn’t feel this guilty.

Case in point: Sidney feels no guilt for any of her actions or compassion for others, passing all the blame onto those she perceives to be “below” her (which is pretty much everybody).

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Sidney isn’t capable of introspection or feeling guilt because she’s so vain and self-centered. The lesson Jody Hauser, Joe Eisma, Andrew Dalhouse, and Marguerite Sauvage seem to be promoting here is that the kind of guilt many of us lay on ourselves is underserved; while it’s good to question our motives and give ourselves a good self-assessment every now and then, just the fact that we’re feeling that way at all is usually a sign that we’re on the right track. Self-criticism is a sign of a healthy conscience; we just have to be careful not to let it derail our lives, as it nearly did Faith’s.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

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7 comments on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 2/1/17

  1. I’m not reading all the novels or anything, but I believe both this arc of Star Wars and Darth Maul are notable for giving us canon stories from the earliest point in the timeline since Disney wiped out the EU. Mind you, that doesn’t make the subject matter inherently interesting, just something I wanted to point out.

    • I’m pretty sure that Star Wars: The Old Republic counts as the earliest point of the timeline since Disney wiped the EU. It started before Disney purchased Star Wars, but the fact that it is still going, by the rules of the Disney canon, means that it is canon. And that probably means that some of the Knights of the Old Republic stuff is also canon, because it has to be for The Old Republic to work. But those stories are, by design, supposed to take place so early in the timeline that things can happen without mattering. The fact that Yoda won’t be born for another two milennia is what gives that time period the freedom it has to be whatever it wants, without hurting the story of the main Star Wars line. They are basically ignored, except for the fact that their ship designs feature in Rebels and Rogue One as ‘very, very old ships that the Rebels use in their fleet as they don’t have the resources for shiny new ones’

      So there is a big difference between telling during that period and telling a story this early in the time period that actually matters. The fact that the comics are exploring a period this early in the important period is certainly something with the potential to be interesting

      • Wookie-pedia considers the Old Republic to be non-canon, but notes that Lucasfilm folks aren’t totally sure where they land on that, stating “I guess we’ll see.”

        But the point is well taken. I suppose there could also be Star Wars stories told 20,000 years after the battle of Yavin and it wouldn’t really matter whether they’re canon or not either.

  2. First time commenting here, but I hope it won’t be the last (and hopefully I’ll have something to say about more comics-y comics than just Star Wars). I was also very disappointed in Darth Maul – it was the first time since really getting into comics a year ago that I read an issue in the store and walked out without buying it. I described it to a friend as “2 pages of plot and 20 pages of Maul ruminating on evil and thinking about how much he likes killing Jedi.”

    Having watched the Clone Wars, though, I will say that this issue is far more effective at making Maul an interesting character. In the show he’s bogged down in a number of intersecting plotlines involving his thirst for revenge against Obi Wan, which we obviously know will come to nothing, and his previously-unmentioned brother, who also bears the dubious distinction of having by far the worst name in SW history: Savage Opress (WHY??). Here, the pre-Phantom setting at least gives us the opportunity for a story that could have some stakes and whose outcome is more uncertain. Additionally, the show’s ludicrous attempt to have us believe he survived the events of Phantom Menace is a drag on the whole plotline. Though I think the first issue was a misstep that was more focused on tone than content, I’m hopeful that this series, even if I only ever read it in the store or wait until it’s available on Marvel Unlimited, might give us a peek at the world of the prequels (and the world of the prequels is easily the most interesting thing about them) and a look at the mindset of arguably the only major Sith character who is basically unconnected to the Skywalker clan – at least, making the pretty safe assumption that we’ll never get a Count Dooku series.

    • Welcome! I hope this won’t be your last comment, either!

      Does Clone Wars ever touch on what it is that he wants revenge for before the events of Phantom Menace? He mentions wanting revenge in the movie, and repeats it here, though there’s no indication of why in either. That seems like fertile ground for a story, but I could understand wanting to avoid it if it’s already been covered in one of the TV shows.

      • It’s been a while since I watched it, so I can’t say for sure. He’s fixated on Obi-Wan in particular and the Jedi in general, always at one extreme. It’s either so caught up in the particulars of that show’s plot, or else it comes across as an undefined need for revenge. It doesn’t help that he’s beaten several times over the course of the show, with his need for vengeance mounting after every time. I think the same things that make Maul compelling in the film make him hard to flesh out – maybe his character needs to be mysterious. That’s why I look forward, though, to seeing the world of the prequels – or, more specifically, the arguably more interesting pre-prequel world, through Maul’s creepy yellow eyes.

        • Welcome Miles, to the comments

          With Maul, I think the best interpretation you can have of his actions pre-Phantom is that he is a fanatic. He wants revenge because he is told that he wants revenge. To him,to be SIth is to want revenge on the Jedi. In fact, Maul was the Apprentice who was there when the Revenge of the Sith begun – of course Palpatine didn’t train Maul to backstab him. Palpatine didn’t need a successor, but a tool. I think it would be an interesting interpretation of Maul, and makes up for the fact that he doesn’t have much of a character in Phantom. It would be a cool take to have with Maul. But from my experience with the old EU, they never gave Maul that just depth, and wrote a character as hollow as the movie. Which is a shame, as Maul’s success in the movie is the same as Boba Fett’s. An evocative image. Which is great, but you need to have something else when you develop that character further, like the Mandalorian mythos.

          Honestly, I think post Phantom is a much better time for Maul. I think he was done really well in the CLone Wars. I didn’t have a problem with him surviving – though I say that as a guy who remembers that one of the best Star Wars stories of all time involved a Sith Lord so empowered by hate that he could keep his broken body alive by sheer force of will, and that his ultimate defeat wasn’t a lightsaber battle, but by persuading him to die. Once you’ve met Darth Sion, it makes perfect sense that Darth Maul survived. Especially as, unlike Darth Sion, he was rendered mad by the attempt
          But the real reason I liked Maul in the Clone Wars was he got to be more than the guy who said ‘Now we will have our revenge’. Yeah, he still wanted revenge, but it was now targeted at a single person, instead of a vague enemy. And while we knew he was never going to kill Obi-Wan, I don’t think that is a big problem. I go into most stories expecting that the main character was going to survive. The real question was how much damage Darth Maul was going to cause in his attempt, and he certainly hurt Obi-Wan (that’s why he also got away with losing several times. Because each time, he escalated. In the end, he was ruling a planet and had an army. He wasn’t pathetic, until that very final moment with Palpatine). And yet, despite the revenge being so important, it wasn’t the most important part of Maul in Clone Wars. What really made Maul work was the fact that his true motive wasn’t revenge, but identity.
          Darth Maul was a guy who defined himself as Sith (fits well with my interpretation of him as a fanatic, doesn’t it?), only to be thrown aside by his master and lose everything that made him, him. Darth Maul’s true goal was to be Sith, which is why he declared himself a Sith Master, took his own apprentice and tried to start a rival Sith Faction in an attempt to steal back the mantle of ‘Sith’ from Palpatine (Savage Oppress was a terrible character, but he did a great job at making others more interesting. Both Maul and the Clone Wars secret weapon, Asajj Ventress, got more compelling by having the chance to use that boring hunk of pixels as tools for their own character arcs).
          Maul turned himself into a massive threat in a desperate attempt to get back the only thing that was ever meaningful to him, his status as Sith, And then he lost it by being consumed by his own weakness, and desperate need for revenge. That was an interesting character arc, with the perfect ending with Palpatine’s cruel choice to humiliate Maul, but keep him alive anyway for vague plans.

          Honestly, the real problem with Maul post-Phantom is that they used him after Palpatine defeated him on Mandalore. That was the end of Maul’s story, and there didn’t need to be anything else. The real problem is that Rebels brought him back. There was some hope with seeing Maul broken again in the Season 2 finale, but he returned to normal and now suffers from the fact that it all comes down to Obi-Wan again. And while his obsession with Obi-Wan made an interesting fatal flaw in his quest to reclaim his status as Sith, it is boring as a primary story.

          Darth Maul had a sweet spot in the Clone Wars, where he had an arc where things really worked. Strong dramatic drive to reclaim identity, with a need for revenge being the perfect fatal flaw. But Maul can’t work on revenge alone. He needs something else. Which is why I recommend fanaticism.

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