This week Star Wars: Journey To The Force Awakens-Shattered Empire kicks off the Episode VII hype machine, and we cut some heads off with Andrew Maclean’s Head Lopper!
Star Wars: Journey To The Force Awakens-Shattered Empire #1 (of 4) (Marvel)
The toy collectors had Force Friday last week, and now Star Wars comic fans can start the anticipation machine with Marvel’s new miniseries Journey to the Force Awakens-Shattered Empire. Picking up immediately after the battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, the Greg Rucka and Marco Checcheto miniseries has a lot of hype to live up to, and while it’s setting the stage for some cool things, it’s still a set up issue in every sense of the word.
Before you read this issue, don’t expect to see the lead Star Wars characters much. While Han, Lando, and Chewie make appearances, they’re very brief, and you only get an intercom conversation with Luke as he leaves the second Death Star in an Imperial Shuttle (Leia is nowhere to be found). Instead, Rucka casts some light on an aspect of the films that we barely saw in the original trilogy: the rebel soldiers. Shattered Empire focuses on a married Rebel couple with two different by dangerous jobs in the Rebellion: one is an infantry soldier and the other is an X-Wing fighter pilot (I won’t spoil their last names, as they’ll mean something to anyone who’s been keeping an eye on Force Awakens characters). Rucka’s characterizations of these two is extremely well done, and he brings a lot of interesting aspects of marriage and the toll of war into the Star Wars universe. You really get a good sense of the amount of love that these two soldiers have for each other, and you worry alongside of them when one is put in danger.
As good as the characterizations are, the plot for this issue is very minimal. Much of it focuses on the Rebellion celebrating their victory over the Empire, but the fight is cut short when Han discovers a small Imperial outpost on the other side of Endor. Han leads a small crew into battle, but once the action heats up, we’re left with a weird cliffhanger that brings the issue to a screeching halt. Rucka spends a lot of the opening issue recapping the final moments of Return of the Jedi, and many of those moments end up being the best parts of the issue.
Marco Checchetto would not have been my first choice for a Marvel Star Wars title, but I have to say, I’m surprised at how well his art fits the universe. I’ve loved Checchetto’s work on the numerous Spider-Man titles he’s worked on, but once I saw his art for the space battle against the empire, I was blown away. Checchetto really gives this book everything he’s got, so much so that even the later events in the book where things quiet down are just as thrilling and well done as the action packed earlier pages.
While I’m sure Rucka has no control over Marvel’s marketing for Shattered Empire, the fact that this wasn’t exactly what was promised in the solicitations is a little disappointing. Hopefully that won’t turn people off to completing the series, as Rucka is easily one of the top writers in modern comics today, and he’s got a really cool angle here. Once you get over the fact that Han, Leia, and Luke aren’t the main focus, Shattered Empire presents you with a really interesting take on the Star Wars universe, and while it won’t cover the 30+ years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, I’m hoping that it will at least present us with some clues about the new adventure that awaits us in December.
Head Lopper #1 (Image Comics)
Head Lopper is a weird book. It’s also one of the best comics I’ve read this year. Andrew Maclean’s hit indie comic comes to Image in a massive 80 page monster issue that’s filled with violence, dark wizards, young kings, witches, and of course, decapitations.
Andrew Maclean’s tale of the Head Lopper, aka Norgal, has the massive monster slayer arriving in a village with one goal: to finally get rid of the severed head of Agatha the Blue Witch, who’s been a thorn in his side since he lopped her head off and cursed him to be her companion. After destroying a giant sea snake, the two find one of Nergal’s old friends and rescue his children from giant wolves. At the same time, an ancient wizard desires Agatha’s head so he can use it to free himself from the curse that prevents him from leaving his ruined castle. After learning of Nergal, he sends his son to trick Nergal into bringing the head to him.
Maclean’s art style is very similar to Adventure Time and most Adult Swim shows, and while it’s definitely cartoonier than I usually like, it works perfectly. Maclean has a great sense of action and fluidity with his art, and as you would expect, the highlights of this issue are when Nergal fights different monsters. But at the same time, there are some hilarious facial expressions and visual gags that Maclean puts into Head Lopper that take you completely by surprise. In fact, many of these moments come from Agatha, who definitely steals the show. Between her being punted by Nergal, and Nergal’s casual way of correcting people who call him “Head Lopper”, there’s plenty of funny moments to be had throughout this book.
Head Lopper was not a title that I was expecting much out of, but I’m glad I gave it a shot. It’s almost like Adventure Time’s metal older sibling. There’s over the top violence, but it’s done in such a cartoony way that it’s impossible not to love it. Head Lopper is a hilarious and awesome way spend $5.99, and while every issue will cost that much, it will only come out every three months. If it’s as good as the debut issue, the wait for Head Lopper’s next issue is going to be a long one, but well worth it.