Monday, August 9, 2010

The Marvel Civil War

So, let me get this straight: I don’t normally read cape books. For whatever reason, I’ve never had any interest in heroes other than Batman all for one simple reason: they are generally impossible to relate to and are horrible reads. I’ve made some attempts to alleviate this as of late, giving Uncanny X-Men, a couple of one shots, and this book a shot. I gave up on Uncanny X-Men after three issues. The one-shots were of poor merit. So this brings me to Civil War, the central story of a massive crossover event, written by Mark Millar. Millar recently recieved screentime with the film adaptation of Kick Ass. Having read Kick Ass, I thought this might be interesting, especially given the concept.

Well, I was half right.

Millar tells the story of the Super Hero Registration Act, wherein which maked heroes have to make their identities public or be imprisoned. If you aren’t hearing the words “Patriot Act” ring out a funeral dirge, then you need to reread the sentence above. This is in reaction to a group of amateur heroes attacking some b-list villains, and destroying a small town, killing a young boy. That kid’s mother seeks vengeance on the super hero community, and works with Tony Stark (Iron Man), to change the way the caped heroes operate.

Thus begins a Marvel book I can actually stand behind to an extent. What happens from here ranges from political discussion to traditional Marvel beat-em-up kind of stuff to some commentary on the way we wage war as well. The only break from tradition comes from the war between super heroes, divided between those for and against registration. This gives the kids reading the book something to sink their teeth into, but those of us looking for actual thought have something to read as well.

But there is a problem afoot for those who aren’t used to the Marvel universe. Unless you spend some time on wikipedia finding out who all is occupying this story, you will be lost. Absolutely blind without any hope of finding the door. There are dozens of denizens in this universe, and only some of them are familiar to the common reader. Guys like Iron Man, Spider Man, the Fantastic Four, Captain America; these are the characters you will know, obviously. The X-Men aren’t even present in a single panel of this book, so you can’t count them. If you can swallow this, you are set for an interesting story.

But don’t expect a masterpiece. I feel like Millar did the best he could do given the fact that he’s handling this book for different audiences. The political aspects are intriguing, and kept me reading, so take that as a serious recommendation. I don’t get anything out of the fighting heroes aspect of the story, so this was what kept me going. If this is your bag, then by all means, this is a book fully worth adding to your collection. Otherwise, make this one you borrow from a friend. Or go the route I did and check out the library. The New Hanover library system has started a graphic novel collection, and now is definitely the time to jump on their selection. Maybe this one would be a good place to start?

Also, gamers take note: this was the source material for the game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, available on all systems.


Well, friendly readers, it's been a while, and I apologize. I've been writing, working, and most importantly, reading a LOT of comics. I've dumped about twenty graphic novels down my skull since my last review, and all of my weekly books. I don't know if I'm going to try and catch up on the weekly books, but I'm hoping to get some graphic novel reviews out in the next few weeks. As for now, I hope you enjoyed my venture in the Marvel ghetto. Have a good night.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Killed Adolf Hitler

This was the book that brought me back to comic books. It was one of my first visits to a real comic book shop, and I was dead set against getting something that was completely left of center. My interest in Star Wars was too safe, and I didn’t feel up to the financial requirements of reading The Sandman just yet. So, there it was, on the independents shelf: I Killed Adolf Hitler, featuring anthropomorphic characters, and an author who didn’t have a last name. Just Jason. So thirteen dollars later, I was the owner of forty-eight pages of stand alone comics. After reading, I didn’t have anything negative that I could possibly say, other than, perhaps, that it was too short.

Despite having no names, the characters are phenomenally animated. The hero is an assassin for hire in a world where that profession is perfectly acceptable, and not against the law. In the opening scene, he breaks up with his girlfriend, and quickly appears disillusioned by the line of work he is in. So, in walks a scientist who assigns him a hit, and tells him that he will be traveling through time to kill Adolf Hitler. After this doesn’t work out, he works with his ex to track down Hitler in the modern era. This sets up a poignant love story more than anything else, and quick witted to it’s finale. The tone of the book seems to be inspired greatly by the films of Woody Allen. The dialogue is sharp, and the action takes a back seat to the character development.

Jason is yet another great writer who also draws his own books. His art style is very simple, colors minimalistic. There isn’t anything that takes the attention away from the tale being told, but it’s not offensive to the eye either. The sci-fi element of time travel is simply handled as well, with a giant metal bubble being the only time travel device necessary. However, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t plot important through to the ending. As a matter a fact, this plot device provides the sweet ending that makes me constantly recommend this book to readers new to the medium.

Despite a simplistic cartoon appearance, don’t go into this book expecting a young readers experience. The first scene alone depicts the hero’s girlfriend graphically describing masturbation while he shoots and kills someone from her window. This isn’t the only moment of graphic violence either, as there are several moments where another assassin is performing a hit while the hero talks to other characters. This is more a warning than anything else, as it doesn’t take the spotlight away from the fantastic character development and storytelling.

This was my first experience with independent comics. My first graphic novel from the Norwegian artist and writer Jason. This was my indoctrination into the fan base associated with comics, though I’m not one of “those” comic book fans. Give this one a try, and I’m certain you will come back for more shortly after.


So, my schedule has been thwarted by work, finances, and school over the past two weeks. I'll be playing catch up with weekly comics at the end of the week, and I'm currently working on reviews of We3 by Grant Morrison and Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. I've also been invited to write reviews for , where I will be crossposting my reviews to. I'm still a contributor to The Galactic Outpost as well. Stay tuned, folks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Graphic Novel Review--Shadows of the Empire

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire TPB
Writer--John Wagner
Artist--Kilian Plunkett


At last, we review the graphic novel compiling the six issue mini series of Shadows of the Empire. As I've stated before, this is where I came into comics and the Shadows of the Empire storyline. It all started with the lovely looking first issue at that crappy gas station in my hometown, and I still have that issue in my longbox today.


I truly wish that this is the way modern Star Wars books were done. It actually looks in line with the poster art of Drew Struzan rather than just another comic book. It sold me in 1996 and it sells me today in 2010.

But surely there must be more to it than the cover art, right?

To me, absolutely. However, I'm going to review this from the perspective of having read the novel, and how the book plays into the overall story.

As with the novel, Empire has just ended, Luke and Vader are recovering from their battle in Cloud City. The book opens with the traditional text scroll, in bold yellow across a star scape. Then, the rebel fleet is underneath. It's almost like the credits never started after the movie ended. The book dives right into a beautifully rendered space battle, depicting the heavily detailed star fighters of both the Alliance and the Empire. Already, it feels like we're home.

But following this sequence, the comic diverts it's attention from the heroes of the films. Instead, the graphic novel focuses on the villains, both in the Empire and in the underworld, vying for power in some way. The main characters of this book are Jix, an agent of Darth Vader, Xizor, and Boba Fett. Jix isn't very interesting as a character, but his interactions with Darth Vader are. I've already said that Vader comes into a light in Shadows, playing the role of the victim of the Emperor, and setting up for that slave-of-darkness tone present in Return of the Jedi. Jix is the person who draws this out of him to an extent, though not with his actions, but with the commands given to Jix. It's clear that Vader wants his son to live long enough to be with him, though in the service of evil. The more we get of Vader like this, the better. It's a side more common to his character in comics since, especially in The Force Unleashed by Hayden Blackman. Boba Fett is given a lot of focus in this comic, detailing his difficulties delivering Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt. These parts often give some humor to the book, as Fett speaks to the carbonite encased smuggler, complaining about how much of a nuisance he is. Whether it's intentional or not, you can't help but chuckle at the fan favorite talking to what is essentially an inanimate object. When he's not making himself out to be crazy, he participates in some exciting battles with other bounty hunters, reminding everyone how crafty and generally awesome he is. Sadly, I don't feel like he's given enough as a character, but that's just an aside. This is Star Wars after all, and we can't get such depth with every character.

The writing is on the higher end of the nineties Star Wars comic grade of quality. The characters don't step outside of their personalities, and the scenarios are well constructed and interesting. He keeps Dash Rendar from taking center screen too much, and even provides some exciting, tense sequences of action from time to time. However, his best work comes from the behind the scenes deconstruction of the Empire through Prince Xizor. His actions prove important to what happens in the series following the books end, and that's an admirable quality for the book to have given it's important placement in the time line.

Killian Plunkett's art is pretty good, though not amazing by any stretch. While ships, vehicles, and environments are drawn beautifully and technically, characters often have minor imperfections that could have been cleared up with a slightly higher attention to those details. The covers for all six issues are beautiful, and are included in the last pages of the trade. Overall, I must recommend this book, even if you don't intend to read the novel. It works as a stand alone story well enough. It has recently been reprinted as part of the Shadows of the Empire Omnibus by Dark Horse. Also included in the Omnibus are the sequel to Shadows, Evolution, and a Mara Jade mini-series that I may review at a later time on this site.

On the whole, the Shadows of the Empire multi-media event levels out as being a highly entertaining, though slightly flawed experiment in how LucasArts would market it's later projects and sell their stories. However, unlike more recent Star Wars works, this feels like Star Wars. The conflicts, characters, and even the music feel like I've been taken back to that galaxy, far away. If you have the time for the whole experience, I fully recommend it. However, the lone comic is the easiest and the only of the books that can be taken in as a singular work, not dependent on the events of the game or the novel to tell the complete story it's trying to tell. It's a fun trip, and you will learn some new things about how the galaxy really works.


Comic Reviews June 23rd 2010

Well, better late than never. I've been away from the computer quite a bit this week, so I'm behind. But, here are reviews of the books I picked up this week.

Predators #3--Dark Horse
Writers--Marc Andreyko, David Lapham
Artists--Guilherme Balbi, Gabriel Guzman


So, let's just get this out of the way. Predators continues to be just okay in it's third issue, trying to push for the upcoming conclusion. Welcome to the Jungle makes strives to make the characters likable for once, but it comes across flat. I wonder what makes Andreyko give such stereotypical dialogue to his characters. Instead of engaging what is actually an interesting scenario for this series (a four year survivor of the predators and the headstrong newcomer who will probably get them killed), and deliver it so lifelessly. Perhaps the fourth issue leads into the film with an ending ready to get us ready for the upcoming film. However, I'm leaning towards doubt, as that would imply that this book has some intelligence. David Lapham's A Predatory Life seems too short for the story it's trying to tell. I appreciate his efforts though, as he is doing more in his six pages than Andreyko is in his fourteen. Royce is an intriguing character, but there isn't enough of him on the page. All of his characterization has been done in subtitles, as he tactically performs his violent acts. Perhaps the prequel series would have been served well if the films main character had gotten a book of his own in lieu of a twenty four page snapshot of the character? Anyway, I will not be sad to see this book go following it's conclusion.


Air #22--DC/Vertigo
Writer--G. Willow Wilson
Artist--M.K. Perker


Like Greek Street, Air is a book that has had it's ups and downs with me. It started strong, with a satirical edge and smart dialogue, and descended into a story about romance and drug addiction during it's teens. Now it's reached issue twenty-two, and the series will be ending after two more issues. Luckily, Wilson has written a great issue playing off of many of the good aspects of the past eleven issues. Sure, the delicious post-9/11 satire of the first story arc is completely lost now, but Air still has a story to finish. Blythe is running into an antagonistic streak, fighting back against a lot of things in this issue, showing some backbone for the first time in the series. Honestly, it's about time she had some real strength, rather than falling on every one of the support characters or her aforementioned drug addiction. Also, the Amelia Earhart section was one of the most poignant moments of the series to this point. Perker's art is light on style, but perfect for Wilson's writing, focusing entirely on the characters rather than backgrounds or unnecessary details. Despite this, there was one or two moments where a couple of side characters looked a little off. This doesn't take away from the fact that this was a stellar entry in a series that isn't long from an ending. Consider this a recommendation for the entire series, with a warning of the middle. It's not as good as the series is capable of.


The Amory Wars: In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3

Writer: Claudio Sanchez with Peter David
Artist: Chris Burnham


"Ambitious" is probably one of the most overused words when it comes to art of any kind. Surely, I've used to too often. However, there aren't many other words I can think of when it comes to Claudio Sanchez's Coheed and Cambria story. Using the mediums of comics and music, he's planning to tell the story of the Keywork, Heaven's Fence, and the characters Coheed and Cambria. This is the second series associated with The Amory Wars. The first, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, was published by Image, and will soon be reprinted in hardback by Boom. They are handling the publishing duties for this series, based on Coheed and Cambria's (the band) second studio album of the same title.

When I read the first issue, I had great hopes for this series. I'd read the first volume of The Second Stage Turbine Blade, and found it a bit clunky, but ultimately entertaining. While I missed the second volume, I can honestly say that Claudio Sanchez has grown immensely as a story teller. The writing has been strong throughout, and the characters interesting. The scenario rings with just enough personal desperation for the main character, Claudio. If this is getting confusing, I'm sorry. The entire work is slightly autobiographical, so I hope you don't mind the nature of this review. Using the framework of an ongoing conversation with his dog, Apollo, Claudio (character) reveals the story of Wilhelm Ryan and Inferno with an honest voice and clear form. The only downside to the book is the art. It shifts from having wonderful environments and a great attention to detail, to being absolutely hideous. Wider shots are handled well enough, but close ups of any character tend to be so jarring to the eye that I questioned how the work passed muster with the editors. I'm not sure if this is just an issue of personal aesthetic, but I'm just going to leave it at that I don't like it. The lush visuals of the Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV graphic novel released parallel to the album of the same name were far more appealing, and further set my disappointment with this book's art. However, the story is worth grimacing at the art for, and I fully approve of where Claudio (the writer) is going. If you are a fan of the band, check it out, and the same goes for if you just like sci-fi comics.

4.75/5 (I really wanted to rate it full score...)

Joe the Barbarian #6--DC/Vertigo
Writer--Grant Morrison
Artist--Sean Murphy


This is the latest in the series that has sold me on Grant Morrison. However, this isn't the strongest book in the run. This issue definitely feels like a transitional chapter, moving the characters into position for the final two issues that will wrap up the series. Don't let this fool you. It's still the best mini-series going right now. Joe's journey to find a soda and end his hallucinogenic nightmare is still as engaging and creative as it was in issue one. Since the book seems to be in setup mode, the art gets all of the chance to shine here. The series has played around the idea of imagination a lot, using Joe's toys and how he uses his own home to play with those toys as the central point for how the visuals work, and how he trips around his house trying to reach the basement. So, there are many splash pages dedicated to setting vast scenes in the beautiful Hearth Castle (Joe's real world fireplace), and the juxtaposition of these fantastic realms and his own simple home still make an incredible impact. If you aren't reading this series, I can't stress enough how empty your collection is without it. If not now, pick it up when it goes to trade. It's worth every second of your attention, and is probably the best mini-series running this year.


Next week I'm going to finish reviewing the Predators mini-series, and I've got three Star Wars books coming out. I know, I know, you probably wish I would shut up about Star Wars after this week. Anyway, the penultimate issue of SW:Legacy is coming out, as well as the last issue of SW:Dark Times' Blue Harvest arc. Rounding them out is second issue in the Rescues arc of SW:Invasion. It's going to be a good week for me if nothing else.


Shadows of the Empire-- Soundtrack Review

So, how does LucasArts fill the absence of John Williams? Why, calling on someone who followed him up once before! Joel McNeely wrote music for the Young Indiana Jones series a few years previous, as per suggestion of Williams himself. However, this project is still a bit daunting. He's scoring a film that doesn't exist, using the novel, and some artwork by Ralph McQuarrie as the only sources.

According the liner notes included with the CD, McNeely thought of having these inspirations only as freeing rather than constricting, allowing him more musical room with each scene he scored than a film would normally allow. This concept proves to serve him well through the ten tracks he's given us.

McNeely doesn't try to divert attention from the fact that John Williams is the true composer for the Star Wars universe. Two tracks on the record feature compositions famous to the original trilogy, and blend them amongst new melodies and themes of his own. The first, and most obvious, is the Star Wars theme, setting the tone for the record to come. The theme from The Imperial March plays during Night Skies, as does the main theme from Binary Sunset (uncredited on the album, which is evocative of Williams score for The Empire Strikes Back throughout it's entirety.

Also, Williams use of leitmotif isn't ignored in McNeely's score. Prince Xizor is given his own theme, a slinky, well paced piece of music that isn't as foreboding as I'd have liked for it to have been. The book depicts Xizor as a manipulative criminal, and while moments of the piece could have done well to musically depict this aspect of the story's villan, it ultimately disappoints by being disjointed, and ultimately disappointing. If you are listening to the album, about a minute into the piece, there is a haunting string section, with choral chants filling out the overall atmosphere. The remainder of the piece reminds me more of Williams work on Attack of the Clones. Subtly, McNeely references melodies from this theme in the final work on the record, The Destruction of Xizor's Palace. Because of the stability of the piece, it plays out far better than Xizor's Theme, providing the necessary bombast for a climactic space/on foot battle. The shifts in theme and melody are strong, sweeping; vast enough to provide the necessary "Star Wars Feel" that I've been rambling about this week when discussing this project.

Where McNeely ultimately succeeds on this score are the moments where he brings something of himself to the musical table. Sure, the references to John Williams and the prerequisite melodic feel provided in those tracks are sure to set anyone's nostalgia reeling. But McNeely has no problem dipping his hands into different tonalities than Williams. Sure, Beggars Canyon Chase is an original piece of music that feels like John Williams, but the folk textures of The Southern Underground and stark dissonant chords of Battle of Gall and The Destruction of Xizor's Palace don't ring well with Williams' own traditional sensibilities. Nor does the waltz-like pacing of The Seduction of Princess Leia. While I wouldn't give up McNeely's loving homages to the classic trilogy scores, I'd love to hear more of his own contributions in here.

In rating this album, I have to ask the question of whether or not this album fits the story told. This is what is necessary of any soundtrack, so why should the score to a novel be any different. So, my answer is yes with a giant "but" at the end. This album is a high quality addition to any soundtrack library, and does well for being a Star Wars soundtrack as well. However, it definitely could have been better with more fluid compositions and if the melodies were more in line with the characters, in such places as Xizor is concerned. There were too many moments where the piece would just stop, and then pick up with the next theme. This is sloppy composition, where even the vinyl copy of the soundtrack to Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope for all of the me) carried a strong flow from one track to the next, despite missing massive sections of music from the overall film. Perhaps I'm spoiled by the remastered CD scores of the original trilogy, where listening to the album feels like I'm watching the film without the need for the visual aspect. But that doesn't do this record justice. It's worth a listen, and possibly worth a purchase for those of us who love the music of Star Wars.

And let's be honest, there's no way you would even look at this CD if you weren't a fan of Star Wars in the first place.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shadows of the Empire--Game Review


Alright, it's time for round two of my massive Shadows of the Empire review. Today, I've set my sights on the Nintendo 64 launch title. But before I start commenting on the game itself, let's set up a little background on gaming at the time.

It was 1996, 3D graphics were still in it's early stages of development, and few games outside the PC had done it right. Another N64 launch title, Super Mario 64, displayed great promise in what could be done with 3D graphics on the console, so expectations were high right from the start. However, the N64 was notoriously difficult to develop for, due to Nintendo keeping the cartridge format alive for another generation, and the complexity of the hardware architecture. These problems plagued the N64 throughout it's entire lifespan, causing many A-list titles to be developed for the weaker, yet still capable Sony Playstation, giving it the edge on the console wars, and putting Nintendo behind for the first time since they made the NES back in the 1980's.

Shadows of the Empire was one of those launch games that didn't exactly have the best control of what it was trying to do. It was an ambitious title, attempting to blend platforming, third and first person shooter elements, and flight combat all into one game. It hadn't been done before, but it felt like an evolution from the Super Star Wars games for the Super Nintendo. Those games were focused on run-and-gun Contra-esque gameplay, and had amazing Mode-7 driven flight stages spread throughout. However, the 2D and false 3D gameplay worked better than on the N64, even though the games were still far more difficult than any of their action game contemporaries. Shadows suffered from poor controls, a murky 3D engine, and some moments of poor level design. But, in my opinion, the game is still a blast to play.


The flight levels steal the show right from the beginning. The game starts with a stellar Battle of Hoth level which developers would rip off any time a Galactic Civil War era game was developed. Shooting down probe droids and sinking AT-AT's proved to be a smooth and exciting moment for the game. This level was executed well it was the single inspiration for Factor 5's Rogue Squadron series three years later. Other flight levels include an attack on Prince Xizor's SkyHook and a slew of Virago fighters, and a trip through the Hoth asteroid field. The only example of a bad vehicular stage is the Swoop Bike chase through Mos Eisley and into Beggars Canyon. It's a bit of a mixed bag, as the level is difficult to navigate, and the swoop gang is a stunning example of poor AI.


With brilliantly executed flight levels, where did this game go wrong during the ground missions? This is where the poor 3D engine comes into play. Platforming in 3D was still new, as I said, and this is an example of a poor effort. The escape from Echo Base in level two doesn't fare as poorly as later missions such as Gall Spaceport, but it all feels repetitious and weak throughout. The mission on Gall is probably the worst sequence in the game; long drawn out sections of jet pack driven platforming over foggy canyons to small indistinguishable rocks while being shot at by stormtroopers you can't even see. Without doubt, you'd need the patience of several Jedi to not scream at your sixteenth death trying to navigate this mess of a level. Pass this, however, and you get the game's most rewarding boss fight: Boba Fett.


Sadly, other boss fights aren't as inspired as this. The AT-ST battles that occur frequently throughout the game equate to running in a circle and shooting. The battle with IG-88 doesn't even come across as particularly inspired. The only remaining battles are with droids or a giant dianoga, and the latter is more frustrating than it is fun.

Without any doubt, Dash Rendar, the game's main character, is a massive disappointment. He's a poor mans Han Solo, right down to his ship, the Outrider. I get that the Corellian shipyards would have constructed more than one model of YT-#### frigate, but I seriously doubt that all smugglers and mercenaries that the Rebel Alliance would talk to flies just that series of ship! If you can swallow this guy's participation in the game, then you are okay to sludge through the rest.

You must be asking now why I look at this game so kindly when asked about it. The answer is simple: it's a Star Wars game that actually feels like I'm in the Star Wars universe. Many games that have come out since the prequel films don't have the same feeling, and to me, that is vital to the experience. The musical score and epic feel of the game provide everything that is necessary to make this a Star Wars experience, even if the gameplay falls flat. I give the same explanation as to why I enjoyed Rebel Assault 2 as well, and that game is as cheesy and dated as games could possibly be at this point.


As for the games place in the Shadows of the Empire story, it basically fills in all of those spots that are missing from the book. Recovering the plans for the second Death Star from the Imperial Freighter Suprosa, Dash saving Luke from Jabba's swoop gang, and other gaps in the story are filled in sufficiently, even though they were done needlessly. The two books that tell the story around the game do so better than the in game text based cut scenes. For the N64 to use a method of storytelling such as this is also a bit disappointing, because we were all expecting video cutscenes such as the Playstation was giving at the time. For the weaker system to deliver the higher quality cutscenes, LucasArts wasn't doing the Nintendo any favors. Especially since they had the video cutscenes from the PC version, this is somewhat inexcusable.

Overall, I still enjoy the game, but I realize it's flaws. If you aren't so obsessed with modern graphics, and can get around the messiness of the experience, go out and pick this one up. It's cheap enough and there are several hundred thousand copies floating around in used bins at game shops everywhere. It's definitely an example of where video games were then, and how far they have come.


Tommorow, I'm going to review the soundtrack CD, as I don't have the cash to pick up my Wednesday books yet. Look for that review on Thursday, and the finale to the Shadows of the Empire review on Friday, where I will take a look at the comic book mini-series that fills in the rest of the gaps.

Screenshots courtesy of

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shadows of the Empire--Novel Review


I didn’t read the novel until 2009, so when I first cracked open my paperback copy of Shadows of the Empire, I was struck with a bit of whiplash. The timing seemed to be off quite a bit by the standards of the comic mini-series, which picked up immediately after The Empire Strikes Back. And since this was the book that focused on the characters familiar of Luke, Leia, and Lando, it was a better entry point for the story to people who hadn’t been into the expanded universe before this book.

So, what’s to explain about the setup of this book? Obviously, if you saw ESB, you already know that Han Solo was already captive of Boba Fett, and being taken to Jabba the Hutt, Luke was traumatized by finding out Darth Vader was his father, and Lando was guilty of being an idiot and getting his friends captured by the Empire. And that’s exactly where the book picks up. However, the story of our famed heroes hunting down Boba Fett isn’t what makes this book what it is. The villains take the lead here.

Darth Vader takes the lead in Shadows of the Empire, facing a threat he considers worse than the Rebel Alliance: Prince Xizor, a Falleen, and head of the Black Sun crime syndicate. Xizor was brought in by the Emperor to fast track the construction of the second Death Star. Not trusting Xizor, Darth Vader fights a war of words with him, as they slink their way around each others actions.

Vader’s insecurities with Xizor being so close to the Emperor adds an interesting depth to Vader as a character, and does wonders for the relationship between the two Sith lords. While Return of the Jedi and the prequel films depict their relationship as more slave/master, Shadows of the Empire almost makes it seem like father and son. Xizor is the new kid in town, and being sent on worthless missions makes Vader feel unwanted in the Emperors court. While it’s not quite as innocent as this, and there is a lot more violence involved, it’s interesting to note this shift in how we can see Vader.

Prince Xizor is one of the new characters created for the series, and as I mentioned, Vader’s true foe. He’s cold, tactical, and probably the most oversexed character in the Star Wars universe. Yes, folks, the lizard man, Xizor, attempts to seduce…

Well, I’ll let your read the books to find that out.

Anyway, Steve Perry brought the story to life for the most part, but I can’t say that the book is perfect. On one hand, there is his idea of humor. It works sometimes, but there is a moment in the story which is a bit on the side of infamous at this point. Towards the climax, C-3P0 and R2-D2 fly the Millennium Falcon. No, it doesn’t work that well. The other problem with the book is that it is subject to being part of the multimedia project of Shadows of the Empire. Since it was a novel, rather than the comic, it should have been able to work in all of the important details from the other stories rather than glossing over them.

However, these flaws don’t hinder the overall experience too much. Between a new look at classic characters in the moment that we know them best (Galactic Civil War era), and interesting new friends and foes, Shadows of the Empire is an excellent book to fill in the gap between Empire and Jedi. As for it being a decent place to start in the Expanded Universe, you can do better, but don’t let that stop you.


Tomorrow, we’re going to take a look at the LucasArts video game for the Nintendo 64. Hope you’ll check it out.