Star Wars EU comics: Dawn of the Jedi 3 – Force War (25,792 BBY)

To hear me read this review and its two previous parts, check out episode 525 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 25:38.

This week I’m sharing my thoughts on Force War, part 3 of the awesome Dawn of the Jedi comics TPB trilogy. If you’ve started reading my blog just now, please jump back at least to my review of part 1 of this series.

Publisher’s Summary

(W ) John Ostrander (A) Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons (CA) David Michael Beck
The Rakata, powerful users of the dark side of the Force, have invaded the Tython system to enslave the Je’daii . . . With Forcesabers in hand, the Je’daii fight, led by mad Je’daii Daegen Lok and the mysterious Force Hound Xesh. But when Xesh is captured, the direction of the war is changed . . . Collects Dawn of the Jedi: Force War #1-#5.

My thoughts

Since the third trade paper back (TPB) starts with the perfect recap, let’s insert that here.

This is the perfect last part of any trilogy you’d like: it has our heroes in very dire circumstances, the promise of great love has now come true, the one who seemed to be the Last Hope has fallen to the dark side, mysteries are solved – at least partly – and a gigantic climactic battle covering an entire solar system threatens to wipe out everything. In fact, part of Force Storm reminded me of two SW movies: the way our redeemed hero falls to the dark side (again) leaves us with an “Oh no!” in our souls, maybe not as deep-felt as when Anakin fell in Revenge of the Sith but similar nonetheless. Plus, one of the comics issues in this story arc ends with a cliffhanger which masterfully reminds us of that other great second part of a trilogy: The Empire Strikes Back: all seems lost, our one true hope is nowhere to be found and the evil empire is stronger than ever. Just, wow.

I won’t spoil the ending of course, but suffice it to say that it very satisfactorily follows not only SW tradition but also most of our own historic archetypal hero legends and myths.

I’ll highlight some details of this third and last story arc. First, there seems to be some inconsistency in the way the Je’daii view romance. In part 1 Force Storm it is made clear that according to the Je’daii masters, love is best avoided. We see two Je’daii masters who are obviously former lovers, and one tells the other “There are reasons we cannot be together, and they have not changed. We must concentrate on the Force, on the balance.” On the other hand there is Shae, one of our young Ranger heroes – a Ranger is like a Jedi Knight – who not only falls in love, but then goes on and acts on it. I have to say, in context of the story and the way this was built up throughout the previous two TPB, it came off as mature, not adolescent. So one wonders, was Shae simply not aware of the rule prohibiting love, or did she intentionally ignore it?

Another detail worth mentioning is we learn Xesh’s name was given to him by his evil masters, and that he has chosen a true name for himself, Tau. Of course this had to be one of the not-so-subtle references to buddhism, for inspite of the different spelling it reminds us of the Chinese concept of Tao. Even the meaning of the name here, Soul, refers to something from the spiritual realm.

Third, it’s very nice to learn more about how Force Hounds like Xesh do what they do: they allow themselves to fall into the darkness and send themselves outward, which enables them to ‘sniff out’ almost anything and everyone in the Force, dependent on their own strength in the Force.

Which brings me to the one issue I had with this story as a whole: if Force Hounds are as strong as Xesh and Trill, then why haven’t they risen against their masters? One theory could be their slave mentality: apparently when someone has been reduced to slavery for generations, especially when it’s enforced with brute force, it’s very difficult to break free from that mindset. We can even see that in the Old Testament stories of liberated Israel, which kept longing for Egypt even though they had been slaves there for generations. Nevertheless, the issue is resolved in the end, with Xesh finally rebelling against his hated master, fighting to gain his freedom once and for all.

One final point to make about this entire trilogy, is the artwork by Jan Duursema (penciller), Dan Parsons (inker) and Wes Dzioba (colorist). It is beautiful all the way through. Just look at the money shot below, simply gorgeous.

In conclusion, this was a more than fun, thrilling ride through ancient Star Wars lore, re-kindling my fandom after the so very, very disappointing two parts of the Disney-owned Sequel Trilogy. I wish there were a sequel trilogy to this one!

 

Star Wars EU comics: Dawn of the Jedi 2 – The Prisoner of Bogan (25,793 BBY)

To hear me read this review and its two other parts, check out episode 525 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 25:38.

So, let’s continue right where we left off last time, with part 2 of the awesome Dawn of the Jedi trade paperback (TPB) comics trilogy!

Publisher’s summary

(W ) John Ostrander (A) Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons (CA) Wes Dziboa, David Michael Beck
Xesh, a mysterious alien warrior, is enthralled with the madman Daegen Lok and his obsession with conquering known space. Hunter teams are dispatched by the Je’daii to stop Lok and save the misguided Xesh, but they’re not alone. Xesh’s former masters have sent their own hunter-with orders to kill! Collects Dawn of the Jedi: Prisoner of Bogan #1-#5.

My thoughts

In this second TPB we find our dark side protagonist Xesh on Bogan, one of Tython’s two moons, banished to meditate on finding balance between the dark and the light sides of the Force. There he meets Daegon Lok, banished seven years earlier for the same reason. Daegon immediately issues a challenge, striving for dominance between them.

Daegon manages to take Xesh by surprise, overwhelming him with dark force magic – a term which is not used in this story, but which we know from at least one other Star Wars Expanded Universe novel series, the Darth Bane trilogy. Bane’s apprentice Zannah shows remarkable talent in this area and Bane makes her study the ancient writings and holocrons to learn about this specific dark side skill, which he himself lacks. It may well be that the ancient knowledge Zannah is studying, stems from this Dawn of the Jedi period. Who knows, I haven’t read any of the other EU stuff yet, so this is my theory for now 🙂 Fact is that Darth Zannah applies the exact same magic as Daegon Lok: preying on other people’s fears and using it to their detriment and sometimes even demise. Maybe the writer wanted to help us make this connection by naming one of Daegon’s victims Bel Zana (Dawn of the Jedi was created some years after Darth Bane).

Since the Je’daii have taken Xesh’s force saber from him, Daegon wants him to make another. Which is how we learn how a dark side force saber is made: not only does one need a special crystal, but one needs also to practice alchemy, which I guess is also a form of dark side magic.

We get to know Xesh’s strength even better than we already did in part 1, Force Storm. We already know he’s a formidable force fighter, and can track almost everything through the force, but now we also learn about his pure, raw power in the force: he can power an entire space craft through the force!

While Daegon en Xesh plan their escape from Bogan to get the materials for new force sabers, the Je’daii study an ancient holocron to try to find out more about the threat that is coming, the threat Daegon Lok saw in his force visions years ago, that they say drove him mad and made them banish him to Bogan. What’s interesting about this holocron, is that it looks like a mini replica of a Tho Yor, the huge ancient force ships that brought all force users to Tython – about which we learned in part 1 of the trilogy.

Daegon and Xesh manage to escape from Bogan fairly early in the story arc, which turns the rest of the adventure into a hide-and-seek kind of manhunt, with ranger Shae Koda as the lead ‘search dog’ because of her special bond with Xesh (see also Force Storm). This offers us readers a nice view of the solar system, as they visit several planets and moons and the cities upon them.

The Je’daii are of course also studying Xesh’s force saber, trying to get it to work and if possible to replicate it. The reader now learns that the energy blade is not so much hot as it is cold!

Although most of this TPB’s story arc is a manhunt with a lot of chase and action scenes in true Star Wars form, Xesh’s character is also more fleshed out with more interesting details about his back story. This time we learn more about his past as a child, life as a member of a force hound brood, how they are torture-trained, and about the big sister-like female who always protected him. Although Xesh doesn’t really remember much about her because of a memory block his masters put into his mind, we readers immediately get it: this is Trill, the second force hound in this story, who we also met in Part 1.

There is much more to say about this story of course. I will highlight two things that stood out to me. First, the way Daegon treats Xesh. It reminds us of the Master-Apprentice dynamics between the Sith of later times. However, there are significant differences too: Xesh in the end is not only not an apprentice, he far out-matches Daegon in strength. It seems Daegon made a devastating error of judgment about their relationship…

And second, there’s the motif of close friendship & brotherhood vs betrayal, that echoes that of Obi-Wan & Anakin – and again between two friends that became Je’daii masters, namely Daegon Lok and Hawk Ryo. They also end up fighting a fierce forcesaber battle…

Conclusion

This TPB reads like a movie and is a truly fun and thrilling adventure. I can do nothing but recommend this – although it is not a jumping-on point, you really should read part 1: Force Storm first.

Stay tuned for part 3: Force War!

Star Wars EU comics: Dawn of the Jedi 1 – Force Storm (25,793 BBY)

To hear me read this review and its two next parts, check out episode 525 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 25:38.

Well, by now I’ve dived deep into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, after a first few tentative steps with Darth Plagueis and the Darth Bane trilogy. In fact, I’ve gone full Obsessive Mode, which means I have now taken it upon myself to read all novels (a/o audiobooks) and all comics in chronological order, story-wise, as much as I can manage. Which does not mean I’ll review every single thing I read I don’t think, there is simply too much content to accompish that, but I’ll at least let you know about the things I liked, the hidden gems and also the things I found awful or simply incredibly dull. I’m planning to avoid reviewing the stuff I found simply okay, say the 3 out of 5 stars works.

For this undertaking I am using the Wookieepedia Legends timeline (the Expanded Universe has been declared non-canon by Disney and is now called Legends) that includes all novels and all comics at the same time. And for all of you who are into all that, they have also included movies, video games, tv series and even RPG scenarios – all in one big chronological timeline 🎉.

Although their entire timeline starts with a novel, I’ll review that one next time, since – spoiler alert – I didn’t like it very much and I really want to kick off this new blog series with a hit straight out of the ball park. My excuse is that both the novel and the comics are situated in the year 25,793 BBY – which means the actual order between the two doesn’t really matter.

On to Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm, the first of a TPB trilogy set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Publisher’s Summary

(W ) John Ostrander (A) Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons (CA) Wes Dziboa, Gonzalo Flores.
Here begins the tale of the dawn of the Jedi, the Star Wars of 25,000 years ago-before lightsabers, before hyperspace travel, before the Jedi spread throughout the galaxy, when connections to the Force were new.

On the planet Tython, a group of beings – scientists, philosophers, and warriors – strive to maintain peace and to balance the mystifying power known as the Force. But a stranger is coming, one who will disrupt the balance with his arrival and his own connection to the Force. Everything in their system is about to change . . . The doors to the galaxy have been opened! Collects Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi-Force Storm #1-#5.

My thoughts

To start with the ending: I LOVED this entire trilogy of trade paper backs (TPB)! Or, 15 comics issues if you manage to still find these. These stories have a lot of so-called Star Wars tropes, and I mean that in a positive way, while being completely new and original at the same time, since the story takes place so long before the Skywalker era that the Jedi and Sith didn’t even exist. Let me start with the five tropes I recognized in Force Storm, the first part of our trilogy: First, there’s a truly badass villain in the Darth Vader tradition, long before there even were any darths. He even shares some similarities with Anakin Skywalker: he grew up to be a slave, his personality oozes the possibility of redemption, and there are even hints of a great love in his future (see pic below).

And as for the darth part, he dresses all-black complete with a face-covering mask, he’s a powerful master of the dark side of the force and kills without hesitation.

As for the heroes, in this first TPB there are several protagonists, none of which stand out – yet. The focus seems to be on three adolescent apprentices though, continuing the SW tradition of picking fairly young heroes on a quest that will also make them grow in strength and wisdom. Nice little detail is that one of these three is an actual Sith, that is to say the Sith as a species, one of the myriad of alien races in the Star Wars universe. They are red-skinned and originated on the world of Korriban.

There’s also an easter egg for SW fans: the symbol on the ancient pyramid spacecraft Tho Yor is the same as the symbol for the Rebellion – an unimportant detail but very nice if you happen to notice it – see pictures above and below.

Fourthly, in what I would call an eye-wink to fans, one of the Je’daii masters resembles Mace Windu, both in looks as in strength and wisdom 😉

And the last but not the least of the tropes I found, was the cover of the first TPB, which is designed to look like a SW movie poster – and I love it! Too bad they didn’t do it for all three covers.

As for the Story, Force Storm takes its time to introduce us to these ancient times of the SW lore, but manages to keep it well-paced. We learn why force wielders are from different races all over the galaxy, how they all came to live on a world called Tython in the core of the galaxy and that they came to be known as je’daii – which is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable. In those days, the Force was known to be both dark & light, in an eternal balance. The je’daii trained many years to keep this balance within themselves – which is of course a huge difference with the SW of the Skywalker era: in the ancient days there were no Light Side wielders and Dark Side wielders – every je’daii wielded both, and trained not to lose the balance. Interesting! In later EU stories like Revan we also see this phenomenon of force users wielding both sides of the force.

After the introductory pages, not so subtly disguised as a history lesson to our young journeyers (which we might call Padawan), the actual story starts. We meet our three young heroes, their masters and their force-sensitive planet Tython. We follow them on their adventure which leads them to meet Xesh, our villain – or in fact the representative of an entire realm of bad guys called the Infinite Empire. (Oh yeah, another SW trope! 🙂 ). Xesh is stronger in the Force and wields a forcesaber, which is a weapon the Tythons are unacquainted with. There are some fight scenes, both between the force wielders and with some of the planet’s monsters (“Hello, this is the Dune Saga calling, can we have our sand worms back?!”), and in the end we are left with Xesh leaving for Bogan, one of Tython’s two moons, the one representing the Dark Side of the Force. Which is where part 2 of the trilogy will pick up.

I loved the pacing of this story, the action scenes and the character moments. The villains are great. There’s Xesh of course, but we also meet his so-called ‘brood mate’ Trill, who like him is also a powerful Force Hound. And then there are their masters, the powerful and very evil Rakatan.

I did have some trouble sympathizing with our young heroes, I liked Xesh a lot better. Perhaps because he was better fleshed out, but I also think writers somehow find it easier to make bad guys interesting. The good guys often seem dull or two-dimensional or even hard to relate to.

Their masters on the other hand seemed to have more promise on the badassery scale, but they weren’t the main characters.

I did have some issue with the very on-the-nose references to buddhism, yin & yang, and the whole ‘good and evil are two sides of the same coin’ way of thinking. I know these elements are always somewhat present in SW, they are part of the concept, but in this TPB it was annoyingly so. Perhaps because in the Skywalker era, there was also some serious criticism of this philosophy weaved into the storylines, which created a good balance (see what I did there), whereas in this story it felt almost like an agenda.

All that being said, I still loved this first story arc very much, and would easily give it 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Next time, I’ll review part 2: Dawn of the Jedi: Prisoner of BoganStay tuned!

 

BewarenBewaren

The Saga Continues…

In 2012 an independent comic entered the scene, simply titled Saga. Which I discovered in 2014 – and it rocked my world….

Well, okay, nothing quite so dramatic, but it did jump to the very top of my Favorite Comics list right then and there, forcing a reluctant Superior Spider-Man to a close but still second position. So, what’s that all about?

Story

Alana and Marco are star-crossed lovers in more than one sense. Not only do they have to fight for and defend their love and their small family against all kinds of enemies, but they themselves come from different planets – planets which have been at war for generations.

From the moment their romance starts they have to keep it a secret, for by entering into their relationship they have mixed races, families and traditions – all of which during a time of war between their planets. As soon as they elope and have a baby girl, they have to be even more careful for it doesn’t take long before several people are after them, and most want them dead rather than alive.

 The challenges young parents face…

The first 18 issues, collected in three trade paperback volumes, take us on a gripping adventure, an epic ride that reminded me of Star Wars, Romeo & Juliette and even Farscape – for its grit and down-to-earth dialogue. The occasional narrator stringing the story together is Hazel, the aforementioned baby girl, always recognizable by a subtle but distinct lack of thought bubbles around her thoughts.

You should be warned though, this comic can be very explicit and has a 17+ only rating. Please take that seriously and do not leave it lying around where your young children can find it. (Also: don’t read it in the subway or your doctor’s waiting room…) For instance, there are some sexual scenes, there’s some graphic violence and horror elements, an F-bomb here and there, and now and again we witness intimate experiences like giving birth. Or losing a limb. (Which of the two is the scariest I leave entirely up to the reader to decide…)
Sometimes issues open with a splash page of such a scene, surprising the crap out of the unsuspecting reader. So there, consider yourselves warned.

No lack of blood & guts either…

Personally, I did not find this explicitness offensive or gratuitous, because I think it really fits the story well, a solid context is always provided and it simply shows us human (or in this case humanoid) life in all of its facets, taking into account the good, the bad and the ugly. The fact that there are also expressly implicit scenes, where the camera angle discretely looks away while the rest of a scene is left to the reader’s imagination, for me confirms that the occasional explicit scene is not uncalled for and adds to the rich tapestry of this space opera. I don’t know for sure but I also think the fact that the artist is a woman automatically makes me interpret the explicit scenes as non-lascivious or at the very least far less lewd. I know, ridiculous, but there you have it. Plus, most (though not all) of the sexual scenes are between married couples, or couples in serious relationships – which in this day and age could be considered refreshing. Nevertheless, if images of either violence, nudity, birth, blood or sexuality (hetero- and homo-) are something you’d rather avoid, you really should not read this comic.

All of that being said, the elements that cause the 17+ rating are definitely not the main plot device of the story. I was truly swept off of my feet by this comic, which I find touching, funny, exciting, refreshingly original and genuinely human. The art by Fiona Staples is exceptional, with beautiful colors and brilliantly rendered facial expressions. I truly hope she never ever leaves this book.

Writer Brian K. Vaughan knows how to tell a story in which you can really immerse yourself. It’s completely character-driven, with almost mundane character interactions against an engrossing, epic background of grand and mythic proportions, the combination of which I find riveting. Vaughan has invented a very rich tapestry of alien races and their respective societal structures, but no matter how alien they look, they all seem to have one thing in common – also the thing that makes this saga truly relatable to the reader: they all behave totally humanly.

Fascinatingly strange alien royalty

In doing so Vaughan has come up with a very smart way to explore different aspects of humanity. He shows us the entire spectrum of human behavior: from the amazingly good to the gruesomely sinful and evil, and everything in between. This makes for a captivating story with interesting characters and it challenges us to look into the mirror and ask ourselves: how truly alien are these aliens of the Saga story anyway, aren’t they really a lot like, I don’t know, me…?

Two aliens having a very human conversation

Vaughan also runs a hilarious Letters section in the back of the comic by the way, so whatever you do, do not skip that.

Buy/Borrow/Skip

Although I am truly, head-over-heels in love with this comic, I do recommend you borrow it first; in other words, start slowly with just issue 1, mostly to test whether you want to deal with some of its explicitness.

As for me personally, I give it a solid 10/10 for quality, and 9/10 for relevance!

After a short hiatus Vol. 4 of Saga continued with issue #19; issue #23 was released September 24, 2014. Saga is creator-owned and published monthly by Image Comics.

Don’t forget, there’s a comment section, so… share a thought! 😉

Superior Spider-Man, issue #… 32?!

Back in May I was still lamenting the fact that Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man had ended after only 31 issues. It had been a truly awesome run, with an ending in which Doc Ock hands the webslinger’s spandex back to Peter Parker – facilitating a smooth transition into the new Amazing Spider-Man series. And although Slott’s continuing on as the new series’ creator guaranteed quality writing, I still missed Doc Ock’s very unique interpretation of superheroism and how to control the evil elements in his city.
Above: Superior Spider-Man #8 – Otto can fix this!

As it turns out, this month is my lucky month and Marvel seems to have read my previous blog post (which they would, of course). For there it was, amidst the new comics issues of Wednesday, August 6th: Superior Spider-Man #32!
I had no idea how this would be possible, since the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man left no room whatsoever for Doc Ock to take over once again. I dreaded a scenario where Octavius would perhaps take another body and be a second Spider-Man. Nevertheless, since Dan Slott was still its creator, I decided to take the risk and dive in.

And boy did this comic exceed my expectations – again!  🙂
Slott very niftily found a little time slot (no pun intended) in Superior Spider-Man #19 that could be transformed into a multiverse story, creating room for an entire set of new web slinging adventures by Doc Ock. For although it’s only been one issue as of yet, it’s very clear from the plot that as long as Octavius travels these parallel universes and different dimensions, there’s really no limit to the number of stories. Hence, Superior Spider-Man does not have to end after all! Which makes my smile so big it hardly fits my face anymore.

Story (incl. some mild spoilers)

During the explosion in #19 Superior Spidey is warped to another timeline, and he finds himself in the year 2099. The same year the future Spider-Man he had encountered before is from and who is now trapped in our time.

Doc Ock of course starts bossing everyone around again pretty much immediately after arriving in the future, focussing on building a time machine to return to his own time as soon as possible. He succeeds in building the device fairly quickly (antagonizing approximately every major person or company in town while doing it – ah, Superior Spidey, I’m soooo glad you’re back 🙂 ), giving it an interface that looks like his beloved Anna Maria, and he starts a series of time jumps in hopes of finding his own dimension.

Although finding the right time line seems harder than he had anticipated, he does take notice of his surroundings. He discovers that several of his multiverse counterparts have been killed by what seems to be one and the same foe. Octavius concludes that this enemy must therefore be traveling the multiverse as well, and it doesn’t take long before he decides to gather an army (of course he would 🙂 ) of “parallel” Spider-Men. With their help – and under his leadership – he wants to battle and defeat this multi-dimensional enemy that threatens their entire existence.

Buy/Borrow/Skip

Can there be any other conclusion? BUY of course!

Once again Slott seems to be entirely in his element now that he’s back in the saddle writing this refreshingly original character of his. It’s obvious he’s enjoying himself, and that translates to the pages. The plot is exciting, the dialogues sharp and snarky, and his true love for Anna Maria is once again moving even though she isn’t even really there. Surely this new storyline promises a wealth of juicy Superior Spider-Man adventures! Or, as Marvel has dubbed it:

The road to Spider-Verse starts here.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to traveling that road right along with them 🙂

BewarenBewaren

Comics review: Is the Superior Spider-Man really superior?

In case you’re threatening to go totally TLDR on me 😉 , an audio version of this review is available as well! Just scroll right down to the very end of this post, where you’ll find it as a podcast entry for the Spiritblade Underground Podcast. The specific podcast episode that features this review was ‘up’ as of May 3, 2014, which I’ll link to here, but as stated you can also find the isolated review at the bottom of this post – with some background illustrations from the comic!

The Superior Spider-Man is a new series and part of the Marvel Now universe, following right after #700 of the previous volume, The Amazing Spider-Man.

Spider-Man has never been my favorite superhero. The movies with Toby Maguire were kind of okay I guess, but definitely no more than that, although I have to admit I really do like the new movie franchise with Andrew Garfield playing the webslinging hero.

It’s especially the Spidey comics however that were never able to grab me. Whenever I encountered him in other Marvel titles, I found Peter Parker (and his superhero alias) too “teenagey”, often childish even. Frankly to me he bordered on an annoying do-gooder who consistently failed to hold my interest for more than one comic.

I had heard that with the new Marvel Now relaunch/reboot/reimagining (take your pick) there had been a significant change to Spidey: in his new title The Superior Spider-Man it was no longer Peter Parker but his arch-enemy Dr. Octopus who donned the webbed costume!

Now I hadn’t read any issues of the previous title The Amazing Spider-Man except for the Fear Itself tie-in issues, so I didn’t know the origin of this storyline firsthand, but it seemed that Otto Octavius – a.k.a. Dr. Octopus – had switched bodies with Peter Parker, leaving Peter’s mind inside his own dying body while starting a new life himself in Peter’s younger, stronger body. I kept hearing people talk enthousiastically about it on several of the podcasts I’ve subscribed to, with comments ranging from “It’s on the top of my monthly reading list” to “That is one consistently awesome title”.

Then I read the first issues of Mighty Avengers, an Infinity event tie-in, and encountered this new Superior Spider-Man, for the first time. Despite everything, I really liked him! This was no longer the annoying do-goody teenager, but an arrogant mystery guy in a well-known superhero suit, with no clear boundary between good and evil and with a taunting manner that annoyed the crap out of the other superheroes – which added a lot of humor for me as as a reader.

So, long story short, I decided to go and read this Superior Spider-Man after all. Right now I’ve binge-read the entire series, so issues #1-31!

Story

Doctor Octopus had always been a super villain, but it seems that when he transferred his mind into Peter Parker’s body, there were some superheroic residuals there. Ock now not only has Peter’s memories, experiences and reflexes but also a sense of morality that is new to him but that he can’t resist. He now actually wants to be one of the good guys, a real hero that fights the villains and protects the people.

Doc Ock has not actually become Peter of course, so he’s still arrogant and megalomanic and still has all of his own memories and experiences as well. Hence his ambition to be a superior Spider-Man: not only does he want to improve on the former Spider-Man’s performance and efficiency, he also demands a better life for his civilian alterego Peter Parker. Of course what exactly Doc Ock defines as “better” is somewhat colored. It doesn’t take long before he bosses everyone around, has his own minions and is dangerously close to becoming the city’s very own Big Brother due to his Spider-bots.

An extra plot thread is that Peter Parker has not entirely disappeared: a tiny whisp of him, of which it’s not clear whether it’s his soul, his mind or just an imprint of his memory, still hides inside Peter’s physical brain. This “virtual Peter” is fully conscious and aware, but not able to communicate with his body’s thief Dr. Octopus. He seems fated to watch and undergo everything Doc Ock says and does, powerless to do anything about it. Peter however is not one to give up that easily, which adds yet another layer of interest for the reader.

Likes

Writer Dan Slott heads off to a very interesting start by consistently portraying this new shady version of Spider-Man as a very different kind of Wall Crawler, while at the same time showing and developing different aspects of his character in each issue. What I particularly like about Superior Spidey, is that the story is mostly character driven. Of course there are the thrilling action scenes, a lot of web-slinging and breaking of heads and even the building of a private Spider army, but in the end these are just a colorful background to the development of this new Spider-Man’s character. While he is still Dr. Octopus and still wants to rule the world, he now wants to do it by solving crime, in order to keep the people safe. Of course he goes about this in a way that is at best a mixture of good and evil methods. Meanwhile, he really respects aunt May and improves on his relationship with her – something Peter had been neglecting. Also, he applies himself to Peter’s studies and not only gains himself a doctorate, but also starts his own company, Parker Industries. And last but not least – while on the one hand his relationship with the Avengers grows more and more strenuous, he falls in love!

The beauty of this budding relationship with Anna Maria, who he meets during his renewed studies, is that it is entirely authentic, true and pure. Peter – or rather, Doc Ock – always makes time for her, even if she calls him on a particularly inconvenient moment – like a fight against a super villain team. When she’s crying, he immediately comes running, anxious to fix whatever might be wrong. When aunt May asks Anna Maria some inappropriate and hurtful questions, Peter – or actually, Otto –  defends her passionately, and rightly so. In short, Anna Maria may well be the one true chance he has of showing his true heroic, good side, and theirs is a great and moving romance.

Dislikes

I have only one rather big beef with this comic: it has ended waaaaaay too soon! I mean, only 31 issues of awesomeness? Come on!! 😦

Buy/Borrow/Skip

To answer the question in the title: Yes, this Spider-Man is definitely superior – at least, for me, as a reader! 🙂

The Superior Spider-Man is a laugh-out-loud hilarious, exciting, surprisingly satisfying read, that I heartily recommend to everyone who’s in the market for something refreshingly original. It has very quickly become one of my favorite comics, it’s consistently awesome, it’s a perfect jumping-on point for new Spider-Man readers and I’m now definitely going to try The Amazing Spider-Man’s newly rebooted title! Issue #1 has been released April 30, 2014 🙂

I give the entire Superior Spider-Man run a Quality score of 9.5/10 and a Relevance score of 7/10.

And here’s the audio version of this review for the Spiritblade Underground Podcast – with some background illustrations 😉 :

BewarenBewaren

Comic tip: Pacific Rim – Tales from Year Zero

Recently I discovered a graphic novel which is kind of a prequel to the Pacific Rim movie, which I thought I’d share with you all for it’s a great read. Pacific Rim – Tales from Year Zero was published in close collaboration with the movie’s creators, which is great: some of its most important characters are in the graphic novel, and of course the Kaiju and Jaeger designs are very recognizable as well. Nevertheless, the writers used background stories to the movie that were never filmed, but were originally created to give more substance to the movie’s universe. Thanks to this graphic novel, much of this unknown extra material is now available to us as well.

The graphic novel contains 52 pages of world-building short stories. I’m not going to summarize the stories, for that’s near impossible without spoilers. What I can do however is give an example of the kind of background story you will get: the drifting phenomenon that we got to see in te movie – the neurological connection between two people and a Jaeger – is explained more elaborately in the graphic novel, for instance in the two panels below:

Still, every piece of background information is woven into a a real story, making it a true graphic novel, instead of, say, a compendium.

Recommendation

Even though this prequel is by no means essential to understanding the movie Pacific Rim, I’m genuinely recommending it to you. The stories are well-told with quality artwork and they really enhance your knowledge and understanding of this movie’s world. Plus, they may be short stories, they still belong together as parts of a bigger whole.

In short, it’s a great graphic novel, which I found worth the read. As a bonus, you get to enjoy the movie and it’s characters a little longer! 🙂

So what do you think, will you give this graphic novel a try? Let me know in the comment section below!