AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.6 out of 5
JLA Versus Predator
(Art by Graham Nolan and Randy Elliott)
Having previously gone toe to toe with both Batman and Superman (and, more recently, both together), the Predators now take on the entire Justice League of America. The story is that the vicious aliens known as the Dominators have genetically engineered a race of Metapredators, each with powers intended to counteract those of the JLA. What follows is a full-blown smack-down between superheroes and superhunters. It's not big, it's not clever, but it is quite entertaining.
However, two things ruined the book for me. The first is simply that the Predator franchise is entirely superfluous; the Metapredators could just have easily been any type of alien doppelgangers. The other thing was this; I'm willing to suspend my disbelief to a great extent, but the coincidence that there just happens to be exactly the matching Predators for the JLA members who a gathered at the beginning (no more, no less) is just too much.
Plus, the Elastic Man Predator is just freakin' ridiculous!
2 out of 5
Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire - Hard Targets
(Art by Davide Fabbri and Christian Dalla Vecchia)
3 BBY. The second book of the series and, unfortunately due to its cancellation, the last. Imperial Agent Jahan Cross is sent to Serenno to oversee the Empire's interests in the ascendancy of a new Count Dooku. However, he becomes conflicted when he grows attached to the young boy in line for the title and finds himself at odds with the Empire's candidate, an idealogical dilemma made worse by the fact that he himself assassinated the previous Count.
Here Ostrander does away with the too-overt Bond parallels and instead tells a really enjoyable story of a secret agent trying to do the right thing whilst still doing his job. Like Bond at his best, Cross struggles to find the balance between his duty, his honour and the connections he makes to various other characters along the way.
I also really enjoyed the fact that in this story Cross finds himself matching wits with several other agents who, whilst not necessarily enemies, are nonetheless antagonists. There's a fiercely loyal bodyguard, an agent of the Bothan Spynet and, best of all, Boba Fett himself. With this last cameo there was a danger that the author might clumsily use getting one over on Fett as a way to give Cross a higher standing in the larger Star Wars universe, but instead Cross himself admits that Fett is better than he is and if he ever figures out Cross' part in the events, then he's a dead man.
Overall a really enjoyable political thriller/action story set in the Star Wars universe.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire - Iron Eclipse
(Art by Stephane Roux, Stephane Crety and Julien Hugonnard-Bert)
Set three years before Episode IV, this book follows Jahan Cross, the titular Agent of the Empire, who is dedicated to preserving the order of the Empire and rooting out corruption. Cross travels to the Corporate Sector and becomes embroiled in the plots of the Stark family, forcing him to call on the help of an old friend and his Wookiee sidekick.
I had fairly low expectations of this book on the basis that it was actively billed as Star Wars meets James Bond and mash-up usually don't do much for either element. Also the blurb made it sound as if Han and Chewie had been shoehorned in just to add some saleability. I was pleasantly surprised to find that these two element actually prove to be great strengths. Cross, like Bond, is a man with a strong sense of duty and honour but who's not afraid to make ruthless decisions to achieve his mission. Meanwhile, whilst Han and Chewie's appearance is a little too convenient, their continued involvement in the story feels entirely natural.
As I feared, however, this book does occasionally take the James Bond parallels too far. The worst case of this is where, after being debriefed by the head of intelligence, Cross pays a visit to the quartermaster to acquire a number of useful gadgets for his mission.
Followed by 'Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Clone Wars - Light And Dark
(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)
21 BBY, volume four of the Clone Wars series. Ostrander continues the story of Quinlan Vos during the Clone Wars. Vos is given the difficult task of infiltrating Count Dooku's inner circle, but this means taking on the role of a Dark Jedi, something that may awaken the darkness within Quin himself. Elsewhere, Aayla Secura and a group of Jedi hunt Separatists on Devaron and come into conflict with the Dark Jedi bounty hunter Aurra Sing.
This is another good book, with an abundance of Dark Jedi and lightsaber action, but as before Quinlan just seems too 'man-on-the-edge' to be anything but laughable.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Clone Wars - The Last Siege, The Final Truth
(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)
19 BBY, volume eight of the Clone Wars series. In Episode III Obi-Wan says "Saleucami has fallen and Master Vos has moved his troops to Boz Pity" and this book reveals the story behind that line. On Saleucami the Dark Jedi Sora Bulq is cloning an army of Morgukai warriors and having Anzati assassins train them. First to discover this is Tholme, the Jedi spymaster, but soon a Republic task force begins one of the so-called Outer Rim Sieges.
Once again, Quinlan Vos is central to the story as he tries to balance his Jedi training against his dark obsession with hunting down Dooku's Sith Master. I've never been a big fan of Quinlan and his return from the shadows here was always somewhat inevitable, a situation not helped by yet another appearance of the Star Wars cliche of a character disarming themselves and forcing the dark one to choose between killing them and returning to the light.
However, despite my Quinlan issues, this book is very good and I especially enjoyed the chance to catch up with the stories of characters from across the 'Republic' comic series, including Xiann, A'Sharad Hett, Jeisel, Sagoro Autem, Bok and K'kruhk. The latter is the best as he comments on his numerous near-death experiences (the most significant of which is that he was apparently killed by General Grievous in the Clone Wars cartoon).
Also, adding a heavy bit of impact to the story, this book features the death of one of the Jedi Council.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Darkness
(Art by Jan Duursema and Ray Kryssing)
30 BBY. The continuation of the story begun in 'Twilight' is by far the better book. Returning to his home system, Quinlan Vos is confronted by the darkness of his family history, by the disapproval of his former Master, Tholme, and by his own former apprentice, Aayla.
I liked Aayla's transition in this story very much (she's a much better character than Quin in general), wherein she goes from a wanderer, consumed by her hatred of Quin, to being the servant of a powerful villain and finally recovers her memories of her past as a Jedi; although this latter does involve another lightsaber-turning-off cliche moment.
One of the things that really made this book worth reading, however, was Volfe Karkko. Karkko is a Dark Jedi who was put into stasis long ago, but is awakened by Aayla. All Dark Jedi are great additions to a story, but Karkko is one of the most sinister and effective. He does, after all, suck people's brains out.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Wind Riders Of Taloraan
(Art by the Fillbach Brothers)
22 BBY. Obi-Wan, Anakin and Ahsoka are sent to the gas planet Taloraan in order to secure vital supplies for the Republic but find their efforts blocked by the plots of Count Dooku.
These short Clone Wars digests are all fairly straightforward and unremarkable in terms of having some new Separatist plot on some new planet which requires the Jedi to quip until they're blue in the face. However, Ostrander does manage to inject one new element which makes for entertaining reading here. I really enjoyed the aspect of the plot which focuses on Ahsoka's attempts to learn diplomacy, a skill which has fallen by the wayside among the younger Jedi during the Clone Wars. Her scenes with the titular Wind Riders are by far the best bit of this book.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Twilight
(Art by Jan Duursema and Rick Magyar)
The first graphic novel telling the story of Quinlan Vos, set 31 BBY. Vos awakens on Nar Shaddaa to find himself bereft of his memories and pursued by bounty hunters. Forging an unlikely alliance with the rogue Villie, Vos sets off to recover his past, find his lost apprentice and take revenge on those responsible for his situation.
This a perfectly good Star Wars story and adds characters to the saga who proved so popular that they made it into Episodes II and III (Aayla is in both, Vos in mentioned in 'Revenge Of The Sith'). However, I personally wasn't too keen on this book for a few reasons. Firstly there's the fact that the old amnesiac storyline isn't anything you won't have seen before. Then there's the bit where Mace Windu uses the old turn-off-your-lightsaber-to-save-someone-from-the-dark-side trick, which has become something of a cliche within the Star Wars saga.
Finally, I just don't like Quinlan's character. I'm writing this review with several years of having been reading Vos storylines and frankly the character is so 'edgy' that he's almost a charicature.
3 out of 5
Collaborations & Anthologies:
Onslaught 5: The Front Line (here)
Star Wars: Boba Fett - Man With A Mission (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars - Last Stand On Jabiim (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars - On The Fields Of Battle (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars - The Best Blades (here)
Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi - Force Storm (here)
Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi - Force War (here)
Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi - Prisoner Of Bogan (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - Alliance (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - Broken (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - Claws Of The Dragon (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - Extremes (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - Monster (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - Shards (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - Storms (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - Tatooine (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - The Hidden Temple (here)
Star Wars: Legacy - War (here)
Star Wars: Purge (here)
Star Wars: Vector - Volume Two (here)