About the Author:
Randy Stradley was born near Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He co-founded Dark Horse Comics where he works as a writer and editor. Stradley also writes under several pen names, including Mick Harrison.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.8 out of 5
Aliens Versus Predator
(Art by Phill Norwood, Chris Warner, Karl Story and Robert Campanella)
Frankly, the writer deserves a medal for services to popular culture. What an awesome concept! The Predators are seeding worlds with Alien eggs in order to set up a good hunt, but they inadvertantly seed a world populated by a small colony of humans and the horror begins.
Somehow, Stradley manages to exactly capture the tense, almost gothic, feeling of both movie franchises and combine them into one of the best stories ever written for comics. The beasties themselves are captured perfectly with the Predators showing their odd but inflexible sense of honour and the Aliens being the unstoppable and innumerable menace that they were in 'Aliens' the movie.
The main human character is also a perfect fit for the story, with Machiko being a strong and savvy business woman who rises to a challenge, even when there is little hope. It will always irritate and bewilder me as to why they didn't use this book as the basis for the 'AVP' movie.
Followed by 'Aliens Vs Predator: War'.
5 out of 5
Aliens Vs Predator: War
(Art by Jim Hall, Mark Heike, Phill Norwood, Mike Manley, Javier Saltares, Chris Warner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Ricardo Villagran)
The follow up to the original 'Aliens Versus Predator'. The book begins by reestablishing the nature of the hunter/hunted relationship of the two main alien species. It then moves on to tell the story of a squad of Colonial Marines who are sent to the abandoned planet Ryushi (from the first book) and find themselves caught between the Aliens and the Predators. Then the story returns to Machiko Noguchi, the heroine of the first book, who is struggling to be accepted in the Predators' brutal culture.
When another human colony is infected by the Aliens and is then attacked by the Predators, Machiko decides it is time to intervene on behalf of her own species. Much of what is on offer here is stuff we saw in the first 'AvP' book, however, where this book comes into its own is showing us how Machiko handles the culture shock of life with the Predators. I really like her as a protagonist as she's got a tough and stubborn charm.
Overall though, this is just an echo of the first book's greatness.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Dark Times - A Spark Remains
The seventh and final volume of the Dark Times series, set 19 BBY. Fugitive Jedi Dass Jennir and Beyghor Sahdett formulate a plan to lure Sith Lord Darth Vader into a trap but to have a chance of success they may need the help of another, reluctant, Jedi Master.
Stradley returns us to the story of Jennir and the crew of the Uhumele as they decide to strike back against the Empire. As with previous volumes, I continue to enjoy Jennir's character development and here it is seen best as he tries to get to grips with a confusing new concept; having a girlfriend. I also liked the surprising interaction between the three Jedi; Jennir, Sahdett and Kai Hudorra.
Meanwhile, Vader ups the intensity of his search for Jennir and begins utilising the assassin Falco Sang but he is disturbed by the plots which the Emperor is hiding from him.
The final few pages of this book allow for Master Hudorra to succinctly and tidily sum up the end of the series, whilst capturing the feeling that there could be more Jedi adventures in Jennir's future. (Obviously, the Disney reboot of the Expanded Universe rules that out, but it's a nice thought anyway).
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Dark Times - Fire Carrier
(Art by Gabriel Guzman)
19 BBY. Dark Times volume six. This book follows Jedi Master K'kruhk and Zao as they attempt to lead the young Jedi in their care to safety from the Empire.
There's nothing wrong with this book, it's an enjoyable exploration of the trials facing the Jedi in the changed galaxy following Order 66, but it's also not stellar. Frankly we could have left K'kruhk's story where it ended in 'Parallels' and been satisfied with that. Instead, Stradley interrupts the much better stories about Dass Jennir to go off on a somewhat sentimental tangent.
One thing I did very much like however was K'kruhk's discovery that not all of those who fought alongside the Jedi in the Clone Wars believe the press about the Jedi. I liked the idea that, particularly this early on, many of the members of the evil Imperial military are still the heroic allies of the Jedi they once were.
Followed by 'Dark Times: A Spark Remains'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Dark Times - Out Of The Wilderness
(Art by Douglas Wheatley)
19 BBY. Dark times volume five. Stradley sets aside his Mick Harrison pen-name with this book, following directly on from 'Blue Harvest'. The crew of the Uhumele and Darth Vader are separately hunting Jedi Dass Jennir but a new player, the assassin Falco Sang, also joins the hunt for reasons of his own. Meanwhile Jennir himself, along with his droid H2 and his devious companion Ember Chankeli, becomes stranded on the dessert planet Prine.
The truth is that this book pales in comparison to 'Blue Harvest', which was a pitch-perfect Dark Times story. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book, but you do feel a little bit like the author blew his load with the previous volume.
Where this book does do well is in its continued development of Jennir as a knight errant, as well as taking his tense relationship with Ember to new and surprising places.
Followed by 'Dark Times: Fire Carrier'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Jedi Council - Acts Of War
(Art by Davide Fabbri and Christian Dalla Vecchia)
Set a year and a half before Episode I, this book tells of the Jedi confrontation with the warlike Yinchorri. It's lightsaber-swinging action all the way here as three Jedi teams (including familiar faces like Mace Windu, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon) enter Yinchorri space in an attempt to find the aliens' headquarters. Meanwhile, a group of Yinchorri take the fight into the Jedi Temple itself but find themselves facing resistance led by a certain little green fella.
This is a great little Old Republic adventure, capitalising well on the dynamic feel of the Jedi in the prequel era. This capitalisation is made all the better by the art which is smooth and colourful, an element which works particularly well where lightsabers are involved.
Just for the fans, there's an early appearance by the rogue Vilmarh 'Villie' Grahrk as well as the background to the Imperial Guard training world seen in 'Crimson Empire'.
5 out of 5
Collaborations & Anthologies:
Star Wars: A Long Time Ago... - Wookiee World (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars - On The Fields Of Battle (here)
Star Wars: Crimson Empire (here)
Star Wars: Crimson Empire II - Council Of Blood (here)
Star Wars: Crimson Empire III - Empire Lost (here)
Star Wars: Empire - The Heart Of The Rebellion (here)