Review: Star Wars #7, Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #2

Star Wars #7

SW7Brian Wood’s Original Trilogy era Star Wars comic continues with Star Wars #7, the start of a whole new arc for the heroes of the Rebellion, with pencils by Ryan Kelly, inks by Dan Parsons, and solid color work by Gabe Eltaeb, a Star Wars comics regular. I once read a review of the first issue of this series which said that this series is exactly what Star Wars is supposed to be (can’t remember where I saw that…), and I have to say that reviewer nailed it square on the head. It’s a complex but easy-going, multi-plot comic with the atmosphere of the first three films and their space fantasy ingenuity. Star Wars #7 does not disappoint.

Wood’s story takes an interesting turn in this issue, including Darth Vader revealing a side of him that hasn’t been seen often, a side that has him plotting his own means to gain power within the Empire under Palpatine’s nose (at the expense of Colonel Bircher). Meanwhile, Luke points out something that, as fans of his heroic exploits, I think many of us forgot: to the Empire, Luke is completely anonymous, absolutely no one knows who he is. Well, duh! Why didn’t I think of that? We also see a more emotional side of Luke and Leia, bonding over the death of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen on a return to Tatooine, and Leia’s loss of Alderaan, which we’ve never seen her grieve for. On the Core Worlds, Han and Chewie continue their attempt to escape Coruscant in a classically unusual and garbage-related manner.

While Wood’s writing is not spectacular, his narrative continues to be a great addition to the Star Wars universe’s great galactic history. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of the transition that’s been made to artist Ryan Kelly; I much preferred Carlos D’Anda, who drew the first six issues. Kelly is great with the long-shots and capturing the Star Wars menagerie of ships and galactic background—however, there are perhaps too many half-page and full-page panels—but his illustrations of faces suffer from awkwardness, and the one image of Chewbacca looks like a photograph of someone wearing a Chewbacca costume, including the costume lines and all (I’m not sure if that’s misplaced skill or just failure to capture Chewie for comics). This is the difficult thing about franchise art: either you get the character’s faces to a T, or you make it abstract so as to be beyond reproach (e.g. the Buffy comics). Despite these shortcomings, Eltaeb wraps everything neatly in his colors, making the transition to the new artist almost unnoticeable. Almost.

On the whole, Star Wars #7 is an intriguing comic that continues the post-Battle of Yavin saga of the Rebellion and Darth Vader’s attempt to rebuild his standing in the eyes of the Emperor, despite the issue suffering slightly from awkward illustrations.

Story: Brian Wood  Art: Ryan Kelly, Dan Parsons, Gabe Eltaeb
Story: 7.5  Art: 6.5  Overall: 7.5  Recommendation: Read

Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #2

BB2Writer Steve Niles’ and talented illustrator Dave Wachter’s Dark Horse mini-series about a boy and his golem continues in Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #2. I found myself moved by the story, and was so caught up in the suspense of a coming German invasion that I didn’t realize I’d already reached the last page! That’s a pretty strong indication that this comic is worth the buy, and overall a solid and well-orchestrated follow-up to the premiere issue.

Niles’ writing is once again eloquent, telling a story that is both new and old on many levels. Content wise, it’s a story about Ashkenazim (Eastern European Jews) using faith and community to stand up to moral and political wrongs. In a way, it’s sort of timeless—the protagonists aren’t ever labeled ‘Jews,’ and the enemies aren’t called ‘Nazis,’ just “Germans.” But the iconography is unmistakable, replete with iron crosses, starched stormtrooper uniforms, the garb and donnings of poor Eastern European villagers, and, most importantly, the golem. Perhaps it’s the silent presentation of place and time that make the narrative seem timeless, allowing the reader to put her own thoughts and emotions into the story, creating a much more personal reading experience.

Wachter’s artistry helps build the nostalgic milieu of this bleak landscape: a community faced with destruction, a dying grandfather, and a child learning what it means to trust in faith. Emotions come to life on character’s faces, and Wachter truly captures the terror of grayed Nazi uniforms and all that the traumatic historical baggage therewith. Last but not least, we get to see the communal construction of the golem—truly a wonder of artistry—and Wachter brings animates the mythological monster in the last, full-page panel.

“The goodhearted need never fear failure. It is only the wicked who can fail at this task.” Niles and Wachter have created a future classic, one that tells a tale of psychological and faith-borne maturity and resistance in the face of impending doom. Niles has told a Jewish tale of WWII in which the Jews might not be victims, but their own heroes, and Wachter has brought this complex scenario to life, expressing the emotional spectrum and gravity of the situation through his black and white pencils.

Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #2 has a little bit of something for everybody, and is in general a saga to find yourself happily lost in.

Story: Steve Niles  Art: Dave Wachter
Story: 9  Art: 9  Overall: 9  Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review