Somehow, the stars perfectly aligned and the debut of my brand new original Skybound book Horizon is coming out on the exact same day (July 13) as my return to Marvel Comics. Full solicits and diamond codes are below, and I won’t give the usual speech about how important pre-ordering is, and just assume you all know. Thanks for the support and the enthusiasm, it means a lot!
STORY: BRANDON THOMAS
ART: JUAN GEDEON & FRANK MARTIN
COVER: JASON HOWARD
JULY 13 | 32 PAGES | FULL COLOR | TEEN+ | $2.99
Zhia Malen thought she’d fought her very last war, until she learned her planet was targeted for occupation…by a desperate world called Earth. The people of Earth will be told that her arrival on our planet means invasion; these are lies, this is retaliation.
Skybound’s newest original series by Brandon Thomas (THE MANY ADVENTURES OF MIRANDA MERCURY), Juan Gedeon (GHOST RACERS) and Frank Martin (EAST OF WEST) will show you that survival isn’t just a human instinct…
ORDER CODE: MAY16 0550
CIVIL WAR II: CHOOSING SIDES #2 (OF 6)
DECLAN SHALVEY, JEREMY WHITLEY, BRANDON THOMAS
DECLAN SHALVEY, MARCO RUDY & MARGUERITE SAUVAGE (A)
Cover by JIM CHEUNG & DECLAN SHALVEY
VARIANT COVER BY CHRISTIAN WARD
• A major loss sends shockwaves through the super hero community forcing everyone to reexamine their alliances…did they choose the right side?
• Featuring Nick Fury, War Machine and Tom Foster, a.k.a. Goliath!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
ORDER CODE: MAY16 0755
Super, super busy these last couple months, so combining two months of recent inspirations into one oversized chunk. Again, know I’m a little behind on most of this, but these are the things which gave me little bursts of creative life. Back next month (maybe!) and hope everyone is well!
Thanks again for all the love and joy you’ve sent my way after the recent Horizon announcement. More on that front real soon!
Superman: American Alien #2-4
The Violent #3
The Omega Men #9
Black Widow #1
Power Man and Iron Fist #2
Deadly Class #19
Black Panther #1
The Mighty Thor #5
The Vision #5
Doctor Strange #6
Power Man and Iron Fist #3
Star Wars Rebels, “Shroud of Darkness”
3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets documentary
Fargo, Season 2
Star Wars Rebels, “Twilight of the Apprentice”
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Star Wars: Rogue One teaser, particularly “This is a rebellion, isn’t it? I REBEL.” And Forest’s reading of “WhatwillyoudoiftheyBREAKyou!?”
Beyonce’s Lemonade: A Visual Album
I’m pretty much obsessed with lists—books to read, movies to watch, books and movies already finished, plans for creative domination, etc. I also seem to experience painful bouts of withdrawal if denied a semi-regular outlet to shout out all the cool, amazing things I’m consuming every month that give me those unmistakable hits of excitement and inspiration. There is so much greatness all around us, and this new monthly feature is all about taking a moment to say, “Thank you for existing, and providing an example of why I do what I do.”
My schedule has been interesting lately, so these are things I finished during any given month, which sometimes happens way way way after things originally came out. The list is almost in chronological order, and I’ve got things separated into two brackets, which might change a bit as I refine this new thing over the coming months.
Shaft: Imitation of Life #1
Power Man and Iron Fist #1
Southern Bastards #13
Clean Room #5
Bitch Planet #7
Sex Criminals #14
Tony catches the Winter Soldier’s bullet
That final Batman v Superman trailer
Star Wars: Episode VIII Production Announcement
Marvel’s Agent Carter, “Monsters” (by BRANDON EASTON!)
The People v O.J. Simpson
Phonte’s verse on “Clap Shit Up”
Sorry for the delay in posting this up (last week I was writing the best script of my entire life), but here once again is a Previews Short Form, pre-filled with order codes corresponding to the work of some fantastic writers and artists, who also happen to be black. Again, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but there was so much stuff that it nearly filled two sheets this month. Exciting times, if you know where to look. You’ll also notice some random ancillary items here like the Static Shock figure, the Black Panther Stelfreeze poster, etc.
Due into your retailers next week, and hope everyone is well. Thanks!
My retailer threw out this great idea at the shop a few weeks ago and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. Notion is that in the wake of yet another Jedi massacre, Luke has been secretly rebuilding his order by inverting the Sith’s famous “Rule of Two,” traveling all over the galaxy to personally train new operatives one at a time, and then hiding their abilities and knowledge of them behind powerful memory blocks that only he can safely remove.
This brilliant theory exploded in my head like a grenade, and I started fantasizing about how perfect and awesome that kind of staging point could be for Episode VIII. The Jedi Order turned into a sleeper cell is probably too politically charged for Disney, but wow that could make for some legitimately new stories, and it would explain how Rey’s wielding of The Force is a little more advanced than we’ve previously seen from young Jedi. Either Luke, or Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow’s character) and his Church of the Force have been continuing her training for years on Jakku, and Kylo Ren’s mind probe weakened the memory blocks, “awakening” these dormant abilities. Or maybe Kylo’s probe allowed her to “borrow” some of his abilities, since there were a few memories that also came through the link.
So with this all in mind, here’s my completely made up, speculative, fan fiction style take on how I’d personally like to see Episode VIII open…
Lucasfilm Ltd. logo materializes onto the screen, holding for a couple beats longer than usual, as we hear the piece of John Williams’ score that ended The Force Awakens. On the official soundtrack, this song is titled “The Jedi Steps,” and it masterfully blends new, yet familiar elements with one of the most recognizable pieces of music in film history, something that personally hits me right in the guts every single time I hear it. EVERY. TIME. And boom, we’re right back on the mountaintop with Rey holding the saber out to Luke, still no words exchanged, but her eyes saying clear as day, “WE HAVE TO GO BACK, LUKE—WE HAVE TO GO BACK!!!”
The battle-hardened and emotionally scarred Master Skywalker isn’t so sure though, and all of a sudden, before he can prepare himself, he experiences a Force Vision of his own.
It’s his Jedi Academy, Kylo Ren and his Knights (more of Luke’s former students turned renegade) slaughtering their former friends, brothers, and sisters in a frightening, visceral display of Dark Side ferocity. No one is safe, and right before Kylo can strike down a young terrified Rey, whose slightly older alien protector has just been viciously killed, Master Skywalker is there, blocking the attack with his father’s blue saber. He pushes Kylo Ren back, summoning his other saber (the green one from Return of the Jedi) into his other hand, and we can see that the anger and rage is pouring off of him. He dives into the Knights, going HAM with both sabers, surrendering himself entirely to The Force and becoming a blur of lightsaber strikes, parries, and Force pushes.
They’re fighting on top of a field littered with bodies and it’s clear that Luke has truly failed. He’s failed them all, and even though this display from our hero is glorious and exhilarating, the pain driving it is visible and breaks our hearts into pieces along with Luke’s. The movie has only existed for a couple minutes, and we’re already in tears.
Skywalker kills a few of them, but Kylo himself cuts away Luke’s entire right arm, and his Knights regain the upper hand. Kylo is taunting his former teacher, telling him that the Light Side of the Force is inherently weaker and will always be extinguished by the power of the darkness. Luke has never felt anger like this before, and he feels the Dark Side calling to him, offering him the power to destroy all of the enemies before him. Skywalker is looking down at the ground while on his knees, his shoulders and body gently shaking, and when Luke looks back up at his awful, spoiled, traitorous nephew, his eyes are that of the Sith.
With his remaining hand, Master Skywalker throws lightning.
The power of the attack sends Kylo and his Knights toppling through the air, overwhelmed and completely taken by surprise. Their injured, mangled bodies are twitching as the energy tendrils dissipate, and Luke advances to finish them off, until hearing the cries of Rey behind him. He blinks and comes back to himself, looking down at his hand wondering what has he done as the Knights limp away, swearing vengeance, but wanting no further parts of Luke Skywalker.
Back to the present and the mountain, and both of them are on the verge of completely breaking down, because this horrible, powerful vision was shared between them and Rey’s memories are finally coming back to her. She remembers everything now, and says to Luke, “Father, please…”
That does it, and after another few seconds, his robotic hand opens up. He breathes in deeply and calmly exhales and the saber is yanked from Rey’s grasp and flies to his hand with incredible speed, and a split second before it touches his now opened robotic palm, the music comes in like a freight train with that familiar logo and that music.
The crawl begins, and the first words read
REVENGE OF THE JEDI
Some final thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens after my third time…
Since my second viewing, I’ve devoured the beautiful art book and the visual dictionary, both of which fill in a ton of critical blanks that you could argue the movie should’ve devoted some time exploring. Also just read the prequel novel by the awesome (as always) Greg Rucka, which digs into some important events in the lives of Finn, Rey, and Poe immediately before the events of the movie. The most important entry delves into Finn and the lives of his squad mates, two of which have fairly significant roles to play during The Force Awakens, one of them contributing the bloody handprint during the Jakku assault, and the other, well, let’s talk about the other in a minute.
Finn (or FN-2187) is introduced as something of a Luke/Han amalgamation—equal parts bold and eager, pretty good with a blaster, and a natural born leader, even though there’s something a little different about him. He’s beginning to seriously doubt the nonsense The First Order is feeding him. This newfound sense of hesitation and conscience is referenced several times, and it’s clear that the door is still very open on him developing some Force sensitivity in the future, and that he and Captain Phasma are headed for a serious showdown. They have a great, contentious relationship, as he continuously garners the wrong kind of attention and develops close bonds (a big no-no) with his teammates.
Most interesting thing is that this prequel story version of Finn is pretty amazing at everything he does, which is not how he’s depicted during the movie in many instances. In this prologue, he’s fairly confident, though considerably unnerved at the idea that he’s the only one starting to find some of this First Order business pretty objectionable. His scores and conduct during simulations have him on the First Order fast track, and he’s an absolute boss with a blaster and in hand-to-hand combat, dominating a string of opponents while wielding an energy mace and a shield.
Even before reading this, I thought him not winning his fight against the trooper now dubbed TR-R8 was a mistake, and would’ve put a little more “oomph” into his character. And it turns out this guy was actually part of Finn’s former squad, which provides a little more context for him shouting “Traitor!” at Finn, and attacking the runaway trooper with some additional enthusiasm. Finn was his leader, perhaps even his role model, and knowing that adds an additional layer to the scene, though knowing that wasn’t as necessary as Finn winning a head-to-head fight with him.
Even if the sequence had to be reframed so that Han (using Chewie’s crossbow thing) disarmed the guy, or took out another trooper nearby, giving Finn a distraction or an opening for the kill shot, I think the whole thing would’ve gone down much better. This tiny alteration would’ve had a massive narrative result, netting Finn a critical hand-to-hand victory over an opponent he should’ve beaten, to go along with his already impressive body count. Seriously, past The First Order, no one blew people away like Finn, which is why this whole “Finn was a weak nigga” narrative is more exaggerated emotional projection than actual fact.
I do understand the conversation though, and I was much more enthusiastic about the Finn we got in the deceptive marketing, and in Rucka’s prequel story, than the one we saw in a few questionable elements from the actual movie. I know that the arc of “brainwashed disillusioned child soldier finally stops running” isn’t as prominent if his fear and desperation isn’t so present, but past all the Will Smith hollering and terrified expressions, if he strikes down TR-R8 in a sloppy, yet furious display with that lightsaber, all (most) is forgiven. Cause the Kylo Ren thing was never going his way, and anyone that didn’t see Rey being the primary Force wielder wasn’t paying attention. But I wanted that power shared and still do.
So why am I okay with it, ultimately? Because John Boyega was fantastic, and held the screen with everyone he shared it with, bringing a sense of warmth, humor, morality, and (eventually) raw nerve that’ll be great to watch develop further over the next couple movies. And because I’m clearly drowning in Star Wars material, I always knew that he’d be coming back, and that he was initially imagined as a white character, who was always destined to play a critical, yet supporting role in the adventures of a young, female Jedi. Since the movies have never featured a female Jedi of any real significance ever, the writer in me just can’t be too mad at that, even though the black dude in me is a little disappointed to have “Black Han Solo” and not “Black Luke Skywalker.”
Seeing the movie a third time really hardened my thoughts on it into stone, and I am now content to sit back and wait for the Blu-Ray and deleted scenes. I liked it a lot, but did not LOVE it, and despite the above, the Finn thing wasn’t my biggest criticism. As a kid, I had a very complicated history with The Empire Strikes Back, because the good guys got their asses handed to them, and as a child, that was highly offensive and off-putting to me psychologically. This new movie triggers something very similar, and though obviously I know that “there are no happy endings,” and that in a lot of ways, our parents screwed things up, the weight of absolute failure and loss draped onto these iconic heroes was a little sad to see, you know? A little too much like actual real life, but which makes for a better story, as we watch them finally get it almost right over thirty years later.
Last tiny thing I would’ve tweaked is the reveal of Kylo Ren’s parents, which I think should’ve been held until that great scene where Han and Leia reconnect after what seems to be a very long time. Imagine if they had strung us along until then, playing with the idea that Ren’s father could’ve been either Han or Luke, and having the reveal happen there with the old smuggler growling out, “I saw him. I saw our son.” That would’ve been more than a gut punch, more like someone reached into our chests, removed the heart, and then stomped on it with both feet. Harrison Ford did great playing the tortured, regretful father, and every time I think about the little wry smile that came to him with he said, “Yeah, I knew Luke,” it gives me all the feels. So much implied and expressed in a single moment there.
The character work was on point, even when parts of me didn’t agree with what they were doing or had done. This movie gave them a rock solid foundation to build on, and say what you will about J.J. Abrams (I love his work to death, personally) but his eye for casting is remarkable. He excels at making unconventional choices seem glaringly obvious (Quinto as Spock, Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, etc.) and the mind explodes at the infinite possibilities for the incredible actors now taking Star Wars into the future.
I’ll grade everything much harsher in the next episode, but this one is steeped in over eagerness, which is far from a cardinal sin. The Force Awakens is soooo very desperate to be liked that it didn’t take near enough risks, or reach quite far enough. The shadow of the prequels looms largest, and the mission for this movie seemed pretty simple—Bring Star Wars Back, by any means necessary. And it does so in all the most important ways.
Now that everyone is back on board and feels great about Star Wars movies again, I expect the real deal next time, packed with new planetary environments, weapons, ships, and Force powers. I want them to consider changing the classic opening a bit, and possibly even moving on from John Williams doing the music. Embrace the new whenever possible, and get the older fans (like myself) all worked up because they took things too far.
We’ve got an amazing cast of fantastic new characters, and almost everything around them deserves to be something new as well…
Oh, and in a few hours, I’ll post up my version of the very first scene from Episode VIII in all its fan fictiony glory, so be on the lookout for that. Thanks.