Star Wars Tales #7
[Also available in photo cover.]
Art Cover: Francisco Ruiz Velasco
Editor: Dave Land
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (12/31/2006)
Another stupid cartoon from Dave Land. This time it's about "Baby Darth Maul Goes tot he Dentist". Funny. The cover by Velasco is better than the one he did for Boba Fett: Agent of Doom.
Story: Haden Blackman
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Ray Kryssing
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Steve Dutro
Six weeks before the Battle fo Naboo, the Feeorin pirate Nym was meeting with a group interested in buying his cargo of experimental blasters that were recently stolen from the Trade Federation. Unfortunately, it was a cover-up, and the buyers are really bounty hunters hired by the mercenary Vana Sage, who in turn works for the Trade Federation. Now Nym is in a cell aboard the Trade Federation freighter Stockade and he wants to find a way out to get revenge and to get his ship back.
This is a background story for the Starfighter game (available on PS2, Xbox and PC) and also written by the same author. While the short story "The Starfighter Trap" by Steve Miller (from Star Wars Gamer #1 and also serialized online as part one, part two and part three) served as background for the pilot Rhys Dallows, "Single Cell" is a backstory for the two other playable characters from the game, Nym and Vana Sage, who currently works for the Trade Federation. Expanding from two lines from the game character descriptions, we see how Vana Sage had Nym captured by inviting him and his "crew" to her space station to meet with buyers interested in trading for some goods the pirate stole from the Trade Federation. Turns out the "buyers" are bounty hunters, and a fight ensues but they eventually capture Nym. For her part, Vana gets to keep Nym's bomber the Havoc. This is all told in a flashback which took place three days prior to the framing story, in which Nym tells his tale to a Neimoidian prisoner.
At the end, we find out how his crew helped him escape: Jinkins and Kole are disguised as infamous torturers Merick and Bavo (sometimes spelled "Bravo") who come in Nym's cell. Big mistake on the bounty hunters' part for not capturing them along with Nym. Instead, they chose to jettison them to the nearby planet Maramere aboard an escape pod. This stretches the credibility a little bit, but I guess there was no bounty posted on the guys who help Nym make his raids on the Federation.
It is a great little tale, whether you're into the game or not. And if you are, you should definitely read this comic. In fact, this 12-page story would be perfect as a small comic book insert to go with the game. In case you are not familiar with it, well let me spoil it for you: yes, Nym does get his ship back from Vana. But how do they end up fighting side-by-side against the Federation? You have to play the game to find out. If Blackman can write such a good story spun off from a video game, I can't wait to read his upcoming 3-part sequel Starfighter: Crossbones. Sorry to say, Mr. Land, that this story is officially canon.
Duursema (who worked on several Quinlan Vos stories in the Star Wars ongoing series, a Villie story in Tales #3, a 4-part Darth Maul series, and many others) is probably my favorite Star Wars artist right now. She has such a great flair for page layouts and facial expressions, and an equal talent for characters, technology and scenery. I can't give much more praise, so let me note that this is the first source showing that Jinkins is a Bith, and Kale a Chadra-Fan. I don't think it's the artist's decision but it's worth mentioning here anyway.
Story: Phil Amara
Pencils: Francisco Hererra
Inks: Howard M. Shum
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Steve Dutro
Domo Jones is a young nerf herder working on his uncle Nobu's ranch on Tatooine and dreaming of a life of adventure. While hanging out at a tavern in Mos Zabu, he meets an old friend, a Bith musician named Blerx. While they are catching up on things, they overhear a deal being made involving the Empire in the next booth. At last, this is Domo's chance to take a stand against the Empire, and have a little adventure of his own, while also maybe impressing Jilljoo Jab, one of the Twi'lek barmaids. So the next day, Domo along with his droid Ur-I, Blerx and Jilljoo drive over to Beggar's Canyon where the deal is taking place. Domo has a plan to stop the exchange from being made with some help from a herd of nerfs.
Another tale of a farmboy on Tatooine who dreams about joining the Rebel Alliance and become a space pilot... This is as original as this story gets. I have several problems with this story: first of all, a nerf ranch on Tatooine? Why does it take place on Tatooine in the first place? If the writer insisted on using nerfs why not make the setting different, like Dantooine or Kashyyyk? That would have given it a bit more originality and plausibility. Or if he wanted to use Tatooine so much, why not use existing local animals such as jerbas or eopies? Also, I think there are too many dumb expletives to the point of being annoying, such as "skunk dunker", "snart handler" and "puddle pumper." Finally, I didn't like the overly simplistic and cliché plot: guy hears about a deal between bad guys, brings along his friends and the girl to stop the deal, guy beats bad guy, guy gets girl.
The fact that main character is so unlikeable and acts so stupidly doesn't help. So his big plan was to load up some nerfs inside a Jawa sandcrawler, and have his Bith musician friend play some notes to make the animals stampede over Ep Gart and the Imperials while they're trading a shipment of Nergon 14 for a case of blasters? And how easily Jilljoo falls into Domo's arms after he evaded pursuit by driving over the Sarlacc fields (!?!) Of course, it is Domo's amazing knowledge of the desert that gave them an advantage. Needless to say I didn't enjoy this story one bit, aside from the Droids cartoon reference and the never-mentioned-anywhere-else city of Mos Zabu. It feels like the writer heard the term "nerf herder" and decided to quickly write a story based on that.
Hererra's style reminds me a lot of Humberto Ramos on that exagerated, alsmot manga-looking way of drawing characters. I don't like the fact that all the characters (except the Bith) look like 12-year-olds and have big chins. And I hate Domo's hairdo! What's with the Leia-like buns? It may be the first appearance of nerfs in a comic, and I'm pretty sure they are based on the ones in The Essential Guide to Alien Species which was released around the same time (also seen in Wizards of the Coasts' Alien Anthology), but overall the art doesn't do it for me.
"Jedi Chef" or "Pizza Hutt"
Story: Randy Stradley
Art: Francisco Ruiz Velasco
Letters: Studio F, Jason Hvam
Jedi Masters Micah Giett and Plo Koon are on Ord Mantell to rescue Slabba Drewl, a well-known chef who was captured by Corpo the Hutt. In order to free his friend, Giett challenges Corpo's MREM-02 kitchen droid to a cook-off. The ingredient is squirmers, and the two Masters use a little Jedi trickery in order to best the droid's programming of millions of recipes.
This is a funny little comedy, although it reminds me of a Futurama episode ("The 30% Iron Chef"). It's obviously a take-off of the TV show Iron Chef, and the name of the kitchen droid MREM-02 "Moreemhotwo" is a reference to the Japanese Iron Chef himself. Hence the title "Jedi Chef". Even though it is a non-canonical story, Stradley mixes in a few references, like using the little known Micah Giett (misspelled "Giiet" and "Giiett") and the Hutt threatening to feed him to his ng'oks. The competition itself is very similar to the TV show, where both contestants have to use one ingredient to make different dishes. The twist here is that Giett has to cheat with help from Plo, a very un-Jedi like move, and thanks to the Force nobody notices. Plo basically move around some ingredients to substitute for Moreemhotwo's own, sabotaging his dishes. The "replacement" ingredients include droid oil, gundar (gundark?) droppings, Rakririan burnout sauce and Bothan foot powder. The other title "Pizza Hutt" refers to what Corpo looks like after beating up Moreemhotwo for loosing and the droid falls on him. Well if you can get over the fact that two Jedi Council members can cheat (it is for the greater good of liberating an innocent fellow after all), I think you can enjoy this funny story.
Velasco's art here is very appropriate for the comedic tone of this story. He is as versatile in "serious" art (witness the Boba Fett cover) as with more cartoony style as he does here and somewhere in between (in the Battle Gods: Warriors of the Chaak series from Dark Horse). He also does a very good job with the coloring, which adds a more natural tone to the artwork. The facial expressions are hilarious, and I also like one of Corpo's aides is an Ewok with briefs on his head (in one panel, they are labelled "Han's" and in another "Fruit of Naboo").
"Outbid But Never Outgunned"
Story: Beau Smith
Pencils: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Inks: Neil Nelson
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Steve Dutro
Boba Fett is after a valuable item that was stolen by Pizztov, a shady dealer from the city of Bidamount. He holds it for a 6.3 million credit ransom or else he will sell it to the auction master of eport. Meanwhile, the bounty hunter Sintas is also after the prize, being the one that Pizztov stole it from. The two bounty hunters meet at Pizztov's place, both wanting the contents of the canister and Pizztov dead. They seem to know each other. When Pizztov tries to escape, Sintas wounds him and gets the canister. But then Fett wounds Sintas, views the contents of the canister and then leaves it in her possession.
This story starts out kind of comedic, with many references to the Star Wars universe's version of eBay. Then it turns a bit more dramatic when we find out what the canister contains. It's a holo of Fett and Sintas holding their baby. We can see why both hunters were so determined to prevent the item being sold on eport, and also the sentimental value it holds for them. The two hunters are definitely the stars; the other characters are somewhat generic and uninteresting: from Pizztov himself, the coward who takes advantage of everybody, to his two simpleton bodyguards, to the female "entertainer" Pizztov hired (who can't believe she survived being in the presence of Sintas and Fett) and the first guy from whom Boba Fett finds out who has possession of the item. Speaking of that guy, he gets eaten by a creature called a globblin, and for some strange reasons it keeps screaming "feeeed meee, feeeed meee". It's weird to see an animal with he ability to speak.
It's a fun little story, which adds a lot about Boba Fett's mysterious background pre-Attack of the Clones. Although this story might seem non-canonical, it has been made official in two articles: an article in Star Wars Gamer #6 gives Sintas a background and stats, and informs that she is a Kiffar; and "The History of the Mandalorians" by Abel G. Peña (Star Wars Insider #80) adds that her last name is Vel, her daughter's name is Ailyn and Sintas died when Ailyn was young. Ailyn Vel would later go on and have a bounty hunting career of her own.
For some reason, the art in this story reminds me a lot of Paul Gulacy's style (from Master of Kung Fu and Crimson Empire fame) especially the low angles and the shadowy faces. i like the dynamic panel layering: sometimes there is a panel inserted inside another, sometimes a small panel superimposed over a larger one, sometimes two triangular panels side-by-side forming a rectangle... you get the idea. It brings a breath of fresh artistic air. The designs of the new characters, especially Sintas are pretty interesting. Same with the city of Bidamount which looks like it's straight out of an Al Williamson strip. The action sequence is full of movement and smoke and blasts, and it's very engaging to follow.
Story: Kevin Rubio
Art: Lucas Marangon
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Steve Dutro
Yoda and Mace Windu are eating at a restaurant, when their discussion about the ways of the Force is interrupted by a couple of robbers who crash through the window. The two Jedi Masters quickly arrest the thieves, and resume their debate about whether or not Anakin Skywalker is the Chosen One.
This is Rubio's second story for Tales (the first one was in Tales #4) and of course it is a parody. He makes the connection between Samuel L. Jackson who plays Mace Windu, and one of his more famous roles as Jules in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. But there is not much substance to this one. It is based on a sequence from Tarantino's movie, but it is mostly a bunch of visual gags. Mace and Yoda (in a baby chair) are sitting in a Big Boy restaurant, order some food, and while they are debating whether or not they should train young Anakin Skywalker, they are interrupted by a couple of robbers. There's not much else to it, and it's definitely not that funny for me.
BTW if you want to know what is written on the menu in aurebesh, you can check the menu translation from the writer himself.
As mentioned before, just like Rubio's and Marangon's previous collaboration "A Death Star is Born", this story has a lot of visual gags, mostly in the form of background characters who are surprisingly consistently there from one panel to the next. So you have cameos by Robbie the Robot, Gort, Buzz Lightyear, the THX robot, Rubio and Marangon, the Beatles, and George Lucas himself with Rick McCallum and Jar Jar. All this I'm sure sounded a lot funnier on the page. Not that Marangon is not a good artist, quite the contrary, despite the hard lines which make characters look like statues. It's just that these jokes get old very fast. Of coure someone could debate the lightsaber colors, but who really cares? This was done before Attack of the Clones so nobody really knew what color Mace and Yoda's blade colors were.
"Single Cell" and "Outbid But Never Outgunned" make it worth to buy the issue, and "Jedi Chef" is kind of funny. But the other two stories are forgettable.
Rating: 7 / 10 Recommended