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4LN Saturday Morning Review: Han Solo #1

Series: Han Solo
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Mark Brooks
Colors: Sonia Oback

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Summary from Comixology: “Everyone’s favorite scoundrel gets his very own series! Han is given a top-secret undercover mission for the Rebellion- rescuing a number of informants and spies. His cover for the assignment? Only the biggest and most infamous starship race in the galaxy! You know- the race Han has dreamt of winning his entire life. Will he keep his mind on the mission? And can he manage to pull it off while keeping the lead? Best-selling author Marjorie Liu (X-MEN) comes to the Galaxy Far, Far Away along with superstar cover artist Mark Brooks (ULTIMATE X-MEN) in his return to interior art! Face it, readers- there aren’t enough scoundrels in your life!”

I’ve been fairly excited for this book.  Ever since the announcement of the new Star Wars books, I think everyone has been anxiously waiting for a new Han Solo story. After the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I personally feel like I need to know even more than I already do about the life and times of Han Solo. Han Solo #1 does a wonderful job capturing the mood, look, and attitude of our favorite scoundrel.

Marjorie Liu does a superb job at matching the tone the original movies. The book takes place after he was awarded his money for rescuing Leia and then destroying the Death Star, which has made him one of the most wanted men in the galaxy.  This is why Han remains so reluctant to help the Rebellion again. After some convincing, Solo decides to help save three rebels under the disguise of being a pilot in the race he’s always dreamed of winning: The Dragon Void.

Mark Brooks, this books artist, is absolutely incredible. His work looks almost identical to the characters in the movie, it’s great seeing such realistic looking characters in a comic book. Brooks also does a wonderful job with his attention to details and character designs. With such a vast universe of life forms, Brooks makes each supporting and background character look truly unique and rare, which is much needed in a Star Wars book.

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If Han Solo is a character you love, or you are just looking for a new book to read, you are going to want to jump on this book. Liu and Brooks make a fantastic team, and do a wonderful job at capturing the tense and unknown feeling of watching the franchise for the first time. This is going to be one hell of a ride, and we are going to see if the Millennium Falcon will be able to run the Dragon Void as quick as it ran the Kessel Run.

Music Pairing:
John Williams, Star Wars theme.

4LN Movie Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (NON-SPOILER)

Listen, I could sit here and try to dribble out some well-thought-out assessment of The Force Awakens, with pretty and sophisticated words that make me look smarter than I actually am. But I can’t do that. I can’t do that because I literally just finished watching it and my brain is a mess and all I want to do is race back to the theater and watch it again. IT’S SO GOOD.

This is a non-spoiler review, so I’ll not be revealing any major plot details. However, suffice to say, most of the rumors you’ve heard are completely false, and a few of them are true. While there are a few twists and turns that will surprise you, most of the “big reveal” stuff isn’t really handled like it’s that big of a reveal anyway. They’ve done a fantastic job of crafting a film that doesn’t rely on the twists or reveals. The story is solid and the plot moves along at a perfect pace. It’s got great action, beautiful cinematography, and it’s really funny. Like, REALLY funny. That was something I wasn’t quite expecting. I knew there would be some laughs, but I had no idea I’d be laughing as much as I was.

One of the reasons the movie is so funny, is the new, adorable little droid that’s taken the globe by storm, BB-8. Much like R2-D2 before him, BB has a personality all his own, and its… spunky. Is “spunky” the right word? Hang on… … … … I just looked it up on Dictionary.com and yes, it is the right word. I kind of hoped BB-8 would be the new Groot or Baymax, and, as is the case with both of those other characters, BB is more than just cute, comic relief. Yes, The little guy practically steals the show, but he’s also actually crucial to the plot, and serves a very import purpose. The Star Wars movies have always been good about making sure that non-sentient (or less-sentient) characters get to play a bigger roles, and this time around is no exception.

The cast of the film is phenomenal. I mean, you already know that Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are gonna deliver as Leia and Han, but the new cast is absolutely flawless as well, and completely hold their own next to the veterans. Specifically, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who play Rey and Finn, respectively. Boyega, you’ll remember, was at the very center of the unnecessarily heated “A Black Stormtrooper?!?!?!?!” controversy. Thankfully, he’s so much more than that and it’s great to finally see a little background on the Stormtroopers.

Ridley’s portrayal of Rey made me very happy. I thought to myself, “Now this a character I would actually WANT my daughter to look up too.” She’s tough, independent, smart, and resourceful. She’s full of curiosity and she doesn’t take anybody’s shit. I just loved her so much. She’s almost a better role model than even Princess Leia was, and that’s saying something.

The main name on everyone’s lips though… is the new villain Kylo Ren. I’ve personally been obsessed with the character ever since pictures of him began to pop up online, and even my 8 year old son has been fascinated by him. Kylo is played by Adam Driver and I will give you one spoiler about him… HE’S NOT LUKE F*@#ING SKYWALKER. (Seriously, whoever started that rumor is a complete moron.) One thing I really appreciated is that the character shows a lot more complexity and depth than Darth Vader did in any of the original trilogy films. Frankly, he’s better than any of the villainous characters from the second trilogy as well. I can safely say I was not disappointed in how the character turned out.

Just to clarify, there is no mid-credits or post-credits scene. Trust me. I stayed until the very end just so I could tell you that in total confidence.

Also, for those of you wondering if it’s safe to take your kids to see, I took my 8 year old son and he loved it. It obviously has some violence, but I didn’t notice any thing serious that concerned me. I will say… not to spoil… but there was a moment in the movie that made him very upset and he got damn-near inconsolable. So, you know, be prepared for that potentially with your own kids if you take them.

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Look, I don’t have to tell you to go see The Force Awakens. You’re going to go see it. You’re going to go see it right this minute, if you haven’t already, and you’re going to see it many, many times. It absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, lives up to the hype, and then some. It’s perfect in every way and it will not let you down. See it you must! Now you should go!

Han Solo Anthology Film Announced

It’s official, the second Star Wars anthology film will feature everyone’s favorite galactic smuggler — Han Solo.  The film, which will be directed by The LEGO Movie’s Chris Miller and Phil Lord, will take place before the events of A New Hope and will chronicle Solo’s early days as a smuggler.

The film will be written by Jon and Lawrence Kasdan.  If the name Lawrence Kasdan sounds familiar, it’s probably because he wrote The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, meaning he is pretty familiar with the source material.

Lord and Miller put out a hilarious joint statement saying, “This is the first film we’ve worked on that seems like a good idea to begin with. We promise to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience, and we pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us.  This is a dream come true for us. And not the kind of dream where you’re late for work and all your clothes are made of pudding, but the kind of dream where you get to make a film with some of the greatest characters ever, in a film franchise you’ve loved since before you can remember having dreams at all.”

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The Kasdan brothers also put out a statement praising the directors, calling them “two of the smartest, funniest and most original filmmakers around, and the ideal choice to tell the story of Han Solo, one of the coolest characters in the galaxy.”

No word as of yet as to who they have in mind to play the titular role, but so far they seem to be heading in the right direction.  Who do you think should play Han “Who’s Scruffy Looking” Solo?

Star Wars Part 3 – Return of the Franchise

Here it is, folks. We finally made it to the third article in this trilogy. In Part One we discussed the cultural influences from which Star Wars was borne, and in Part Two we looked at how the franchise impacted the entertainment industry and American culture as a whole (has anyone joined the Temple of the Jedi Order yet?). Now we look at all the glorious things the future holds, that some of us will undoubtedly whine about.

So far, Disney has kept almost every detail about the new trilogy close to the vest, but there are some details emerging. Here is a look at what is to come for the Star Wars franchise.

Probably the biggest news following Disney buying out Lucas is that Episodes VII, VIII, and IX are gearing up to be released in 2015, 2017, and 2019. I am beyond excited about this. J.J. Abrams will be ditching the trekkies, and will be directing (and he recently apologized for how much lens flare was used in Star Trek, so that shouldn’t be a problem).

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It still could be a problem though

Michael Arndt has been tasked with the screenplay. You may remember him as the man who caused grown men to try to silently weep while watching Toy Story 3 in theaters. The actual story is more under wrap than the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (or more so at the beginning of the movie I guess).

Apparently time heals all wounds, as perennial grump, Harrison Ford (who wanted Han Solo killed off in Empire Strikes Back, and was very vocal about his dislike of the monotony of the character) appears to be prepping to retake the captain’s chair in the Falcon along side Leia (is she still a princess if Alderaan is gone?) and Mark Hamill. I assume Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 will also make an appearance as well.

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Harrison Ford’s recurring fantasy

There are also plans for standalone films that are slated to be released in between the actual trilogy making it possible for us to have a new Star Wars film every year from 2015 through 2021. These films are rumored to focus on back-stories for fan favorites Yoda, Boba Fett (whose 3 minutes of screen time, and ridiculous “death” miraculously made everyone love him), and Han Solo. There have also been hints that Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine could make an appearance as well. This strategy seems similar to Disney’s Avengers strategy, where they release several individual movies that culminate with a joint venture. The man behind the Empire Strikes Back, Lawrence Kasdan, will write one of these films, and Simon Kinberg, who wrote Sherlock Holmes, will write another.

Star Wars Rebels will be an animated series set between Episodes III and IV, and will follow the birth of the Rebel Alliance. With a release date of Fall 2014, Rebels will be the first foray into the Star Wars universe and it will air on Disney XD. With the success of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, the possibility of a live-action TV show has skyrocketed, but they will probably wait to see how successful Episode VII will be before launching it.

Disney has also announced a multiyear, exclusive agreement with gaming juggernaut Electronic Arts. Star Wars Battlefront III (which originally was canned although it was almost complete) has already been announced and probably has me more excited that anything. EA has announced that three of their top studios – Dice, Visceral, and Bioware – will be working on games for the Star Wars franchise.

Bioware already has ventured into Star Wars with the MMORPG, Star Wars the Old Republic, and is also behind sci-fi epic Mass Effect. Dice is behind the beloved Battlefield franchise, which will translate very well into Battlefront style games, and Visceral is the team behind sci-fi horror series, Dead Space. It would be hard to choose a better set of companies to work on Star Wars games.

Lastly, it is highly likely that Disney will build a Star Wars themed park. At the D23 expo they scattered crates with Star Wars references around the expo center. The Star Wars franchise appears to lend itself almost perfectly to a theme park. Space dogfights, Cantina themed restaurants, podracing, it all can work and work well. I would love to walkthrough a life-sized Millennium Falcon, pilot an X-Wing, and walkthrough Imperial corridors. It all just appears to be so right.

If you are a Star Wars fan, there is a LOT of stuff coming down the trash chute. Undoubtedly, there will be fans that have low expectations after the prequel trilogy, but I think the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide, and I am excited to see where this franchise is going.

So what do you think? Will Disney be able to repeat the success they had with the Marvel brand?

Bullets or Blasters

Blasters are pretty neat weapons; just imagine Han Solo sitting at the cantina, Blastec DL-44 blaster pistol slung on his thigh like a gunslinger, firing bolts of green or red energy.  But how effective are they against Jedi?  Excluding Order 66, blasters against Jedi do not seem very effective at all.

Even when the Stormtroopers, or whoever else, actually hit what they were aiming at, they usually ended up with a face full of their own blaster bolt that had just been deflected by a lightsaber.  Doesn’t it seem that a regular gun firing a regular bullet would be at least a fraction better?

Side note: blaster bolts aren’t technically lasers because they do not travel at the speed of light.

The biggest two arguments against using bullets seem to be that the Jedi would use the Force to stop the bullet like Neo in the Matrix and send it rocketing back towards whoever fired the round, and barring that they would use their lightsaber to incinerate the bullet before impact.  Each argument seems valid at first glance, but neither really fits when we look at the movies (I won’t be including the extended universe).

Whenever you see someone use the Force in the movies it never appears instantaneous, there is always a building up and a release.  Think about when Yoda lifted the X-Wing out of the swamp, or when Luke tried to recall his lightsaber.

“But the X-Wing has a lot more mass than a bullet, and Luke had just been bitch-slapped by a Wampa and wasn’t even a Jedi yet!”

I get that, but in the Phantom Menace, while Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are rescuing Queen Amidala, Obi-Wan uses a Force push to throw several battle-droids, and even then, in the heat of battle, the effect wasn’t instantaneous.

The second problem for the Jedi is that while their lightsabers would melt the bullet before impact the bullet wouldn’t just evaporate and no longer be a threat; it would just melt and become molten slag.

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We see this when Qui-Gon Jinn is cutting through the blast doors while on the Trade Federation ship.  His lightsaber melts the metal, but it doesn’t disappear.  Instead the molten metal just drips down the door like lava.

Molten slag would probably be better than an actual bullet, but not THAT much better.  Just ask Darth Vader how molten anything feels, his answer would probably be a muffled, asthmatic, “not good.”

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“Not good…”

I know in the Original Trilogy there weren’t that many Jedi running around so the point was moot, but in the Prequels they were everywhere.  The Geonosian Arena had more glowing light sticks twirling around than an average rave, and it was at least half as dangerous as one.  You would think at some point tactics would change and they would at least try it.

Although, not changing tactics seems par for the course.  “What? They blew up our Death Star? Surely that can’t happen again.”

It’s not like their galaxy evolved so much differently from ours that gunpowder didn’t exit.  We see the Tusken Raiders fire off a couple of rounds at the pod-racers on Tatooine using rifles that appear to be very similar to our own.

Bullets are not nearly as pretty as green and red blaster bolts, but seems to be a lot more efficient when dealing with any sort of Force-wielding adversary.

I guess the only reason blasters were primarily used is this just sounds better, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

So there it is; bullets or blasters?

A Defense of Lando Calrissian

When I say the name Lando Calrissian what do you think about? A traitorous, less-than-scruffy looking nerfherder, who betrayed his best friend and then inexplicably wore said friends clothes as he piloted said friends spaceship, with that same friends girlfriend and Wookiee companion? Or do you think of the most morally courageous figure found in the Star Wars saga? Obviously if you read the title of this article, you know I am going to be arguing the latter.

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I defend his decision to betray Han, but I don’t defend his decision to wear his clothes.

Now let’s dive into some backstory. Lando was the Baron Administrator of Cloud City, which he won in a card game from the previous Administrator. Cloud City was a tibanna gas mining colony that floats about 60,000 kilometers above the planet Bespin, which was an uninhabitable gas giant. Cloud City’s official census data (because this actually exists in the Extended Universe) shows the population to be at 5,247,080 not counting droids.

Want to guess why they call it Cloud City? Because it’s perpetually cloudy, and the person naming Bespin locales had about as much creativity as the guy who named the Orange.

When we first meet Lando in Empire Strikes Back he appears to be very similar to Han Solo. He has a questionable past, but he seems to be well on his way to being a somewhat decent guy. Lando is a gambler turned civil servant who has a penchant for well-coordinated capes and seduction.

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Ladies?

Unfortunately Lando gets a bad rap due to a moral dilemma that plays out before we even meet him. When Darth Vader finds out that Han and Leia escaped Hoth and are heading to Bespin he gives Lando a choice to make. Lando can either betray Han by turning him over to Vader, or he can allow Bespin to fall under the tyrannical rule of the Galactic Empire.

So, as we come to find out, Lando decided that giving his friend over to Vader was the best decision, and they all attend what had to be the most awkward dinner ever.

For many his decision to betray Han makes Lando a traitor, but his decision is less egotistical than it appears. The decision that Lando makes is, in fact, a utilitarian decision. Quick philosophy lesson, utilitarianism is a philosophy that states all actions should be directed towards achieving the greatest happiness for the greater number of people.

In other words, to determine which decision we should make in any given situation, we must evaluate each option available to us and attempt to calculate the possible consequences of that decision. Whichever decision leads to the best outcome for the most people is the decision that must be chosen.

So when Lando, being a utilitarian, is given his choice he must weigh the cost of betraying Han and thus causing his unhappiness versus the unhappiness that will be caused by letting his entire city fall under the command of the tyrannical Emperor and his Stormtroopers. Lando gave up Han in order to prevent his people from suffering at the hands of the scrotum-faced Emperor and his cronies.

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Of course, for many this goes against what our view of friendship means, but when seen from the utilitarian’s point of view Lando did what was moral. In reality Lando’s only choice is whether to save the mining colony or not since Han is going to be captured by Vader anyways, seen this way he made the only right decision.

When Lando realizes that Vader altered the deal and the Empire is going to take over anyways he does what he can to evacuate the colony, as well as save Leia and Chewbacca; he does not think of himself at all. Lando immediately joins Luke and Leia in an attempt to rescue Han from his fate as a questionable choice for wall decorations, even going undercover for a year or more in Jabba’s Palace (and you know that place stank something awful).

We usually view Lando as an egotistical, scum bag who betrayed his best friend to save his own ass. However, when we view his decision in light of a utilitarian view his decision shows moral fortitude.

So what do you think? Is Lando still the backstabbing scoundrel you always thought him to be, or is he a moral stalwart worthy of our admiration?