In Review: Star Wars: Age of Rebellion-Grand Moff Tarkin #1

This is the book that shows Tarkin to be a monster.

The covers: There are four different covers to this issue that will make you fall in line to pick up. The Regular cover by Terry and Rachel Dodson is great. Tarkin is on a white background with his hands behind his back. His eyes are slits as the stares into something that troubles him. Behind him is the Death Star. Marvel, can we please have all the Dodsons’ covers made into prints? Name your price! The Concept Design Variant cover by Iain McCaig is also on a white cover and this contains a small blue pencil image of the title character. He’s shown from just above the knees, looking to the left in three-quarters view with his right hand up as he makes a point. It’s fantastic, but really small. This couldn’t be increased in size? The Photo Variant cover features Peter Cushing as the title character in a scene from A New Hope. He looks fantastic with his lips pulled tight as he considers his next move to take against the Rebellion. How could you not love this? The final frontpiece is the Puzzle Piece Variant cover by Mike McKone & Guru-eFX which is exceptional. This has Tarkin with his hands behind his back, his head low, and his legs spread wide as the ponders something unpleasant. He’s on a red background, with only a sliver of a blue star field behind him. He’s surrounded by five Star Destroyers making their way to the upper left corner as six TIE Fighters make their way to the bottom right. I love this. Overall grades: Regular A+, Concept Design Variant B, Photo Variant A+, and Puzzle Piece Variant A+

The story: On Eriadu in the Outer Rim, a young boy runs runs out of the forest, screaming at his Uncle Jova for help. He spies the elder, standing on a hilltop above him with two others. A growl from behind the boy sparks the man to say, “You’re a Tarkin. Either you kill…or…” A pair of tiger-like creatures come at him from either side. He raises his spear but misses one of the beasts. He falls to the ground and the begin to claw at him. Young Wilhuff Tarkin spies a claw on one of the creature’s paws and snaps it off. In the present aboard the Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin orders Admiral Motti to inform the crew of the planet before them. “The planet before us is Rango Tan…Three major civilizations. Population 45 million. With no interplanetary technology of their own, they have remained neutral in recent conflicts.” Smiling, Tarkin orders the Death Star to fire upon the world. All seems to be going well until an order is given to abort. This leads to the conflicts of the issue: Why did this abort occur and what to do with those responsible? This is great premise, especially with showing a brief scene in Wilhuff’s past and transitioning to the character’s first command of his newly acquired weapon for the Empire. I’ve never found Tarkin threatening, but in this story by Greg Pak he is as menacing and horrible as Darth Vader. I really like what occurs on Pages 6 and 7. Something incredibly surprising occurs on 8 and then the shocks continue for the next three pages. However, the reveal on 12 really undercut those pages. I’m not thrilled with stories that deviate toward this type of storytelling, which works much better in prose than in comics. That said, things improve in the bottom two panels, with the story back on track. The next three pages will be very familiar to fans, but I was very happy with Page 16 and the actions that follow, save 17 which again deviates using the same storytelling technique as 8 – 11. Page 19 is a fantastic defining moment for the character. Having this occur makes him the perfect extension of the Emperor. The final page has a nice call back to the first two pages. Five pages don’t add much to this story, but the other 15 are fantastic. Overall grade: B

The art: Marc Laming is the book’s artist and is sensational. The first two pages are unlike most Star Wars stories with the lack of any tech and not being in a setting found in most films a good choice. The big cats that attack Tarkin look great and their claws are excellent terrors. The panel that establishes the Death Star as the setting on Page 3 is terrific, especially with seven Star Destroyers shown next to it for scale. I really like Tarkin’s smiles throughout this book; it makes him horrific. The control panels and rooms shown for the firing of the Death Star are incredibly detailed, looking every inch from the films, but not cut and paste jobs. I love everything about 6 and 7, with the stormtroopers looking awesome, the gunners wonderful — and they look like individuals, not cookie cutter background characters, and the worry on Endo Frant palpable. Page 8 is a full-paged splash and it deserves to be so because it’s such a shocking moment in the story. The art that follows is good, but the moment is so over-the-top, the believability is lost. I do like the look of the items held by both men on 10 and the action that follows is brutal, fevered, and graphic, but I just couldn’t believe the moment. The top of Page 12 is a good return to a past panel and visually explains to the reader what the previous pages were about. Pages 13 – 15 show a classic scene from Episode IV shown from different points of view and I loved them. I was surprised by the smile in the second panel on 15, but it completely fits the character at this moment. The smiles on 16 are terrible, containing an incredible amount of foreboding. Page 17 is okay, but the large panel on that page doesn’t need to be that big, because it’s a throwback to those earlier pages I didn’t care for. Pages 18 and 19 are brilliant: the pacing, the tension, and the action are incredible. My jaw dropped in the second and fourth panels on the latter page, with the last person shown on the page in a perfect pose. It was neat to see the setting on the final page and how the individual interacts with the space. I love the small objects in the final panel. I love Leming’s work on this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: There are two colorists on this book, but it’s not specified in the credits who is responsible for which pages. C’mon Editor Mark Paniccia, the fans should know where Jordan Boyd and Neeraj Menon worked. Pages 1, 2, and 17 have a filter on them, dulling the colors. This is a neat visual clue to the reader that they are looking upon flashbacks. The sounds on these pages are in bright colors on the first two pages, blasting out of the art. The Death Star is full of dark colors in the films and it has the same in this book, but like the film, nothing blends into the background: all the characters and the many buttons pop just as brilliantly. Tarkin’s pale face stands out well on every page, with his skin colors drawing focus. The reds on 8 increase the shocking visuals substantially. Flesh is colored really well on 9 – 11. I really like how the final panel on 11 has the background go orange to increase the shock. I like the use of greens on 17, showing a familiar action from a new point of view. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: VC’s Travis Lanham creates the scene settings, yells, dialogue and transmissions (the same font), and sounds. The scene settings look great, though having them on a such a dark blue background makes them somewhat difficult to clearly read. The dialogue and transmissions are differed only by the shape of the balloons that contain them. Having them in different fonts would have been better. However, I will say I really like the dialogue font on this book, with each character’s speech holding strength simply by the structure of each letter. There are several sounds, with those during the fight outstanding. I am confused why an action that has the same sound, shown from practically the same distance, is constructed of two different fonts when they should be the same. This is minor nit, since I’m very happy with the majority of this book, especially the dialogue. Overall grade: A 

The final line: This is the book that shows Tarkin to be a monster. His cruelty, his thoughts, and his past make him an outstanding villain. Five pages of the story go too far, but the rest of the story is outstanding. The visuals are perfection, making me want to see much, much more of Laming in the Star Wars Universe. This is a fantastic one-shot of the Empire in action. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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