In Review: Thrawn #1

An interesting origin story, but not a riveting one.

The covers: Four frontpieces to find if one has to have every variant. Paul Renaud is the artist on the Regular cover. Mitth’raw’nuruodo is in his feral fatigues looking down upon the pair of troopers he’s taken out. Behind him are two AT-STs, ready to take the Chiss down. This is an okay cover, but the title character is too far away from the reader. Thrawn is also colored too darkly to see clearly without pulling the cover closer. Better is the Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher. This faux Kenner carded figure looks terrific. The toy looks great, but the illustration of Thrawn is masterful. I NEED this cover! A surprise choice for one of the covers is the Animation Variant from the show Star Wars Rebels. This is an image of the villain from the series in his typical pose of thought: his right hand under at his chin as he considers something. The logo for this cover looks really neat, going down the left side of the image. Really nice. The final cover is the Francesco Mattina Variant. I can’t recall another cover on any book that is so close up to the character. Thrawn’s face is intense as he looks at reader, dominating the cover in blue. His red eyes match the red of the title perfectly. This is also very cool. Overall grades: Regular C, Action Figure Variant A+, Animation Variant A, and Mattina Variant A 

The story: This series is written by Jody Houser, based on the novel by Timothy Zahn. A crash in wild space has drawn the attention of some Imperials, revealing a settlement that features alien writing. Cadet Vanto tells Captain Parck that the language could be a variant of the Sy Bisti. Because the language is alien, protocols have to be followed to study the mysterious creature. Unfortunately the alien is incredibly intelligent and blows up their base. This is followed by him picking off Imperials. Two squads of stormtroopers are sent in to find him, but they disappear. Parck decides enough is enough, and returns to his Star Destroyer the Strikefast. The alien gets himself on board by wearing a stormtrooper’s armor. He’s quickly discovered and thus begins Thrawn’s integration into Imperial service. I haven’t read the Zahn book (I know, blaspheme), so this story is completely new to me. I enjoyed seeing how Thrawn adapted to Imperial ranks, beginning with a face to face meeting with the Emperor, which is fantastic! Having Vanto as his unofficial attaché is a slick way to show Thrawn, and the reader, how things are done in the Empire. This also allows the reader see how the title character solves problems. Naturally things don’t go smoothly for the Chiss at first, but soon he’s able to get what he wants. This is a neat read of one of Star Wars’ most famous original characters. Overall grade: A-

The art: Each of the first three pages of the book is comprised of nine panels, showcasing how Thrawn is taking down Imperials. I love how the art captured a great sense of action in each of these panels. Page 4 has Thrawn removing his stormtrooper helmet, revealing himself clearly to the reader. Luke Ross makes the title character look ominous even when he’s standing still and that’s exactly how the character should come across to the reader. I was impressed with how well Ross made Vanto look young; often younger characters are difficult for artists, but Ross nails this character’s look consistently. The scenes with the Emperor were inconsistent though and the setting for his conversation with Thrawn was sketchy. A famous character from the franchise appears at the top of 12 and he doesn’t look great, though when the same character is shown at the bottom of the page, granted it’s from later in the film, and he look’s fantastic. Much better is Commandant Deenlark who looks amazing in every panel he’s in. His sneer in the fourth panel on 15 is perfection. The progression of time as Thrawn and Vanto make their way through training is well done. After this point in the story, Thrawn begins to show how calculating he can be in his new environment and Ross makes him look absolutely intense and focused. I really liked him during the game he and Vanto are invited to. The aftermath of the game has the pair in a beautiful setting and a solid action scene. There’s a computer blur at one point during the fight that really distracts from the story; I wish it hadn’t been done. The rest of the book looks fine, with a sensational close-up of Thrawn and Deenlark making another appearance and looking sharp. Overall grade: B+

The colors: Nolan Woodard’s contributions are strong. The opening three pages has him using colors extremely effectively to direct the reader to key characters or actions, such as a pair of explosions and Thrawn’s incredible crimson eyes. The reveal of the Chiss on 4 has his blue skin looking exceptionally cool. If one looks closely, Vanto’s skin is darker than this peers or Captain Parck — a neat way to make him stand apart almost as much as Thrawn. The Emperor’s robes are more red-brown than black, which suits the light coming into the setting, but I really wanted them to be as black as night. I liked the antiseptic blues that are often used to show the cadets’ quarters and environments; made them seem like specimens. The coloring of the background introduced on 22 is spectacular. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, transmissions, screams, and scene settings constitute VC’s Clayton Cowles’s contributions to this book. The dialogue is the same as found on other Star Wars books and the same can be said of the scene settings. This allows this book to fit in visually with other comic books, but neither font is suitable for this franchise. The slender font gives no weight to any character’s speech, undermining even yells from characters. The lack of sounds, which is not Cowles’s decision, makes the book abnormally silent. Even during the fight scene towards the book’s conclusion, which has the art showing contact being made, the silence lessens the conflict. Cowles is doing as told, but the lettering is a let down. Overall grade: B

The final line: An interesting origin story, but not a riveting one. Thrawn has never been an action character, so the pace should be expected to bit slower than most Star Wars fare. The art is fine, but nothing really stands out. Then again, the story doesn’t really have big moments to illustrate. A good tale, but told at a deliberate pace. Overall grade: B+

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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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