Graphic Novelty²


Kieron Gillen

Star Wars: Darth Vader

Darth Vader gets his first extended graphic novel series penned by Kieron Gillen and it gives us a look at Vader’s life between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Not surprisingly, Vader is a bad ass here.

I recently joined a Goodreads group called I Read Comic Books and every month a new graphic novel is chosen to discuss. I wished I had joined this group earlier as they have discussed many books that I have enjoyed and reviewed in the past. March’s vote strongly skewed towards this Star Wars selection and I happily decided to join in.

In this first volume,  the action picks  up soon after the destruction of the Death Star. The Emperor is far from pleased with Vader and puts him under the command of Grand Admiral Tagge, a man Vader looks at as simply a data cruncher with no vision. Vader knows he needs to watch his back so while doing the Emperor’s bidding, Vader decides to build his own droid army. He employs some familiar faces such as Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett as well as a dark haired Wookie. He also conscripts shady Dr. Aphra and two assassin robots, 000 and BT-1, to do his dirty work. Interspersed throughout are his memories of his time with Padmé, and in the end the bounty hunters give him his first clue in identifying Luke as his son.

Last year I read the excellent short story collection Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View and I discovered a character that I didn’t know before that collection is in this graphic novel.  Double checking my review, I wrote of the story The Trigger “Aphra is a dubious archaeologist who skirts the law on Dantooine. Captured by stormtroopers she talks her way out of trouble. She was an unfamiliar character to me, but her fleshed out backstory hinted that she plays more of a role in Star Wars canon, so I wasn’t surprised to realize she can be found in many Star Wars graphic novels.” And guess who wrote that short story? None other than Kieron Gillen! Gillen’s work in these Star Wars novels and The Wicked and The Divine series shows that he has an excellent handle on pop-culture.

The artwork was appropriately dark hued with black gutters. Artist Salvador Larroca ably recreated characters from the movies while creating new inhabitants in the Star Wars universe that fit in with the space look we have come to expect from the movies. I really enjoyed the cover art on chapter two from Adi Granov that showed Vader striding by a bunch of Stormtroopers and Tagge with his cape flying out behind him and the coloring by Edgar Delgado was spot-on.

This book fits in the approved Disney canon, but it didn’t move me as I am really only a fan of the Star Wars movies and I wasn’t invested in the narrative. Because all the action is between two movies you know the main characters will live while new characters will die, thus when Palpatine threatened Vader with replacing him with new apprentices, I was not worried in the least. So while I understand on one level that this is a well written and illustrated graphic novel, I will not continue with the series due to my personal preference for the movies.



The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Four + Five

The Wicked + The Divine has been a challenge for me to read for the series seems to have a fantastic idea, but an incomplete follow through. I was intrigued enough after Volume One to read Volumes Two + Three, but then I took a big break. A recent review by the site Catchy Title Goes Here put it back on my radar and I picked up the next two volumes to see what happened next.

Volume Four: Rising Action

Volume three utilized a gimmick of using other artists besides Jamie McKelvie to give their interpretations on the Gods, and I was very unhappy with it, as McKelvie’s art has been the one constant pulling me back into the often confusing story. Luckily the beautifully colored and vivid imagery is back in this volume.

An opening character list with a brief synopsis was very much appreciated, as not only is there a big cast but it has been months since I last read volume three. The Pantheon has always consisted of twelve Gods so Laura’s ascension to Persephone, the thirteenth God, has altered the status quo. Ananke, the God’s keeper, is thrown off kilter and struggles with what to do next. Woden assists her evil manipulations, and ties for the worst God along with self-indulgent Sakhmet. I’m confused as to what Ananke wants to do with Woden’s machine, and Persephone’s action at the end will be sure to throw everything into chaos.

Image result for the wicked and the divine gods

Volume Five: Imperial Phase Part 1

This volume opens with mock magazine articles about a few of the Gods with The Morrigan,  Baal, Woden, deceased Lucifer, and Amaterasu getting shout-outs. Then the creators have a bit of fun with featuring IRL artists and writers in this fake magazine.

There is FINALLY way more character development with all the remaining Gods moving in and out of each others lives, and Baal stepping up to be a father figure to Minerva. Alliances are formed and then broken, as they prepare for “The Great Darkness” while their former mentor Ananke’s motives are still extremely suspect. Some of the Gods are trying to understand the bigger picture around them, while others give themselves to anarchy and extreme hedonism. The ending remains anyone’s guess. I’m still terribly confused as to what is going on, but I will be picking up Volume Six that just came out last week next time I make a graphic novel run.

As a coincidence, as I was driving home last night, I was listening to Muse when the song Undisclosed Desires played and I heard the lyrics “You trick your lovers, that you’re wicked and divine, you may be a sinner, but your innocence is mine”.  Has this favored song of mine, unconsciously influenced my decision to keep on with this series???


The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Two + Three

The first volume of The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act, was an intriguing book with fantastic art but a confusing story. It captured my interest enough to give the next two volumes a go, although I was apprehensive.  It turns out for good reason.

Volume 2: Fandemonium

In the first volume, we met eight of the twelve gods, while two are referred to but not seen, and the other two are mysteries. In this volume Laura meets two more known gods, Inanna and Dionysus, and again she is privy to the behind the scenes chaos of the Pantheon as she still tries to investigate Lucifer’s death. The reporter from the first volume, and two of her camera crew, are transformed into the Three Norns, completing the empty spot in the circle of the Gods. This devastates Laura who had hoped that she would be the last chosen.

We learn a bit more about the 90 year cycle of recurrence from Ananke, the God’s ancient guide. A tiny bit of backstory is given to explain why the Gods cycle through the ages, but in truth, it was more perplexing than enlightening. And we also learn that she is the not the benevolent leader she wants everyone to believe she is.

Artist McKelvie is obviously a fan of maps and charts, along with numbered sequences. His 1,2,3,4’s got a bit overused. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see them.

The volume certainly ended with a bang…


Volume 3: Commercial Suicide

This volume gives guest illustrators a chance to interpret the Gods. I was not a fan of this, as one of the only reasons I have stuck with this series is because I love the art. Although Gillen was still penning all the stories, some didn’t coalesce for me.

One story stood out, and it was basically a stand alone. We finally meet Tara, the most beautiful of all the Gods, and her story is a perfect example of all that is wrong with social media.  People love to build up and then tear down people who don’t fit their preconceived notions of what that should be, and this scrutiny tore at Tara, as she already had issues of this sort when she was still a human. I wish there was more to Tara’s story- as it was one of the best chapters in the story thus far, and I feel the abrupt ending was not justified. This story was Issue #13 when released in comics, and was illustrated by Tula Lotay, an amazing artist.

We also get back stories on Gods Morrigan and Baphomet, the underworld couple with an unhealthy dynamic. It broke my heart to see how Morrigan, both as a human and a God, excused Baphomet’s behavior in the name of love. I have been blessed to have a stable no-drama relationship, so I just don’t get women who let their significant other abuse them emotionally. Baphomet was undeserving of all the second chances he was given.

The other stories didn’t push the narrative far, with some Gods getting a lion’s share of the attention, while others remain an enigma.

So three volumes in, and I am still on the fence about the series. My library owned the first volume, and I recently ordered the next four. That leaves volume four and five taunting me. Should I read them? (Months later, I did! Volume 4 +5)


The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act

“Every ninety years twelve Gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.”

The book begins in London, with fan girl Laura attending a music concert of Amaterasu, one of the young Gods, and while there befriends Lucifer, another of the Gods. Lucifer seems to randomly pick Laura, and now Laura is privy to some of the secrets of the Pantheon. We meet several more of the Gods, who are pop-culture saturated enigmas. A murder occurs, but who did it and why? Laura is on the case, along with a reporter, trying to understand more about this generation’s newest Gods and the miracles and power that they wield.

I read a previous Marvel book from the same author/illustrator duo of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Young Avengers: Style>Substance, and liked many of the fresh illustrations but thought the title was apropos. This book too seems to have a fantastic idea, but an incomplete follow through. I needed a cheat sheet to keep track of who was who, and wish I had discovered the following graphic sooner. The world building was sketchy and character back stories were non-existent. There is the briefest mention that the Gods were originally regular teens, before the deities merged  with them, and this new fame and the knowledge they will be dead in two years corrupts many of them.

Thus, this first volume makes a huge gamble- it doesn’t give you all the information you need about who all the characters are- it deliberately leaves you in the dark on four of the twelve Gods. Will this confuse and piss you off or will you be intrigued and want to read further into the series to put it all together? In my case, it was both. My initial feeling was frustration and wondering why this book had good buzz. But a fantastic college student at my library (MD!) told me the second volume gets much better. The vivid and beautiful art work plus the promising premise of the story are worth the gamble and I have the next few volumes on hold. So…my final decision on whether the series is wicked or divine has not been made yet.


I pushed on and read Volumes 2 + 3! Then I read Volumes 4+ 5!

Young Avengers: Style>Substance

Gillen, Kieron & Jamie McKelvie. Young Avengers: Style>Substance. 2013.

This fun book did have more style than substance!


Six interesting Young Avengers come together to combat an evil that Wiccan inadvertently summons into their world.

Some of the spread layouts were awesome! The two page layout of Noh-Varr and Kate escaping and then again of Noh-Varr coming to the rescue at the night club (with a numbered key!) were very creative.

Variant art and book cover were great.

When Loki breaks the fourth wall by handing out a flyer to the reader. The hero application is amusing and informative.

Wiccan’s and Hulking’s relationship.



(Lack of) Substance:

Marvel Boy has been yet again recast? This time a Kree alien named Noh-Varr, who suddenly is a good guy when he previously had been against the Young Avengers and Runaways during the Civil War epic. Kate’s cool with that?

The explanation of Speed’s whereabouts was extremely lame. In fact I thought Noh-Varr was Speed on first glance.

I can’t keep up with the Loki incarnations. This time he’s a young mischievous teen called Kid Loki.

I always wonder when a group shot is shown, why an author/illustrator picks the characters they do. When they go to the Avenger’s mansion they talk to Scarlet Witch (that makes sense as she is Wiccan’s kinda mom), Captain America, Havok, Rogue, Thor and Wolverine. Why them? Just curious.

The “parents” issue was convoluted and didn’t make a lot of sense.

Miss America seemed grumpy instead of mysterious and knowledgeable.

The inconsistencies between this story and other Young Avenger stories.


This was the start of an enjoyable but light Marvel series for the Young Avengers, that I feel would be appealing towards teen readers.



Blog at

Up ↑