Monday, April 12, 2021

Star Wars Comics: Tales of the Jedi #5, Classic Star Wars #17-19, Droids #1

David Roach, artist for Tales of the Jedi #5, is based in Wales.  He got his start with a self-published fanzine called Hellfire in the late '80s.  In addition to Star Wars, he has worked on such titles as Batman and Judge Dredd.  Beyond comics, he has illustrated several books for Dungeons & Dragons.

My Recent Reads

Tales of the Jedi #5: The Saga of Nomi Sunrider, Part 3
Originally Published February 1, 1994
Writer: Tom Veitch
Artist: David Roach
In-Story Timeline: 3,999 BBY
  • Thon begins Nomi's Jedi training.  She still refuses to learn to use a lightsaber.
  • With the help of a holocron, he teaches her the history of the Force.
  • Finhead Stonebone and his goons arrive, intent on stealing Thon's adegan crystals for Bogga the Hutt.
  • Thon surrenders to them but telepathically convinces Nomi to use the Force - and the lightsaber he gifted her - to fight them off, freeing Thon.
  • Thon says the holocron prophesies that Nomi will be a great Jedi.

Classic Star Wars #17
March 1, 1994
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1983
Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson
In-Story Timeline: 0 ABY

  • Race for Survival continues.
  • Luke gets the Rebel fleet safely past the solar flare but his use of the Force to do so draws Darth Vader's attention.  He knows it's Luke and for the first time, at least in the comic strip, he reveals that he is Luke's father.  (Bear in mind, not news for the readers, even at the time.  Empire had come out three years before.)
  • The Paradise Detour begins.  The story ran from July 11 - October 2, 1983.
  • After running past the solar flare, the Millennium Falcon must stop on an apparently uninhabited planet for repairs.
  • Except it's not uninhabited.  When Luke goes to check things out while Han and Chewie fix the ship, young Skywalker runs into an old friend, Tanith Shire!
  • But when he chases after her, he discovers she's another woman entirely, S'ybll.  Then she runs off and when Luke runs after her, he runs into the Night Beast instead.
  • Something weird's going on here...

Classic Star Wars #18
April 1, 1994
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1983
  • A Paradise Detour continues.
  • S'ybll is a witch, one with shape-changing powers.  In a Grimm-esque tale, she attempts to coerce Luke into staying with her so she can drain hm of youthful energy for herself.
  • When he resists, she resolves to kill him, intending to entrap his rescue party - Han and Chewie - instead.
  • In the ensuing duel - S'ybill taking the form of Darth Vader - she is exhausted of energy and finally dies.  Luke is able to escape.
  • A New Beginning begins - ha!  The story ran from October 3 - December 25, 1983.
  • The Rebels set up their new headquarters on Hoth.
  • The Millennium Falcon is a late arrival because of the detour.  It appears they were followed out of hyperspace by a strange ship - an obvious cause for concern if the new base is to remain a secret.
  • As the issue closes, Han, Luke and Chewie head out to confront the trespasser.

Classic Star Wars #19
May 1, 1994
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1983

via Wookieepedia

  • A New Beginning continues.
  • The intruder is an old friend of Han's, Raskar.
  • Raskar makes no secret of the fact that he intends to claim Jabba the Hutt's bounty on Han unless our smuggler friend can make him a better offer.
  • Wishing to draw attention away from the new Rebel base, Luke concocts a plan: convincing Raskar that Han has stashed his reward money from the Rebellion on Hoth.
  • Held at gunpoint, Han takes Raskar and his goons down to Hoth where they crash land in an icy chasm.  
  • Our adventurers dig their way out through a cavern, where they discover something bright and shiny. 
  • We don't know what it is yet.

Droids #1: The Kalarba Adventures 1
April 1994
Dan Thorsland/Bill Hughes
In-Story Timeline: 5.5 BBY
  • We join Artoo and Threepio in a time before their encounter with Luke Skywalker and friends.  They live in the Kalarba system with the Pitareeze family as hired guardians of young Nak.  They are much abused by their mischiveous charge.
  • As much as I love R2-D2 and C-3PO, I'm not a fan of stories which focus on them.  Regular readers may recall that the droid stories were far and away my least favorite episodes in Clone Wars.  As such, I did not go into this issue with high hopes.
  • And yet, it's not terrible.  Mind you, I don't think this is a series I will follow any further.  Historically, those in charge of marketing the franchise see the droids (and also the Ewoks) as an easy in with younger kids.  The human lead is usually a child, in this case Nak.  The tales rarely hold up much interest for adult readers, nor do they seem intended to do so.  As keen as I always am to explore the galaxy far, far away, I don't think droid stories are the way I want to do that.
  • I am a little curious about the .5 part of 5.5 BBY but not curious enough.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Star Trek: Reunion

Episode: "Reunion"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 7
Original Air Date: November 5, 1990

Captain Picard, quite surprisingly and controversially, is chosen to arbitrate the selection of the new Klingon leader.  There are two candidates: Duras and Gowron.  One of them, however, killed K'mpec, the previous leader, slowly poisoning him.  Picard must discover which before making his decision.

But wait, there's more.  K'Ehleyr is back and she has a son, Alexander.  What's more, Worf is the father and this is the first he's learned of the child!  Our favorite security officer takes on a lot in this story: reconnecting with his ex, encountering Klingons for the first time since his discommendation, gaining a son and almost immediately taking on primary responsibility for him, leading an investigation of a bombing attack, grieving the loss of his ex, avenging her murder and disappointing his captain.

K'Ehleyr, episode director Jonathan Frakes
and Worf on set via Memory Alpha

Question: Are there babysitting services on the Enterprise?  At one point, it seems like Worf and K'Ehleyr leave Alexander by himself.  Maybe they made arrangements off camera?  Or is this part of a broader pattern of neglect?  Or simply a narrative oversight?  (Children are often "forgotten" on television)

Obviously, this is one of the more important Worf stories in the series and, frankly, one of the most significant Klingon tales in the whole franchise.  Gowron is an important character moving forward, for both Next Gen and Deep Space Nine.  

Acting Notes

Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) was born March 25, 1950 in New York City.  His long association with Star Trek - mostly as Gowron but a few other roles, too - has been his highest profile work.  The eye thing helped him get the part!  

Other credits include the Jim Carrey film The Mask and guest appearances on Cheers, Knight Rider and MacGyver.  He and his wife have triplet sons.

I am generally disdainful of meme culture but these are too good not to share:

Thursday, April 8, 2021

On the Coffee Table: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling

via Amazon

It's Year 7 and Harry Potter is a hunted man.  Lord Voldemort's minions at the Ministry of Magic have declared Harry Undesirable No. 1.  As such, he can't even safely show his face at Hogwarts.  Fortunately, he has plenty to occupy his time.  Dumbledore, before his own passing, set Harry on a mission to find Horcruxes, objects in which Voldemort has implanted pieces of his own soul.  Unless they are all destroyed, the Dark Lord can never truly be killed.  Fortunately, Harry has help.  The ever faithful Hermione and Ron are both along for the adventure.

This seventh and final book in the series is different from all of the others in many respects.  For starters, a lot of characters die.  Harry has encountered death before: Cedric, Sirius, Dumbledore, etc.  But in Year 7, no one is off limits.  From early in the story, it becomes clear that the body count will be high and the emotional wounds significant, for both Harry and the reader.  Perhaps even more importantly, relatively little of the story is spent at Hogwarts.  Since Harry, Ron and Hermione are all essentially PNGs on the grounds, they spend most of the book on the run.  As such, Deathly Hallows feels like a more traditional quest adventure tale than the previous installments.  And yet even that narrative is different from the usual - takes quite a while to gain traction.

And then there's the climactic scene...


Regular visitors may already be aware that I'm not a huge fan of resurrection narratives.  As such, Harry's whole dying but not really dying so Voldemort can finally die deal would not have been my first choice had I been the author.  However, there is a feeling of inevitability to it.  A simple duel wouldn't have been enough.  There had to be a catch.


Even in light of all this, I find the conclusion of the series to be satisfying.  There are moments of redemption for Dudley, Kreacher and even the Malfoys.  Neville finally comes into his own.  Everyone ends up pairing off appropriately.  And then there's Snape.

The Snape story is the hidden gem of the franchise and the primary failure of the movies is the fact that not enough was done with it.  Chapter 33, "The Prince's Tale" is worth the entire series and I don't say that lightly.  Snape was the main reason I knew I would eventually read all of the books over again when I first finished 14 years ago.  One does read Snape differently from the beginning when one knows what's coming.  It's still not easy to like him but it is easier to understand him.  

I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this wonderful wizarding world.  I also enjoy the ever expanding media universe it has generated.  For me, I doubt anything will quite live up to these seven original books but I appreciate the fact Rowling has left so much room for others to explore her creation.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Bitters of the Month: Hella

This month, rather than testing flavors, I'm testing brands.  Hella bitters are produced by Hella Cocktail Company, based in Long Island City, New York.  As a gift, I got small bottles of their aromatic and orange bitters.  Obviously, head-to-head matchups would be required.

Aromatic Bitters Battle: Angostura vs. Hella

Obviously, Manhattans were the way to go here.  In fact, there is a recipe on the Hella bottle, though I stuck to my own proportions.  Both were perfectly nice.  The Hella was fruitier.

Winner and New Champion: Hella

This is no small upset, folks.

Orange Bitters Battle: Regan's vs. Hella

For this one, I followed the Old Fashioned recipe on the Hella bottle.  It wasn't exactly an equal fight.  The Regan's bottle yielded bigger "dashes" than the Hella bottle.  Well, that's on them, right? 

My wife didn't taste much difference anyway.  I sensed more orange from the Regan's than the Hella but that might not have been the case if I'd been more precise.  Oh well.  All else being equal, the cheaper product wins.

Winner and Still Champion: Regan's

Monday, April 5, 2021

Star Wars Comics: Classic Star Wars #14-16, Tales of the Jedi #2-4

Tales of the Jedi was the first of many Star Wars projects for artist Chris Gossett.  Beyond comic books, he has provided art for several video games, including Apocalypse and Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle.

My Recent Reads

Classic Star Wars #14
Originally published November 1, 1993
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1982
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: Al Williamson
In-Story Timeline: 0 ABY
  • Revenge of the Jedi continues.
  • Admiral Ackbar has a brilliant plan: the Imperial skimmers who pursue the Rebels are lured across the same lake where the Millennium Falcon is trapped.  The "worm beasts" which dragged the Falcon to the bottom of the lake release it in order to attack the skimmers instead.  
  • The Mon Calamari bring the Falcon back to the surface and the good guys escape.
  • Doom Mission begins.  The story ran from January 24 - April 17, 1983.
  • While preparing to leave Yavin IV to establish a new headquarter base on Hoth (non-canon), the Rebellion is launching fruitless attacks on Darth Vader's new battle cruiser.
  • General Dodonna's young, handsome son Vrad volunteers to lead the next mission, armed with the power gem attained a few arcs ago to penetrate the cruiser's defenses.  Luke is assigned to be Vrad's backup pilot.
  • The problem: Luke believes that Vrad ducked out of the previous attack, faking damage to his own ship to cover his desertion.
  • Luke confronts Vrad and the two brawl.

Classic Star Wars #15
December 1, 1993
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1983
via Amazon

  • Doom Mission continues.
  • Vrad admits his guilt to Luke in the midst of their brawl.
  • Luke wins the fight, without even going all Jedi.  Vrad pulls a blaster on him but backs down in the end.
  • On the mission, Vrad weasels out again.  He maroons Luke on a remote planet, then goes to cut a deal with the Empire to spare his life in exchange for the power gem.  
  • Fortunately, Han was wise to Vrad and was tailing them in the Falcon.  He rescues Luke.
  • Vrad has a change of heart and turns hero at the last minute, carrying out the mission to pierce the battle cruiser's shields.
  • In sacrificing himself, Vrad left an opening for Han to attack with the Falcon and damage the cruiser enough to delay the Imperial attack on the Rebel base.
  • Race for Survival begins.  The story ran from April 18 - July 10, 1983.
  • With the Empire closing in, the Rebels must evacuate Yavin IV and head to Hoth (non-canon).
  • After taking off himself in his X-Wing, Luke learns that General Dodonna, now grieving his son, ducked out of his transport at the last moment.

Classic Star Wars #16
February 1, 1994
Goodwin/Williamson and Allen Nunis
  • Race for Survival continues.
  • While the Mon Calamari attack the Imperial fleet to provide cover, the Rebels make their escape from Yavin IV, heading to Hoth.
  • Luke is leading the main fleet while Han tests an alternate more dangerous route.
  • Han's leads past a solar flare and even he isn't crazy enough to recommend they try it.  But Leia chooses it in the end anyway.

Tales of the Jedi #2: Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, Part 2
November 15, 1993
Tom Veitch/Chris Gossett
In-Story Timeline: 4,000 BBY
  • The Nebulon Ranger crash lands in the Onderon wilderness.
  • We learn of Tott Doneeta's special Jedi superpower: he can communicate with animals.  Tott convinces some Boma to take the Jedi to the Beast Lord Modon Kira's citadel.
  • Turns out, Princess Galia staged her own abduction.  Ulic, Cay and Tott stumble upon Galia's wedding to Oron, the Beast Lord's son.
  • During the wedding banquet, Modon explains that all in Iziz is not as it seems.  The royal family has been under the influence of the Dark Side of the Force for 400 years.
  • Modon plans to attack Iziz and he wants the Jedi's help.  Ulic advocates for a more diplomatic solution.
  • That fails and the Beast Lords attack.
  • After some back and forth, the Beast Lords win with unexpected help from Master Arca.  Dark power is driven out of Queen Amanoa, though Arca warns that the danger has not entirely passed.

Tales of the Jedi #3: The Saga of Nomi Sunrider, Part 1
December 1, 1993
Veitch/Janine Johnston
In-Story Timeline: 3,999 BBY
  • New story, new protagonist: Nomi Sunrider.
  • Nomi is married to a Jedi Knight, Andur.  They have a daughter, Vima, and a protocol droid, A-3DO.  Noma and Vima are also Force-sensitive.
  • Andur's teacher, Chamma, sends the family to the Stenness system to deliver Adegan crystals to Jedi Master Thon.
  • Along the way, Andur is murdered by minions of Bogga the Hutt bent on stealing the crystals.
  • Nomi, who has to this point been reluctant to pursure Jedi training, picks up Andur's lightsaber and fends off the goons, killing two of them.
  • Nomi and Vima complete the delivery to Thon, though not before mistaking him as a mere beast of burden for Oss Willum who is actually Thon's apprentice.

Nomi, Vima and Thon via Wookieepedia

  • Thon is an important revelation for the franchise: not all Jedi are humanoid! Thon is a Tchuukthai.  

Tales of Jedi #4: The Saga of Nomi Sunrider, Part 2
January 18, 1994
Veitch/David Roach
via Amazon

  • After ignoring her for several months to allow her to grieve, Thon finally takes up Jedi training for both Nomi and Vima.
  • Nomi accepts the training but with the understanding she will never use a lightsaber again.  She is still haunted by those she killed in the previous issue.  As she points out, Thon doesn't use one.  Why should she?  Thon asserts that it is likely her destiny to use one but accepts her condition for the time being.
  • Meanwhile, elsewhere in the system, an ore hauler is attacked by pirates led by Finhead Stonebone.  Unfortunately for the pirates, Bogga had been hired for security and his minions quickly capture the pirates.
  • Brought before Bogga, Finhead is coerced to take over the never completed job of stealing the Adegan crystals from Thon.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Star Trek: Legacy

Episode: "Legacy"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 6
Original Air Date: October 29, 1990

A Federation freighter crash lands on Turkana IV, Tasha Yar's homeworld.  The survivors are taken hostage by a dissident faction.  In their effort to rescue the crewmen, our Enterprise friends allies themselves with Ishara (Beth Toussaint), Tasha's sister and member of yet another faction.

The episode provides a lesson in friendship for Data who quickly grows close to Ishara.  The question, of course, is whether he or any of the rest of our heroes can trust her.  Toussaint is strong in the role and her hair... definitely memorable.  Maybe even a little distracting.  I saw someone on the 'Net describe it as the "Jordache look" - of the era, to be sure.  Overall, I'd say the story is highly effective, a stronger Data story than "Brothers" in my opinion.  He learns and therefore grows.

80th Episode

After completing production on "Legacy," the cast and crew held a special party to celebrate The Next Generation's 80th episode.  The significance: Star Trek's original series only had 79 episodes.  True, the originals also boasted an animated series and, to that point, five feature films.  That acknowledged, there was no longer any denying that the new series was a success, capable of standing on its own merits.

As such, this seems a natural juncture at which to take stock.  3+ seasons in, what is the new series bringing to the franchise and are the links to the original still meaningful?

What's new?

Without question, TNG kicks TOS's butt all over this place when it comes to both character development and world building aboard the Enterprise.  The former was clear from the first episode.  To be fair, character was a lesser consideration for the original series.  Nonetheless, the fact remains that we already know more about Geordi La Forge, TNG's least developed principal, than we do about even Captain Kirk.  As for the ship, we see parts of the Enterprise that either weren't included in previous models or weren't considered meaningful enough to explore.  

And again, I can't overemphasize what Patrick Stewart brought to Star Trek.  Set aside the fact that Picard's leadership style is quite different from Kirk's and therefore allows for different stories.  This is about the actor's approach to the work.  Stewart has a strong intuitive sense of his role in a story, on both the micro- and macro-levels.  As I pointed out in another post this week, he can do a lot with a little.  Through two miniseries as Karla, he never spoke a word.  His scenes are unforgettable even though they're not really about him.  They're about George (Alec Guinness).  While Karla's presence is essential, Stewart understands he's there to support the protagonist's story.

Similarly, in Star Trek, Stewart is equally effective when Picard is leading the story and when his is the supporting role.  His posture and, my goodness, his voice project undeniable presence on screen but he knows better than to fill up the entire space in every scene.  Few have ever led an ensemble television cast with such elegance.

Is this still Star Trek?

I believe Star Trek is, at its heart, about an approach to confronting "the other."  In the late 1960s, the United States was in the thick of both the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.  A message of tolerance within a story genre that had long perpetuated fear and distrust was bold and captivating.  Next Gen definitely carries on that more hopeful message.  But the world of the late '80s/early '90s - at least, the white part of the world - saw itself as more accepting.  Having a Klingon on the Enterprise bridge in 1987 was less revolutionary than having a black woman on the bridge in 1966.  I can say as an adolescent in that era that we were taught, in the more liberal families, not to see the differences in others.  They are less important than our similarities.  Once again, Star Trek challenged conventional thinking.

Thanks to the stronger character development, TNG was better able to explore the role of the individual in a modern, pluralistic society.  How is it to live in two cultures at once? (Worf)  How does one balance obligations to family with one's personal ambitions? (Deanna and Beverly, though from different perspectives)  What are the rights of an artificially intelligent life form? (Data)  What role does one's specific disability play in shaping the self-identity of a disabled person? (Geordi)  

In short, TNG is Trek on a more personal level.  In fact, this week's story is a good example. Questions about whether or not our friends are on the right side of the fight are less important than Data's experience of personal betrayal.

The best news: there are still nearly four seasons to go.

Set a course, Ensign.  Engage!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Squid Mixes: May Day

A May Day combines gin, bitter citrus apĂ©ritif (I used Campari), lemon juice, simple syrup, rhubarb bitters and sparkling white wine with a lemon twist.  I got my recipe from Cocktail Party.  I assume the name of the drink is a play on the surname of the inventor, bartender Jane Danger.

The flavor is bright.  The rhubarb comes through with a tangy sour.  The Campari brings the pink color and a bitter finish.