Monday, January 29, 2024

Between Books - Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 5

Cover for Star Wars Onmibus: A Long Time Ago Volume 5 showing a stormtrooper brandishing a blaster with assorted aliens in the background.

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago...Volume 5 published by Dark Horse captures the final issues of Marvel's original Star Wars comic run, with issues 86 through 107.  But would this final volume capture the same magic of earlier volumes.

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 5 continues to deal with the Rebellion's decisions after the end of the Galactic Civil War.  The Rebellion has become a Republic, and they no longer have the clear cut villains of The Empire.  Instead, the Rebels attempt to create a new galactic government in the face of new violent planetary struggles.  Finally the Republic is forced to come back together to face a new enemy to freedom in their universe, the Nagai.  But the Nagai's history may not seem to be all that it is!

The ending of the Marvel Star Wars comics is mostly helmed by writer Jo Duffy with typically Cynthia Martin providing pencils.  Honestly, this duo somewhat is lacking from me.  I continue to applaud Duffy for her attempt to create a story of what happens to the rebels after victory.  I honestly love much of Duffy's Marvel contributions.  But in the end she is forced to create a new enemy, like other writers, to unite our heroes.  But at times the results seem somewhat comical with the Tofs and Hiromi.  If anything it at times appears and feels cartoony with the Martin pencils.  And maybe that was the point with the title taking on a more kid focused approach, like a Saturday Morning cartoon.  And in the end, I guess comics are for kids...mostly.  And perhaps in an attempt to conclude the story, the final issues at times feel rushed and with plot holes.  And I know it was the 1980s, but there is an attempt to link a female character romantically with her former male abuser that makes my skin crawl.

I do have to say that the opening issue, "The Alderaan Factor" written by Randy Stradley who would go on to be a Dark Horse Star Wars comic legend is fantastic.  The story is emotional and dark, leaving adult readers satisfied with a well-told and thought provoking story!

These Dark Horse editions are well out of publication with Marvel taking publication rights for these stories back and including them in their Epic Collections.  Today a paperbook copy of this collections costs over $200.  That leaves me recommending the Kindle version, unless one is a competitionist!

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago...Volume 5 is honestly not as strong as earlier contributions to this series.  One at times feels as if writers were struggling to tell a story in a new and unworn path in the post Return of the Jedi galaxy.   One has to applaud the efforts.  But in the end it is easy to see why this series was one that Marvel no longer saw as a key title after over 100 issues.  Perhaps, there were simply too many Zeltrons! 


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Monday, January 22, 2024

Between Books - Star Wars: Crimson Climb


Audiobook cover showing Qi'ra standing in front of the Crimson Dawn symbol, a red circle half filled

Am I the bad guy in fandom? Star Wars High Republic titles have failed me. It’s left me feeling like I’ve been sitting on my front porch yelling at the kids to get off my Star Wars front yard! For Pete’s sake, I’ve been reading Star Trek books! Can my Grumpy Dwarf attitude ever find relief?

Star Wars: Crimson Climb by E.K. Johnston starts right where the movie Star Wars: Solo ends. Han Solo’s first love Qi’ra has made her move to take the leadership of the criminal organization Crimson Dawn. We enter the immediate moment after, right at the top of the syndicate. What happens next is not the question that Johnston explores! Instead, this book answers a question that we may have had when we watched the movie, how did Qi’ra move from a human scumrat in the White Worms of Correllia, where she met Han, to the right-hand of the leader of a powerful crime family? Star Wars: Crimson Climb moves the readers from Solo’s escape from Correllia and the impact it had on Qi’ra’s standings in the White Worms. From that moment, we follow her as she ages, leaves the White Worms, and matures from the savvy girl to the wise and powerful woman that Han meets again years later. Johnston takes us into Qi’ra’s mind as she navigates the capers and obstacles in her way, and we better understand the character's depth.

I liked it. But why?

I think a big piece of it is simply, it’s well-written. Johnston does a great job of giving us a story with tension, action, internal struggle, and emotional depth. Could this book work outside of the Star Wars galaxy? I think a lot of it could and would. It does help that we already have an introduction to Qi’ra and unanswered questions, but maybe that just allowed for some shortcuts for setup. But honestly, I was tense and stressed, and Johnston even gives us the ending of the book by having the start and end align with Star Wars: Solo and I’ve read comics that go beyond that moment.

I also think that using Qi’ra who moviegoers have already seen as smart and conflicted and tied to one of the big three Star Wars heroes helps a lot. We may never get a sequel to payoff events on the screen for Star Wars: Solo but the movie left us with questions and maybe a desire to know more. Now with Marvel Comics, who have featured an older more powerful Qi’ra, and this book which fills in gaps with the movie, we can find some satisfaction in open questions. Additionally, having seen her and supporting characters and settings on screen, I think it really helps to settle the mind by providing mental images that help tell not distract from the story.

Confession time! The High Republic brought me to a point where I also didn’t read this volume but listened as an audiobook. Narrator Olivia Hack does a wonderful voice of changing voice tone, dialect, and volume to the extent that you sometimes forget it’s unjust one narrator. Additionally, the production includes a soundtrack and audio cues that make this a super enjoyable audio adventure.

Yes, I do like Star Wars, see how I feel about Star Wars: Crimson Climb by E.K. Johnston. It’s a story full of tension, especially emotional, set in the high-paced Star Wars criminal element! I enjoyed the adventure, especially as an audiobook full of audio production elements that supported a solid story. 


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Monday, January 8, 2024

Between Books - it's a small world (Disney Press)


Coverful book cover from it's a small world book showing cute playful children of the world around a it's a small world facade

Recently I read the Little Golden Books offering honoring the classic it’s a small world. I found myself disappointed, yes I know it’s a kids book! But part of my frustration is because of the existence of the Disney Press book honoring the Sherman Brothers and their attraction masterpiece.

it’s a small world
with words and music by Richard Mr. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and illustrations by Joey Chou provides a literary tribute to the Disney attraction. The book matches the lyrics of the Sherman Brothers with Chou art that do not provide direct lifts from the attraction scenes but interpretations that match the fun and meaning and the words and sets. The hardcover also comes with a CD which has a copy of the song.

This is a really successful way to bring the attraction to kids and Disney adults. The book relies on the song lyrics, with every line but “it’s a small world” refrains included in the song in the correct order. The scenes are cute and fun, which while not Mary Blair figures do stay in the spirit of fun and play. I do love Chou art, with these easily being prints in a child or adult’s room. I think everyone in the Between house has an item with Chou Disney art. The scenes keep to an order that will help kids learn the pacing of the ride, with really only the last page being Chou’s take on an ending in unity instead of him presenting the white room finale. This version is also from 2011, which can explain the CD inclusion. I mean, do you even know where the CD player is in your home?

This book is colorful, the same as the Little Golden Book. But this is the winner for me. It’s just more expensive being a larger hardcover and out of print. I’d like to say there’s room enough for both versions, but you really need to use some or all of the lyrics to pull off small world packaging for me! 

it’s a small world with words by the Shermans and art by Joey Chou is a fun and cute presentation of it’s a small world. It presents the classic words to the audience in an enjoyable fashion to help kids and adults stay connected to the attraction. 


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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Between Books - it's a small world (a Little Golden Book)

I 100 percent get I’m not the target audience for a Little Golden Book. But I am a target audience for media related to it’s a small world! I’m mature like that. Sadly, the Little Golden Book adaptation of the attraction to me fails on so many levels.

it’s a small world by Lauren Clauss, illustrated by Steph Lew, and designed by Winnie Ho introduces kids to the classic Disney attraction. The text tells the story of a group of friends traveling the world, through the attraction, and all the things they see. On each page, children say hello to the reader in their native language. Every page is illustrated with cute adaptations of attraction scenes.

I’ll start with the good. The images are cute. They really are. I can see them decorating a young child’s room, especially if their parents are Disney Adults. It is the Disneyland Park version of the ride as Disney characters like Aladdin, Jasmine, Woody, and Jessie are in the scenes. They are cute.

But the art really can’t get me over the bad. This is an attraction defined by a song written by Disney legends! There is no reference, foreshadowing hint, allusion, introduction, or otherwise direct copy of the words. I have read, and will need to review, other books that do a much better job at introducing the song to kids, by actually, wait for it, using the lyrics! Second, if this book is to introduce the attraction to kids or remind them of it, the scenes are not in the right order. The images jump around in a way that if a kid reads the book over and over again…because kids don’t do that at all…they may be really confused when they ride the attraction for the first time.

it’s a small world, the Little Golden Book edition, fails for me on several levels. I don’t know why the production team ran away or ignored the Sherman Brothers’ lyrics. Maybe that would be too close to other books? Maybe they were instructed to treat the lyrics as words that cannot be named! But if you write a it’s a small world inspired book and never drop a verse, it’s likely going to fail for Disney fans.   


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