The covers: A foursome to find, as if they’re a First Order lieutenant on the run. The Regular cover by Paul Renauld has Phasma on a cliff, holding a monstrous rifle, looking down at a monstrous collection of tentacles that are seeking her. Behind her are two moons and the parked TIE fighter with its pilot TN-3465. This is just too dark to make out the details in the art, especially on Phasma’s armor. The Movie Variant cover by Dan Mumford reuses poster artwork that he provided for a limited edition poster at IMAX showings of The Force Awakens. For those who’ve never seen or had access to pick up this illustration, this is a fantastic way to do so, and I thank Marvel for providing this opportunity to collectors. This image shows Phasma standing amid the wreckage of a city that’s aflame, as several Stormtroopers walk in the distance. Great line work and terrific coloring. This is one to find. The other outstanding Variant cover comes courtesy of Greg Hildebrandt. This has Phasma dead center urging her flamethrower stormtroopers on, with them unleashing hell all around them. They’re emerging from a crater and look fantastic. The smoke from their wake is covering the sky, though two moons are still visible just above the title character’s head. Outstanding image and spectacular coloring. The final Variant cover is by Caspar Winjngaard and I’m not a fan. Phasma is atop a worm-like creature reminiscent of the sandworms of Dune, though their coloring makes them seem like rebellious plants. She’s got a chain wrapped around the beast’s mouth to keep it from swallowing her as another comes to its companion’s aid. In the lower right, two troopers on the ground are blasting another beast and look to be food for the monster. There’s not much detail to the creatures and the coloring makes this look like fan-art. Disappointing. Overall grades: A B, Movie A, Hildebrandt Variant A, and Winjngaard Variant C-.
The story: In pursuit of Lieutenant Sol Rivas, who has records of her transgression on the now destroyed Starkiller base, Phasma is within a TIE fighter piloted by TN-3465. She tells the trooper she wants her to get closer so she can blow him out of the sky, but a complication is revealed: TN’s BB droid was in the process of repairing the ship when Phasma boarded and it hasn’t had time to repair the weapons systems. Disappointed, Phasma orders the pilot to keep a distance, but follow him. Rivas lands on Luprora, of which only unsuitable environmental conditions are known. They land within walking distance of Riva’s ship. The planet is very inhospitable, comprised of jagged cliffs and lots of water, which is shown through several waterfalls and many savage pools. Kelly Thompson has created a great character in TN-3465. The pilot is a great counterpart to Phasma and she voices concerns the reader has. She is subservient to Phasma, but is showing some independence, which hopefully doesn’t end with her doom by the series’ conclusion. That said, she’s much more enjoyable than Phasma because as an original creation, Thompson can do more with her. Phasma, being a movie character, is fairly locked into what can and cannot be done with her. I’m enjoying the title character more in this issue, but not as much as TN. There’s a very nice tease of something on Page 9 that had Thompson almost giving the reader something he or she wanted to see in Episode VII. The build on 11 is well done, and the encounter that follows top notch — very Star Wars. The new characters on 16 are good and their backstory, again, is very Star Wars. The editorial note that appears in the second panel on this page is useless, as the script addresses this concern on 17; it’s a very odd inclusion. The cliffhanger is good and I’m looking forward to how Phasma and TN get to their new destination and what they find there. Well, done, Ms. Thompson. Overall grade: B+
The art: Marco Checchetto is the issue’s artist and he does a spectacular job on the first three pages with the tight interiors of the TIE. The first full shot of Phasma on Page 1 is fantastic. The tiny eight panels at the bottom of the 2 and 3 are great: they’re tight on the characters, helping the dialogue come off as quick. I really don’t like the large panel on 4 because a photograph, or several, have been used to create the water effect. It looks like a photograph and takes the reader out of the story. Thankfully, this is the only time I noticed this huge an effect, leaving me praying that Checchetto doesn’t do it as big again, though it is used for spray on the final page. The next page has three panels that have only sounds, but show some terrific movement of the BB unit; I actually felt sad for what happens to the round droid. A terrific point of view shot ends Page 7 and should be employed in future issues. Even without the minor dialogue at the bottom of 8, Checchetto is doing such a good job giving TN personality while in her armor, I understood what was going through her mind as she made those actions. 9 is the page that will have the fans screaming for what it doesn’t contain, but suggested. Alas, it looks not to be until after The Last Jedi premieres. The design of the character in the first panel on 10 is great, and I’d love to have an action figure of this character, with the next best thing being John Tyler Christopher doing an Action Figure Variant cover of this look. 11 is a great build, with the visuals informing the reader of what’s about to happen. This character is really impressive on 12, with the design excellent. The full-paged splash on 14 is difficult to make out because of the coloring: too much of the art blends into itself. Flashbacks occur on 18 and they concisely give the history of a newly introduced race. The final page is a tease of troubles in Issue #3, with it showing just enough to have me intrigued by the obvious amount of action that’s to come. A good job by Checchetto. Overall grade: A-
The colors: The best colored pages of the book by Andres Mossa are to be found on the first three pages, with the reds used in the TIE fighter stellar. Once the characters arrive on Luprora, the colors go dark. It is, after all, a harsh environment, but the colors make the art difficult to see often, such as the bottom three panels on 5, most of 6, TN on 8, and all of 14. Had the colors been more differentiated, the art would have been easier to make out and the threats would have been more terrible. Due to their colors, the flashback sequences seem as though they’re set in the present. A yellow filter to age them would have helped. Overall grade: C+
The letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles provides a whisper, dialogue, scene settings, and sounds. I’m ecstatic to see sounds in a Star Wars comic, with Cowles showing that he’s capable of doing fantastic sounds. The coloring of the scene settings continues to make them difficult to read in this franchise of titles and the dialogue continues to the be too willowy to command any power for their lines. I’m happy to see the sounds employed, but I’m still disappointed in the scene settings and dialogue. Overall grade: B
The final line: A slight improvement over last issue, but more for a supporting character than Phasma. The visuals dip into using photographs, which occasionally distract, but TN-3965’s look won me over. A decent fix for those who are in need of a Star Wars hit. Overall grade: B+
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