Rome West @ Stela

In case you missed it elsewhere, I’m co-writing ROME WEST for Stela with Brian Wood, featuring art by Andrea Mutti, and colors by Vladimir Popov. CBR was the first to break the story, and there are a whole slew of interviews with the editorial and PR team at Comics Alliance, ComicBook.com, and Comics Beat, among a few others. Enjoy! 


I Quit

...and that, ladies and gentlemen, is 10 years of reviewing comics at Thirteen Minutes.

When I started Thirteen Minutes in November of 2005, I jokingly said that if I hadn't "hit it big" in 10 years, then I'd quit. In less-than-sound business fashion, I never defined what success meant, but looking back, I got to do a bunch of cool things I wanted to do. I got to write about comics. I got to hype the books I loved, support the creators I felt mattered, and hopefully move the sales needle ever-so-slightly by turning new readers onto them. This is my 1,838th post on this site alone, and even if each post averaged only five capsule reviews, well, you do the math. That’s a lot of fucking comics I reviewed. All told, I estimate I’ve done around 9,800 reviews over the last decade. I slowly built a readership at Thirteen Minutes, tracking hit metrics from dozens to hundreds to thousands. I got to meet a lot of great people. I got generously comp'd tons of comics to review. I got dozens of pull quotes used on books I was passionate about.

I’ll never forget the thrill of unexpectedly seeing a cover blurb on Wasteland #6 (Oni Press) in 2007. You never forget your first pull quote. I even got that book CGC’d to vainly commemorate the occasion. I saw a huge spike in traffic after that. I was on the map. I’d met Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten at SDCC in 2006, picked up the first issue before it was even in stores, made a personal connection, hyped the book with genuine interest, and the rest kinda’ took care of itself. It was a model that I tried to replicate for years. I used to joke that Thirteen Minutes was “the house that Wasteland built.” I’ve learned that you reach a point in life where you start to believe there’s no such thing as coincidence, so I took it as one of many signs earlier this year when I got to help bring Wasteland home with a retrospective look at the series called “Surviving The Big Wet,” interviewing the series creators to commemorate the final issue shipping. It felt like I was ending at the beginning, a perfect closed circle.

I also wrote a few mini-comics of my own during this time period, including The Mercy Killing, Silicon Valley Blues, and Blood Orange. Being reviewed favorably by Rob Clough was a particular high point. Rob is a critic whose work I respect tremendously, and he’s graced the halls of The Comics Journal in addition to writing at his own site High-Low for years. This dynamic led to Rick Bradford at Poopsheet Foundation offering me a job reviewing mini-comics. I did a 5-year deep dive into that segment of the medium as the Senior Reviewer from 2009 to 2014, clocking in another 521 reviews of mini-comics and small press titles at Poopsheet Foundation. While I find the signal to noise ratio extremely lopsided, it’s an important part of the industry at the same time. I always viewed my role somewhat egotistically as that of a major league talent scout, functioning as an early adopter and hyping work from people like Noah Van Sciver, Tom Neely, or Julia Gfrorer that I got to see go on, find an audience, and absolutely flourish with wider attention, larger print runs, and more established publishers. (Yes. In true elitist crit fashion, I can say I was into these creators long before you ever heard of them.)

The word is pretentious, but I got to curate a site called LIVE FROM THE DMZ, which was a unique combination of analysis, interviews, and never-before-seen concept art for the Vertigo series DMZ, by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli. I always felt like we were breaking new ground and still don’t think there’s ever been anything like it. I was asked to write an introduction for this important series and got to help bring it all home in DMZ Volume 12: The Five Nations of New York. (During this time period, I even got to flex some creative muscles and help do a little world-building in the backmatter of The Massive by Brian Wood and Garry Brown over at Dark Horse.) I then got to see the original vision for LIVE FROM THE DMZ realized when the content was used as definitive bonus material in the DMZ Deluxe Edition Hardcovers. I can legitimately say I’ve been doing freelance work-for-hire at DC Comics since 2012. The final volume I worked on, and the finale of the series, DMZ Book Five, is out next month, and I can’t realistically imagine going out on a higher high as a critic. It’s another one of those signs that one chapter in my comic book life is closing.

One of the things I’m most excited about is that I’m currently co-writing an alt history project called Rome West with Brian Wood, featuring art by Andrea Mutti, which should be announced very soon. None of this was ever my intention all those years ago, to “break in” or whatever, because I don’t think that terminology really means anything anymore, certainly not what it did even 10 years ago in terms of some kind of exclusive contract with financial stability, but nevertheless, I’m eager to line up more freelance projects on the writing or editorial side. When all of this began, I could’ve never predicted that I’d now be co-writing a project with my favorite writer in comics, right in the middle of the Creator Owned Renaissance.

Brian is a person I respect, the kind of creator I’d want to be, turning out a relevant, respected, and multi-genre body of work. Brian went from being my favorite writer, to being a friend, to being a sometimes collaborator. If Thirteen Minutes was “the house that Wasteland built,” then Brian became The Patron Saint of Thirteen Minutes. He continually challenged me to be a better writer and taught me so much in terms of writing about comics, and then about writing comics themselves, which is exponentially more difficult. I could write endlessly, but I can really boil that mentorship down to a handful of learned lessons: Write intellectually honest work. Nobody promotes your work like you do. Place value in your own intellectual property. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed. Sometimes patience is your best weapon. Sit down, shut up, and do the fucking work. Wrap all that up and it basically translates into being an advocate for creator owned comics, something I always kept in my mind as a guiding principle when writing.

I got to meet tons of cool people in the industry, from “big name” creators, publishers, and editors, to the talented small press crowd, to fellow bloggers and journalist types. I’ll just rattle off a few, because nobody really reads exhaustive lists of names. I met Ryan Claytor of Elephant Eater Comics at an in-store signing in 2007 and we became great friends. Ryan’s professionalism and good nature were constant sources of encouragement both creatively and personally. Thirteen Minutes won an award for Best Web-Site after being nominated numerous times from my friends across the pond at The PCG (nee: Paradox Comics Group). 

Later in the Thirteen Minutes run, I met critic Keith Silva, who writes with a rare sense of panache, employing a flirtatious use of language that I admire. Through Keith, I met the gang at Comics Bulletin, including Daniel Elkin, Jason Sacks, and Chase Magnett. There’s no better crew to hang out with at SDCC. Sacks is like a walking encyclopedia who can interview creators for 15 hours straight. There are few people I enjoy drinking and ruminating more with than Elkin. We sometimes tease Chase about being more than a full decade younger than the rest of us, and he’s still a little unnervingly idealistic, instead of being a cynical veteran like me, so maybe there’s something to be said for handing the critical baton off to his generation. These guys are truly men in what is usually a boys’ world. I’m stealing a Sam Keith line about working on Sandman, but I always felt a little bit like Jimi Hendrix trying to jam with The Beatles when working with them, yet they graciously kept asking me to participate. Thanks to Comics Bulletin Publisher Jason Sacks for indulging me as a Contributing Writer at his site with my own weekly column.

There are dozens of people I could mention, but a few special people did favors for me, helped me promote, or were just cool to me when others acted like gatekeeping douchebags. I also count people like David Mack, Kody Chamberlain, Ben Towle, Joshua Dysart, Ken Kristensen, Larime Taylor, Jackson Lanzing, Alyssa Milano, Shaun Simon, Dominic Umile, and Barbra Dillon as extended members of the Thirteen Minutes “family,” if such a thing exists. On the retail side, I have to mention Lee Hester from Lee’s Comics in Mountain View, CA who, to this day, still probably has the best LCS around and was my weekly stop for more than a decade when I lived in the SF Bay Area, Dan Shahin at Hijinx Comics in San Jose, CA who gave me my first regular reviewing gig before Thirteen Minutes even launched, and my current LCS sponsor, Michael Cholak at Yesteryear Comics, certainly the best shop in San Diego, where I work creator signings and have made so many new friends.

Rest assured, I will always check out new work from people like JH Williams III, Warren Ellis, Paul Pope, Antony Johnston, Greg Rucka, Kody Chamberlain, Frank Quitely, Darwyn Cooke, Matt Kindt, Joe Sacco, Rafael Grampa, Danijel Zezelj, Juan Jose Ryp, Becky Cloonan, Jamie McKelvie, Jonathan Hickman, Jason Aaron, Jerome Opena, Dean White, Rick Remender, Cliff Chiang, Nathan Fox, John Paul Leon, Larime Taylor, Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, Greg Smallwood, Michael Lark, Tradd Moore, Chris Burnham, Simon Gane, Fiona Staples, Kurt Busiek, Tula Lotay, Matthew Southworth, and Declan Shalvey.

Never fear, I'll be first in line to support the latest indie project from people like Tom Neely, Julia Gfrorer, Noah Van Sciver, Brendan Leach, Mike Bertino, Pat Aulisio, Lauren Barnett, Mari Ahokoivu, Trevor Alixopulos, Dash Shaw, Jordan Crane, Sammy Harkham, Ryan Cecil Smith, Josh Cotter, Josh Simmons, Ryan Standfest, Jim Rugg, Jason Shiga, Rob Kirby, Patrick Keck, Elijah Brubaker, Chris Cilla, Katie Skelly, Malachi Ward, Nate Powell, Box Brown, Nick Bertozzi, Derek Van Gieson, Tom Scioli, Conor Stechshulte, Rob Davis, Ines Estrada, and Derf Backderf.

There’s no way I can ever ignore the powerhouse small press publishers I grew to love, support, and champion, starting with Dylan Williams at Sparkplug Comics. Here’s a guy whose smile just lit up the room and made you feel like the most important person in the world when you talked to him. I still miss you, man. There’s Kus! Komiks in Latvia, Tom Kaczynski at Uncivilized Books, Matt Moses at Hic & Hoc Publications, Austin English at Domino Comics, Justin & Raighne at 2D Cloud, and Jordan Shiveley at Grimalkin Press. Please leave me on your comp list! I will still talk up your books!

I want to make one thing crystal clear. I'm not going to stop reading comics. There’s something magical that happens on a tertiary level by combining words and pictures that is irresistible to me. I have no reasonable doubt that I’ll be reading comics until the day I die, with a particular interest in creator-owned titles. You may still see posts here, but I imagine way fewer. Provided there isn’t some glaring conflict of interest, I like doing advance reviews of books from creators I want to endorse. I still love comics, love writing, and love writing about comics, if, and this is the key, if a book ignites that spark of response. I’ll still crank out my annual best-of list, because people love lists, and my mind has been scarred from two decades spent in Corporate America, so cataloguing in this hierarchical, PowerPoint ready, bullet point fashion suits my “must make order of chaos” brain. You can still find me on Twitter @ThirteenMinutes. When I find something worth talking about, I’ll be talking about it somewhere. I’m not saying “no” to any of that. I’m saying “no” to something else very specific.

As far as the weekly grind of trudging down to the LCS every Wednesday and scrambling to dutifully post capsule reviews, spending my weekends wrestling with long-form pieces, or even just posting a full accounting of every title I pick up come hell or high water… I’m done. I’m exhausted. I’m basically quitting weekly reviews. I’ve felt for a long time like I was simply running on fumes. I started feeling this way, strongly, around 2012, and waited to see if the feeling would pass. It didn’t.

Between deranged trolls at my site, witch-hunts for my friends, and encounters with a couple of raging asshole creators at SDCC, there was intensifying drama that made me feel disillusioned with the whole community. I mean, it made me lose my mind and want to quit this whole fucked up business for good. It actually degenerated to the point where people were getting called out for calling out call out culture. Paging Grant Morrison – it was fucking ouroboros. One person aptly compared the mob mentality of the Comics Internet to a coiled viper, just lying in wait for the smallest perceived transgression, in order to strike a socially acceptable target of cruelty. I get enough toxic politicking at work, why would I want that from my hobby?

More than anything, I don't want to be tied to this static process in this old venue, where (outside of a small handful of creators I’d follow to the ends of the Earth no matter what they worked on) I seem to be finding less and less material that sustains my interest, and after 10 years of never missing a single weekly post, I think I’ve made good on what I set out to do, and feel that I’ve earned the right to just walk away at this nice symbolic number of 10.

I could go on some tirade where I question the cultural relevancy of blogs, if the age of free blogging platforms is passé and coming to an end, or ponder the utility of being a small voice in a very large ocean. Let’s face it, we’re not all going to be Tavi Gevinson or Cory Doctorow, and at times it seemed like there were more reviewers, sites, podcasts, interviews, and media outlets than there were creators actually making any meaningful work. Instead of being the type of old-school tastemaker that I aspired to be and feeling like I was moving the needle, sometimes I just felt like a needle lost in a haystack. The proliferation of voices on the internet – I mean, everyone is a broadcaster of some kind now – just means that people can search the morass of white noise for tastes that mirror their own and ignore everything else. At times, I wondered if I ever challenged anyone or was just preaching to my own loyal little choir.

I could question the point of reviews in the first place. In a very pragmatic sense, they have, at best, a negligible sales impact in a system where the retailer is the true customer in the direct market and artificially labeling books as “sold out” is simple manipulation of supply and demand prior to consumer engagement. The simple fact is, reviews don’t move the sales needle. Twitter posturing doesn’t move the sales needle. I’m tired of the hype machine, the sickening popularity contest in which I see truly talented folks continue to toil in relative obscurity while critical darlings with obvious flaws in their work continue to garner praise, and all of the reindeer games that occupy the culture of put-on persona promotion in social media. I’d rather just hang out with my IRL friends at SDCC and drink Cucumber Gimlets at The Lion’s Share. I’d rather just make some comics with my IRL creator friends that I’ve made over the last decade.

I could question the point of reviews in a more qualitative or enlightened way, where there’s the argument that the art discourse itself is the goal, which I do believe. Hey, I worked at one of the top five contemporary art museums in the country for seven years and can bore you to death with enrichment of culture arguments and efforts to build connoisseurship in an audience, but that’s all immeasurably nebulous. Daniel Elkin once told me that ultimately he writes reviews for himself, that that was the whole point, to clarify in his own mind how he feels about a particular work, learning to articulate how it all functions. Art Reflects Life. I get that. But, I’ve now had a lot of practice doing that. I’ve gotten really good at figuring out what works objectively. I’ve gotten really good at figuring out what works subjectively, for me. I’m satisfied with my filter. I don’t need more practice.

I could question, as self-proclaimed “fan” (and he used this term deliberately, he does not consider himself a “critic”) Aaron Meyers once did (and he took a lot of heat for making a statement which seemed like an obvious given to me), how he’s gotten followers and friends in the industry by “cheerleading” (his term). He further observed that with the vast majority of reviews there seems to be (generalizing here, as he did) a widespread element of ingratiating oneself with creators and publishers via positive reviews, in an effort break in, curry favor, or otherwise gain some type of access, all of which undermines the entire critical paradigm of essentially telling the truth. I believe that. This is part of the reason we continually have to put sarcastic quotes around “Comics Journalism.” In the simplest of terms, Aaron is a mostly positive cheerleader and I was an always honest, sometimes very harsh critic, who didn’t care about breaking in or who I might upset.  Make of it what you will, but he had 8x the follower count I did. 

I could cite the growing need to recuse myself from writing reviews when I’m starting to do more creative and editorial work because it could be perceived as a conflict of interest in some cases, but it’s mostly just a lack of interest on my part. I’ve been fascinated by watching the career arcs of people like David Brothers, Tucker Stone, Kelly Thompson, or Andy Khouri, who’ve stepped off the critical sidelines and joined the fray in a variety of different creative capacities. I’m not sure what motivated those people, but for me, I’m just done analyzing what “it” means. I’m at a point where I feel more energized by helping to make “it,” whatever “it” is, gaining some experience on that side of the business, and using whatever small modicum of influence or power I may have to push for the kind of comics I want to see in the world by actually helping to create them.

I could talk about reaching a point where I’m much less willing to provide the milk for free, infamously “for the exposure,” unless someone is willing to buy the cow. While I may have gotten a little “internet famous” and made some new friends, there’s simply no money for producing online review content. The only time I actually got paid anything substantial to write reviews was for a small alt weekly in San Diego, interestingly an out-of-industry venue which adhered to a journalistic model, not a fanboy model. I no longer want to hold down a rigorous day job while stringing together multiple critic gigs for so little financial reward. But, that’s a whole separate discussion. I digress. The truth is that I'm just bored by the cycle and want a change.

Reviewing comics has simply run its course for me.

I noticed that the more material I had to read to keep up with reviewing schedules at various sites, I was enjoying the work less when I was constantly cataloguing pros and cons and trying to meet deadlines. It started feeling like a job, and I kept asking myself why I would continue to do something I wasn’t enjoying or being paid anything substantial for, and ultimately found that the answer was “inertia.” I wanted to see how long I could do it, and it turned out the answer was 10 years. Reading for the purpose of critique actually does alter the experience. Reading comics now, as a budding writer of comics, also distracts me because I start reverse engineering the script and can get pushed out. I miss reading for pure enjoyment. I'm looking forward to spending a little more time on the other side of the table, and when I get the chance, reading more for sheer love of the game.

Thanks for reading.

Justin Giampaoli
November 2005 – November 2015


11.18.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Pretty Deadly #6 (Image)
Astro City #29 (DC/Vertigo)
Huck #1 (Image)
EVE: Valkyrie #2 (Dark Horse)
Hacktivist Vol. 2 #5 (Archaia)
Shattered Empire TPB (Marvel)


11.11.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Rebels #8 (Dark Horse)
Slash & Burn #1 (DC/Vertigo)
Twilight Children #2 (DC/Vertigo)
Superman: American Alien #1 (DC)
Airboy #4 (Image)
The Autumnlands #7 (Image)
Codename Baboushka #2 (Image)
Descender #7 (Image)
Drifter #9 (Image)
Goddamned #1 (Image)
Limbo #1 (Image)
Southern Bastards #12 (Image)
The Wicked +  The Divine #16 (Image)
Letter 44 #21 (Oni Press)
Trashed GN (Abrams)


11.04.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Black Science #17 (Image)
Citizen Jack #1 (Image)
The Humans #9 (Image)
Lazarus #20 (Image)
Monstress #1 (Image)
Paper Girls #2 (Image)
Sex #25 (Image)
We Stand On Guard #5 (Image)
James Bond #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Klaus #1 (Boom! Studios)


Exactly What The Internet Needed, Another Piece On Semi-Informed Speculation About What Happens In Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Spoilers or Whatever)

Han and Leia have twins who are very powerful with the Force. Yeah Yeah Yeah. Even though all of the Expanded Universe stories were officially rendered non-canon by the Lucasfilm Storytelling Committee that was assembled post-acquisition, they did specifically state that they reserved the right to mine the non-canonical material for the best ideas and recycle them in whatever manner they deemed fit. This was always one of the best ideas. We all want to see Han and Leia together, we all want them to have twins that parallel the Luke and Leia genealogy, and we all want them to be bad-asses with the Force. Sometimes you have to do a little fan-service, and J.J. Abrams is no stranger to this dynamic.

Rey is clearly meant to be the female lead, and it's the coolest notion that she is Han and Leia's daughter, force sensitive, and a budding Jedi, which is supported by many factors, including a trading card leak that essentially confirmed she was both a Solo and a Jedi. To me, Luke is clearly talking to her when he says “The Force is strong in my family… my father had it… I have it… my sister has it… you have that power too.” The imagery of Rey wandering the desert with BB-8 on Jakku waiting to cross the threshold of Joseph Campbell's monomythic journey of self-discovery calls to mind her Uncle Luke on Tatooine, she's beautiful and just looks the part, it just all fits tonally.

Lucasfilm has been trying very deliberately in recent years to position strong female leads across all media (from Brian Wood's Star Wars run at Dark Horse Comics featuring Leia as the blaster-wielding X-Wing piloting main character, to everyone's favorite Mandalorian Street Artist Sabine Wren in Star Wars: Rebels, to Princess Leia headlining solo comic books and novels appearing in the very first wave of new offerings, their intention is clear), and the backing of Disney and the marketing opportunities waiting to be exploited with the young female demographic only underscores this approach. Disney Princesses sell millions, and the marketing division is wisely redefining what it means to be a Disney "Princess."

Rey's sibling is most likely Kylo Ren. I'm so obnoxiously LOL’ing at all the people who bizarrely think Kylo Ren is Luke turned evil. I mean, they're not even trying. They announced months ago that Adam Driver was cast as Kylo Ren, they've repeatedly shown him with his mask off in magazine spreads, their arms don’t even match up if you compare them side by side, and they've canonically stated that the Knights of Ren are an order that opposes the Jedi and that their members take the surname "Ren" as some sort of honorific in the same manner that the Sith take the title "Darth," so "Kylo Ren" is probably not even the dude's real name. Besides, if the Emperor was the most powerful Sith around and couldn’t turn Luke, then what possible off-camera person or event could have? It's not even hard to debunk this Luke as Kylo Ren knee-jerk theory. So, Rey’s brother turns to the Dark Side and becomes Kylo Ren, and you get the most storytelling mileage out of this drama. Clan Skywalker is plagued by the temptation of the Dark Side all through history, it's kind of their thing.

Now, either because of Kylo Ren's fall to the Dark Side, his own sense of conflict over light and dark, or because of some other self-imposed exile type of reasoning, Luke is in hiding. He's secluded on another planet like Yoda on Dagobah, he's either deep in meditation, he's attempting to re-establish a Jedi Temple and train Force-sensitive kids in anticipation of the looming big bad, he's feeling the shame of letting his nephew fall toward evil, failing his first student like Obi-Wan failed Anakin, possibly explaining Luke’s reluctance to initially take on Rey as a second Padawan and further disappoint both his sister and best friend, or whatever the hell ever, he'll be taken off the board for a while. This is why he isn't featured prominently in the trailers and his reveal will be either postponed until Episode VIII (which will really piss people off), or his big reveal will be the very last scene of Episode VII. We know that Mark Hamill has been on location already filming scenes for Episode VIII, so Episode VII will leave us with some rousing cliffhanger as he dramatically agrees to intervene in the escalating calamity.

Han and Leia will have been married and will now be divorced or separated in some way as Episode VII opens. This is a smart scripting move because it gives fans a taste of what they want (Han and Leia together), while also leaving their character arcs open for growth as we get to see them wax nostalgic and fall for each other all over again under these heightened circumstances. It could be everything from the stress of Kylo Ren going to the Dark Side (oh, Han knows firsthand that the Jedi and Sith stories are all too real and tells Rey as much in that last trailer), Rey being an estranged drifter type scavenging on Jakku, Leia's allegiance to her duties in the New Republic, any or all of it rips their relationship apart, but they pull a Michael and Kay Corleone in Godfather III and are reunited because of the rise of the Knights of Ren, the threat of the First Order, and the reemergence of their kids in prominent roles in the universe. They are the trope of the grizzled veterans getting pulled back into the game for one final ride. They will rekindle their romance as they're sucked back into service and agree to go recruit Luke out of hiding to address these threats, to train Rey, and to redeem himself like his father did for past transgressions.

If nothing else, Lucasfilm uses a lot of pattern emulation in their collective writing. Lines are repeated (you can make a drinking game out of the number of times someone says “I have a bad feeling about this” in The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels cartoons or comic books), plot devices are rehashed (breaking folks out of detention blocks in Rebels, Garazeb Orelios masquerading as a Wookiee being transported under arrest like Chewie did on Death Star I), and genre re-appropriation occurs even internally (notice how Star Wars: Rebels’ Kanan Jarrus is 1/3 Jedi in hiding taking on a new apprentice like Obi-Wan, 1/3 rogue gunslinger like Han Solo, and 1/3 leader of a crew pulling odd jobs to survive and stick it to the man like Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly). That said, parallels are deliberately employed and at some point, I expect to see Luke sacrifice himself as Obi-Wan did for the greater good, this could happen in Episode VIII or IX.

During the period Han and Leia are separated, Han shacks up with a dark-skinned woman from Socorro or wherever (because c’mon, you can take the smuggler out of the cantina, but you can’t take the cantina out of the smuggler, err, something), which also allows for, wait for it, Three Words: Lando Calrissian Cameo! This is consistent with what's going on in the Marvel Comics Star Wars fare currently, as a woman shows up claiming to be Han's wife. Remember that they're taking a multimedia approach to things here (I've seen clues in everything from the new comics to the new novels to frickin' Lego mini-figures that confirm the identity of characters in the trailer that casual fans were stressing so hard about). Shit, Finn's mom could even be Lando's sister now that I think about it. Cool.

So, this other woman was pregnant with Han's kid, and their son is revealed to be Finn. There's not as much evidence to support this sub-theory, but I like it for some reason. Finn's story mirrors Han's. He joins the Imperial Navy, he's a gifted pilot/officer, he experiences some incident that disillusions his misplaced allegiance to the old Imperial forces (the trailer essentially says as much), and he becomes part of the resistance force. Maybe he's Force-sensitive, maybe he's not, some things could be red herrings. Just because you use a lightsaber doesn’t mean you’re a Jedi, or know the Force, they’re making a lot of distinctions now between regular folks, so called “Force-sensitive” folks, and full-on Jedi, while over on the Dark Side, we’ve seen multiple Inquisitors who wield lightsabers and have knowledge of the Force, but are technically not Sith because of The Rule of Two, and hell, Han Solo used a lightsaber to filet a Tauntaun so that scene in the trailer don’t mean shit. The bottom line is that we should remember than Finn is a Solo, and not a Skywalker like Rey and Kylo Ren.

At some point, I expect Han Solo to die. That sucks. You love Han. I know. My heart can’t take it either, but it's pretty logical. There's no way in hell he survives the trilogy. Harrison Ford is pretty vocal about Star Wars not being his favorite career gig ever, and he's on record as wanting Lucas to desperately kill the character off in Empire Strikes Back, so I expect him to go out. This sets Finn up to "inherit" the Millennium Falcon, explains why he and Rey have a bond and find each other (they may or may not initially know they're half-siblings), and, like his dad, he could end up with Chewbacca as his copilot (Wookiees live like 700 years or some shit now), or there's even an off-chance that Chewbacca is also out of the picture and Finn gets someone like Nien Nunb as his copilot. If you've read the new Princess Leia novel, you know that Nunb plays a significant role as one of Leia's go-to personal pilot/fixer/bodyguard types. There's also that scene in the trailer where we see Rey crying and grief-stricken and it looks like there's a furry thing on the bottom of the screen, which could be nothing, or it could be a deceased Chewbacca.

I guess this brings us around to Poe Dameron, the X-Wing pilot from the trailers. He makes up the third leg of the heroic trio with Finn and Rey, which supplants the Han/Leia/Luke triumvirate, while maintaining a few of those beloved parallels from the original. We have (half) sibling leads being reunited in Finn and Rey, a third party being introduced as a potential love interest for one of them who happens to be a hotshot pilot in Poe, one of the three leads being a Solo in Finn, and one being a Skywalker in Rey, with one of their identities initially hidden, ie: Leia was revealed to be a Skywalker, and here Finn will be revealed as a Solo.

If you read that new Princess Leia novel then you know that in the flash forward there's a scene where someone named Dameron shows up, which is probably not a coincidence. This means he figures prominently in the mythos. If you also read the Greg Rucka mini-series that just wrapped, then you know that this comic introduced us to Poe's parents, Shara Bey and Kes Dameron, who fought at The Battle of Endor. I told you, the clues are out there. Shara and Kes know the players in Star Wars, they know Leia, they know Luke, they know Han, they're family friends, and in the comic they're gifted a rare "Force Tree" (for lack of a better term) that survived from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant during the Jedi Purge, all of which tends to insinuate that Poe himself may be Force-sensitive or was otherwise exposed to this "Force Tree" growing up. This might also explain why Kylo Ren appears to be Force-torturing him in the trailer. Ren is hunting Jedi artifacts like Vader's helmet, possibly his lightsaber, and maybe even hunting Skywalkers, so he could sense Dameron's residual "Force Tree" energy. Poe would make an interesting eventual love interest for Rey, basically mirroring the Han and Leia story with an ultimately duty-bound young woman who falls for a hotshot pilot with a heart of gold. If Rey is a full-on Jedi and even if Poe is merely “Force-sensitive,” that’s a deadly combination.

If you really want to reach ahead and extrapolate some even wilder speculation, imagine yet another future trilogy where the children of Rey Solo and Poe Dameron are the (next) next generation of Jedi, and the cycle repeats anew. Rey is half Solo and half Skywalker, so these kids would be a quarter each, have kick-ass grandparents who flew A-Wings in The Battle of Endor (on Poe's side), and their other set of grandparents are none other than Han and Leia (on Rey's side), with a great-uncle named Luke Skywalker. That's a frickin' generational legacy.

There will always be another new comic, a new novel, a new movie, a new TV show, or another new Star Wars "thing" in the works. Forever. We'll be hearing about "the new Star Wars" (whatever it is) until the day we die, I see my own kids and their generation being drawn in to a newly evolved iteration of the mythos, and there's no reason to think the mega-corporation isn't already laying the seeds for the juggernaut to continue to self-perpetuate as we speak. While the rampant sense of consumerism it embeds in society turns me off, you kind of have to marvel at the sheer audacity of the marketing campaign being interwoven with such intricate story construction.


10.28.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

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There’s not a whole lot I’m interested in this week, but a double dose of Greg Rucka is always reason to celebrate. I’m really looking forward to the new Black Magick #1 (Image) with artist Nicola Scott, as well as the always strong Stumptown Vol. 3 #8 (Oni Press) with artist Justin Greenwood. I’ll also be checking out the following titles:

Art Ops #1 (DC/Vertigo)
Manifest Destiny #18 (Image)
They’re Not Like Us #9 (Image)