SDCC 2015 – Chewbacca is Getting His Own Comic at Marvel

Chewbacca’s getting his own comic?!?! How do you say “HELLS YEAH!” in Shyriiwook?  Probably something close to this. Chewy has been a fan favorite ever since the original movie drop on the 70’s. His popularity has grown and sustained in the 40 years since. It comes with mild surprise, but extreme excite, that Chewy is hopping out of the co-pilot chair and taking the helm. Here’s to promises of beautiful Kashyyyk landscape panels, bowcaster action and Stormtrooper limb dismemberment!

The series will be written by Gerry Duggan (of Deadpool fame) and drawn by Phil Noto (of Black Widow fame). Black Widow doesn’t have much dialogue, so it is reassuring to know that Wookie who grunts will have a good story; Noto is a genius at telling the story through his art.

In his interview with MTV, Duggan revealed that Chewy will have a companion who speaks the native language of the planet. She will help audiences out for every ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaarggghhh’ we see. I imagine this will be similar to the current Marvel book Groot.

Chewbacca #1 will be in your local comic shop this October!

Source: MTV

Denver Comic Con 2015: Dominion of the Nerd

Panel Name: Nerd Feud with King of the Nerds

Topic: Our time with the contestants of King of the Nerds

Featured Guests: Colby Burnett, Amanda Liston, Ben Tully, Heather Wensler, Jacob Rubin, Jonathan Adler, Kaitlin Spak, Lily Rutledge-Ellison, Ori Peri, Thomas Vollum, Todd Landree 


One Mile High and over Memorial Day weekend, the nerds of the nation gathered to revel in collective and shared passions of the nerdverse in the glorious city of Denver, Colorado.  The fourth annual Denver Comic Con (DCC) hosted a slew of stars and celebrities.  If you were in Denver last weekend you had the chance to meet the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, witness Alan Tudyk autograph and give away random crap he had in his satchel, and maybe even snag a picture drooling next to Gwendoline Christie.  What was probably not too high on anybody’s radar (including mine) was that a majority of the cast from the most recent season of King of the Nerds would also be in attendance.  They came to host a variety of panels and partake in some interactive sessions with the con-goers.  Being a fan of the show I thought, “Oh cool.  It’ll be neat to see ‘the nerds’ up close.”  And that was it.  The thought passed as quick as it came.  So you might find it surprising to know that by the end of DCC, my personal highlight was the interaction I had with “the nerds.”  Beyond just generally being awesome, I found there was a deeper meaning in having the nerds present.  Yeah, that’s right – I’m gonna get poetic and shit.  But first!… Let’s talk about how cool being a nerd really is.

“We’re Going to a Van”

My experience with the nerds culminated to a series of encounters with various cast members at different moments of the con.  The first was with Colby.  And the experience was actually that of my brother.  We both are fans of the show and we both rooted pretty damn hard for Colby throughout.  It took me by surprise when Evan (my bro-ham) darted across the trade floor screaming Colby’s name.  I followed while Evan screamed at me, “GET YOUR CAMERA READY!!”  Colby and some of the other fellow nerds had just finished up a nerd war session with the con-goers and were now transporting boxes of what I assume were either weapons of mass nerd-struction or severed heads of fallen nerd enemies.  Nearly grabbing Colby by his whole body, Evan asks, “Can I take a picture with you?!”  Somewhat offput and maybe a bit frightened by the grown ass man that just came charging his way Colby says, “Uhh… We’re going to a van…”  Evan returns with, “Can I walk with you?!”  Colby smiles, shrugs and says, “Sure!”  As I fumble with my phone camera like a paparazzi newb, Evan awkwardly walks next to Colby and his box of heads just smiling, waiting for me to click a few pics.  Colby took it like a champ.  We get the photos and Colby and the nerds move on.

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Your Mom Watches Jeopardy

The next interaction was with a big group of the nerds.  I was standing in line with Hush Comic creator/owner power duo, keeping them company while they were waiting to get Amy Acker’s autograph.  I was busy staring and drooling (mostly drooling) at Gwendoline Christie who was signing autographs in the next line, when Adrian – the main reason we were in line in the first place – bolts out from the filing stack of people and heads towards the end of the line.  It takes me and Sherif a minute to realize she’s spotted Colby not too far away.  Here’s a fun fact about Adrian.  She loves Jeopardy.  Maybe more than your mom loves you.  She’d been following Colby since his Jeopardy days.  His role on King of the Nerds was just extra sauce for her.  I watched from afar as Adrian drew information from Colby about his glory run on Jeopardy, picking up pointers on how she too could land a spot on the trivia show.  I think she tried Vulcan mind melding with him at one point.  It was hard to tell from so far away.  Off to the side of the brain session happening were a collection of some of my favorite nerds!  Thomas, Todd, Brian (from season 2), a cardboard cut out of Raychell and (my super favorite) Katie.  They took pictures with everyone from the Hush team.  All of them were incredibly friendly and approachable.  So approachable in fact, that I may have asked Katie to marry me.  As weirded out as she was, she didn’t outright say “no.”  Yeahhh…I think I still have a chance ***Walks away in cool slo-mo but trips on incredibly flat surface anyway***  Point is – these nerds just kept getting cooler.

Hot Amanda

It’s half-way into day two of the con and my legs don’t like me very much at this point.  I reluctantly succumb to their sissy fits and take a seat against a wall in one of the panel halls.  After a few moments I spy two more of “the nerds” walking down the hall.  Like a fifth grader with a crush on his math teacher, I shoot my hand in the air, waving.  Followed up with a “Hi nerds!” once they were in ear shot, I was really surprised when Heather and Jonathan both looked at me, stopped, and proceeded to address me.  THE presiding King of the Nerds stopped to talk to me, one of his underlings!  I don’t even remember what it was was we talked about, but it was magical and awesome!!  They then invited us to attend the Family Feud-style panel session they were having later that day.  They also told us there were more nerds from the show down the hall.  I thought, “Cool!  I’ll go say hi when the whole feet throbbing thing dies down.”  To my continued surprise, Jonathan and Heather RETURNED with said other nerds.  WHAT?!?  Like… don’t you have important, kingly nerd duties to attend to?!?  In that moment I actually debated on whether or not to bow to Jonathan.  How cool are these nerds that they’re willing to gather for a simple group of fans that enjoyed the show?!  But wait people, it gets better.

The other nerds that returned with the King and Heather were Lily and Amanda from this season.  Both of these awesome ladies ranked among my favorites of the season (if not, then of all time) and it was so freaking cool to meet them!  But let’s talk about Amanda for a bit…  You know when you start watching a new show (i.e. King of the Nerds) and how it takes a while to learn everyone’s name?  We’ve all been there.  Well, my brother – the same one that practically attacked Colby – had a nickname for Amanda before he learned her name.  It was simply “the hot one.”  It didn’t take more than halfway through episode 2 for that name to transform into “Hot Amanda.”  After telling Amanda this story and then asking to for a photograph of me hugging her for the sole purpose of making my brother jealous, she one-upped me and suggested that the impact would be much greater if it were a cheek kiss instead of hug.  Done and done.  When I showed Evan the picture I thought he might actually slug me.  Evan and I attended the Family Feud knock off game show event where we and a bunch of other nerd fans got to laugh and learn more about our nerd royalty.  At the end of the event, Evan goes charging through the crowd again (Evan’s good a charging) right at Amanda, desperate for a picture.  After two-hand shoving an old lady and punting a little nerd boy out of the way he reached “hot Amanda.”  As I snap a pic, Amanda recognized me, looks at Evan and asks, “Is this the guy?!?”  Evan answers with, “YES!  I’M HOT AMANDA!!”  It didn’t make sense, but we all got it and Evan ended up with his own cheek kiss.

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To be Nerd is to be King

Here’s where I try to bring this somewhat aimless collection of stories a degree of significance.  Upon reflecting on my DCC journey this year, I can honestly say that the interactions I had with “the nerds” was the best part.  Better than telling ALL the artists and collectors to shut up and take my money, better than being close enough to Gwendoline Christie to pass her a basketball (or my beating heart), better than enjoying the phenomenal cosplayers – the highlight of my convention was unequivocally to the King of the Nerds contestants.  That might sound weird, especially since I only had a few encounters with “the nerds” and they probably had no idea I was paying such close attention.  But think of it this way:  how often do you get to hug and talk to famous people (FOR FREE)?!  Some might argue that this group of nerds aren’t “famous,” but that’s not the point!  Here’s a bunch of individuals, that felt so strongly and passionately about being a nerd and loving a thing that they were brave enough to share it with the world from behind a camera and then do it some more in the mile high city for three days.  Not only did they share, but they cared!!  A Care Bear just earned its wings (don’t correct me… just let me have this one).  What I mean by that is in every interaction we had with “the nerds” it always felt sincere.  It felt real!  To think that this band of uber-nerds, who were undoubtedly flocked and charged at all weekend long took time to interact, talk and even kiss fellow nerds is amazing!  The theme of “be nerd, be who you are, be proud” was heavy and apparent in more than one panel session or con-event.  It’s a theme so appropriate for DCC (for any con really).  The King of the Nerds team that visited Denver this year embodied that better than ANY celebrity, movie star or illustrious writer or artist I’ve ever come in contact with.  Granted, that list isn’t too long, but the impression left on me by “the nerds” was in no way, insignificant.  Nerds!  I pledge my aligence to thee!… To thine?  To thone?  to… Oh whatever.  You guys rock.  Thanks for making DCC great!  Oh… And Katie, if you’re reading this, know that my marriage offer still stands.  Ohhh yeah! *** Slo-mo, trip, uncontrollably careen down flight of stairs***

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Star Wars Rebels – “Gathering Forces” S1E9

01_ezra-cover

Rebels faced another big test this week in delivering the second half of its very first two part episode.  For me, this episode would make or break the rest of the season.  Well fan boys & girls let me say… Star Wars Rebels has unequivocally been “made.”  I loved, loved, loved “Gathering Forces!!”  I’ll tell you all the reasons why.

We picked up right where we left off.  The rebels are running from Imperial forces in The Ghost, attempting to get their new ally and Imperial defector, Tseebo, to safety.  I have to give it up the Imperials this time.  Not only did they send way more than the standard FOUR TIE fighters after their quarry, they dropped two Star Destroyers on the fleeing heroes.  A-plus effort troopers!  Lucky for Hera, Tseebo’s more than just baggage; he helps the rebels make a narrow getaway.

Always calm and collected, the Inquisitor chases the rebels across the galaxy
Always calm and collected, the Inquisitor chases the rebels across the galaxy

In the midst of the commotion we get more background on Tseebo’s relationship with Ezra.  After Ezra’s parents were abducted, he was left in the care of Tseebo who (apparently) abandoned him and did nothing to try and save his parents.  Ezra is convinced that his parents are dead.  This aspect is left lingering at the end of the episode, which is a guarantee that this will come up again in a big way.

Speeding through hyperspace, Kanan senses a disturbance in The Force – he doesn’t feel like they’ve made a clean escape.  Tseebo confirms as much and shares the specs of a new tracking device developed by the Empire.  It can actively track a ship through hyperspace – so cool!!!  And yes, you guessed it, the rebels have been hit with one all thanks to The Inquisitor.  Kanan devises a plan to draw the pursuing Inquisitor and Imperials away with Ezra, so that the others can get Tseebo into safe hands.  I really applaud the use of sweet sci-fi tech here.  It’s not forced and it weaves very seamlessly into the story.  It kept me engaged and anxious.

He man not look it, but Tseebo has got it together!
He man not look it, but Tseebo has got it together!

Kana and Ezra take the tracking device and use The Ghost’s dropship, The Phantom, to peel off from the main ship in mid hyperspace flight.  The following scene of The Phantom perilously and uncontrollably exiting hyperspace was sweeeeet!!!  I’m a little confused about how a faster-than-light object naturally decelerates in the presence of a frictionless vacuum, but then again, I don’t really understand faster-than-light travel in the first place, so I’ll let this slide.  Kanan and Ezra are headed back to the abandoned asteroid base that we first witnessed in episode 7.  I’ll lay on more applause for Weisman and his team for tying past episodes together in a meaningful way.  It’s apparent that the Rebels creative team is (and has been) deliberate and strategic with the happenings of prior episodes.  Practically ALL my grievances with continuity and random events of this season were addressed this episode; even the situation with Fulcrum!

If this is what the dark side is all about, then sign me up!
If this is what the dark side is all about, then sign me up!

More than just creating a diversion for the main mission, Kanan intends to use his time on the planet to teach Ezra more about The Force.  Instead of avoiding the “shadow-beasts” that nearly killed Hera and Sabine, Kanan wants Ezra to connect with these creatures.  A touching and masterfully delivered Master-Padawan moment ensues.  This sequence is the second best one of the entire show thus far.  The single best sequence (so far) happens right afterward!  The Inquisitor and his troops take the bait and follow Kanan to the base.  Inquisitor vs. Kanan round 2 takes place, with The Inquisitor taking the upper hand.  The Inquisitor is so flippin’ stylish and menacing that I can hardly stand it.  Consider me an Inquisitor groupie at this point.  With Kanan unable to hang, Ezra is left as the last line of defense.  In quintessential Star Wars fashion, The Inquisitor goads Ezra into harnessing his dark potential.  This plays out in the most stark and impressive show of Ezra’s untapped abilities.  We witness firsthand how powerful Ezra can be and what’s possible if his abilities are left unchecked and subject to the dark side!  This moment was defining for Rebels and has really boosted my confidence (and enjoyment) of the show.

Ezra's dark side potential personified - a shocking representation
Ezra’s dark side potential personified – a shocking representation.

It’s no surprise that Kanan and Ezra are able to elude capture from the clutches of the evil Empire yet again – they’re top class escape artists after all!  As the episode wraps up, viewers are left with just the right amount of questions and intrigue.  What will happen to Tseebo?  What really happened to Ezra’s parents?  What does Ezra’s brush with the dark side mean for his future?  I’ve doubted the Rebel’s production team’s ability to deliver continuity – this is mostly the fault of their predecessor series, The Clone Wars – but after “Gathering Forces” I’m convinced that this band of Disney TV makers knows what they’re doing.

We're sad too Ezra.  We have to wait a whole month for more Rebels
We’re sad too Ezra. We have to wait a whole month for more Rebels.

Star Wars Rebels gets a Hutt-sized A+ this week.  “Gathering Forces” is hands-down, the best episode of the series so far.  It wasn’t just great compared to the other episodes, it was great relative to some of the best moments of classic Star Wars.  It was super-cool, believable (for sci-fi) and most importantly, it felt like Star Wars.  The only bad thing about any of this is that the series will be taking a break for the holidays.  We’ll all have to wait until January for the adventure to continue.  Until then we’ll all have to practice Master Yoda’s timeless lesson of patience… Patience young Padawan…

Star Wars Rebels – “Empire Day” S1E8

Sabotage

Star Wars Rebels has reached a pivotal point.  All the basics have been covered.  Who are the rebels?  How do they work as a team?  What are their biggest strengths and weaknesses?  What challenges lie ahead?  We now know the answer to those questions.  So, now begins the true test for Rebels.  Where will Weisman and his team take this series from here?  It’s a defining time for Rebels.  This week’s episode, “Empire Day,” did a lot to give me confidence that the direction this show is headed is a good one.

The Empire may be evil, but they've got style!
The Empire may be evil, but they’ve got style! 

Before the beginning of the episode I thought to myself, “I wonder how Ezra’s Jedi training is progressing?”  Almost as if bending to my exact desires, the opening sequence brought us Kanan instructing Ezra in the ways of The Force.  This scene was well done.  Kanan is turning out to be an excellent mentor.  His insight to The Force is impressive and watching him use that insight in action is consistently cool.

As the training continues it’s obvious that Ezra is struggling and distracted.  We learn that this day in particular is “Empire Day.”  Empire Day is an Imperial celebratory occasion that marks the day the Imperial Empire was established throughout the galaxy.  It is the 15th Empire Day on record, meaning (finally) we have a bit of time-reference.  15 years have passed since Order 66 and the downfall of the Old Republic – a good amount of time has passed since Episode III!

Empire Day is a tough day for Ezra
Empire Day is a tough day for Ezra

What better day to rebel than Empire Day?!  Our heroes feel the same way.  They’ve picked up a new mission to sabotage a brand new type of TIE fighter to be presented at the Empire Day parade on Lothal.  This new line of TIE is similar to Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced X1 – it looks sweet!  It’s almost a shame that the rebels have to blow it to bits.  Watching Kanan and crew carry out their mission jogged my memory of the plot in the episode prior – who is giving the rebels their missions?  The name we got last episode was Fulcrum.  I held out all episode long hoping there would be some mention of what happened to him.  I’m very frustrated to say that I did not get my wish.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it until it’s fixed: The primary hurdle in making Rebels great (as opposed to just “good”) is continuity!!!  So far the continuity has been decent, though verging on mediocre.  So much is to be gained by simply stringing these episodes together in a clear and simple fashion.

The rebels have a new ally - Tseebo!
The rebels have a new ally – Tseebo!

In the midst of the rebel’s destructive scheming both Agent Kallus and The Inquisitor are on Lothal working an assignment.  Surprisingly enough, their mission has nothing to do with Ezra, Zeb or any of the rebels.  They’re looking for a Rodian named Tseebo.  What’s so important about a single Rodian that would warrant the attention of BOTH Kallus and The Inquisitor?!  More on that in a bit.

After successfully carrying out their mission the rebels search for a place to lay low.  Ezra offers to take them all to a location where they’ll be safe for a while.  We come to find that this place is Ezra’s old home.  We get major insight to Ezra’s past this episode.  He used to live here with both his parents who were outspoken anti-Imperialists.  “Used to” being the key words.  Ezra’s parents were abducted by the Empire for hosting a secret, rebel radio show on Lothal.  We also learn that Empire Day is Ezra’s birthday!  By way of chance (or perhaps The Force!!), on-the-run Tseebo has also chosen to hide in Ezra’s old home.  We learn that Tseebo was a good family friend of the Bridgers and that he has joined the intelligence branch of the Empire.  Only now he is on the run.  It’s unclear why he’s running, but that’s mostly because he’s a little unstable and incoherent due to the faulty cybernetic headpiece attached to his skull.  All this could be the lead into the defining event of Rebels.

Kanan defending his team from the persistent Agent Kallus
Kanan defending his team from the persistent Agent Kallus

With historic ties to Ezra and potential for obtaining valuable Imperial secrets, the rebels opt to help Tseebo escape off world.  An exciting chase takes place as Kallus, The Inquisitor and numerous Imperial troops team up to try and thwart the getaway.  I can’t get over how awesome The Inquisitor looks.  This week he dons a flight suit with a bad ass helmet and it took all I had to not drool all over the remote.

Darth Vader could pick up a few style tips from The Inquisitor!
Darth Vader could pick up a few style tips from The Inquisitor!

The extraction is just barely successful and the rebels shoot out into space.  But not before Tseebo encounters a brief moment of lucidity and realizes where he and who he is with.  He recognizes Ezra and excitedly exclaims that he knows what’s happened to his parents!  That’s where the episode ends – a true-blue cliffhanger!  What I like most about this is now Weisman is forced to deliver continuity.  Maybe this is a statement from the Rebels production team that they understand what this series needs and that they plan to deliver.  In any case the trajectory is positive.

“Empire Day” scores an A this week.  The entire episode felt deeply rooted in the themes of the original trilogy.  This was an episode that focused on a story and an upcoming journey.  It was accentuated with action and suspense and it left me wanting more.  We’re getting close to the home stretch for season 1 – fingers crossed for a worthy buildup and conclusion!

Star Wars Rebels – “Out of Darkness” S1E7

Wave of explosions

Coming into this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels, I had low expectations.  Previews from last week showed a few of our rebel team “stuck” on a foreign planet and fending off attacks by local, dangerous creatures.  I was prepared for an action packed, but ultimately pointless episode.  Once again, Rebels pleasantly surprised me.  The episode was fairly action packed (as expected), but more importantly, the focus of the episode was centered on the greater plot – why are the rebels doing what they’re doing?  Who is handing out their missions?  How does the team feel about all this?  “Out of Darkness” addressed some of the bigger questions that have been hanging out there and it made for a great episode.

Hera's a good pilot... But could she hang with Han Solo?
Hera’s a good pilot… But could she hang with Han Solo? 

The episode wastes no time upping the octane level.  We enter to find Hera piloting The Ghost’s dropship, The Phantom, in a hair-raising escape from chasing Imperial TIE fighters.  Ezra and Sabine are nervously strapped in tight alongside Hera while she shows us her mad skills.  During the cat-and-mouse routine Hera confidently boasts, “There isn’t a pilot in the Imperial fleet that can outrun me!”  The first thing that hit me after Hera’s bragging was, “I wonder how she would fair against Han Solo?!”  For those of you who didn’t know, Han Solo used to be part of the Imperial military – initially trained as a TIE fighter pilot, but quickly promoted to Lieutenant due to his unmatched skills.  Hera blows the chasing TIEs to slag, but I wonder if the result would have been the same if Han Solo had been in one of those TIE cockpits.

At first glance this opening appears to be pointless action – we don’t even know why the rebels are being chased!  Everything becomes apparent when Sabine confronts Hera regarding the ever increasing danger that’s associated with their missions.  Sabine pushes Hera to tell her where their intel comes from and why they’re continually put in harm’s way.  Hera quickly shuts Sabine down and simply asks that Sabine trust her.  To know that all the rebels aren’t privy to key information adds much needed depth to this show.  It was also apparent that this would be a heavy Hera and Sabine episode, which is a good thing – it’s long overdue.

Today's forecast is sunny with a bit of asteroid-cover
Today’s forecast is sunny with a bit of asteroid-cover

Once all the rebels are reunited back on The Ghost they quickly prep for their next mission.  Sabine, not willing to continue blindly following orders, demands to know more about the mission.  Hera throws Sabine a bone and reveals that their information comes from a contact known as Fulcrum.  No one but Kanan and Hera have ever made contact with Fulcrum.  Sabine pressures Hera into arranging a meeting with the mysterious informant at the drop site of their next supply run.  Fulcrum, via encrypted radio communications, hesitantly agrees.

She's more than a pretty face with crazy-colored hair
She’s more than a pretty face with crazy-colored hair 

As the episode progresses we learn more about Sabine’s background and why she is so adamant to be in-the-loop.  Sabine is of Mandalorian descent, that much is known.  But if Boba Fett has taught us anything, it’s that Mandalorians rarely have allegiances beyond direct family and the highest bidder.  So what makes Sabine different?  As it turns out, Sabine, at one point was training to join the Imperial Army.  The Empire established a recruitment camp on Mandalore in an effort to add to its ranks; Sabine joined in.  After some questionable and uncomfortable assignments that left Sabine with a very bad taste in her mouth, she left her home to join the rebel band she’s with now.  We don’t get specifics, but it’s enough to really give some genuineness to Sabine.  This lady Mandalorian is sharp, deadly, sexy, and she’s not afraid to think for herself.  I really appreciated the internal strife she brought throughout the episode.  It really elevated the plot!

What can rip through steel and likes to eat rebels?... This guy!
What can rip through steel and likes to eat rebels?… This guy!

In The Phantom, Hera and Sabine touchdown on an isolated, asteroid-laden planet home to a deserted military base used during the clone wars.  This is where their supply drop and meeting with Fulcrum is to take place.  Thanks in full to Ezra, Zeb and Chopper’s horseplay, the damage suffered by The Phantom from the last mission was never fixed.  This resulted in all the fuel from The Phantom leaking out and stranding the two rebels – problem #1.  Shortly after realizing that they won’t be leaving anytime soon, Hera and Sabine make contact with some very unfriendly and creepy beasts – problem #2.  Unable to take refuge in The Phantom until help arrives – these vicious little monsters can rip through armored ship hull!! – the two lady rebels are forced to make a stand against wave after wave of the killer creatures.  Sabine formulates a solid strategy at keeping them alive just long enough for Kanan and The Ghost to come to the rescue.

Rebels to the rescue!
Rebels to the rescue!

The rebels make a safe getaway with the supplies, but it feels like we’re missing something… OH YEAH!  Where is Fulcrum?!?!  He was supposed to meet Hera and Sabine at the drop point, but never did.  Was he eaten?!  Did he bail at the onset of witnessing an army of the hungry critters?  Did he even intend to stay and wait?  All these are questions I had at the end of the episode and that’s a good thing!  I’m drawn in and I want to know more.  This is how it should be with a well formulated story.  The catch-22 here is that now expectations have been set.  If next episode rolls around and no thought or mention of Fulcrums status is provided, it will be a severe let down.

But as far as this week goes – “Out of Darkness” earns a B.  By concentrating on the overarching plot, dedicating screen time to lesser known rebels and keeping things exciting, viewers can enjoy this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels.

Star Wars Rebels – “Breaking Rank” S1E6

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Enter the massive Stormtrooper training academy on Lothal.  This week’s episode of Rebels has our hero, Ezra, donning a bit of a different uniform – Stormtrooper cadet armor!  Initially this seems a bit surprising.  Why is Ezra training to be a Stormtrooper?  Has he betrayed his new family?  But, once we learn that Ezra is using an alias, Dev Morgan, it becomes a bit clearer that there is more to this situation.

While the opening sequence does a good job at drawing the viewer right in, I can’t help but stressfully wonder about the aftermath of the last episode.  How did The Inquisitor’s appearance impact the rebels?!  Up until the events of Order 66, the only lightsaber wielders in the galaxy were the Jedi.  In centuries worth of time there had only been four exceptions: Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Darth Vader and the Emperor himself.  So don’t you think Kanan, A JEDI, would be a little shocked in meeting this new dark and powerful being?  Especially since he got his butt kicked by this new baddy!  This is another repeat offense (first perpetrated by The Clone Wars animated series) that bothers the crap out of me.  Just a few seconds of dialogue or tie-in content between episodes would do galaxies worth of improvement for the series.

Fun sized Stormtroopers!
Fun sized Stormtroopers!

Not knowing exactly what Ezra’s M.O. is, we wait and witness what training is like for aspiring Stormtroopers.  Boy-oh-boy does it look tough and dangerous.  The cadet company is lowered into “the pit” and tasked with escaping.  The pit is essential a high-tech room, depressed deep into a hangar bay floor.  The walls shoot out moving and tiered floating platforms that are the only means of ascending back to the main hangar bay floor.  Oh – and the platforms are also electrified.  Maybe if the Empire trained their Stormtroopers as diligently in target practice as they did in climbing skills, the Death Star would stand a better chance down the road.

It's like a sick and twisted game of Space Frogger
It’s like a sick and twisted game of Space Frogger

After an exciting sequence where Ezra makes escaping The Pit look like a walk in the park, we get some insight into why Ezra is at this academy.  We also get to meet some of the other cadets that Ezra’s befriended in his time training.  One in particular, Jai Kell, looks EXACTLY like Justin Bieber.  I could not get over this all episode long; the Star Wars universe is no place for the Biebs.  Anyway… We learn that Ezra is on a covert mission to infiltrate the academy and obtain a decoder that will pinpoint the location of a valuable Imperial shipment.  More on that later.  After sneakily obtaining the decoder and just as Ezra is about to make his getaway, he’s caught in the act by a fellow cadet!  Surprising to all, the cadet, Zare Leonis, is more interested in helping Ezra than thwarting him.

Justin Bieber has a new calling - Stormtrooper training
Justin Bieber has a new calling – Stormtrooper training

Turns out Zare has his own grudge against the Empire, revolving around his sister’s disappearance from the very same academy he is now training at.  With aligned interests, Zare and Ezra team up and find a way to safely get the decoder to the other rebels.  The decoder reveals the location of the top secret shipment.  What’s the cargo?  Kaiburr crystals!!  For those not familiar with the Kaiburr crystal, it was originally introduced in the very first published Star Wars novel ever (titled Splinter of the Mind’s Eye)!!  The Kaiburr crystal is said to resonate strongly in and drastically increase the powers of those able to wield The Force.  This is a nice tie-in from expanded universe content to more modern events in Star Wars chronology.  Determined not to let yet another game-changing tool into the Empire’s grasp, Hera and Kanan speed away in The Ghost to take out the convoy.

Cover to Alan Dean Foster's novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, featuring the first appearance of the Kaiburr crystal
Cover to Alan Dean Foster’s novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, featuring the first appearance of the Kaiburr crystal

As Ezra works on his final escape plans with Zare and Star Wars Bieber, I began to ponder how the rebels are given/select their missions.  In the past few episodes each mission has been extremely high profile and brought with it significantly dangerous obstacles.  I hope the lack of this explanation is a subtle working of the creative team and not just a means to string together a series of one-off exciting episodes.  I feel it in The Force that the truth is in the latter statement.  Then again, I still can’t levitate and summon the remote control from across the room to my comfortable position on the couch…  I guess we’ll wait and see!

Ezra’s escape and the final raid on the Kaiburr crystal convoy play out in typical, awesome Star Wars tandem.  Ezra and his posse are able to pass the final Stormtrooper test which lands them a special training session aboard the AT-DP mechanical walker.  They quickly stun the operator and commandeer the tactical vehicle to make their escape.  Everyone escapes with the exception of Zare, who instead elects to stay behind so that he can dig in deeper to his sister’s disappearance.  Hera and Kanan also partake in an exciting dogfight among the stars that results in a brilliant explosion of Kaiburr crystal energy.

Kanan & Hera battle among the stars for Kaiburr crystals

The episode concludes with another appearance of The Inquisitor.  He’s come to the training academy on Lothal in hopes of locating the rebels that just narrowly escaped him on Stygeon Prime.  After identifying Dev Morgan as “The Padawan,” he confronts Zare to obtain more information about the rouge rebels.  Viewers are left on somewhat of a cliffhanger.  Not know exactly what The Inquisitor has in store for Zare leads me to believe this will be of significance later in the series.

Hush Comics gives “Breaking Ranks” a B for delivering another exciting escapade, but poorly addressing lingering questions from the previous episode.  I want more of The Inquisitor vs. the rebels and less of these sporadic and seemingly unrelated missions.  It’s time to start weaving things together!

The Inquisitor - hot on the rebels' tail
The Inquisitor – hot on the rebels’ tail

Star Wars Rebels – “Rise of the Masters of Old” S1E5

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Last week’s episode of Rebels was a fairly disappointing experience.  In many ways it reminded me of The Clone Wars animated series (which I was not very fond of).  My expectations were tempered this week.  I’m happy to report that those expectations were blown to space dust!  Every single grievance I had last week was addressed in this episode; it’s almost like the producers read Hush’s “Fighter Flight” review and decided to shape up!  “Rise of the Old Masters” took Rebels to a new level.  Let’s dive into the details!

Yep!  That's Ezra upside-down on top of the FLYING Ghost!
Yep! That’s Ezra upside-down on top of the FLYING Ghost!

An aspect that has been continuously neglected thus far is Ezra’s Jedi training.  The opening sequence did a lot to squash that neglect.  We enter with Ezra practicing his Jedi skills as instructed by Kanan.  Ezra uses one hand to balance his upside-down body on top of The Ghost while it’s in flight!!!  The scene is mesmerizing and it’s impossible not to draw a connection to Luke’s training on Dagobah in Episode V.  There’s even a Yoda quote thrown into this scene!  I really bought into Kanan’s method and instruction.  The added distraction from Chopper and Zeb was comedic, but also relevant to Ezra’s training.  Altogether, it was the perfect way to start the episode.

After a little misstep in Ezra’s training, the crew takes a break to check the underground Holo-news to see what’s bubbling in the galaxy.  What they find is their next mission.  Luminara Unduli is alive and an Imperial prisoner!  Die-hard fans will draw an immediate connection with the Jedi Master of the Old Republic.  She was thought to have died in the events of Order 66.  After witnessing a brief holo-clip of Luminara being transported to an Imperial prison facility Kanan urges his team to help him orchestrate a rescue.  The team agrees and gets to work.

Luminara Unduli.  Jedi Master - Imperial Prisoner.
Luminara Unduli. Jedi Master – Imperial Prisoner.

The decision to rescue Luminara brings out a lot of enduring qualities of the rebels.  I won’t touch on them all, but overall, the decision alone speaks to why this band is destined for greatness.  Risking their lives to penetrate one of the most secure holding facilities of the Empire to rescue an ally, all on independent fruition and for no monetary gain, gives me faith that a strong and unified rebellion is possible under this team.

The next nod I’ll give to the Rebels creative team is their decision to place the Imperial prison on a different planet!  Lothal was getting really old.  Viewers got to experience a refreshing change of scenery.  But more than that, this new planet presented unique and unexpected challenges for the rebels.  Who knew that such a carefully planned rescue mission could be thrown askew by giant flying beasts looking for a little affection from The Ghost’s dropship?!  Hera does a superb job at not only overcoming this obstacle, but using it to her advantage at the best possible opportunity.  Visiting a new planet and giving Hera a meaningful role really amplified this episode’s greatness.

Hey baby... You come here often?
Hey baby… You come here often?

All this awesomeness and we still haven’t gotten to the best part!  Well, let’s not waste anymore time.  The Inquisitor finally makes his appearance!!  It took a premiere movie and three other episodes, but he’s finally here!  The Inquisitor’s introduction was probably the thing I was most excited for in this first season of Rebels.  Historically Star Wars has excelled in initial (key word here) crafting of their villains.  Vader, Palpatine, Maul, Boba Fett, Cad Bane, Mother Talzin, Count Dooku, Grand Moff Tarkin, General Grievous… I could go on, but I’ll spare the page.  My point is every Star Wars bad guy stepped onto the scene in a major way and each of them has some unique trait or quality that made our bones shake.  This usually doesn’t last because the franchise also has a strong history of bastardizing or otherwise ruining a villain and what we love most about them.  We won’t get into that right now – instead, let’s talk about why the Inquisitor holds true to that initial formula.  He is sinister.  He is clever.  He is powerful and dangerous.  He is BAD-ASS!

The Inquisitor vs. Kanan - Round 1
The Inquisitor vs. Kanan – Round 1

We come to find that the rescue mission is actually – queue Ackbar – A TRAP!  Let me be the first to say though – I didn’t see this one coming.  The trap part I could have guessed.  But the lure!!  Luminara was seen, actually seen, being transported by Imperial Stormtroopers to the prison complex.  So how is it that when our heroes arrive at her holding cell, all they find is her dried and withered remains along with The Inquisitor?!  Now, I’m pretty well versed in all things pertaining to The Force, but I’ve never seen a trick like the one The Inquisitor pulled off.  Kanan, a full-fledged Jedi Knight, SENSED Luminara’s presence, he SAW her.  What Kanan sensed and saw was actually something conjured and manipulated in The Force.  I don’t yet understand how this was possible, but the ultimate takeaway is that The Inquisitor’s understanding of The Force is impressive.

Oh, hey LuminarAHH!!
Oh, hey LuminarAHH!!

Reason number two why the Inquisitor is a badass: double-bladed, spinning lightsaber.  I vividly remember the goosebumps I had witnessing Darth Maul brandish a double-bladed lightsaber for the first time in Episode I.  I had the same goosebumps this week watching Rebels.  This weapon is sooo beautiful, all the way from hilt to blades.  The way The Inquisitor wields the weapon is stunning and terrifying.  I’m a sucker for new, futuristic weaponry regardless of how hokey they might be.  So let it go on record that I am completely enraptured with The Inquisitor’s choice of weapon and I can’t wait to see more of it.

This isn't your standard lightsaber  people.
This isn’t your standard lightsaber people.

The last thing I’ll say about The Inquisitor is that more than just being powerful in The Force and wielding the coolest weapon in the galaxy, his overall persona is on point for Star Wars villainy.  His sinister expression, the calm/confident demeanor and his regal attitude all serve to make him a believable and endearing character.  Having The Inquisitor on screen makes up for many of Rebel’s shortcomings thus far.

Hush Comics gives “Rise of the Old Masters” a resounding A for adding creative diversity, showcasing the most beloved aspects of the franchise and for finally giving us The Inquisitor!  The trajectory is upward at the end of the week.  Stay on course Weisman!

All Pictures belong to Disney.