Star Wars: Age of Rebellion - Grand Moff Tarkin #1 Review

by Kaasen Koy on April 10, 2019

 Star Wars: Age of Rebellion - Grand Moff Tarkin #1 cover

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Marc Laming
Colorists: Jordan Boyd, Neeraj Menon
Publisher: Marvel

Star Wars: Age of Rebellion - Grand Moff Tarkin #1 is the first one-shot vignette in the new heroes and villains anthology series from Marvel. This issue follows the Grand Moff as he considers how best to motivate the Death Star’s crew to fire the superweapon.

When I read a comic for review, the first thing I do is a very quick scan while jotting down first impressions. It helps me avoid getting bogged down in the details while I get a feel for overarching themes, and if the art and story hit their beats. And it allows me to go back for a deep dive and flesh out my favorite points or scrap any that became irrelevant over the course of the comic. I only mention this process because… man, did all my notes become irrelevant over the course of this comic.

Here’s the first note I made about the writing:

“Perfectly Tarkin one moment and a complete stranger the next
     - curt dialogue I can imagine Peter Cushing delivering on screen
     - actions that seem completely out of line”

I wrote that down at the first punch. I hadn’t even seen the knife-fight yet.

Here comes a spoiler, but it will only make something unpleasant less jarring: The central action of this issue doesn’t actually happen. It’s a fantasy scene. There are also flashback sequences in this issue and they are very easy to spot. They’re beautifully done in panels washed over in vintage hues of blue. The fantasy sequence has no discernible motif to indicate to the reader that this is not actually happening. I imagine that this was done on purpose for shock value.

Here’s the problem. If this sequence had happened half-a-dozen issues into a running Tarkin series, you might have had enough of a feel for the writer’s characterization that you would know something was amiss. But halfway into a one-shot… it just loses you. That shock tactic — and the willful lack of any indicators that you’re looking into Tarkin’s mind — loses you and by the time you’re back on track, there’s not enough comic left to come back for.

That said, it does go back to being very in-step with the character and the final page is the best in the issue. In fact, the whole frame of the story is generally very good. Tarkin’s fantasy sequence is so jarring because it’s doubly wrong. It’s not just that the sequence is a misstep, it’s that the issue was building to show us how Tarkin motivates his crew to do terrible things, shows us a fantasy sequence of how he DOESN’T, and then never replaces it with anything real. It doesn’t just deprive us of seeing something good, it shows us something bad, then tells us it didn’t happen and then continues down the line as if that settled the matter entirely.

The artwork is quite detailed and characterizes Tarkin just as consistently as the majority of the writing. This too goes away when Tarkin is tearing the flesh from a gunner’s chest with a dagger while blood spatters them both — but you can hardly blame the artist. It’s great, visceral action that goes a long way in making the sequence as jarring as it is — this is by far the most violent Star Wars scene Marvel has put out. But the flashback sequences really take the cake, thanks to an otherworldly color scheme that muddies the blues and greens of Eriadu in a haze of distant memory.

This is a flawed comic with some really great early characterization and some decent late characterization. The artwork is beautiful and fitting. But four pages of this comic are akin to a bad prank. The problem is that all the impact of the comic hinges on the four pages that flat-out misfire. Moreover, the prank is never resolved with something satisfactory to recover the experience. Thus, we’re left with a decent but ultimately meaningless comic, ruined by a rotten core.

Our Score:


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