Star Wars: Age of Resistance: Villains – Tom Taylor, Leonard Kirk & Patch Zircher (Marvel)

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The Star Wars universe is absolutely perfect for the shot story format. I have mentioned my love of the short story in past missives where a background character or incident is explored in more depth giving the galaxy far, far away a greater depth. When the short story is used to delve in to the back story or character development of key players however, it can be just as potent. Using a one shot comic to explain maybe why a villain is as villainous as they are, what they were up to when off screen in the films or just to simply show how ruthless and deeply unpleasant they can be will always have an appeal. The latest “Ages” set of comics are, as they were previously collected in to volumes from the light and dark side giving us this batch of baddies from the new trilogy. Let’s delve in to the Dark Side once more!

Fallen Guns finds Captain Phasma at her most utterly ruthless. Get the mission done whatever the cost to anyone. A young stormtrooper idolises the chrome domed dastardly deed doer and appears to be taken under the wing of Phasma to learn the ways of the First Order. We know that Imperial stormtroopers are considered somewhat dispensable but this is harsh stuff, even for the First Order. Phasma is a monster! Totally driven by a mania for conquest. It makes you wonder if Phasma could have been used more in the first couple of films and if killing her off so soon was a good idea. Her Vader-esque approach to personnel in her charge suggests more screen time could have been a good thing. This is the second short story I’ve read where Phasma is presented in this fashion and it’d be interesting to see more of her exploits outside of conflict to flesh out the mercilessly brutal leader.

That is exactly what we get with the next instalment as General Hux’s back story or “origin tale” reveals a weak and bullied youngster who grows up to be the spiteful, power hungry General of the First Order. Like Phasma, Hux is all about getting the job done whatever the cost but unlike Phasma, it’s not necessarily out of devotion to the glory of the First Order, but more for the glory of me me me. Finding himself stranded with Kylo Ren on a backwater jungle world the animosity between them and seething disdain for each other is apparent from the off. Teaming up to get off the world they are lost on is a necessity but it doesn’t mean they have to get on and any locals are only worth bothering with if they can help. When they outlive their use … well, these First Order types are not gonna leave with a friendly handshake. An interesting approach to this tale juxtaposes the now with the then. A young Hux being relentlessly bullied by his father and other suits gives an indication as to why he would grow up in to such a vile villain and it comes full circle in a satisfying conclusion that actually has you siding with Hux even though he’s clearly a right git.

Supreme Leader Snoke up next, and probably the most enigmatic of all our new characters as so little is known about his origins. Killing him off in the middle chapter of the new films was a brave move and something of a twist most wouldn’t have predicted as we hadn’t really learnt much about him. Well, we still haven’t. This tale is a sort of reboot of Luke in the cave on Dagobah with Kylo Ren as young Skywalker and Snoke as Yoda. Filler at best. Kylo Ren gets his own, more interesting, tale as he teams up with a grizzled old stormtrooper whilst on a diplomatic mission to a desert world where “diplomatic” goes out of the window pretty sharpish. We see a more “human” side to Ren as he accepts the counsel of Captain Ruthford in a way Vader would never do and Vader’s shadow is cast long and dark over the mission. There’s some good in Ben Skywalker, as we learn in the films, but there’s not much of it on display in this concluding chapter.

What we have here is an unambiguous look at the bad guys. It is what it is. They are nasty, spiteful, merciless and will trample over anyone and leave them dying if it meant personal advancement. Maybe for different reasons but, yep, they certainly are the villains. Only in the Hux tale do we get any explanation why though. There’s limitless potential with these characters and maybe we’ll get to explore in more depth what makes them who they are in future  anthologies. Snoke in particular is ripe for a back story of some sort, especially now we know what we know from Rise of Skywalker. For now though just be content with them all being bad. Very bad. Marv Gadgie

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