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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: WandaVision – Episode 4

by @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for WandaVision – Season 1, Episode 4: We Interrupt This Program

The mystery of WandaVision finally began to unravel in We Interrupt This Program, an episode that brilliantly connects to the events of the broader MCU while spotlighting returning characters. The fourth episode of the Disney+ series changes course from the previous episodes in largely focusing on Monica Rambeau’s journey as she begins to expose what’s really going on Westview.

So far, WandaVision has impressively committed to its unusual premise, delivering entire episodes in jovial sitcom fashion with only brief glimpses of what’s lurking underneath the surface. We Interrupt This Program intelligently halts this structure in shifting the focus away from Wanda and Vision’s idyllic world to begin delivering some answers. These answers largely come as we track Monica Rambeau, impressively brought to life by Teyonah Parris in a nuanced, impactful performance. The beginning moments of the episode are haunting as they show the effects of the Blip unfold in real time. The confusion, the chaos, and the sense of dread is palpable in these early moments and certainly add yet another emotional layer to the events that occured in Avengers: Endgame.

As the episode progresses, we’re introduced to Randall Park’s Agent Woo and Kat Denning’s Darcy Lewis, who are both scene stealers. Similar to the Star Wars universe, one of the best things about the MCU is its ability to call upon different characters or plot elements from the past and reintegrate them in new, unexpected ways. Darcy hasn’t appeared since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World and it seemed like her tenure in the MCU was over, until she springs on the scene in a pivotal role in WandaVision. Similarly, Jimmy Woo was a highlight in Ant-Man and the Wasp and now shines in his expanded role in a new medium.

The fourth episode of WandaVision offers a glimpse behind what’s going on behind the curtain, without giving too much away too soon. This is a difficult balance to strike, because, if the show progresses as it did with the first three episodes, some viewers may grow frustrated at how abstract and ambiguous the series is. However, revealing all of the secrets of Westview prematurely spoils the fun and stops the guessing game MCU fans are currently engaged in. We Interrupt This Program largely confirms what fans have been speculated for a while now regarding WandaVision largely drawing upon the classic comic run House of M. We finally get confirmation that Wanda created Westview, presumably as a place to live her dream life with Vision away from the perils of the world. We’re also given answers about some of the unusual occurrences in the series so far, such as the red and yellow helicopter toy, the Beekeeper, and Geraldine’s knowledge of Ultron. The list of what we don’t know, however, is still rather extensive: is this world Wanda has constructed a threat? What’s up with Wanda’s neighbors and what are they hiding? What are the implications of re-creating Vision in this world? All of these mysteries and more are brilliantly set up and likely to unfold over the coming episodes, once again emphasizing how the story Kevin Feige and company are telling really lends itself to the week-by-week format of a television series.

The titular characters are notably quite absent in episode 4. Although it would’ve been nice to see more of Wanda and Vision, the decision to shift the focus away from them is a reasonable one in order to inform the audience about what’s going on. Along with the shift away from Wanda and Vision comes a shift away from the beautifully stylized aesthetics of the series’ first three episodes. Obviously, this is done for major story purposes, but it was a bit of an unfortunate contrast to go from entire episodes uniquely made to look like 1950s, 60s, and 70s sitcoms in exchange for a relatively bland looking episode set in the modern day. 

Verdict: 8.5/10

WandaVision continues its incredibly impressive run so far with an episode that ties nicely in with the events of the MCU and sheds light on what’s really going on in Westview. While the episode may not be as visually unique as its predecessors, the mysteries answered and mysteries left unresolved, in addition to the return of several MCU characters, make us excited for and intrigued by what’s to come in the Disney+ series.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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Star Wars Holocron

What’s New in Star Wars – February 2021

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

Quality over quantity is the theme of the month as February is looking to deliver relatively fewer new Star Wars projects, but projects that we’re eagerly anticipating nonetheless. As The High Republic era continues to unfold, graphic novel adaptations of great films, the continuation of Operation Starlight, and Vader’s journey in between Episodes V and VI are sure to make February a great month for Star Wars fans. It is important to note all of these release dates are subject to change. Below includes a list and description of upcoming Star Wars projects in the month of February:

February 2 – The High Republic: Into the Dark

February kicks off with Claudia Gray’s YA novel published by Disney-Lucasfilm Press. We had a chance to review the book several weeks ago and, overall, found it to contain lots of great content for Star Wars fans to feast on. The third novel in the High Republic era introduces some unique characters in a contained thriller that sets the stage nicely for inevitable sequels to come. The somewhat lightweight world-building in Gray’s novel is offset by an engaging adventure with unpredictable twists and threatening villains. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Padawan Reath Silas is being sent from the cosmopolitan galactic capital of Coruscant to the undeveloped frontier—and he couldn’t be less happy about it. He’d rather stay at the Jedi Temple, studying the archives. But when the ship he’s traveling on is knocked out of hyperspace in a galactic-wide disaster, Reath finds himself at the center of the action. The Jedi and their traveling companions find refuge on what appears to be an abandoned space station. But then strange things start happening, leading the Jedi to investigate the truth behind the mysterious station, a truth that could end in tragedy…”

February 2 – Star Wars: The Mandalorian – The Art & Imagery Collector’s Edition, Volume Two

Volume two of Titan Comics’ Art and Imagery series debuts this month after several delays. We recently published an early look at the collection and loved the brilliant art of The Mandalorian it contains. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “This collector’s edition includes stunning artwork from chapters 5- 8, featuring the droids, rogues, and soldiers of the Empire as seen in the hit series. A unique mix of photography, art and concept illustration showcases the Mandalorian, his allies, his foes and his incredible adventures.”

February 3 – The High Republic 2

If the brilliant cover art by Phil Noto is any indication of what’s in store with the second issue of The High Republic, we’re in for a treat. Cavan Scott’s first issue of the Marvel Comics series provided a great set-up for what’s to come that complements the other High Republic works we’ve seen so far. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “ALL-NEW SERIES CONTINUES! WHO DESTROYED ONE OF THE JEDI’S DEADLIEST ENEMIES? The NIHIL strike! A ship found adrift in space, the crew brutally slaughtered and cargo stolen. What terror awaits the THE JEDI OF STARLIGHT BEACON as they explore the wreck? Newly knighted KEEVE TRENNIS must overcome her insecurity in the face of new teammates, but can she trust her closest ally?”

February 3 – Star Wars 11

Charles Soule’s main line Star Wars series continues with this eleventh issue. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “OPERATION STARLIGHT GOES SUPERNOVA! The mission to reunite the REBEL FLEET is countered by a deadly trap sprung by the cunning COMMANDER ZAHRA!

How will WEDGE ANTILLES, SHARA BEY and the other elite pilots of STARLIGHT SQUADRON survive? And then there’s LANDO CALRISSIAN… forced to choose between THE REBELLION and one of his oldest friends!”

February 3 – Star Wars Adventures 3

Delayed from last month, the third issue of the Star Wars Adventures comic series is written by Michael Moreci and Sam Maggs. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Join the Wookiees of Kashyyyk for part one of a special Life Day celebration! Then, follow Kylo Ren as he learns what it means to be the Supreme Leader of the First Order.”

February 3 – The High Republic Adventures 1

The first issue of another High Republic comic series debuts this month, written by Daniel José Older and published by IDW. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Flaming destruction is coming to Trymant IV! A remnant of the Hyperspace Disaster appears in the sky, and Zeen and her best friend Krix have only minutes to get to the Elders of the Path and find safety! Meanwhile, Master Yoda, Master Baro, and a group of Padawans are racing towards the disaster for a daring rescue mission.”

February 10 – Darth Vader 10

It’s amazing to look back at the last few years and see how much depth to Vader’s character the various comic series have added. This is exemplified in Greg Pak’s stunning Darth Vader series, with the tenth issue debuting this month. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “THE RED HORROR! After passing the test of THE EYE OF WEBBISH BOGG, DARTH VADER has learned the route to the hidden location of THE EMPEROR’S greatest secrets! But in THE RED NEBULA along the way, can Vader survive the onslaught of the greatest predator in the galaxy? Especially if the monster’s most brutal attack transcends the physical? And what horrors await the Emperor if a transformed Vader makes it to his dark door?”

February 10 – Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Graphic Novel Adaptation

IDW Publishing are also bringing us one of our most anticipated projects of February – a graphic novel adaptation of The Phantom Menace. Written by Alessandro Ferrari, the publisher’s summary is as follows: “Experience the excitement and thrill of the epic Star Wars movies in this young-reader friendly adaptation of Episode I! Peace reigns in the Galaxy, guarded by the thousand-years old Jedi Order. But dark forces plot in the shadows to restore the power of the Sith, long believed gone. Unaware of this evil plan, two Jedi knights rescue Queen Amidala of Naboo and discover a young boy who could forever change the fate of the universe. Capturing the galaxy-spanning action of The Phantom Menace, experience Episode I as a beautiful graphic novel combining the epic wonder of Star Wars with streamlined, young-reader friendly designs.”

February 10 – Star Wars Insider 200

The 200th issue of Star Wars Insider drops this month. The issue contains part two of a short story by Charles Soule and a great list of the 200 Reasons We All Love Star Wars. An interview with the Emperor himself Ian McDiarmid is also featured in the issue, in addition to a Wonder Column written by Anthony Daniels and a tribute to Carrie Fisher from the actors who have voiced Leia in Star Wars animated adventures.

February 16 – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Graphic Novel Adaptation

Another graphic novel adaptation by IDW Publishing is still currently set to debut in February, although we’re not certain this will be the case. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Faithfully bringing events from the film to the comics page, read along in The Rise of Skywalker as Poe faces the challenges of leadership, Finn and Rose make impossible decisions for the greater good, and Rey finally confronts her destiny. The true threat to the galaxy is revealed as the third Star Wars trilogy reaches its epic conclusion! Will Rey join Kylo Ren to lead the First Order? Can Poe, Rose, and Finn inspire a new generation of rebels to combat this grave threat? With Snoke destroyed, can anything keep Kylo’s rage in check? Capturing the galaxy-spanning action of The Rise of Skywalker, experience Episode IX as a beautiful graphic novel combining the epic wonder of Star Wars with streamlined, young-reader friendly designs. This all-ages graphic novel is a must-read for longtime fans and a great introduction for young newcomers!”

February 24 – Star Wars Adventures 4

Star Wars Adventures 4 is on schedule to release this month after several delays. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Join the Wookiees of Kashyyyk for part one of a special Life Day celebration! Plus, an exciting adventure featuring a beloved bounty hunter!”

For reference, a condensed list of upcoming projects in February without descriptions is included below:

February 2 – The High Republic: Into the Dark

February 2 – Star Wars: The Mandalorian – The Art & Imagery Collector’s Edition, Volume Two

February 3 – The High Republic 2  

February 3 – Star Wars 11  

February 3 – Star Wars Adventures 3  

February 3 – The High Republic Adventures 1  

February 10 – Darth Vader 10  

February 10 – Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Graphic Novel Adaptation  

February 10 – Star Wars Insider 200  

February 16 – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Graphic Novel Adaptation  

February 24 – Star Wars Adventures 4  

Images courtesy of Disney-Lucasfilm Press, Marvel Comics, Random House, IDW Publishing, Titan Magazines, Disney+, and Lucasfilm

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Paul Sun-Hyung Lee Talks Working on The Mandalorian, His Love for Star Wars, the State of Fandom, and Representation

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

Fresh off of his appearances in The Mandalorian, Star Wars Holocron had a chance to speak with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee on working on the hit Disney+ series, his love for Star Wars, the state of fandom, representation, and more.

In speaking of his long-standing love for Star Wars, Lee discussed how the three trilogies had unique impacts on him at different periods of his life:

“I was 5 years old [when A New Hope released] when my dad took my sister and I to see it, 8 years old for Empire when my babysitter took my sister and I to see it, and I was 11 years old for Return of the Jedi and my sister and I went by ourselves to see it. That relationship with the movies where I was going to those movies is really stuck in my head. And then the prequel trilogy, 1999 I was working at Blockbuster Video when The Phantom Menace came out, 2002 I was married already at that point, and then 2005 I was a dad already at that point. Going from a retail job to having a kid. And then the next set of trilogies, the sequel trilogy, as a dad, bringing my kids to see it too and watching them go through that cycle and it being their first Star Wars movie in the theater. And I took them to all three of [the sequels]. It helps that I’m a big Star Wars nerd too. And then they have their own formed opinions on these movies. Talk about a full life cycle. I feel really old! [Laughs].”

As a fan, Lee felt like his wildest dreams came true when he was cast in The Mandalorian:

“I use this turn of phrase a lot, but I felt like Cinderella at the ball. You don’t expect to be there and when you’re there everything is so beautiful. And so above every other experience you’ve had working on sets and what not. I’m still speechless about it and it’s still very surreal, because it’s a universe I’ve always wanted to play in. It’s something I’ve fantasized about being a part of since I was a little kid.”

While working on The Mandalorian, Lee was blown away by the advanced technology used to bring the show to life, especially the volume:

“I got to see things that I thought I would never be able to see in terms of the technology they use…This is cutting edge tech. This is next generation stuff that is so specific to just that show. It’s amazing. I mean, the volume is transformative, because it’s immersive. You go in there and you cannot believe what’s happening in front of your eyes is actually happening. It’s so realistic. And the confluence of technology and innovation and intelligence and planning to get all that to come together is … I’m standing there and thinking, ‘I’m living in the future.’ This is the future. Like in the 50s when everyone was thinking about flying cars and stuff like that, that’s what it felt like. Because, you’re not on location. But you might as well be, because it looks exactly the same. And so that was really cool.”

Given The Mandalorian’s mammoth popularity, Lee is appreciative of what working on something this successful means for his impressive acting career more broadly:

“I have a bunch of stuff on my resume. But having The Mandalorian on there jumps it up a couple of notches in terms of credibility. I was the lead on a hit Canadian television series that is doing great on Netflix, it’s internationally known. And then, I do two episodes of The Mandalorian and my IMDB page just explodes! [Laughs] All of a sudden, everyone is looking at it. It’s amazing the power of [the Star Wars franchise] and the effect it will have on people’s careers and resumes. You look at that and you go, ‘Legit. He’s on a hit show on Disney+ and is part of a huge franchise that has spanned 40+ years. That is absolutely insane. I’m so grateful for that opportunity. I keep saying that. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful. But I am. I got to live a dream that millions have had and haven’t had the opportunity to, sort of, follow through on to get that opportunity. So I’m very grateful for it. I’m still in disbelief.”

Lee plays Carson Teva, a pilot in the New Republic Starfighter Corp, in two episodes of The Mandalorian so far. Lee was given little background information on the character, but playfully came up with his own funny backstory for Teva:

“It’s hard to play that, because it’s literally just a sketch or an outline of a character. So, what can you do to make him seem more grounded or have that gravitas of someone who has been around the block? And so I joked with Dave. It was funny…We knew he was a guy who’s been around since pre-Yavin, right? So, wouldn’t it be funny if he’s the guy that missed out on all the battles for whatever reason, and he’s super bitter about it. He wasn’t in the Battle of Yavin, because the power converters on his X-Wing weren’t working. And, for Hoth, like he’s stuck babysitting a transport as it leaves the system. And, for Return of the Jedi and the run against the Death Star, he had diarrhea so he couldn’t make it out there. And, for Scarif, he [missed it] for whatever reason. So the reason he’s patrolling the Outer Rim is because he missed out on all that service. So they’re like, ‘Well, you get the Outer Rim, buddy.’ And I joked about it with Dave and he was like, ‘Ummm…No.’ It was fun.”

Lee is enthusiastically open to reprising his role as Teva, either in The Mandalorian, Rangers of the New Republic, or even a buddy cop-style show with Dave Filoni’s Trapper Wolf: 

“Oh my god, yes, yes. Like a million times, yes. Of course. I mean, jeez, I got a taste of how cool that universe is with those two episodes of The Mandalorian. And I would absolutely…any fan would say, ‘I would do anything you need me to do. I will go off buildings. I will kidnap pets. I will do all sorts of nasty things just to be able to do the show.’ [Laughs]. Yeah, you know it starts with the people who are fantastic on these sets. Jon and Dave and the powers that be. The set is an absolute pleasure to work on. Everybody is so kind and professional…and they’re giddy about Star Wars. I mean, it’s the ultimate sort-of nerd camp! You get to go there and play and dress up and then you have all this fantastic technology you get to play with. The costumes. If you love Star Wars, you’d leap at that. So, yeah I’d do that.”

Lee has some insights regarding what it’s like to act alongside Dave Filoni:

“I think I have a lot of fun with Filoni too, because he hates being in front of the camera [Laughs]. He hates it!…The episode that we were in together, he took that role because I was doing it. He thought it would be fun. So that’s a big win for me too, man. To act with Dave Filoni.”

Working with Filoni behind the scenes allowed Lee to catch a glimpse of what The Mandalorian executive producer and writer was working on with Ahsoka in the series:

“So, being on the set, it was amazing, because Dave actually showed me some of the work and rough cuts of the Ahsoka episode. I didn’t even know Ahsoka was going to be in the episode, but Dave’s like, ‘Because I’m your friend, I’m going to show you,’ And so, he shows me some of the footage of Rosario Dawson with Grogu. It’s that beautiful shot with the huge moon and they’re sitting and meeting each other. And I was like, ‘Oh my god! Oh my god!’ I mean, I’d heard rumors, but that was the first time I’d ever saw that.”

As a massive Star Wars fan, Lee was surprised and blown away by the appearance of Luke Skywalker in the season 2 finale: 

“That was a complete and total shock. I honestly did not expect it. I was hoping…The Dark Troopers are pounding against the door and they’re hopelessly [under threat]. And you see that single X-Wing fighter. And I will admit, for a split second, I thought, ‘Oh my god! It’s Carson Teva!” [Laughs]. Then I was like, ‘No, you idiot.’ I was thinking, ‘It’s Luke. It has to be Luke….There could be no one else.’ No one else could save them. And then the little reveals…the cloaked figure, the gloved hand, the green lightsaber, the Force, and I’m still getting goosebumps now just thinking about it….How could it be? And he just mows right through them. And the door opens and it’s him. And it was just pure. As a fan, my heart wept with joy, because he was there. And I’m still kind of processing how wonderful it is…That whole reveal with Mark Hamill, it just killed me. And I loved it. It was just so perfect. And that’s the beauty of that set is you get little snippets, but they still save lots of surprises. I’m just blown away by it.”

In discussing Star Wars fandom more broadly, Lee sees the Star Wars universe as having something for everyone and believes that fans should embrace the content they emotionally and personally resonate with:

“As much as there’s hate for the prequel trilogy, there’s a whole generation of kids where that was their jam. Those were the movies they saw when they were growing up. So there’s a link that they’ll have to that that I don’t have. And it’s great. I’m in the 501st and I actually know a couple of members and that’s their Star Wars growing up. One of them is a huge Jar Jar fan. And you go ‘okay man, that’s cool!’. That was his favorite character growing up and I don’t want to steal his joy. And it’s the same with the sequel trilogy. Everyone has their differing links to it and it speaks to them personally as well on different levels. For me, that’s fandom in a nutshell. We all associate these movies personally. We internalize them, personalize them, they mean different things to all of us. The best parts of fandom is not judging that. The best parts is finding things that we love and being able to talk about it and getting some insight into certain things that we’d go ‘I don’t think that was the best’. But if you learn something about it, I think that’s pretty cool. For me, that’s what fandom should be about. Just sharing that love and that joy and learning new things as much as we can.”

Despite the joy people can get from Star Wars, Lee notices that sects of fandom have become quite competitive and negative:

“It’s gotten weird in terms of the gatekeeping that’s going on. Someone will stand there and say ‘you’re not allowed to be a real fan unless you’re able to answer these questions’. Fandom isn’t a pissing contest. You’re not a bigger fan because you know more about the Expanded Universe or this or that. And so it’s one of those things, more and more, it feels like fandom has become about scoring points. Or being the most this, or being the most that. And I think that’s the worst part of fandom honestly. It’s not a contest. And somebody knowing more about something that you isn’t something you should feel bad about. And you shouldn’t feel better about yourself if you know more than somebody else about certain things. Because, at the end of the day, it’s like, ‘What are we geeking out over, right?’ Nerdy things that really should be things you enjoy. So let’s not turn it into a contest. Fandom isn’t a contest and it never should be.”

On a touching, final note, Lee speaks about what it means to be a person of color acting in such a prominent franchise dear to his heart:

“It meant so much. The world really. Because it’s being given the opportunity to play in a universe I thought I’d never have a chance to do that. Growing up, watching these movies and wanting to be a part of it, there’s a part of you that’s like, ‘That’s me up there.’…There were no Asians in Star Wars. So you gotta play someone with no face or with a helmet on the whole time, because you can’t be Han, you can’t be Luke, you can’t be Leia, you can’t be any of these characters. Because nobody looks like you who’s up there. And it makes a big difference. And for myself, as a professional actor and a fan, to get that chance to be there and be a representative of Asian Americans, and Asian Canadians, and Asians in general, I think is fantastic, because, for the next group of fans, they can look and say, ‘Holy crap! There are Asians in space. And they don’t have to die. And they can play cool characters. They don’t have to be relegated to the background like pilot in the third row who gets blown away in the second reel. It means a lot. And it’s so funny, because you said, ‘Directed by an actor of color.’ And I was like, ‘Person of color? Carl?’ I didn’t even think about the color of his skin, because he’s such an icon. Carl Weathers. Superstar. Iconic action hero from the 80s and the 90s. This is a guy who has built an incredible career for himself and has represented his community so well. And for me to take a small step and take this small role and turn it into something Asians and Asian Americans can look at? Yeah, it means a ton. It’s funny, because a lot of people say, ‘Star Wars is being ruined by the social justice warriors.’ Man, it’s a galaxy. It’s an entire galaxy and there’s so much. Just purely scientifically speaking there should be so much more than the Swedish all-star team at the top of the screen…And so I don’t see how more diversity affects fandom in a negative way, The narratives aren’t that much different. It’s really about getting more people involved…Equality doesn’t mean less rights for you. It means extend the same rights to everybody. I think that gets lost in the message sometimes, because I think some people are unfairly meant to feel like they’re being persecuted for something out of their control as well.”

It was a genuine pleasure to speak with the incredible Paul Sun-Hyung Lee on a range of interesting topics. Lee was kind and endearing and we hope to see more of him flying around in an X-Wing as Carson Teva sooner rather than later!

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: WandaVision – Episode 3

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for WandaVision – Season 1, Episode 3: Now in Color

Following last week’s duo of unusual premiere episodes, we were left intrigued as to how far and for how long WandaVision will continue in such a strange vein. And we’re extremely happy to say that the MCU’s inaugural Disney+ series continues with this trend of strange and weird set forth in the previous episodes. Episode 3, titled Now in Color, follows the happy couple Wanda and Vision as they continue their lives in Westview, now in the mold of 1970s sitcoms a la The Brady Bunch. The episode sees Wanda and Vision as they try to manage Wanda’s greatly accelerated pregnancy in jovial sitcom fashion, while something insidious bubbles under the surface.

After three episodes, one of the highlights of WandaVision has been its complete and total commitment to its mysterious premise. Critics of the MCU often target the similarity of various projects in terms of tone, plot, pacing, aesthetics, etc. But such a criticism can most certainly not be lodged at WandaVision. Creator Jac Schaeffer, director Matt Shakman, and company are all in on making WandaVision as weird as possible, really leaning into its sitcom structure and only momentarily hinting at what’s truly going on. It’s hard to watch WandaVision and not draw comparisons to the work of David Lynch, who brilliantly strikes a balance between the bliss of ideal American family living and the threatening, mysterious mechanisms operating under the surface. Needless to say, WandaVision has excelled so far largely due to its unusual premise and the mystery it leaves viewers thinking about in regards to “What the hell is going on in Westview?”

The sitcom elements of WandaVision provide a lot of opportunity to really emotionally invest in the relationship between Wanda and Vision. Vision’s burgeoning anxieties over being a father and Wanda’s frantic management of a crazy pregnancy felt endearing and genuine and made us care about their relationship on a level that transcends that which we’ve seen in the MCU movies so far. 

Speaking of interesting characters, WandaVision has bolstered some great guest stars so far, with Teyoonah Parris’ Geraldine becoming a more prominent player in episode 3. Parris is immediately likable and genuine in the role and leans into the sitcom dialogue of the crazy situation perfectly. Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes has been great so far too and, although her appearance in episode 3 was relatively brief, she was still gripping.

It’s with some of the minor characters like Geraldine and Agnes that the intrigue kicked up a notch in Now in Color. Agnes and Herb are clearly concealing something and Doctor Nielson makes an intriguing statement regarding one’s ability to ever leave Westview. Vision, along with the audience, is beginning to recognize that something is off here, but, before we can get any answers, is thrown off the trail. The confrontation between Wanda and Geraldine marked the highlight of the episode as Geraldine inquired about Wanda’s brother Pietro saying, “He was killed by Ultron, wasn’t he?” The episode suddenly took a sharp turn here and, before we know it, Geraldine is plummeted out of the picturesque Westview presumably back to the real world. One can refer to comics like House of M or S.W.O.R.D. to theorize about what’s going on in WandaVision, but, other than that, the series surprisingly leaves you with little to go off of – something we really enjoyed as the series continues to grow more mysterious.

Verdict: 8.75/10

WandaVision’s third episode takes inspiration from The Brady Bunch in spectacular fashion, delivering great 1970s sitcom moments, emotional character development, and a mystery that continues to deepen and grow more threatening.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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Marvel Tesseract

Chris Evans to Reprise His Role as Captain America

by @holocronJulie for @mar_tesseract

Chris Evans is in talks to reprise his role as Captain America, according to Deadline.

Evans, who played the iconic hero from 2011-2019, was thought to have hung up the shield after the ending of Avengers: Endgame, which saw his character reunite with Peggy Carter and seemingly spend the rest of his days with her. Many believed that this would be the last time Evans would appear in the MCU, at least for some time, but now it seems he his back sooner than expected.

Per Deadline, Evans will play Captain America in at least one MCU film with the option for more. His role is described as similar to Robert Downey Jr’s post-Iron Man 3 career in the MCU, in which he was a supporting character in films like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Captain America: Civil War. Although Evans seemingly made it clear that he was retiring his role after Endgame, the actor has expressed that he missed playing the character, saying “I absolutely loved my time with Marvel; I already miss it.”

If reports are to be believed, Evans isn’t the only returning actor to the MCU. Last year, Deadline reported that Downey Jr himself would be playing Tony Stark once more in the upcoming Black Widow prequel movie.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: WandaVision – Episodes 1 & 2

by @holocronJosh for @mar_tesseract

After an unexpectedly long wait that totaled over 18 months, the MCU is back with WandaVision, an unusual and intriguing project marking the first Marvel series on Disney+.

The first two episodes of WandaVision are in the format of classic 1950’s and 1960’s sitcoms a la Bewitched or I Love Lucy: black and white, a laugh track playing, and a catchy theme song. They even filmed parts in front of a live studio audience! Over the course of the series’ first two episodes, the lead characters get into various sitcom-esque situations, such as inviting Vision’s boss and his wife over for dinner and hosting a town magic show, both of which go predictably awry.

Lurking in the background of these two episodes is an ominous feeling that something is not quite right in the world of Wanda and Vision. Things seem a little too perfect, they can’t remember their anniversary or how they moved to the town, and more highlight this feeling. The strange person on the radio asking “who’s doing this to you, Wanda?”, along with the red and yellow helicopter and, perhaps most notably, the beekeeper at the end of the second episode, all add to this ominous feeling. As the season goes on, the mystery of what is happening to these two Avengers will begin to unfold.

Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be said of WandaVision is that they fully commit to their unique premise. The first two episodes really feel like episodes of a classic sit-com, with only small bursts of mystery sprinkled throughout. It would be understandable if, after an episode, Kevin Feige and co. decided to bring these characters into the more traditional MCU world and tell the story in a way that fans have come to expect. However, even after two full episodes, WandaVision doesn’t back away from its premise, instead opting to turn the season into a slow burn mystery show. This makes it all the more appealing and highlights the diverse storytelling in the MCU’s future.

The third episode of WandaVision will air next week on Disney+. After WandaVision, Marvel Studios has The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye, What If…?, and Ms. Marvel all scheduled to premiere this year on Disney+.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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Star Wars Holocron

Recapping the Big Week at Lucasfilm Games

by @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

This week, Lucasfilm announced that upcoming video games will be under the umbrella of Lucasfilm Games, with several upcoming projects to be announced.

Indiana Jones game by Bethesda

On Tuesday, Lucasfilm Games announced an all new Indiana Jones project developed by MachineGames and executive produced by Todd Howard of Bethesda Games Studios. Howard is best known for his work on the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises. Lucasfilm also revealed that the game will tell a completely original and standalone story set during the prime of Jones’ adventures. A brief teaser trailer for the game was also released, featuring the iconic fedora and whip of the character.

Lucasfilm Games VP Douglas Reilly had this to say:

“I have wanted to do an Indiana Jones game for a long time, and we’ve never had the right fit of partner and idea to make that happen. We are extraordinarily fortunate to be working with Todd Howard, the executive producer for the upcoming game, which will be developed by MachineGames and the team at Bethesda. He has a unique vision and a unique passion for Indiana Jones, and pitched us a story and a concept that is so amazing, I can’t wait to start sharing it with folks. I love Star Wars and we love making Star Wars games, but it’s been a long time since we’ve made Indy. We’re really excited about this one.”

Open World Ubisoft Game

Also announced this week is a project that Star Wars fans have longed for for quite some time: an open world game set in a galaxy far, far away. Ubisoft is a big player in the world of video games, developing series such as Assassins Creed, Watch Dogs, Tom Clancy projects, and more. Ubisoft’s Massive Entertainment, best known for its work on The Division 2, will spearhead the project.

Lucasfilm Games VP Douglas Reilly stated:

“We’re really excited about an opportunity to work with the team at Massive, led by David Polfeldt and the creative director, Julian Gerighty. We’ve spent almost a year now, working to get to know them and what they want to bring to the table. I’m a huge fan of them, personally. I think we’re really excited about where that project is going, because they have a unique vision for the story and the game they want to deliver.”

Upcoming EA Projects

Lucasfilm also confirmed that EA will still continue to develop games in the future. After the success of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, EA confirmed that sequels to that game are currently in development, along with other projects.

After only 4 new Star Wars games in 5 years, it seems as if Lucasfilm are putting their video game development into light speed.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm Games, Bethesda, EA, and Ubisoft

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars The High Republic: Light of the Jedi

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

The High Republic era launched with a bang, with a new comic series and childrens, middle-grade, and YA books all debuting simultaneously. However, amidst this welcomed array of new Star Wars content, perhaps the most anticipated of the bunch was The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, an adult novel written by Star Wars veteran Charles Soule. Despite a somewhat disjointed, overwhelming beginning act, Light of the Jedi finds its footing as the narrative progresses, culminating in a thoroughly entertaining, emotionally resonant kick-off to the High Republic era.

Two hundred years prior to The Phantom Menace, a disaster occurs in hyperspace that sparks the series of High Republic projects we’ve gotten so far. In an event known as the Great Disaster, a freight transporter called The Legacy Run is destroyed while traveling through hyperspace, causing fragments of the wreckage to be dispersed randomly and disruptively throughout the galaxy. Being protectors and guardians of peace, the Jedi of the High Republic are sent to the site of the wreckage and tasked with rescuing survivors and preventing further destruction. Soon enough, the Jedi find themselves caught in the middle of a mystery involving the Nihil, an insidious crew of space pirates, that threatens the Republic and the entire galaxy.

It’s hard to become immersed within the High Republic publishing initiative without being reminded of the MCU (in a very good way). Although the Marvel Cinematic Universe has its critics, Kevin Feige and company have been universally praised for creating a brilliantly interconnected series of stories spanning various movies and shows. Light of the Jedi and the other High Republic projects really evoke the best of the MCU in that, as a reader, you feel as if you’re being thrown into this grand, interweaving segment of the galaxy. This involves characters from and events occurring in Light of the Jedi being integral to other projects, and vice versa. This sort of interconnectivity elevates Light of the Jedi in feeling as if we’re just getting our feet wet into something really vast.

Charles Soule expertly navigates Light of the Jedi and clearly shows why he was the perfect choice to spearhead this new era. Soule has always had a great knack for dialogue and this skill is on full display in this High Republic novel, with the banter and rapport between different Jedi being a particular highlight. Each Jedi feels like a truly distinct character with unique personality features and characteristics. Soule definitely draws upon some of the post-Return of the Jedi content in Legends when writing his new collection of Jedi characters. The unique Force connections and aesthetics of each Jedi evoke some of the highlights from Legends in a positive way. A lot has been made of Avar Kriss, the shining light of this new era, but various other new characters in the novel are just as interesting and had us eager to see more of them.

Soule also strikes a great balance between world-building and story-telling, something that we pinpointed as a potential criticism in some of the other High Republic projects so far. We’ve loved everything we’ve read in this new era so far, but found some of the world-building to be a little lightweight, making the distinctiveness of the High Republic era a little ambiguous. Soule subverts these issues in avoiding dense paragraphs of exposition and, instead, building out this new era of the Star Wars universe with interesting character moments, dialogue, and references. A particular reference to The Force Awakens was a personal favorite.

Despite striking such a great balance overall, the first act of the novel can be a little jarring. So many new names are thrown around so quickly that it can be difficult to get a grip on who’s who and what’s going on exactly. This issue is ameliorated as the novel progresses, however, as we see more of these characters and come to realize that they are surely to play larger parts in subsequent projects. In fact, the novel adopts an interesting structure in thrusting readers in the midst of a chaotic, climatic event, only to slow down considerably and become more personable as the chapters progress. I commend Soule for this bold structure to the High Republic’s leading book, although it doesn’t always pay off.

It was also somewhat difficult to get a good grip on the Nihil, the antagonists of the novel. The stakes of the Great Disaster seem, well, great. But, it may take some getting used to the Nihil. It’s questionable, at this point, to conceive of how the Jedi Order at the peak of their power would be greatly threatened by this band of pirates. However, this may be the point. Ben Kenobi stated in A New Hope that the Jedi were guardians of the peace for thousands of generations before their downfall, implying that any threats prior to The Phantom Menace aren’t that monumental. 

Verdict:

Beyond a somewhat rocky start, Charles Soule delivers an enthralling introductory installment into the High Republic era. Full of interesting new characters and a mysterious overarching conflict, Light of the Jedi excels in almost every department and sets the stage nicely for what’s to come.

Image courtesy of Del Rey Books

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Star Wars Holocron

Highlights from The High Republic Launch Event

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

On the eve of the big launch of the High Republic era, Lucasfilm kicked things off with a special live stream event full of new announcements, concept art, covers, conversations, and more. Hosted by StarWars.com’s Kristin Baver, the official launch event was led by Lucasfilm Publishing creative director Michael Siglain and featured the range of High Republic authors: Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Justina Ireland, Cavan Scott, and Daniel José Older.

We’re going to break down some of the highlights of the event.

New trailer for The High Republic

The launch event featured a fantastic cinematic-style trailer for The High Republic publishing initiative. The trailer labels the initiative as “an interconnected mega-story…during the golden age of the Jedi” chronicling a conflict that threatens “the survival of the Republic, the fate of the Jedi, [and] for control of the Force itself.” Most of the images shown in the trailer are cover art or concept art we’ve previously seen, but the dramatic music and theatrical narration add a certain weight to the stakes at hand and the grandness of the projects that will follow.

First looks at new characters

Concept art of and information about new characters were also revealed during the live stream event. These include Ram Jamoram, Ty Yorrick, Leox Gyasi, and the Bonbraks, all of which you can see below. The stories of how authors like Gray and Older conceptualized their new characters were fascinating to hear, especially Buckets of Blood…

The Phases of the High Republic

Siglain revealed that The High Republic will encompass three waves of publications spanning several years. This first rollout of projects are part of Phase I, termed Light of the Jedi. Phase II is titled Quest of the Jedi, whereas Phase III is titled Trials of the Jedi. We’re not sure yet what these phases entail, but they certainly give off an MCU-style vibe that we’re excited about.

New projects unveiled

The highlight of the event for us was the announcement of a slew of new High Republic projects coming our way. Having really enjoyed what we’ve read so far in the High Republic era, the new projects on the horizon excite us even more.

One of the projects is a graphic novel titled The Monster of Temple Peak. The graphic novel is written by Cavan Scott and includes art by Rachael Stott. The cover art alone is brilliant to behold.

Justina Ireland’s contributions to the High Republic era continue with Out of the Shadows. This was perhaps the most interesting title to be unveiled at the event. We had the chance to read Justina Ireland’s A Test of Courage recently and really became invested in the narrative and the characters, especially Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh. Whereas A Test of Courage was a middle-grade novel, Ireland will be shifting audiences slightly to continue the adventures of Vernestra and company with this YA novel.

Speaking of middle grade novels, Daniel Jose Older is writing Race to Crashpoint Tower. This book takes place at the same time as Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm, also releasing this summer.

Finally, Shima Shinya and Justina Ireland will pen a new High Republic graphic novel titled The Edge of Balance. Unlike the Marvel and IDW comics releasing, The Edge of Balance is told in manga format and, from the cover art, it’s looking to be a beautiful work.

Images courtesy of StarWars.com

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars The High Republic: Into the Dark

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

THIS IS AN ADVANCED REVIEW. STAR WARS THE HIGH REPUBLIC: INTO THE DARK RELEASES ON FEBRUARY 2, 2021

The adventures in the High Republic era continue with Into the Dark, a new young adult novel written by Star Wars veteran Claudia Gray. Gray has delivered some of the best YA novels in canon so far with Lost Stars and Leia, Princess of Alderaan, not to mention her brilliant work with Bloodline and Master & Apprentice. For the most part, this trend continues in a mostly entertaining and intriguing tale.

Into the Dark follows young Reath Silas, a bookworm Jedi Padawan who aspires to be a great scholar, rather than a great warrior. Much to his dismay, Reath is dragged along by three older Jedi on a journey to Starlight Beacon, a new Republic outpost that is also integral to Justina Ireland’s A Test of Courage novel. The journey does not go to plan, however, as their transport is stranded and they are forced to take shelter in a mysterious nearby space station.

Gray made a series of bold decisions in conceptualizing Into the Dark and one’s enjoyment of the novel will, in large part, be determined by how one takes these decisions. For starters, the protagonist Reath is not your typical Star Wars hero. One of the most interesting things about Star Wars adventures has been their ability to carve out intriguing, unique backgrounds for each character. It’s not that all Jedi are the same, but, rather, there is a lot of variability that makes each Jedi feel like their own individual. This is a pattern we’ve seen with Kanan in Rebels, Ahsoka in The Clone Wars, Luke in The Last Jedi, and we also see it now with Reath in Into the Dark. The issue, however, is that Reath is somewhat of a dry protagonist. The scholarly interests of the Padawan add a certain authenticity or grounding to the character, but also result in him being a rather uninteresting lead at times. As the novel progresses, Reath further develops, but, ultimately, I was a little disappointed with this character, however likable he may be.

Nonetheless, Into the Dark is backed up by a series of great side characters. Particular highlights included a pilot named Affie and her mentor Leox. The novel also focuses on the older Jedi masters in this journey, Orla and Cohmac. Their friendship is touching and flashbacks to a previous mission were always a point of intrigue. The High Republic era’s villains, the Niihl, are also present, as are a mysterious new enemy.

Another bold decision Gray makes really pays off in the novel and that is to make Into the Dark a contained thriller. After the novel’s rather slow beginning, the action kicks into gear when the crew is stranded on the ancient Amaxine space station. From here on out, the story plays out interestingly, with all the twists and turns of the space station gradually being revealed. Certain parts of the novel really felt like they were influenced by the Indiana Jones films, which was a nice touch to see.

As we noted in our review for A Test of Courage, one of the most intriguing things about the High Republic publishing initiative was the potential to explore an entirely new era in the Star Wars canon. And, similar to A Test of Courage, Into the Dark offers a really entertaining story, but doesn’t quite delve into the new era as much as we would like. This is somewhat of a harsh criticism to lodge given that we are only three books into the High Republic and there are a vast array of projects to come. However, it would have been nice to see just a little more time spent on fleshing this era out as distinct from the rest. We’re given a lot of details through narrations or dialogue, but this information, for the most part, is rather surface level. I anticipate this is me being a little eager to really wrap my head around this era and, in that sense, I’m absolutely sure that subsequent projects will begin to dive into what makes the High Republic interesting more.

Verdict:

Overall, Into the Dark has a lot for Star Wars fans to feast on. The third novel in the High Republic era introduces some unique characters in a contained thriller that sets the stage nicely for inevitable sequels to come. The somewhat lightweight world-building in Gray’s novel is offset by an engaging adventure with unpredictable twists and threatening villains.

Image courtesy of Disney-Lucasfilm Press