The first offering of DC and Webtoons’ recently announced partnership, the first 3 chapters of the Batman: Wayne Family Adventures are absolutely delightful. Written by CRC Payne and focused on Batman and the larger “Bat-family,” it’s a fun, slice-of-life, all-ages story that is allowing it’s lesser-known characters to really shine. And best of all, it’s completely free on the Webtoons app!
Wayne Family Adventures biggest strength is that it’s a story that could only be told in this format. A low-stakes book of fun family misadventures isn’t going to be dominating the direct market, but on a platform like Webtoons it’s able to bring more eyes to the Bat-family than there would be reading any regular issue of Batman. As a huge fan of the Bat-family aspect of the DC universe, this is a story I, and many others, have wanted for years and as the family begins to tighten up in the main continuity, now is the perfect time for it. With the series focusing on characters like Cassandra Cain and Duke Thomas who aren’t as well known to the wider audiences and more casual comic fans, it’s a great opportunity to bring more eyes to them. While it acknowledges the 80 years of Bat-continuity by bringing in more recent characters like Duke and Damian, it’s not tied down by it. You don’t need to know anything coming into these stories beyond the basics of “Batman fights crime and adopts orphans.” Every character gets a brief little blurb that tells you everything you need to know about them and the dynamics between the kids has all been set up perfectly to allow new readers a chance to really get to know them.
The art from the team of Starbite, Maria Li, Lan Ma and Jean Kim is absolutely perfect for this book. The renditions of all these characters are adorable, and seeing Damian Wayne not coloured as a white person for a change was great. The comic is vibrant and kinetic in the brief action scenes and every character is so expressive and cute. Although some gutters seem unnecessarily large, it flows perfectly through the webtoons vertical format and little background details, like Bruce having a “worlds okayest dad” mug, just make the whole thing so charming. The lettering from Kielamel Sibal is also key to the fun vibe that makes this series so special.
The first three chapters introduce us to the Bat-family, first through the eyes of Wayne Manor’s newest resident Duke Thomas, and then through the daily life of Oracle. There’s an episode focused on the battle for the last cookie, and honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. The episode is full of the witty banter we all expect from our superheroes and as someone with many siblings, it completely nails the family dynamics and constant but loving fights there. The whole thing is just complete fun and even Batman gets to just be an exasperated dad overwhelmed by his wonderful idiot children instead of a dark and broody figure.
If you’ve ever seen a silly tumblr post or fan-comic of these kids interacting and wanted more of that, this webcomic is exactly for you, and I cannot recommend it enough. And once again, it’s completely free to read, with an option to read the next few early with Webtoons coins system!
Catch new episodes of Batman: Wayne Family Adventures on Webtoons every Thursday.
Set 200 years before the start of the Skywalker Saga, the multi-media publishing line of the High Republic takes the Star Wars universe to a time of expansion for the Republic as they explore and begin settling the Outer Rim of the galaxy for the first time and encounter a whole new group of threats in the Nihil, a gang of space pirates and marauders with access to hyperspace technology beyond what anyone else is capable of.
The latest chapter in the ongoing High Republic era, Tempest Runner explores the past and future of Lourna Dee, one of the leaders of the Nihil in an all new format, the audio drama. Picking up where previous High Republic novels The Rising Storm and Out of the Shadows left her, Tempest Runner builds on a character that had been set up in such an interesting way over the previous books and leaves her as one of my favourite characters in this entire High Republic era.
Tempest Runner follows two narrative threads as we learn the past of Lourna Dee and what drove her from a rich daughter of a Twi’lek colony leader to one of the Nihil’s deadliest members and also continue her journey from the end of the The Rising Storm as she finds herself the most wanted person in the galaxy, believed to be the leader of the Nihil. It strikes a strong balance between the two threads, giving each plenty of time to shine. Lourna’s background features several jumps as we go through the key moments of her life that define who she becomes but it’s all woven together very well and easy to follow. Jessica Almasy, the voice of Lourna Dee herself, does a great job of growing Lourna’s voice throughout the different time periods which helps separate the younger Lourna in flashbacks from the more grizzled Lourna in the “present” day.
There’s always a challenge when characters make the jump from being featured solely in comics and books to being played by real people. You build up that voice in your head for what a character sounds like and it can be difficult when that idea doesn’t match with what you hear. But the cast of Tempest Runner absolutely nails it. Every returning character feels like they’ve jumped right off the page. While a couple of line deliveries felt a little off, for the most part the acting itself was brilliant and really brings the characters alive. Special mention to Marc Thompson who returns as Marchion Ro from his role in the High Republic audiobooks who is an absolutely perfect Marchion. He balances the terrifying gravitas that Ro has while still capturing that calm, calculating demeanor. Although Marchion’s role isn’t large, it’s a performance that will be stuck in my head any time I read the character from now on.
Tempest Runner is a real culmination of Lourna Dee’s journey so far. Both The Rising Storm and Into the Dark from the second High Republic wave set up Lourna in such an interesting place, and this is the real pay off for that. We also get brief appearances by a variety of characters from the greater High Republic world, including the Marvel comic series also written by Cavan Scott. Although reading any of the previous High Republic books wouldn’t be essential, this audio drama would be pretty confusing without at least a basic knowledge of the era, it’s larger cast and especially the Nihil themselves.
Being a story built almost entirely by a cast of villains, it’s good to see Tempest Runner avoid a lot of tropes with Lourna Dee. While she may be a character with many relatable aspects the story doesn’t shy away from her being an awful person. What we get is the believable downfall of someone who was dealt one too many bad hands, but who still makes the wrong choices at every opportunity. She’s easy to root for while still not being exactly likeable and a great addition to the Star Wars universe. We also meet several new characters in Tempest Runner as well as the recurring ones. My personal favourite being Ola Hest, a character who I could only describe as a space gangster with a voice by Orlagh Cassidy that is reminiscent of esteemed character actress Margo Martindale who I would love to see in other High Republic projects in the future.
A real strength of this project is the production design. Sound is a key aspect to really capture that Star Wars feel and with a soundtrack mostly composed of the music by John Williams from previous Star Wars movies and fantastic sound effects, Tempest Runner is able to nail that vibe perfectly. Close your eyes and you could feel like you’re just watching a new Star Wars film. The action is vibrant and exciting despite a lack of any visual fights thanks to the great action effects and the general background effects used also add a lot to the story being told. The production shows just how much Tempest Runner benefits from being an audio drama instead of just another novel.
As my first foray into the Star Wars audio dramas, I’ll admit to being a bit apprehensive when Tempest Runner was first announced. I often find it difficult to focus on things like podcasts when there’s no visual medium to go along with it. But Tempest Runner had me engrossed from start to finish. Although not necessarily essential to the larger story being built in the High Republic universe, it’s a fascinating look at one of the era’s most interesting characters and helps fill in some gaps in the larger ongoing story. I’d highly recommend it to any fans of the other High Republic books, although I worry it would be a confusing place to start for people new to the era.
Lego has made a lot of Star Wars vehicles in their slightly over 20-year history with the franchise. And I’ve bought…a lot of them. Nothing makes me happier than rewatching a Star War and pointing at the screen every time I see a ship that I own. Underneath my TV, and frankly all around my room in general, are as many Star Wars ships as I can fit on shelves. But every now and then, there’s a ship I see that no matter how much I want it, I can’t have. So with all that Lego has ever made, from the X-wing to the TIE-Defender, what hasn’t made its way from a Galaxy Far, Far Away to a world of bricks?
Public perception of the prequels hasn’t always been favorable, and that’s definitely shown in the sets lego produces. Out of the 31 “Ultimate Collector Series (UCS)” sets that Lego has produced, just 6 have been based on the prequel series. And while the prequel popularity continues to grow, that change has been slow with Lego. Although the recently announced UCS Republic Gunship could hopefully see a change in that.
So what ships from across this era haven’t yet made their way to Lego?
Naboo Royal Starship
A major part of The Phantom Menace, the reasons for the Naboo Royal Starfighter (or J-type 327 Nubian starship) not being made are pretty clear. The ship itself is chrome, and lego parts in chrome are very inconsistent in quality, and presumably more expensive to produce. After reading Queen’s Peril and Shadow recently though, I’m desperate to see Padmé represented better in Lego. Despite being a main member of the prequels cast, there are only 5 (technically 6) figures of Padmé ever made. Meanwhile, there are 7 figures based on Anakin’s Phantom Menace look alone. The “Queen Amidala” figure (technically Sabé, not Padmé) is one of the rarest figures out there, so it would be great to get a rerelease. Or an Amidala Handmaiden or two, with a new Captain Panaka? There’s just so much potential there, and as much as I understand the restrictions with chrome I’d love to see a way to make it work. There are also several options with this ship since it appears with 3 completely different designs in each prequel movie. The Phantom Menace version is the most iconic though, and the one I’d want to see most.
Trade Federation Battleship
The Trade Federation battleship, or Lucrehulk-class Battleship, is another key part of The Phantom Menace that has yet to make its way into Lego. And this one has another pretty clear problem holding it back, size and shape. Making a ship this size would be expensive, especially since it’s a giant sphere, and there aren’t exactly many die-hard Trade Federation fans out there willing to drop hundreds on this battleship despite the potential the set could have.
The Invisible Hand
Now this one has no excuse. If we can get a lego Malevolence, General Grievous’s vastly inferior ship from The Clone Wars, we can get the Invisible Hand. Anakin didn’t say it was “where the fun begins” for nothing! Just think of the features for this set. It could split in half! This has been my most wanted Lego set since 2005 and every time I watch Revenge of the Sith I want it a little bit more.
While technically a prequel, it’s hard to loop Rogue One in with that trilogy thanks to its clear effort to be more stylistically in line with the Original Trilogy. Rogue One still did a lot of work to design new spaceships for the Star Wars Universe. As a huge fan of the U-Wing, thankfully many of these ships have already been adapted by Lego, but there are still several to go.
Although technically a ship dating all the way back to the Old Republic era, the Hammerhead Corvette made its new canon debut in Rogue One and frankly stole the show. Sacrificing itself to destroy the shield over Scarif, a Hammerhead Corvette deserves a place in Lego’s line-up.
Despite being the ship that gives the movie its name, the Zeta-class heavy cargo shuttle is another Star Wars vehicle to not yet make its way to lego. Even with its 4 large wings, it wouldn’t even have to be a huge set if done in a similar style to the recent Imperial Shuttle and would be the perfect way to celebrate the movie’s 5 year anniversary this year.
Antoc Merrick’s X-Wing
Is this technically cheating since Lego has made many, many X-wings before in red squadron? Maybe. But have you considered…
Thanks to Solo’s underwhelming (but underserved) box office performance, it didn’t get as many Lego sets as it maybe needed. They never even made two of the main characters! I believe that this came down to the last rewrites to the film as it changed directors, but plenty of time has passed now and there’s a clear choice for the Solo ship that needs to be made.
The Nau’ur-class yacht owned by Crimson Dawn leader Dryden Vos, the First Light would provide the perfect opportunity to actually make a minifigure for Dryden himself. He is the main villain of the movie after all! And although she doesn’t appear on the yacht, the lack of L3-37 in the Solo line is another travesty.
The Original Trilogy
Unsurprisingly after 20 years of having the license, there are few ships from the original trilogy that Lego is yet to make. But not none!
Nebulon B Frigate
When the previously mentioned UCS Republic Gunship was announced, it was actually part of a vote for the next UCS set. The options were between the Republic Gunship, a TIE-Bomber, and the Nebulon B Frigate. So what did the people choose between a ship we’ve seen in Lego three times, the one that hasn’t appeared since 2003, and the giant rebel flagship that has never been made in lego and probably never will be if it doesn’t win the vote? The Republic Gunship of course. As you can tell, I’m definitely not still bitter over that. Several other Rebel flagships would also be valid options, such as the Home One, but the Nebulon B Frigate has always been a favourite of mine.
The movies that brought me back into Lego after several years of absence, the sequel trilogy received fewer and fewer sets as it went on, from 17 (and 4 single figure polybags) for The Force Awakens, to 14 (and 1 single figure polybag) for The Last Jedi, to 10 for The Rise of Skywalker. That left plenty of opportunities that Lego passed on in favour of giving Poe 3 different X-Wings.
Resistance Transport Pod
One of the strangest sets to ever not exist, the ships used by the Resistance to evacuate to Crait in The Last Jedi was actually made into a set. It was shown off at a toy fair and a full leaked description was given. And then it just…disappeared. We never heard anything about it again. It’s still a great idea for a set though. It would also be a great opportunity for a new Leia, who only got a sequel version from Episode VII.
First Order Dreadnought
Used over D’Qar to stop the Resistance from fleeing, the First Order Dreadnought may be a little on the large side but its unique shape and design could make for a very interesting build.
Clearly The Last Jedi’s “TIE Silencer” was deemed “too quiet”, so The Rise of Skywalker brought the volume up a bit with Kylo Ren’s latest, and final, starfighter. Due to Lego’s unfortunate lack of TIE-Interceptors, the Whisperer would fit in perfectly.
If you told me walking out of The Rise of Skywalker that a few years down the line I’d be a genuine fan of Ochi of Bestoon, Sith assassin extraordinaire, I’d have laughed in your face. But the current Star Wars: Darth Vader comic by Greg Pak has really turned me around on the weird little guy. He sucks, but in a very endearing way. And with the Legacy being so important to Rey’s story, it makes sense that his ship would appear in Lego form.
Final Order Star Destroyer
It’s been quite a while since Lego last released an (affordable) Star Destroyer, and the final order variant gives plenty of room to do something a little new. Essentially just an Imperial Star Destroyer with a big gun on it and a red trim, the fleet over Exogol provides plenty of scenes for Lego to draw on for a set. Like maybe finally releasing the main villain of the movie?
Although there haven’t been as many single-player Star Wars games since EA got the license, I’ve really enjoyed the ones that have been made and feel there’s plenty of potential there for Lego to use.
Jedi: Fallen Order
I want an official Lego Cal Kestis. I will happily buy a full starship, just to own an official Cal Kestis. And more importantly, BD-1! The Stinger Mantis is also a great-looking ship with a design just waiting for Lego to make, with that wing that twists around in flight. I thought it was such a missed opportunity when nothing was announced.
As happy as I am that Lego released an Inferno Squad battle-pack to coincide with the release of Battlefront 2, I’d love to see the Squad’s ship in bricks. An Imperial Raider-II class ship, the Corvus stayed with Iden Versio and Del Meeko when they defected to the Rebel Alliance and helped fight in the battle of Jakku. Seeing official Rebel variants of Iden and Del in figure form would also be great.
The High Republic
Lego has never based a set off of a book series before, but there’s always a first for everything. With the line-wide High Republic era dominating so much of the Star Wars publishing line at the moment and telling some fantastic stories while doing it, it makes sense for lego to cash in on that for at least the one set. And what better than…
The personal fighters used by the Jedi during the High Republic era, the Vectors are fascinating ships with lasers that use lightsabers to function and that can even be flown remotely using the force. I could list Jedi that I’d want to see included in the set for days since I love every High Republic Jedi we’ve seen so far, but Avar Kriss seems to be the best option. As both the face of the Jedi Order thanks to her fight against the Nihil and the face of the High Republic line, she seems the perfect choice to become a minifigure.
Thanks to the many, many starships all throughout that Galaxy Far, Far Away this is far from all the ships that Lego hasn’t yet made, but I hoped you enjoyed this list of a few of my favourite candidates.
Peter Parker: Hey everyone, this is Peter Parker from the Daily Bugle and-
J Jonah Jameson: ENOUGH OF THAT PARKER! We all know who they’re really here to see! I’m J. Jonah Jameson and since you kids these days don’t know how to put down your phones and read a good newspaper, Parker here thought we should do a special episode of Just the Facts with me, J Jonah Jameson, to show off the Bugle! Isn’t that right Parker?
Peter Parker: eh…yes Mister Jameson.
The two stand outside the Daily Bugle building, Peter filming Jameson as he begins to narrate the structure around them.
J Jonah Jameson: So this is the building! Beautiful! Modern! Very Expensive, but worth every penny! Plenty of me on the outside, just as it should be. We’ve got a newsstand outside, SELLING BUGLES ONLY I HOPE!
Amber Grant, local newspaper seller, looks over confused at Jameson’s rant. An elderly woman walks over with a plate full of wheatcakes.
Peter Parker: Oh hey Aunt May…Mister Jameson, LOOK OUT!
Sandman bursts up from the ground, closely followed by Spider-Man swinging after him.
J Jonah Jameson: Arrgh! Another one of those Spider-menaces here to tear up my building AGAIN!
Peter Parker: …isn’t Sandman the one…
J Jonah Jameson: YES HIM TOO! But we all know they’re working together!
Jameson enters the building as Parker films through the massive hole in the wall because “It’s very hard to fit a recording device in the building” which seems like an odd thing to say…
J Jonah Jameson: Now this is the lobby of a real newspaper! Not like that GC52, they never even talk about what a MENACE Spider-man is! Some of our most prized papers up on the wall too. All the best ones written by me of course… Even one about my son. He’s an astronaut you know? A real American hero. Not like that webhead! NOW! Onwards!
The two proceed upstairs into the bullpen and find Daily Bugle employees Robbie Robertson and Ron Barney working away at their desks.
Robbie Robertson: Hey Pete! Tell Randy I said hello!
J Jonah Jameson: Robertson can’t you see we’re in the middle of an important video! And where’s Urich? I need to show off my star writers writing the truths that keep this city running!
Robbie Robertson: Outside talking to the devil I believe, so leave him be. And leave us be too, Barney and I are busy working.
J Jonah Jameson: Hurry up Parker, I don’t pay you to stand there and chit chat. We’re moving on!
The pair proceed upstairs again, finding themselves in a storeroom filled with boxes, filing cabinets and a photocopier.
J Jonah Jameson: Now THIS is a historic room worth showing off Parker! Full of Bugle history! Every paper we’ve ever published! It’s a room of legends! And of course, the copier! The Bugle couldn’t run without it!
In the next room, Spider-Man sits behind a desk with his own photo beside him. He sits completely still as Jameson enters the room.
J Jonah Jameson: Parker what on earth is going on here! Why is that webbed menace here with a picture of himself!
Peter Parker: yeah…I can’t explain this one either…
Green Goblin BURSTS through the window and back out again as action erupts outside. Mysterio, Doctor Octopus, and Green Goblin attempt to storm the Bugle as Ghost-Spider and Spider-Ham fight them off.
Venom stares longingly through the upstairs office, using his symbiote to mime “call me”.
J Jonah Jameson: Parker go take some photos, I want this all on the front page tomorrow! I can see it now… ’SPIDER MENACES ATTACK LAST GOOD PAPER’
Peter Parker hands Jameson the video recorder and runs outside. Not to the elevator? Is he taking the fire escape? Jameson, unfazed by the action around him, proceeds upstairs again.
Jameson barges up to the top floor and tosses the camera, still recording, to his assistant Betty Brant.
J Jonah Jameson: Miss Brant! Fetch my pen, I need to go yell at these criminals!
Betty Brant: Yes sir, and-
J Jonah Jameson: MISS BRANT! Why is there a Spider-buggy driving up my WINDOW!
Betty Brant: Eddie Brock keeps calling you sir-
J Jonah Jameson: Let him! Now help me finish this video!
The two carry on to the roof of the building using the fire escape.
J Jonah Jameson: Look at that rooftop! That beautiful sign! The water tower! And…some sort of leather-clad vampire? Scram! This is Bugle property! Anyways, let’s let the construction workers behind this beauty tell you all about it.
Cut to a construction worker standing in Jameson’s office…
Adam the Builder: Well building the Bugle was a long job of course. And it’s got a lot of glass in it, so that took up quite a while. But it was a very fun experience, and there’s so much in the interior that’s got a lot of detail and care in it. I’m an interior decorator too you see? Not to mention all the creative characters you see while in New York! Even some new faces I’d never seen before. And I know that broken window may look bad, but it all comes back together easily enough.
The Bugle logo fills the screen as we cut to a brief slideshow of various images around the office and the familiar faces found within it
Star Wars: The High Republic – Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland
The High Republic takes the Star Wars universe to an even longer time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Some 200 years prior to the Phantom Menace and the beginning of the Skywalker Saga. With the Jedi in their prime, they find themselves up against the mysterious Nihil, a gang of pirates and marauders dedicated to wreaking havoc across the galaxy and stopping the Republic’s expansion into the galactic frontier.
The second young adult book in the series, Out of the Shadows acts as a continuation of several plot lines established across the line so far. Jedi Vernestra Rwoh and Imri Cantaros from Justina Ireland’s own A Test of Courage, alongside fellow Jedi Reath Silas and Cohmac Vitus from Into the Dark, go up against the dangerous Nihil, with some new faces joining them too. With ships being mysteriously torn from hyperspace and attacked by Nihil, cargo hauler Sylvestri Yarrow finds herself on a simple bureaucratic mission to Coruscant that quickly sends her spiraling into a web of political intrigue between the Jedi, Republic, and the Graf family, once renowned hyperspace prospectors.
It’s worth noting that this book is set after the second flagship title of the High Republic, The Rising Storm, and does contain some mild plot spoilers for it. I have not read it, so I can’t be entirely sure of the extent of those spoilers, but there are some seemingly important moments that are revisited and play a key part in Vernestra Rwoh’s motivations.
The biggest strength of this book lies in its protagonists. Ireland has no issue bringing Vernestra and Imri from their previous all-ages book into the wider universe and Cohmac and Reath feel lifted straight from Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark. All the new additions to the cast have unique voices that bring something new to both the book, and the wider High Republic Universe. Despite Reath being one of our point of view characters and given a big cover focus, the chapter count is significantly shifted in Vernestra and new protagonist Sylverstri Yarrow’s favour. Which is not necessarily a complaint, as those two are certainly the ones with the most interesting stories to tell. When the book has the characters together and talking it’s at its absolute best.
The real problem lies in the Nihil’s point of view character, a familiar face whose identity I will not spoil. The look into the Nihil in this book is short, perhaps only 4 or 5 short chapters throughout the story, but there seems to be a clear lack of purpose to them. While the Marchion Ro chapters of Light of the Jedi gradually built the threat of the Nihil into something terrifying, here they merely remind us that they’re still there with the occasional check-in. This also causes another issue, by letting the reader into what the Nihil are up to we don’t get to discover alongside our protagonists, which causes large chunks of the book to feel pointless as the characters slowly make their way towards discoveries we’ve known from early on. This all leaves the book without a clear and compelling antagonist, as the Nihil presence looms over the book but rarely comes close enough to feeling like an actual threat.
This leads me to another big problem I had with the book; the mysteries that drive the plot. Whilst the hyperspace mysteries are straightforward and predictable, even being given definitive answers by the Nihil chapters so early on, the political drama that our characters find themselves drawn into is often unfocused and boring, with no clear purpose other than to create confusion. We also get teases to some mysterious Force powers and their connections to hyperspace, a plot the book drops and picks up at random despite being the most compelling part of the story. The pace at which these mysteries develop is also glacial, with the book spending most of its time building up to a big event before shifting pace rapidly into a rushed and unsatisfying climax.
Although the book isn’t action-heavy, Ireland excels at the few scenes that are there. The fights are clear and exciting, using the tools of the Jedi in ways I find only books can in order to really showcase how impressive lightsabers and the Force can be. There’s still dramatic weight to the action though, with the Jedi feeling in real danger when they’re overwhelmed. It avoids making them feel like unstoppable gods while still providing that essential cool factor.
One of my personal favourite parts of the High Republic thus far has been its worldbuilding, and this is another area where Out of the Shadows is a success. The book features a wide variety of species from across the Star Wars universe, including many familiar species from both the original films and some of the more recent additions. There are also a couple of new species introduced that were fascinating and unique, including the volka, a race of strange electric cats that I’d love to see more of (or have as a pet). We discover more of the history of the Galaxy here too through the Grafs and San Tekkas, something I’m always happy to learn more about. There are even a few familiar names thrown in that I was very excited to see.
As far as its importance to the larger plot of the High Republic, I was surprised to see Out of the Shadows pick up some major plotlines from Light of the Jedi. This book has some big ramifications for the various factions of the High Republic and is an essential chapter in its larger story. It also sets up some very interesting future plots and introduces a couple of new Force abilities that were very interesting, and I could see being important down the line.
Out of the Shadows had a difficult task ahead of it, taking in characters and plots from across the High Republic. And while it stumbles at times and drags in the middle, it is for the most part genuinely enjoyable. The action scenes, while few, are exciting, and pull you right into the action. The characters are likable and the central romance of the book is compelling. And it leaves me genuinely excited for what’s next in the High Republic, from Justina Ireland, and the other writers.
Early review copy provided by Disney-Lucasfilm Press. Out of the Shadows releases 07/27/2021 in all good bookstores and digital storefronts.