Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jeffrey Brown is Back with Friends: Darth Vader and Friends

Artist and author Jeffrey Brown is back again this month with another entertaining book for Star Wars fans. Like its predecessors, Darth Vader and Friends (Chronicle Books) is 64 pages of gag cartoons set in Brown’s unique alternate version of the galaxy.

Teachable moments and physics
Continuing along the lines of bestsellers Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess, and Good Night, Darth Vader, Luke and Leia are small children and Darth Vader is a single Dad bumbling his way through parenting and work. Familiar Star Wars characters show up as children throughout. Forget everything you know about Star Wars continuity - the rules go out the window here to make room for lighthearted fun.

This series has the look and feel of children's books but based on the vocabulary these books are more “gift books” than children’s books. Adults can enjoy them with or without their children and often it seems the jokes are more for the grown-ups.

Star Wars has been parodied many, many times since 1977 so finding fresh material for humour is no small challenge. Brown manages to find a few new ways to look at the galaxy but often his focus is more on being sweet than being funny, like when Chewbacca ate all the pizza or Leia ate the candy bar. There’s no joke; it's just a cute childhood moment.

Luke playing in sand? Looks familiar somehow...
Compared to the witty humour in the recent LEGO Star Wars and Phineas and Ferb TV specials Brown’s books often feel like a corny Family Circus take on Star Wars. However the next page can reveal a clever new surprise like clone troopers confusing each other’s names, Luke’s terrifying lightsaber practice or a bizarrely self-aware Jabba. Alternating between two distinct tones must be a difficult balance.

Fans of Brown’s previous Star Wars books will enjoy Darth Vader and Friends though newcomers to the series may want to start at the beginning with the mega-hit Darth Vader and Son

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