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  • Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One by Gary Gerani Book Review

    Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One by Gary Gerani

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fashioned for the serious cinephile, original card series editor Gary Gerani offers his insightful memories and commentary once again on this game changing run of cards based on George Lucas’ original sci-fi blockbuster.  Deemed the most groundbreaking Topps project of the hundreds involved with, Gerani’s Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One republishes the entire 120 base card set of the elongated 1995 line for the first time.  Culled from their original 35mm film negatives, the lavish cards are offered in an astonishing 2.35 aspect ratio to honor the entirety of the film’s gorgeous photographic compositions.  In addition to the stunning high-definition fronts of the cards featuring the massive Imperial Star Destroyers, the heroic Millennium Falcon and the many characters that populate the original Star Wars, the card backs, remaining true to their more sophisticated approach, offer film facts, correlating storyboards and other rarely seen shots.  

    Additionally featuring 60 base cards from 1997’s Special Edition Widevision series that coincided with the original film’s theatrical re-release of the same year, spotlights the digital alterations made to the film that continue to be a controversial topic amongst fans of the franchise.  Graciously including four bonus cards for collectors and an affectionate afterword from Rancho Obi-Wan museum operator Stephen J. Sansweet, Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One is the latest and flashiest installment of Topps’ continued preservation of their prized intergalactic cards with exceptional background information on their making.  With even more volumes planned for the future, card collectors and Force wielders alike will take delight adding this latest hardbound edition of wide-reaching mini murals into their collections today.

    Available now from Abrams ComicArts, Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray & Cole Horton Book Review

    Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray & Cole Horton

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    An impressive display of every artifact and event taken place in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia leaves no stone left unturned in its 200 pages that catalogs and descriptively details the map and geography of the series’ many planets, the vast array of creatures inhabiting its aquatic and dry lands plus, an extraordinary breakdown of the franchise’s extensive timeline.  Presented with striking visuals across every glossy page, major and minor examples of Star Wars’ culture exploring the unique attires, armor, music and food consumed gets notice while, every character from marquee players like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Han Solo are prominently spotlighted with more overlooked creations from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels also rightly earning their place.  The combined efforts of Barr, Bray and Horton do sensational work giving readers deeper looks into the leisurely activities such as, gambling games and holochess that our favorite characters indulge in with equally intriguing looks at the currency from Republic credits to Wupiupi coins that they deal in.  Meanwhile, a personal favorite section of the pictorial tome tours the technological tools that populate the series ranging from its many different droids and cyborgs to comlinks, bio-equipment such as Luke Skywalker’s mechanical hand and of course, the multitude of weapons from blasters, lightsabers and mammoth destructors like the Death Star that the forces of good and evil do battle with.  Befit with a foreword by Industrial Light & Magic’s Senior Creative Director Dennis Muren, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia is an intergalactically fun and flashy overview of everything that makes the series a sight for the ages and essential for all fans’ coffee tables.

    Available April 4th from DK Publishing, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two by Gary Gerani Book Review

    Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two by Gary Gerani

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Picking up where George Lucas’ original sci-fi adventure left off, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two continues the pocket-sized thrills set forth by the original 1977 feature.  Once again introduced and guided by original series editor Gary Gerani, the second installment traces the full three series run of its 352 collectible cards and 30 large-sized photocards in beautiful, glossy detail with four bonus cards included for readers.  

    As risky and ambitious as the sequel’s making, Topps Company intended to up their ante on its followup series to the wildly popular Star Wars line.  With many of the film’s elements shrouded in expected secrecy, Topps’ limitations to deliver several new series of cards that exceeded fan expectation was surely tested.  Confident in their abilities, Topps increased their card count for the new line to a massive 132 cards per series, debuting with picture cards of its main cast featuring stats for each character on their reverse side.  In addition, the “Story Digest” inclusions tell Empire’s narrative through stunning still photographs from the film.  With various stickers (featuring incomplete letters of the alphabet) included in each line, series two kicks off with the “Starcraft” group, spotlighting the film’s many unique spaceships.  Continuing to showcase more still photography from the anticipated sequel, Star Quizzes were included on the backside of many cards with a Star Wars related trivia question.  As photographs ran the risk of redundancy, behind-the-scenes stills were included as a refreshing change of pace with interesting movie facts on their flip side.  Making stylistic color changes for their third and final series, its card count was trimmed down to 88 to avoid continued risk of covering similar territories.  Commissioned by Lucasfilm, comic style character renderings of the main cast gave the final installment a breath of fresh air while, “Star Quotes” cards and “Star Paintings” featuring incredible concept art by Ralph McQuarrie also added a welcome mix.  Lastly, one final hurrah for The Empire Strikes Back line came in a series of 30 photocards, excellently reproduced in the final pages of this massive 500+ page volume.

    Chronicling what is arguably the most beloved installment of Lucas’ saga, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two surpasses its predecessor in not only size but, also detail and variety.  Furthermore, Gerani’s invaluable insight into the creative process of these nostalgic goodies continues to enhance fans’ appreciation of the Force during a time when the fate of the Resistance was very much in question.  As the filmmakers strived to capture lightning twice, the creative artists at Topps struggled equally to give fans something worthy of their previous achievements.  With the Force on both their respective sides, The Empire Strikes Back would become a universal hit while, the fruit of Topps' labor would be met with equal praise.  Excellently collected in their entirety, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two shifts into hyperspace and sends readers on a fun, youthful journey back to 1980.

    Available April 19th from Abrams ComicArts, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two can be purchased via Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series by Gary Gerani Book Review

    Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series by Gary Gerani

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Compiling all 200 collectible cards from its wildly successful collection, Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series celebrates the iconic imagery of such famed artists as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Mike Mingnola, Boris Vallejo, Joseph Smith and many others as their unique styles realize the world of George Lucas’ iconic saga.  Introduced by and providing running commentary from the series’ original editor, Gary Gerani takes readers back to the early 90s where renewed interest in trading cards ignited the opportunity to join forces with Lucasfilm to commemorate Star Wars’ fifteenth anniversary.  While Gerani had previously lent his expertise to past card series based on the sci-fi franchise, the desire to do something far more ambitious warranted additional time, missing the intended anniversary plans in the process, for a project that proved more than worthy of its wait.

    Spanning three series from 1993 to 1995, Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series beautifully reproduces the imaginative artwork of all its creators on glossy stock with a shimmering dust jacket highlighting Joseph Smith’s incredible portrait of Jedi Master Yoda.  Serving as a bonafide walk down memory lane for fans who grew up actively collecting the series, Abrams ComicArts’ latest volume is another standout effort that allows all generations of Star Wars fans to own and appreciate another niche outlet of the films’ enduring fandom.  Accompanied by a heartwarming afterword by famed movie poster artist Drew Struzan and a pack of four bonus cards, Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series is a visual delight that sends readers into light speed exploring the richly designed and boundless layers of the Star Wars universe.

    Available now from Abrams ComicArts, Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.