Catching up with ‘Westworld’ Season 1

When I got a few months of free HBO with my new Dish Network subscription, the first show I programmed into my DVR was "Westworld," which launched with a 10-episode season in 2016 (and will return next year). Evan Rachel Wood ("Once and Again") and the universally great reviews from critics and fans (9.0 on IMDB) drew me in, the entertainment value kept me there, and the non-cliched way it delves into the oldest sci-fi theme ("What defines humanity?") has me still thinking about it.

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Alan Dean Foster’s novelization helps fans connect with world of ‘Alien: Covenant’

Although I gave "Alien: Covenant" a good review earlier this summer, I did sympathize with one Amazon reviewer's all-caps suggestion to the filmmakers: "Stop killing off main characters between movies." This is a reference to the infamous decision to start "Alien 3" by killing off Hicks and Newt, and the franchise's (arguably) repeated mistake this year, as "Prometheus' " Elizabeth Shaw is dispatched offscreen before the events of "Covenant."

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'It Comes at Night' builds evocative apocalyptic world, but tells too small of a story

"It Comes at Night" (now available via Redbox and streaming) is the latest scary/smart horror-thriller, eschewing haunted houses and possessed children and instead taking its place with "Maggie," "It Follows," "The VVitch," "Don't Breathe" and "Get Out" by showing how people react in intense situations. It throws us into a world where a plague – which can only be contracted at night, hence the title – has wiped out most of civilization. It's like if you tuned into a conventional outbreak drama after the opening act.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980) and ‘Return of the Jedi’ (1983) comics

My look back at the "Star Wars" saga comic adaptations concludes with the best and the most disappointing entries, both from the legendary duo of Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson ("Classic Star Wars"), along with background artist Carlos Garzon: "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" (1983). "Empire" is exactly what we want from an adaptation – the spirit of film, without being a mere copy – while "Jedi" fails mostly because it's too short.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: The ‘A New Hope’ original (1977) and Special Edition (1997) comic adaptations

"Star Wars' " comic book history naturally started with "Episode IV: A New Hope" (1977), and the adaptation by writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin is still a fun read today for its vibrant energy. Plus, it gains serious kitsch value for its odd departures from what we now understand to be the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Thomas and Chaykin were getting to know "Star Wars" at the same time as everyone else. While they were bumped from the Marvel comics after Issue 10 in part because George Lucas didn't like their work, their six-issue "A New Hope" adaptation is still widely loved for both quality and nostalgia.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: The prequel trilogy comic adaptations (1999-2005)

I feel the "Star Wars" prequel films get a little more stagey and theatrical – or to be harsher, a little sloppier -- as they go along, but the comic adaptations are the opposite: They get progressively better. "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999) is a flat retelling, "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002) has vibrant art but can't overcome another bland script, and "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005) is poetic and beautiful.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘Clone Wars Adventures’ digests (2004-07)

The Genndy Tartakovsky "Clone Wars" TV microseries (2003-05) delivered bite-size kinetic tales that served as a testing ground for "The Clone Wars" (2008-14). Its comic-book parallel was the "Clone Wars Adventures" digests (2004-07), in which artists – most often the Fillbach Brothers – and colorists mimic Tartakovsky's work and the microseries' energy.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘Agent of the Empire’ (2011-13)

One of the most all-around beautiful pieces of "Star Wars" comic storytelling came toward the end of the Dark Horse run: "Agent of the Empire," which includes the five-issue arcs "Iron Eclipse" (2011-12) and "Hard Targets" (2012-13). The series is written by elite scribe John Ostrander with gorgeous art by Stephane Roux and Stephane Crety ("Iron Eclipse") and Davide Fabbri and Christian Dalla Vecchia ("Hard Targets"). The latter duo delivered crisp and colorful art on "Republic" and "Empire," but colorist Wes Dzioba smartly selects darker hues here to fit the mood.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral’ (2012)

During the Expanded Universe era, the Bantam/Del Rey books and Dark Horse comics didn't collaborate too often, but when they did, it was often a treat. A prime example is John Jackson Miller's "Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral" (2012). It spins off from "Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories," nine novellas that give us the multi-millennial backstory of the sheltered Sith culture that finally springs itself on the galaxy in "Fate of the Jedi."

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘The Clone Wars’ (digests) Nos. 10-11 (2013)

"The Clone Wars" digests, like their parent show, came to a premature conclusion in 2013 with Disney's purchase and rebooting of the franchise. As with the TV show, the digests were starting to be more consistently good when they ended. No. 9, "The Sith Hunters," which I reviewed in a previous post, is the best and most essential issue, as it fills in Darth Maul's story between "The Phantom Menace" and "The Clone Wars."

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