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Shadowhawk reviews the last three issues of Dark Horse’s ongoing brand-new Star Wars comic, including this week’s new release.
“Mysteries deepen. Plots thicken. Action intensifies. Discoveries made. Brian Wood is rolling on a high with this book!” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
The first five issues of this series have been fairly intense so far. In the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin, the fledgling Rebel Alliance has been fighting against odds to survive and things have never been harder for them. There’s a spy loose in their highest ranks and they are still space-bound with no fixed base of operations, always moving from place to place in a feeble attempt at staying one step ahead of the Imperial forces. They need allies, supplies, and a permanent location to operate out of, so that they can have some kind of stability, instead of living moment to moment. This is at the core of what Brian Wood’s Star Wars is about and the ride until now has been very thrilling and satisfying in a number of ways.
Most of #6 is taken up with the kind of fights that, in the larger Expanded Universe, the Rebel Alliance and later the New Republic have thrived upon. Long odds stacked against them, but winning through ingenuity and a good dose of luck. The action here is remarkable for the fact that Leia is at the heart of it. I’ve mentioned before that the series has been doing great to add some much needed agency to her character beyond appearing to be the pretty princess with an occasional badassery that often gets overshadowed later on. That’s how she was portrayed in the original movie and Brian Wood has done a lot to have her step beyond the confines of that characterisation. Now she gets into the thick of the action just like the others and she is actively involved in the missions, whether covert or not.
We don’t get to see Leia much outside her flight suit and her X-wing, so a lot of the art shows her in the cockpit of the snubfighter. This adds an interesting challenge for penciller Carlos D’Anda, and I think he more than rises up to the occasion, giving her different expressions in each panel so that she stands out and doesn’t come across as wooden or static.
The cameos, relatively speaking, by Luke, Wedge and Mon Mothma were very welcome. The scenes with these three ram home the sore point that there is a traitor in the Rebel Fleet and that urgent steps needed to be taken to flush this traitor out, whoever he or she may be. These particular scenes are long and full of a lot of exposition, and they repeat a few things we already know, but are for the benefit of Luke and Wedge who aren’t aware of all the intricacies, so it wasn’t all that bad, all things considered.
In terms of the artwork, these scenes were slightly problematic in that all three characters appear to have highly flexible and long necks. That was just… odd. It wasn’t really ever apparent before, but here it is, and just served as a somewhat irritating distraction.
All things considered, this was still a fairly good issue, with writer Brian Wood and artists Carlos D’Anda, Gabe Eltaeb and Michael Heisler on top form as usual.
Issue #7 begins rather interestingly with Acting Moff Birra Seah, who has been assigned by Vader to oversee the construction of the new Death Star in his absence. The Emperor himself arrives and takes her to task for Vader’s absence, all of which results in a secondary interesting situation, in which we learn that the Force is indeed strong with her. This is a very promising subplot, and I’m certain that the pay-off will be unexpected, as is most often the case with Force sensitives in Vader’s employ.
From the raw condescension of the Emperor aboard the new Death Star, we move on to Tattooine, where Luke has returned with a recovering Leia to bury his dead uncle and aunt and mark his remembrance. This was a really touching moment, and possibly the best such in the entire series so far. It marks a really small, really personal and really special moment for Luke, something I’m actually keen on seeing more of in the series, and not just from his perspective either. Wedge Antilles too has some big baggage in his past, and I’d love for Brian Wood to explore that somehow. Would certainly spice things up!
The rest of the issue is taken up with more subterfuge and more escapist heroics as Han Solo tries to blast his way off Coruscant and Leia takes off a very personal mission. It was a great way to end the issue, much like last time. Given some of the action-packed endings for all the previous issues, this marked a really nice change of pace and I welcomed it.
For whatever reason, Carlos D’Anda is off the book for this issue, replaced by Ryan Kelly. What’s really remarkable is that Kelly’s style is largely the same as D’Anda. I couldn’t really spot any differences, which is no mean feat, considering that D’Anda drew some really top-notch panels and Kelly had a tough act to follow. But follow he did and in great style. D’Anda’s departure also seems to have necessitated an inker on the art team, Dan Parsons, to supplement series regular Gabe Eltaeb’s colours. Together, they all manage to provide a really consistent look for the series, with there being very little difference in the overall art between this issue and the previous one. Nothing that really jumped out at me at any rate.
Issue #8, released this Wednesday proves to be among the best the Brian Wood has written till now. And this is largely because he finally hit a great emotional beat with Leia and played to the relative strengths of each character. In the previous issue, we see Luke mourning his uncle and aunt, who raised him as their own son and made him who he is. This time, we see Leia mourning her lost world in the ashes of its remains in a ceremony that is personal and very private. The entire scene gives her an emotional vulnerability that we never got to see in the movies, and for that alone, this issue deserves the highest of praises.
What I find really interesting about Wood’s characters, whether here or in his creator-owned project Mara with artist Ming Doyle or his ongoing all-female team X-men book is that he can really hit the small, personal emotional beats with his characters. This is one of the reasons why love Gail Simone’s work so much, since she does the same thing very often and it adds a great dimension to the character. Whether superheroes or superathletes or whatever, all these characters are portrayed extremely well and with depth. I was already a fan of Wood’s Leia, but this issue takes that fan feeling to a whole new level. We’ve only seen Leia as the tough, determined leader until now, and her facade has finally cracked, and in a good way. Highlight of the entire issue.
Then we have the rest of the stuff going on, as Luke and Wedge carry out a dangerous mission behind enemy lines and Han is still caught in his escapade from Coruscant while being chased by both Boba Fett AND Bossk. That’s a dangerous mix of adversaries to have on your tail, and Han knows that full well. That’s why all his high-flying antics in Coruscant’s skies are so damn fun. Typical Han Solo-style Corellian fun, make no mistake. And where the other men are concerned, Wood gives some great callbacks to the original movie, which serve to further establish the friendship between Luke and Wedge. Just great work all around.
After two relatively “soft” endings, we finally get an explosive cliffhanger and I loved how the issue ended, setting up a great opening moment for the next issue. Hopefully.
In terms of the art, this time around Kelly’s Han Solo just feels weird. His expressions have a lot to do with that since he comes off as overconfident and overarrogant which, even for a scruffy nerd-herder like him, is a bit overmuch. Additionally, Luke and Wedge look a little too similar to each other, which can really throw you off if you happen to forget that Luke is blond-haired. Other than all that, this was a fairly good issue that carries on from the previous one. Dan Parsons, Gabe Eltaeb and Michael Heisler continue to do great on that front.
Just a final comment about that cover, it looks way, way odd. A lot of it has to do with how Wedge and Luke’s faces are drawn. They look as if they have been photoshopped in from some other image and the heads are turned just a little bit too oddly. David Michael Beck is on the cover duties this time around, and I’m afraid that his cover just isn’t up to par with everything else I’ve seen so far in this series.
More Star Wars: #1, #2, #3-5, Agent of the Empire Vol.1: Iron Eclipse, Darth Maul: Death Sentence, and, Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison.