Every time I remember that Jason Aaron is leaving this book soon, I get majorly bummed out lately even though I’m simultaneously excited to see what Kieron Gillen has in store. The reason? These delightful, self-contained issues we’ve been getting. As teased at the end of the last issue, it’s Han and Chewie’s time to shine and they’ve been tasked by Mon Mothma with smuggling Grakkus the Hutt through Imperial space. (If your memory needs jogging, he’s the hutt with abs who had the lightsaber collection. And that was a sentence I never thought I’d type.)
While maybe we’ve heard the “ugh I don’t know why I’m still here” internal monologue from Han Solo a few too many times already, that doesn’t stop this issue from being fun. More than once, I could hear Harrison Ford’s voice in my head as I read some of the lines. That’s always a good sign. Han and Chewie definitely needed a good team up adventure (especially after Screaming Citadel) and this one delivers. It’s also nice to see him in a story without Leia or Luke for that matter. The princess might be part of the reason why he stuck around but getting a Han story without Leia is refreshing.
One of the neat things about the comics over the last eight months has been seeing all the little references and nods towards Rogue One pop up. Star Wars #35 is no exception. Not only does General Draven get a name check but Mon Mothma is drawn more closely depicting Genevieve O’Reilly than Caroline Blakiston. It makes sense as to why but it’s definitely still something neat to see happening.
The spotlight issues continue to be a spotlight for Jason Aaron’s run on Star Wars and if they continue in this fashion, he’ll be leaving the book on a very high note.
Star Wars #35: Jason Aaron/Writer, Salvador Larroca/Artist, Edgar Delgado/Colorist, Clayton Cowles/Letterer, Jordan D. White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
It’s funny how comics work sometimes. I never knew that I wanted Black Krrsantan’s backstory until I read this issue. The first Doctor Aphra Annual actually takes us back in time not only to a certain wookiee’s origin but also to the time between Screaming Citadel and the start of the current auction arc. There’s definitely something to be said for the self-contained story because this? Was pretty darn fun.
Honestly, there isn’t really anything that I didn’t like about this issue. Kieron Gillen puts a neat twist on the typical tragic wookiee backstory and Aphra even gets to use Black Krrsantan’s story to her advantage as he tells his tale to two very interested journalists. (They send their stories out on the Undervine and don’t mess around with the Holonet and its Imperial censors.) It’s obviously Krrsantan’s time to shine but Aphra definitely gets to have some fun along the way too.
I also have to say that I absolutely adored the art by Marc Leming (with an assist from Will Sliney) with colors by Jordan Boyd. There’s something just so great about his style and everything about how the characters looked made me feel like he really got the Star Wars aesthetic. Aphra not only gets another awesome new jacket but everything about the journalists’ looks just feels cool. (And is that Bail Organa’s influence I detect in one of those capes?) They look like Star Wars characters but have distinct styles which isn’t something that every Star Wars artist has been able to pull off.
Like a good Annual should, Doctor Aphra Annual #1 is a fun story that can standalone and is a good taste for hesitant readers into the sorts of hijinks and jobs that Aphra’s team tends to pull. (Just, you know, usually with more focus on Aphra.)
Doctor Aphra Annual #1: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Marc Laming/Artist, Will Sliney/Artist, Jordan Boyd/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Editor, Jordan D. White/Supervising Editor
What are the ethics involved in humanizing the Empire? Does Star Wars need to be a more nuanced universe, or are the black-and-white morals of the original and prequel trilogies preferable? And is now the right moment for that nuance? These were the questions that plagued me as I listened to the latest Star Wars novel: Christie Golden’s Battlefront II tie-in, Inferno Squad.
The arc with the boys’ trip and the girls’ trip continues and things don’t really go all that well for our favorites in Black Squadron. (Are you surprised? I’m not surprised.) It didn’t take long for Team Capable Ladies to find the First Order acting suitably terrible. While that’s good from Suralinda’s point of view so she can get footage, Jessika is less than content to wait and record while the lives of innocent people are threatened. Meanwhile, Team Guys is inching along on their search for Oddy and not being nearly as successful yet. Point is… women, we get the job done.
I can’t get over how happy this arc is making me especially since it’s bringing characters like Jess and Karé to the forefront again. I love that Jessika Pava isn’t someone who can just sit back and let bad things happen for the greater good. It’s a lovely contrast to the First Order lieutenant who’s arrogant and comfortable in his assertion that the First Order is better than the Empire so obviously they’ll win.
Surprisingly, Oddy turned out to be another highlight of this issue. Honestly, I wasn’t terribly excited about him surviving but his pages end up being oddly delightful? Although admittedly, it feels strange to use that word here but I can’t quite think of a better one.
Mostly importantly, the War Stories arc is fun. Do their missions have weight to them? Definitely. Does the story still press upon you how precarious the Resistance’s continued existence is? Absolutely but it never stops being fun and in Star Wars? That’s crucial.
Poe Dameron #18: Charles Soule/Writer, Angel Unzueta/Artist, Arif Prianto/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
It’s not a secret that I wasn’t a fan of the Yoda arc because it just draaaaaagged and made me want to take a nap. It made Screaming Citadel a very welcome reprieve. That said, I wasn’t sure what to expect from these follow up issues. Were we going to get something more like the Yoda arc or more like the far better Nar Shaddaa one? Turns out, the answer was neither and that’s a good thing.
The anthology style is so far really working for Jason Aaron and the main Star Wars book. It’s something that I would have loved to see them continue (with different artists) if Aaron wasn’t going to be handing the reins over to Gillen soon. This go-round, we get a team up between Sana and Lando who has been tragically mostly absent from Star Wars in canon thus far. While we haven’t seen the Han Solo film yet, it makes sense Sana and Lando would have history too. She’s got an insane heist to pull and he’s got the contacts she needs to help pull it off. What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out almost nothing because this story is great. (The art not so much but you’ve already heard my laments about how Larroca draws Sana.) Don’t be fooled: while this is billed as a team up, it’s definitely a Sana story. Lando’s just there to help out because Sana is several steps ahead almost the entire time. It’s awesome getting to see a capable lady kick some ass.
Star Wars #34 is one of those issues that’s both worth picking up and that doesn’t require much prior knowledge of the series. Check it out if you’ve got the time.
Star Wars #34: Jason Aaron/Writer, Salvador Larroca/Artist, Edgar Delgado/Colorist, Clayton Cowles/Letterer, Jordan D. White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor
LISTEN MARVEL. We’re going to get to the talking about the comic in a bit but I have a complaint to register as an Aphra cosplayer. You guys are KILLING ME with these rad outfits you put her in for the covers but then never appear within the pages of the issue. This is so not fair. How am I supposed to make more Aphra costumes when you keep teasing me with these sweet new looks and only a cover to go by?
*ahem* Anyways. About the issue…
Everything’s going to hell at Aphra’s masquerade auction and it’s just going to get worse the more the issue continues and in the next one. This arc is a textbook example of why you don’t let murder droids become bored and then leave them alone. Bad things happen. Very. Bad. Things. Like the spirit of a very angry Jedi being put into the body of a droid with violent capabilities. At the same time, the arc is also a great example of why I love Aphra. Things have a tendency to go wrong around her but she finds a way to adapt to the situation and keep fighting. No one wants to live quite as much as Chelli Aphra. She might not do it how a more traditional hero would but dang does it make it look fun. And dangerous. Can’t forget the dangerous part. It’s why this character has resonated with so many people.
Hold on, I need to put my cosplayer (aviator) hat on again because while I love that Aphra committed to the hidden identity thing enough to wear a wig, there is no way her hair would have been in a bun look that good with some artful framing wisps after being under a wig for however many hours. Alternatively, Star Wars characters must teach us their ways for coping with wig and helmet hair.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this arc has had me at the edge of my seat and I suspect that the next issue will have me yelling at the comic. Again. Seriously though… it is not going to go well for someone next issue.
Doctor Aphra #11: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Kev Walker/Penciler, Marc Deering/Inks, Antonio Fabela/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
At last! The long awaited Cassian and Kaytu comic! It’s… fine?
Many of my feelings about the timing of this comic line up with some of my feelings on the Threepio comic from last year. While we don’t know exactly what they were supposed to be, there had been talk about prequel comics coming from Marvel related to Rogue One that would be released prior to the film… just how C-3P0 was supposed to be released prior to The Force Awakens. While I liked this particular comic far more than the red arm saga, both probably would have fared better being released in the hype period for their respective movies.
It’s not really Duane Swierczynski’s fault. There’s only so much you can do in 30ish pages with two characters meeting for the first time. He definitely keeps the action rolling as Cassian and Kertas and Rismor (two other Rebel operatives) attempt to infiltrate an Imperial facility and extract their security protocols. It should be simple enough but of course it’s not because otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. While he may have K-2SO in tow by the story’s end, Cassian most certainly doesn’t set out to get himself a reprogrammed droid which is where the fun comes in. There’s just not much else to talk about in this comic except a very interesting line from Kaytu regarding choice but that ties into a bigger discussion about droids in Star Wars.
I have no major comments on the art front. Fernando Blanco and Marcelo Maiolo do a nice job. I will point out that Cassian’s facial hair looks way more normal than it does in the Rogue One adaptation and that Kaytu’s glowing red eyes of evil are a nice touch.
If you were already thinking about picking this comic up, by all means do so! If you’re a big fan of Cassian and Kaytu, it’s worth a read too. It’s just a comic that would have played better as part of the pre-movie hype.
Cassian and K-2SO: Duane Swierczzynski/Writer, Fernando Blanco/Artist, Marcelo Maiolo/Colorist, Clayton Cowles/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
Anakin Skywalker had no chill and it’s very clear that Darth Vader has no chill either. Are any of us surprised? We shouldn’t be. At the same time though, everything about Vader is a tragedy. (Darth Plagueis the Wise has nothing on him.)
The Revenge of the Sith novelization told us what it felt like to be Anakin Skywalker forever. The answer, as Darth Vader #4 reinforces for us, is not great. Actually, being Anakin/Vader is rather awful. This is the second time in days that he’s been almost completely broken. (The First Order has a Kylo tantrum budget. The Empire has a ‘Put Humpty Vader together again budget.) As I said before, this mission is part of the slow murder of Anakin Skywalker but it’s also the birth of someone else. The birth of something else. It’s mildly disturbing to say the least but impossible to look away.
- Are those Tholothians? If so, they may be the first non-black ones we’ve seen and the first male Tholothian
- It sure is handy that Vader was a genius at mechanical things in his former life
- Does that make him a mechanical genius now?
- That was a very bad joke. I’ll stop.
If Soule goes where I think he’s going next issue… it’s going to be a rough one. Emotionally that is. But we knew that was bound to happen in this book, right? Badass with a side of emotional despair. Thanks, Vader.
Darth Vader #4: Charles Soule/Writer, Giuseppe Camuncoli/Pencils, Cam Smith/Inks, David Curiel/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint which of the little added moments in this Rogue One comic adaptation has been the best. It’s very likely that the ultimate winner will include K-2SO. If you want a droid that can go undercover without raising any eyebrows… don’t pick Kaytu. Not unless you can resort to violence soon after. (Which can be fun in its own way…) While I’ve said it before, it’s worth noting again that the added bits are what really make this adaptation worth it. I adore every little bit we get between Jyn and Chirrut and Baze. That was one arena where the film lacked thanks to time constraints. It’s wonderful that written materials can do more with the framework the movie put into place.
On the art front, Emilio Laiso is still on the tap and he draws a particularly good Tarkin. It may not be a 100% exact likeness (what’s the fun in that when it comes to comics?) but he gets the Grand Moff’s eyes right. They’re unnerving (and not in a CGI way.) I’m still not overly fond of how pale Bodhi comes off in some of the panels though. It’ll be interesting to see how the art handles the incredible, forthcoming space battle.
There’s not much else to say about this particular issue although that shouldn’t be interpreted as a mark against the comic. Rogue One has been a lovely adaptation thus far and I don’t suspect that will change with the last issue but for that? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Rogue One #5: Writer/Jody Houser, Artist/Emilio Laiso, Colorist/Rachelle Rosenberg, Letterer/Clayton Cowles, Editor/Heather Antos, Supervising Editor/Jordan D. White.
The good news is that the trouble from the end of the last issue hasn’t showed up yet. The bad news is that different trouble has reared its far more immediate head. Really though: should anyone be surprised given the parties involved? (I’m looking at you, Aphra, I’m looking at you.)
The offer’s been made and now Aphra has to go talk to all of the interested parties. Everyone wants the Immortal Rur for their own reasons and certain groups do a better job of making their case than others. (Looking at you, Ezaraa. Try again with those zeroes.) For me, what made this issue work was how it showed Aphra as a fully faceted character. She’s not just a trope who likes credits although let’s be very clear that she does like the credits. She’s still an archaeologist albeit one with ambiguous morals. Aphra does things for a reason even if that might not be what you or I would do. I like her because of her flaws, not despite of them.
Aphra’s flair for the dramatic means that we get a little more of a break from seeing her in her trademarked red vest look and I have to say that I’m enjoying it. What’s the point of being part of the Underworld if you don’t get fancy sometimes? It makes the Star Wars galaxy more colorful in more ways than one.
As a standalone issue, Doctor Aphra #10 doesn’t necessarily stand out in a good or a bad way. It’s just a part of the story arc that I’ve definitely been enjoying so far. I’m impatient to see where the next issue takes us!
Doctor Aphra #10: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Kev Walker/Penciler, Marc Deering/Inks, Antonio Fabela/Colors, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor, Jordan D. White/Editor