Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Star Wars 2, originally released February 4th, 2015.
Taylor: When do you officially become too old to play with action figures? I’ve often wondered this because I suspect I played with my action figures longer than most. Was it too long? I have fond memories of having adventures with my Star Wars toys well into sixth grade. However, when I made the transition to middle school in 7th grade (that’s Kansas for you) I felt I had reached the age where it wasn’t socially acceptable to play with them anymore. This was a sad time for me.What made it painful then, as it does now, is that it signaled a loss of creativity for me. No longer would I be able to create my own Star Wars adventures. I’d have to take them as they were handed to me in video games and books. Marvel’s Star Wars, while still feeding me a Star Wars story, and captures the wild imagination of someone creating their own adventures, and that’s damn fun.
Luke, Han, Leia, and the rest of our heroes are trapped on Cymoon 1, fighting their way out of an imperial production plant. To make matters worse, Darth Vader is running around, doing his best to prevent our heroes from leaving alive. Action ensues, naturally. AT-ATs step on things, lightsabers are thrown, and the force is unleashed. At the end of it all everyone is basically in the same place they started, like an overweight glob of grease.
Sure, it doesn’t really “go” anywhere, but it’s a big ol’ battle that’s enjoyable for the shear fun of it all. Just like when I was kid, all of our Star Wars fantasies are being played out before our eyes. Writer Jason Aaron has his finger to the pulse when it comes to what we want to see. This knack is best on display once Han and Leia burst in with the AT-AT and an all out battle erupts. Vader is central to all of this action and, on cue, he delivers vicious death blows the likes of which George Lucas would never dare.
Ever since we saw Vader throw his lightsaber at Luke on a catwalk in Return of the Jedi, the idea of using the force to propel the weapon has captured our collective imagination. It’s in videogames, books, and fan videos. Here, we see it employed again, only this time it’s particularly brutal. What makes this act of violence so satisfying is we’ve all sat in front the TV with our friends and wondered allowed why this move is never used in the movies. Seeing it deployed here is vindicating. It acknowledges a desire we’ve harbored for a long time while also serving the purpose of making Vader all the more terrifying, rather than…this.
What also made the action so entertaining is just how bad Luke is at all of it. We must remember that this story takes place before Luke has trained with Yoda, so his martial skills are a little wanting. The confrontation with Vader turns into a disaster as Luke can’t even muster the strength to hold onto his lightsaber. Later, he sees all of the slaves he’s rescued being mowed down by waves of stormtroopers who miraculously have good aim. Everything seems totally fucked basically until Luke finds a speeder bike and solves the crisis in his own way.
I love this. He may not be dusting crops, but he’s sure as hell kicking ass on that speeder bike. It reminds us that, like his father before him, Luke is an amazing pilot. He may not be a Jedi or tactician at this point, but the kid can fly, and it’s fun seeing him getting out of a jam using the skills he does have. What makes me appreciate this scene more, is that it makes Luke competent. After all, he is the the main protagonist of the series so we would expect him to have some heroing in him. More than that, it reminds us just why Luke is special and why he is the only person that can save the galaxy.
Patrick, how feel you about this issue? I definitely warmed up on this series after the first issue left me a bit cold. Do you enjoy this issue more, and if so, why?
Patrick: I did like this issue quite a bit more than the first. It ends up hitting some of the same story beats we’ll recognize from the movies — like Threepio being taken apart, or the rebels commandeering an Imperial walker — but Aaron may have dialed into some of the whys and hows of the space between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. So while the last issue may have felt more like slavish homage, there are several developments here that feel like natural extension of the mythos.
My biggest sigh of relief came early, during that Luke / Vader confrontation. Taylor’s right to point out that part of what makes it so fun is that Luke is in way over his head. Vader delights in this fact. I absolutely love that Luke throws down a line of dialog that echoes something he’ll say in Empire, telling Vader that he killed his father. “No, I am your father” is the utlra-iconic line we can’t but expect see in response, but Aaron’s version of the character delivers the amazingly satisfying “I’ve killed many fathers. You’ll have to be more specific.” That’s unspeakably bad-ass. Plus, it puts both Luke and the reader off kilter, as we both try to figure out how to deal with what was just said. Our reasons for being thrown by the line are different, but in that moment, we’re both just dumbfounded at Darth Vader’s evil awesomeness.
Actually, there’s a lot of great Darth Vader character development throughout. This issue starts to answer a question I didn’t even realize I had: why was Vader obsessed with finding Luke? I guess that’s one of those questions you can sort of reason away by saying “oh, he just knew he had a son out there and that was probably him. Plus the force. Who cares?” I care. Luke may have been massively outclassed, but he still survived the encounter. In a weird way, Luke becomes The Boy Who Lived, standing in open defiance to
Voldemort’s Darth Vader’s otherwise unstoppable strength. We might also get the origin of Vader casually killing his underlings for what is basically no reason.
Obviously, we’ll see this escalate in the movies, but it’s totally possible that this is the genesis of that behavior. And why not? He had been showboating so damn much, even using the force to unbelievably stop an AT-AT in it’s tracks, and then he’s still humiliated by being unmasked.
Also, can we talk about how cool that stopping-the-AT-AT scene is? John Cassaday employs some super simple non-motion lines to show us the still foot, floating in a panel all its own, before zooming out to a wide shot of the master at his craft. Vader is still relatively small in the panel, but that only serves to emphasize the machine over which he’s exerting control.
Actually, that may be one of Cassady’s more effective tricks, showing the effect before the cause. We see the same thing at play when Threepio goes out to confront the scavengers, we just get two hilarious panels of a blaster bouncing down the boarding ramp, and it’s not until the third that we see the big dumb hands that dropped it.
Plus, the panels themselves are laid out in a stair-like arrangement, mimicking the path of the blaster as it tumbles away from the poor droid.
I’m also just really happy to see so many cool existing alien race designs being deployed in this issue. We’ve got some Jawas, a few Twi’leks, that poor impaled-on-a-lightsaber Mon Calimari, at least one Ithorian. The franchise has such a rich tapestry of aliens, and I appreciate that Cassaday’s impulse is to inhabit, rather than invent. I can’t speak with much authority on the subject, but I think the junk yard scavengers are new aliens, introduced just in the previous issue. Their design is modest, but distinct, and definitely not anything that could have appeared on screen before CGI. Again, they feel like an appropriate extension of what we’re already familiar with, rather than wild invention or obvious retread. If the rest of the series can strike that balance, then you boys got your self a ship.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?