Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Star Wars 4, originally released April 22nd, 2015.
Taylor: There’s a been a lot of Star Wars news lately thanks to the release of the second trailer for the upcoming The Force Awakens. Aiding the hype of this trailer has been a number of costumes and props that recently went on display at the “Star Wars Celebration. Additionally, there’s a new Star Wars Battlefront game that’s about to be released, the first in a number of years, which has gamers truly excited. Lost among all of this fanfare has been the teaser trailer for the spin-off Star Wars movie, Rogue One. Like the Star Wars comic, this movie takes place between famous episodes of the primary trilogies and like the the comics it offers a behind the scenes, gritty look at the rebellion. This aspect, more than anything else, is what makes the comic interesting and what makes issue four of the series so fun to read.
Issue 4 of Star Wars takes its foot off of the hyperdrive and gives its heroes, and us all, a much-needed break from the non-stop action of the first three issues. Where that arc focused on action, this issue turns its attention to the gritty world of a rebellion short on resources and an Empire scrambling to regain control of its territory. Of these two storylines, the story of Princess Leia and her crew resonate with me the most.
One of the defining characteristics of Star Wars is that the universe appears lived-in. This is much different from other Space Operas which depict the future (or past!) as being slick, shiny, and thoroughly advanced. Despite this lived-in appearance, a lot of Star Wars lacks depictions of what it would be like to fight an evil galactic empire with nowhere to run. This issue reconciles these two aesthetics to give us a complete picture of the Rebels’ plight in the Star Wars universe.
Key to that reconciliation is the scene where Princess Leia meets with the rebellion high command. The topic of discussion is what their next move will be. Leia says that now is their time to attack since the Empire has been weakened by their attacks. Admiral Akbar, on the other fin, favors restraint.
This is the kind of interaction we never see in the movies and I love the tension created by this scene. For once, the Rebellion seems likes the hodge-podge conglomerate of random ships and people it really is. They don’t have the resources for all-out war — they need to pick and choose their missions and targets wisely because that’s basically the only hope they have of ever surviving (much less winning) the war. Additionally, I love the agency that Leia is imbued with in this scene. She comes off as passionate, intelligent, and hopeful — all things I think we sense she is in the movies but never actually get to see on display in many of her scenes. This gritty realism finally merges the design of the universe with its storyline.
Adding to the connective tissue feel between episodes IV and V is the development of Luke’s Jedi abilities. This issue finds Luke basically feeling the part of an inadequate force-user. The cause of this crisis of confidence is the realization that next to the power of Vader, Luke is nothing. Jarred by this event, Luke sets out on a journey of self-discovery.
Couple this journey with Luke’s attempts at a Jedi training regimen (as seen earlier), we begin to see how Luke goes from the dustin’ crops farm boy of A New Hope to the the more assured and force-sensitive soldier of Empire Strikes Back. Essentially, this series has begun to show us how Luke becomes a hero, and I love that. Sure, Luke is skilled in the force because it runs in his family, but just like the rest of us, he needs to train hard and discover who he really is to maximize his potential. This humanizes Luke and makes a somewhat aloof character more likable.
Obviously I really enjoyed this issue, Drew. True, some of the references to the original trilogy like Luke’s proclamation that he’s endangering everyone around him are non-sequiturs bordering on nonsensical, but this is still a blast to read. All of this and I failed to mention any of the action that took place on Tatooine. What do you think about that stuff? I’m not sure I like how it retreads on some of the stuff we saw in the Darth Vader series, but maybe that’s being nitpicky. What are your thoughts?
Drew: I actually didn’t love this issue, but I’m afraid my reasons aren’t anything particularly new — especially for anyone who has ever seen any of the prequel trilogy. My biggest beef is that every interesting detail of the original trilogy is repeated and exaggerated to absurd proportions, losing the sense of boundless creativity that used to define the franchise. As if to emphasize this point, this issue even features Luke using a blast-shield to hone his force-sensitivity, a detail Red Letter Media famously derided for being copied in Attack of the Clones.
Ironically including that particular detail here doesn’t bother me — I think it elegantly illustrates how little Luke knows about how to train himself to be a Jedi — but the idea of this scene as a kind of bone-headed repeat speaks volumes.
Take, for instance, the attempted robbery of the “bounty hunter” in this issue. It shouldn’t be hard to surprise us in that scene — the only other attempted robbery we see in all of Star Wars involves a Rodian in a cantina in Mos Eisley, and ends with said Rodian blasted to bits (in spite of having the drop on his would-be victim). This issue manages to recreate that scene down to just about every detail, reaping so much nostalgia, it forgets to accomplish anything else. Or, at least, it fails to accomplish anything else new. The scene does manage to make the bounty hunter look like a badass, but not quite as much as when Han Solo did it the first time, even in spite of this issue’s gratuitous body count.
I feel the same way about this issue’s characterization of Jabba the Hut, which manages to reference virtually all of his scenes from Return of the Jedi. Jabba likes to “seal all of his business ventures by watching something die” because that’s what he did in Jedi, right down to the use of the sarlacc pit. I have some morbid curiosity whether or not artist John Cassaday would chose to render the sarlacc with or without the giant beak George Lucas introduced in the Special Edition, but ultimately, I’m not sure what revisiting it (or even hinting at revisiting it) adds to the story. The repetition asserts that Jabba is a itinerant, if sadistic, creature of habit, effectively banishing a reading that he’s more creative and improvisational in his punishments, which is arguably more interesting. That criticism — that this series makes the Star Wars universe smaller — extends to virtually every detail of this issue, from the fixation on Tatooine to the almost entirely familiar cast.
The only new character (aside from those Rodians, who, let’s be honest, might as well all be named “Greedo”) is the mysterious bounty hunter who suggests he/she isn’t a bounty hunter. Could this be some personal history of Han’s coming back to haunt him? I’m going to go with “jilted lover,” because that seems like a fun twist, but we don’t have much to go on other than that a non-Greedo, non-Fett somebody is on the hunt for Han.
Which reminds me: Boba Fett is incrementally closer to finding that box at Obi-Wan’s labeled “For Luke.” I still have no idea what that box might contain, but since that was the threat that got me most excited for this issue, I had to mention it. That sense of obligation will keep me returning to this series, but until it finds a stronger voice for itself, that may be all.
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