Star Wars 10
Spencer: My favorite thing about Jason Aaron’s Star Wars is how closely he and his artistic partners (Stuart Immonen this month) are able to replicate the tone of the original films. While on occasion this can lead to references that are more insular and frustrating than inspired (the half-page appearance of a Gungan in this issue nearly drove me insane), most of the time they manage to strike gold. In issue 10, Aaron and Immonen spin magic out of the inspired, previously underutilized pairing of Chewbacca and C-3PO.
I just love the odd-couple dynamic between these two — not only is C-3PO Chewbacca’s polar opposite, but despite his squeamishness he seems largely indifferent to how brutal Chewbacca’s methods are, and that never fails to make me laugh. The pairing also gives Immonen a chance to flex his comedic muscles — not only does he capture the inherent humor in the contrast between these two characters, but his comedic timing is impeccable. There’s a scene later in the issue where Chewbacca threatens an entire cantina, and then we cut outside, where it’s calm and peaceful, for just a beat before Chewbacca starts throwing guys through walls. It’s killer stuff.
Immonen also does a fantastic job of capturing the feel of the movies — as well as the actors’ likenesses — without completely aping the movies or abandoning his own style. I think my favorite example of this is when Sana’s ship leaps into Hyperspace.
Hyperspace was always one of the best effects in the films, and here Immonen recreates that effect without completely copying it — it’s still clearly his own take on Hyperspace, and it’s stunning stuff. If this issue has one weakness (outside the Gungan), I’d say it’s the Sana Solo plotline — and even then, only because Aaron’s been repeating the same beats with her for three issues now. I need to see some movement there, pronto! Still, those are mostly minor quibbles. While this book isn’t the deepest entry in the Star Wars line, it’s certainly one of the most fun.
Darth Vader 10
Patrick: I’d argue that that same quality of tone-matching is achieved in Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s Darth Vader series, but by narrowing in on the darker side of the Star Wars saga. This issue contains all the crackerjack fun of safe cracking and slicing one of those Max Reebo elephant dudes in half with a lightsaber, but the whole thing is tempered with the kind of cruelty that comes with forcing choking a commander that failed to achieve Vader’s goals. I’m referring, of course, to the home invasion on Naboo, which finds Gillen treating the sanctity of life in the Star Wars Universe in two very different ways simultaneously. Dr. Aphra, with BT and Triple-Zero in tow, presses the mortician who worked on Queen Amidala’s body for information about the state she was in when she was buried. Basically, Aphra’s looking for confirmation that she gave birth before she died, rather than taking the heir to Skywalker legacy with her. It would have been easy for this scene to veer into almost un-stomach-able black comedy, and with BT and Triple-Zero’s competing torture-lusts, it almost does. The only thing pulling this scene back into the realm of human interaction is Aphra’s heartbreaking lie about her childhood.
Notice the way that Larroca pulls the camera around as she gets to the harder parts of the story, gradually removing pieces of the background, until we’re only left with the character and her words. Her point with this story is that “strong is better than good,” which she can use to justify working for Darth Vader. It’s an interesting question morally, but it makes for an even better question narratively. After all, while I love watching the high adventure of heroes doing good things, it has been equally compelling to watch Vader do bad things very effectively.
Also, kudos to Larroca for keeping pace on this series for 10 whole issues without a break or substantial delay. The dude’s a marvel, and has absolutely nailed using shadows and camera angles to augment Vader’s acting (y’know, in lieu of a face that can articulate anything other than heavy breathing). There’s a moment when Vader warns Thanoth not to fail at guessing the combination to the safe, and Larroca’s in a tricky position: he has to find a way to convey that Vader’s not entirely sincere in this warning. The camera is zoomed in tightly on his facemask, trimming off the bottom of the respirator and the sides of the helmet, giving the impression that we’re uncomfortably close to his face. It’s like Larroca is making us do the acting for him – it’s really cool stuff.
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Shattered Empire 2
Andy: In my last post about this series, I made a bit of a stink about lack of representation for Leia and in one issue all of my complaints have been completely answered. In this issue, she becomes the primary focus during a diplomatic mission to Naboo accompanied by Shara. As Leia takes on her much more respected role of diplomat, Shara Bey takes a bit of a backseat, asking questions of Leia for the reader to catch up like a Doctor Who companion. A return to Naboo gives echos of Mark Waid’s and Terry Dodson’s Princess Leia series and this issue retreads some of those Leia themes we’ve seen done before. For the sake of expediency, there are a few narrative beats in this issue that feel a bit rushed passed and undeveloped, Shara being only one of them.
It’s always a tenuous balance showing wartime tech in a Star Wars story because you don’t want to tremendously one up the original trilogy. Premiere a device too effective and powerful and you undermine the stakes for the films; which will always be more canon than you. This happened rampantly in the prequels and for my taste at a couple instances in this issue as well. First with some magnetized mines that make quick work of an AT-AT, just a year after the rebels struggle against them at the Battle of Hoth, and more egregiously with an Imperial Weather Machine. Not to imply that a year is too soon for the Rebellion to come up with some counter-measures against these machines, but that such grand and efficient conflict-enders take away from the magnitude of everything from Luke’s set piece in Empire to destroy the AT-AT with the grenade to the Death Star’s planetary threat. How many devices did the Emperor have hidden away that could threaten the population of an entire planet? Here, the grandiose tech feels like an artificial way to create tension out of the set piece instead of within the characters, which is fine for setting up an arc, but doesn’t progress relations between Shara and Leia or anyone else for that matter.
Despite a wee bit of narrative drag in this issue, the strength of this series continues to be shown in the dynamic blocking of its space ship battles by artist Marco Checchetto. The angles formed by the ships and their laser blasts give every quick turn or near miss a visceral reaction in the reader.
These angles make a stark dialogue in between the panels as well, as Checchetto never lets any of the motion lines sit parallel. Rhythmically smashing through the 180 degree rule, our perspective in space is repeatedly being wrenched some odd vector around the side of the subject. This disorienting composition matched with the velocity lines lets the weight and inertia of these impossible crafts be felt, giving the whole sequence a tangible quality that imbeds danger in their movements.
The composition of this sequence barrows very nicely from Episode IV, as we intercut between the ships physical conflict, the targeting computer’s building tension, and the character empathy within the conflict. Like a well oiled machine, it’s these disparate shots that ground the sweeping tactical maneuvers into the high octane fun of a space battle.
While the first issue showed of more flash and fan service, this issue seems to be attempting to put down legs for a more substantial arch. It’s awkward in some of this transition but Chechetto’s framing here is just as elegant as ever.
Evidently, there were some non-Star Wars comics released this week. Click here to check out the other comics we wrote about this week!