Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Chewbacca 4, originally released November 25 2015.
Michael: Remember in Revenge of the Sith when Anakin Skywalker was arguing that from his point of view the Jedi were evil and we all laughed? Flawed storytelling aside I think comic book fans can agree that the big difference between heroes and villains is their perspective. “History is written by the victors” is probably an overused statement but nonetheless true. Simple Star Wars logic dictates: Rebel Alliance = good, Galactic Empire = bad. I’m not sympathizing with The Empire here, but Chewbacca 4 had me examining the actions of our “heroes.”
Zarro and Chewbacca have escaped from the caverns of Andelm IV and are out for some good old fashioned revenge against Jaum. They enlist the help of Zarro’s associate Sevox and devise the “plan” of rigging a droid with explosives that will take down Jaum’s ship as it delivers the planets resources to the nearby Star Destroyer. As with most plans however, a few things go wrong and Zarro and Chewie find themselves in a firefight with stormtroopers, Jaum and his wolfman friend. When the dust settles they still manage to get their explosive astromech droid aboard the ship before Jaum leaves. Just when Zarro and Chewie think they’re home free, they are arrested and transported to the Star Destroyer where their explosives are set to go off.
“Desensitized.” “Post 9/11 America.” “Mass shooting.” “Gunned down.” These are tiresome phrases that have become commonplace in our daily lives. We live in world of violence where we almost expect things to go wrong. And while pieces of fiction – science fiction especially – are supposed to be escapes from reality, sometimes reality hijacks that ride and brings us back to Earth. What I’m getting at is that amid the wacky disguises, close calls and ironic victories is this: a child with a bomb.
I’m not trying to get preachy and I’m not criticizing Gerry Duggan in any way, shape or form – it’s been an entertaining story for a title character who no one can understand. With our overexposure to violence, death and indoctrination, the imagery of a kid blowing up a ship (and the bigger ship that it will reside in) is kind of freaky. Without getting political or whatever, look at it this way: The Empire (evil though it may be) is the established government; they see the Rebel Alliance as terrorist cell trying to bring them down.
This all brings the Clerks debate to mind: innocent contractors working onboard the second Death Star as it was destroyed in Return of the Jedi. With their effectiveness as soldiers and sharpshooters, it’s a pretty safe argument to say that the majority of stormtroopers are clock-punchers. Do said clock-punchers deserve to die in a space explosion because they work for the big bad? Maybe, maybe not. Having Zarro be the one who pulls the trigger makes me uncomfortable however. Zarro is no child soldier indoctrinated by the Rebellion, she’s just a kid who’s pissed at hell. She has every right to be pissed as hell – Jaum turned the Andelm IV into his personal sweatshop. So kill Jaum or cut off his supply – blowing up an entire Star Destroyer is some crazy unbalancing of the scales.
Listen, I know I’m sounding a little crazy here – who knows how many “innocents” died in any given Star Wars battle. This kind of deep moralizing of a fictional battle is something that doesn’t often come to mind but that often frighteningly-real imagery presented by Chewbacca 4 really prevented me from escaping reality.
Taylor! What do you think of my paranoia? Anything less depressing/real that you’d like to talk about from Chewbacca 4? How the heck did they fit a big ‘ol Wookie in droid armor amiright?
Taylor: You know what Michael? I think you’re right to call into question the actions of our heroes in this issue. So much of the time I think we take for granted the goodness of our heroes simply because they have the label of “good guy.” There’s nowhere like Star Wars when it comes to labeling people good and evil and I think because of that we tend to not question a lot of the things the protagonists do in the stories.
Case in point, Chewbacca 4. When our titular hero and Zarro waltz into an Imperial occupied hanger-bay in disguise, they are quickly figured out. There response to being found out? KILL EVERYONE WHO SAW YOU. It’s a cold blooded move and while it can be argues that our heroes are acting in the name of good, it’s a despicable act. It begs the question whether the ends justify the means with the difference here being that the ends are just as bad as the means since they involve blowing up spaceship you mentioned, Michael. More than just the killing, it’s the way our heroes are nonplussed by their acts. Chewbacca kills an enemy by burning him, horrifyingly, with an engine. He also smashes the skull of a stormtrooper with his fist. After all of this carnage you expect someone heroic to at least be a little shaken. Not so Chewbacca and Zarro.
There is no meditation here on the need for violence or even a shred of regret that their mission took such a bloody turn. Instead Zarro thinks it’s awesome that Chewbacca just murdered an entire platoon of storm troopers without even batting an eye. Chewbacca, for his part just acts like this is all business as usual. He’s filled his quota of storm trooper deaths for the day. Now, I fully recognize that this is an action comic and it almost goes without saying that our protagonists might harm or even kill “bad guys.” However, the way in which Chewbacca and Zarro go about this business and their lack of remorse for their actions calls into question their inherent goodness as heroes.
On a lighter note, I really enjoyed the artwork of Phil Noto in this issue. To a certain extent Star Wars will always be defined by how it looks. The design of the original trilogy has become so recognizable that deviating from it almost makes a Star Wars comic something entirely different from its namesake. Here, however, Noto captures the Star Wars essence wonderfully. In particular, I loved his depiction of the bustling space port.
This panel very much reminds me of the spaceport I’ve scene in A New Hope. It’s busy, weird, and totally unique. That being said, there are also a few hallmark Star Wars calling cards on display. The storm troopers immediately place this in the proper universe of course. What really seals the deal for me though is the design of Chewbacca’s droid costume. It has the recognizable head of IG-88 and a blocky belt that resembles Chewie’s sash (for all I know it is his sash). Add to this a smattering of weird aliens in the background and it’s the perfect Star Wars setting. Also, I really like the color that Noto uses here and throughout the issue. It’s light and almost looks like watercolor, even if it isn’t. This makes details easily noticeable and paints the scene in a nice technecolor. The Star Wars movies have always been brightly colored affairs and I appreciate seeing that replicated here, unlike in other Star Wars comics.
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