Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Han Solo 3, originally released August 31st, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Leia: I thought you decided to stay.
Han: Well the bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell changed by mind.
Patrick: For all of the galaxy-wide history implied in the original Star Wars trilogy, there’s not much personal history being suggested. Luke led an aggressively boring life before meeting up with the droids, and even the characters that should have interesting lives — like Obi-Wan and Leia — have their histories trumped by the political movements that sprung up around them. Obi-Wan’s history isn’t really his own, it’s the history of the Jedi Knights; Leia’s history is that of the Rebellion. Only Han Solo has an implied history that seems driven by his own actions and desires. Even in A New Hope, we know that he has personal beef with a local gangster, and also appears to have a relationship with a bounty hunter who’s tracked him to the Cantina. Writer Marjorie Liu brings that same spirit of cause-and-effect personal history to Han Solo 3, doubling down on the importance of Han’s relationships whether we’ve already seen them on the page or not.
The opening scene of the issue sets up one of these newer relationships. Han and the rest of the Dragon Void racers are detained on one of the pit-stop planets by Imperial assholes, but no one is entirely sure why. Naturally, the Rebels fear that they’ve been discovered, but Imperial Officer Tomine never makes a move against Han. If we take Tomine at his word, he’s just trying to impose the Empire’s order over the most violent race in the galaxy. Which, y’know, good on him. But he’s also clearly a low man on the totem pole — the Dragon Void officials refer to him by his piddly rank of “Officer” — and maybe this is just an excuse for him to exercise some power. That leads him to making threats toward Loo Re Anno’s mysterious glowing orb friends.
Liu is leveraging some powerful images here: between addressing Tomine as “Officer,” an itchy trigger finger and a desire not to be watched, it’s hard not to draw a line between this encounter the rash of police shootings. There’s no grander statement about it here, but the reader immediately understands the kind of threat facing Loo Re Anno’s glowballs on an emotional level, so when Han steps in to try to talk some sense into Tomine, if feels like it’s coming at the last possible second. As longtime fans of Han Solo, we probably don’t need to be convinced of his genuine goodness, but this move goes a long way to sell his decency to both us and to Loo Re Anno.
That simple good deed is going to prove helpful in Han’s mission to rescue the other Rebel informants. It’s a simple micro-scene towards the end of the issue, but when Han realizes he doesn’t have a plan to evade the Dragon Void cameras, the Loo Re Anno’s luminous globe buddy takes out the camera drones for him. It’s a cause-and-effect chain so on-point that it’s almost transactional in nature, but it sets up the reader for the bigger reveal at the end of the issue: Han and Chewie have a history with this second Rebel informant.
I was a left a little bit underwhelmed by that reveal at first, but partially because I’ve been trained by comics to see that last splash pages and gasp at the appearance of a long-lost character. (Even though, 9 times out of 10, I’m heading over to Wikipedia to make sure I understand who that character is.) But, y’know, that kind of reveal is usually reserved for the return of Cassie Cane or The Vision or whatever. Artist Mark Brooks delivers a cool design, but it’s ultimately not someone we’re supposed to recognize.
What’s so cool about this moment is that there are like three whole pages of conversation earlier in the issue which set-up a kind of mystery about who of the informants is actually a double agent, but the danger represented by this tiger-man with a shared history with Chewbacca is so much more immediate and satisfying. The first informant’s explanation of the situation is positively dizzying, and I was initially going to criticize the writing as needlessly complicated. But that’s clearly the point – the thought that there are secret agents and double agents is so far outside the sphere of the kind of run-and-gun fun that Han Solo engages in that it should fly over our heads.
Man, and speaking of flying, how about that navigating-the-debris-field scene? Michael I’ll leave that piece of bravura storytelling to you, but let me just start it off with the observation that I love the way the hours on that page are broken up into narrow wedges of a circle, like they would on an analogue clock.
Michael: Patrick, I think that if there’s another Han Solo mini-series it should be dubbed Han Solo: Run-and-Gun Fun. Overall I think that I might be enjoying character-centric Star Wars mini-series more than the main Star Wars title because they get to provide that character depth and personal history that Patrick mentioned. Naturally, with a comic book called Han Solo, we get a little more insight into the titular character than we typically do in an ensemble story. And since it is indeed a comic book, Marjorie Liu utilizes one of the tried and true devices of the medium: the inner monologue.
The inner monologue can be approached in many different narrative ways: a character can be recounting a story from their life, we can be made aware of a character’s fears and thoughts in the moment or – as is the case with Han Solo – we can have the Batman inner monologue. Batman is the strong leading man who rarely makes his personal doubts known to the characters around him and the reader alike.
Han is telling us the story as he experiences it, but if he experiences any real fear or worry he doesn’t let it show, even to the unseen reader. Instead he spits the same kind of bullheaded lines that he may say out loud to Leia or Chewie as he’s flying the Millennium Falcon: “I’ll get out of this–or I won’t. Same as always.” Maybe that’s how cool, confident dreamboats actually think in real life, what do I know? I like how Han’s inner monologue is front and center while he’s placed under Imperial arrest. Officer Tomine is explaining how the Dragon Void Run is causing unrest and Han’s inner thoughts are just pasted on top of Tomine’s word balloons. Tomine’s words are inconsequential to Han; he’s just trying to think of a way out of this mess.
Han Solo 3 got me thinking about the nature of POV in a book like this in general. We are privy to Han’s inner thoughts and philosophies, but the story is not just limited to Han. A couple of times this issue we are shown Leia’s POV – minimal it may be – and the continuing Dragon Void Run commentary itself. It’s an enjoyable, engaging bit of expository writing that Liu throws in there to give us the scope of the whole race. Can the racers themselves tune into that frequency and listen in? Probably not. And I dunno about you but I had the voice of the podrace announcer from The Phantom Menace in my head as I read those lines. We’re two issues into the race itself and Liu has kept her word on the Dragon Void Run premise she set forth in issue 1. Its ideas like the Dragon Void Run – a deadly race across star systems – that has always made the Star Wars tales outside of the films so interesting.
If I’m not particularly fond of a comic I often find myself poking holes in the logic set forth in-story. As the first Rebel informant – from the planet Duro, I believe – points out: it would be easier for Han to intentionally be disqualified, giving him the opportunity to get the remaining two informants at his leisure. That makes complete sense to the story and the mission, but Han Solo is Han Solo and he wants to race. Despite all of the logic in the galaxy I’m in accord with Captain Solo because…Han Solo is Han Solo. I expect nothing less than him refusing to back down from a challenge and pushing the Millennium Falcon to her limits.
The best example of this badassery is the double-page spread that Patrick mentioned already. Mark Brooks gives us the establishing shot of the Falcon in the bottom left corner and splinters off ten different panels to convey the first ten hours of the twelve hours it takes for a ship to pass through the “constantly shifting debris field.” It’s a hell of a sequence that I can only compare to the stages you go through on a gruelingly long road trip. Brooks doesn’t depict Han going through a wide range of emotions but you can see the shift from the anticipation he feels in hour one, to the glazed over stare in hour eight to the fierce determination in hour ten. Patrick wisely noted that the layout of those two pages is similar to an analogue clock. The more I look at it however, it reminds me of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon itself – the central circular window splitting off into multiple angled viewpoints.
I must say that I’m interested to see who ends up being the Imperial traitor of the group – if there is one at all. I’m trying to predict who it will be out of the two informants we’ve seen so far, based on traditional mystery. I’m thinking/hoping that Liu and Brooks will surprise me on that front. Ride on Dragon Void racers!
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?