By Taylor Anderson and Mark Mitchell
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Taylor: Being a Star Wars fan who grew up with, and only with, the original trilogy, I would consider myself fairly protective of the movies which have spawned a pop-culture empire. This being the case, you might expect that I would hold the new movies to a high standard of excellence since I wouldn’t want their history besmirched. It turns out that the opposite is true. I’ve come to accept that nothing’s going to replicate my love of the original trilogy and that’s OK. That being said, as long as a Star Wars story is decent, I’m pretty happy just to get to spend more time in a galaxy far, far away. Sadly, this can’t be said for all Star Wars stories, which is the case in Star Wars 45.
This issue very much has the feeling of being a placeholder. It has parallel story lines – one where Luke and Han go out for a drink and another where Leia proposes a new plan to the Rebel high command. Both stories are pretty forgettable and Kieron Gillen’s writing in this issue seems lackadaisical at best. Take, for instance, the reveal of Leia’s new plan to her bosses.
As seems to always be the case in a Star Wars issue, nothing is as easy at it would first appear. In this case, the trouble comes from having to kidnap a Moff but not before kidnapping someone else to help them carry out their plan. Of course this means breaking into impenetrable prisons and subterfuge just as plans involving Leia always do. There’s nothing so wrong with this, but the delivery of the logistics of the plan very much seems like everyone is just going through the motions of a Star Wars adventure. No one objects to Leia’s wild plan and of course the plan is wild to begin with. This same story has been played out so many time in Star Wars already that it’s hard to get excited about this particular iteration of it, especially when Gillen himself delivers it in such blase fashion.
Elsewhere, the issue is similarly difficult to enjoy. While Leia is pitching her plan, Han and Luke go out for a drink and run into Wedge. Instead of having a bawdy ol’ time the likes of which would be fitting for Han Solo, the group sits down and sulks and discusses future war plans. Nothing about this is fun and it certainly doesn’t live up to the exciting bar scenes in virtually every other Star Wars story. As if acting as the avatar of this sad outing, Luke strangely opts out of drinking spirits, instead choosing to drink milk.
It’s…just…weird. First, I’ve been to a lot of bars in the world, but this is the first I’ve seen milk served. Second, why is Luke so obsessed with drinking milk? Why not just order a Star Wars equivalent of a ginger ale? I mean, is this to show that Luke is still a happy-go-lucky kid? Is he really such a youngster that he’s drinking milk? At the very least, this bizarre fascination with milk isn’t totally random. In A New Hope we see Luke drink this mysterious blue milk when he sits down at his Aunt Beru’s table. Still, that’s a flimsy premise on which to build a milk complex upon with the result being a weird, and frankly pointless scene, where Han drinks beer and Luke drinks milk.
While milk, spilled or otherwise, is nothing to cry over I suppose, Salvador Larroca’s strange artistic choices just might be. Here at Retcon Punch we’ve all bemoaned Larroca’s artwork on this series, mostly because we know he’s fucking talented and above whatever he’s doing in this issue and others. This go around, there are weird pauses in speech and action to show characters with their eyes closed, as can be scene in the two separate scenes below.
In response to direct questions, both Han and Leia close their eyes and appear to be on another planet. Leia looks likes she’s asleep while Han looks like he’s either farting or remembering the best damn chocolate cake he’s ever eaten. I think the intended effect here is to show that each are considering their words carefully before speaking, but in both scenes it simply doesn’t read like that. Instead, it’s awkward, which I suppose fits with Luke’s weird milk obsession.
Mark, as I was saying in my intro, I’m usually pretty happy to step foot in the Star Wars universe and try not to hold the bar to high. That being the case, do you think I’m fairly judging this issue or am I holding it to lofty standards which are impossible to meet? Was there anything you particularly liked about the issue? Or like me, are you somewhat befuddled and bored by the whole thing?
Mark: Taylor, I found this entire issue bafflingly bad, for all of the reasons you mentioned above. Just what is the deal with Luke’s characterization? He’s infantilized to a bizarre degree, with his dialogue reading like bits from an episode of Spin and Marty — all it’s missing is some Oh golly-s and a Jeepers, mister! to be truly tragic. When Luke’s approached in the bar by the surviving members of Red Squadron, his lament that he wishes he “knew every dead Rebel’s name” carries all of the gravitas of those terrible tweets people invent for attention about their painfully woke 4 year-old twin daughters looking up from their Froot Loops and, in unison, wishing for a sensible increase in the Federal gas tax because from the mouths of babes or whatever.
Luke is a good guy, but he’s not Space Tiny Tim.
What’s particularly whiplash inducing about the whole thing is that Gillen has been steering the Star Wars ship for a while and, to my memory, writing these same characters without any of the strange missteps that plague this issue.
(I honestly find the milk stuff so vexing that I did some Googling to try to find some answers. Gillen mentions it in passing in his personal newsletter, saying that he wrote the “milk jokes” before he saw The Last Jedi. On the one hand, it’s reassuring to know that all of the milk references are not meant to be taken seriously, but, on the other hand, in what way are they jokes?)
Even putting aside the Milk Problem and Larroca’s art — which I’m just as tired of talking about as he seems to be of drawing it — the issue is really let down by its lack of imagination. Star Wars as an entire multi-billion dollar enterprise is very self-referential, but there’s a dangerous line between honoring past Star Wars moments and recycling them wholesale. It’s disappointing that Star Wars 45 is unable to come up with a more inventive plan for the Rebels to gain entry into the secure facility than pretending that Chewie is a bounty hunter bringing in Leia. Like, I get that it’s a flip on the beginning of Return of the Jedi, but not in any interesting ways.
Being able to tell a Star Wars story in comic book form should be a freeing exercise. Even more than with the films, there’s nearly limitless potential for what creators can do since they’re freed from the burden of having to render their ideas in a photorealistic way. It’s disappointing, then, that Star Wars 45 feels so small and stage bound. If you have access to the world’s most vibrant space fantasy universe, why paint with the dullest colors?
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