Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Inker: Dan Parsons
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Cover Artist: Rodolfo Migliari
Review by Eric Owens
Outside of the prequels and the Genndy Tartakovsky-helmed Clone Wars series, I haven’t paid much attention to the Star Wars Expanded Universe since I bought several earlier Dark Horse series in 1996. After binging on a bunch of comics and novels, I’d had enough of stories that either didn’t feel like they had anything to do with the movies I’d enjoyed or seemed to rehash the same plots, only with bigger superweapons and knock-offs of established characters. Brian Wood’s Star Wars series changes all of that.
This series takes place shortly after A New Hope, as a handy recap page informs us. The Empire is already hard at work building the Death Star near Endor, Luke and Leia are scouting for a new base for the Rebels while trying to discover a mole, and Han and Chewbacca are in their usual position of running from bounty hunters. Darth Vader’s physical appearance is limited to the cover, but he manages to influence events from afar through the strategic positioning of his follower Birra Seah.
Wood juggles the various plots well and keeps the storylines moving at a good pace. The scenes with Birra Seah display her loyalty to Vader to the point of death but don’t reveal too much of Vader’s plan. A sequence at the Lars farm on Tatooine gives Luke a chance to mourn the loss of his adoptive parents in a way the films never allowed. It also shows that Luke is already proving himself as a true leader of the Rebellion as he and Leia work out their tactics for discovering the identity of the mole. After seeing the counterespionage plan that Luke comes up with, his rescue plan from the beginning of Return of the Jedi makes more sense. He’s not afraid to put himself into the hands of his enemies in order to help his friends and their cause. The scene on Coruscant in which Han deals with the Millennium Falcon (and Chewie) being trapped in a garbage barge prepping to shoot its contents into the sun is brief, but sets up what should be a nice action sequence in the next issue, just as Birra Seah’s reassignment to the same Imperial command ship Luke and Wedge get themselves aboard begins to tie those plot lines together.
The art in this issue is fantastic. I picked this issue up because Ryan Kelly is onboard as the artist. I’m a huge fan of his style and his past collaborations with Wood have been enjoyable. As always, his faces are incredibly expressive and detailed. I love his Emperor, who, between Kelly’s line work and Parson and Eltaeb’s inks and colors, comes off looking like he could be Darkseid’s uncle. Luke appears to have found time to hit the gym since blowing up the first Death Star, and his stronger physical appearance coincides with him moving beyond his whiny farm boy attitude. Eltaeb gives the characters’ skin a warmth and adds to the sense of depth. There’s an effort to make different materials actually look different. For example, the plastoid helmets of the Emperor’s Royal Guard have a real shine to them and are ever so slightly darker red than the cloth robes beneath them. It would be easy for the art team to skip over little details like that and the extra effort is appreciated. I’m hoping next issue finds Han and Chewie on the surface of Coruscant, since based on Kelly’s detailed scenery in books like Local and New York Five, I’d love to see what he does with a sci-fi city the size of a planet.
Even knowing that Han and Chewie aren’t going to be killed by bounty hunters and that Luke and Wedge will survive capture, I want to see how everything shakes out. What will become of the new characters who aren’t around by the time of Empire? Who is the spy in Mon Mothma’s council? What is Vader up to? The Force is strong in you, Brian Wood. You’ve made me care about Star Wars again.
Eric Owens is a contributing writer for Drunk On Comics. You can follow him on Twitter at @EricDOwens.