The Force Awakens finally hit theaters, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. It was so good! Sure, it wasn’t without its flaws, but the good far, far outweighed the weak points. It’s the modern Star Wars story I’ve been waiting on for years, and it is safe to say it’s the story others have been craving for as well.
HOWEVER, we are here to talk about the Star Wars comics that came out in December, so let’s dive into those!
Star Wars #13
By Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato
Vader Down part III
The interesting thing about this crossover is that it feels so seamless to me. There doesn’t seem to be many breaks in the story, nor are there any jarring moments that distract from the overall flow. It’s all just so well-done.
We open up with a brief showdown between BT and R2, one of which is not a murderous droid. Even with Luke’s life on the line, there’s no way poor R2 has the hardware to overcome BT’s impressive weaponry.
The astromechs aren’t the only ones matched against each other. Dr. Aphra comes across Han Solo, who reacts to her name in much the same way she did. They know of each other’s reputations, but neither wants to give the satisfaction of letting those reputations psych them out of their confrontation.
Meanwhile, Leia is doing what she does best: leading military operations. She knows just how dangerous Vader is, and she’s seen the amount of destruction he’s done to the Rebellion in just a short amount of time. Yet she dons armor to lead a squadron to take him out. This is my favorite iteration of Leia, the one the Expanded and Legends Universe does such a good job portraying. Sure, as a leader, she would be pretty valuable in relative safety directing troops from a vantage point. But that’s not her leadership style, at least not all the time. She would not ask anyone to do something she would not risk herself (sound familiar? Much like the Queen of Naboo Leia and Shara Bey met in Shattered Empire #3).
In an alternate universe, I would kill to have Aphra and Han team up and work on some jobs together. They obviously have some stuff in common with each other, and their banter would be phenomenal. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to settle for minor antics.
The murder droids are upset by Dr. Aphra’s apparent defeat at Han’s hand, and they are poised to torture and kill our heroes to their hearts’ content. R2, however, has a last-ditch idea that ends up saving everyone and allowing them the distraction they need to get away.
Leia, on the other hand, is going to need a lot more than a distraction to get away from Vader.
Star Wars Annual #1
By Kieron Gillen and Angel Unzueta
Now, a break from Vader Down. The first Star Wars Annual features Eneb Ray, a new character to the Star Wars canon. Undercover in the Empire as Tharius Demo, Ray must straddle the line between the evil person he must be and the Rebel he is in his heart. He knows his role, and attempts to fulfill it to the best of his ability.
Leia approaches Ray with a request to save Senator Nadea Tural and other anti-Imperial senators, a dangerous mission that she needs Ray’s assistance in succeeding.
Ray presents like a space James Bond, and it is wonderful. In a fictional universe where we have poised senators, brash smugglers, and destiny-filled warriors, it’s nice to have a change of pace in the protagonist. While Ray’s primary mission is to save the senators, he won’t pass up an opportunity to take out the Emperor himself.
This story echoes Vader Down in that the Rebellion is always on its toes, just waiting for the Empire to come into their field of vision. Vader’s isolation and the Emperor’s visit are just two opportunities the Rebellion has to eliminate upper leadership, and Leia is not willing to let either pass up.
Ray’s position also reminds me of X-Force. What he is attempting is political assassination, which is highly frowned upon in the arena of war. We as readers know just how futile this attempt is. Emperor Palpatine is a Sith Master, and no attempted assassination could destroy him. Ray and the other undercover Rebels have no clue; they only see a corrupt, decrepit old man. Like X-Force, Ray is willing and able to get his hands dirty to support the overall mission. Not every Imperial is worth saving, though the face of the Rebellion would suffer if they reduced themselves to murderers.
Ray didn’t stand a chance. The Emperor, the very same man who pulled the political and Jedi strings for years, had a backup plan, one that dealt a serious blow to the Rebellion.
Darth Vader Annual #1
By Kieron Gillen and Leinil Yu
Much like the first annual of Star Wars, the Darth Vader Annual is a one-off story. Vader visits the planet Shu-torun to meet with the king. Instead, he is greeted by Princess Trios, the king’s daughter and Vader’s guide. Tensions are immediately high when Vader comments that the king has wasted effort and time in not fulfilling his end of the arrangement with the Empire.
If you are like me when reading this issue, you held your breath as Vader realized that there is a ball in his honor. A ball…with DANCING.
Picture it: Vader dancing the waltz. Stammering as he approached a young maiden (or promising Imperial cadet). Impressing all of those at the ball with his powerful grace.
Yeah right. Vader doesn’t dance. He flings bloated, wealthy ore-dukes across the ballroom. Just as entertaining as dancing, for what it’s worth.
As Vader challenges the room to ask him to dance again, an assassination is attempted (that’s the theme this month, apparently. Assassinating) on the king’s life. Vader handles himself well, though the event colors his potential meeting with the king.
The king has a different plan. He never intended to meet with Vader. Rather, he was planning on killing Vader, even if it means the loss of his daughter. Evil dads, amiright?
Even if Trios’s father is willing to sacrifice her, Vader sees potential in her, a reason to be proud. Trios faces Vader down in what she believes are her last moments. Her steadfastness endears her to Vader has he rescues her from the assassination attempt. Loyalty, to the very last moment, is a trait that Vader respects.
The issue ends by presenting Vader doing what he does best. He eliminates the threats and promotes those with the potential to carry out his will.
By Greg Weisman and Pepe Larraz
Nothing makes me happier than seeing Caleb Dume and Depa Billaba training again. I was initially afraid that the first issue of the series was the only glimpse of Kanan’s training that we would get. But, with flashbacks to different time periods, we get more and more of Depa. Seriously, she’s almost my favorite Clone Wars-era Jedi Master (can’t beat Obi-Wan!).
The pattern of storytelling in Kanan is interesting. The first arc introduced us to Caleb and the hunt for him lead by Grey and Styles. Here, we backpedal to their first meeting and learn of the long history they have with Depa. They listen to her, and even attempt to comfort her in a moment of weakness.
Their mission on Kardoa doesn’t go without notice. The Confederacy of Independent Systems notice her presence, and Coburn Sear has it out for her. The name should be somewhat familiar to you; Sear’s brother, Rackham Sear, attempted to blow up the Temple earlier in this arc. Depa’s involvement resulted in his death, and now Coburn is ready to seek revenge.
Caleb is so darn cute in this issue. On one hand, he is trying his best to be brave and Jedi-like in front of Depa and the troops. On the other hand, Caleb is a scared kid who is thankful for such a capable and protective Master. It does allow him to quickly bond with a trooper so green he hasn’t earned a nickname yet. When the moment comes, though, both young warriors are ready for the battle.
It’s fun to contrast Obi-Wan and Anakin with Depa and Caleb. Obi-Wan criticizes Anakin for his recklessness and brashness in the movies and the Clone Wars television show. Depa keeps a wary eye on him while commenting that Caleb’s behavior is appropriate for the situation.
Caleb is shot on the field, but not dead. He is young, and it is difficult to fully rise above the pain and overcome the exhaustion from being shot. Luckily, the trooper he befriended earlier has his back. Without hesitation, he stands his ground next to the fallen Padawan. The image is burned in my head. It is the perfect visual for the relationship the Clones had with the Jedi. The Jedi were the leaders, and the respect they earned from the Clones created heroes among the ranks.
Darth Vader #14
By Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca
Vader Down part IV
C-3PO is so clueless. Sure, he didn’t know that Leia was face-to-face with evil incarnate, but blindly commenting that Luke was safe and secure with Han Solo via com-link may created more trouble than help. Leia is brave. This man tortured her and killed many of her troops. Instead of cowering, she bucks up in front of him. There is a brief moment of confusion in this exchange. As Vader is threatening Leia, he senses something over his shoulder. Taking advantage of his momentary lapse in attention, Leia bolts to safety.
Well, relative safety. She sets up a trap, using her position as bait. We get some women self-sacrificing to kill Vader this month, and I find it awesome. It’s a heroic end, one that is noble for princesses like Leia and Trios who will stop at nothing to protect the things they care the most about.
Han attempts to rescue Leia rather than let her sacrifice herself, only to be intercepted by Krrsantan, a secret ally of Dr. Aphra. Han doesn’t see that, though; he only sees a bounty hunter here on Jabba’s behalf. When it becomes clear that Krrsantan is not here because of a bounty, Chewbacca and Han hold him off while Luke runs to find Leia.
Oh, and C-3PO loses his arms to Triple Zero. What a bad day.
By Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto
A girl and her Wookiee. Just incapacitating some troopers on a TIE. Even in the face of insurmountable odds, Zarro and Chewbacca refuse to be complicit captives. They start to bluff their way through the Imperial receiving party, spreading lies that Jaum is a Rebel spy. Things backfire when Jaum shows up.
So Zarro and Chewie steal a TIE bomber and return to the surface of Andelm IV. Zarro mulls over the fact that she had an incredible adventure with a Wookiee, one in which she rescued the planet from Imperial control, and no one will know. Chewbacca may have to return to the war, but he doesn’t leave Zarro without giving her a memento.
While this was not my favorite Star Wars miniseries, it was an interesting ride. I don’t think I’ll go back and read it any time soon, but I do appreciate the extra attention given to our favorite Wookiee and the history he has with enslaved peoples.
Next month, we have Obi-Wan and Anakin hitting shelves. I’m stoked for more Obi-Wan and Anakin adventures, especially pre-Clone Wars. We’ll also see the end of the Vader Down crossover. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go see The Force Awakens again.