Strap in, racing fans – we’re going podracing! Bring your betting money, because this is going to be a high-stakes race, with rebel Luke Skywalker, smuggler Sana Starros and even a certain Dark Lord in attendance! PLACE YOUR BETS!
NOTE: the events of ANNUAL #4 take place before STAR WARS #8
Hradreek a planet lush with vegetation and home to professional pod racing. Sana Starros is looking to score some credits for a Sith artefact which has come into her possession. The trade is setup with her client and the deal goes south when he sees what she has to offer. The lightsaber of Darth Atrius is one of a pair and she has only given him one. Her client seems to be overcome with rage and start to attack his own people, Starros escapes and flees for her life.
Meanwhile a TIE Advanced flanked by 2 TIE fighters land on a nearby Imperial landing platform. An Officer proudly stands with a case waiting for Darth Vader to approach. He presents the case to Vader and his reaction is the same as Starros’s client, but slightly more Sith like. The officer is wrench from his feet and Vader force chokes him while berating him for his mistake. He needs to find the smuggler and the other lightsaber.
Little be known to Starros, Luke Skywalker and Artoo-Deetoo are also on a mission and their paths are about to cross. Luke is on a mission for the Rebellion to collect funds from an ally. With his credits tucked away, he resists the temptation of betting on the Pod Races that are taking place. Luke senses a disturbance in the force that is dark and follows it to its source. Amongst the bodies lies the Sith lightsaber. He retrieves it, but the entrance to the room fills with stormtroopers.
Starros is fleeing from stormtroopers herself and cuts into an alleyway. A gang of Aqualish thugs surround her and she offers to pay for their help. They would have helped for free to take on Imperials had she not offered money. The gang confront the stormtroopers, but Vader appears beyond them and strikes to attack the gang. One by one he slaughters them on by one.
Meanwhile Luke is attacking the stormtroopers with his newly acquired Sith lightsaber. He too makes easy work of them and when the last has been cutdown he is disturbed by the rage he felt during his fight.
Starros is making her way through a warehouse and cargo containers start to tumble around her. Vader stands at the entrance, she fires a shot off at him from the exit, which he deflects with his hand. He marched towards the doorway and trips a remote-controlled explosive. The blast rips through the warehouse. Skywalker is with R2 as the explosion hits the corridor they are in. The collapse means he and R2 are separated and he cannot raise his companion.
Starros finds R2 under a pile of rubble, but also finds the credits given to Luke by his ally and pockets them as R2 stirs.
Skywalker is again on the run from stormtroopers and in his bid for escape ends up on the starting grid for the podrace. He moves quickly and grabs a competitor’s helmet then climbs into the cockpit of the pod racer. Luke is now in the race and it’s about to start!
R2 follows Starros through the corridors and she turns in time to defend herself against his attack. She kicks the droid over, but R2 squirts oil under her feet and she falls. R2 hastily grabs the credit stick and makes his through a door as Starros shoots at him.
Vader uses the force to move the rubble from on top of him and stands upright. He beckons the lightsaber with the force and guides it to his hand. He exits the warehouse through the hole in the wall. He walks into a cinema which is showing a holo of the pod race. He is impressed by the human who is racing, but with an outstretched hand he causes an engine to fail.
Skywalker escapes the blazing pod and destroys the Sith lightsaber, above his X-Wing appears with R2 at the controls. He makes is escape into orbit as Vader watches on. Vader in his rage crush the second lightsaber hilt and the pair are no destroyed.
Starros boards her ship and makes a hasty take off. She managed to keep 2 out of the 3 credit sticks she came by today, so it’s not a bad day, and she has more Sith artefacts to peddle.
The cover is by Tradd Moore and Matthew Wilson which for me is quite a fun start to this issue featuring Sana Starros, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. This cover is also available in a textless version too. Although I do prefer the John Tyler Christopher variant with the blood red and black silhouette of Vader.
The story is light and fast paced. I did like the way that the 3 main protagonists don’t cross paths directly. That leaves an air of mystery as they will all cross paths in the end.
I’m a bit undecided about the pod race side of the story. This felt as if it had been shoe horned in there and didn’t feel right to me, especially the way Vader reacted to another human racing.
I thought the artwork was very strong. Some very good likenesses for Luke and there is an excellent use of colour.
I found it interesting that it looks like Starros has managed to find a rich vein of Sith artefacts to trade, so I would imagine that Vader and she could be drawn together again soon in a different story arc. This is very similar to Doctor Aphra and her relationship with the lord of Sith.
As the annuals go, they can sometimes be a bit hit and miss. This one is probably one of the better ones we’ve had so far.
This issue was released on 23rd May 2018 and is available via the Marvel App and all good comic book stores. This issue retails at $4.99.