Comic Review: Star Wars: Empire Ascendant #1

Published: 18 December 2019
Rating: Rated T
Writer: Greg Pak, Charles Soule, Ethan Sacks, Simon Spurrier
Penciler: Roland Boschi, Paolo Villanelli, Luke Ross and Caspar Wijngaard

The synopsis;

DESTINED FOR HOTH! Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa and smuggler Han Solo have struck blow after winning blow against the Empire. The Rebels are digging in their defences on the remote ice world of Hoth but how long will they truly be safe from their many enemies? Darth Vader will stop at nothing to crush the rebels but his efforts to locate their new base have been in vain. Will the dark side of the Force guide him to the missing rebels and to young Skywalker or mire the dark lord in the conflicts of his past? Despite a life riddled with treachery and destruction, Doctor Aphra has found a family (of sorts). Former Imperial inspector Magna Tolvan and Aphra’s young ward Vulaada will have to face the struggles of a life of rebellion…while Aphra reckons with her legacy. Former Imperial loyalist turned cyborg bounty hunter BEILERT VALANCE is taking on a dangerous new mission. And the lives of the entire Rebellion—including his old buddy HAN SOLO’s—are at stake should he fail!

The review;

One shots, they’re very hit and miss, particularly in Star Wars. Yet, I have to admit, I have been anticipating this issue for quite a while. As every series that Marvel has for the Star Wars license comes to an end, this is the issue that is supposed to be a finale for all of them. One only has to look at the names of the writers and artists to see that this issue is a ‘greatest hits’ of some of the very best who have worked so far on Star Wars. We have Charles Soule, who’s work I loved in Poe Dameron, Simon Spurrier who has done a tremendous job with Doctor Aphra, Greg Pak who rounded off the main Star Wars comic in a very fulfilling was and Ethan Sacks who brought us Galaxy’s Edge. These writers know their job and do it well. I would love to sit in a room with all four and be a fly on the wall! Then we have the artists: Wijngaard, who if you’ve read my Aphra Reviews, you’ll now I have a huge love for his work;  Villanelli who’s just finished a fantastic run in Jedi Fallen Order; Ross who did Thrawn and Darth Maul and Boschi who has been dipping in and out of different series, the latest being the Jabba one-shot. How will they bring it all of these characters together in a single issue? No idea, but I’m ready to find out! The issue is split into four stories, so I will look at each in turn. These look to be previewing the new series due next year.

The first is ‘An Echo of Victory’ by Soule with art by Ross. And what a tale! We are thrown straight into the construction of Hoth base and are reunited with two characters that we haven’t seen for years, Kes and Shara, otherwise known as Poe’s parents. This pair were introduced in Shattered Empire and really carried the story along beautifully. It was a shame we didn’t get to see more of them, and Soule puts that right here. Although Soule only has a few pages, he utilises them to their maximum potential. We get a real feel of the struggle the Rebellion is in, having to use weapons for basic ice melting exercises. It’s great, seeing how pragmatic the Rebels have to be to survive, thinking outside of the box. They make do with what they have because they don’t have anything else. Lucas always said that in The Empire Strikes Back that he wanted the Empire to have all this great equipment, technology and resources and the Rebels to be ramshackle. Soule really enforces this image with what is happening here. We also see another reinforcement of the principals of the Rebellion. That even two people are worth the effort, and I’m sure, even one is. Nothing is too much for them to help someone, a very different view to that of the Empire. Added to this, we get to see the original trilogy characters and all of it drawn beautifully by Ross, who draws each character to perfection. For the short number of pages this is, I’m very excited for the main run starting in the new year!

The second tale is ‘In Service to the Empire’ by Pak and illustrated by Boschi. Pak takes us to several places, several times, in the space of a few pages. This is a prologue to Darth Vader so let’s start with him. Pak wrote the last story arc for Star Wars and utilised Vader perfectly, as he does again here. That is to say, that we don’t really see Vader, except for one or two panels. This is how Vader should be, a mystery. Too much of him and that mystery starts to disappear. I like that we get to see the Death Troopers, who apart from Rogue One and Rebels, haven’t done a lot recently. But with The Mandalorian and this, we might be seeing a lot more of them in the future. The way that they complete their mission sums the Empire up and is a wonderful comparison with the previous story, seeing how each side treats their troops. The art isn’t as crisp as the first tale, but it doesn’t need to be, the action flows well and the panel we see Vader in, is a great moment.

Now the third tale, well, I brought the digital copy and it told me it was the tale from Doctor Aphra! It’s not! So try not to get too confused! It’s actually ‘Two Sides to Every Sortie’ and is written by Sacks and illustrated by Villanelli. This is a basis for the new Bounty Hunters series. From the word go we see what I’ve wanted Robbie Thompson to do with his series’ and reunite Han and Valance! There is a lot of history from the series Imperial Cadet and throughout this whole story there are nods towards this series, and Thompson’s other one Target: Vader. I’m a little surprised that Thompson isn’t writing this, as the character Valance has been shaped by him throughout this year. Sacks does a great job of writing this short story to help bridge the gap between these two series and his own out next year. We get a feel of the atmosphere that this series will have. And action! There is a lot here (which there should be) and Villanelli does an incredible job of keeping the story moving. The stormtroopers he drew, really stood out. I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next year for this series.

The final tale ‘Epilogue’ is the one story that is an end for the Doctor Aphra series rather than a start for the new one. This keeps the wonderful team of Spurrier and Wijngaard together to create this final piece, which if I’m being honest, was the part I was most looking forward to reading. And what a part. Spurrier uses the same ending, the same monologue from Doctor Aphra #40 but we see it from Tolvan’s point of view. It’s poetic and the symmetry between the two works so well. It’s an ending for these characters that we didn’t see in the final issue and I’m so glad it’s here. We get to see them knowing that Aphra cares about them and made a difference for the Rebellion. It’s such a sombre moment that is just emphasised even more by the gorgeous artwork of Wijngaard. The final panel alone is jaw dropping. With such beautiful moments, Spurrier then adds incredibly well-timed humour to these, in true Aphra fashion. It works so well and will have you laughing out loud. A perfect ending to a wonderful series and a wonderful comic.

New beginnings and final endings. This comic provides a lot. No matter what you enjoy reading there is something here for everyone, as well as a tastier of what the new year, the new direction of Star Wars holds. It’s very exciting to see these great writers and artists tantalising us with what is next and I for one can’t wait. To end the whole thing with an epilogue for Doctor Aphra works incredibly well and keeps us in the dark to where that series will be heading. Even is you haven’t read Doctor Aphra this is an issue for all, to see what you might like to read next year in a galaxy set far, far away…

Availability;

Star Wars: Empire Ascendant #1 is a one-shot comic from Marvel and available from all good comic stores now. This issue retails at $5.99.

Mark 'Spooked Hippie' Alders
Mark’s day job is a primary school teacher, where in his classroom you will find life size cut outs of Darth Vader and Chewbacca, trying his best to educate the youth of today in the ways of the force.