Published: July 10, 2019
Rating: Rated T
Writer: Greg Pak
Penciler: Phil Noto
Cover Artist: Phil Noto
REBELS AND ROGUES! “The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space…” That’s right — you remember the opening titles of The Empire Strikes Back. Now find out what happened just before, as Luke and his friends launch a desperate, three-pronged mission of deception to keep the Empire from finding their new rebel base in a brand-new epic from the new ongoing team of Greg “PLANET HULK” Pak and Phil “POE DAMERON” Noto! Featuring Han and Leia undercover in a noir world of romance and danger! Luke and R2 facing off against the Executor in a single X-Wing! And Chewie and Threepio, the greatest team-up you never knew you always needed!
Last month saw the end of the ‘Gillen’ era of Star Wars comics. Gillen was a master at weaving his different stories together, to create a galaxy that felt very real and very connected. By the last arc, he also had the support of one of Marvel’s greatest artists, Angel Unzueta, to help display some of the finest Star Wars that has been seen and read in the flagship series. This month, we have an all new team, new writer, new artist and the whole thing shifting more towards the time frame of The Empire Strikes Back. To say that Pak and Noto had big shoes to fill is an understatement…
… And they start beautifully. Having the opening from The Empire Strikes Back works wonderfully, it help sets the dark tone that is needed in this issue, to then be brought back to the Rebel fleet. These nods to the films keep coming throughout the comic and are used superbly every time. Sometimes when writers do this, it almost feels forced, but not here. When Luke puts on his poncho with R2-D2 in the desert, I had chills. There is a lot of nostalgia that helps to drive this first part and taps into what we all love about Star Wars.
The main characters are all as they should be, although in a lot of ways, I feel like we’re getting back to basics with them, which I like. We have Luke and R2 off together on an adventure. In fact, this is the story arc that has me the most excited (and we saw the least of – go figure!). I mentioned in the last arc that I wanted more development between the boy and his droid and it looks like that will be happening. We also have Han being…well… Han! He has the quick remarks and the bits of humour that make Leia roll her eyes. We have Chewie and C-3PO together, having much respect for each other. 3PO is also how he should be, not the butt of all jokes, but able to hold his own in a conversation. It feels like the movies, our old friends are back and the focus is very much on them, rather than other characters that have permeated the story.
The artwork, well, Noto isn’t Unzueta and it feels slightly unfair to judge the two side by side. What I will say, it may not be as crisp as the last arc, but the feel is right. The action, the pacing, the look, it all works very well. I remember Noto’s work from Poe Dameron and I have to say, his work seems to have improved for this issue. I’m quite excited to see where Noto will go in terms of art direction and design as I think he’s going to surprise me.
So all in all, what seems like a lot of good things. Yet there is one thing that concerns me. Luke is off on a desert planet and even comments that he tried leaving this behind. Han and Leia meet up with Leia’s ‘boyfriend’, referring back to the storyline of Han married to Sana. Chewbacca and C-3PO are off to blow up a planet in their own ‘little Death Star’ (not to mention rock like creatures that look similar to the ones Yoda fought in an early story). There seems to be a lot of repetition to what has come before. Now a more confident man might say that this is intentional and Pak will take it in a new and exciting direction. However, I’m not a confident man and too many times with this series have I felt disappointed or downright confused to what has been happening. I want something new. Yes, having links to previous arcs is great and I always welcome them. But when there are so many within an issue, I have to wonder what we will be getting in the next issues.
A lot of this comic has me excited, most notably seeing Luke and R2 off again on their own on a desert away from everyone. The character set up and interactions are perfect and promise some wonderful character development. However, the repetition that seems to be seeping through makes me pause. It does seem to be intentional, which hopefully means that Pak knows exactly what he is doing and we have a wonderful arc to bring us into this new era. But it does give me pause. Too often with the Marvel comics we have been let down. Only time will tell whether that is the case here, but I have gone from knowing Star Wars was in safe hands with Gillen, to an uncertainty that I hope doesn’t turn into dread…
Star Wars is an ongoing series available from Marvel. This issue is available via the Marvel App and all good comic book stores. This issue retails at $3.99.