Day 5 – Vada Advent Calendar
I’ve tried getting into Star Wars comics before but found it to be nigh impossible. Stories set amongst the films couldn’t seem to get the characters’ voices right. Star Wars Legacy was a bit too similar to the films and I didn’t like the lead. And some comics were just downright stupid. I was therefore shocked to discover, after finally checking out Brian Wood’s recent series, that someone had finally found a way to make a Star Wars comic I would love to come back to week after week.
The relatively new series, which is simply titled Star Wars, seemingly to make it really hard to find, is set in the relatively unexplored time between episodes four and five. The story follows the Rebels attempting to find a new home after their last base was discovered by the Empire. While they have only recently destroyed the Death Star, hope isn’t high, they know the Empire is still a powerful threat and rumours exist of a second Death Star being constructed. To make matters worse, every time the Rebels get close to finding a new base, the Empire get the drop on them: clearly there is a spy in their midst. Leia is given command of a top-secret X-wing squadron and tasked to find a new base while also discovering the rat.
One of the real achievements of this series is that the writing feels fresh despite it centring on characters well over 30 years old. Luke is less assured in his Jedi powers, questioning whether he is truly receiving messages from Obi-wan or just losing his mind. Leia is still getting over the loss of her home planet: Alderaan, which she saw blown to bits mere days ago. A particularly poignant scene in the second issue sees her weeping over a tour video for Alderaan, mourning all she has lost. Luke and Leia also haven’t quite built up the friendship on display in the Empire Strikes Back, you can tell Leia wants to trust Luke but she also can’t rule the newcomer out from being the spy. Not to mention that they don’t know they’re brother and sister yet so we get some icky sexual tension, and who doesn’t love that? Meanwhile Han and Chewie have been sent to Coruscant, which is now under Imperial rule, to barter for weapons for the Rebel Alliance – surprisingly things go to hell fast.
Darth Vader isn’t having an easy time of things either, the Emperor sees the destruction of the Death Star as Vader’s personal failure, essentially demoting him and giving away his Star Destroyer to the young and ruthless Colonel Bircher. He clearly has a great arc to come showing how he regained his master’s respect, but six issues in and he hasn’t had much to do except scowl and kill off a few subordinates. Vader is also slowly piecing together the identity of Luke in preparation for his shocking (at the time) reveal at the end of the Empire Strikes Back.
The comic also doesn’t skimp on the action. Within the first issue Luke and Leia have taken on a wave of TIE fighters, with Leia taking out one pilot on foot in an awesome display – although it is slightly weird to see Leia piloting an X-wing. Later in the series the squadron take on a Star Destroyer and have to use all their cunning to take it down, just barely escaping with their lives. It’s the kind of high-octane action that I hope the new Star Wars films can recreate, yet created as with everything in comics, with an unlimited budget.
The art as provided by Carlos D’Anda is superb. He is able to perfectly capture all of the characters’ likenesses right down to minor characters like Mon Martha. Emotions are portrayed particularly well, you can see the loss and sadness on Leia’s face as she quietly mourns her planet, and see the look of helplessness on Luke’s as he wishes he could help her. He is even able to convey the right levels of anger with a unexpressive characters like Vader, relying on lighting and for lack of a better word camera placement, to show his rage. Battle scenes look suitably epic, with the action flowing well, particularly in the X-wing/TIE fighter dog fights.
While I’ve only read the first six issues, I am definitely compelled to catch up with the rest of the series and will definitely be making room for it on my weekly reading list. Just as he did with X-men, Wood has been able to create a fun, fresh comic out of some very old characters, who I’m delighted to see more of,