With this issue, Jason Aaron and John Cassaday wrap up the inaugural story of Marvel’s new Star Wars series. An action-orientated finale finds the Rebels fleeing from the surging fury of Darth Vader aboard their purloined AT-AT walker, desperate to reach the Millennium Falcon, as Luke does his best to ensure their mission wasn’t for naught. As a single issue, it’s all a bit rushed (particularly in the subplot with Threepio losing control of the Falcon to a group of scavengers, which added a nice bit of tension to last issue but doesn’t really payoff much here), but it’s to the larger story’s benefit that it only runs three issues. Overall, there’s not much plot here (Rebel mission goes south in part 1, they try to escape in issue 2, they escape in issue #3), but thankfully it doesn’t get stretched out any further than three issues.
But while the plot of this first story may not be the deepest or most complex, that’s okay. More importantly, this story sets the tone for this new series and established that the creators have a solid handle on the characters. This is a fast-paced, action-first story, and even if not a lot happens, what does happen is fun to read. Nearly all the established characters get a moment to shine (Leia is unfortunately the least-serviced of the movie characters as she doesn’t get a chance to do much aside from banter with Han), everything looks great (from the characters’ likenesses to the technology to the action choreography), and Luke is clearly positioned as the central protagonist of the series; other characters get their moments, but it’s Luke who comes out of the story changed, realizing just how limited his skills in the Force are but still determined to be a hero.
Read as a mission statement for the new series, one intended to serve as the flagship of Marvel’s line and one where the focus is on replicating the high adventure, fun and excitement of the films, this story is a success.
Darth Vader gets another great moment in this issue as he storms through the chaos of the Rebels’ escape attempt to singlehandedly take down the captured Imperial walker. It’s a testament to Aaron and Cassaday that they manage to portray Vader as highly competent even as the heroes escape, and it makes for a nice counterpoint to the quieter, more troubled Vader of Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca’s Darth Vader where, by dint of being that series’ protagonist (as opposed to its villain), the character can’t function like the force of nature he’s depicted as being here.
Empire Strikes Back reveals that Vader has designs on turning Luke to the Dark Side and overthrowing the Emperor with his help, with the implication that Luke being his son helped inform that desire. The end of this issue lays the groundwork for that idea, and suggests that, at least initially, Vader’s desire to turn Luke is mostly about screwing over Obi-Wan one last time. Which is a nice touch, and an intriguing area for the series to explore.
In and amongst the various vehicles which attack the walker, those cannon ships seem almost Prequel-esque in design (they’re reminiscent of the Trade Federation’s droid tanks from Phantom Menace) while the combat speeder seems like a new design.
For whatever reason, the starfield background on the recap page of this issue was brighter than the previous two issues, making reading the recap akin to looking at one of those old Magic Eye pictures. Hopefully next issue brings back the more subdued field.
Kudos to Marvel for resisting the urge to demand a hardcover- and trade-friendly six issue opening arc for the series. As decompressed as this story already is, it would be even worse if dragged out to six issues. It’ll be interesting to see if Marvel puts out a thin collection of this story, or waits to pair it with the next one.