Following the series’ initial, action-packed story arc, Jason Aaron and John Cassaday settle in for a relatively quiet fourth issue. This is a breath-taking issue, a chance for the creators to focus on characterization and set some plots in motion. To wit, there’s Luke Skywalker, dealing with the reality of his (non)status as a Jedi following his confrontation with Darth Vader in the first arc. Also, Princess Leia pushes the Rebel Alliance to strike ever harder back at the Empire with the unstated implication being that she’s trying to keep busy so as to avoid dealing with all the changes in her life wrought by the events of A New Hope. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is on Tatooine brokering a deal with Jabba the Hutt and a mysterious new character is trying to track down Han Solo.
It’s definitely a change in pace relative to the previous three issues, but a necessary one. The initial arc was needed to show readers that the creators could successfully replicate the action and tone of the films. But to succeed as a comic book series, they also need to be able to explore the universe and the characters in greater detail than the films can, and this issue is a step in that direction. Aaron continues to have a strong grasp on the characters’ voices, and while having a mysterious figure trying to track down Han Solo is a pretty standard between-film plotline, Luke’s arc seems poised to cover some new (or at least lightly-explored) ground. Cassaday’s art occasionally misses a bit throughout the issue, with a few of the more crowded panels looking sketchier than usual and the likenesses slipping in a few places, but he continues to nail the big moments, like Luke practicing his lightsaber skills or Jabba’s entourage hunting bantha.
Time will ultimately tell how successful this issue is, once the plot threads and character beats it sets up get fully fleshed out, but for now, it makes for a welcome change of pace, a chance to develop the narrative of the series and spend some time with these iconic characters in a way the films never could.
Other Thoughts (Some Spoilers)
Between last issue and this one, it was announced that issue #6 would be Cassaday’s last on the series, with Stuart Immonen on deck to replace him. It’s not exactly a surprise, as Cassaday’s runs tend to either be short or plagued by delays (and it seems doubtful Marvel would tolerate much in the way of delays on this high profile series, even with an artist of Cassaday’s caliber), and Immonen should make for a worthy replacement. His work is a little less photo-realistic, but it’ll be interesting to see a more stylized interpretations of these characters.
The interaction between Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt in this issue is a standout; Vader basically reads like a kid who’s being forced to play with another kid he doesn’t like by his dad, while Jabba is well aware that Vader doesn’t want to be there but is making him play along anyway.
Both Admiral Ackbar and Mon Mothma appear in this issue, in advance, chronologically, of their appearance in Return of the Jedi, and they are joined by General Dodonna (who led the Rebel force on Yavin in A New Hope), further invalidating the old Expanded Universe story which had Dodonna captured by Imperials while fleeing Yavin (as a way to explain why he never popped up later in the trilogy).
Marvel continues to do a nice job of creating the feeling of a shared universe within it’s Star Wars titles, as Leia’s interactions with the Rebellion high command in this issue is informed by the first issue of her limited series, while Vader’s official meeting with Jabba in this issue was mentioned in the debut issue of his series, when he met unofficially with the crime lord, after which he hired the bounty to track down Luke who appears on the final page of this issue. Each of the series can be read on its own, but read together, a loose chronology starts to form, adding to the sensation that all these stories are just part of a larger narrative.