After a one issue interlude featuring a flashback tale starring Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars #8 finds writer Jason Aaron returning to the ongoing storyline of Luke’s quest to learn more about becoming a Jedi, while diving deeper into the development that served as the chief narrative cliffhanger closing out the series’ first story arc: the reveal of Han’s apparent wife, Sana Solo. But more notably, Aaron is joined this issue by his new artistic collaborator and the book’s new regular penciler, Stuart Immonen (along with Immonen’s longtime inker, Wade Von Grawbadger), and it’s a strong debut for the artist.
While his work is less photo-realistic and painterly than that of previous artist John Cassaday, Immonen is a more traditional comic book artist, often eschewing strict realism for more representative & kinetic action scenes and panel layouts. He also has a particular knack for using body language and facial expressions to express characterization, showing readers visually what a given character is feeling at a given time just by the look on their face or the way they’re standing. It’s a skill he puts to good use here, making vivid Luke’s aw-shucks naivete as he stumbles his way through a Nar Shaddaa bar fight, Han’s combination of chagrin and frustration at Sana’s continued instance that he’s A. up to no good and B. her husband, and the transition of Leia’s reaction to Sana from wry amusement to righteous fury as the woman proves to be no easy pushover.
The Han/Sana/Leia material in this issue is the most likely to make the internet buzz; for all the teeth gnashing in some corners following issue #5’s reveal of Sana as Han’s apparent long-lost wife, her status as such is immediately undercut in this issue, with Han repeatedly insisting they are, in fact, not married (regardless of who’s telling the truth, there’s clearly more to this development than mere shock value, a good lesson in not judging a specific plot beat until the whole story has been told). But more impressive is the way Aaron & Immonen are presenting Luke, striking just the right balance between heroic bravado and foolishness brought on by inexperience. He’s determined in his mission, and as such, has no problem barging into a seedy establishment and demanding help, even though he’s clearly way over his head. Yet at the same time, he’s not terribly far removed from being an inexperienced farmboy with little combat training, and as such, he makes a lot of dumb decisions in his quest to not be killed when his plans backfire. As with the Boba Fett fight in issue #6, he succeeds thanks to a combination of determination and luck, but being inexperienced, his means of success usually leads to more trouble, as is the case again in this issue (notably, his continued use of a lightsaber in combat in public; he’s doing whatever he needs to in order to survive, yet at the same time, using a lightsaber is a pretty attention-grabbing sight at this time and place). The end result is a portrayal of Luke who truly feels like he falls, in terms of character development, appropriately between the character as presented in A New Hope and the later one in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, which is no mean feat for a writer to pull off.
So while the debut of Immonen is noteworthy and the artist proves himself more than capable of handling Marvel’s flagship Star Wars series, it’s the character work here, aided, of course, by Immonen, that really stands out, continuing to move the characters and plotlines ahead while still remaining of a piece with what’s come before, thus kicking off the book’s second story arc on a strong footing.
Thanks to Logan for filling in on issue #7 while I was on vacation. I liked the issue a little bit more than he did, but definitely agree that it was, ultimately, superfluous filler, which is a shame, as Obi-Wan is a fantastic character capable (and deserving) of better. The old Expanded Universe is littered with tales across media about a between-trilogies Obi-Wan encountering and/or helping a young Luke from afar, and it would have been nice to see the first story of the new canon set in that time and place take a different track.
Luke travels in this issue to Nar Shaddaa, aka the Smugglers Moon, which was a staple of the old Expanded Universe (amongst other things, it was the site of the first post-Return of the Jedi encounter between Han and Boba Fett, and was established as being the closest thing to a homeworld the young Han had. It is a moon of the planet Nal Hutta, homeworld of the Hutts). It’s appearance in this issue represents its first canonical appearance in the Star Wars universe, and is one of the most significant bits yet of Legends’ lore being carried over into the new continuity.
Similarly, the planet Boz Pity is mentioned by Sana; while this planet, which featured in some Legends comics set during the Clone Wars, was mentioned in passing in Revenge of the Sith (and is thus already canonical), it’s nonetheless nice to see Aaron dropping in references to established planets as well as newly created ones.