Star Wars #12 brings “Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon”, the second multi-part story of Marvel’s new Star Wars series to a rousing, triumphant conclusion, as all the various elements of the story come crashing together in Grakkus the Hutt’s arena, in the process reuniting the previously-scattered cast and putting to rest the mystery of Sana and Han’s marriage.
Picking up immediately where last issue’s cliffhanger leaves off, Han, Leia and Sana – newly arrived on Nar Shaddaa – quickly reunite with Chewbacca and Threepio, then follow the Imperial forces straight to Grakkus’ arena, where the Hutt’s traitorous Gamesmaster reveals his true purpose and identity. But Grakkus isn’t about to go down quietly, and his ensuing actions provide an opening for the heroes to exploit. This leads to one of the most fist-pumpingly cool moments of the entire series thus far.
Jason Aaron grounds all the kinetic action in characterization, giving everyone a moment to shine: Chewie rescuing himself from Dengar, Leia making peace with Sana, Han putting Luke’s well-being over Grakkus’ treasure trove of Jedi archives, and, most importantly, Artoo, quietly going about his business as he sets about saving the day (No good Star Wars story is complete without at least one moment where Artoo saves the day). The result is an issue that truly feels like an ensemble piece, without anyone (Save, perhaps, Threepio.) feeling left out or pushed aside.
As a whole, “Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon” isn’t a perfect story. It’s about an issue too long (Padded out, no doubt, to fill the subsequent trade paperback collection.), keeps the central characters apart for too much of the story, and takes FAR too long to get Han and Leia off the planet where they meet Sana, leaving the pair to essentially stand around talking for issues at a time. But the story began strong and ended even stronger, and if a story isn’t going to be great throughout, that’s the next best thing. And all the chapters (Even the “Han and Leia standing around” parts.) look fantastic, thanks to the strong, consistent artwork of Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger. Issue by issue, Immonen’s work manages to capture the feel of Star Wars better than most, as adept at the big action scenes and sci-fi designs as at depicting Leia’s annoyance, Han’s swagger, or Luke’s aw-shucks naivete through the art alone.
All of that skill is on full display in this issue, a giddy romp that evokes the best of Star Wars as it brings a somewhat-middling story to a strong, entertaining conclusion.
Marvel recently announced that, following the “Vader Down” crossover (which is being penciled by Mike Deodato), Leinil Francis Yu will be drawing the book’s next story arc, meaning they’re apparently taking a “rotate artists for each story” approach to the series, which is a shame. Not only does one consistent artist help provide a sense of identity to a series, but Immonen really killed it on this story. Hopefully, he’ll return for another before too long.
Last issue revealed Han’s side of the Han/Sana marriage situation, this issue reveals her side: that she knows full well they’re not actually married, that it was all part of a job, but that Han stiffed her on her share and she needs the money, so she’s holding him to it. Hopefully, everyone who gnashed their teeth immediately after Sana declared she was Han Solo’s wife will remember this issue the next time a plot development they don’t like is introduced early in a story without a full explanation.
The Gamesmaster turns out to be a Stormtrooper planted on Nar Shaddaa to take down Grakkus, and is a member of Vader’s personal Stormtrooper detachment (Vader’s Fist aka the 501st Legion, whose name comes from the real life fan charity/cosplay group). His face is never really shown, but his name would suggest he’s a non-clone Stormtrooper (The canon has yet to make it clear exactly how many, if any, Stormtroopers were still clones circa A New Hope).
Apparently, lightsabers and droids are protected against EMPs, as both continued to work after Grakkus triggered one.
Leia, daughter of Darth Vader, wields a lightsaber for the first time in the new canon as of this issue, which is only part of what makes that whole “everyone’s got a lightsaber!” moment so much fun.
Darth Vader now has access to Grakkus’ trove of Jedi artifacts; it’ll be interesting to see if and how he chooses to make use of them.