Welcome to Tales From A Galaxy Far, Far Away! This right here will be your monthly hub, looking in depth at Marvel’s Star Wars comics each month! Now, you may be thinking: “Alice, don’t you already have a podcast where you talk about Star Wars every month?” And you’d be right! But, this way, I get to delve deep into Marvel’s comics and I get to talk about Star Wars even more.
This month, most everything carries on apace. “Star Wars” tells it’s own version of Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, “Darth Vader” explores the conflict between the light and the dark side, a double dose of “Doctor Aphra” kicks off a new and surprising arc and “Darth Maul” comes to brutal close.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s punch it, Chewie!
“Star Wars” #33
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Salvador Larroca
Coloured by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
The Hero of the Rebellion & the Princess of the Revolution! Luke and Leia finally get some time alone. Unfortunately, it’s stranded on a desert island.
Splinter Of The Canon’s Eye
One of the things I wasn’t expecting from this issue is that it’s pretty much just Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, but better, more concise and without all the weird-in-hindsight incest stuff. What I mean by that is that it’s a story in which Luke and Leia are trapped on a planet with no means of escape because of their malfunctioning ship and must use the help of the native people to fend off the Empire before escaping to return to the Alliance.
The difference is that while Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye was originally conceived as a low budget sequel to Star Wars and is both too long and too uninteresting for the story it wants to tell and hasn’t aged particularly well, this issue has the benefit of 40 years of Star Wars history to build. It’s an unfair comparison, I know, but one of the things I like about the new canon is the ability to repurpose old story ideas with a fresh take.
Home, Sweet Home
I’m very much of the persuasion that, while it does take place in space and features aliens and spaceships, Star Wars is very much science fantasy rather than science fiction. However, that doesn’t mean that the science part has to be dropped all together. I loved the touch that, on certain planets in certain systems, Leia can still see the light of Alderaan among the stars because there is still reflective light travelling there.
It’s like an echo of her homeworld still travelling through the galaxy and if she catches it just right, she can see into a past before it’s destruction. It’s poetic as well as scientific.
An Orphan Connection
As I mentioned, one of the aspects of Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye that hasn’t aged well is how it portrayed the connection between Luke and Leia. Being written before the reveal that they were siblings, it’s taken on the unfortunate context of having Luke basically lust after his sister. It’s… not great. This issue, meanwhile, presents a connection between the two that foreshadows that reveal. It points out that they may be orphans, but they’re never alone. The characters, in the moment, believe it to be because of their common cause in life, but the audience knows that it’s because of their blood connection.
Like Gungans, But Less Racist
While the alien species introduced here don’t actually have much to do with the story, I wanted to bring them up just because of their cool designs. It’s a bit like if Jar Jar Binks had actually been Abe Sapien instead. And now that I’ve typed that I find myself wishing that’s how the film had turned out…
Luke Skywalker, Badass
It may be overshadowed by the fact that we already know his destination in Empire Strikes Back, but I’ve been fascinated by Luke’s character trajectory in this series. He started out, in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin (and the events of Kevin Hearne’s Heir To The Jedi novel), unsure of himself and his abilities. He sought guidance from someone who wasn’t there and didn’t know how to confide his insecurities to those closest to him.Continued below
Now, though, he’s much closer to the assured Rebel leader we see in Empire. He’s more comfortable in his role and is more connected to the Force than ever, even if he is blunt in using it. But it’s that chance to learn by doing, to instinctually connect to the Force instead of training like the old Order, that sets him apart from other Jedi in an important way.
This is, I think, the first time we’ve seen the Shore Troopers in this series or, in fact, any of the Marvel comics. And it’s something I will never tired of, if I’m being honest. While I admit to there being a downside to producer-driven narrative universes, one of the things I love is how it allows creators to feed off one another. Something introduced in another story like the Shore Troopers or Eternal Rur or even the story of Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye can be touched on by another creator.
Something Something Hunger Games Reference
Much like Luke, Leia has had a pretty interesting character arc that’s been somewhat overshadowed by the nature of this series as an interquel. Taking place between two established stories, it can be easily written off for just filling in the blanks, but Jason Aaron has really zeroed in one where these characters were in A New Hope and where they’d end up in Empire and created an interesting through line. We saw an emotional side to Leia that she rarely shows in A New Hope as well as the ability to take matters into her own hands.
Taking Coruscant By Storm
The issue ends with a tease for something I cannot wait for: an issue dedicated to Lando and Sanna on Coruscant. Sanna has been sadly underused by the series since her introduction after the furore around the whole “Han Solo’s wife” thing died down and she just became one of the team. I’m hoping that this issue will put a spotlight on two of the most underrated characters in the galaxy.
“Darth Vader” #3
Written by Charles Soule
Pencilled by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inked by Cam Smith
Coloured by David Curiel
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
Vader sets his sights on a Jedi who’s avoided Order 66… a Jedi Master who’s long lived in seclusion… a Jedi more powerful than any Vader has faced before…
A Fighting Jedi
I’m fascinated by Infil’a and the idea of a “fighting Jedi.” What we see of the character in this issue is someone attuned to the Force and who wishes to fight for the light side, but who cannot remove themselves from the physicality of the fight. It reminds me of how Mace Windu was portrayed in the EU, as a Jedi who constantly and consciously flirted with the dark side in order to better fight for the light side. Seeing him go up against Vader is sure to be interesting.
Light And Dark
I love this confrontation because, like I said, it’s interesting to see Infil’a and Vader as reflections of one another; both are Jedi who isolated themselves from the Order because they flirted with the power of the dark side. Now, Vader fights to destroy the last remnants of the Jedi while Infil’a fights to protect it. I also love the quiet, sombre confidence in Vader here and how it foreshadows his downfall later in the issue.
Trials Of The Sith
The idea of Passvaal is really fascinating to me because one of the things we rarely see if Vader challenged by… well, anything, really. During his entire first comic run, he swaggered his way through 25 issues and change without breaking a sweat. His stoic demeanour can only work so well when he’s the focus of the narrative and I love that, by bringing him back to his more inexperienced days, Soule and Camuncoli can challenge him like this.Continued below
A Reminder Of The Machine
Speaking of challenging, I love the touch of Vader’s suit being torn away and him fighting with exposed cybernetics. It’s a visual reminder of how much he’s lost and how he’s no longer the man we remember. His journey through The Clone Wars really endeared me to the character of Anakin (much more so than the attempts in Attack Of The Clones or The Phantom Menace) so seeing the twisted husk of a person he’s been left as is really poignant and adds a lot of depth to the tragedy of Darth Vader.
The Bigger They Are…
And the issue ends with Vader failing. He is resoundly beaten and thrown down the mountain for his troubles, discarded by a more powerful opponent. This is a side to Vader we’ve genuinely never seen before and I know there’s a worry that this could neuter the character, but I think it shows genuine growth to see him fail and get back up and keep doing so until we get to the Dark Lord of the Sith we know from A New Hope.
“Doctor Ahpra” #9
Written by Kieron Gillen
Pencilled by Kev Walker
Inked by Cam Smith
Coloured by Antonio Fabela
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
Aphra’s back with a brand-new plan that’s guaranteed to pay! There’s just one teensy problem… It involves surrounding herself by some of the galaxy’s biggest baddies. And they don’t like Aphra’s tricks!
Extremely Tim Allen Voice: Rur?
So, after the Queen of the Screaming Citadel awoke Rur in his crystal, Aphra devised a way of containing and focusing his technopathic abilities in order to turn him into a weapon. And then she’s going to sell him to the highest bidder. This seems like an extremely bad idea, but it also seems Peak Aphra so I can’t really complain.
Lifestyles Of The Rich And The Deadly
And yet, the party is decidedly un-Aphra. As the Rodian states, when we first met Aphra, she was backalley dealing and grimey. Working over anyone she met, she was basically trying to scrape together a means to survive. Having seen the glamour of the Citadel, she must have changed her tune in how she deals with people because suddenly she’s all about lavish parties and masks and dresses. It’s a strange change of pace.
I’m also interested in the why of why Aphra is selling Rur. It does seem very Aphra, but I’m surprised she’s being so cavalier with something so archaeologically important? It’s one of the things I get frustrated about with Aphra because she went through all that to activate Rur just to sell him? I don’t know.
Spoiler alert for later in the article, but this isn’t actually followed up on in the next issue, and is more just planted for the reader to be aware of the impending doom. Basically, Triple-Zero and BT have been reporting to Darth Dad this entire time and are phoning him to tell on Aphra for being bad.
“Poe Dameron” #17
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Angel Unzueta
Coloured by Arif Prianto
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
Black Squadron is back in action! And this time they’re on the lookout for some new recruits for the Resistance! Poe Dameron’s first encounter? Turns out to be a mysterious person from Jess Pava’s past…
Filling A Spot On Black Squadron
With L’ulo’s funeral firmly behind him, Black Squadron is in need of a new member and it seems like Suralinda will be taking that spot. After her appearance in “Poe Dameron” #7, Suralinda kind of just disappeared and I mean, sure, she did almost betray the secrecy of the Resistance, but making her the janitor’s a bit harsh, no? This issue begins an arc in which Suralinda joins Jessika Pava and Kare to expose the cruelties of the First Order to the galaxy at large.Continued below
This is a moment where the lettering of the comic does the heavy lifting of a pretty subtle reveal. After bonking his head last issue and pretty clearly damaging the cybernetic implants controlling his behaviour, Terex has been biding his time until, I’d imagine, he can take his revenge on the First Order. The reveal that Terex is in control of his own behaviour comes down to the tail of his speech bubble, going from jagged to smooth to indicate the lie. It’s subtle, but effective.
We know so little about Jess Pava’s past that even this small flashback really surprised me. We basically know nothing about her life prior to joining the Resistance, but this hint that something dreadful happened to her family and that it could have been at the hands of the First Order (my basis being that the ship outside the viewports looks an awful lot like the design of Malarus’s ship) is pretty cool. I hope we get to dive more into the lives of Black Squadron outside of Poe while the series is still around.
Abednedo Love, To The Tune Of California Love
So I want to talk about a couple things here. The first is that this is the first time we’re seeing Abednedo the planet in any Star Wars material and the visual design of the architecture is incredibly fascinating to me. The swirls and the seemingly sandstone construction of the building speak to a really rustic sensibility.
The second is that this is the other half of the issue’s burgeoning plotlines. While Suralinda, Jess and Kare all look to expose the First Order, Snap and Poe race off to track down the traitorous Oddy Muva before the First Order can. Sadly, they are far too late this issue.
The Smoking Gun
The tease for the next issue really puts the period on Suralina’s plotline. She travels with Jess and Kare to a planet in the hopes of exposing the First Order’s violence to the galaxy and the issue ends with an officer having killed a native in cold blood. It’ll be interesting to see where the series takes this from here.
“Darth Maul” #5
Written by Cullen Bunn
Pencilled by Luke Ross
Darth Maul has kidnapped Jedi Padawan Eldra Katiss…and he’s out for blood. But she’s not going down without a fight. Duel!
Clash Of The Learners
One of the things I’ve loved about this series is the emphasis it puts on Maul as a learner. Despite his confidence and his independence, he’s not that far from where Eldra is in life. They’re both padawans in they’re own right and have been brought together to fight side by side and against one another over ideologies that have been indoctrinated into them by predatory masters. This is one of those moments that really shows the divide between the Sith and the Jedi as being little more than the other side of the same coin.
Cad Bane, Coolest Guy In The Galaxy
I have nothing poignant to write about here other than my sadness at this being the final issue of “Darth Maul” and that meaning I won’t get any more Cad Bane for a while. Bane is one of my favourite Star Wars characters and the fact that he’s pretty much all but disappeared since The Clone Wars ended has been a crime. He has been a real highlight of an already great comic.
Dissatisfaction With Murder
It should really be no surprise that the series would end with Maul finally murdering Eldra. It was written on the walls from the very first issue. What I loved, though, is the exploration of Maul’s emotional being afterwards. He spent four and a bit issues chasing and anticipating this moment only to feel… hollow. There is no satisfaction to be gained from the taking of another’s life, only more emptiness. The downside of the Sith is that they believe the more lives they take, the more they can bury that emptiness.Continued below
Tying Up Loose Ends
Speaking of burying the empitness, Maul’s murder spree doesn’t end at Eldra. He cuts down Madame Xrexus before she could expose his appearance to the galaxy at large lest the plans of Sidious be exposed and the Sith’s return be jeopardised. I loved the tension in this scene and the pure, unfettered rage radiating from Maul. Simply chilling.
And, Of Course…
Of course it was all just a test. If watching Star Wars has taught me anything it’s that there’s nothing Palpatine hasn’t foresaw. Ending this series on another note of pure manipulation from Sidious, undermining the small amount of independence he gained in his journey, is perfect. It bottles Maul’s rage and points him directly at Naboo and at Obi-Wan in the looming events of The Phantom Menace and sets the stage for his life story with a new context.
“Doctor Aphra” #10
Written by Kieron Gillen
Pencilled by Kev Walker
Aphra’s back with a brand-new plan that’s guaranteed to pay! There’s just one teensy problem…It involves surrounding herself by some of the galaxy’s biggest baddies. And they don’t like Aphra’s tricks!
Not The Shadow Proclamation
This was, in all honesty, a pretty light issue so I only want to touch on a couple of things. This first is the Shadow University and they’re not so veiled threat to disrupt Aphra’s doctorate if she crosses them. One of the things I’ve loved about these two issues is how Gillen and Walker have explored the underworld of the galaxy and this is a neat one. It puts Aphra in a very tricky position and, as I’ve mentioned, I always feel one step behind in predicting Aphra’s motivations so I’ve no idea where this could go.
Much like Jess in “Poe Dameron,” Black Krrsantan is something of a mystery. The appearance of the Xonti Brothers, who have only been mentioned indirectly before now, sparks his Wookiee rage before he can be sedated. The Xonti Brothers were the ones who trained Krrsantan against his will to become a gladiator and I can only imagine the grudge he bears against them. Like I said, this series has really been fleshing out its own corner of the galaxy’s underworld and it is fascinating.
And the final page of “Doctor Aphra” #10 leaves on a pretty bombastic note as Rur has transferred his consciousness into the destroyed body of a droid. This can only bode well for the party…
And there we have it! A deep dive into the stories of Marvel’s Star Wars comics from the last month! Join me next month for a look into the releases of August.
And, as always, may the Force be with you…