Star Wars #4 (Dark Horse): I love this book. No other way to say it. It hasn’t had a misstep since it came charging out of the gate like a rabid tauntaun. Han and Chewbacca continue their mission on Coruscant, Luke and Prithi remain grounded largely for their shit attitude, and Leia leads an away mission with her stealth squadron to the Pybus System in search of a replacement home for their outed base at Yavin 4. Vader gets something of a protégé, or maybe a challenger(?), we’ll see, but it’s already a great dynamic that moves a new cunning woman onto the board. In true Star Wars fashion, nothing goes as planned, forcing everyone to stay sharp and think on their feet, continually adapting to social change, something Wood excels at. On the Alliance end of things, Leia and Mon Mothma hold the two positions of power, and while you can definitely read “girl power” into this, it’s very organic and natural. You never get the sense that there are well written strong female leads merely for the sake of doing so, they’re just interesting characters in power positions who happen to be women. Gender does not equal character all by itself, and Wood gets that. It’s character first, gender second. Wood also continues to thread a needle where he’s able to world-build within a universe that’s already incredibly well explored. He does this by seamlessly dropping in some familiar and unfamiliar things and mixing it up. For example, we see the inclusion of a Mon Calamari bridge officer long before we’d ever meet this race in the movies. We see Luke peering out the large window of a frigate, just like he and Leia do at the end of ESB. We're almost subliminally conditioned to recognize and like shots like this. We see races of people we’ve seen in the Clone Wars cartoon and in the prequels, but we also see new races that I’m not familiar with. There’s new ships, old ships, new places, old places. There’s an employee of Kuat Drive Yards, which is a company you might not be familiar with unless you read any of the myriad technical manuals associated with the property. The writer is pulling from all over the place and just nicely “living in” these scripts. Carlos D’Anda and Gabe Eltaeb are an art/color team that deserves so much credit for the success of this series. They’ve managed to find a way to capture the look and feel of the universe, the tech, the people, while making it stylized enough to stamp their own mark on the aesthetic and accentuate the things we adore about the source material. So, Vader looks like Vader, but his mask is different, sharper, more menacing and glaring, you can feel the resentment and spite dripping off of him, sticking an Imperial Officer in the back with his saber only punctuates that dread. The Mon Calamari look like Mon Calamari, but the eyes are bigger, the alien features more well defined, beyond the big rubber suits we saw bobbing up and down as Ackbar uttered “It’s a trap!” in ROTJ. C-3PO looks just like C-3PO, but the sharper lines of his shoulder plates and wider “smile” somehow make him more effeminate and more chastising. X-Wings look like X-Wings, only sleeker, cooler, faster. The visual style is incredibly slick overall, Alex Ross covers, forced perspective shots, the sheen of the paper quality, contrasting bright and dark colors, it all pops incredibly well. There’s nothing visually not to like. The characterization and events are all on point, in a slick package that taps nostalgia buttons and pushes into new territory. It’s the perfect brand of escapism, flawlessly executed. This book is a pure joy to read. If you’re keeping score, with last issue I said I’d never given three Grade A+ marks in a row to a book. Well, here’s the fourth. How the hell long can this team keep it up? Grade A+.