11.12.2013

Star Wars #11 [The Wood Pile]

Star Wars #11 (Dark Horse): I love this book! If you’re talking sheer unqualified enjoyment, then this is the book I most look forward to reading every month. It’s like some sort of confectionary treat that delights the eyes and tickles the brain and makes you squee with uncontrollable fanboy glee. When I read this book, I get that nostalgic feeling that I’m witnessing something so pure and concentrated, for the very first time. My mind always drifts back to being 6 years old and what it felt like sitting in the theatre watching Empire Strikes Back on the big screen (I was a little too young to catch Star Wars in the theatre), and even getting choked up with emotion when Han was frozen in carbonite. I always hesitate to use terms like “perfect” or “flawless,” but Brian Wood and Carlos D’Anda’s time on this book makes it so tempting. This issue is non-stop action and engagement, with Birrah Seah fleeing Darth Vader’s wrath after failing at her task to snare a couple of young rebels (one of them called Skywalker), Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator assaulting the Rebel Fleet in that cocksure way the Empire does so well, Luke and Wedge trying to sneak their way back to the fleet hiding in plain sight in TIE Interceptors, and Perla making Han an offer he simply can’t refuse, half out of grounded pragmatism, and half out of smuggler's awe. The entire issue is basically one long succession of little moments that made me smile and chuckle to myself about what a great time I was having reading the book. D’Anda’s action is always crystal clear and full of little details that “sell” what he’s rendering, thinking through things like the depiction of the energy shield around the Mon Calamari Cruiser, and what blasts would look like impacting that. I really liked the shots of Mon Mothma getting jostled around in the corridors of Home One on her way to the War Room/Ops Center where she looked so svelte in her trench coat, the lone woman commanding the other (male) rebel officers on duty. This is hands down the coolest that Mon Mothma has ever looked. D’Anda took what could otherwise come off as dated designs for her and gave her a regal but utilitarian edge that’s an instant hit. Princess Leia is returning from her time away at the remnants of Alderaan and comes in hot to the hangar bay. All of the ships that make these combat landings into the hangar bay are examples of the many moments where the book elevates itself beyond mere writing proficiency and artistic skill and just taps into an indescribable “cool” factor. While Wood is busy lacing the story with auditory callbacks like “cut the chatter” and “lock s-foils in attack position” to line up his LucasFilm consistencies, D’Anda brings so much visual thunder. There’s the close-up on Luke’s face as he’s asking about Prithi, how the rebel pilots' helmets look so used and battered and grimy compared to the pristine gleam of the Interceptor pilots, the way that he draws a panel with an X-Wing pilot upside down because without gravity there’s really no “right side up” in space, and all of the crazy skewed panel angles and camera placements that emphasize the chaos and claustrophobic disorientation of the target-rich space battles. You can hardly catch your breath and keep frenetic pace with everything that’s happening in this issue and the amazing visual wonderland, so when the final startling reveal occurs, all you have left is the ability to just flip the page back and forth to verify you're reading what you think you're reading and then bellow out a joyous “WTF?!” at what happened, one which instantly makes you want to go back and reread the entire series to look for clues or how this new information might color a second reading. Brian Wood and Carlos D’Anda’s Star Wars run has taken the prize for the most “A+” marks I’ve ever given any series. It truly has it all, brains, action, and heart. It captures a sense of fun and sensory immersion that sort of defies critique and embodies what these types of comics are supposed to be all about - escapist wonderment. If you’re not buying it, you’re missing one of the highest watermarks the property has ever attained. Grade A+.

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