3.10.2014

Star Wars #15 [Advance Review]

Star Wars #15 (Dark Horse): Hey, remember that time I went back and read, like, every Brian Wood book extant at that point? The big hypothesis I was trying to investigate with that project was confirming that “identity” was a running thematic concern tying all of the books together like some underlying connective tissue. In more modern interviews, Wood has indicated that “change” is the larger narrative idea he’s most fascinated with, positioning his characters on that precarious precipice, particularly as it relates to history. I’m wondering if it’s possible to fuse these two ideas together. Meaning, maybe it isn’t necessarily character identity that’s being molded per se, but that of the world. In most Brian Wood books, the world is primarily changing and settling into a new identity, one that the characters are then forced to subsequently adapt their own personalities to. This theory is certainly true for the longer works, DMZ, Northlanders, The Massive, Conan, and Star Wars is just as exemplary of that dynamic.

The Rebellion against The Empire is seeking to directly change the world, drastically so, it’s the characters basically catalyzing a universal shift as their own agents of change. This upheaval is already in motion, and this series has them on the trajectory of change in that transitional space, forcing the characters’ identities to shift in order to accommodate the evolving paradigm of the world they inhabit. Luke obviously changes (and is still in the process of figuring out where he belongs here, struggling to make logical decisions and not emotional ones) from farm boy to Rebel Leader/Jedi, Leia from Princess to Senator to Rebel Leader, Han from Smuggler to Resistance Fighter w/ a Rank, Lando from Boring Bespin Administrator to General/Battle of Tanaab Braggart, and Wedge Antilles from Ace Pilot to Leader of Rogue Squadron, et al.  

Leia is subjecting herself to the most willful change, “sacrificing” herself and her personal life for a sense of duty by being betrothed to the Prince of Arrochar, in exchange for a strategic alliance and a dug-in Rebel Base (though there's hints at more afoot), even though her crew doesn’t quite grasp the decision, out of confusion, jealousy, or general concern for her well-being. She constantly doubts herself, or feels she has to prove herself, maybe to prove that this thing she's dedicated her life to will succeed, that the rebellion is a viable endeavor, maybe because she’s a young woman in what is still probably a male dominated field, maybe because she’s one of the few survivors of Alderaan and feels guilt, but for whatever reason, she’s willing to gamble it all, gamble away her own identity, on a chance at change for the better across the galaxy. Wood is smart to show both sides hammering out political deals (how real wars are won, just ask Tywin Lannister and his letter-writing campaign) and is sure to always earn his SW street cred. Here, he does it with throwaway lines, like referring to the Incom X-Wing simply as a “T-65,” or the stalwart “Z-95,” which diehard fans might recognize as the “Headhunter.”

I was surprised to find that Carlos D’Anda wasn’t back on art duty for this issue/arc, but it’s always a pleasant surprise to see what additional creators will bring to the Star Wars Universe. Stephane Crety and Julien Hugonnard-Bert are not creators whose art and inking I was familiar with, but they do make nice contributions, capturing the emotional content, serious moments, and sense of adventure the title demands. Their art is a little more stylized, with elongated faces, caricature-influenced figure work, and some very jaunty hair, but overall they’re a good match for the tech (whether it’s the underbelly of a Y-Wing in flight, or an Osprey-like shuttle), the convincing uniforms (Luke’s Bespin/Dagobah ensemble), and the general feel of the universe (the glow of Arrochar with ships in orbit, or the X-Wings looking sharp running canyons). For Arrochar, they sort of blend Game of Thrones style architecture and militarism with the type of grandeur and majesty you might find on Naboo. Without a doubt, the unsung art hero on Star Wars is colorist Gabe Eltaeb. He’s a big reason that despite some rotation in art teams, the look and feel of this run has remained fairly consistent. He set a precedent early on with glossy sheen and shimmering saturated colors that make the artists and audience feel right at home in this interstitial space between episodes. Grade A.

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