Star Wars #12 [The Wood Pile]

Star Wars #12 (Dark Horse): Wow. I don’t know how else I can so plainly reiterate what a terrific extended take on the Star Wars Universe this run is. It’s such a crystalline piece of art, with so many different facets to analyze, from individual characterization, to imaginative plotting, to the precision of the art and coloring. If all the high-octane action occurred last issue, this epilogue issue lets us catch our breath in the aftermath and addresses the relationships. Judging solely by this issue, you’d assume Brian Wood is a fan of Homeland, in the way the issue bends the basic tradecraft of the spy game to its whim. You can almost imagine Mon Mothma, Leia Organa, and Kell Bircher as LucasFilm versions of Saul Berenson, Carrie Mathison, and Nicholas Brody, as CIA handlers running recruited assets and maintaining a precarious state of compartmentalization, even obscuring the end-game from each other if the situation warrants it. Kell Bircher is a particularly interesting creation, a deep cover agent from Chandrilan Special Forces, who is a winning amalgamation of the political savvy of Leia, the raw skills of Luke, and the roguish charisma of Han Solo, all in one person. I DEMAND AN ACTION FIGURE OF KELL BIRCHER!

There are great moments which come in pairings, literally littered all over the place, an Imperial Star Destroyer garbage dump’s worth of delight, from Luke and Prithi's brief romance, to Han and Leia’s budding and ever-strained relationship, to Wedge and Kell sharing some trust based on pilot’s code. I also really enjoyed the quick conversation between Perla and Mon Mothma, providing Han’s new friend a nice denouement using the methods the Rebel Alliance can employ to enlist qualified pilots and officers. The offer of a military service contract (with perks!) is an interesting look at the politics behind building a rebellion, this type of detail is something we’ve never really seen before in filmic escapades. There’s just so many stand-out moments packed into this issue. Wood has teased the birth of Rogue Squadron before via Wedge’s dialogue, but here it actually is, formally announced in the flesh. Leia also sees a wide emotional range to her character arc, going from feeling slighted and out of the loop, to leading a briefing in well-spoken natural leader fashion, and pushing back with her own highly compartmentalized plan on Mon Mothma, which highlights not only her results-oriented intelligence, but her absolute dedication to the Alliance, regardless of the personal cost.

The combination of Carlos D’Anda’s art and Gabe Eltaeb’s color is just a thing of beauty. Like Wood’s lines around events “far, far away” or the insertion of Bothan Spies to the proceedings, their art prowess feels totally at home in Star Wars. There are so many examples around of the deliberate efforts at authenticity. It’s in the details of the costume designs, Leia’s various jackets, which seem ready for her action figure assortment, Mon Mothma’s couture trenchcoat, to the dead-on hair styles which are in keeping with the shaggy 80’s look, yet perfectly acceptable in modern times, or the small flourish of an X-Wing’s open nose cone in a hangar bay. It’s just all so carefully crafted, so rich, so convincing, so evident that it's being done by fans, for fans, who intuitively understand the alluring mechanics of the original source material. It's so damn good. The white hot gleam of ships dropping in and out of lightspeed imprints on our nostalgic DNA and rouses even the most jaded comic book adventurist.

By the end of the issue, it’s clear that this is a natural demarcation point. It’s a “Year One,” a “Volume One,” a “Season One,” the place Wood’s initial year-long contract would have brought him had it not been extended to 20 issues (common knowledge if you pay attention on Twitter!), a place where I’d want the first big ol’ hardcover collected, a call-it-what-you-will definitive “chunk” of story. You see, it’s clear that the covert ops mission is over, and it brings to the fore the other prong of the mission parameters Princess Leia Organa was initially supposed to execute. There’s the the little matter of finding a new planet to serve as home base for the Rebel Alliance against the Galactic Empire. I think it’s 3 years that pass between Star Wars and Empire, so there’s plenty of space for stories left to tell, and I can’t wait to see where we go next. This is one of the best books of the year, and I have a feeling it will be in 2014 as well. Grade A+.


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