– Spoiler Review –
Is it possible for too much Han Solo to ever be too much of a good thing? From writer Marjorie Liu, artist Mark Brooks, and colorist Sonia Oback comes the Han Solo miniseries, which attempts to tackle that question (especially with the character’s A Star Wars Story anthology film still on its way). It might only be one issue in, but already thanks to a strong character focus and entertaining and mystery laden plot, I’m pretty sure the answer to the question is simply: never.
Han Solo #1 starts with the titular smuggler in a tough spot after taking a break from the Rebellion as he’s trying to get credits to pay off his debt to Jabba, but he’s not taken any jobs due to a jittery feeling he’s just not quite ready to admit he has. However, Han doesn’t have to worry about what’s really bothering him for the time being, as he’s reluctantly recruited into a mission for the Rebellion that involves picking up compromised spies along the route of the Dragon Void Run, something he and any pilot would dream of winning. His mission is to be top secret since both Leia and General Airen Cracken believe there are several moles in the Rebellion and despite the two claiming they’re the only ones to know about his true purpose, the issue ends with the first leg of the race interrupted by unknown assailants. There’s plenty of mysteries to be solved throughout the series, including what exactly the spies learned that’s so important, who the mole(s) is, who is attacking and why they are attacking the race, and most importantly: will Han own up to the real reason why he’s unwilling to take smuggling jobs, which one part involves his desire to actually be part of the Rebellion and the other part I imagine rhymes with A-ah and his feelings for her?
That’s the true beauty of this introductory issue: Marjorie Liu’s character work. As entertaining as the plot and mysteries are, they way she’s written the characters makes them the focus on the issue, helping to cover up the fact there’s a lot of set-up hiding underneath all the interactions. There’s a line in the issue where Leia has to remind Han that the Dragon Void Run is merely the cover and not the objective and the same could be said for the plot, as it’s just a cover for getting the characters into revealing situations and not the objective for telling this story. The focus on what this series wants to tell about Han at this point in his life reminds me of the exceptional Lando series and what it did for his characterization and I can confidently say I believe Han Solo #1 to be just as good as Lando #1 in that regard. Liu has set the Han Solo series up to cover how Han comes to terms with wanting to be part of something bigger, i.e. the Rebellion, and all that comes with it, i.e. Leia (and a friend in Luke), even though he still thinks he wants to just be a lone wolf with Chewbacca. At first when I read about Han Solo I wasn’t too excited about another series set between Ep. IV and V, but if Liu’s writing can keep the characters front and center, this series could certainly be considered in the same league as Lando when all is said and done, or at least damn close to it, which is a win-win for readers and creators alike either way; Needless to say, I’m rather excited by this series now, despite my initial doubts.
What I enjoyed so much about Liu’s work is how well she writes Han, especially thanks to the slight noir-type feel she’s given the series with his inner monologue, which is nice to have considering some of the things he’s internally voicing he certainly wouldn’t do out loud. She’s really captured his swagger, confidence, and humor, but also the vulnerabilities he hides from both himself and others. It certainly feels like reading a Han on the cusp of changing from someone who only cares about himself to someone who pretends to only care about himself when he really, truly cares about his friends. On top of the great Han Liu’s writing, she also does a mean Han and Princess Leia, capturing their bickering (dare I say it) even better than Jason Aaron has in the past. Their back and forth feels like to was ripped straight from the films and I couldn’t help but literally laugh out loud when Leia punches Han to give him an ‘excuse’ to be leaving the base so suddenly (to throw off the possible moles). As quickly as I laughed, I couldn’t help but feel for these two after the dejected look on Han’s face and the sad look on Leia’s, who both hope the other doesn’t think the altercation was real and also wishing they didn’t have to part in such a fashion (and bonus tears for thinking about their interactions in The Force Awakens during that scene). To top that off, you know Liu has a handle on Chewie and Han’s relationship when Han has to wave off the former’s attempt at a hug after Leia hit him (awww). And while we probably won’t see as much of Leia as the series will be set during Han’s mission along the Dragon Void Run, I hope to see more of her before the series is through because it’s another splendid take on her that shows off her importance in the Rebellion, her headstrong attitude, and belief in her friend even if she’s his most vocal detractor.
But not only did we get treated to a great writer for Han Solo, we also got an absolutely stunning artist in Mark Brooks and colors by Sonia Oback. Brooks’ work on covers for the various comics released so far have been among by favorite, including the one for Vader Down Part 6 and all the Kanan series ones he worked on (especially how #12 reflected #1). And now that great work for the interior art? Yes, please! Every panel feels dense, with tons of background characters and details in every corner of the panel, and it all has a sense of weight to it, making it feel like looking at still shots from a film or something. Expressions and postures really add to the dialogue of each panel, as if both artist and writer are on the same page and working together to elevate one another’s work, and I can’t get enough of it. Brook’s work is quickly becoming my favorite out of all the series’ so far, but it’s too early to call it.
In fact, there was one panel where I instantly stopped reading because I was so stunned, exclaiming out loud, “Wow.” The panel in question was the introduction of Loo Re Anno, a member of a brand-new alien race, who takes Han’s side in the party before the Run when the other racers consider him unfit because he’s a smuggler. The character design is, as I mentioned before, stunning to say the least. She’s a tall, thin, blue creature with two arms, but four hands as the extra pair branch off at the elbows, with a cat-like fish face beset with two giant golden eyes, with head-tails like Ahsoka’s surrounding her head, not over it. My description simply doesn’t do it justice, but on looks alone she’s a character I’m dying to see more of in the series. We learn little about her in the issue, just that she’s a highly respected racer and the best there currently is, though this one might be her last. Marjorie teased Loo’s connection to Han and her possible retirement, as well as a few more details about her species, in an interview with EW.com (on page 2) three months ago (which I summed up in my post on the announcement). Loo Re Anno is the character I’m most excited for in the series and I’m sure her memorable design (like, action figure ready design) combined with Liu’s writing should do this introduction justice.
Here are a few other things:
- The idea that the racers all think they are better than Han, since they’ve got teams for each part of their ship and the best technology money can buy, presents Han as the scruffy-looking outside he really is. But as Loo puts it, his heart might just be what makes him better than the rest. It’s interesting to see this racing culture, especially since our last introduction to racing in Star Wars was podracing and none of those contestants seemed to be particularly cultured nor did we get to spend as much time with them as Han Solo does with its new racers.
- Speaking about racing, the latest novel Bloodline does include Han at various points, but he’s spending some of his golden years as a race instructor so obviously this has been something he’s always been interested in if he didn’t have to pay off debts with smuggling.
- Amy Ratcliffe interviewed Marjorie Liu over at the official site, where they discuss Liu wanting to be a female Wookiee bounty hunter, Han’s dilemma in this era of his life, and her inspiration for the setting of the mission during a Run.
- I think my favorite dialogue has to be a little exchange between Han and Selentia, a Rebellion agent, who begins to tell Han about the job Leia wants his help on. Selentia, “There’s also a reward.” Han, “I’m all ears.” Selentia, “We want to use your ship.” Han, who’s final line is accentuated with Brooks’ shrugging image of the smuggler, “It was nice meeting you all.”
- I do have another question about this series, though it’s one I’m not sure it’ll actually answer or will be answered for some time: when exactly between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back does this take place? Before the start of the Star Wars mainline series of comics? After its “Rebel Jail” arc? It’s unclear in this issue, but also isn’t important for the enjoyment of the issue. It would be nice to eventually know, though. Update 6/19: This isn’t officially official, but it’s the closest we’ll get for awhile: Marvel Editor Jordan D. White took to Jedi Council Forums and roughly said in all likelihood Han Solo takes place after issue #19 a.k.a. the end of “Rebel Jail” arc. (via Jedi-Bibliothek)
- Marvel’s assistant editor Heather Antos got a well-deserved treat this issue, as Brooks drew her into the series as one of the Twi’leks who confront Han as he’s boasting about having the fastest ship.
- Airen Cracken was originally head of security and intelligence for the Rebellion in Legends, and we know he can’t be the mole since his first canon appearance is in Return of the Jedi, obviously set after the events of Han Solo.
- According to Diamond Comics, Han Solo #1 was 4th place in the Top 10 Comics of June. Congrats to the creative team!
- If you think I’m overselling Brooks’ art, then maybe the fact that George Lucas bought the original art for every page in the first two issues should ease your mind that the art is just that good.
By the end of the issue, I had felt like I had read a lot and for a longer time than I actually had. Whether the feeling was due to the packed art by Mark Brooks and Sonia Oback’s colors, Marjorie Liu’s deep character work, or rather a combination of the two I can’t be completely sure, but I certainly didn’t want to stop either way. Han Solo #1 is one of the strongest debuts for a series since Lando and I have a lot of confidence the quality presented here will continue on for the length of the mini-series.
+ Marjorie Liu’s focus on character
+ Mark Brooks and Sonia Oback’s art is gorgeous
+ Cleverly hidden set up
+ Loo Re Anno, where have you been all my life?
CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
#2 | #3 | #4 | #5
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25)
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)