– Spoiler Review –
Star Wars #16 starts the “Rebel Jail” arc, which brings the series back into ‘present time’, picking up where the crossover event Vader Down left off: Doctor Aphra in the clutches of our Rebel heroes. It may make many an Aphra fan nervous, but the issue’s focus on its female characters is its greatest strength (even if one is in possible peril).
If you’ve been reading my reviews of whichever issue of the comics Doctor Aphra happens to be in at any given moment (or my 2015 comics year-in-review), then it shouldn’t be a surprise I’m a big fan of the character. While having been a mainstay of the Darth Vader series up until now, she joins the SW series as a prisoner of the Rebel Alliance, which hopes to gain whatever vital information Aphra could have on Vader or the Empire. She doesn’t take being captured lying down, instead constantly freeing herself from her cuffs and trying to take over the ship transporting her. Even when she’s finally put into her jail cell at the Rebellion’s blacksite maximum security prison, Sunspot, Aphra’s still snarling and wheeling and dealing to get out. Also, her time with Leia and Sana certainly makes the issue, as she gets to show her more fiery side. Jason Aaron proved he understood the character well in Vader Down, so I’m happy to see the trend continues here.
It’s a concerning time to be a fan of Aphra however, considering in DV #16 Vader sends a pack of bounty hunters after her without a care if she’s brought back dead or alive. In SW #16, the issue comes to a close with a group invading the prison, with what looks like the goal of getting Aphra out, but I don’t believe they have anything to do with Vader or the Empire. The lead armored mercenary invading the prison looks nothing like any of the bounty hunters Vader reached out to (which includes Mister Beebox, IG-90, Dengar, Chanath Cha, a Highsinger droid, Zuckuss, and Black Krrsantan) and this issue takes great pains to constantly hammer in that the Empire doesn’t even know the prison exists, so I’d say it’s quite possible these are new players. I’d even hazard a guess at them even being old friends of Aphra’s, as everyone but the leader seems to be a droid of some sort and we all know Aphra’s good at bringing murderous droids to life. But are they trying to get her out with friendly intentions in mind or a more sinister purpose? Or could they be coming for someone else entirely? Either way, I look forward to seeing the mystery unravel.
SW #16 isn’t just Aphra’s show, but actually Leia and Sana Starros’ (Han’s faux wife first seen in #6) too, as the issue keeps the women front and center of the story. Leia’s interactions with Aphra are short and fun, but she gets to have some fantastic character interaction with Sana as she tries to make friends with/find the good in the smuggler who caused quite the headache upon their initial meeting. Sana only agrees to help because Leia will make good on her payments (unlike Han), but as they debate what’s considered going too far in the war against the Empire, it’s possible she’s willing to come around for more than just the money. Leia saw something in Sana back during their time on Nar Shaddaa and her natural but latent Force empath skills seem to be pushing her to reach out and befriend the smuggler, as she seems to know Sana could put her considerable skills to use to help bring freedom to the galaxy. These two stubborn, strong-willed women getting to spend more time together is worth the price of admission alone.
On top of that, it’s revealed Aphra and Sana know each other from before, though there seems to be no love lost between the two. This revelation works really well, as it doesn’t feel forced or make the universe feel small (especially since it’s not Aphra or Sana suddenly knowing another major character), since we know next to nothing about these two and it would be entirely possibly they’ve crossed paths due to their respective line’s of work. I wonder if it’ll play into this arc or future ones, at all, and if Leia will find out about their connection. Either way, I’m happy Sana wasn’t just thrown away once her storyline as Han’s “wife” was over.
The boys, i.e. Han and Luke, get a funny little bit, as Han decides to gamble with the Rebellion’s money they gave him to buy supplies in the hopes to get more money to pay for more supplies (or pay off his bounty). It shouldn’t be surprising things don’t go well, as the people he’s playing with don’t take too kindly to cheating (what, Han cheating?!?), and they’re suddenly out of money. But Han gets the genius idea to try go out looking for smuggler jobs to get the money back, which is where their story will pick up in #17. While this is probably the only real so-so part of the issue, I’m looking forward to seeing these two spend a little more time together as friends, something Aaron has written well in the past and we just don’t see enough of anyways.
Here are a few other things:
- Leinil Yu joins the series as the Penciler, with Gerry Alanguilan as Inker and Sunny Gho as Colorist. The interior and exterior design of Sunspot Prison, which would likely appear as a spot on the sun due to it’s frighteningly close proximity to a sun, as well as its yellow-hue and prison guards with giant sun-shields over their faces, are fantastic. The facial work takes a little getting used to, especially in one panel where Sana and Leia aren’t even that far away and their faces are mostly blank, but the team seems to convey more emotions with the help of lighting than just plain facial expressions. Overall, not my favorite of the art for Star Wars so far, but it has only been one issue.
- Han says he’s happy that Chewie wasn’t there to see him cheat so terribly, but there’s no real explanation why the Wookiee isn’t with them now. Either he’s still recovering from his fight with Black Krrsantan (though, as Leia notes about Aphra being questioned by the Alliance for several weeks, shouldn’t he be healed by now?), this is when the Chewbacca miniseries takes place, or something else.
- Also, I found it pretty funny when Han was disappointed Luke had a bigger bounty on his head.
- Considering the Star Wars series has been 5 to 6 issues an arc, it’s very odd to see “Rebel Jail” will only last for 4 issues, wrapping up in May with #19. The same goes for Darth Vader‘s “The Shu-Torun War,” where it pushes into a new arc by #20 in May. Seeing as some of the miniseries have either run too short (Shattered Empire, Princess Leia) or too long (Chewbacca), it’ll be interesting if the creative teams can pull off such a short run for their respective stories; they haven’t really failed us yet, so I trust they can. The revelation about how long these arcs last all comes from the recently released Marvel solicitations for May (mild spoilers for the comics, needless to say).
- There’s a preview of Star Wars #17 from ComicBookResources.com, where they talk to Jason Aaron about the current “Rebel Jail” arc and the Obi-Wan Journals. He says the mysterious character leading the charge into the jail is someone we’ve actually seen before (I’m now putting my money on the Gamemaster), we might see some familiar faces in the jail, and that the next “Journals of Old Ben” will be issue #20 (and it won’t be the last).
Star Wars #16 puts the majority of the story, plot, and character development in the hands of the female characters and while being a largely set-up issue, the promise of more time with Aphra, Sana, and Leia is something worth looking forward too.
+ Sana and Leia/Aphra and Sana
+ Doctor Aphra
+ Women rule the issue
– Mostly set-up
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail: #17 | #18 | #19 | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25) | Yoda’s Secret War (#26-30)
Annual: #1 | #2
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) | The Gathering Storm (#7-10)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)