– Spoiler Review –
Star Wars #17 continues to make the “Rebel Jail” arc all about the women in some of most exciting ways possible, giving Leia, Sana, and Aphra the center stage spotlight they so deserve. Their prominence begs the question about this issue’s only downside: why are we wasting any time or space with Luke and Han on their nerf-herding adventure right now? Also, I’m pretty sure I cracked the case on who the mysterious madman is that has taken over Sunspot Prison.
Don’t get me wrong, the nerf-herding smuggling antics of Han and Luke, in an effort to repay the money Han lost by being caught cheating in cards, are hilarious and enjoyable. But compared to the slightly darker tone and more heady concepts being dealt with in the main storyline in the prison, their adventures feel extraneous and distracting. There’s a moment in the issue where Sana and Leia are faced with 17 prisoners let loose against them, but we only get to see Leia take out one and miss the two women work together to take down the other 16 because the issue focuses on Han and Luke’s trivialities instead. There’s enough charm and entertainment with the women alone and this adventure of Han and Luke feels like it could’ve been regulated to a funny story they tell Leia and Sana once they all come together at the end of the arc, instead of us having to see it. It’s quite possible the two storylines could intersect and it’ll all come together in some crazy, unexpected way, but right now it feels like a misstep.
What doesn’t feel like a misstep however is the rest of the issue. It’s quickly revealed the armored human invading the prison has successfully gained control of it and his intentions are completely unexpected: he plans on killing all the prisoners inside, instead of letting any of them go. It’s a nice twist and one that opens up some interesting dialogue on what it takes to win a war, if doing it cleanly is even possible, and why being the good guys means keeping enemies alive instead of slaughtering them all. The mysterious figure (more on him below) and whatever happened to him (more on that below) has certainly molded him into believing the warped perception that murdering murderers is justified because it’s the only way to win a war, as he feels one has to get their hands dirty to completely win. Leia is having none of it, standing defiant against the man despite him being in control of the prison and is unwilling to debate with him because she realizes he’s so clearly unwavering in his mission to kill all the prisoners and too far gone for her usual diplomatic negotiation to work. He locks Sana and Leia in a cell block with 17 terrible prisoners, including a member of the Imperial Special Forces nicknamed “Depopulator” for horribly unimaginative reasons, but her inherited aggressive negotiations keep her and Sana (who keeps hilariously saying she agrees with the armored man) alive. They recapture all the prisoners because Leia knows killing them would make her and the Rebellion no better than the Empire they’re fighting, which is why she’s so opposed to the mysterious man’s plans. And when the armored man fries all the recaptured prisoners alive, Leia is forced to take drastic measures to win back the prison and stop his slaughter.
And by drastic measures, that means freeing and teaming up with Doctor Aphra! My excitement for the next two issues of this arc just shot through the roof, as some of the best women in the Star Wars universe teaming up to take down some bad guys is beyond my wildest expectations, proving Marvel has been handling the addition of more women to the saga quite properly. While it was revealed to us that Sana and Aphra knew each other, I wonder if Sana mentioned that to Leia while telling her freeing the good doctor was a bad idea. It doesn’t seem like she did, but either way, I feel like it’ll play an important part in the issues ahead, likely having something to do with a way Aphra could escape from Sunspot. Speaking of Aphra, from her line rightfully pointing out sending a droid to kill someone would’ve been her play and not Leia’s to her final line where she nonchalantly insists she was going to take over the prison at some point anyways without Sana and Leia, this matched (if not exceeded) some of her best material to date.
Late last month, an interview with Jason Aaron revealed the mysterious character taking over the prison would be someone we’ve seen before. After my second read-through, I’m about 99.9% sure I’ve pinpointed his identity: Eneb Ray, the Rebel spy who starred in Star Wars Annual #1. The noir-heavy issue ended with Eneb coming face-to-face with Palpatine’s pure disregard for life, as the Emperor willingly slaughtered his own loyal subjects to root out the Rebel spies and unloyal Senators on Coruscant. Leia was the one who sent him on the mission to rescue the Senators/spies left out as bait, which would explain why he blames her for making him who is now. And at the end of SW Annual #1, he vows never to be naive again enough to let something like that happen, saying he’ll need to become a man willing to make hard decisions, not pretend to make them, hence his willingness to kill everyone at the prison. The last bit of evidence, despite being mostly circumstantial, is that the con-current Darth Vader arc, “The Shu-Torun War” is also tying into events in its own Annual #1. I highly doubt there’s a better candidate out there, which is good considering as much as I enjoyed Eneb Ray’s tale initially, it didn’t leave me wanting more but this connection makes it into a great backstory issue.
Here are a few other things:
- The contrast with the shining brightness of the prison’s sun background with its sudden darkness was evocative and well handled by Leinil Yu, Sunny Gho, and Gerry Alanguilan. Still not not my favorite from the Star Wars series, but, as with most art so far, I’m adjusting favorably to it.
- I bet Sana’s insistence about her hate for droids could hold an entertaining story or two.
- I guess this makes Leia’s biting remark, “Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking, nerf-herder!” both a part of a in-universe profession/common jab and a literal joke about Han’s previous cargo.
Sure, it felt a bit like set-up to get everything into place in the final two issues of the “Rebel Jail” arc, but Star Wars #17’s coverage of some interesting topics on war and continuing the fantastic and welcomed focus on Sana, Leia, and Aphra kept things entertaining to read.
+ Women continue to rule the “Rebel Jail” arc
+ Possible connections to Star Wars’ Annual #1
+ Leia, Sana, and Aphra teaming up!!!!!!!!!
– Han and Luke’s adventures
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail: #16 | #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)