– Spoiler Review –
All aboard the ladies taking charge train! Star Wars #18 gives Leia, Aphra, and Sana a team-up of the ages, as they both fight together and fight against enemies in thoroughly entertaining ways. Plus, the identity of the mysterious attacker has been all but been confirmed and Han and Luke’s unimportant adventures finally come to an end in the “Rebel Jail” penultimate issue.
The promise of Aphra, Leia, and Sana Starros teaming up comes to fruition in #18 in some very entertaining and exciting ways. While the three don’t get to kick as much ass as I had hoped, Jason Aaron’s handling of the characters through their dialogue is what truly makes this team-up work. Leia, as usual, functions as the voice of reason, but instead of Han and Luke jesting with each other, it’s Aphra and Sana going at each other’s throats. In fact, they almost literally are at times, as the issue opens with Sana being choked by one of the IG-RM droids invading the prison and Aphra is calmly taking her time rewiring the droid. Leia intervenes and gets them back on track for the mission to rescue the prisoners/stop the mad man killing them all, but Sana and Aphra continue to fight no matter the circumstances. It’s a miracle they even manage to all work together, but Leia is the driving force of the detente between them and her focus and resolve is too hard for Aphra and Sana to ignore, pushing them along even if they continue to say they don’t want to.
Both Aphra and Sana are rough cookies (that even Leia can match with from time to time) and their history, first teased in #16, gets slightly fleshed out through their arguments here. While it’s been obvious whatever happened between them before didn’t end so well considering their hostile nature towards each other throughout the arc, but Sana implies Aphra backstabbed her (with one of my favorite lines of the issue), “”And you should grow some guts and learn to stab people in the front for a change.” This next bit of their past might be me reading a little too much into their dialogue, but some of it could imply part of their time together in the past had been spent in a relationship: at first, Aphra calls Sana ‘sweetie’ in the way Han might call Luke ‘kid’ frequently (which he does maybe a little too frequently this issue), but later Aphra’s yelling at Sana about getting over her crush on the good doctor. It’s admittedly not much to go on, but it’d be a welcomed and inclusive move to give these two new characters a romantic history (even if they’re bisexual), though nothing like that needs to happen to keep these characters interesting, important, or for Aphra to continue to be my favorite. Such a reveal would be much like Sinjir’s from Aftermath, where his orientation is just another detail about his character, not a defining characteristic. In a way it’d be bold for Marvel to do since they no doubt are aware of the backlash about Aftermath‘s LGBT characters, which has proven to be unnecessarily harsh and severe, but seeing as most fans in the community haven’t been offended by such inclusion, instead welcoming of it, it’d not be terribly bold. In the end, this was just pure speculation and Aphra’s words simply could’ve been a turn of phrase or another way Aphra is a bit of a foil for Han as she was just making boastful or cocky comments. I’m fine with either outcome.
There’s some truly fantastic lines for Aphra this issue which continues to prove Aaron has quite the handle on the character, with one of my favorite lines from her being when the three ladies storm into the control room and Aphra says, “Hi. I’m not a rebel, but I’ll still shoot you.” At this point it’s hard to nail down just one thing about Aphra I truly enjoy, as she (thanks to the writers and Story Group) always finds ways to surprise us. Sana has come out of her shell quite a bit after the whole ‘Han’s wife’ thing and now that’s just a blip on her canon past, as she’s gone on to more exciting and amusing arguments. I’d be in total support of a whole series devoted to the misadventures of Leia, Sana, and Aphra because despite them all being focused on their own internal goals and missions, and often bickering with one another, they get work done efficiently and hilariously. And while all their bickering was definitely entertaining, it almost felt like a little too much from time to time, but it helped highlight how unique each of the women are.
I’ve not found Han and Luke’s adventures entertaining in this arc, as they’ve felt extraneous and forced, especially in an obvious way as to have only the ladies at Sunspot when the crap hits the fan (though I’m happy it was just them there anyways). Aaron writes great back and forth with Han and Luke, really nailing their friendship which doesn’t get as much attention as it should (especially in light of The Force Awaken‘s hints at some of their times ahead), but it gets drowned out by the more interesting and important tale at the prison. Thankfully they’re done nerf-herding and now part of the prison storyline by arriving, rightfully so given this arc’s focus on the women, just after the women take back Sunspot. In a bit of a meta line referencing that, Han says they are here to save the day, while the three women already had it under control. I trust Aaron will continue to give the women the spotlight in the final issue and let them be the ones who stop the attacker, who’s still trapped in the prison with everyone but without his droid buddies.
While Star Wars #18 doesn’t reveal the mysterious Sunspot prison attacker’s identity yet, it drops one of the biggest hints yet which ends up supporting my theory about him being Eneb Ray enough to make me 100% certain. The heavily armored attacker goes to personally kill another of the prisoners in maximum security and gets into a little fight, but before killing the self-proclaimed Jedi killer, the attacker tells the prisoner that Emperor Palpatine is a Sith Lord. This is not common knowledge at all, not even to people as high up in the Empire as Tarkin know (though the he deduces it, as seen in the novel Tarkin), and the only character who has been in the Star Wars comic series before and would know Palpatine’s secret would be Eneb Ray. In SW Annual #1, Eneb’s first and only confirmed appearance so far, he ends up coming face to face with Palpatine (both a double and the real deal) seeing his abilities first hand when Palpatine shoots Force lightening at him. Eneb’s comment towards the end of that issue, how he understands Palpatine’s senseless slaughter of so many innocent Imperials alongside the captured prisoners just to get to the Rebel spies, sounds like something the masked attacker here would say considering he is senselessly slaughtering captured prisoners….and now I’ve just realized Annual #1 took place at an Imperial prison on Coruscant and this issue is all about a Rebel prison! How about that hint hiding in plain sight, hey? If this guy doesn’t turn out to be Eneb Ray at this point, I owe you all a cookie.
The art by Leinil Yu, with Gerry Alanguilan as inker and Sunny Gho as colorist, continues to be my least favorite of the Star Wars series. Some of the issues I had were: Aphra and Leia’s faces look too similar that without their specific hairdo’s or outfits I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart (likewise, Sana’s face is almost too similar as well) and Threepio’s almost boxier and less rounded appearance. As much as I have some problems with the art, there’s nothing here that breaks the issue (or arc) for me, and Gho’s colors, while dim, have an intriguing palette (and blasterfire in one scene practically pops off the page).
Here are a few other things:
- Considering Aphra is usually out for herself, the tease of the droid she was rewiring coming back online even after Leia shot it gave the issue some suspense.
- This issue didn’t dive as deep into the war crime topics that #17 did, but I’m sure that’ll return full force in #19.
- As despicable as the prisoner is who the masked intruder kills, I’d love to learn more about him considering he claims to have slit three Jedi’s throats. How did he manage that? Considering there aren’t many Jedi in this era (see: practically none), when did he kill them and how long has he been in prison? What Jedi could they have been? The only ones we know of who are alive, if we’re just talking about light-side Force users and not exactly full Jedi, would be Luke, Leia, Ezra, and Kanan, with the latter two’s fates still up in the air. Or…did he murder young Force sensitives for the Emperor? Lots of intriguing questions for that one prisoner, if his claim’s were even true, that beg to be explored one day.
- While I just said Obi-Wan & Anakin #4‘s cover is my favorite of all the comics so far, I have to say, Leia and Aphra together on SW #18 (which I included in full above) might just take the cake.
- In #16 Han was happy Chewie didn’t see how badly he cheated at cards and here Han hilariously says Chewie would kill both him and Luke if the Wookiee found the Falcon all covered in nerf boogers; Love when they sound like a married couple.
- In case you’re curious where this series will go after “Rebel Jail” is over (and another entry in Obi-Wan’s Journal in #20), the official site revealed the next arc will focus on an elite and impressively drawn stormtrooper unit, which remind me a lot of the Bad Batch clones from the eponymous named The Clone Wars Legacy arc, as well as the return of Imperial Agent Kreel, last seen in issue #12.
Star Wars #18 entertainingly sets the stage for the “Rebel Jail” finale in another great lady-focused issue that makes me hope and wish the rest of the series would only be about them.
+ Aphra, Leia, and Sana team-up = just what I always wanted
+ Women saving the day long before the men arrive
+ Han and Luke no longer on immaterial/useless adventure…
– …which we had to deal with in the first place
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail: #16 | #17 | #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)