– Spoiler Review –
Star Wars issue #19 wraps up the “Rebel Jail” arc (which should really be known as the “Ladies Kick Ass in Rebel Jail”) with Leia, Sana, and Aphra proving there should be more stories with just them involved, the mysterious attacker is identified, and there’s a fun little tease of what’s to come in the next arc.
Thankfully my trust in Jason Aaron to let the women save the day without any help from the men didn’t go unfounded. When Han and Luke showed up at Sunspot prison in the last issue, after their extraneous nerf-herding during the rest of the arc, I had a modicum of fear they’d somehow be integral to taking down the prison’s mysterious attacker. Issue #19 starts with them wrapped around one of the Falcon’s landing struts and covered in explosives, wholly at the mercy of the prison’s attacker and Leia, Sana, and Aphra, so they certainly weren’t much help! As much as the last issue was about the ladies being a team, Leia takes most of the glory here in saving Han and Luke, though the other two ladies certainly get around to helping despite their problems with one another. The page where Sana, Aphra, and Leia all take out the attacker, with a little line that reads as part meta commentary about how many women there are in this issue and how they’ve don’t need to be told what to do, is my favorite part of this entire arc, bar none (and definitely a contender for one of the top 5 moments of 2016). It was an absolute blast to see these three ladies together, even when they were literally at each other throats, simply because we don’t get enough of just women interacting together in most of Star Wars. It’s a shame they aren’t all sticking together as I’d give a lot to see more of them as a team in comic pages, novels, TV show, or even the big screen (all the above, preferably)!
As I had predicted, and had many others, the mysterious attacker just so happens to be Eneb Ray (sorry, I don’t owe any of you cookies), the Rebel spy who came face-to-face with the evil that is Palpatine and took the wrong lesson from the experience. While those of you who might not have read SW Annual #1 were left a little in the dark about Eneb’s story, there’s either enough here to either get you interested to read the issue (which was mentioned in #19) or at least be intrigued to see where his story goes from here. To be honest, after Annual #1 I didn’t feel like I needed to see Eneb’s tale continue at all, but the “Rebel Jail” arc has gone down an interesting enough road with the repercussions of his botched mission on Coruscant that I’m happy they brought him back. For starters, Palpatine’s Force lightening is slowly killing Eneb over time, making him a man who feels like he’s got nothing to lose which would partly help explains his brash actions. And his mindset of thinking that making only the hard decisions/calls will end the war with something as evil as Palpatine, who Eneb saw first-hand has zero regards for anyone’s life, is flawed but understandable considering his circumstances. But Leia saw the Empire’s evil and disregard for the sanctity of its citizens in a definitely worse moment, Alderaan being destroyed, and yet she’s not giving up hope of winning the war in a way which doesn’t compromise the Rebellion’s ideals or make them into what they fight. She ends the issue vowing to help him, but it’s clear he’s past the point of no return as he gives a little speech about how Leia will remember him on the day she realizes he was right about her being unable to win. I had a hard time finding a moment where Eneb’s nebulous and ominous final words about Leia ever come true for her, because quite literally so far they don’t as she’s yet to come up against a threat and not find someway to persevere and come out on top, even if some type of tragedy strikes before she wins. However, his words also could be taken as a way to help set up the new villains for the upcoming arc, teased here in the final panels…but more on them in a bit. Either way, keeping him alive, especially with the tease he’ll be breaking free sometime soon, was an unexpected but welcomed surprise. It’ll be interesting to see where and how he might pop up again.
The character of Leia has been having a great year, as “Rebel Jail” has really given her a chance to shine (more so than her moments in Vader Down) and in the excellent novel, Bloodline. While the first 3 issues of this arc showed Leia’s calm under pressure and leadership abilities, along with a little ass-kicking, her foresight and empathy take center stage in #19. Leia, despite being confident in herself, always seems to make room in her plans for a backup plan, as having Artoo ready with an ion pulse helped save Han and Luke from being blown to bits after her attempts at empathy with Eneb failed. But even after she and the other two ladies manage to capture him, despite everything he’s done, she’s willing to help him in whatever way she can, even if he is a lost cause. And despite knowing Aphra is working for Vader, she even allows for the good doctor to escape, but not before offering her a place in the Rebellion! Leia recognizes Aphra’s worth and abilities and wants to put them to good use, as she’s seen Aphra capable of doing, sometimes better than Sana, throughout the Sunspot prison attack. Look, when even the ladies want to stick together, it behooves you dear Marvel, to heed their wishes (and ours)!
It’s never made explicitly clear, but the vibes I had been picking up in #18 regarding Sana and Aphra’s history are all but officially confirmed here. The reveal of them previously being in a relationship together adds more depth and an intriguing bit of history (which I’d really love to see uncovered in the future!) to these characters, even if it happens while Sana’s trying to kill Aphra (after threatening to do so all arc), and is an excellent moment of LGBT inclusion that I’m happy to see Marvel dive into just as the books have begun to do. If there’s one other thing we’ve learned about Sana so far, it’s that she holds quite the grudge, as her pursuit and hunting down of Han Solo demonstrated in the “Showdown on Smuggler’s Moon” arc, and she’s proven to have an even worse one against Aphra all throughout “Rebel Jail.” In fact, Sana’s consistent attempts to kill Aphra are a stark reminder that while she’s been a team player and held back in both “Smuggler’s Moon” and “Rebel Jail,” there’s still that smuggler and killer inside, willing to do whatever it takes to save her own skin. Aphra admits, in the most entertaining and Aphra-way possible, that she’s responsible for ending their relationship because she says had Sana been a blaster she could’ve understood her better and worked things out (I sure as hell now wouldn’t want to ever cross her). By the end of the issue, Sana and Aphra don’t manage to patch anything up, but at least Sana’s warmed up to Leia a bit (for now). Unfortunately it looks like Sana will be going her own way after this arc, but I sure hope she returns at some point in the near future, maybe working alongside Leia in some capacity, seen with Aphra to some extent (in a series detailing their history, future, or both), or at least have her back to put Luke in his place some more!
How about the worrisome foreshadowing from Leia regarding Aphra’s fate? Leia gives a tough, but true piece of advice in regards to Vader eventually killing Aphra no matter how useful she is to him, which she follows up with the job offer to join the Rebellion; Anything to keep my favorite character alive for as long as possible would be appreciated and I can think of no better place to see her survive alongside Leia and the Rebellion for a while. Even Aphra seems excited by the possibility, the moment is ruined when she is quite literally kicked out into an escape pod by her ex, Sana, sent off to lick her wounds and consider her next move. If the latest Darth Vader issue (the start of the series’ final arc*) is any indication, things aren’t looking good at all with Triple-Zero and Beetee out to get her, but I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for Aphra’s continued survival anyways!
The final panels show a group of oddly dressed and armored stormtroopers arriving at the now abandoned Sunspot prison, with one wielding a lightsaber and slicing open a prison cell. These troopers are part of a special squad, similar to The Clone Wars‘ “Bad Batch,” who will be the primary antagonists of Star Wars‘ next arc. It’s unclear what they are doing at the prison and why one has a lightsaber (besides to cut open the closed cells in the now-powerless prison), but they do mention the name Kolar Ludd. Ludd was last seen in issue #17 being jettisoned out an airlock by Eneb, right after Leia had subdued him and revealed him to be Imperial Special Forces and that he went by the lovely nickname “The Depopulator.” Had Ludd hidden something in his cell the new group of troopers were sent to retrieve? Looks like we’ll have to wait and see once issue #21 rolls around and starts “The Last Flight of the Harbinger” arc. In case you missed it, for more on these stormtroopers check out their reveal on the official site.
Here are a few other things:
- *DV #20 starts the series final arc, “End of Games,” and series writer Kieron Gillen’s interview about what’s to come didn’t include anything too hopeful for Aphra’s fate.
- While I’ve not been shy about how I’m not fond of the art for this arc, the team’s focus on contrasting the light and dark of the Sunspot prison, which mirrored the story’s theme of the prison being both a good and bad thing, and likewise the differences between Leia and Eneb despite similar goals, was excellent. Not my favorite style, but like most of the art, I got used to it rather quickly. Thank you Leinil Yu (penciler), Gerry Alanguilan (inker), and Sunny Gho plus Java Tartaglia (colorists) for your work!
- Before we launch into the next Star Wars arc, “The Last Flight of the Harbinger,” issue #20 will bring us another entry in Old Ben’s Journals where he looks to face off against Black Krrsantan (but with Krrsantan still alive in the “present,” it leaves some mystery over the proceedings because it also seems like Krrsantan never mentions battling Obi-Wan on Tatooine to anyone).
It’s a shame “Rebel Jail” has to come to an end because that means Aphra, Sana, and Leia aren’t all going to be together in the next issue, as this arc has givien the women the spotlight and they’ve owned it time and time again (and in more entertaining way than the boys). Issue #19 certainly continued to give the ladies, and also the arc, justice by giving their final team up a satisfying conclusion and giving Eneb Ray a mostly worthwhile return.
+ Aphra, Leia, and Sana finish the job by themselves
+ Aphra and Sana interactions / history reveal
+ Eneb Ray might not be done just yet…
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 | #18 | 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)