– Spoiler Review –
With Star Wars #38, Kieron Gillen (of Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra fame) takes over the reigns of the mainline series from Jason Aaron. His first stop as the new writer? “The Ashes of Jedha,” revisiting the titular planet after it’s destruction in Rogue One, further mashing up the film with the Original Trilogy. In short, issue #38 is a fine enough start to this new era of the series, and read on below for more.
Revisiting Jedha, despite its maiming by a single reactor Death Star blast, is an intriguing enough idea alone, but finding out have Partisans continued with their resistance, the Rebellion wants to bring them in to the rest of the war effort, and the Imperials are still mining it for kyber, all sound like concepts worth exploring. Of course the Empire would need more kyber as they are beginning to construct the second Death Star, but that they desperate enough to come back to Jedha for more instead of ransacking a new planet leaves one wondering why they’ve not located a second or better source. That the Partisans, even after the victory at Scarif and the destruction of the Death Star, don’t want to join up with the main Rebellion because they still don’t believe what the Alliance is doing is enough sounds like potential for heady debates, a taste of which we get here between Leia and a new character, Specforces Ubin Des. Seeing how Gillen will handle all these threads is what interests me the most and I look forward to seeing where he’ll take this storyline over the next several issues.
Beyond our main heroes, some new and returning characters grace the pages of issue #38. Out of a few new Partisans, Ubin Des is an early standout, as she seems to be more in line with the grayer world Cassian Andor inhabited, someone who we had and quickly lost, and seeing more of that side of the Rebellion will be refreshing when compared to how the series has focused on the Big Three (Luke, Leia, and Han) in the past. One of my favorite characters from the first Darth Vader series (besides Aphra, of course), was Queen Trios, who took swiftly to the intimidation from Vader himself to bring her world of Shu-Toran back in order and under the Empire’s heels. Her inclusion in the story of “The Ashes of Jedha” is fitting considering her home planet is a hellscape itself, so if she can wrangle its resources effectively, she’s a perfect fit for expediting the remaining kyber from Jedha, I’m not too worried about her surviving this arc, and it’s great to see her back, as her dismissal of the brutish new Imperial taking over the military’s side of the operation is splendid. While I’m not sure if I’ll get over Commander Kanchar looking like an 80 year old Steve Austin (more on the facial tracing below), his relative age, eye patch, and metal arm point to a history I’d not mind learning, but for now, as Queen Trios puts it, that after being personally intimated by Darth Vader, “…you find everything else a little underwhelming.” The other big return is Edrio Two-Tubes (he’s even been on Star Wars Rebels with Saw Gerrera), and while he only has a cameo at the end, he looks to be one of the bigger obstacles for the Rebellion’s mission of bringing in the Partisans.
The art team consists of Salvador Larroca (art) and Guru e-FX (colors), who replaces Larroca’s usual cohort, Edgar Delgado. Before I go any further, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the bantha in the room (spurred on by this Twitter moment): Larroca’s increasing usage of facial tracing. Back when the first Darth Vader series started, Larroca did trace but it was infrequent, mostly for flashbacks to movie scenes, which I thought worked well and was a neat way to blind the line between the comics and the films. And for the majority of that series, his tracing was not prevalent, but once he switched over to the Star Wars series with issue #26, that all began to change. I’ve defended some of the most recent facial tracings (I still like how Lando and Sana looked in issue #34), but it’s getting harder and harder to do so, and issue #38 really highlights the problem. Even characters who have their faces largely covered by robes are obviously traced, while the introduction to the Imperials of the upcoming arc is rife with it. When Larroca first brought Queen Trios to life, one of my favorites from the Darth Vader series, she was done without tracing, and while the panel where she says, “Reminds me of home,” looked fine, it just clashes with my memories of the character. As for the rest of the Imperials…the traced faces look out of place with the rest of fine art and it can ruin the illusion more than help it. While I’ve seen a lot of the blame for this falling solely on Larroca, that isn’t fair, as this is also due to the current business model, where Marvel and companies are looking for a dependable artist who can follow whatever schedule they want, so to meet that demand Larroca is turning to tracing. My thoughts echo those of David Schwarz, who said it better than me, so we can take issue with the tracing and how it hinders the book, but Larroca probably won’t be going anywhere because he’s able to hit the company’s goal for the series. Beyond the increase in traces, I did enjoy other parts of the issue, specifically the destroyed Jedha seen from afar on NaJedha, as well as the crystal covered planet/world/planetoid(?) of NaJedha.
Here are a few other things:
- You won’t have needed to read the first 37 issues of the Star Wars series to jump on here, but if you’re curious about what they were like, I have a Retrospective on the beginning of the series here! In short, I’m hoping Kieron Gillen can fix some of the series’ earlier missteps.
- Doctor Aphra fans shouldn’t fear, as Gillen’s takeover of Star Wars has only meant he’s sharing writing duties on her series going forward.
- I imagine we’ll learn why Chewie is off on another mission than with the rest of the group, but if it doesn’t intersect with the main story here in some way, I’ll have some bigger questions about why he wasn’t involved.
- The Imperial craft that pursues Luke, Leia, and the Partisans as they flee on those giant horses was first seen in The Clone Wars and has been used often in Star Wars Rebels, so it was cool to see it here as well.
Star Wars #38 doesn’t quite start Kieron Gillen’s run with a bang, but I’m sure he’ll take advantage of the potential he’s buried within.
+ New and returning side characters
+ Storylines I want to see more of
– Facial tracing is holding enjoyment back
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Jason Aaron — 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) | Yoda’s Secret War (#26-30) | Out Among the Stars (#33-37)
Kieron Gillen — Ashes of Jedha
Annual: #1 | #2 | #3
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-14) | Annual: #1
Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith
The Chosen One (#1-6) | The Dying Light (#7-12)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13) | Legend Lost (#14 – 16) | War Stories (#17-19) | Legend Found (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Captain Phasma (miniseries)
The Screaming Citadel (crossover of Doctor Aphra and Star Wars on-goings)
Darth Vader (Series 1)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader Series 1 on-goings)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu (miniseries)
Darth Maul (miniseries)
Han Solo (miniseries)
Rogue One (adaptation)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (miniseries)
Shattered Empire (miniseries)
Princess Leia (miniseries)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (miniseries)