– Spoiler Review –
Leia’s grand plan to free Mon Cala’s King from the Empire gets off to a rocky, but thoroughly entertaining start in Star Wars issue #46, though it’s a shame about the art.
This issue really had a classic Star Wars feel to it: a convoluted, multifaceted plan, unexpected complications, impressive improvisations, and plenty of great humor, allowing Leia and Han (and even a little Luke, Threepio, and Chewbacca) a chance to really shine. The dourness of the “Ashes of Jedha” arc is gone, and as necessary as it was to provide these characters with some development in this era that the SW series had been lacking, it’s good to have levity injected into the proceedings again. With Leia, seeing her in her rightful place as the boss of their little ragtag team, having worked out a bunch of necessary background details through her connection with Queen Trios and doling out orders regarding the shifting pieces of her plan, certainly shows her penchant for tactical skills are just as strong as her abilities in the field. Leia becomes a General after all, running her own Resistance, and this is a great showcase for her abilities in that area. Han’s quick thinking results in averting a near disaster in their plan to switch out a drugged Moff with their Clawdite shapeshifter accomplice, giving us what has to be one of the funniest scenes in the entire series: he manages to convince an Imperial officer the reason he and Chewie are in the refresher is because it’s a new, high-end experience that ends with visitors drying their hands on a Wookiee! As you can imagine, Chewie was not happy, but it works, so his sacrifice was worth it for the plan and for providing a damn good laugh. Threepio helps smooth over Artoo’s near-mishap in delivering the spiked drink, but his realization that Leia is giving him the reigns of the operation while she goes to Strokill Prime to recover King Lee-Char brought another hearty laugh from me, as it’s one of the most Threepio moments ever.
There are still some big, exciting unknowns in the plan, and for starters, the literal biggest one is the natural defenses of Strokill, which the Empire has taken advantage when choosing to hide a high-security prison in its depths: giant, deadly fish! Qui-Gon was right all those years ago, “There’s always a bigger fish,” so I love the idea of getting a longer, extended sequence where the heroes dodge insanely weird aquatic creatures in a vehicle eerily similar to the bongo Gungan transport. But the more unpredictable unknown is the Clawdite Tunga Arpagion, left with only Threepio (and Artoo, who let’s face it, usually is the real hero in these types of situations) to watch over his performance as the Moff they’ve Moff-napped. There’s some gibberish Leia rattles off in the beginning that’s meant to cement Tunga’s history in the GFFA, but it comes up short of making sense, though Tunga’s personality at least comes through: a showboat who is willing to chase after whatever claim to fame he can conquer next. How he goes about playing his part, and how Threepio and Artoo attempt to keep him in line, should provide plenty of entertainment. There’s one more unknown variable, but it’s one I’m guessing could be a problem and/or boon for the team and Leia’s plan: Lee-Char has been dead for some time. While this wouldn’t provide Leia the ability to bring back the King to spur the Mon Cala to join, finally learning he’s been dead and they’ve been lied to this whole time (and maybe even Regent/Grand Admiral Urtya, seen in issue #44, has about the King’s death) would be more than enough to bring Mon Cala into the Rebellion proper…or there’s always a Clawdite around to play King briefly! Either way, I’m hedging my bets that Lee-Char is dead, which is sad but understandable considering he seems to know Vader is Anakin Skywalker, something revealed in Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith‘s 13th issue, part of the “Burning Seas” arc which is a soft-crossover with “Mutiny at Mon Cala.” With all the above, Star Wars #46 helps the “Mutiny at Mon Cala” arc really come into its own, especially after two issues of set-up, and will have plenty of time left in the next three issues to really dig into the action part of Leia’s plan.
But then the art, once again by Salvador Larroca (artist) and Guru-eFX (colors), takes the wind out of this enjoyable issue’s sails. There’s some glimmers of what made Larroca my favorite artist during the early days of the original Vader run, be it the gorgeous Moncaladrome panel, the wide shots of the party before the opera, the giant fish monster on Strokill Prime, and heck, I’m even curious to see what the Mon Cala opera will look like if it’s shown in the next issue; But those moments are only fleeting and they don’t shine bright enough to obscure the offending facial tracing that has consumed Larroca’s work for the past year or so. It’s atrocious, plain and simple, and there’s no way to say anything nice about it, which is truly unfortunate. Kieron Gillen has really breathed new life into this series, but I’ve been seeing readers tapping out or not reading his arcs because people have been posting Larroca’s tracing on social media and potential readers get to see how terrible it looks, helping them decide they don’t want to spend their money here. However, as prominent as the vocal backlash against his work seems to be on the Star Wars focused part of Twitter, the sales for the series don’t lie, as Star Wars has stayed near or within the top 10 monthly comic sales since Larroca took over back in December 2016.* We haven’t gotten the solicitations for Marvel’s July releases, as that’s when issue #50 begins a brand new arc and we’d likely learn who the artist for the arc would be, but I seriously hope for this series’ sake, for Marvel in general, and even for Larroca, they decide to pursue a new artist.
Here are a few other things:
- *I looked at both Diamond Comic’s list of the top 100 best-sellers per month (over at PreviewsWorld) and the unit/sales list over at Comichron (run by frequent Star Wars scribe John Jackson Miller) and the sales for Star Wars since Larroca took over really haven’t fluctuated much from where it was before he joined. The series hovers around the top 10 or so, cracking it in a few rare cases (like with #26, the start of the Yoda arc and Larroca’s first issue) and dropped to the mid-twenties with Star Wars #39, while unit sales roughly stay between 70,000-55,000 (though it jumps up to 104,000 units for #26). It’s possible Marvel will finally change up artists with issue #50 because it’s going to be a turning point for the series (see below), but the sales certainly haven’t told them people are unhappy with the art. And in the end, that’s the all important part, no matter how much we complain or show our distaste.
- As for issue #50, which has been hyped by now former editor Jordan D. White and writer Kieron Gillen as the biggest story they’ve done yet for Star Wars, we now know the name of the arc and it’s quite the doozy: “Hope Burns.” Thanks to Florian from Jedi-Bibliothek, he tweeted out the details of next big arc: “A New Hope led here. A secret rebel base. A secret rebel fleet. The chance of victory… And now, Darth Vader has found it. There is no escape. When did the Empire first strike back? Here. And it struck here hardest.” Gillen mentioned when he first took over as writer he’d be taking the series towards The Empire Strikes Back, which means our heroes need to start losing at some point and the story of “Hope Burns,” and the very title itself, don’t sound like rebel victories are coming again any time soon. Very excited to see what the next arc entails, especially if there’s a new artist attached.
- The whole “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper” joke here got a good laugh from me as well. Clever one, that Mr. Gillen.
- UPDATE 4/5/18: The day after this issue came out, the official Star Wars blog posted an interview with Gillen. There’s some really good stuff regarding how important he views character development and how he goes about creating situations to bring about said development, he mentions how we’ll never get any side stories during his run (something I’m damn happy to hear), and how the thematic/soft crossover with the Charles Soule’s Vader series actually came about by accident!
Star Wars #46 provides tons of laughs and fun shenanigans with the Big Three, but its art continues to hinder the enjoyment.
+ Watching Leia’s plan hit unexpected complications
+ Really fun vibe, plenty of humor
– The art makes it a chore to read
Kieron Gillen — Ashes of Jedha (#38-43) / Arc Review by Chris | Mutiny at Mon Cala: #44 | #45
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)
CURRENT SERIES COMIC REVIEWS:
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-13) | Remastered (#14-19) | Annual: #1
Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith
The Chosen One (#1-6) | The Dying Light (#7-10) | The Rule of Five (#11-12) | Burning Seas (#13-18)
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