– Spoiler Review –
Smuggler’s Run is a Han (and Chewbacca)-centric YA novel in the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” initiative, set between Ep. IV and V, written by Greg Rucka with art from Phil Noto. While not as deep as Leia’s novel, Moving Target, Smuggler’s Run has a very strong Han Solo characterization, competent Imperials, and a good sense of adventure.
Smuggler’s Run takes place during the aftermath of the destruction of the first Death Star and seems to likely end before the events of the first issue of the Star Wars comic. Han still very much wants to pay off Jabba, but when Leia appeals to Chewie’s softer side (and the one Han doesn’t want to show her yet), she gets them to go on a rescue mission to save an advanced recon commando by the name of Lieutenant Ematt. Han and Chewie encounter Jabba’s thugs, competent Imperials, and old friends on their adventure, where luck seems to hide in every corner of Han’s life.
Greg Rucka’s Han Solo isn’t the best Han Solo ever written, but it’s so close I’d consider it a tie. There’s a lot to love about the smuggler at this point, as he’s still not quite with the Rebellion, he’s still working his game on Leia, and he’s slowly realizing he might want to be part of something…more; Or at least more than just his own skin, Chewie, and the Falcon. Rucka’s Han also hits the right notes in regards to his desire to see and explore the universe, his interactions and camaraderie with Chewbacca, and how he’s constantly incredulous people don’t trust hum, even though he readily admits there are qualities about himself he wouldn’t trust either and how little he trust others too. Here’s what I felt was a perfect example of how good Rucka gets Han: during a blaster fight when the bounty hunters are no longer shooting for stun, Han takes time out of the fight to try to remind the bounty hunters he’s worth more alive than dead. All of the above mean there’s tons of humor throughout the book, making Smuggler’s Run a light, breezy, enjoyable pulp-action book. However, this means there’s not a whole lot of substance to the proceedings, besides a message about trusting others and helping those in need.
Rucka’s side characters similarly are entertaining and well written: Imperial Security Bureau agent Commander Alecia Beck might be your typical Imperial with too much confidence and overwhelming belief in the Empire, but she learns a few things about herself and rebels along the way which force her to change. On top of that, she’s actually competent and therefore so too are the Imperials with her. It was nice to have a threat that felt palpable, despite knowing Han and Chewie (and even Ematt) where going to make it out alive; Delia Leighton stars as an old friend of Han’s, who happens to trust Chewie more (she gives the Wookiee a big hug when seeing them again) and has contacts with the rebellion that helps Han find Ematt. She can also take care of herself, considering she runs a bar inside of a spaceship where denizens from all over the galaxy can drink in seclusion and secrecy, and she even ends up saving Han and Chewie at one point. Here’s hoping we get to see her again soon!
Smuggler’s Run isn’t too heavy on The Force Awakens hints, but it at least has a character from the film, Ematt, (whom it shares with Leia’s novel, Moving Target) and a name drop of an organization seen briefly in the SDCC footage and released as a toy on Force Friday. Han isn’t quite sure who the group of thugs were sent by in the Prologue/Epilogue, but he has a short list of names: the Irving Boys, Ducian, or the Guavians. The latter of which are toys in the Black Series of figures currently available to purchase and are even seen briefly running down a hallway in some footage within the SDCC video, so it looks like they might play a larger role in the film. As for Ematt, I’m sure we’ll see him here and there, but nothing big in TFA. UPDATE: After seeing the film, without spoilers, I can confirm Major Ematt is in it, but he gets only a line of dialogue (and isn’t named); the Irving Boys and Ducian get name drops in regards to certain ship; and the Guavians certainly get a (deadly) scene in the film.
Appropriate Age Range for Smuggler’s Run: Seeing as this novel wasn’t as deep or as adult with its themes, I’d highly recommend it for readers as young as 4th-5th grade level (whereas with Moving Target I’m a little more hesitant on). There are scenes of violence, but they aren’t very detailed nor focus too much on deaths when they happen and there’s even a suggestive tattoo that I had to read about twice before I got it was suggestive at all. Like I’ve said before, treat it like a Pixar film: for now, they’ll enjoy it at surface value and later in life they might get understand the more adult parts once hidden to them.
Here are a few other things:
- The first chapter set during the “past” is told from Chewie’s POV and it’s pretty awesome. It’s great to finally hear things from the big Wookiee’s perspective: he talks about his love of the ship, that Leia’s a pretty lady, no mention of a life-debt but instead just being a friend and partner to Han, and how he knows there’s a heart of gold somewhere deep in Han. Oh, and it’s now canon Chewie did get a medal at Yavin! Took him long enough.
- One stormtrooper, TX-828 (who later goes by the nickname Torrent), is revealed to be one of the very last clones still in service/to be born, pegging his age at mid-40’s. If you’re still thinking there might be clones by TFA or thought it was all clones in the original trilogy, the evidence that they are all but an extinct part of the universe is right here. I do like that Han felt something seemed familiar about the clone, considering he’s likely seen Boba’s face at one point (or he had a run-in with clone).
- This novel gives me some hopes for Solo’s A Star Wars Story film, because if it can strike this same sense of adventure and humor, we’ll be in for a good time.
- More solid art from Phil Noto! Love his work in these YA novels so far.
- A motion comic exclusive to Nestlé brings some of the action seen in Smuggler’s Run to life. It basically spoils the ending, though oddly leaves out Delia’s part in the finale’s events. Still, some cool animation and decent voice acting are a fun new way to experience this story (via Jedi-Bibliothek). There’s also a video for the Luke book, The Weapon of a Jedi, at the link.
- Beck “returns” in the Shattered Empire comic series (issue #4), where the main character Shara Bey impersonates the officer to help Luke Skywalker on a very special mission.
A lighthearted romp befitting of Han Solo and Chewie makes Smuggler’s Run a true breeze to read.
+ Well written Han
+ Quick, fun adventure
+ Some good side characters
– Not a lot of substance
STAR WARS MOVIE REVIEWS:
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
CANON NOVEL REVIEWS:
Aftermath | Aftermath: Life Debt
Battlefront: Twilight Company
Lords of the Sith
A New Dawn
Heir to the Jedi
CANON YOUNG ADULT NOVEL REVIEWS:
Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
Before the Awakening