– Spoiler Review –
Before the mainline Star Wars‘ next arc, “The Last Flight of the Harbringer,” truly takes off, issue #21 spends some quality time introducing readers to a unique batch of stormtroopers known as SCAR (Special Commando Advanced Recon) troopers who’ll be causing our heroes grief soon enough.
From the moment they were first revealed, this new squadron of stormtroopers was quickly compared by myself and many others to the Bad Batch clones, a group of modified clone troopers who were bred for specific roles to form a cohesive squad (and for the show’s creative team to get some ’80’s action-flick references in for good measure). Jason Aaron even said these new troopers were inspired by the clones, but he dropped a little hint that didn’t register until reading the issue, “…and maybe linked to that.” The Bad Batch was designated Clone Force 99 (in honor of the disfigured but heroic clone 99) and Sergeant Kreel’s SCAR squad is designated Task Force 99, so ‘linked’ might be underselling it a bit. Did the Empire like the program and decide to try it out with their stormtroopers, recruiting troopers to fit similar, if not same roles? Did the Bad Batch clones not get their inhibitor chips out (the devices implanted in every clone’s brain so they would comply with any order from Palpatine, including Order 66) and trained the Task Force? Or at least helped the Empire continue it before whenever they eventually perished? Judging from Aaron’s interview in the introduction to TF99, the focus will be on unmasking these troops ala Finn in The Force Awakens, so I don’t necessarily expect to get any real answers on the why and how behind TF99; That’s alright with me, because if we get to know as much about these troops individually over this arc as we do Sergeant Kreel in #21, we’ll be in for quite the jogan fruit treat.
Kreel should be familar to those who’ve read the Star Wars comic series before, specifically the “Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon” arc, as he was first introduced to us as the Gamemaster of Grakkus the Hutt’s fighting pits. He trained Luke to fight a bit and eventually was revealed as an undercover Imperial reporting directly to Darth Vader. Not only has he returned for this latest arc, but we get to learn quite a bit about Kreel’s backstory, a story which tells a unique (and slightly more common now than in Legends) perspective about how someone could see the Empire as being a force for good in the galaxy. Kreel had a pretty terrible life it seems, doomed to a short life in the fighting pits (which is why he probably made a good undercover Gamemaster) on his home planet Chagar IX, where he lost his parents and so too did many others. Of course when someone comes to the planet and shuts down the fighting pits, essentially sparing everyone’s lives, they would be seen as a savior, which is how the Empire wins Kreel over. It goes a little further than that, as the Empire decides to put everyone to good use as labor, which in an odd way is freedom compared to fighting pits because there is law and order; Kreel’s been an ardently loyal member of the Empire ever since. After he’s given the option to take whatever post he wants following his undercover work on Nar Shaddaa, he chooses being Sarge of the SCARs so he can get back to the frontlines and killing rebels (not training them in combat, like he did Luke). Out of everything regarding Kreel in issue #21, the fact that the squad is waiting for him to prove himself has me most intrigued, as at one point in the issue they all patiently wait for him to kill a sewer monster instead of helping him. Will Kreel be able to prove himself in their eyes over the course of this arc or will they leave him when he can’t help himself against Luke, Leia, and Han? I’m hoping there’s a lot more of that dynamic in the next 5 issues.
One of the more interesting and surprising aspects of the new canon has been the focus on telling more stories like Kreel’s: Lost Stars showed us two friends who both joined the Empire and how one left because of the government’s atrocities while the other surprisingly stayed due to the Empire’s training whittling away individuality; Rae Sloane (a favorite of many, including myself) has been a continued presence in canon, showing us an Imperial who thinks much like Kreel does about the Empire’s law and order being important for the galaxy; heck, even Battlefront: Twilight Company had a side story revolving around an Imperial trooper being whittled away by the training regime to faithfully serve. Kreel’s tale is different because of how the Empire essentially “saves” him, but each story or experience is being told as an attempt to challenge our perspective on the evil Empire and its ‘evil’ stormtroopers, as each one might just have a story to tell like the Rebels do. Hopefully this arc will include stories for the rest of the squad, though if the arc doesn’t this was at least a good enough set-up to put the notion in the reader’s head that these guys might not be as bad as one normally assumes.
While some of those aforementioned stories involved the loss of individuality, it seems the SCAR squad is encouraged to keep their personalities. Each member of SCAR feels distinct, especially thanks to the art, but so far this issue they aren’t developed much or get to show off their distinct personalities fully. However, each one at least gets some type of moment so we can tell what type of skill-set they bring to the team: Cav, short for (presumably) cavalry, takes the roll of scout and always has his two knives out (similar to Hunter from Bad Batch); Shrap, short for shrapnel, is the teams demo master; Misty, so likely named because he’s a sniper (Crosshair was Bad Batch’s sniper) that it’ll be like looking through mist to find him. He doesn’t seem to think any rebel sniper is worth a damn; Mic is the tech-wiz (the aptly named Tech was the same for Bad Batch); Aero is the pilot, seen here slicing a speeder bike and taking Sarge for a ride to decimate the rebels; and Zuke is a hulking figure who likes to say “hi” to rebels with a giant rocket launcher to the face (closest to Wrecker, the giant wrecking ball of destruction, and my favorite, from Bad Batch). On Twitter, Mark Sutter took the image you see of the troopers on the right and put the names next to each trooper to help keep their identities straight and cause less confusion while reading, so I advise you to check it out (especially if you can’t quite follow along from the dialogue about who is who on the team).
Jason Aaron has been a strong and consistent writer these past 21 issues and he always seems to shine a little brighter, or at least seem happy to spread his wings, when telling tales that aren’t directly related to the main three and an on-going story. I look forward to reading more about the SCAR squadron, especially seeing more of their interplay. Jorge Molina joins Star Wars as the arc’s artist and so far, it’s been alright. At times the art comes off as having a Saturday morning cartoon-vibe to me, giving it a somewhat goofy appearance at odds with the story’s tone. Matt Milla’s colors save the day though, giving the story the grit the art doesn’t quite hit; I’m definitely anxious to see how the art feels over the course of the next 5 issues.
Here are a few other things:
- Two minor but curious discrepancies I found: 1) In Star Wars #19, we were treated to a sneak peek of the SCAR squad, drawn by that arc’s artist Leinil Yu, and Kreel’s Sergeant shoulder pad is shown on his left shoulder. So far in this issue, Molina has drawn the Sergeant pad on Kreel’s right shoulder. In the Squad’s reveal on the official site, his pad is also on the left shoulder. Is it interchangeable which shoulder the pad can be on or just a miscommunication? The answer isn’t that important and I personally don’t care either way, it’s just something I wanted to point out. 2) In this issue, when Kreel pulls the lightsaber, one of the SCAR squad is shocked at what he’s seeing. In #19, none of the troopers seem surprised when he pulls out the lightsaber while they are visiting Sunspot prison, so I’m going to assume the mission they are on here takes place before their appearance in #19. “If you want to get technical,” is what I should’ve called this paragraph.
- We’ve definitely been blessed to have Aaron so far, as he just won the Eisner Award for Best Writer (thanks to, in no small part, his work on the Star Wars comic).
In Star Wars #21, the SCAR squad tale is a short but sweet one, casting more doubt on the evilness of the individual in the Empire while providing a well-designed and interesting group of troopers to harass our main heroes throughout the upcoming arc.
+ Tales from the other (non-rebel) side
+ SCAR Squad
– Art so-so…at the moment
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: #22 | #23 | #24 | #25 | Yoda’s Secret War (#26-30) | Out Among the Stars (#33-37) | Retrospective on Jason Aaron’s Run (#1-37)
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-13) | Remastered (#14-19) | Annual: #1
The Screaming Citadel (crossover of Doctor Aphra and Star Wars on-goings)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13) | Legend Lost (#14 – 16) | War Stories (#17-19) | Legend Found(#20-25)
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith
The Chosen One (#1-6) | The Dying Light (#7-12)
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 on-goings)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu (miniseries)
Captain Phasma (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)