– Spoiler Review –
The Star Wars on-going series gets its first Annual issue, which breaks off from the current on-going story (we’re in the middle of the crossover event Vader Down as of this writing) and instead focuses on a rebel spy, Eneb Ray, who’s been undercover in the Imperial government for years. When a chance at killing the Emperor appears, will Eneb risk everything he and other Rebellion spies on Coruscant have worked for all these years? Strong writing and a few twists keep the tale exciting, but with a well-wrapped up story, it doesn’t really leave one wanting more.
Tharius Demo is Eneb’s Imperial cover identity which he uses to procure Imperial shipping data and forward it to the Rebellion so they can intercept or disrupt it. When he contacts Princess Leia with his latest information, she orders him on a different and risky mission to rescue several anti-Imperial Senators before they are killed. Everything changes once he rescues the Senators and one of them reveals the Emperor will be personally arriving at the prison facility, which Eneb and a fellow spy now control, to see the Senators off to their deaths. Leia gives him the go-ahead and sends all their remaining spies to help Eneb in his political assassination; Needless to say, considering this takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, things don’t go so well for Eneb and the rest of the spies.
To keep his cover and stay a viable agent to the Rebellion, Eneb’s seemingly had to go some dark places, something he frequently reminds us about when he says he’s not being a hero. By the end of the story it’s blatantly clear he’s an anti-hero, as he’s so committed to his role that he might go any lengths necessary to keep his cover intact if it means getting to better information to help the Rebellion i.e. sacrifice a few to save a million. Such a mind-set is what causes him to go after the vulnerable Emperor when the chance arises in the first place, but obviously a bigger picture focus can cause one to miss the little things right in front of you (like how obvious of a trap everything ends up being). Having him be so thoroughly grey as a character makes him interesting enough, but his potential seems spent as the story wraps up in such a way it’s hard to see where Eneb’s brand of commitment could be used again.
However, the whole idea of Leia running a series of spies on Imperial occupied Coruscant intrigues me immensely. As Eneb says, she’s young, and it’s surprising to him to see her in charge of such a operation for the Rebellion, but we all know she’s quite capable. There are some big questions left open regarding the whole operation: Did she set the network of spies up herself? Did she do it while an Imperial Senator? Who else knows about the spies? And, most importantly, did she make the decision alone to send all their assets to take out Palpatine or did she consult other Rebellions leaders like Mon Mothma or Jan Dodonna? Because if she acted alone, I’d like to see how the rest of the higher-ups feel about the choice and it’s outcome.
Of course Emperor Palpatine comes out on top in this one, but the writing keeps it entertaining enough where you can almost fool yourself into thinking Eneb and the other rebel spies have a chance. What I didn’t see coming was the moment Eneb kills Palpatine, but predictably enough it was actually a body double. I find it very curious (and possibly important) that both Annual #1 and Aftermath have gone out of their way to point out the Emperor having body doubles and not clones. Even in Shattered Empire, the Emperor has a series of Messengers delivering prerecorded messages to Imperials around the galaxy, instead of appearing as a clone somewhere. Looks like there won’t be any cloned Emperor storylines this time around, folks. There’s also been a big focus on the Empire’s propaganda machine in the canon as of late, making the New Republic’s victory far from over even after the second Death Star’s destruction (as seen in Aftermath), while in Annual #1 Palpatine turns his destruction of the prison facility and the deaths of the Senators inside into a Rebellion terrorist attack.
Eneb’s running inner dialogue certainly gives his tale a noir feel, which never comes off as too heavy handed thanks to Kieron Gillen’s (Darth Vader series) writing, while Angel Unzueta’s (Shattered Empire #2/3) art and Paul Mount’s (Lando series) colors accentuate the noir vibe extremely well. I especially like Unzueta’s Palpatine and the way he framed the action sequences, while Mount has proven himself the master of the seedy colors for the underworld of the Star Wars universe with his work here and in the excellent Lando series. Gillen’s writing is as broody as necessary and there’s some fun turns with the story, but the ending wraps up Eneb’s story tightly enough—he escapes Coruscant after being so thoroughly played by Palpatine—that I don’t see the need or have the desire to have anymore of his story told; That could change depending on where they might take Eneb’s particular set of skills in Annual #2, if it follows him at all.
UPDATE 5/25/16: The latest Star Wars arc, “Rebel Jail,” as wrapped with its final issue #19. It brought back Eneb Ray, in the most unexpected of ways, and did a decent job with it as it made me actually happy they continued his story in some fashion. Check out my reviews of the arc here.
Here are a few other things:
- The Aurebesh signs on the first page are actually English, though lettered in such a way as to look like Aurebesh. Interesting, though I don’t know if I like it/wish they hadn’t “translated” it. UPDATE: According to Jordan D. White, Marvel’s editor for the Star Wars line, it seems to have happened due to confusion. Shrug.
Eneb Ray fought the Emperor and the Emperor won in a dark, exciting, and mostly entertaining first Annual issue for Star Wars.
+ The grey of Eneb Ray/noir vibes
+ Palpatine’s contingencies
– Doesn’t leave one wanting much more
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
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)
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)
Poe Dameron (on-going)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)