– Spoiler Review –
Annual’s are kind of like a box of chocolates, which we all understand means we don’t know what we’ll get when we open them. Star Wars Annual #2 therefore is like pulling your favorite candy out of said box, as it’s truly a pleasant surprise thanks to the introduction of a great new character, a much appreciated look at those who are stuck in the middle of the Rebellion and Empire’s fight, and a true deep-dive into Leia’s mindset post-the-destruction-of-Alderaan. Annual #2 is written by Kelly Thompson, art by Emilio Laiso, and colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, who all do an exceptional job bringing their own unique touches to the Star Wars universe.
The main story of the Star Wars series reached its 25 issue just last week, ending on what I felt like (as did a few other reviewers) was its weakest arc yet. It’s always fun to see Leia, Luke, and Han getting into impossible situations and finding a way out, but seeing it happen once or twice a month for nearly two years kind of dulls the excitement. You know they’re going to survive and come out on top, even when things look the darkest. Tension is officially gone at this point and a lack of an overarching narrative through-line in the 1st 25 issues makes it easy to drop out of reading them from time to time if you wish (which is both a positive and negative point). Out of a few ways to fix that problem, one of easiest ones for the series to consider is creating new characters; Since we don’t see them in the movies, the tension is immediately back and the stakes are raised, as their lives can be put in actual danger. These new characters can give our main heroes a break, accompany them on missions, and help us see the Rebellion’s battle from a new perspective. Sana Starros has been a good example of this, as she’s only gotten more interesting and layered over the series (because unlike the main heroes she can have lots of character development), but she’s the last new character to be introduced…and that was back in issue #6! But thanks to Annual #2, the series takes a step in the right direction: Welcome Pash Davane, we’ve needed you.
Pash ticks off all the boxes: new character, female, potential to join the series, and puts the entire fight between the Empire and Rebellion under a new light. I won’t lie, I fell pretty quickly for Pash and it was mainly due to how she gave not only the original trilogy’s battle, but every trilogy’s battle a new perspective. Pash, like Luke, Rey, and Anakin before her starts off as just another citizen of the galaxy, destined to get pulled into whatever conflict is or is set to consume the galaxy. But unlike those other three, Pash isn’t destined to bring balance to the Force or something of its ilk, instead she’s just a low-level grunt who rises to the occasion to help others, which is excactly the type of hero the Rebellion needs. While Annual #2 didn’t get to go as in depth as say Twilight Company did with ground-level combatants in the the Galactic Civil War, it did show us how someone who is on neither side feels about the war and how they might be convinced to choose a side. Pash is someone who lost her living on the planet Skorii-Lei due to the destruction wrought by the war between the Empire and Rebellion finding its way to her little corner of the galaxy, an unintended consequence of the battles they wage. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with either side, but she finds herself in a precarious position: she’s trying to save the injured Princess Leia, hiding out in her home as the Empire and bounty hunters come looking for her. But Pash doesn’t want to fight on either side, content to lay the blame on Leia and her compatriots (or the Empire) for all the deaths that befall either side and of those stuck in the middle. As she spends more time with Leia, which they amusingly don’t get along with one another for most of the issue (seriously, their back and forth banter, and initial distrust from Leia towards Pash are fantastic bits of dialogue), she learns that it’s not only harder to be the person making the decisions and fighting those fights which will costs lives, but that there’s no way to avoid more death and destruction without standing up and fighting. That Pash is sarcastic, stubborn, and capable only helps make her change from the sideline to the frontlines that much more entertaining, leaving me wanting to see more of her in the future. I mean, she beats up stormtroopers with a brick…who doesn’t want to see more of that?
As much as I enjoyed Pash this issue, and eagerly anticipate her return, Thompson’s Leia is my favorite part of this short story. Injured and trying to stay one step ahead of enemy lines, she forges a slow, but begrudging respect for the woman who has saved her but continues to stay out of the bigger fight. But it’s the deep-dive into how Leia feels about her part in Alderaan’s destruction and how she chooses to answer the big, loaded question, “Would she do it all again knowing what was to happen to her home planet?” that hit solidly in the emotional department. It’s not a terribly big shock that Leia answers yes to that big question, but her reason why sticks with Pash and readers who want to see the complexity that is Leia brought to life even when she’s in the pages of a comic: She doesn’t want to be, “…someone gifted who sits on the sidelines and watches as if it has no consequence to them.” Throwing away something you can bring to the table that allows you to help other people, just to avoid taking responsibility for any consequence of your actions, can certainly make even the strongest people look like cowards and once you appreciate how hard the position of those who do take on that burden really is, only then can you see just how unavoidable either stance is with the culpability. It’s a pretty big point to get across and make, especially within the few pages Thompson has here, but she makes each moment count and really sells the idea she sets out to. It also adds even more depth to Leia, something that continues to happen as of late in canon but always surprises and delights me all the same.
Not bringing Pash back at some point would be a huge disappointment. The Star Wars series needs more characters who aren’t the main heroes and she looks to be fitting in quite nicely by the time this issue ends. Dealing more with the non-movie heroes of the GFFA can open storytelling avenues and deeper character development than the movie heros can, making the new characters inherently more interesting. The potential of having our main leads helping or being helped by the grunts, and their presence adding back in a little more tension, could really give the main story the kick in the panels it needs. And if there’s any problem I’d have with Annual #2, it’s how little things like, “how did Pash find Leia?” and, “What was so important about the data Leia and the crew were on the planet for?” aren’t answered. In the context of the story they are important but aren’t essential when you focus on the message the story wanted to tell with its characters, something it told well enough without us knowing those smaller details.
Emilio Laiso’s art, with colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, is charmingly expressive with some fun layouts. The colors are bright, helping to accentuate the focus of the panel, and I was particularly impressed with how the underwater scenes really felt like the characters were underwater, not like water was drawn and colored around them floating. It’s a bit cartoonish like “The Last Flight of the Harbinger” arc’s art was, but this not only fits with the tone of the story better, it overall looks cleaner and less out of place. I’d not mind seeing Laiso and Rosenberg return at some point and that goes doubly to Kelly Thompson, who writes an enjoyable paced short tale with plenty of emotional heft, humor, and provides interesting, different point of views on the galactic conflict that frames most of the Star Wars saga films, comics, novels, and games.
Here are a few other things:
- The first Annual eventually reintroduced its main character into the main storyline, so here’s hoping that’s the precedent that has been set so we see Pash again. I didn’t enjoy the first Annual as much, and felt its main character’s tale was over, but he’s reappearance proved me wrong in a good way.
- I won’t give their exact placement away, but Marvel Star Wars editors Jordan D. White and Heather Antos both have art cameos this issue! The only hint I’ll give: you’ll find them very early on. Antos previously was the basis for a character in the Han Solo miniseries. It’s a very cool little Easter Egg and now I hope we’ll get character names and backgrounds for their characters in-universe sometime in the future!
- The outfit Leia is in when we first see her in the story is the same one introduced in her own miniseries. I’ve enjoyed how these new outfits have crisscrossed series, as the one she wears in the earlier issues of Star Wars ended up being the same outfit she has on in the beginning of the Han Solo miniseries. Hasbro, make note of all these new potential action figures!
- Yes, Pash is a redhead. Yes, she and Luke have just met. No, I won’t hold it against you if you jump on that train at all, assuming redhead means a potential new lady for Luke. But, I would HIGHLY doubt the creatives would romantic pair them though they’d definitely make an odd and possibly entertaining couple if they did. And I believe she’d break that terrible and completely screwed up trend when it comes to Luke’s girlfriends.
- I’m very excited for the upcoming Yoda arc this series will tackle next (especially because Salvador Larroca is doing the art for it), but it seems we won’t see the first issue until December 28, the final Wednesday of the year.
Star Wars Annual #2 introduces a great new character in Pash Davane thanks to the solid, excellent work from Kelly Thompson, Emilio Laiso, and Rachelle Rosenberg.
+ Pash Davane and her story throughout
+ Intimate, deep look inside Leia’s mind
+ Sign of things to come?
– If this is the last of Pash, sadness and disappointment will certainly be warranted
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)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-10)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)