Since Marvel started publishing Star Wars comics again, two writers have consistently been writing great material. Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen. Aaron mostly focused on the main Star Wars series, which took place in the aftermath of A New Hope. It took a couple arcs for him to get into the groove, but once he did, his run was consistently entertaining and at times, dark and intense in the right ways. Meanwhile, Gillen wrote Darth Vader’s masterful solo series and it’s very entertaining follow up, Doctor Aphra. But now that Aaron has left the main Star Wars series, Gillen is taking over. Also, the series is moving a lot closer to The Empire Strikes Back.
Star Wars 38 not only moves into the build-up to The Empire Strikes Back, but it also touches on a major plot point from the Rogue One movie. Namely, both the Rebels and the Empire are converging on Jedha, the desert planet the Death Star blasted about half-way through the movie. The very planet that contains kyber crystal mines, and where Saw Gerrera’s rebel extremists reside. This comic is divided into two stories. The first follows Luke, Han and Leia in their search for allies amongst the rebel extremists. It leads to a couple quick yet satisfying action scenes, Han’s amusing dialogue, and a very well-written conversation between Leia and one of the extremists’ contacts.
The other plot focuses on the Empire, who are trying to mine whatever kyber crystals they can get from Jedha’s partial corpse of a planet. It introduces a cyborg officer whose method of dealing with incompetent underlings is comparable to Darth Vader’s own, and re-introduces the young queen of a dangerous mining planet from Darth Vader’s solo series. Their conversation provides most of the plot development in a way that’s not only informative, but entertaining and tension-building. It’s a showcase of how brilliant Gillen’s writing can be, and how fascinating the cast of characters he’s built in his Darth Vader run is.
Salvador Larroca’s art is great. Everything is highly detailed, whether it’s the Jedha’s surface complete with thick sandstorms throwing chunks of rock around, the rocky landscape in the backgrounds, or the variety of outfits people wear to protect their faces from said chunks of rock. From the distance, the partial destruction of Jedha is haunting, with brilliant use of rocks falling into the atmosphere of a nearby crystal planet and a neat glimpse into Jedha’s partially exposed core. Facial expressions do a great job at conveying emotion. There’s Luke’s warm smile when he’s talking to a disciple of the whills, the queen’s proud look when she introduces herself to the star destroyer bridge, and the look of fear in an officer’s eyes before he’s painfully executed. Guru e-FX’s colouring is great. The mostly browned out planet surface is balanced out with lasers flying all over the place and Luke’s lightsaber, and the comic as a whole offers a balanced pallet with great use of lighting and shadows.
As much as I enjoyed Jason Aaron’s run, it’s hard to miss him with Gillen taking over. This comic quickly establishes its story, and with it a new direction for the series. There’s a great balance between action, rising tension and a touch of humour that matches The Empire Strikes Back’s tone. Those who have been enjoying the Star Wars comics so far should pick this up, and it’s a great starting point for those who are curious, but haven’t given them a chance yet.