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Star Wars Annual #1

Writer – Kelly Thompson
Art – Emilio Laiso
Colorist – Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters-  Joe Caramanga

 

One of the more interesting aspects of the Star Wars expanded literature is the ability for its stories to look at the Rebellion vs. Empire conflict as more complicated than a simple good versus evil dyad. While the symbiosis between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, Jedi and Sith lends to the operatic aspects of the Star Wars universe, it is the story of those at the frontline which provide the grit. As an audience, our empathy is often in line with the scrappy Rebels, trying their darnedest to take down the forces of tyranny through guerrilla resistance and endless charm. While the films often draw their focus to the elite echelons of both Rebel and Empire leadership, there’s a lot to be said for stories that emphasize the lives of countless fictional beings who have to live through Stormtrooper raids, laser sword battles, and the collateral damage from X-Wing and TIE Fighter attacks.

It’s from this latter view where Marvel’s Star Wars Annual #2 gains its narrative power. Teaming up two characters with emotionally different backgrounds as they escape from the clutches of the Empire provides the space to explore the philosophical quandaries of the Star Wars canon, as well as give readers the chance to reflect on the nature of the conflict that is at the heart of the reinvigorated franchise.

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Following a newly created character named Pash Davane— nicknamed “Bash” due to her prodigious muscles and strength—as she goes about her business on the planet of Skorii-Lei, the main plot of story, written by Kelly Thompson with art by Emilio Laiso, is to the point and direct. From the first words of dialogue in Annual #2, readers know that something is going to be different about this comic. With lines like “Not much difference between the Empire and the Rebellion…” and “You know what heroes are good for? Getting a lot of other people killed.” Indeed, Pash’s reticence with favoring a nihilistic view of the universe is complicated further by the fact that she’s providing shelter and harbor to one of the most prominent Rebels of all: Princess Leia. An injured and possibly dying Leia to boot.

From that set up are the ingredients for a typical Star Wars yarn: evading Stormtroopers, getting to rendezvous points, talking about the destiny of the galaxy and all that jazz. But the main course is the engaging conversations between Pash and Leia. While it may seem odd to say about a character built to resemble a living tank, Pash hides behind her moral ambiguity with a thoughtful and introspective manner. For all the potential for her to take the easy way out and turn Leia over to the Empire (or kill her, God forbid!), Pash does the opposite; she’s “not a monster. She risks all for the scraps of humanity that have been ripped away by the machinations of distant despots.

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So for me, that was the most engaging part of the comic. Where there was some weakness was in the art. I wasn’t totally onboard with it. I found it to be boxy and macho when the story would seem to call for art that was more rounded and pensive. It’s not a distraction per se, but it adds some clunkiness to a story that aims to reach higher. To each’s own, I guess.

With a mythos as vast as the Star Wars universe, there are countless tales out there waiting to be brought to life. We’re in a new golden age of Star Wars-related storytelling. And with so much to look forward to and much to appreciate now, Annual #2 is a welcome edition to the canon and a worthy read.

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