While the first five issues of Brian Wood‘s Star Wars "self-titled" series from Dark Horse have been spectacular, the latest chapter seems to take an unusual turn, as the story delves from what felt and seemed to be an inevitable conclusion to a transitional tale.
Stranded in the middle of space, Leia’s small stealth group of starfighters float helplessly – after being discovered by an Imperial fleet and attacked, the group retreated blindly, resulting in the Princess’ X-Wing sustaining extensive damage, and with her dangerously wounded. Luke, along with new friend Prithi both rush to the rescue of the stealth group – but the Empire is on to them, and it is only a matter of time before that Star Destroyer shows up.
The new Star Wars series has brought with it some substantial character-focused content, highlighting elements (both emotional and transitional) that have rarely been opened up in previous Expanded Universe media. This has been a welcome breath of fresh air – though with issue six, the writing is relatively void of this content. Though we follow a spacewalk-based rescue (which is actually pretty damn cool) revolving a dilemma into a tactical advantage (also cool)”¦ The action is then followed by a sequence of events that do very little to wrap up significant elements and instead act as lackluster teaser material for the next installment.
Moreover, the closing pages of Star Wars #6 amount to the comic book equivalent of a montage – single frame snapshots with little dialogue to conclude the issue. While such a technique may work in filmed media, in the comic, it leaves the reader immensely dissatisfied – and it comes across (to be blunt) as page-filler stuff more than anything else. Very little is accomplished in these scenes to move the story along at all.
Additionally there are missing elements to the issue that contribute to this as well. Han and Chewie are barely in this part (one mention of them, and then two panels of them), so their storyline becomes stagnated. There is also an inexplicable message from Obi-Wan’s ghost to Luke to use his instinct to change the trajectory of a hyperspace jump with very little meaning or illumination – and while there are several contextual clues as to what Kenobi’s reason for the guidance, many of them contradict each other and – like the closing pages – do very little to move the main story along.
To say I’m disheartened in this chapter of the new series would be an understatement – though to be fair, Brian Wood certainly set the bar well above his usual standards with the quality of the previous issues. While it’s conceivable that he may be setting up some key elements for the next few issues here, as a stand-alone chapter, this one lacks the impact of its predecessors. I suppose Primus had it right when they said that they can’t all be zingers.
In a vast contrast, the artwork is brilliant is issue #6. Carlos D’anda and Gabe Eltaeb have really hit a nice stride with their work here, and it is fantastic how they’ve transitioned readers from fairly good likenesses of characters into their artistic styles. The designs of the frames and panels, with the significant coloring are a delight for the eyes – and starkly, is an advantage during the closing pages of the abovementioned montage progression, giving the artists a further chance to let their work speak more effectively than the text.
But (and it must be said) that when viewed collectively – that is, the art with the writing – Star Wars #6 isn’t too terrible. The combination of this creative team, in my mind, is still an excellent choice, and The D’anda / Eltaeb Super Awesome Artistic Genius Team of Brilliance has done a stellar job at illuminating Wood’s plot. Indeed, the art is beautiful to look at.
It is entirely possible that Wood is setting us up for something shattering in the next issue or two, and everything about this transitional chapter will make sense by then, and I’ll probably have to eat my words here. Nevertheless, the writing of this installment is a let-down when the comic is read as a stand-alone issue – it feels phoned-in and mediocre. Star Wars fans, and casual comic fans who’ve been following the series, may come across value in it – but for those who haven’t started reading it and are interested, I’d recommend veering from this one for the time being and rather going back to check the first five issues.
With bated breath, and on bended knee, I hope that issues #7 and #8 make up for this one.
Help us, Obi-Brian Wood-Kenobi. You’re our only hope.