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Review: ‘Star Wars: Shattered Empire’

shattered empire coverStar Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens–Shattered Empire
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Marco Chechetto, Angel Unzueta and Emilio Laiso
Marvel; $17
Rated T+

While it didn’t get anywhere near the huge promotional push that the first issues of Marvel’s ongoing Star Wars series did, the Greg Rucka-written Shattered Empire miniseries, now available in trade paperback, may be of even greater interest to the throngs of fans eagerly awaiting next month’s movie. As the full, punctuation-filled title indicates, this is is part of the “journey to” Star Wars: The Force Awakens…it even bears the same logo that many of the prose tie-in do, indicating as much.

With the old Star Wars “Expanded Universe” canon of novels and comics rebooted in order to make room for the new films, this comic book series offers comics readers the very first look at what (now) officially happened in a galaxy far, far away after the events of Return of the Jedi.

In fact, the story picks up right at the climax of Jedi, with Luke and Darth Vader dueling in front of The Emperor and Han and Leia trying to lower the Death Star 2.0’s force field by blowing up a bunker on the forest moon of Endor (i.e. The Planet of the Ewoks). The series continues from there, following its characters from that point.

The protagonist is new character Shara Bey, a rebel pilot who was apparently fighting the Empire in space while her husband, Kes, was on Endor with Han, Leia, and company.

Over the course of the four-issue, eighty-page story, Bey and Kes keep crossing paths with the characters on the cover. The Empire wasn’t as completely defeated as all those fireworks and singing Ewoks at the end of Jedi might have one believe, and Emperor Palpatine apparently set something called “Operation Cinder” in motion upon his death, unleashing various Imperial hold-outs on massive revenge attacks throughout the galaxy.

So Shara worries as Kes goes with Han, Chewie, and C-3PO as they raid a couple of Imperial bases; she flies Princess Leia to Naboo where they fight an apocalyptic weapon; she joins Luke and R2-D2 on a raid to recover a lost Jedi artifact from one of the Emperor’s bases. All the while, she worries that the war they thought they won may go on forever, and she wavers back and forth between wanting to fight and wanting to settle down and spend time with her husband and their mentioned-but-never-seen son.

I’m not super-fan enough to be reading any and every tea leaf available to even make educated guesses as to how (and how directly) this will tie in to the upcoming film exactly, but my best bet is that Shara is the mother of a character in The Force Awakens, if only because she is given so much panel time, and her repeatedly mentioned son is never shown on panel. Besides, the business with the cast of characters from Jedi is all fairly generic.

While Rucka’s script is a little over-stuffed with jargon, the overall strategy of the comic is a solid one, as it allows he and his artistic collaborators to introduce a few new characters without abandoning the stars of the original series of films, thus walking a fine line that Star Wars comics have long had trouble negotiating. Remove the story too far from the main characters of the franchise and you risk losing many of the more casual fans; stick too closely to the core cast and you run out of room to tell stories, as so much of their fictional lives is already set in stone (or celluloid…or paper. Whatever).

Chechetto handles the bulk of the artwork, and his style is a lot more lively than that of the artists on either Star Wars or Star Wars: Darth Vader, without sacrificing the attention to detail. Of all of Marvel’s Star Wars collections of new material to date, this one features the artwork with the most life to it.

Because four issues isn’t quite enough to fill up an $18 trade paperback, Marvel includes two more issues in the back, and they are somewhat odd choices. There’s the first issue of the mini-series Star Wars: Princess Leia, and the first issue of the original 1977 Marvel Star Wars series. They basically function as advertisments–Did you like these 20 pages? Then read the whole story in the collections of those comics!–but picking an issue from both eras of Marvel Star Wars comics seems a little random, and publishing such a large chunk of Leia only to ask readers to re-buy it elsewhere is a rather irritating form of marketing.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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