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Review: ‘Rey and Pals’

Rey and Pals
Writer/artist: Jeffrey Brown
Chronicle Books; $14.95

Two-thirds of the way through the latest Star Wars film trilogy might seem like an odd time to release a book of cartoons revolving around the cast of characters that are starring in it , but, on the other hand, it does mean that Jeffrey Brown’s Rey and Pals will be ready and waiting on bookshelves when the third and final film is released this Christmas. And it’s not like prolific cartoonist Brown can’t just make another book covering any jokes that occur to him while watching Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. After all, this is his fifth in the series that started with his 2012 Darth Vader and Son.

That book and the three that followed—Vader’s Little Princess, Darth Vader and Friends, and Goodnight Darth Vader—were premised on a cute and compelling “what if?” scenario. That is, what if the Star Wars villain had raised the two heroes of the first trilogy, his biological children Luke and Leia, himself, as a doting, if sometimes clueless or exasperated, working single father?

In the first three books, Brown used his signature indie-comics style to transform Luke, Leia, and their contemporaries into adorable, Peanuts-like moppets and positioned them in one-panel gag comics that sometimes parodied aspects of the films, sometimes offered insight into the relationships between parents doing their best and their precocious children, and more often than not, did a little of both simultaneously.

For Rey and Pals, Brown has abandoned Vader and the original trilogy in order to focus on the new characters from 2015’s The Force Awakens and 2017’s The Last Jedi: Resistance heroes Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Rose, and Holdo, and First Order villains Kylo Ren, Hux, Phasma, and several pint-sized storm troopers. Oh, and porgs. Lots, and lots of porgs. (No characters from the two recent spin-offs, Rogue One and Solo appear, although including them would probably mess up the timeline Brown is working with, so that’s not too terribly surprising.)

Luke and Leia, Vader’s son and little princess, are, of course, all grown up now, and they and Han Solo appear here as gray-haired adults, pretty much just as they do in the movies. Several of the 50 or so discrete entries in Rey and Pals deal with the parent/child relationship, as Han and Leia are literally Kylo’s parents, and they and Luke all play parent or teacher-like roles to the various Resistance “Pals”, but here Brown’s interest seems closer to that expressed in Darth Vader and Friends; that is, it’s more franchise-wide than concerned with addressing the original parent/child dynamic.

So there are some cartoons in which Han regards little Ben Solo/Kylo Ren wearing a Darth Vader costume, waving around a toy light saber, and says he has a bad feeling about it, while Leia assures him it’s just a phase. But there are also ones in which scenes from the films are reenacted in kid-specific ways, like, for example, Rose catching Finn trying to sneak off a ship being turned into a scene of Rose as hall monitor asking Finn for his hall pass, or Kylo’s psychic communication with Rey being transformed into his talking into a tin can on a string, while officers tease him for talking to his imaginary girlfriend.

The effectiveness of each cartoon probably varies as much as the approach Brown takes, and the particular reader in his remarkably wide audience. At this point, however, Brown’s got his particular formula down, so applying it to new films is hardly an experiment for him. As long as Disney keeps making Star Wars movies, Brown can keep making books in the style of Vader and Son, and finding receptive readers.

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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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