"Just Impacted on the Surface" : A Star Wars Comic Too Many?

Star Wars Comic

Image Used Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Like many long-time Star Wars fans, I met the announcement of new Marvel Star Wars comics in 2015 with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I loved many of the Dark Horse Star Wars comics (Rogue Squadron and Tales of the Jedi being particular favorites), and I was concerned that for all their vast money and talent, Marvel might not be able to create stories to match those works from my childhood. My fears were partially assuaged when I read Star Wars #1 and Darth Vader #1. They were both intriguing and seemed to be introducing new concepts and ideas that were canonically important. Luke was grappling with the anger over what Darth Vader did to Ben Kenobi, and Vader was working to find the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star while simultaneously trying to reclaim the Emperor’s favor.

Two years have passed and Darth Vader has ended, leaving behind a clear mark on canon. It introduced new fan-favorite characters Dr. Aphra, Triple-Zero, and  Beetee. It uncovered Palpatine’s secret, back-up plan to replace Vader with mechanically-enhanced underlings if Vader were to fail him. Most importantly, it showed Vader’s realization that he has a son. That specific panel with Vader in front of a cracked viewport and the single word “Skywalker” from Darth Vader #6 is one that I will remember for a long time. In contrast, Star Wars is still going and while enjoyable, feels formulaic: Luke, Leia and company get into trouble, miraculously get out of trouble, and go on to their next adventure with little impact on the overall rebellion or galaxy at large. It’s time for Star Wars to shake things up; otherwise, it will continue to feel stale.

The biggest success of the current Star Wars comic line is the large fanbase that developed for Dr. Aphra. Darth Vader spent so many pages developing her as a character that the story almost felt as much hers as it did Vader’s. By doing this, Kieron Gillen increased the suspense in the book. We know what happens with Vader. He reclaims his glory, figures out that his son destroyed the Death Star, and starts a manhunt to find Luke. The only suspense available is in how he did those things. What we didn’t know is whether Dr. Aphra, whom we had begun to love, survived her temporary employment under the Sith Lord or not. Aphra’s fate provided suspense. We saw Dave Filoni do something similar in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. When it aired, we already knew what happened to Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padme. By introducing new characters like Ahsoka and Captain Rex, fans were left wondering if those newcomers would survive the conflict since they don’t appear in the films.

Star Wars needs something like this. They need a character or two who can provide dramatic tension. Perhaps more time could be spent making the audience like Sana Starros more. If we knew more about her and she became an important part of the Rebellion, every mission that she went on with Luke, Leia, Chewie, and Han could be the mission where she died, left the Rebellion, or betrayed the group. The fact that we don’t know what happens to Sana makes her a perfect catalyst to add some tension to this book.

While many of the missions writer Jason Aaron has sent the Rebels on seem interesting; in the end, they are having little impact upon the overall story of Star Wars. Luke’s discovery of Obi-Wan’s journal, which seemed like an interesting development, has added little to Luke’s story. He hasn’t really learned or done anything with it because he is restricted by the fact that we know what his abilities with the Force are in The Empire Strikes Back. In the most recent story arc where the Rebels steal a Star Destroyer, they have to face a group of advanced, stormtrooper specialists. The problem is that, despite some cool design work, they all look and act basically like normal stormtroopers. They don’t have enough personality to make us care about them any more than any other buckethead. In both of these cases, Jason Aaron had a really fun concept to start with, but he was unable to take it and execute it in a way that left a mark on me.

Let’s have Luke, Leia and company actually do things that are important. Let’s see Luke develop a friendship with Wedge and start Rogue Squadron. Let’s see Leia grapple with becoming more of a leader within the Rebellion despite being treated like a figurehead by General Dodonna in Princess Leia #1. Let’s see Han and Chewie’s altercation on Ord Mantell that made him decide that he needed to leave the Rebels at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. Have them go on adventures that add something to the tapestry being woven by the films and television series. Tell stories that will leave fans saying, “You remember how Luke and Wedge went by the call sign Rogue Squadron in Empire? They just showed why in the main Star Wars comic, and it was crazy.” Make the stories important. Give them canonical weight.

“It’s not my fault!” Han says this throughout The Empire Strikes Back as the Falcon attempts and fails to escape into hyperspace. Marvel Comics could say the same. Who’s at fault for Star Wars not living up to its potential? It could be the writer, but I’m sure he has to grapple with the vision of the Lucasfilm Story Group, too. There may be stories with actual weight that he wants to tell but they have been turned down because they are marked to be told in a novel, a film, or in Star Wars: Rebels. It’s also worth pointing out that Star Wars is also still selling phenomenally well. In December of 2016, Star Wars #26 was the seventh best-selling comic of the month and sold better than any other Star Wars title. (Dr. Aphra #1 was only one behind, but first issues generally sell much better than successive issues of a series.) If we as fans are willing to part with our cash for a comic that just keeps telling average tales of Luke, Leia, and the Rebellion, we are only telling Marvel that we are fine with what they are producing. In all honesty, I’m not ready to cut the book loose just yet. I hope that it will get better, but I fear that it won’t. If it doesn’t, I may have to vote with my pocketbook, and Marvel will have to decide whether the loss of a fan or two is enough to put in some spice back in Star Wars.
Do you agree with my assessment of the current, main Star Wars comic? Or are you really enjoying the book and see all kinds of relevance that I missed? Please share your thoughts with me on Twitter at @mapplebee7567 !