Comics are one of my favorite storytelling formats. They merge the brilliance and methodical aspects of writing, with the beauty and expression of drawing and painting. In my opinion, comics are a showcase for artists and writers to tell a compelling and beautiful story, purely based on their talents. Being a Star Wars fan, Star Wars comics have always been of great interest to me. From seeing epic moments and brilliant dialogue unfold through the pages, to smaller intimate moments, Marvel has made sure that Star Wars comics tell stories as (or even more) compelling that books, movies and tv.
When the announcement came, that Charles Soule would be writing the next Star Wars main line, I was immediately onboard. His Darth Vader run is still my favorite Star Wars comic, and I loved his takes on Poe, Lando and Ben Solo. Furthermore, going a bit away from Star Wars, Soule also wrote an iconic Daredevil run. Hell, we could write a whole article just on his work with Image comics. But you get the point, Soule is a comic book legend on the rise.
Though excited for his run, I had a small worry. To be honest, Jason Aarons run was very hit or miss for me. The highs were brilliant, but the lows were just meh. At times it was hard for me to believe all these events took place between ANH and ESB. So, keeping with the previous run’s format (bridging the gaps between the OT films), I remained cautiously optimistic.
Before getting into the discussion, I would like to throw a spoiler warning. The point of this review is to discuss the overall story and the impact on our characters. I will not break down every single moment and unwrap every detail or easter egg (there are plenty). I will, however, discuss specific plot points from the first 5 issues. Throughout the life of this run, I hope to prepare a review every 5 issues (which generally compose a complete trade collection).
The comic opens immediately after Leia, Lando and Chewie rescue Luke in Cloud City. Luke is clearly still unraveling Darth Vader’s revelation, while the rest of the team are dealing with the loss of Han. Soule does an amazing job managing the group’s collective trauma, and each character’s individual trauma, while balancing the quippy and funny banter between them.
After such a massive event, one would think the group would be sent to rest and digest the events, but Soule immediately throws the Rebellion into chaos. We learn that the Empire has taken control of the Rebellion’s communications, pinning down our heroes' fleet against a star. This event is epic, and though we know that our heroes (and the Rebellion) will survive, Soule really manages to emphasize the stakes. This space battle was very exciting, and when the Rebellion manages to escape, I could feel the cheer and adrenaline rush. Seeing the Falcon arrive to save the day made me cheer as if I was in a theater seeing it play out.
Throughout this epic battle, we meet who appears to be our main villain: Ellian Zahra. A ruthless commander who will stop at nothing to destroy the Rebellion. We also learn a bit of her story: her ship (Tarkin’s Will) was badly damaged in the Battle of Yavin, following the destruction of the Death Star. She refused to fix its damages, in order to remind everyone of the Rebel’s attack on the Empire. What we see of her is pure menace and tactical brilliance, promising to be a pain on our heroes throughout the run. Furthermore, her drive for revenge is reminder that the dark side of the force is not only present with the Sith, or black-robed shady people.
During the battle, and it’s aftermath, it is clear that Luke is still dealing with the truth about Vader, and how this affects everything he had learned. Luke feels that he no longer understands his purpose and place as a Jedi. He’s also alone for the first time, as Yoda and Kenobi won’t communicate with him. Leia is dealing with the lack of trust for Lando, while also trying to lead a rebellion, while also trying to device a way to find Han. Lando just wants to leave and escape the situation, but he also wants Leia, Luke and Chewie’s trust, while also trying to find out about Han’s whereabouts. The Rebellion is the middle of a crisis, in need of leadership and guidance, as the Empire has their communications compromised, leading to their discovery if they try to communicate. Everything is in chaos.
However, our heroes are sent into an odd mission after a mysterious vision from Luke: someone caught his saber in Cloud City and is calling on him to go retrieve it. This takes the group into an adventure back into an Empire-controlled Cloud City. But we soon learn that Leia and Lando also have agendas for their visit. Leia tries to learn more about carbon-freezing, while Lando is looking to save his people, and his friend: Lobot.
The mission to Bespin is chaotic, of course (chaos always follows our heroes). But they are all ultimately successful. Lando rescues Lobot and sends Cloud City into distress by unleashing dangerous gas. Luke is unable to find his lightsaber but learns the important lesson that a lightsaber does not make you a Jedi. Leia, though originally captured, learns that it is possible to survive carbon freezing, and gains new rebellion fighters. The mission is bumpy, but the team ultimately comes out victorious.
At first, I was nervous that the trip to Bespin was a way to try and explain how Maz eventually gets the lightsaber. I usually don’t like canon checklist stories, nor big mysteries being unnecessarily broken down (sometimes answers take away from the story). However, Soule managed to make the search for the lightsaber meaningful, while also letting us know that it is still out there for someone like Maz to find.
After these events, Luke feels a call to an unknown planet. The same figure he saw catching his lightsaber, is now calling to him to continue his path to destiny. The group is then split, Lando, Leia and Chewie go back to the Rebellion, while Luke goes off to find this mysterious person. Luke arrives to a forgotten planet and finds the person in his vision. It is revealed that the figure is Verla (who we meet in Soule’s Darth Vader comic).
Initially, Verla escapes, and Luke goes after her. She lures him into a cave and traps him. She feels that he is of no harm and lectures him on the truth behind Darth Vader and the Inquisitor’s Jedi purge. I loved seeing Luke learn these things. They add to his conflict and the weight of Darth Vader’s reveal. However, Verla soon learns about Vader and Luke’s connection. The story ends with Verla attempting to kill Luke through the trap she set for him. Leaving the story on a big cliffhanger.
We know that Luke will survive, and that his training will be almost complete by ROTJ. However, I am eager to learn how all this baggage will affect and mold his training. I am also excited to learn more about Verla, and to see her relationship with Luke further unfold. Will she be an antagonist? Or will she help Luke overcome his conflict and fulfill his training as a Jedi?
I’m also intrigued to see Lando’s story continue. By ROTJ he has earned the respect and trust of Leia, and the Rebellion. But at the moment, he’s there only because Leia doesn’t trust him, and doesn’t want to risk him leaving and selling them out. Lastly, I also want to see Leia’s story further develop. She is the natural leader, and seeing her leadership guide the Rebellion through this crisis, is nothing short of exciting.
Last, but not least, I would like to emphasize the beautiful art in these 5 issues (just look at the great pictures in this article), penciled by Jesús Sainz and colored by: Arif Prianto, Rachelle Rosenberg and Dan Brown. They stay true to the character’s looks in the films but take creative liberties in adapting them to comics.
Overall, Charles Soule’s run kicked off in an exciting but unexpected way. Soule understands his characters and managed to exploit the conflicts in them at this specific moment. The time between ESB and ROTJ is way shorter than the one between ANH and ESB. However, it is a crucial time for Lando, Leia, Luke and the Rebellion. All of them recovering from massive losses at the hands of the evil Galactic Empire. I am optimistic that Soule and his team will continue to tell a fascinating story, while delving deep into the core of our heroes.
Issue #6 is currently scheduled for September 9, 2020.