In Review: Star Wars #13

This comes off as filling in a story arc, rather than contributing to it.

The cover: Super cover from Mark Brooks for this issue. Princess Leia pauses with blaster in hand, as if she feels something creeping up behind her. What she senses is the Sith Lord behind her, his right hand open to grasp her, while his left has his lightsaber activated to kill her if necessary. This episode is playing out within a cave, which is providing some excellent backlighting behind Vader, with his head and lightsaber superimposed over the book’s title. The poses on the characters are terrific and the coloring excellent, with the shine off of Vader’s armor and the flesh tones on Leia outstanding. Excellent in every way. Overall grade: A+

The story: This is the third installment of the Vader Down saga, crafted by Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen, with Aaron ultimately writing this issue. Picking up from the previous chapter, Luke has been zapped unconscious by Triple Zero who has painted himself to resemble See-Threepio. Dr. Aphra has left the shadows to look at the droid’s handiwork, while poor Artoo-Deeto stands to defend his master. BT-1 faces off the loyal astromech, starting a furious exchange of dialogue that 000 translates. The face off comes to its expected conclusion, but fans know not to discount Artoo’s resourcefulness. The main thrust of the story begins on the next page as Han and Chewie come flying in on the Falcon. They confront the woman and the droids, and things don’t go as planned for either party. Their conflict begins well, with the action on the top of Page 7 being outstanding and escalating quickly, however by 13 and 14 things go to slapstick comedy, foreshadowing Han’s second stringer nature in Return of the Jedi — This was really disappointing. It’s necessary to the overall story to take these two combatants out of the story, but this was akin to Jar Jar Binks humor. Chewbacca has much better contributions to the fight, as does Luke when he awakes. Leia appears on three pages in this issue, moving herself forward in the battle to capture the downed Sith Lord, and he appears only on the final page. This was really cool, however, with so little of Darth Vader in this issue, I couldn’t help but feel that what occurred was only a side story to the main conflict, which is catching Vader. If the events of the male heroes and Aphra become a larger part of the overall story, my opinion of this issue will grow. Looked at in isolation, this is an intermission to the main story. Overall grade: B-

The art: Excellent art by Mike Deodato. The opening two pages show how he’s exceptionally skilled at making a scene exciting: Artoo is standing by unconscious Luke, with Aphra and 000 looking on. There’s barely any movement on these pages, so it falls upon Deodato to make it interesting, and he does. The first panel establishes Luke’s plight, then spins 180 degrees to show the approach of the three antagonists. The third panel looks down upon all the characters to establish their proximity, with the droids going to face to face in the next two panels atop Page 2. Like a camera, Deodato shows the two bipeds response to the droids’ conversation, then an excellent back and forth that focuses on each of the astromechs. The top panel on 3 has a funny visual, that increases as Deodato pulls in closer, ending the page in an explosive visual. Nothing physically happens until this page, yet the shifting in perspectives draws the reader in — a mark of an expert artist and storyteller. Solo and Chewie’s inclusion into the story provides more opportunities for more varied visuals, and Deodato runs with it, creating outstanding illustrations on Pages 4, 7, 10, 16 (Is anyone thinking that Ben’s arrival after the Sandpeople’s attack from A New Hope looks familiar on this page?), 18, and the splash that ends the issue on 20. Deodato is the right illustrator for this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: It must always be brought up that certain settings can limit a colorist’s ability to add to the artwork. Vrogas Vas is one of the those worlds: it’s a desert world, not unlike Tatooine, though it does seem to have more rocky outcroppings and a Jedi Temple. Bearing this in mind, certain colors seem to be unavoidable: yellow, rust, brown, and tan. Thankfully, Frank Martin, Jr. is as skilled a colorist as Deodato is an artist, and he is able to highlight and increase all the elements that have been provided. The murky colored sands that blows before the characters on the first two pages heighten the ominous tone, the bright red eyes on 000 make him creepy, and having Aphra’s white top and Artoo’s white colorings atop the orange-red settings make them stand out on the page. Martin really excels when things blow up, of which there’s a quick tease on 3, which grows exponentially by the conclusion of this episode, with Page 18 being beautiful to look at, even if it is a lot of destruction. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Chris Eliopoulos brings dialogue, droid speak, sounds, Wookie speak, and screams to this issue. I’m not a fan of the font used for dialogue, but that’s been a bugaboo since this book began. The astromech speech is really fun, visually matching the tones I can imagine the droids using. Chewbacca’s voice is also strong, again, visually matching his tone. However, again, I’m confused why some elements of this book, and this series, receive sounds, while others do not. Lightsabers, blasters, missile launches, and explosions are awkwardly silent, while droids and Wookies can easily be heard. This continues to be a poor editorial decision by Marvel Comics. Overall grade: C+

The final line: “Where’s Vader?” more so than “Vader Down.” This comes off as filling in a story arc, rather than contributing to it. Overall grade: B+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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