In Review: Star Wars Annual #2

A fun story with beautiful visuals that will make Star Wars fans cheer.

The cover: Leia Organa breaks into a smile as she leaps to avoid blaster fire from several stormtroopers. Thankfully, their infamous aim remains true and she evades each deadly beam that zips past her. It’s refreshing to see Leia actually enjoying avoiding her pursuers, as she’s the most serious member of Star Wars‘ holy trinity. This Main cover is by Mike Mayhew, who easily captures the emotion and the energy of the moment. In addition to Leia looking good, Mayhew nicely creates a great sense of depth; one has only to look at the title and above it and a sense of vertigo will fall upon the reader. This is really nice. There’s also a very cool Variant cover by Elsa Charretier that has Leia close to the reader, while Pash is just behind her. They’re looking at the reader as a squad of stormtroopers races toward them. I like this style of artwork, and I’d buy a book that was entirely illustrated by Charretier. Overall grade: A

The story: With the battle raging between the Empire and the Rebellion, the ordinary citizens of the galaxy are having their lives upended in the crossfire. Among them is Pash Davane, who’s now called Bash by the locals, “…you bash one guy in the head with a rock and, well, nicknames stick.” She cares for neither side, her job as an underwater engineer has dried up on Skorii-Lei, and now makes a living manually lifting crates since she has incredibly muscular arms. Stormtroopers make their way through her word area, making her and the other citizens aware that they’re looking for someone. But she knows exactly what they want: in her cramped living quarters a wounded Leia holds on to life, attended by Bash’s droid Bruce. This is a good premise from Kelly Thompson, introducing a character that’s indifferent to the intergalactic struggle, while giving some good character moments to Leia. The book follows the expected plot of “Will she or won’t she help?” and I’m happy to say that Thompson makes this extremely fun reading. It’s nice to see Leia in survival mode, with a very obvious wound, with Pages 9 – 12 giving both women some solid characterization. Oh, there’s action to be had, don’t worry about that, but the stand out moment of the book is a revealing scene on 21 and 22, which gives Leia some outstanding motivation that no other story has given her before. I’ve been around since the beginning of the original run at Marvel and followed through all the novel adventures, so that’s saying something. The conclusion isn’t really surprising, but it is incredibly satisfying. I’d love to see Thompson return to this galaxy far, far away. Overall grade: A

The art: Pash is a very different looking Star Wars character; there’s not been a female character this visually powerful before, but after the opening pages, one is able to look beyond her muscles and see her soul with just a look. Artist Emilio Laiso does a really strong job on this book. The opening splash page triggers a Jakku response in fans of this franchise, but the town that lies below it is much more dense than anything shown in The Force Awakens. The panel that introduces Pash is a close up of the woman’s face, showing the intensity of her job as sweat runs down her face. The second panel shows the character fully, her muscles larger than anyone else’s. Her obvious strength disappears when she spies several stormtroopers, alerting the reader to her vulnerability to the Empire’s numbers. Her journey to her quarters on Page 3 has several details that bring this setting to life, leaving me wanting to see Laiso do more with alien worlds. Bruce is as unique looking a droid as his name. I really liked how his side antennae emphasized his emotional state. Leia looks fantastic. Laiso is given many opportunities to show her strong, weak, sarcastic, and sincere. The action sequences are also strong, with 18 and 19 being outstanding with the movement that Laiso creates. Pages 23 – 26 are beautiful and unexpected, though if one is paying close attention to the dialogue they were foreshadowed. As with Thompson’s writing, I can only ask Marvel to please have Laiso return to Star Wars comics. Overall grade: A 

The colors: Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors are a feast on this book. The first page has her creating a beautifully warm sky on this desert world. The colors used on Pash have her standing out on every page, with her red hair and vivid green top. Even by putting the spotlight on the protagonist, the heat of Skorii-Lei is evident through the colors of every panel. Page 7 has Rosenberg using colors to keep one character hidden from another, even though she’s in plain sight. The large panel on 8 has some bright colors to increase the moment, with the lighter ones highlighting the action and the darker ones showcasing the pain of the victim. The best colored pages are 18 and 19, with laser blasts and a rising sun stunners. I also loved the blues and greens on 23 through 26 that captured that environment wonderfully. Rosenberg makes this adventure memorable. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The settings, Pash’s narration and dialogue (the same font), Bruce’s speech, sounds, setting specific dialogue, and screams are all crafted by VC’s Joe Caramagna. A different font for the narration would have been nice to see, rather than relying on the colorist to differentiate the text for the reader. However, the sounds on this book are superb, with every smash, laser blast, and scream a delight to look upon. I was especially happy to see the sounds in the fourth panel on Page 27, which have been woefully lacking in recent Marvel Wars issues — Caramagna demonstrates that their inclusion makes the action much more exciting. Overall grade: B+

The final line: A fun story with beautiful visuals that will make Star Wars fans cheer. I want to see more from these contributors and more of Pash. Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy of this comic go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-2015-Annual-2/digital-comic/43277

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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