In Review: Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #4

This is the beginning of Han's break from the Empire and it's excellent. Recommended.

The covers: Two issues to pick up if one is a fan of the galaxy’s most famous Corellian. The Regular cover has the title character running with his hands up to protect himself from the fire he’s receiving from five TIE-Fighters above him. He’s got his pistol in this hand, but it’s not going to do him any good as he races forward. David Nakayama has put a lot of energy in this, with the colors helping considerably. You can’t go wrong with a cover by Nakayama! The Variant cover by Caspar Wijngaard is equally dramatic. Han is wearing his Imperial pilot uniform, holding his helmet in his right hand. Behind him is a TIE-Fighter he probably crashed. This looks great, with the center window on the ship framing Han’s head. The coloring on this cover is also super. Overall grades: Both A 

The story: This was a great story! In the Imperial Naval Mobile Base on Ohulosk, Han is working on his TIE and observes a heated conversation between Valance and his commanding officer, with the former pointing at him. When this character storms off, the CO asks Han if he’s battle ready. “Is that what the mouth breather Valance was talking to you about right now?” Han asks. The officer tells Han that he would be the best pilot if he followed the rules. He knows, he was once like Han, “Insubordinate. Arrogant. Spent more time in the brig than the cockpit.” But he learned to follow orders, like Han should. Han’s squad arrives and chides him for getting in trouble again. They peek at what he’s doing and see that he’s turning off the dampeners to get more speed, though that could also flood his engine. Lyttan and Tamu agree to do the same to their ships. Hanina remains behind to have words with the title character. It’s a solid moment and made me appreciate her much more. The squad then gets their orders and flies into battle. The fighting is furious, with casualties on both sides, with something happening on Page 12 to put someone in peril. Choices are made and action is taken, but a complication arises. Pages 17 – 18 demonstrate why Han cannot follow orders, and he can’t be blamed. The responses from the person he’s talking to are flawless: that is exactly the position that would be taken. Writer Robbie Thompson then has Han make a decision on 19 that’s awesome. The final page had me cheering, but I know this isn’t going to end well. This was an outstanding tale of Han’s past, camaraderie among a squad, excellent action, and killer characterization. I was really blown away by this. Overall grade: A+

The art: Leonard Kirk does the pencils and Daniele Orlandini the inks for this book. The opening panel establishes the base well, while the second shows the bay with the TIEs and several figures around them. The reader is so far from the characters that the artists just have circles for heads or outlines of figures. I understand why this is done, but it takes me out of the reality that was created in the first panel. Han looks great in the third panel as he turns to look at a distant conversation. The fourth and fifth panels show him looking at the pair speaking and they’re rendered as faceless, save slits for eyes. This is not a good thing to have on the first page. Things vastly improve on the next page with the point of view going back and forth between the characters. I really like the second panel on 3 that shows a person’s past plainly on their face. The emotions on Han’s squad when they appear is fantastic. Kirk and Orlandini excel at character close-ups. The double-paged splash on Pages 7 and 8 shows some excellent chaos in the skies and on the ground during the conflict. Aerial combat is a horror to create in comics because of the speed of the ships, but Kirk and Orlandini pull it off well. Take a look at Pages 9 and 10 to see how they show the TIEs in action, with great reaction shots of the pilots and their prey. The progression of action on 13 was thrilling, and I’m not a fan of ship combat in Star Wars. This was really well done. Motion is created so well, with 14 being outstanding in its execution and the drama that’s created. The lack of dialogue for two panels on 17 really packs a punch for the story. Solo’s reactions on 18 on are fantastic — so true to his future character. The last page is a full-paged splash and will thrill fans of the Empire and Solo. This book looks good. Overall grade: A

The colors: Imperial settings do not leave a lot of variations for colorists to show their craft. Arif Prianto does a fine job with what the story allows, inserting some bright colors when he can, such as a yellow guard rail, orange fuel containers, and several bright colors during the battle. Prianto does an exemplary job with characters’ skin, putting highlights in the right places to make them look great. Coloring TIE Fighter pilots’ uniforms has got to be a chore to keep them from becoming blots of darkness. There, too, he puts the perfect highlights into their outfits, making them shine with all the professionalism of the Empire. I really like the colors during the battle, with engines streaming red, sounds in different shades, and computer screens looking glorious. I love the cool blues that begin at the bottom of 17, which is a great color for the cold response Han receives. The dead red around two panels on 18 is like a stake in the heart of Han and the reader. It’s perfect. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna is responsible for the scene settings, dialogue, sounds, and transmissions. I really like the scene settings, which look alien and computer-like. It’s unique among the settings in Star Wars books and would look great on other titles. The dialogue looks too thin to have any strong emotion, even when italicized for emphasis. The transmissions are in italics to give them a metallic flair. The sounds are big, as one would want from this series and franchise. I know it many be cheesy to some, but I really love all the PEWs. Overall grade: A-

The final line: This is the beginning of Han’s break from the Empire and it’s excellent. The story is incredibly strong, with the characters on point and the action outstanding. The visuals are fine, with the fighter sequences the best. I would have liked to see a little more details in distant characters, though. This is excellent reading for Star Wars fans, not only for Han’s past, but for showing how efficiently the Empire runs a campaign. Recommended. Overall grade: A

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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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