In Review: Star Wars #16

This is not the Star Wars comic you're looking for. Move along.

The covers: The Main cover is from the powerhouse art team that was responsible for Star Wars: Princess Leia, Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson. Leia, who’s sporting a cape and a really big gun, stares down upon the stormtroopers that have been taken prisoner in the latest Rebel victory. This pair can do no wrong, as far as I’m concerned. Leia looks great (and I’m pleased to see that she and her gun have been superimposed over the title, which is always cool when covers do this with their images) and she looks completely in charge of the situation. Outstanding! The first Variant is a black and white version of the Main cover, showing all the work that was done before the colors were added. I like what the Dodsons do, so I’m liking this cover as well. Stuart Immonen provides the illustration for the next Variant that has Leia and Aphra’s heads in the top third of the image (the princess looking forward and the doctor looking at Leia), while full figures of Chewie, Han, and Luke are in the bottom of the image over an image of the Millennium Falcon. There’s a neat light effect emerging from the men at the bottom. This is good, but an image that could be placed on any issue of this series. The next Variant is by Leinil Yu and it’s got a shot of Leia looking at the viewer from her left side. She’s holding a staff in her right hand and her cape is splayed out behind her, while a blaster is easily seen in the holster hanging on her left hip. The background is a pale peach, making all the whites she’s wearing pop out. A good cover, but generic — it too could be the cover of any Star Wars title featuring Leia. The final Variant is from John Tyler Christopher who provides another Action Figure cover, this time it’s the — don’t blink and you’ll miss him — Death Star Droid. Yes, this cover is not issue specific, but Christopher has been doing these variant covers since the launch, so it’s in line with what’s come before (and I hope he never stops with these covers). Overall grades: Main A+, Variant Black and White A+, Variant Immonen A, Variant Yu A, and Variant Christopher A+ 

The story: This is not the Doctor Aphra that readers have encountered before. The first part of “Rebel Jail” by Jason Aaron opens with the rogue archaeologist having escaped from her fourth pair of binders, knocked a guard out, taken his weapon, and raising it at Leia, demanding the ship they’re on turn around from its destination. This was a believable moment. Aphra has always been said to have a dark side, so to speak, since she was recruited by Vader in his series. Free of the Sith Lord’s presence, the real Aphra can emerge. It makes sense that would be doing all that she can to get away from her captors. She’s unsuccessful in her stare down with Leia, thanks to help from the princess’s companion Sana Starros, who gets some nice hints at backstory in a few panels. However, once at the jail, Sunspot Prison, the story becomes really predictable. One doesn’t have to be a fan of Star Wars to know what’s going to happen when a villain is imprisoned in an inescapable jail. The dialogue is also very cliche, with Aphra becoming a completely different character. She’s always been fairly mousy in Darth Vader, but that’s because Vader’s around — that’s understandable. But here, she comes across as tough talking criminal, vowing to burn the prison down. There was never any hint of this Aphra before. The transition from her previous appearances to this Aphra is too drastic. There’s a three page appearance of Luke and Han, with their sequence not being fun or funny, but more of a waste of space: the exact same information could have been communicated in a page. This was a disappointing start to a new story. Overall grade: C-

The art: The visuals for this arc state the pencils are by Leinil Yu and the inks by Gerry Alanguilan. They look as though they’re in the mold of a European comic: the characters are sharply outlined and tightly rendered in close-ups, but from a distance, they, and the backgrounds, are composed of incomplete line work. Page 1 displays ample evidence of this: panel one is a sharply drawn image of a rebel on the wrong end of Aphra’s fist, the second panel shows the ship the characters are on — note how the linework is stylized around the ship’s surface; and the final panel shows another close-up, this time of Aphra picking up a gun. I like the character work on this issue, but the ship and the exterior shots took me out of the reading experience, especially on Page 4, panel four; 8, panel three; 11, panel four; and all of 18. The interior of the jail is really well done when it’s first shown, and the line of cells that appear in the background in later panels make this a good looking location. The three film characters are varied: Leia looks the best, Luke is passable, but Han’s put on a few pounds facially. The aliens the pair are playing against look fantastic, though they become sketchy when chasing the men — and Han’s running atop 16 is painful to look at. The last page is a mess to distinguish one character from another given the coloring. I’m not liking the majority of this book’s visuals and think it would have been better in black and white. Overall grade: C-

The colors: Also mirroring the classic European look are the minimalistic colors of Sunny Gho. The book has subdued colors for the interior of the ship that’s transporting Aphra. This is fine, as it sets a somber tone for where the story is heading. However, once at Sunspot Prison the colors become gold and tan. This makes sense for the exteriors, given the proximity of the jail to the star, but shouldn’t the interiors be dark? I wondered how anyone, guard and prisoner, slept in such a facility with everything being so bright. The colors become key on Page 18 with the location, and Gho makes the environment appropriately hot. The final page has the coloring hurting the illustration. It’s difficult to make out who’s who on the splash: coloring should have helped the reader clearly see the individuals. The only break from the yellow are Han and Luke’s pages, which use shades of pink to create an alien environment, and they look good. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Dialogue, transmissions and droid speak (same font), yells, and one sound are crafted by Chris Eliopoulos. The font used for the characters’ speech is very frail, not matching the intensity of some moments, such as Han and Luke talking in the second panel on Page 16. The lack of sounds of this issue, and this franchise from Marvel, continues to be disappointingly mute, especially in blaster exchanges. It’s frustrating to read a Star Wars book and have the sole sound be in an exterior shot on Page 18, but nothing for blaster fire. This is not Eliopoulos’s decision, it’s the writer and the editor, and both continue to disappoint. Overall grade: C-

The final line: This is not the Star Wars comic you’re looking for. Move along. Cliche, sketchy, minimalistic, frail: words I never thought I would used to describe a Star Wars comic. Not horrible, but barely tolerable. Like the prequels, one hopes this will improve over time. Overall grade: C-

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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