In Review: Star Wars #55

A solid conclusion to a story that provides a transition between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

The covers: A trio to pick up before the Empire catches you! The Regular cover is by David Marquez & Tamra Bonvillain and features a gigantic Darth Vader reaching out with his right hand at the remnants of the Rebel fleet which are trying to escape his and his minion’s wrath. Neat symbolic cover with Vader looking excellent and the ships nice. The colors really sell the image with the Sith in reds and yellows, reinforcing his evil nature, and the ships backlit by the yellow of a sun. Very nice. The Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher focuses on an alien character from Return of the Jedi — Klaatu. The figure is wearing the helmet and outfit he sported in Jabba’s palace and aboard the gangster’s sail barge. The image of the faux card is photorealistic. I’m a huge fan of these variants and am always chasing them down. This cover looks so realistic, take a look at the outstanding job done on the plastic that holds the figure onto the card. Just so darned cool! The Galactic Icons Variant cover is by Rod Reis and showcases a character from Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Cad Bane. The bust shot of this character has the bounty hunter snarling at the reader. This is great, and as with the Action Figure Variants, I’m trying to collect all of these. Overall grades: Regular A-, Action Figure Variant A+, and Galactic Icons Variant A

The story: The concluding chapter of Kieron Gillen’s “Hope Dies” has Vader aboard the Executor watching the Rebel cruisers being picked off by Imperial fighters. Unbeknownst to the villains, a cruiser emerges from hyperspace behind it and begins a bombardment. Commanded by General Dodonna, the ship does considerable damage to the vessel. Admiral Ozzel says, “Lord Vader! The cruiser that restored power and escaped — it’s back! They –” The Sith interrupts him by saying, “Are merely another target. Destroy them.” This was intentional by Dodonna. Once his ship becomes a target his ship signals Han Solo who is flying through space piloting an X-wing with Artoo-Detoo in the astromech position. Han isn’t the sole Rebel ship, he’s accompanied by others who are on a mission to get some vital information to the surviving members of the fleet. Gillen has some solid tension as two teams have to arrive at an important place and he culminates the scene with a great closing panel on Page 9. A familiar face appears on 10 and it made my heart sing. Naturally, all doesn’t go easy for the heroes, with two of their own needing rescuing. Page 13 has a very sad scene for a character that’s been around since the original film, while another has a soulful farewell on the following page. Page 16 reveals how several characters received a change between Episode IV and V. Page 18 has a very revealing moment, with one character having to justify to another what’s occurred and it’s perfect — Gillen nails the dialogue and the reactions awesome. Another recurring character, introduced in the comics, appears on the penultimate page and it was neat to see this individual. The final page is a decent epilogue, but is a little too tidy. If this were a novel, I would say the author is intruding too heavily into the story. Thematically it ends fine, but it doesn’t feel natural. This is only one page and has little to no impact on the rest of the issue. Overall grade: A-

The art: Salvador Larroca opens this issue with a great image of Vader looking out the forward window of the Executor at TIE Fighters destroying the Rebel fleet. The arrival of Dodonna’s ship is well done with a neat hyperspace signature effect around it to show the reader what’s occurring. The first panel on the second page shows the cruiser from the back beginning its attack run on the oversized ship and the details on both look terrific. This is completely a visual David versus Goliath battle. The close-up in the second panel on the page shows Dodonna to show who’s in charge and it’s a great image of this leader. The top panel on 3 shows the damage being inflicted and it’s a cheer worthy image. Following this with an image of Vader commanding Ozzel to take action is great, but what’s up with that stormtrooper’s pose and what is he doing with his hands? The destruction left behind by Dodonna’s ship is awesome. It’s rare that the Rebels have had a victory of any sort in this story, so this was a needed visual. The panel that follows this is a fantastic shot of Han leading several ships. It’s gorgeous. All of the space scenes are really well done in this issue. The supporting cast for this issue looks good, with my two most favorite panels occurring on 9 and 10 as two characters yells commands. The trio of leads have some odd shading on their faces throughout the issue. This could be due to the colors, but I’ve never seen Guru-eFX do this type of shading before, or it could be the Larroca decided to set up the shading. I don’t know, but it looks odd. It’s first apparent with the visor that covers Han’s face, which is appropriate as it would create some different shading on him. However, the characters continue to get this odd shading when they appear together on Page 16. My favorite page is 18 for the way the two characters are posed and how they are shown to the reader. The next page has some odd moments, with Artoo looking as though Threepio’s arms are bursting out his dome shaped head and why is Han pointing the final panel? These aren’t deal killers, but do look particular. The final page also has a strange moment, due to the absence of all characters from that location, save two. Where’s everyone else? All that was needed was a visual to show the reader. I do like the look of this issue, though there are some visuals that take the reader out of the story. Overall grade: B

The colors: The colors of this book are a real strong element of the visuals. Guru-eFX does some sensational work with stellar yellow and oranges for the space and sun that provide the backdrop of space. Vader is also colored well; he could disappear with all the blacks that comprise him, but every detail of his suit and costume stand out brilliantly. I love the blues used for the exhaust ports of all the ships that are racing about. The blues used for Artoo’s sounds throughout the book are a little difficult to make out against the red backgrounds, but that’s a minor slight. The shadow work tone on characters’ faces, as I mentioned in the art review, is a little strange. It doesn’t look natural. I don’t know if this Guru-eFX’s decision or the artist’s. Regardless, it doesn’t look good. When the survivors have gone to a new system, space becomes a dark, peaceful, blue, allowing the characters and the reader a moment to breathe before next issue. Overall grade: B

The letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles creates the book’s scene settings, dialogue, Artoo’s bleeps, sounds, Chewbacca’s speech, yells, and transmissions and Threepio’s dialogue (the same font). The scene settings are difficult to read due to their being atop a white border and the colors chosen to fill their interiors blend in to easily with the rest of the panel. The dialogue is too wispy to create any tension from any character’s speech, with Vader particularly coming off as weak. Artoo’s sounds are hard to read due to the coloring, Chewie’s speech has been getting an unnecessary waver in each letter, and Threepio’s speech is lumped as ship to ship transmissions. I’m continually disappointed with lettering on the Star Wars comics. Overall grade: C+ 

The final line: A solid conclusion to a story that provides a transition between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. There are minor nicks in this final installment, but it does provide enough strong moments to please fans of the franchise. I’m looking forward to seeing where these creators next take my heroes. Overall grade: B

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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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