In Review: Star Wars Annual #1

A nice change of pace story without any of the leads featuring heavily.

The cover: John Cassaday and Paul Mounts have created a very different cover from all of Marvel’s covers: the only familiar character is the Emperor and he looks as though he’s staring right into the reader’s eyes. Excellent creepy image of the Sith Lord, with Sith lightning surrounding him, all set upon a crimson background. The lower third of the image features protagonist Eneb Ray, who’s dwarfed by the madman behind him. The more I look at the this the more I like it. Overall grade: A

The story: This is a very different story coming out of the Marvel machine, and I tip my hat to them for doing something different. The only familiar Star Wars hero that appears is Leia, though only via hologram. The lead character is a new one, Rebel spy Eneb Ray, working on Coruscant as an Imperial named Tharius Demo. The issue begins with Demo putting the financial squeeze on a man who will either pay his taxes or sell his children into slavery to cover his bill. It’s a very dramatic, and evil, way to introduce this hidden hero and writer Kieron Gillen sets him up nicely. Accompanying narration from Ray tells how he feels about his position, and a conversation with the princess expands his character. Leia asks him to help save some anti-Imperial senators who are up for execution. It’s an impossible task, but as Ray states, “…she knows I’ll do whatever is requried.” Once Ray is off on his mission the story takes off. His infiltration of the Arrth-Eno prison complex is very entertaining, with him using a device I’ve not seen before in any Star Wars story, and I’m hoping that Gillen has others use one in other titles. Naturally, once Ray gets to the senators things take a turn. The first is revealed on Page 12, but a better one on 14 — that was a good surprise. The decision made on 15 is terrible, because every Star Wars fan knows how it will turn out, but I have to admit, I actually thought there was a chance. Knowing the outcome of the conflict, Gillen really hits it out of the park, with 28 giving great insight into the Emperor, with Ray’s comments hitting each reader in the gut. Any time an author can have a long time fan think this might be the way the Emperor is killed, but we all know it won’t happen until The Return of the Jedi, is something to savored. Gillen had me thinking it could happen, and that’s a good story. Overall grade: A  

The art: For a new character, Angel Unzueta illustrates Eneb Ray as though he’s been around for years. Whether in close up or from a distance, this character always looks impressive. I like how his first appearance has him posing as the most arrogant of Romans. However, I was completely taken by the character when he infiltrates the prison: the cape, the goggles, the incredible grappling device were amazing to look at. Unzueta also draws Ray in the most gymnastic of positions and from amazing angles. My favorite panel is the bottom (no pun) of 26, which should instill laughs, but is so dramatic it left me gasping. Batman employs a similar device to make his way through Gotham, but Ray has him beat with all his contortions. Leia has a few appearances as a figure in a hologram. Unzueta puts the right amount of linework into distorting her transmission, aping the style of the Star Wars films, and I’d love to see him get a crack at illustrating her in person. The Emperor also looks good. I expected him to be in his frail old man public persona, but the script has him doing other things, and he looks fantastically fierce in his final appearances. The senators aren’t as realistically drawn as the others; this may be due to a majority of them being aliens — Unzueta’s work is good on them, but not as strong. The settings are also a bit of hit and miss: things open and close with fantastic shots of the skyline from amazing angles, but interiors are fairly simple; granted, that’s the style of the Empire, but often they’r absent. This work is impressive enough from me to want Unzueta to return to Star Wars. Overall grade: B+ 

The colors: An absolutely crucial element to this story are the colors done by Paul Mounts. The opening splash is a gorgeous day scene on Coruscant. This feeling of joy is smacked aside on the following pages, which show Tharius Demo in action. These colors correctly pull the reader into the hidden, sinister world that Ray inhabits. The coloring on Leia’s hologram is the fantastic blue that sends an electric shiver through fans. Ray’s cape and the items on his hands add strong colors to Imperial settings, instantly making him apart from everyone else. Laser blasts and Sith lightning are also well done, looking as powerful as anything seen in any film. Overall grade: A

The letters: With the exception of Leia and the Emperor, all the other characters in this tale are new. This allowed me to move beyond my usual dislike of the font used for the dialogue in the Star Wars books, and roll with it. VC’s Joe Caramanga provides scene settings, dialogue and narration (the same font), sounds, and transmissions. One thing that did disappoint was the continuing lack of sounds. Caramanga has shown in other books that he is capable of doing an outstanding job, I just wish Marvel would let him do so. C’mon, Editor Jordan D. White: watch any Star Wars movie with the sound off and tell me it doesn’t hurt the experience. Their absence in these books is hurting mine. Overall grade: B-

The final line: A nice change of pace story without any of the leads featuring heavily. I’d love to see more of Ray. 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.
    No Comment