In Review: Star Wars Annual #3

An average story with terrible visuals. Only for Star Wars completists.

The covers: A pair to find that won’t require any bounty hunters to track down. The Regular cover is by interior artist and colorist Michael Walsh. Leia is leading an injured Han across a snow covered landscape, while high above the Millennium Falcon flies away. The title really stands out on this since it’s as white as the snow on the ground, but the characters are too dark. Yes, it’s supposed to be night, but a lightening of the background would have helped considerably. The image accompanying this review is considerably brighter than the physical copy I purchased. The Variant cover by Rod Reis is much more superior. It highlights the three antagonists of the issue: Frax, a Nitko who’s responsible for all our heroes’ woes, the insect alien Selt, and the unnamed droid who’s Zelt’s partner and translates for him. They look great and the background is terrific in a simmering orange against a bright white sun. The head tilt on Frax shows him to be unhinged. This is great. Overall grades: Regular C and Variant A 

The story: This thirty page annual was written by Jason Latour. There’s no title for this tale, it’s simply “Annual III” on the credits page. The premise is that Han is showing Leia some possible places for a new Rebel base, with them ending up on the world of Odona. The book opens with them being chased by large multi-eyed creature scuttling on several crab-like legs. Its giant maw is about to devour the pair, but Leia knocks Han’s pistol upwards to take out the ceiling. This traps the creature underground and allows them to make it to the surface. She chastises him for his choice of worlds, while he defends himself. Unbeknownst to the twosome, they’re being watched through a rifle’s sights by Selt. Behind the diminutive bounty hunter is his sidekick, a tall droid, translating his words to Frax, who’s hired the pair to kill Solo. Naturally, things don’t go well for the trio in pursuit of the Corellian. The heroes are momentarily separated, the justification for Frax’s vengeance revealed, the heroes reunite, and a confrontation with the trio commences. Frax gets a lot of backstory and time, but never really came off as more than a second stringer who had no chance of getting Han. True, this is an early incarnation of Solo, who’s overwhelmed at several times, but the Solo luck holds true, as does assistance from a particular princess. When all is said and done, so what? Nothing is really revealed about either hero, nor does either grow from this story, leaving this as an average adventure story that would be suitable for any characters. Overall grade: C-

The art and the colors: Michael Walsh is the artist and colorist for this book. The visuals look unfinished and the colors are bland. The first page shows the reader what to expect from Walsh with Han and Leia introduced. They’re pretty rough. When the pair make it to the surface, on Page 2, the colors of the sky are somewhat bright, but are deadened by the surroundings comprised of large boulders. Look at the ground, there’s no horizon line and random rocks litter it, with some looking like they’re levitating. Don’t look at Leia’s arm too long in the second panel on Page 3. When the villains are introduced the coloring is so dark as to obscure what they look like, especially Selt. When the point of view is shown through Selt’s gun, the visuals get really sketchy. Shouldn’t the view be more focused? Frax’s reveal to the reader would have been stronger had not white rain been falling horizontally in front of him, on a white background: I initially thought I was looking at a printing error. The cockpit of the Falcon is a sketchy mess, while Frax’s fall is just terrible. The colors are a repetition of dreariness that are meant to create a hostile environment, but instead render the art unrecognizable at times. I could go on, but this is not a great look for these characters, this annual, or this franchise. I would expect a book that comes out once a year to have had an artist spent a long time on making the visuals as good or better than the monthly series. That’s not the case with this book. Overall grade: D- 

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, scene settings, droid speak, Selt’s unique speech, a whisper, and yells are created by VC’s Clayton Cowles. I enjoyed the sounds in this book, though I think that Walsh created much of Selt’s speech. My issues with Star Wars‘ comics dialogue and scene settings continue on this book: the speech is weak, even when characters yell, and the scene settings are blasé. Overall grade: B

The final line: An average story with terrible visuals. Only for Star Wars completists. Any other current SW comics would be a better purchase than this $4.99 outing. Overall grade: D+

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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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