In Review: Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1

I felt like this was "bait and switch" being used to sell something that's stamped with Star Wars.

The covers: Phil Noto, a tremendous illustrator, does the frontpiece for the Main cover. It shows the iconic image that was at the end of Return of the Jedi: Chewbacca, Han, Leia, Luke, Threepio, Lando, Artoo, and a pair of Ewoks are smiling at the camera as the war is over…or is it? Noto has never done a poor job on anything, and this is a beautiful cover. It’s the one I had to purchase. The Variant cover is by interior artist Marco Checchetto. It features a gigantic stormtrooper helmet in the background of the Death Star II’s explosion. In the foreground the Millennium Falcon, five X-wings, and four A-wings are flying off to safety. The helmet is beginning to fracture. It’s a beautiful image with some nice symbolism with the helmet. Worth tracking down. Overall grades: Main A+ and Variant A

The story: This four issue mini-series by Greg Rucka opens at the climatic moment when Luke is battling Vader within the Death Star and the Rebel fleet is attacking the moon-sized weapon. The chaos follows A-wing pilot Shara Bey as she takes out and avoids TIES. There’s not much she or the others can really do until the shield comes down, and she whispers a plea to a ground trooper named Kes, and that’s right when the shield falls, after showing Han Solo tossing a detonator to the man within the Imperial bunker. Rebel ships fly off in all directions to wreck havoc, with several (familiar ones) flying into the guts of the Death Star. When the question arrives on the coms if they’re going to follow them in, the response from the group leader is “Negative–We’ll do the work, let them have the glory!” Bey then spies a Lambda class shuttle speeding out of a bay. She moves to intercept, her weapons are hot, and is warned to back down because a “friendly” is aboard. She contacts the ship for identification and is greeted with “Green Four, this is Commander Skywalker, repeat vessel is under friendly control.” Several Tie-interceptors appear behind the pair of ships, blasting at them. Bey provides cover so Skywalker can get to Endor’s moon safely. From here the story follows Bey and Kes. This relationship is done to show what’s going on with all the extras that were never mentioned in any of the films. I get that, but I’m much more interested in the leads, the characters on the cover. The final seven pages focus on what occurs the next day, because what’s to be done after the Death Star is destroyed, again? This was interesting and this is what I wanted to read about. I’m pretty jaded, but I just don’t care about new characters at this point. I’m much more interested to see what the leads do in this new history that Disney is launching; heck, this cover even bares the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” banner at the top. I want the leads, not the common man. This was okay, but not what I wanted. Overall grade: C

The art: The visuals by Marco Checchetto are beautiful. The first two pages are a magnificent double-paged spread that shows Luke battling Vader on the left, Han, Chewie, and Kes in the bunker and the fighting going on above the Death Star on the right. It’s an impressive opening sequence, and Checchetto doesn’t let up. Page 3 focuses on Bey in her ship and the fighting is fierce; it truly is like looking at a lost scene from RotJ. Seeing the shuttle that’s bearing Luke, and the body of someone even more famous, got me excited, but the story doesn’t allow for any views of Luke or the corpse he has. There’s a jaw-dropping scene showing the bay of one of the Rebel ships with several ships and their pilots and crew meeting up after the explosion. The details are amazing. On the Endor moon, three familiar faces appear as Bey looks for Kes. An intimate moment and evening are as full of romance as Han and Leia, complete with fireworks and the morning after. The next day has another impressive battle with some troopers that’s as epic as anything seen on the big screen. Nothing but praise should be sent Checchetto’s way for the outstanding job on this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: This book looks as though it was painted, rather than colored in traditional comic book format. Andres Mossa should also be given high praise for what he’s brought to this book. The smoke, laser fire, and explosions above the Death Star are amazing. The reflections and highlights that come off the ships and the pilots’ costumes are stunning. This is some amazing work. The highlight from this opening battle is the second panel that show’s Luke’s shuttle fleeing on page 5 — it’s just awesome. Bright colors take a back seat to the reality of the interiors in the Rebel ship — things are fairly dull, but, don’t forget, they were in the films. Things improve on Endor’s moon at the celebration and begin to pop even more when Bey leaves the party as she searches for Kes. The closing battle of the book is a beauty in rust and gold. Mossa should be getting a lot more work after others see this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: I’ve not been a fan of VC’s Joe Caramagna’s work on the Marvel comics. I think the font he’s using for the dialogue is too weak for this franchise. His lettering makes the first six pages seem weak. A stronger font is needed than this to complete the epic scale of the visuals, and it’s not doing so. Caramagna provides scene setting, ship-to-ship transmissions, sounds, Wookie dialogue, yells, whispers, and the tease for next issue. His sounds are very well done; in fact, I wish he were allowed to provide more of them because the battles do come off as somewhat mute because of the lack of battle sounds. This is a very uneven job. Overall grade: D+

The final line: The leads are on the cover, but they’re barely in this. I felt like this was “bait and switch” being used to sell something that’s stamped with Star Wars. I wasn’t engaged in the two new characters, and felt let down that I was teased with those I wanted to follow. The art is beautiful on every level, but he letterers brings it down. A disappointing debut. 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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