In Review: Star Wars #21

A very enjoyable tale told from the villains' point of view.

The covers: Two to round up on this very different issue of Star Wars. A very cool Regular cover comes courtesy of David Aja. This is an incredibly stylish cover featuring seven panels (not including the title and the bar code) that give a very awesome vibe to this frontpiece. Four of the panels show stormtroopers in different poses: the largest has a trooper looking at the reader with blood splattered at the bottom of the panel. Another has a trooper firing, another is a close up of a helmet, and the final has several standing at attention. The center of the composition has half of the Imperial logo in red, also with a smattering of blood on it. This is a very stark cover and a very vivid cover. I’d like this as a tee shirt on black. The Variant cover is another Action Figure Variant by John Tyler Christopher. This resembles a classic Kenner Star Wars figure package. A Stormtrooper: Hoth Battle Gear is the focus and it looks great. I remember purchasing this figure when it was new. I loved it then and I love it now. But where is trooper’s gun, Christopher? Overall grades: Both A+

The story: This opening installment of “The Last Flight of the Harbinger” by Jason Aaron is told from a stormtrooper’s point of view. Specifically, this book is told by Sergeant Kreel. As the action occurs, the sergeant narrates his past and why he became a stormtrooper. It’s a sad tale, not a surprising one, but it completely justifies why he wears the armor and why he fights for the Empire. Without spoiling any of his thoughts, the story begins with an Imperial shuttle shooting down a Rebel ship over a Ghost Moon, a world long ago abandoned. The company of seven troopers is looking for a specific Rebel. Once they exit their ship the book becomes a hunt and chase to find whom they’re looking for. Each trooper wears armor suited for a specific task and all get to show off that task in this issue. I really enjoyed this story for the complete change in the focus: the villains of the book are the protagonists. This is a good break away from the exploits of Luke, Han, and Leia and Aaron makes the stormtrooopers incredibly sympathetic. I found myself hoping they’d be safe. And then I reminded myself that they’re the bad guys and they have to go down in balls of flame. Yet, each time they demonstrated their abilities I was impressed and longed to see them come across more foes to see how they would fare in battle. Scar Squadron, a.k.a. Task Force 99 is a very impressive unit. Even more impressive is what Kreel reveals himself to be in possession of on Page 18. That little item will really get the fans excited. I know I am. Overall grade: A  

The art: The visuals on this book by Jorge Molina are very similar to those of Pepe Larraz’s work on the Star Wars: Kanan series; I liked that series’ look, so I’m liking this look as well. No text is necessary on the first three pages to tell readers what’s occurring, though it does add to Kreel’s backstory. The city where the Rebel ship crashes looks great on Page 1 and the entrance of the stormtroopers in silhouette on 2 is outstanding — it gives a very cool sense of menace to their arrival. The third page is a splash of all the troopers, which each having enough variation so that the reader does not confuse them in the story. The second panel on 4 looks down upon the soldiers, making it seem as though they are being spied upon from on high. When the stormtroopers go into action on 5 they look great, but they really look impressive when they fly into a room on 6. The Rebels’ reactions to the troopers flying in would mirror my own were I to be in the same situation. There’s a striking speeder chase sequence on 9 – 11 which is impressive stuff; it’s always neat to see an artist accomplish movement in a comic book, especially when it’s essentially a car chase. I really liked the turn that one speeder makes at the top of 11. I didn’t realize the final panel on 17 was a building of tension moment until I turned the page on 18, which caused me to gasp, because that’s not supposed to ever happen in a Star Wars comic! The final page is a splash showing all the surviving leads and it’s done from an excellent point of view. The helmets of the stormtroopers really look like skulls on this page, indirectly showing the fate of one character. I would be more than willing to have Molina back on this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: Matt Milla makes this book come off as very sinister with his colors. Having the story set on a world with active volcanoes allows Milla to use crisp reds to instill in the reader that the world could explode at any minute — plus it instantly makes the situation very tense. The arrival of the troopers in the final panel on Page 2 makes the characters seem as though they are descending from Heaven with all the white lights about them. Their full reveal on 3 has them not in the bright whites associated with their armor, but instead they are tainted with red from the ash falling on them. It also makes them look demonic. The entrance of the troopers at the top of 5 uses yellows and oranges to highlight the explosive moment and it works perfectly. My favorite work by Milla is the fourth panel on 14, which uses violets and reds fantastically. The panel is also left blank behind the action and it really makes the image pop off the page. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration and dialogue (the same font) transmissions, yells, and screams are created by Chris Eliopoulos. The narration by Kreel really needed to be in a different font, at least italicized, to differentiate it from the dialogue. It is somewhat differentiated by the dialogue balloon that contains each, but it was initially confusing. The book also needed some sounds. There’s a lot of blaster fire, explosions, and a vital weapons that demanded sounds to make the book more fun. The lack of sounds falls upon the writer, not the letterer, but I’m listing it here since it’s the lettering I’m missing. I’m continually baffled by the Star Wars’ line of books’ lack of sound effects. Overall grade: B

The final line: A very enjoyable tale told from the villains’ point of view. More of these stories, from characters of higher rank than stormtrooper, would be more than welcome. I just wish there were some sounds! Overall grade: A-

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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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