Updated: Dec 17, 2019
I don’t know if that’s true. Honestly I don’t even know the rules to Sabbacc, but I’m doubling down on reviews!! Unless you’ve been in a hole the past few years you might know that both Marvel and Lucasfilm were purchased by Disney. As such that gave Disney full rights to pull all the Star Wars licenses and hand them over directly to Marvel comics where they originally started in the 1970’s. This past year we’ve seen the release of brand new on-going Star Wars & Darth Vader titles, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca mini-series books and a Star Wars: Rebels tie-in about Kanan: The Last Padawn. With Marvel’s amazing talent pool they’ve spared no expense bringing us these books with such top-notch writers and artists as Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, Salvador Larroca, Charles Soule, Stuart Immonen, Simone Bianchi, Mike Deodato, Mark Waid, Terry Dodson, Gerry Duggan, Phil Noto, Alex Maleev, Greg Weisman & Pepe Larraz.
They’ve more than delivered.
All these books take place in the few years’ time between Episode IV & Episode V. They are all both stunning and exciting and capture everything that could have possibly happened between Star Wars and Empire perfectly. After a great year of stories I now find myself with two annuals; one for Star Wars and one for Darth Vader.
Star Wars Annual #1
Ever wonder how many Bothan spies died to get the rebellion the Death Star plans? We know it was “many” but the Bothans themselves bow down to Eneb Ray, the rebellion’s very own James Bond. Eneb is under full cover in the Imperial capital of Coruscant working as a tax collector for the Empire. He has to make the hard decisions to treat people as the Empire would; horribly. As he makes his weekly check-in with Princess Leia, she informs him he now has to break cover and go save some senators from execution. After a little convincing he does so in complete action hero Bond fashion, only to find that the Emperor was a few steps ahead of the rebels as usual. While I won’t spoil the ending I will say that Kieron Gillen has these books down pat when it comes to character savvy. It comes off as totally believable and they all stay true to the form setup in the original trilogy years ago. Angel Unzueta’s artwork is gorgeous and I wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing him as a regular on any of these Star Wars books. While this story is mainly an aside from the regular book’s storyline it’s a good look at what Palpatine’s up to and introduces a good character in Eneb Ray that I would like to see more of from time to time.
Darth Vader Annual #1
Here’s another book that proves Kieron Gillen knows exactly how to write the beloved characters he’s charged with. As in the Darth Vader on-going series, Vader is an unstoppable force who calmly and calculatingly destroys almost everything in his path. Here he travels to the planet of Shu-torun to speak with their king about increasing production of ores for use in the Empire’s many construction projects. The people of Shu-torun are less than happy with the Empire’s increasing demands and hatch a plot to assassinate Vader while leaving the King blameless and instead making it look like the planet’s Ore-Dukes were behind it. The king is even willing to use his own daughter as a sacrificial lamb in order to perpetuate the false plot. Vader of course sees through this all and turns the tables in epic Sith Lord fashion. Again, no spoilers here, but there’s a great interaction between the ever-stoic Vader and this artsy mining community. Leinil Yu’s artwork is every bit as good as it has ever been and brings this book right back to an almost Mustafarian tone with a lot of rock structures, architecture and lava. And just sayin, Vader’s the very best at being a badass.
Both the Darth Vader and Star Wars annuals show assassination attempts on both of the Sith. The fact that both Vader and Palpatine easily survive is, I think, intentionally done to reinforce just what a strong hold the Empire has on the galaxy at this point in time regardless of the fact that their Death Star was recently destroyed. They don’t NEED a Death Star to keep the galaxy in line; it just makes things a little easier.