The events of Vader Down continue to ripple across the Star Wars comic-verse. This week, we rejoin Leia as she takes Vader’s would-be sidekick, Doctor Aphra, to a secret Rebel prison. Thus begins the Rebel Jail arc, as noted on the cover. Spoilers ahead, folks.
I realize most often my reviews tend to swing between love and hate. Being as 2015 was the year to get pumped about where Star Wars was taking us, I often compromised an objective look at some comics as either mind-blowing fantastic or dismal failures. I wish, in those moments when I pumped my fist in celebration, I would have come back down to Earth and just said it’s a good Star Wars story. Nothing more, nothing less…just a good story. Too often people associate good with mediocrity. I try to avoid that in my own outlook to the barn-door-blown-off approach the Lucasfilm Story Group is taking with the amount of new content we will be getting this year. We have to accept that plenty of it will be great, but maybe just as much will be good, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
That said… Star Wars #16 is a good start to a new arc. I was a little surprised Vader Down concluded as open-ended as it did, but pleased that the stage has been set for Dr. Aphra to get the spotlight. We have seen Aphra doing a lot of legwork for Vader in the past. This issue puts her out in the wilderness, without the help of two diabolical droids, on a remote Rebel Alliance jail called Sunspot Prison.
The above frame is from the very entertaining opening pages. Aphra is anything but a compliant prisoner. It seems she has been giving Leia and the Rebels a helluva time in their attempt to keep her confined on the journey to Sunspot Prison. Luckily, the pilot who has been flying them all there is happy to deal with the disobedient detainee.
Sana Starros, pilot for hire, is along for the ride. Sana expresses some views that give insight into how many people in the galaxy may regard the Rebel Alliance. The Original Trilogy paints the Rebel Alliance and the Empire in broad strokes. One thing George Lucas tapped into with perfection in those films was the absolute battle of good versus evil. The Rebel Alliance were the brave, tough fighters hurtling small laser blasts at battle stations capable of destroying entire planets. Of course they are tough, but people like Sana are willing to question if they are tough enough. If the Empire tortures their prisoners, why should the Rebellion not resort to a drastic method when it’s commonplace under the Imperial interrogation? It’s an interesting dilemma that Sana poses: Do you need brutality to fight brutality?
Let me get a little dorky here. How cool is Sunspot Prison? I love the conception of a star base at the edge of the star. The hue of the corona permeates every frame that takes place aboard this base. I loved it and continue to love these strange, extraordinary locations Marvel takes us to.
Aphra could not care less about her circumstances, and I love the sass. She seems to think she is so much smarter than her Rebel captors. It amuses her to taunt them so much. In almost every frame of this issue she is smiling and seems to be having the time of her life. When she is processed upon their arrival, the warden mentions she is among some pretty distinguished prisoners from the darkest bowels of the Empire to the top brass Moffs. Aphra is ready to bide her time and wait for Darth Vader to come get her.
It wouldn’t be a jail story if a group of bounty hunters wasn’t planning to bust out the prized prisoner. We saw in last week’s Vader that the Dark Lord does not want to risk Aphra talking to the Rebels about any of the work he’s been having her do. I’m sure he’s also not eager for any of it to get back to the Emperor, either. Vader hired a pretty hardy group of bounty hunters to get Aphra out of the Rebel’s hands, dead or alive. Their plan is pretty bonkers and makes me think they are not so concerned with the alive factor of Aphra’s jailbreak.
Well, I’m not so sure why Han and Luke were strangely thrown into this issue, being as they are nowhere near Sunspot Prison. There are a few pages dedicated to Han getting himself in a gambling predicament and then they are gone. It was very abrupt and I feel it could have waited until another issue. There was no reason for it at all. Luke mentions the bounty on his head is bigger than the one on Han’s, but that’s the only relevant piece of information we get from their cameo. Maybe this will make sense down the road. Sure, it’s always nice to see Han and Luke, but I kind of wanted to see more of Sunspot Prison and sassy Dr. Aphra.
Well, there’s no short of Aphra sass in this issue. Even after she is in her Sunspot Prison fatigues the attitude doesn’t fade. Love it. It’s blindingly bright in the prison and makes me wonder what the temperature is like. Everyone, prisoner included, seems comfortable enough. Every page I turned I wanted to know more about this strange, new environment. More Sunspot Prison please. I really hope this shows up in some live-action format. It would be great to see the environment fleshed out via film, animation, or video game.
The bounty hunters make a bold move. They approach the prison via spacewalk. Vader pays his bills, and the leader of this group doesn’t mind that they might return with their bounty short a few hunters. It’s a high-risk/high-reward situation, and although we don’t yet know who these specific bounty hunters are, we know they are determined to get to Aphra.
As I mentioned before, this is a prison filled with some of the worst of the worst. I can only imagine the possibilities once these bounty hunters are thrown into the mix. Maybe the power fails and all the prisoners escape from their cells? Maybe the bounty hunters meet up with a few old friends who join their party? Maybe Aphra realizes they are here to get her out of Sunspot Prison, but that she might not live through the escape? We’ll have to wait until #17 for more.
Jason Aaron continues to keep the story moving along at a fast pace. I’ve complained about his cadence in the past occasionally, but it works great here. Aaron seems to be having a lot of fun with these stories. The artistic team of Leinil Yu (penciler), Gerry Alanguilan (inker), and Sunny Cho (colorist) bring a fresh look to this book. Their art is very dynamic. Every page of the book is great to look at. I’m excited that a new team of artists is getting to work on this title. Yu and Alanguilan were part of the trio that did the excellent Vader Annual. It’s great to see their work and interpretations of the characters shine so well in this issue.
Good, solid issue and I’m very excited for what is to follow in this arc.