REVIEW – A Rebel, a Smuggler, and a Sith Walk into a Podrace in Star Wars Annual 4

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Marc Laming, Roland Boschi and Ario Anindito
Cover Art by Tradd Moore and Matthew Wilson

Strap in, racing fans — we’re going podracing! Bring your betting money, because this is going to be a high-stakes race, with rebel Luke Skywalker, smuggler Sana Starros and even a certain Dark Lord in attendance! PLACE YOUR BETS!




Before Luke Skywalker went to Nar Shaddaa, the Smuggler’s Moon in search of his Jedi legacy and one Sana Starros came back into Han Solo’s life all the way back in Star Wars issue #8, the young Jedi-in-training, the cunning smuggler, and one Dark Lord of the Sith crossed paths on the fringe world of Hradreek during the professional podracing season.



As this issue opens, Sana Starros delivers an ancient relic to a crime lord. The relic is a Sith lightsaber of one Darth Atrius (a name I don’t believe we have heard before). What starts as friendly business exchange quickly deteriorates when the crime boss reveals that a lightsaber is a part of matching set, and under the residual Sith influence, loses his mind and starts murdering his own henchmen.



It quickly becomes clear that Sana sold the other lightsaber to the Empire as the excited officer waits for the arrival of Vader, pleased that he completed the task for the Emperor. Unfortunately for him, Vader has no patience for the excuses and his ‘mercy’ is swiftly delivered. Vader orders the hunt for Sana.



Elsewhere on the planet, Luke Skywalker is on a mission for Leia. The Rebellion is taking a cut from the gambling to finance their fight. After he receives the money, Luke feels a disturbance in the Force and decides to investigate in spite of Artoo’s objections. Following his feelings, he finds the place of slaughter left after Sana escaped, including the ancient lightsaber. Before he knows it, he is found by stormtroopers. He defends himself savagely while falling under the lightsaber’s influence. Luke slaughters all the stormtroopers before he comes to his senses.



Sana tries to escape the Imperials chasing after her by employing the help of a group of Aqualish who are not too fond of the Empire. While they fend off the storm troopers for a minute, they stand no chance against Darth Vader fighting with two lightsabers. He is so deadly that even the stormtroopers are in shock by what he is doing. In their last effort to escape Vader, Sana detonates the entrance behind her.


The explosion helps her temporarily, but it also separates Luke and R2-D2, putting the droid and the money he is carrying for the Rebellion in the smuggler’s path. Sana believes this is her lucky day, however, she wouldn’t be first person to have underestimated the little droid. Forced to fend for himself and driven into a corner, Luke makes a snap decision to jump right into a podracer.



While Luke fights for his life, Vader who got himself out of the rubble is drawn to the racetrack by the excited crowds. The parallels are blatant, but welcome. As a commentator talks about the rumors of a human who once won a race, that human (or what was left of him) watches as Luke navigates a deadly race. But Luke’s goal isn’t to win, but to get away.



After crashing his pod, Luke does escapes with Artoo’s help, but not before he destroys the Sith lightsaber which was trying to influence him again. As Luke’s X-wing flies away, Vader watches and proceeds to destroy the other saber. Sana gets away merely bruised by Artoo, but not empty handed.



This issue of Star Wars Annual is a definition of standalone – a contained, isolated story which doesn’t require any previous investment. However, this doesn’t mean that the story won’t affect any story telling in the future. As we have seen in the past, a character that have appeared in Star Wars Annual #1, Eneb Ray, made another appearance during the main comic run.


This issue reintroduces some lore elements we have previously in the new canon. The Sith imprinted relics made an appearance in Lando comic (which I wholeheartedly recommend) and now we get a pair of Sith lightsabers which influence those who wield them. What is interesting is that the influence depends on the person. In a way they are an echo of the dark cave from The Empire Strikes Back; lightsaber influence depends on what you bring with yourself: the crime lord is completely consumed by rage, Luke manages to withstand the lightsaber’s influence after a while, and Vader’s senses are clouded, potentially foreshadowing that his inner conflict has already begun.


And while the three leads never directly interact (Sana and Vader get within the eyesight of one another), Bunn manages to convey a sense that their later meetings were destined and inevitable. He also confirms what we already know – that R2-D2 is the MVP of Star Wars. Don’t let the ‘cartoony’ cover fool you, the art of this issue was very good. I especially liked the cinematic take on certain panels: blurry background/sharp foreground, reflections in Vader’s visor, and the action.


While Star Wars Annual #4 isn’t groundbreaking, it is a fun standalone adventure featuring some of our beloved characters. Those who wanted more synergy between the stories of the prequel and original Star Wars eras will find plenty to enjoy here. And if an ordinary crime lord of the fringe world knows of Darth Atrius, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a comeback in the future of Star Wars canon, potentially making this story more important than it appears to be right now.







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Staff member, comic and book reviewer. Cheers for the Light Side, but would drink with Grand Admirals.

Jelena Bidin (LadyMusashi)

Staff member, comic and book reviewer. Cheers for the Light Side, but would drink with Grand Admirals.