This new issue of Star Wars marks the beginning of a new arc as well as the beginning for a new writer/artist duo in Greg Pak and Phil Noto. The “Rebels and Rogues” arc is bringing us even closer to The Empire Strikes Back when “the evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space…”
When we left our heroes in the last issue, they managed to make Shu-Torun useless to the Empire. But the Rebellion can’t wait and they were tasked with a recon mission which would lead to their new base. It is General Dodonna’s legacy. Planet Hoth was on the list.
As this issue opens, the group has a briefing with General Rieekan. He tells them probes launched by the Empire count in thousands and will certainly find them soon, unless they were given something else to chase. Rieekan has a specific job for each of our heroes.
Luke, as the best pilot, has to lure a star destroyer that got too close to one of Rebellion’s fueling stations in the Inner Rim. Han has to go Lanz Carpo, smallest planet in the Core with the highest crime rate and make sure to get access to the comm center of a local crime boss, also an Imperial collaborator. When he initiates the calls to regional Rebel relay drone, the Empire will think that Boss Carpo works with them.
Chewbacca, as the best mechanic, has to place proton detonators on K43, an uninhabited and unstable volcanic world. The plan is to make the Empire believe the planet is the Rebel base, lure as many star destroyers as possible and blow up the planet taking them with it. C-3PO is to accompany him as technical support. Finally, Leia is to go to Lanz Carpo with Han since her acquaintance is newly elected planet’s District Attorney and might help them gain access they need.
Immediately upon arrival on K43, it is clear that Chewbacca and C-3PO will have the most difficult and dangerous task. The environment is toxic and the likelihood of another lava eruption high. But, there is no turning back and they head towards the most vulnerable point in the tectonic plates.
At the same time, above planet Sergia, Luke and R2-D2 encounter one of the rare competent Imperial officers who doesn’t take the bait and follow the lonely X-wing. Luke is forced to improvise and try to destroy the probes on the ground. He bemoans his lack of knowledge in the Force because, after Ben’s death, there is no one to teach him. Han and Leia arrive on Lanz Carpo and immediately attract the wrong kind of attention after Leia shows kindness to a stranger.
Back on K43, Chewbacca and C-3PO have managed to plant all the detonators. We witness a really touching moment when C-3PO is surprised that Chewie thanked him, as he is not used to it. It shows how much sentient droids are discriminated against in the galaxy and another way to show how different are our heroes. Before the two of them can reach the surface, the ground under droid’s legs breaks and he falls in to the chasm bellow. Chewbacca jumps after him in spite of C-3PO’s protests. They are both saved by giant rock-creature.
It appears that entire species of rock-people live on the planet. The sensor is still showing that the planet is uninhabited. This all throws the wrench in the Rebels’ plan: they cannot blow up the planet and destroy the entire species which means that they cannot trap the star destroyers.
Han and Leia are surrounded by local guards and, for once, they are not taking the bribes. Their motives are suspect and they have to wait until crime boss arrives. Leia tries to calm Han who is complaining as always. Before the crime boss can question them, an unknown person arrives and defeats the guards with the staff. When Han asks who it is, Leia answers that like Sana Starros wasn’t Han’s wife, Dar Champion is not her boyfriend.
As setup issues go, “Rebels and Rogues” part one, does a decent job. It presents us with the current state of the galaxy for the rebels as they are systematically hunted down. Pak tries to move the story quickly, but he has to spend time establishing the story. I like that he split our heroes and presented each group with the unique problem/situation. Unlike the last – Shu-Torun mission – which pretty much went without a hitch until the Partisans derailed the plan, this time the Rebels encounter problems from the start.
Currently, Chewbacca and C-3PO have the most serious obstacle as there is no way to fulfill their mission without committing genocide. The new canon (especially comics) has done an excellent job in giving C-3PO things to do, from his own spy ring to now technical support to Chewbacca. I like this pairing a lot and I am looking forward for what will happens next.
I appreciated the subtle humor of this issue, especially interplay between our heroes during the briefing with Han butting in every conversation to aggrandize himself, Leia rolling her eyes and Luke being amused. That felt very true to the spirit of the original Star Wars trilogy. Phill Noto’s art was an excellent support to the comedy, by capturing the facial micro-expressions well. Han Solo’s face after being introduced to Leia’s “boyfriend” was priceless.
It seems that our story will branch into three different genres: western with Luke, horror/adventure with Chewie and C-3PO and spy/thriller with Han and Leia. The stylistic choices and colors Noto makes support this.
I was surprised how seamless the transition to the new team was. I hope that now that the setup is behind him and he doesn’t have to spend so many panels on exposition, Pak can move us closer to the establishment of a Rebel base on Hoth by delivering an exciting story. This issue is a great start. The titular Star Wars series seems to be in the good hands.
STAR WARS #68 GETS 7.5/10 STARS.