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There are some story types that are so time-tested that it’s not surprising to see them used all the time. Star Wars #17, however, makes a big twist on a classic story type – the jailbreak – in a way that ends up making the comic much richer and surprising. It’s some very clever writing by Jason Aaron, and makes this issue of Star Wars one of the best in the series. Star Wars #17 also ends up forming some unexpected partnerships, some of which may not end well in coming issues.
In my review for Star Wars #16, I discussed how the issue was setting up a jailbreak for Dr. Aphra, an Imperial scientist and weapons specialist. At the conclusion of the issue, we see a mysterious team breaking into the Rebel Alliance’s secret Sunspot Prison. At the start of Star Wars #17, though, we learn the truth. The team is not trying to break these prisoners out; they are breaking in to execute the prisoners. Leia Organa, still teamed with Sana Starros, learns of the reality and quickly heads to Dr. Aphra, who barely avoid execution. At the conclusion of the issue, Leia has proposed a tentative deal for Aphra: they work together to get out the situation alive.
Of course, the obvious question is who is carrying out these executions. It seems unlikely to be either the Empire or the Rebels. For the last two issues, we have seen a masked leader of the group (most of whom are droids). Why is he doing this? Is he working with others? There are certainly some intriguing questions raised by this figure. It’s effective writing by Aaron to interject what seems to be a third side into the Rebel-Empire battle. It complicates the story and creates strange partnerships, such as the temporary Leia-Aphra alliance.
In addition to Leia being forced to team up with Aphra, she has also been stuck with Sana Starros since the jail break started. Sana has expressed reservations about keeping dangerous Imperial prisoners alive, and she wonders aloud if the Rebels should just let the executions finish their mission. There is a chance that means that Sana is working with this team, though that would also be a bit obvious, so we’ll have to see where that leads. There is a B story involving Luke Skywalker and Han Solo fleeing some Empire ships and winding up transporting nerfs. It’s possible that this story will prove consequential at some point, but currently it’s forgettable, especially compared with the main story, involving Sunspot Prison.
As with the last issue, the art is done by Leinil Yu and while his art style will not be to everyone’s tastes (including mine in most cases), it didn’t bother me here. I think he has made some interesting choices with paneling and composition. As in most cases, his character expressions are often a bit bizarre, but there was less jaggedness in Star Wars #17 than in the previous issue, and definitely less than when Yu was illustrating many of the Avengers titles.
The first two chapters of “Rebel Jail” have introduced some much-needed unpredictability to the main Star Wars series. It’s been a pretty solid run after its first wobbly arc, but Star Wars #17 was the first moment when an issue genuinely surprised me. By subverting the traditional “prison break” story – making it a break-in rather than a break-out – Aaron has given this arc an exciting jolt. It seems unlikely that the Leia-Aphra partnership will end well (perhaps for either), so there seems to be a number of directions Aaron can take the story in the next few issues.