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In my review of Star Wars #1 from Marvel Comics and the team of writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday, I thought that it was a good start with strong characterizations and nice art. Star Wars #2, on the other hand, falls short precisely for those reasons. It’s not a bad issue per se, but it does have a number of weaknesses. The chief problem, through two issues, is the question of why any of this story matters.
When we last left the Rebels, they had broken into an Empire base but had been trapped by Darth Vader and an army of Stormtroopers. Star Wars #2 begins immediately afterward, as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader have a face-off with lightsabers. If these stories are cannon, then this is the first time that the two duel, as Vader is rather dismissive of Luke’s prowess. Vader easily dispatches Luke and is about to kill him when Han Solo and Leia arrive – in an AT-AT!
There are some fun action sequences where Vader uses the Force to hold up the entire AT-AT and then Luke cruises by in a speeder bike. Ultimately, through some repairs by R2D2, the AT-AT fires at Vader, collapsing the platform. Han assumes that Vader is dead, though Luke believes he is probably not. The Rebels escape, but Chewbacca is still missing, C-3PO and the Millennium Falcon are being dismantled by scavengers, and Vader is now on their trail again.
The overarching issue with this issue is that it doesn’t establish any large plot. I thought that was forgivable in a debut issue because there is a lot to do. However, through two issues now, we really don’t have any sense of where this story is going. It’s essentially been two issues of battle. I’ll admit that there have been some cool moments in those battles, but it still seems important to give readers a sense of why this series matters in the Star Wars universe.
There are also a few problems in Star Wars #2 in areas that were strong in the debut issue. The first is characterization. While the Rebels team still seems pretty true – and I especially enjoyed 3PO’s botched attempt at being a badass – Vader’s dialog often feels totally off. When Luke tells Vader that he killed Luke’s father, Vader replies, “I’ve killed very many fathers. You’ll have to be more specific.” I don’t remember Vader have an acute sense of bitchy sarcasm, and this doesn’t read right for him. Also, right before he’s about to behead Luke, Vader recognizes Luke’s lightsaber and says “Wait… this lightsaber.” Again, I can’t picture Vader saying “Wait” in that context. They are small details, and Vader does sound like Vader in other places, but these moments took me out of the story, feeling more like Aaron’s words than Vader’s.
I also felt that Cassaday’s art in Star Wars #2 was less stellar than in the first issue. It’s still good in many places. For instance, when the AT-AT’s foot crashes through the base roof, it looks great. However, character faces, especially Han and Leia, sometimes look weirdly proportioned. Cassaday also has a tendency (in all of his work) to make characters appear short and stocky, and this occurs with Luke during a battle, and it doesn’t quite look right. Again, Cassaday is pretty good overall, but it’s not really the impressive visuals of the first issue.
I do like one element of Star Wars #2 that was somewhat surprising: Luke is in way over his head. Coming off destroying the Death Star in Episode IV film, Luke does have a sense of cockiness, but Vader is way beyond his league, and Luke immediately sees it. He also manages to get many of the slaves who he just freed in the first issue killed during a battle. Star Wars is clearly a “hero’s journey” kind of tale, so it’s good to see Luke taking some blows and learning lessons early in this series.
Overall, Star Wars #2 is somewhat of a step down from the first issue, which was already solid but not spectacular. Two issues is too soon to make any large judgments, but I really hope that Aaron and Cassaday soon start revealing where the story is going and why it’s important. Otherwise, the hype and promising start of Marvel’s Star Wars may lose its luster.