Andy’s Read Pile: Star Wars, Shattered Empire

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Andy Xmas♫Oh the Weather outside is Frightful!

But my comic related reviews are so delightful.

Since you got no work to do, Let’s Read Some Comics! Read Some Comics! Read Some Comics!♫

Okay, Rogers & Hammerstein I am not, but still you can’t blame a man for trying to get everyone into that holiday spirit. Welcome back! It’s Andy Larson, back for another edition of his famous read pile!

As I mentioned last week during this segment on the website, I’ll be reviewing Star Wars related comics all this month in honor of the upcoming “Rise of Skywalker” film that will be dropping in about 2 weeks time. News around town is that the Star Wars movie franchise will be going on a “hiatus” after this movie comes out, which for me isn’t exactly a bad thing. I mean we got 5 new Star Wars movies in half a decade, which is tons more than we ever got at any other point in the franchise in that short of an amount of time.

Although I like Star Wars, I never thought that kind of schedule was sustainable for fans, as there’s only a set number of characters and events anyone even cares about really from the Star Wars Universe and if you aren’t telling stories about Darth Vader, or Luke, or whomever, then you are just wasting big budgets on films that won’t have the returns to justify them.

Instead, I agree with their new approach of hitting us on the small screen, with things like the excellent Mandalorian TV Show (which I’ve been watching religiously). These shows like the Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels cartoon shows have smaller “stakes” than a big budget blockbuster in terms of risk vs. return, so if there are some that don’t want to watch it, Disney doesn’t have the huge overwhelming panic attack that Star Wars is “bombing” just because it doesn’t get massive audience numbers.

As a result, fans like us still get a fairly regular Star Wars fix, while at the same time, not shoving it down everyone else’s throats thus causing backlash. Although we’ll see what happens once Rise of Skywalker does come out. If it is a half way decent movie that brings in tons of cash, you might see Disney do a complete 180 on their “Hiatus” position given the House of Mouse is more fickle than a 4 year old looking at a toy catalog while making up their Christmas list.

In case, back to a point I made earlier about Star Wars spin offs and their propensity to just talk about a select few characters in hopes someone will care, it’s time for this week’s read pile selection which I feel like makes my point excellently. It’s  Star Wars: Shattered Empire written by Greg Rucka with art by Marco Checchetto.

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10 Cent Synopsis:

Written in 2015 prior to the release of The Force Awakens, this post RotJ story picks up almost immediately after the second Death Star explodes and the Emperor is killed by Darth Vader.  The main story is of A-wing pilot Shara Bey who is seen as one of the attack pilots on during the assault on the aforementioned Death Star 2, and her special forces husband Kes Dameron, who was with Han Solo’s squad tasked with destroying the field generator on Endor.

If the name “Dameron” sounds familiar to Star Wars fans, that’s on purpose as this is really the story of the parents of Post Trilogy character, Poe Dameron, and how they interacted with some of the most famous names of the Star Wars franchise prior to his birth.

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This includes Shara Bey helping Princess Leia with a diplomatic mission to get her mother’s planet of Naboo to join the new Galactic Senate as well as helping Luke Skywalker liberate the remains of the original tree that grew outside the Jedi Temple on Coruscant prior to its destruction by the Emperor. There’s also a smaller subplot with Kes Dameron assisting Han Solo in the dismantling of several various Imperial strongholds throughout the galaxy.

However in the end, the most important facts you get out of this story is that Poe’s mother was one hell of a pilot, which is probably where he inherited his skills, and that Poe has a pretty important legacy within the Rebel Alliance, which adds credibility to his claim as a leader later in life.


Things I Liked:

Well of course I liked the parts with Luke Skywalker.

Luke has always been one of my childhood heroes and especially the Luke we see in RotJ what with the black tunic and green lightsaber ready to deliver righteous Jedi style justice on the cosmos, that will always give me the feels. So I won’t lie that I loved pretty much everything about issue 4 of this series where Luke and Shara Bey liberate the Jedi Trees from an Imperial archives.

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It’s a Luke Skywalker at the height of his powers deflecting blaster bolts, force pushing with impunity, chewing bubble gum and generally kicking ass. Not only that but he’s also written as starting to adopt a more cryptic, mysterious air about him similar to the way his mentor, Ben Kenobi, approached most of life’s challenges. He barely gives any details about the mission and makes it seem as if Shara Bey was picked to accompany him randomly, despite it obviously being a premeditated move.

It’s a Luke who feels through the Force now and is letting it guide his actions and decisions, knowing that Shara Bey specifically has a larger part to play in future events and thus her inclusion on this mission is of immense importance. He even playfully mentions that he just happen to know she was the pilot that helped Leia with her previous Naboo mission.

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Speaking of which, that’s also a solid story line with Leia’s return to Naboo to get them to join the budding Senate. As someone that read Mark Waid’s Princess Leia series, this book serves as somewhat bookends to that tale, bringing Leia’s personal journey back to the planet of her mother’s birth to a close.

It’s like Leia is redeeming her mother’s memory despite Padme not really doing anything terrible other than falling in love with a dude that slaughtered thousands. Still though, from the throwback fighter battle that was reminiscent of Phantom Menace, to Darth Maul’s presence still being felt in the hanger room, it was a nice wrap up to that story line, and I’m glad it made an appearance.


Things I Didn’t Like:

Okay, I’ll just come out and say it. I really didn’t care about anything that really happened in this book. As I mentioned above, there were some story lines I did like. Plus, it’s not that I found the book poorly executed. It was well scripted with some great humanity in terms of the dialogue. It also had wonderful art with an anime infused photo realistic style that seemed to match the action. Technically, this is a sound piece of comic booking.

However, it’s still a story about two characters that I don’t particularly care about regardless of whether they were Poe Dameron’s parents. Plus, I feel  one of the weaker points of the narrative is that despite capable writing, the story never really made me care about these characters either. This is somewhat of a disposal story that’s only good because of the guest appearances of the characters that I do like such as Luke, Leia, and Han.

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It’s almost the same way I felt about the book “Rebel Heist” which I reviewed earlier this year on Star Wars Day. That was a book also all about other characters that interacted with the holy trinity of Star Wars heroes, and how those interactions helped shape them as heroes for the Alliance in their own right. The only problem is I wasn’t expecting much with Rebel Heist, given it was somewhat of a throw away Star Wars tale anyways.

But Shattered Empire was sort of built up as an “important” side chapter leading into the new Trilogy that started with Force Awakens. So when this book fails to deliver on the goods, then as you can see, my disappointment is somewhat severely greater than it would have been had they not made such a big deal out of it.

Besides, I’ll say it right now. I don’t really care about Poe Dameron, so a book all about his parents, just ain’t my cup of tea from the start. He’s not the most interesting character from the new set of movies. Maybe “Rise of Skywalker” will redeem that opinion in some small way, but thus far his on screen accomplishments have been pretty lackluster compared to characters like Rey, Kylo Ren, or even Finn.

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He’s the guy that got captured in the beginning and the guy that mouthed off at Holdo in the second movie. He’s most useful moment was blowing up Starkiller Base, but eh…was that really that impressive compared to what Han Solo did to set that attack run up?

I’m sure there are tons of Poe Dameron fans reading this right now that are cussing and swearing me out, but let’s be reminded that everyone is entitled to opinions.


Fun Facts:

While I was reading this book, my mind kept on racing back to an old Star Wars novel that I originally read when I was a teenager back in the early 90s called The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers.

This is mainly because like this story, Truce takes place almost immediately after the Battle of Endor and deals with the aftermath of the collapse of the Empire. Although now considered a non canon “Legend” tale, it was for many many years the definitive story about what happened post RotJ and how the Galactic Civil War shown in the Original Trilogy came to a close prior to the establishment of the status quo you see in the Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire series.

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Probably my favorite part of this book are the scenes in which Leia starts to come to terms with the fact that Darth Vader is her father, and even gets visited by him as a Force Ghost. Even as a young man, the dramatic undertones of discovering this man that you despised so much, that had committed all the atrocities that you fought your entire life to stop, sending millions of people to their deaths, actually was your father was not lost on me. It was like finding out Adolph Hitler was your father, and when he finally shows up on your doorstep, it’s not to beg for forgiveness but mainly as an absolution of the guilt he has, it’s powerful stuff.

As someone that really never has subscribed to the whole notion of “canon” anyways for pretty much anything, I don’t have a problem still feeling this story took place in my personal Star Wars time line. Nothing really in this Shattered Empire book really contradicts this story too much, so like “Shadows of the Empire”, I’m fine with still recommending it to other newer Star Wars fans who would like some strong supplemental reading within the Star Wars universe as a whole.

I mean, don’t get bent out of shape that someone somewhere tells you “this story doesn’t count”. If it counts to you, then it counts…period.

 


Final Thoughts:

First off, despite what I said in my “Things I didn’t like section”, I’m not going to say that this was this book was a complete waste of my time as a Star Wars fan. Far from it.

Although I will say that I could care less who Poe Dameron’s parents were and their story as members of the Rebellion, I will say that it was the story hook that set up some pretty cool little side stories starring some of my favorite characters in all of fiction.

Again that fourth issue with Luke Skywalker was definitely the bees knees and I’d read that stuff all day if I could. Especially with that Marco Checchetto art. I mean, behold this thermal detonator explosion panel from that issue, with Luke standing defiant in the heart of the fiery maelstrom. I’d get that blown up as a poster if I could!

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Still though, that’s just one issue out of four, so a quarter of a 4 issue trade does not a “A” book make.

Plus the fact, that although Greg Rucka gave me two new characters in Shara Bey and Kes Dameron and really tried to make me care about them, because in the end I didn’t and just saw them as generic Rebel solider stand ins, I gotta view that as a failure of the narrative.

Yeah, this is just a middle of the road effort in terms of a Star Wars book. It’s not the “all important” bridge between RotJ and Force Awakens that I felt it was hyped to be, and that’s pretty disappointing as I said. It’s just another expanded universe book that if you have time to read is a fine pick up, but if you also end up missing, isn’t the end of your empire…


Andy’s Read Pile Grade: C


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