This will be a day long remembered…
The final installment in Dark Horse’s ongoing Star Wars series arrives today, capping Brian Wood’s run as writer at 20 issues. Over the course of the 20 issues, Wood deftly filled in the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, focusing on the Rebellion’s struggle to find a new home and stay one step ahead of the Empire, but his final entry leaves much to be desired and brings the series to an unceremonious close.
The four great heroes of the Rebel Alliance, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, have set out to rescue a deep-cover operative who also happens to be a childhood friend of Leia, but it becomes a race when droid bounty hunter IG-88 sets his sights on the same quarry. Seren Song, the operative in question, manages to keep herself hidden among some supply convoys, but when the promise of salvation arises, she sets out to rendezvous with her old friend. The happy reunion is cut short, however, by the merciless mechanical hunter, prompting a dogfight between the Millennium Falcon and the IG-2000. After enacting their escape, the Rebels breathe easy as Leia and Seren share a heart-to-heart, as well as the intel that put Seren in so much danger. With years of seemingly innocuous geological data in hand, Seren literally hands Leia the Rebellion’s best hope for finding a new world on which to build their base.
The most surprising part of this finale is that it is a mere two-issue arc. In #19, Wood set up what could have been yet another great, long-form entry into Star Warlore, reuniting the four main characters for a heroic rescue mission which turns into a race against one of the top six Star Wars bounty hunters. Instead, it’s over surprisingly quick, with the majority of the action occurring in issue #19 anyway. There are points where #20 feels like Wood is stretching it out just enough to make the page quota. For an entire page, Seren Song recounts her childhood memories of the planet where she will be meeting Leia and company. It brings the action to a dead halt, making the reader wonder if this world will play a greater role in the future, but seeing as this is the final issue, there is no follow up. The saving grace, however, comes in the form of the Han/Leia banter we’ve come to know and love, bookended the issue. It provides a bit of levity, especially in the absence of the typical comic relief in the form of the droids, but also sets the pair’s relationship down the path we see it on in The Empire Strikes Back.
Several artists contributed to Star Wars during its 20-issue run, but Carlos D’Anda is the man who kicked it off, and it’s only fitting that he be there for the sendoff. What we have seen and come to expect from him over the course of this run is right there, from yet another spectacular space firefight to the subtle emotions creeping across the faces of the characters. D’Anda’s art always had an energy about it, especially in the form of the characters; it’s difficult to put into words, but even his portrayal of Luke during a lightsaber exercise or Chewie reacting to a space-born threat comes off as dynamic through the art. One off-putting surprise, however, is D’Anda’s depiction of the Millennium Falcon. What is known to both characters and fans as a junky, unassuming freighter, is seen in issue #20 as flat and sleek, looking more like an Imperial cruiser than a space hauler that’s been around the galaxy a few dozen times. It hardly detracts from the rest of the art in the book, but it is a surprising image, nonetheless.
It’s a little sad to have been disappointed by the final issue of a series I have loved from #1. Brian Wood definitely made his mark on Star Wars lore by acknowledging what came before while, at the same time, exploring new territory, but the conclusion leaves us wanting just a bit more. Was it a result of the impending departure of the Star Wars license from Dark Horse, which in turn prompted a “why bother?” mentality? Who is to say? For all we know, Marvel may kick off their own series next year to further close the gap between Episodes IV and V, so one can hold out hope.
Star Wars #20, one of the last Star Wars titles to roll off the Dark Horse Comics press, is available today.