Monday, September 14, 2015

Epilogues and Prologues: Journey To Star Wars The Force Awakens Shattered Empire #1

The following is my review of Journey To Star Wars The Force Awakens Shattered Empire #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


The phrase, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” isn’t just a lyric to the only hit song Semisonic ever released. It’s the cornerstone of Disney’s strategy for expanding Star Wars beyond its iconic mythos and disappointing prequels. Not content with the billions of dollars that the Star Wars brand generated over several decades through six movies, Disney is betting that continuing the saga will yield even more billions. Everyone from George Lucas’ accountant to Disney’s top executives believes it’s a pretty safe bet.

But unlike a lotto ticket, Disney has the ability to guide Star Wars into this new era. They have the resources of the House of Mouse and the House of Ideas in Marvel to forge this new saga. But to date, the most Disney has done is create a trailer. Granted, that trailer nearly broke the internet with an outburst of fanboy squeals not seen since Carrie Fisher first put on a chain mail bikini. Even so, there’s still the matter of actually building this new era for a new generation, hoping that a new legion of fans will step forth and fork over enough money to build a new Death Star.

This is the process that Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens Shattered Empire #1 attempts to begin. It doesn’t explore the history of the Star Wars universe. It doesn’t expand on the time gaps in between the first six movies, which have already yielded great comics and a couple of hit cartoon series. It’s going to boldly go where no one has gone before, if that’s not too inappropriate a term. It’s going to explore the future of Star Wars, picking up right where Return of the Jedi left off.

It’s a bold move and one that might scare some fans who still have nightmares about Jar Jar Binks. Those fears, however, are mostly unfounded. This story that unfolds from the closing scenes of Return of the Jedi contains nothing that will blow up message boards or crash the internet. There aren’t any Han-or-Greedo moments that will have Star Wars fans arguing for decades. That said, there aren’t many moments that will inspire the same feelings as Luke blowing up the first Death Star.

This story doesn’t actually follow Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia or almost any of the now-iconic characters that made George Lucas obscenely rich. It follows the story of Shara Bey. She’s not a Gungan. She’s not a princess. She’s not some random bounty hunter either. She’s just one of the many hotshot pilots who took part of the attack on the second Death Star. However, it’s established early on that she’s not a faceless extra in a Walking Dead rerun. Her story is actually woven into Return of the Jedi.

She’s the one who helped Lando make the final attack on the second Death Star with the Millennium Falcon. She’s also the one who helped Luke Skywalker escape in an Imperial shuttle without getting shot down. So right off the bat, she establishes herself as a pretty important character. And there’s nothing she does that fundamentally changes or undermines the events of Return of the Jedi. It doesn’t try to be like the last Terminator movie and fundamentally change the whole setup. Instead, it tries to expand it.

This expansion is what gives the story appeal. However, that appeal has limited scope. While we do see Shara playing an important role in this iconic battle in the Star Wars mythos, we don’t see her do much else that’s really noteworthy. That’s not to say she just sits around and dances with Ewoks either. She does make an effort to distinguish herself and she’s able to do it without a light sabre.


As the story unfolds, we learn a few things about Shara. In addition to being a capable pilot, she’s also married to a fellow Rebel named Tuck. And for the most part, their relationship is as passionate as any that involves surviving Imperial tyranny. It’s not nearly the spectacle of Han Solo and Princess Leia. In fact, by comparison it’s downright bland. In some respects, it’s refreshing. Star Wars doesn’t need another romantic struggle at this point, especially if someone ends up frozen in carbonite again.

Refreshing as it is, Shara and Tuck don’t do anything that’ll inspire cos-players at a Star Wars themed wedding. They just share a quiet moment to establish that this is one of those marriages where the passion is genuine and not something Jabba the Hutt imposed. It’s a moment that really doesn’t have much relevance other than putting them in a position to help their fellow Rebels with a follow-up mission on Endor.

It’s a mission that basically reveals that killing the Emperor and destroying his oversized battle station isn’t enough to destroy an Empire. There are still people in this world that think the Civil War never ended. So it makes sense that there would be plenty of Imperial holdouts. It makes for some nice action. It’s not nearly as epic as the battle against the Death Star, but then again few things are.

There’s nothing inherently flawed with the narrative. There aren’t any major plot holes. Shara Bey isn’t going to remind anybody of Jar Jar Binks either. The story, as a whole, is solid and concise. However, there’s nothing about this story that’s really memorable or jarring. There are no shocking revelations. There aren’t even any hints as to how this ties into Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. If it were a college essay, Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens Shattered Empire #1would get a passing grade and nothing else.

This comic still offers a great deal of potential. Shara comes off as likable and compelling. The potential for battles against lingering Imperial forces also offers plenty of intrigue, but it fails to generate the kind of excitement that’ll start trending on Twitter. However, it does have a level of refinement that makes it a worthy supplement to Return of the Jedi. Princess Leia’s bikini will still be the most memorable part of that story, but every little detail helps.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

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