Thursday, September 10, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens Shattered Empire #1

This year is set to be the ultimate nirvana for Star Wars fans. This Christmas, at a time when we’re obsessing over sales and getting drunk off eggnog, it’s going to happen. A new Star Wars movie is going to be released. Not since the destruction of Alderan will so many voices collectively cry out at once. It’s a moment that fans and Disney accountants have been anticipating since Disney bought the Star Wars rights. It’s a new movie for a new era of the movie that redefined sci-fi, cinema, and incest overtones.

But before this most epic of holiday feasts can begin, Disney has tasked Marvel with wetting our appetites, as if Star Wars fans weren’t already gnawing on their arms like crack addicts in withdraw. To bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakened, they’ve commissioned Marvel to craft Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens Shattered Empire #1. This series is supposed to set everything up so that those of us who fork over more money than others in our Star Wars fandom aren’t completely lost. It’s either meant to reward our loyalty or suck more money out of our wallets. I don’t care which is the case. If it’s awesome, my wallet can kiss my ass.

This journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakened begins at the end of the last journey in Return of the Jedi, which is entirely appropriate. We’ve all seen the epic saga, complete with implied incest. For those who haven’t seen it in a while, there’s a nice recap page that shows Luke’s showdown with Darth Vader and the battle against the second Death Star. However, the focus isn’t on Luke, Han, or Lando this time. Rather than tell us shit we already know, this story adds a new dimension to this familiar scene. Return of the Jedi is already a delicious cake. Why not add more frosting?

This new dimension has a name and a codename. Her name is Shara Bey and she’s Green Four of the Green Squadron, who were part of the epic space battle against the second Death Star. Lando and the Millennium Falcon are still there. But again, we already know how their story pans out. Shara’s the one who gets the focus. She’s among those who helps the Millennium Falcon make its epic run into the Death Star’s core. So in that context, she’s not fucking Jar Jar. She has a big fucking role in Star Wars right off the bat.

She’s still an unknown, but this is still a good way to establish her importance. She’s not a character who is just randomly thrown into the shit storm and expected not to stink. She actually has a role in a familiar scene. That’s a good way to tie her into the core fabric of the Star Wars universe. We still don’t know much about her or why we should give a shit about her, but we do know that she’s already contributed to the moments we know and love in a major way.

Once Lando and the Millennium Falcon start their run, Shara ends up contributing in another major way. Remember when Luke escaped the Death Star? Well, he was in an Imperial Shuttle and last I checked, those things are easy targets. So how the hell did he make it down to Endor without getting shot down? Well, the movie never revealed that, but we finally find out now over 30 years later. It was Shara who found out that Luke was on board. And she helped keep the other Rebels from blowing him out of the sky.

It’s one of those minor details from the movie that didn’t need to get expanded. Even if there were message boards in the mid-80s, I doubt Star Wars fans would’ve been wondering how Luke made it down to Endor without getting shot down. Then again, these are the same fans who bitch and moan about who shot first, Han or Greedo. So maybe I’m giving them too much credit. But at least for now, there’s no more reason to bitch. Shara Bey is the reason Luke made it down to Endor in one piece and for that, I think she’s earned the right to be awesome.

More familiar details follow. The events of the movie take over again and we see nothing that hasn’t been seen or parodied by Family Guy and Robot Chicken before. Lando completes his run with the Millennium Falcon, the second Death Star explodes, and the Rebels rejoice. Shara joins her fellow squad mates back at the base where everyone is either ready to celebrate or take a long, overdue nap. There are some solemn words about their fallen commanders, but everybody is more inclined to party their ass off. And why shouldn’t they? They just beat the Galactic Empire. Even an Amish republican would say they’ve earned it.

That’s exactly what Shara does. She joins her fellow rebels down on Endor where the fireworks are going off, the Ewoks are dancing, and George Lucas is counting his money. There are some familiar faces with C-3PO, Lando, Chewy, and Han Solo. But they don’t really say much beyond the post-victory dick-measuring. Even so, their presence alone helps give Shara’s story more weight. It shows it’s a story that’s intimately entwined with the events of Star Wars.

At the same time, however, I’m still not seeing much reason to give more fucks about her than the other characters we know and love. As nice as it is to revisit this scene, we don’t really see anything with Luke, Han, Leia, or anyone else. I get that this is Shara’s story, but it feels like these major characters that people probably care way more about are getting overlooked. We’re seeing Shara’s post-Return of the Jedi story, but why the fuck his hers more important?

That question doesn’t really get answered. It really can’t be answered because we still know jack shit about who Shara is. Well, we do get some additional details, some of which are more important than others. While the others are partying, she catches up with a few of her squad mates in an Ewok hut. That’s where she meets Tuck Dameron, who happens to be her husband. And no, there’s no implied incest with these two. They really are just a husband and wife who have spent a good chunk of their lives and their marriage beating the shit out of imperials. And I guess the couple that fights the Empire together stays together.

There are some nice romantic scenes with these two, establishing that this isn’t one of those marriages that happens in Las Vegas over a bet. It’s a real, actual marriage. It’s the kind the Kim Davis’ of the world don’t quite appreciate. They actually talk about what the future holds for them and whether it’s truly over. It’s sweet, but fairly bland. There’s nothing about this scene that hasn’t played out in a Twilight book, minus emo vampires.

Naturally, beating the Empire and celebrating their victory makes them very horny. So of course Shara and Tuck are going to enjoy a little victory nookie. Again, it’s pretty bland. There’s nothing in here that hasn’t been seen in every other PG-13 movie with Linda Hamilton in it. It just shows that Shara and Tuck are in a relationship where they enjoy doing the nasty in exotic locations like Endor. There are couples in this world that enjoy getting it on in dumpsters behind McDonald’s. Again, it’s downright tame. But it shows a nice bit of intimacy between the two.

However, they don’t even get to enjoy the post-victory afterglow before someone starts barking orders outside. This is officially beyond the credits of Return of the Jedi. The ghosts of Yoda, Obi Wan, and some asshole who looks like Hayden Christensen are gone. Now, we’re officially in uncharted territory with Star Wars. I want to be excited, but I can only do so much while following Shara’s story at this point. That or I took an extra valium and forgot. It’s entirely possible.

Once everyone gets dressed and hides the puke stains, they find out from Han Solo that destruction of a Galactic Empire isn’t exactly a clean and tidy process. They found out from Imperial transmissions that while most are fleeing with their dicks tucked between their legs, there are some holdouts. And some of them happen to be on Endor. They still think the Empire is equipped to fight back. I want to laugh at them, but there are still people in this country who don’t know that the Civil War has been over for over 150 years. So I can’t give Stormtroopers shit.

Having saved Luke Skywalker and banged her husband, Shara is in a good mood. So she volunteers to be the pilot that transports a strike team to this rebel holdout. Again, there’s not much here that’s really memorable. They have a chance to rub salt in the wound of a defeated Empire. Fuck yeah, they’re going to take it. But beyond that, we learn nothing more about Shara or anything about Luke, Leia, or Lando. It just seems like there are better shows in town.

That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable. When Shara arrives with the strike team, we get a nice battle that we never saw in the movie. It’s the Rebels and Ewoks against a bunch of Imperial holdouts. It makes for some visually stunning scenes that feel like they might as well have been ripped from the movie. Shara doesn’t really do much other than provide air cover while Han leads the team below. And this is the only part of it that’s disappointing. Maybe I’m just more gay for Han Solo than I’m willing to admit, but I’d rather see him beating the shit out of Imperials than watch Shara casually observe the battle from a pilot’s seat. This is Star Wars, not fucking Top Gun.

While the battle has some nice visuals, it’s over very quickly. It’s not all that epic, nor should it be. The Rebels just destroyed another Death Star. Any subsequent battle isn’t going to be nearly as epic by default. Some things just can’t be properly followed up. Trevor Noah is going to find that out soon enough. But it’s a battle that does serve a purpose. Han and the strike team emerge from the base announcing that they found more intel and battle plans from the Imperials. Even though the Death Star has been destroyed, it’s not over yet. There are more battles to come, which is to be expected. Emperor Palpatine might have looked like an infected scrotum, but he wasn’t a fucking idiot. He ran his Empire like Steve Jobs on crystal meth. That means unlike a typical crack whore, it’s not going to go down easy.

This is one of those issues that doesn’t do anything wrong, but it doesn’t do anything exceedingly awesome either. If the point of this issue was to expand on the events of Return of the Jedi, it succeeded. And if the point was to introduce an intriguing new character in Shara Bey, it succeeded at least in part. But like a stoner who fixes a broken window with duct tape, it doesn’t do anything beyond that. Don’t get me wrong. I want to like Shara Bey. There’s nothing about here that I don’t like. I just don’t understand why I should give what few fucks I have to give when Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker are present. Greg Rucka made a conscious effort to establish Shara Bey and post-Empire galaxy. I won’t say he failed, but I will say my panties are very dry right now.

There’s nothing about Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens Shattered Empire #1 that tempers my excitement for the upcoming movie. There’s nothing that makes me want to beat up Dr. Who and steal his Tardis in order to see it either. It certainly has the potential to be awesome. It already took the first step in setting up the conflicts of the post-Empire Galaxy. It just needed to take a few more for me to spare some extra fucks. I give Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens Shattered Empire #1 a 6 out of 10. It’s concise, clean, and coherent. I don’t have to sober up to enjoy it. But it still a ways from being awesome in a way befitting of the Force. Nuff said!


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