Synopsis: In the aftermath of the Imperial attack on the Rebel Fleet, friends are reunited, secrets are revealed, a couple parts ways, and the Rebel Alliance arrives at its new home.
When Brian Wood's Star Wars debuted last January, its rich characterization, authentic dialogue, and tight storytelling astounded me. As I've said before, it was as if the events of A New Hope served as an amazing pilot for a television series that continued each month in the pages of a comic book. It's consistently kept me completely invested in its story and presentation of the galaxy far, far away in a grittier, more realistic manner… until now.
Issue #12 of Star Wars disappointed me a great deal. It's as if everything I've loved about the series suddenly and inexplicably disappeared (the only exception being the dependably amazing combination of art and coloring by Carlos D'Anda and Gabe Eltaeb, respectively). The logical story progression and non-clichéd characters I've so appreciated were replaced with nonsensical story rationale and characters who behaved decidedly outside of character.
I stated in my review of the fantastic Issue #11 that the series needed a good explanation for the revelation that Imperial Colonel Bircher was actually a deep cover spy for the Alliance (and Mon Mothma's nephew). Unfortunately, the explanation given is poor, and doesn't hold up when examined in the most basic of detail.
Bircher being "covertly inserted" into the Empire's ranks during " the confusion leading up to" Yavin doesn't make sense because there was no confusion leading up to Yavin. It was an unexpected event for both sides, not some military operation long in planning. It only became a battle when the Empire realized the Death Star's defenses couldn't target the attacking X-Wings and launched fighters in retaliation. With no foreknowledge of the battle to come, how could there be any confusion for the Alliance to take advantage of?
The explanation feels like a tremendous cheat, and retroactively invalidates a good portion of this past year's story. Why the urgency around the Imperial spy when the spy never existed? Why form a stealth squadron if there's no danger of the Empire finding out about the search for a new base? What did Prithi put her life on the line for? What have all of these pilots been risking their lives for?
Story-wise, these questions can only be asked of Mon Mothma, who appears to have risked the Rebel fleet to retrieve a family member whose mission gained the rebellion (so far) absolutely nothing of value (two TIE Interceptors aren't exactly a monumental victory). Brian Wood's characterization of her in this issue severely damages the character's credibility. Her "deep apology" for the deception seems anything but genuine because she marginalizes the contributions of the frontline Alliance soldiers. To say that their fragile rebellion will be secured by "the bravery of individuals like" Bircher is an extremely insulting thing to say considering everything they've been through recently.
Also written uncharacteristically in this issue is Wedge, whose quick acceptance of Bircher and his excuse of having his, "thumb on the override switch the whole time" during combat against them comes far too quickly. If there's one aspect of Wedge's character that's the series has explored, it's his deeply ingrained love for his fellow pilots. To accept this entire situation because he's "used to not getting the full context" of his orders is too simple a response from a character shown to have such strong emotion where his friends' lives are concerned.
And then there's this issue's treatment of Leia, who goes from being the strong, capable leader presented in the series thus far to a petulant child, going from one tantrum to another. So much of the amazing work Brian Wood has done with her character is undermined here. She pouts about not knowing about Bircher and at the possibility Han is showing romantic interest in Perla, which is an extremely childish way of dealing with both situations. Up until this point, Leia's been the strongest part of this title. I sincerely hope this isn't a sign of things to come.
If there's a part of this issue that worked, it was Luke and Prithi's goodbye. I'm sad to be losing this relationship, I really liked Luke having a love interest (other than his sister) and the story possibilities that were created by having her be a fellow pilot. Their parting of ways however was touching, and beautifully rendered by artist Carlos D'Anda and colorist Gabe Eltaeb. Beginning with a close up on the two as they embrace and slowly getting further away until the final panel of them set against the stars. Good stuff.
Star Wars Issue #12 really hurts the series. Every story thread seemingly laid out with care and deliberateness over the past year was more or less resolved with hasty dialogue while setting up new story directions that don't look very promising (after all that searching for a remote world, you decide to put your headquarters on a populated one ruled by a monarchy? Aren't you fighting to restore democracy?).
Despite this, Brian Wood has built up a lot of good will with me since last January so I'm not ready to give up on what has been up until now one of my favorite comics to read each month.
Here's hoping the new year brings a new sense of focus and momentum for a series that deserves it.
What did you think? Was I too hard on the issue, or were you just as frustrated as I was? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and continue the discussion with me on Twitter https://twitter.com/theapexfan
See you next year!
TFN Review: Star Wars #14 By Brian Wood
TFN Review: Star Wars #13 by Brian Wood
TFN Review: Darth Vader And The Cry of Shadows #1 By Tim Siedell
TFN Interview: Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars Artist Carlos D'Anda
TFN Review: Star Wars #11 By Brian Wood