As the Rebel Alliance begins to settle in to its new home on the planet of Arrochar, Princess Leia finds her brand of leadership questioned by the local aristocracy. Elsewhere, Wedge begins to train the planet's defense forces in Alliance tactics while Luke undertakes a mountain mission with Arrochar's rangers.
Brian Wood turns in a much improved entry in the series this month. Anchored by better characterization and more interesting plot elements, this issue tells a story that while quieter, is enjoyable in its presentation.
The characterization of Luke is at the forefront of that improvement, taking a significant step away from the petulant and entitled brat he's been portrayed as. While those elements are still present in this story, they're used as an opportunity for character growth. His mission with the rangers of Arrochar was a great way of accomplishing this. In spite of Luke dropping his name so much I was worried someone might trip on it, the rangers only gave him their respect when he'd earned it. It was refreshing to see him put in his place and given a lesson in humility after he's acted so full of himself recently.
Their conversation once they'd reached camp also impressed me with its exploration of character on a larger scale. In just a few panels, Brian Wood conveyed a true sense of Arrochar through the rangers and their resentment of the Alliance's presence on their world. This set up a brilliant internal conflict for the Rebel Alliance, who in a sense compromised themselves with what now seems to be an occupation of a world that has welcomed them against the wishes of its larger population due to the selfish interests of a small ruling class.
It's an intriguing idea that speaks to many of the larger themes of classic Star Wars. The enormity of the Empire and the oppression it represents was wonderfully communicated in those panels around the campfire. The sheer scope of Star Wars can sometimes make it easier to forget about the thoughts, opinions, and feelings of the individuals that make up the galaxy, and Brian Wood should be commended for putting it front and center here. I'm looking forward to seeing this developed more in future issues.
But Luke wasn't the only character who made a bit of a comeback this month, Brian Wood also brought back the strong soldier/statesman balance in Leia that made her characterization such a welcome read. She's once again the Alliance leader who's just as comfortable in the motor pool as she is leading a mission or confronting planetary leaders. What a welcome change from the overly dramatic high school girl she was shown as when Han showed up a few issues ago with Perla.
Finally, I liked the brief panels featuring Wedge as he began to train the Arrochar Atmosphere Defense Force. The angle of the Rebellion training a newly joined world is an interesting one that gives us a closer look at how the Alliance works. The reverence and excitement the Arrochar soldiers showed at the possibility of flying X-Wings or of being the next Luke Skywalker brings back another beat the series has successfully explored in the past, that of the effect the Battle of Yavin has had on the galaxy at large.
Stéphane Créty's art this go round is also much improved, beginning with an impressive and dangerously picturesque cover featuring a quartet of Z-95 Headhunters in pursuit of a lone X-Wing. The image has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of this month's issue, but is well done and worthy of appreciation.
But we already knew Créty was a capable artist when it came to ships and hardware, his work on Issue #15 showed that. Where he shows real improvement here is in his depiction of the characters. These versions are less stylized and less cartoonish, though they all still seem to have the same inability to close their mouths when they aren't talking (seriously, once seen, you can't unsee it).
I also appreciated the subtle way Créty began to work in designs and characters from later in the trilogy, weaving them into the scenery so that it's noticeable, but not too obvious. Seeing the Alliance adopt their Empire Strikes Back uniforms was a nice touch, and it was cool to see Crix Madine (or his twin brother) hanging out in the background of the command center.
Just when I was ready to give up on the series, Brian Wood shows that he's still capable of recapturing the themes, characterization, and sense of fun that made me a fan of his interpretation of Star Wars in the first place. The issue isn't a revelation, but its exploration of how a world transitions into full fledged Rebel Alliance membership and the bit with Luke and the rangers really made it an unexpected pleasure to read. Here's hoping next month continues to tell this story well.
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