Ever since new Star Wars comics started being published at Marvel and IDW, I’ve been looking for a good place to jump on board. When I heard that sci-fi writer Michael Moreci (author of the spectacular Black Star Renegades space opera novels) would be helming the new run on IDW’s all-ages title Star Wars Adventures, I was excited to dive in and quickly snapped up the first two issues.
Each issue contains two short tales — the main story, written by Moreci and illustrated by Ilias Kyriazis, as well as a back-up story, part of the “Tales of Villainy” anthology, written and illustrated by guest writers and artists. The main story is set in the “Sequel” era and follows the adventures of Rey, Poe, and Finn. If you’re not already a fan of this time period or these characters, nothing in these two issues will change your mind. But if, like me, you felt the the fun dynamic between these three characters was one of the strongest elements of the recent films, then you’ll probably find quite a bit to enjoy in these comics. The adventures found herein do seem rather “small-ball” and low-stakes, but that’s to be expected in an all-ages title. The focus is more on action scenes and witty dialogue than plot. The artwork is serviceable with bright, dynamic colors and fluid action. The character’s faces are very expressive, in fact almost too much so in some instances, producing a few awkward or silly-looking panels. The back-up stories were hit-or-miss for me, but more on that later.
***SPOILERS for Star Wars Adventures to follow**
These first couple of issues cover a two-part story called “The Obstacle Course” which seems to take place sometime between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. Hoping to assist Rey in her Jedi studies, Poe and Finn have constructed a ridiculously elaborate training course on a geologically unstable Outer Rim moon. Unbeknownst to our heroes, the moon is infested with vicious pirates, who soon capture the trio along with BB-8. Rey and the droid quickly manage to escape and rescue the others as the pirates bicker amongst themselves. All in all, although a pretty straightforward story with no real surprises, “The Obstacle Course” is sure to entertain younger readers and even adults will probably get a chuckle or two. One interesting plot element to note is that we get to see a little bit more of Finn’s Force-sensitive foresight as revealed in TROS.
The highlight of issue #1 is definitely the “Tales of Villainy” back-up story “Invasion of Echo Base,” which depicts the assault on Hoth (The Empire Strikes Back) from Darth Vader’s perspective. This tale is written and illustrated by Nick Brokenshire. The Hoth sequence remains one of my favorite Star Wars moments, and it was fascinating to see new light shed on this iconic scene. Smashing his way into Echo Base with a cadre of Snowtroopers, Vader easily slaughters the Rebel defenders with his Force abilities. In what I think is a masterstroke by the writer, Vader comes across a bacta tank and senses that this was where Luke was recently healed from wounds sustained in the encounter with the Wampa. In his own mind, Vader sees the parallels with his gruesome bacta sessions to heal the catastrophic burns he sustained on Mustafar. I had never thought of these connections before, and it adds another layer of depth to Vader’s tireless hunt for Luke. Brokenshire also officially canonizes the famous deleted scene where a captured Wampa attacks the Snowtroopers. Brokenshire plays the moment for laughs, as was originally intended, and it elicited a hearty chuckle from me.
“Follow and Lead”, written by Sam Maggs with artwork by Davide Tinto, is the back-up tale for issue #2 and features Kylo Ren. While the art is fine, I unfortunately have very little else positive to say about it. When written well, Kylo Ren is a ruthless, driven, and conflicted antagonist. When written poorly, however, he comes across as a spoiled, whiney man-child. In this story, he most definitely tends towards the latter. With Snoke dead by his hand, Ren now wields absolute power over the First Order as “Supreme Leader” yet he remains frustrated that resistance to his rule persists among the common people of the Galaxy.
While visiting a conquered planet, Kylo confronts a Resistance leader who calls him out as a “fascist”. That came off as odd to me. Yes, the rule of the First Order is undeniably fascistic and totalitarian but fascist is such a real-world political term that it seemed out of place in the fantasy universe of Star Wars. It took me out of the story. In any case, Kylo is unmoved by the insurgent’s idealism and orders that the planet be punished. The story ends on a sour note (surprising in an all-ages book) as the defenseless planet is set ablaze from orbit. I found this tale tedious and depressing. It’s only saving grace is that it is short.
(If you’ll allow me this brief tangent: This may sound like nitpicking, but since Kylo is still wearing his iconic helmet, I’m not sure when this story is supposed to take place. Ren destroys his helmet in TLJ only to have it restored by Sith acolytes in TROS. But the helmet he wears in this comic looks nothing like the restored one, so…. Anyway, this is the kind of small, inconsequential continuity error that Star Wars nerds like me tend to fuss over and has no bearing on the quality of the story iteself.)
***END of SPOILERS***
If you enjoy all-ages comics and are a fan of the Disney-era Star Wars films, the first two issues of Star Wars Adventures may be up your alley. (I wouldn’t say you need to rush out and get them though, and if you don’t normally read comics issue-to-issue, I would recommend waiting for the inevitable trade paperback collection) The main story by Moreci has a low-stakes, Saturday morning cartoon feel that will surely appeal to younger audiences. If you have kids who love the newer Star Wars movies and have shown an interest in comics, I can gladly recommend these issues without hesitation. I know that shopping for contemporary comics can be fraught for parents who are worried about the prevalence of age-inappropriate content. I hope to highlight more kid-friendly titles on this blog in the future.
May the Force be with you.