In the original “Star Wars” movie trilogy the Rebel Alliance was a ragtag band of underground freedom fighters waging war against the massive and tyrannical Galactic Empire. During that struggle there were times prisoners needed to be taken, but what kinds of targets would the Rebels keep behind bars — and where would they house them?
Writer Jason Aaron and artist Leinil Yu explore the answers to those questions in “Rebel Jail,” the latest arc of Marvel Comics’ ongoing “Star Wars” series starting with issue #16 as Princess Leia escorts Darth Vader’s nefarious operative Doctor Aphra, who was taken prisoner at the conclusion of the recent “Vader Down” crossover, to the titular installation. CBR News spoke with Aaron about the action that awaits Leia, Aphra and Sanna Starros, the new character introduced in the second arc of “Star Wars,” when they reach the Rebel facility and what Han Solo and Luke Skywalker get up to during the arc. Plus, Aaron details exactly when he’ll resolve the cliffhanger from the most recent Ben Kenobi flashback tale.
CBR News: Let’s start by talking about “Star Wars” #15, which was another flashback style tale of Obi-Wan Kenobi in exile on Tatooine. The ending of the issue suggests that you’ll be revisiting the Kenobi story sooner rather than later.
Jason Aaron: Right, I said from the get go once we did the first Ben Kenobi flashback back, I believe, in issue#7, that we’d be doing more and more of those between the arcs. This one should make that pretty evident in that it ends on a cliffhanger. So they’re not all necessarily stand alone adventures. You can see how this issue sort of builds on the last one. It’s very much about telling a specific story with Ben Kenobi and young Luke Skywalker, and that will be threaded throughout the series.
So we’ll come back to Ben right after the “Rebel Jail” arc. We’ll get the next part of his story.
You began your “Star Wars” run with the Rebel Alliance looking to push the advantage of their biggest success to date; the destruction of the first “Death Star.” But in “Vader Down,” the crossover arc with “Darth Vader” that preceded issue #15, did the Rebels push their luck too far? Approximately how many members did they lose in their pursuit of Darth Vader in the last arc?
I don’t know if we came up with a final figure, but it certainly was lots. It just goes to show you that yes, the Rebels scored this huge victory, but they’ve still got a long way to go to win the actual war. If anything Darth Vader is actually a much more dangerous weapon than the Death Star ever was, as we saw pretty clearly in “Vader Down.”
So going into “Rebel Jail” we’re dealing with a militarily weakened Rebel Alliance?
In my eyes they’re always sort of weakened. I like the idea that they’re this rag tag guerrilla army and are always having to scrape together whatever they can to fight the huge unstoppable Empire.
That said, the Rebels did gain a bit of a victory coming out of “Vader Down.” They didn’t get Darth Vader, but they got the next best thing, his sidekick Dr. Aphra. So this new arc is about them transferring her to a secret prison that the Rebel Alliance maintains for the most dangerous of Imperial prisoners.
What inspired you to tell that tale with “Rebel Jail?” We’ve seen Imperial prisons in detail before, but I don’t believe we’ve ever seen a Rebel detention block.
It kind of just came from the “Vader Down” sessions. Me, [“Darth Vader” writer] Kieron Gillen, and [editor] Jordan D. White were kind of fleshing out what that story was going to be. We wanted the Rebels to get some kind of victory at the end of it, and we all liked the idea of that being Aphra and her being taken prisoner. It helps to mix things up a bit and make her a character in my series for a little bit longer.
So it all came from that, and the natural extension of that is what to do they do with her? Where do they take her? I liked the idea of doing a “Star Wars” prison story, which is something very different than what we’ve done so far.
How does it feel to be given the chance to write more of Dr. Aphra? I know you enjoyed briefly writing her in “Vader Down,” but it seems like you’ll get to explore more of her personality here.
Yeah, I love writing Kieron’s [Gillen] characters. All of them were such a blast to write in “Vader Down,” and it’s a huge thrill to get to spend some more time with Aphra; to both dig into her, but also see how she bounces off the cast of my book.
Right out of the gate in this arc we really kind of focus on the ladies of the book. So it’s Princess Leia and Sana Starros, the new member of our cast, who are transferring Aphra to the prison. Meanwhile Luke and Han are off on their own adventure.
So much of the spotlight in “Rebel Jail” will be on Leia, Aphra and Sana then?
It’s split, but in terms of the prison part of the story it’s very much about those three ladies.
Leia, Aphra and Sana’s adventures in the prison means they could potentially come face to face with some interesting supporting characters in the form of the Imperials that are imprisoned there. Can you hint or tease some of the inmates we might meet?
There will be some seeds there, but don’t expect to see Darth Maul or anybody too crazy. It’s not that kind of story. So there are some other characters that get added to the mix, but I don’t want to say anything about who they are just yet.
Darth Vader has embarked on a separate adventure off in his own title. Does that mean he won’t be part of “Rebel Jail?” And if so, what can you tell us about the major villains for this arc?
Vader is not a part of this. He’s off dealing with the fallout from “Vader Down” in his own series. So yeah, we do have a different villain in this arc. It’s someone we’ve seen before, but their identity is a little mysterious when the arc starts.
“Rebel Jail” is being drawn by Leinil Yu. While you’re both Marvel mainstays, have you guys worked together before?
No, I don’t believe we ever have. I’m a huge fan of his stuff and he’s a great choice for this arc. We’re trying to do something different with each arc; different kinds of locations, different types of stories, and different characters thrown into the mix. So this is a bit darker and weirder story. It’s also a more action driven story. Leinil is perfect for all that, and the stuff he’s turning in looks really amazing.
Right, I think the things he particularly excels at are sci-fi and adventure.
Yep, and that’s this story to a tee.
Earlier you mentioned that we’ll see more of Ben Kenobi’s story after “Rebel Jail.” Can you give us any info on what else is coming a little further down the line? Are you nearing the time of “The Empire Strikes Back” or are there still a number of stories left to tell before you get there?
In my mind there’s still plenty of more stories to tell before we get to that point because once we get there we’re not likely to turn around and go back. I think we’ve got our book set on some really fertile ground right now. So I’m happy to explore that as long as we can.
The exciting thing about doing “Star Wars” right now though is everything is changing. We’ve got so many new films in the works and there’s so much new content of all sorts. It feels like we’re still really new in terms of the Marvel “Star Wars” Universe. We’re just barely a year into it at this point, right? So it’s exciting to see how things change and where things go. From my perspective I’ve still got a lot of stories to tell.
Our next big arc will, again, be something very different from the ones we’ve done before. You’ll kind of get a teaser of that at the end of “Rebel Jail.”
You mentioned new films. It just occurred to me that that there could potentially be some new toys added to your toy box this December with the release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” since that movie takes place just before “A New Hope” and your series is set shortly after that film.
Yeah, if any of that stuff is on the table I’d totally be down for it. Lucasfilm gives us tidbits every now and then; hints like, “Hey, you may want to play with something along these lines.” So yeah, we’re always happy to incorporate anything like that into the mix. My main goal with this has always been to make it feel like the original films; that tone, the look, the feel, the sound, and everything. I want it to remind you of why we all feel in love with “Star Wars.”
That said, we’re also trying to mix it up in terms of the characters and the settings we use. We’re not sticking exclusively to just stuff introduced in that first film or the original trilogy. We want to follow Luke, Han, and Leia, on new adventures. We don’t want to just do adventures that feel ancillary or unimportant. We want the book to feel like the next necessary chapter of their story.
“Star Wars” #17 goes on sale March 23 from Marvel Comics.