“Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Shattered Empire” #2 opens on the bridge of the Star Destroyer Torment, where Greg Rucka introduces a new antagonist identified as Imperial Captain Lerr Duvat. Marco Checchetto returns to draw part of this issue, while Angel Unzueta handles the scenes with Duvat that open and close this issue and Emilio Laiso takes on a scene later in the issue.
The central figure in the issue is Shara Bey, and Rucka confirms the identity of her child through a bit of dialogue Bey shares with her commanding officer L’ulo, a Duros with a snappy sense of humor. The writer presents Bey as a hard-working individual with a strong sense of duty to the cause, at times rising above her need to connect with her family. She’s a relatable character, especially for fans of the Star Wars mythos, as she swirls in bits of personality from Han, Luke and Leia. Bey’s sense of duty provides an electric dogfight sequence in the middle of the issue and sandwiches the tale with more personal and/or bureaucratic moments.
In addition to presenting a new villain for the “Star Wars universe,” those moments bring in one of the main cast members as Bey’s path intersects one of the most esteemed members of the Rebellion’s command crew. While the jury is out on just how villainous Duvat will become, he certainly has a nice power vacuum to fill, and Rucka is known for plumbing the absolute depths of humanity to make his dastardly doers seem even more evil. Rucka leaves little doubt that the readers should rally around and embrace Bey, a feat made easy due to her personality, despite the character having less than forty pages of comic book existence.
The heavier talking heads quotient of this issue is balanced against eight pages of classic “Star Wars” fighting. In this case, the conflict is a planet-side battle involving TIE fighters, Y-wings, AT-AT walkers and Bey’s squadron of A-wings. While Checchetto would be able to give readers the most intense talking head scenes, his talents are used for the battle sequence instead, and his rendering of the action is topnotch. Checchetto embeds the characters in the conflict and their surroundings after the conflict. Unzueta and Laiso both have complimentary styles to Checchetto, but — when Checchetto isn’t on the art — there is a noticeable difference. Unzueta’s figures glide across the scenery, never really adhering, while Laiso’s figures are layered into their environments, not quite like stickers on a poster but not fully integrated either. The various drawing styles bring different levels of absorption for Mossa’s colors. The colors have different appearances in each segment, puddling up a bit more when Bey reports for her diplomatic assignment and packing gradients and the solution for shading aboard the Star Destroyer; like Checchetto’s figures into their backgrounds, they melt into the art of the battle sequence.
Overall, “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Shattered Empire” #2 is a transition issue with a few key scenes, but it seems the best may be on either side of this issue. That doesn’t make this a disposable chapter in the “Star Wars” saga by any stretch; it just favors character over calamity and gives readers a chance to survey everything Greg Rucka is crafting with his artistic collaborators.