Kelly Thompson and Emilio Laiso introduce a brand-new character and make her the focus of “Star Wars Annual” #2, and still manage to pair her up with a long-established character while squeezing in appearances from a few others.
Pash Davane – or Bash, as she is called, for good reason – is an engineer-turned-janitor who lost her livelihood thanks to the war between the Galactic Empire and the Rebellion, and has taken a staunchly-neutral stand in the galaxy-wide conflict while blaming both sides for the destruction left in the conflict’s wake. Thompson delivers a well-constructed character intro that’s framed around a fun and punchy story that’s lively rendered by Laiso, and even sneaks a well-disguised but important moral by story’s end.
Mike Mayhew’s dynamic cover spotlights the more-familiar Princess Leia, and Leia’s mention in the trademark introductory scrolling text belies the importance of Bash’s role in the issue. Make no mistake, though; the story is hers, and Leia just appears in it. In fact, her appearance would have stood as a genuine surprise as laid out by Laiso, had it not been telegraphed ahead of Bash’s own introduction. None of this impacts Thompson’s story, though, which is confidently constructed, organically building Bash’s character throughout the issue.
Bash’s world of Skorii-Lei is introduced as one of the many battle-scarred worlds across the galaxy, with her existence lying in the shadow of a wrecked Star Destroyer. It’s a landscape not unlike that seen on Jakku in “The Force Awakens” and one that readily would have lent itself to a widescreen, double-page spread, but Laiso condenses it onto the introductory page with no less effectiveness. From there, Laiso’s focus is on Thompson’s characters, most notably Bash, who gives her a noticeably physically intimidating presence. With her look established, Thompson then lays the groundwork for her background and her nature, making her disdain for the Alliance and Empire alike blatantly clear within the span of a few pages.
Her disdain for the Rebellion, and even Leia herself, is deftly balanced by her concern for the injured Leia’s well-being, even at the expense of her own personal safety. This is where Thompson brings depth to her new protagonist, by showing that her isolationist position doesn’t equate to heartlessness. The essence of Bash’s personality is laid out in preparation for the next phase of Thompson’s story, which initially focuses on the conflict between Bash and Leia, but gives way towards establishing their own alliance.
Their alliance leads to trust, which in turn leads to a momentary shift from Bash’s character to Leia’s, as Thompson takes the opportunity to emotionally examine Leia’s own motivations and past choices. It’s a moment that begins to turn Bash and Leia’s partnership into a friendship, despite the chasm that remains between their philosophies. It’s enough of a bond that lets Bash’s truly heroic nature break through, as she goes beyond risking her safety to risking her very life to help not only Leia, but her request to help the Rebellion.
In the era following “A New Hope,” Bash herself finds hope in observing the actions of Leia and her Rebel family. Thompson conveys a sense of inspiration at story’s end, as Bash’s commitment to a side in the galactic conflict almost serves as a call-to-action to anyone reading the issue; an implicit call that carries relevance during such a politically divisive time. The issue-ending hopeful note caps off Bash’s transformation from a neutral non-entity into a well-thought out character who stands ready to participate in future storylines.
“Star Wars Annual” #2 succeeds in the mission that most annuals try to fulfill; it’s a different kind of story but features enough guest appearances to make it special. Unlike most annuals, though, this one carries some relevance by introducing a character with some true potential.