The final issue of the miniseries jumps forward in time as Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire” #4 puts Luke Skywalker in the spotlight alongside Shara Bey. The Empire, shattered as it might be, continues to function in some form as it carries out Emperor Palpatine’s destructive final wishes, and — while the Rebel Alliance does its best to fend off these attacks — Luke and Shara have a mission of their own. The largely standalone story gives Shara and her husband Kes Dameron a happy ending, and — while their fates are largely a subplot that doesn’t connect with the main events of the issue — the issue still stands up as a nice showcase for Luke in action as a full-blown Jedi, something the timeline of Marvel’s other “Star Wars” comics hasn’t allowed.
The title of the series boldly implies that it somewhat bridges “Return of the Jedi” and the upcoming “The Force Awakens.” Characters like Shara and Kes, who Rucka seems to have shoehorned into the overall story, as well as Luke’s mission, which seems a little contrived in the absence of any bigger context, are elements whose relevance seems clouded, at least to those avoiding any spoilers before the next film’s December release. This issue typifies that odd sense of vagueness; the final scene in the issue, in fact, just screams that there’s some importance there, even if the meaning of it isn’t readily known. Rucka’s story works better for those trolling for every tidbit of information they can find on the film.
Still, oddities aside, Rucka and Checchetto deliver a pretty fun issue. Luke’s confidence as a Jedi Knight is convincing and reads like a natural extension of his post-“Return of the Jedi” character. Shara is pretty well characterized, too, as her disgust at having to wear an Imperial officer’s uniform during an undercover operation is palpable. When the action kicks in later on, Rucka and Checchetto take full advantage, turning mild-mannered Luke into a believably deadly lightsaber-wielding threat. Checchetto briskly choreographs the sequence as Luke dispatches plenty of Stormtroopers and a few officers to boot.
Checchetto’s work is strong throughout the issue, especially his command of the ships and tech within the “Star Wars” universe. He demonstrates similar aptitude with the various alien races and other characters, although unfortunately his interpretation of Luke makes him look rather plastic-faced. His overall style is not unlike that of Salvador Larroca: clean, detailed and consistent quality that works equally well for all people, places and things. His panel layouts flow naturally and transition smoothly, keeping perfectly in step with the pace of Rucka’s story. Andres Mossa’s colors are attractive yet unobtrusive, enhancing Checchetto’s art without upstaging it. Mossa stretches out a bit more on the final page, where the colors carry a beautiful outdoor setting.
Rucka and Checchetto finish off “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire” #4 pretty well, and — while it’s a little bit clumsy — it’s a fun and scenic journey for any “Star Wars” fan.