“Star Wars” #3 brings readers the end of the opening story arc and Jason Aaron, John Cassaday and Laura Martin pack the issue with everything a fan of the franchise could hope for. There are moments of comedy that whip into high drama at the flip of a page and lots of fast paced action with great character moments packed in between. Marvel has rolled the dice on creating what amounts to a nostalgia series with a storyline tucked between two beloved movies well over 30 years old, but the creative team makes the nostalgia feel exciting without leaning too much on previous knowledge of the characters. It’s hard to get down on something when it’s executed this well.
As the Rebels attempt to escape their botched slavery jailbreak, Darth Vader cuts a path of destruction through their ranks. Cassaday choreographs the action with perfectly executed camera angles that would make Peter Suschitzky proud. The most awesome display of action comes when the villain takes on an AT-AT armed only with a lightsaber and drops it like a bad habit. It’s a raw display of power necessary to establish Vader as the galaxy’s greatest threat. In fact, every single panel with Vader in it may be the coolest panel in the book. Luke gets a great hero moment when he heads back into the plant to make sure the core melts down, but it’s immediately overshadowed by Vader using the Force to casually toss a Stormtrooper from the cockpit of a vehicle to pursue his prey. The characters display a range of emotions and Cassaday keeps the character models true-to-life without being slavishly attached to photorealistic portrayals.
Aaron has a rock-solid grasp on these characters and everyone gets a chance, however brief, to show off their strengths. C-3PO gets some erudite comedy in before Chewbacca comes to his rescue and Han Solo’s dialogue couldn’t sound better if Harrison Ford was actually reading the lines. The idea of the first story is a great overall display of the themes that make Star Wars such a beloved cultural touchstone: underdogs fighting for the rights of the oppressed against a seemingly unstoppable force of evil, with the establishment ultimately upended by the righteous. Aaron’s body of work in titles like “Southern Bastards” show off his understanding of this point of view and, with the first arc concluded, it’s easy to see how exactly he got this job.
The cliffhanger of the issue leaves readers dangling about what, exactly, Obi Wan has left for Luke in his home. It’s always a dicey proposition to wedge new tales into the cracks between existing stories; after all, there is a ceiling on the change and growth characters can experience since readers already know their endpoints. If anyone is able to pull this off, though, it’s most definitely going to be this team. “Star Wars” #3 gets a solid vote of confidence not just for being the conclusion of the book’s first arc but for establishing the potential of the series moving forward.