Following the assault on the Empire's weapons factory Cymoon 1, "Star Wars" #4 takes a look at both sides of the battle. Writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday journey to the Outer Rim and swing by the Rebel Alliance fleet on the way to check in on all the fan favorite characters, from Darth Vader to C-3PO.
Along the way, Aaron shifts scenes and provides little checkpoints, never sticking in one setting for too long, but making his way to many of those environments more than once. "Star Wars" #4 opens with the interaction between Vader and Jabba from "Darth Vader" #1 with a different point of view. Aaron props up Jabba's offensive ideals while highlighting the determination that drives Vader. Tatooine pops up a couple more times before the end of the issue as Aaron uses the denizens and visitors of that desert world to outline the threats facing Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. In doing so, he also introduces a new character to the cast but refrains from offering details or even a name to this new face.
Aaron throws in appearances by Mon Mothma, Admiral Ackbar and General Madine, using them as foils to sound off Princess Leia's concerns about the Empire. Aaron writes the Alderaan survivor as a frustrated idealist who can no longer watch but has to lead the Rebellion into action. Leia refers to her "team," which gives more cohesion to Han, Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, 3PO and R2-D2's group than they deserve at this point. Comic book convenience allows them to stick together, but Aaron is smart enough to make their reliance upon one another somewhat shaky and still rather formative. The writer doesn't give Han and Chewie much to do in this issue, but he certainly serves up a clear-cut definition of Luke's purpose at this point.
Cassaday's art is a mixed bag in this issue. At some points, he appears to be hindered by the characters, trying to deliver likeness but not in a slavish manner. There are panels where he studiously replicates characters' appearances from other sources, followed by panels that either took a little more creativity to craft or were composed in a tighter window, where the same characters are just off. For example, Vader's eyes on his mask vary in size between two panels, once looking like a tribute to the work of the original Marvel Comics' series and then locking in a much more realistic transcription from the films. Beyond the inconsistencies, Cassaday's best panels involve the Rodians and other aliens, where he has a little more latitude for interpretation.
Laura Martin's colors are spot on, including the lighting in Jabba's throne room, which has a blue tint, just like the scene in "Return of the Jedi" where Luke visits the slumbering Hutt. Chris Eliopoulos' lettering is solid throughout the issue, with little indicators to identify the local languages some of the characters prefer to speak in. The one quibble I have with the letters is that R2-D2's jabber needs some distinguishing mark to attach it to the droid, especially in group scenes, where it could be dismissed as just another sound effect.
Questions begin to swirl around Tatooine before "Star Wars" #4 closes out and, considering the parties asking those questions, Aaron and crew appear to be setting up a conflict of potentially epic proportions. Given that this series follows "A New Hope" and precedes "The Empire Strikes Back," odds are that many of the characters will just miss each other but, as of this issue, Jason Aaron seems ready to send these characters crashing into one another.