STAR WARS: SHATTERED EMPIRE is the most anticipated release among the ever-growing MARVEL COMICS STAR WARS line that began this past year, as the latest entry into the JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS umbrella of novels and comics leading up to the feature film this December. The story is a four-part miniseries picking up right from the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI, presented by the dynamic team of Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto, who previously worked together on a stunning 21-issue run on Marvel Comics’ THE PUNISHER from 2011-2012. So for superhero fans already familiar with the creative team… you already know what to expect in the next 24 pages, so let’s get right to it. Let me start by saying Marvel has a slew of some real superstar teams on their Star Wars line of books– Jason Aaron and John Cassaday on STAR WARS, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca on DARTH VADER, Mark Waid and the Dodsons on PRINCESS LEIA, Charles Soule and Alex Maleev on LANDO— and Rucka and Checchetto continue that trend in what I believe is the bar-none best product yet. Checchetto absolutely knocks it out of the park from page one. (Heck, he knocks it out of the park even earlier on the variant cover!)
We open with a truly magnificent double page spread, featuring the final climactic moments of Episode VI– Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s lightsaber duel before Emperor Palpatine, Han Solo and Chewbacca leading the ground forces on the Forest Moon of Endor, and the ship-to-ship battle between the Empire and Rebel Alliance in the space above it all as the Death Star looms. Wow. I mean… WOW! It’s certainly a lot to gush over if you haven’t seen the movie in a while, but I’m not sure if words can so adequately describe how beautiful this page is, so just take a look for yourself:
Rucka’s narrative peppering the spread pulls us right into the action, following ace Rebel pilot Lieutenant Shara Bey. As Green Four, she flies an A-Wing Starfighter in the thick of the Battle over Endor, and wastes no time in showing her heroism with two amazing feats. First, she provides cover fire for the Millennium Falcon as it enters the main reactor for the final attack, and then she saves Luke Skywalker during his escape in an Imperial Shuttle by toasting some TIE-Interceptors giving chase. What a way to introduce a new character!
As the celebration on the moon’s surface commences with fireworks and Stormtrooper helmet Ewok drum solos, Shara seeks out her husband, Sergeant Kes Dameron, a member of the strike team that brought down the shield generator under Han Solo’s command. The two, delighted at the Rebels’ success and their own survival, share an intimate evening together and are greeted in the morning by a new mission. That’s right. As any fan of the good ol’ Expanded Universe will tell you, the Battle of Endor wasn’t the immediate end of the Galactic Empire (as some Special Edition footage might lead you to you believe) and in the words of Han Solo this issue, “Seems no one told them they lost.” Shara and Kes join General Solo as part of a preemptive strike on a leftover Imperial camp, taking out a platoon of Stormtroopers and finding a disturbing amount of communication and intelligence. The final page is a cliffhanger, the daunting threat of the Empire’s next move a mystery until next month, but the anxious expression on Han Solo’s face saying everything.
This issue is fantastically compelling in that the storytelling from panel-to-panel is seamless, and the dialogue reads naturally. It opens and closes with dynamic action, and has enough room in 24 pages to introduce two brand new characters and give us a sense of what they’re like. Shara Bey and Kes Dameron are presented in the best way possible in that regard, they talk and feel like real people, and they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with fan-favorites Lando, Han, and Chewie in a story that unfolds organically.
Nothing is wasted, every moment feels important, and Rucka and Checchetto leave me wanting more. I’m extremely excited for what the next issue holds, let alone the next three, and you can bet we’ll revisit this series in a few weeks.
If you check this issue out and like it, and you totally will, you should check out other great work by this creative team. Outside of the aforementioned PUNISHER run they worked on collaboratively, Greg Rucka’s credits include an extended career with DC Comics on books like GOTHAM CENTRAL, WONDER WOMAN, 52, DETECTIVE COMICS featuring Batwoman, as well as his own projects published by Oni Press, QUEEN & COUNTRY and STUMPTOWN. For some more Star Wars also by Rucka, he’s written the brand-new novel SMUGGLER’S RUN: A HAN SOLO AND CHEWBACCA ADVENTURE. Marco Chechetto’s artistic credits can be found an array of issues across many Marvel Comics SPIDER-MAN titles in the past few years, like AVENGING SPIDER-MAN and SUPERIOR-SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP, as well as a solid run of issues on AVENGERS WORLD.