Sunday, 8 November 2015

Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Shattered Empire #2 - Marvel Comics

Whilst undoubtedly an enjoyable and entertaining experience, Issue Two of “Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire” sadly seems to fall victim to the trap so many ‘official’ motion picture tie-in-titles experience by having its characters insufferably revisit the same familiar locations featured within the movies. Admittedly such an obvious ‘hook’ as Princess Leia leading a “diplomatic mission” to Naboo doubtless helped this magazine become the Eighth best-selling comic book of October 2015. But with the entirety of George Lucas’ “galaxy far, far away” to explore, it is arguable that some readers, especially those disillusioned by the ‘Clone Wars’ film trilogy, would have preferred the storyline to have occurred upon a planet which hasn’t already been so overly-exposed within the many Star Wars storytelling mediums.

Fortunately any such disillusionment with Greg Rucka’s script doesn’t manifest itself until a good two-thirds of the way through the comic. By which time the San Francisco-born writer has already enticed any semi-reluctant bibliophiles into ‘sticking with the title’ as a result of his marvellously enthralling demonstration as to how the Emperor manages to uphold his “legacy of darkness” over the “scattered Imperial forces” despite “Rebel propaganda” suggesting Palpatine is actually dead. Captain Duvat’s encounter with one such sinisterly-garbed ‘faceless’ Messenger, complete with mandatory blood verification, is chillingly written, and, along with Lerr’s sadistic grin as he orders his Star Destroyer to “scour” Naboo, gives a rare glimpse as to the unnerving fanaticism some of the Sith Master’s minions maintain for their evil-hearted ruler.

Equally as engrossing, and far more action-packed, is the three-time Eisner Award-Winner’s depiction of the Rebellion’s battle inside Cawa City on Sterdic IV, as Tie-fighters buzz across the futuristic metropolis’ skyline and a formidable AT-AT walker thunders down its main throughway. Indeed, this sequence, set “seventeen days after the Battle of Endor”, genuinely seems to capture a real sense of claustrophobic low-level combat with it fast-paced panels portraying Green Group’s A-Wings taking on the Imperial Navy in a series of dog-fights amidst the overcrowded settlement’s cramped streets.

Somewhat disconcerting however has to be the inconsistent quality of this comic’s pencilling. Something which can’t have come as a surprise to “Marvel Worldwide” considering that they employed Angel Unzueta and Emilio Laiso as “extra hands to round out this issue.” Lead illustrator Marco Checchetto’s drawings are quite simply breathtakingly good, with his double-splash of stormtroopers blasting away on Sterdic IV beneath the legs of the aforementioned AT-AT being the highlight of the book. Sadly though the Italian’s enviable artwork inevitably means his colleagues’ pictures appear unfairly poor by comparison, especially those depicting a rather ruddy-nosed Leia Organa.
The variant cover art of "JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - SHATTERED EMPIRE" No. 2 by Julian Totino Tedesco

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