|STAR WARS ANNUAL No. 1, February 2016|
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly focusing upon unknown Rebel operative Eneb Ray and his infiltration of Coruscant as opposed to any of the infinitely more recognisable and more marketable “Star Wars” characters, this “Marvel Worldwide” Annual still managed to sell an impressive 89,635 copies in order to become the tenth best-selling comic book of December 2015; an accolade Kieron Gillen’s ‘Spy-fi’ narrative arguably well deserves. For whilst the Stafford-born writer’s undercover agent initially proves rather pompously disagreeable, due to his disguise as Imperial tax-collector Tharius Demo and selfish regret that although “the Rebellion has heroes” he doesn’t “get to be one of them”, the “prying” mole soon gets to demonstrate his far more laudable qualities to this title’s significant audience when Princess Leia orders him to penetrate the Arrth-Eno prison complex and smuggle “Senator Nadea Tural and the anti-Imperial senators” incarcerated there off-planet before they’re executed.
So “very difficult” a mission, understandably conducted by Organa’s secret agent in absolute silence, could potentially have lead to something of a rather tedious excursion considering that letterer Joe Caramagna exacerbates the experience by failing to populate its dozen or so panels with any sound effects whatsoever. Fortunately such external secretive noiselessness is not however replicated by Ray’s inner turmoil and questioning as to just “how many rebel spies are… actually on Coruscant”; a worry which provides the British author with plenty of opportunity to genuinely flesh out this thirty-page periodical’s central protagonist via numerous thought bubbles.
Those fans tiring of such a rather reticent read though are eventually rewarded with more blaster beams and “political assassination” attempts than even an enraged Wookie could handle once the leader of the Galactic Empire makes an appearance. Indeed the entire tone of the book abruptly changes to one of all-out action as the seemingly sullen Eneb transforms himself into a dynamic gun-slinging risk-taker upon hearing that “the Emperor’s just walked into our crosshairs” by “having a final conversation with the [captured] senators in an hour’s time.”
Equally as responsible for so successful a publication as Gillen’s constantly surprising storyline, has to be Angel Unzueta’s extremely clean-looking pencilling. The Spaniard not only somehow manages to imbue the Rebel agent with an air of arrogance befitting someone posing as an all-powerful Imperial bureaucrat. But later effortlessly adds a grim determination and then desperate desire to Ray’s visage as it becomes abundantly clear to the “hero” that “I’m not even the same species of monster” as Palpatine.
|Writer: Kieron Gillen, Artist: Angel Unzueta, and Colorist: Paul Mounts|