With the mass-marketing blitz of “Force Friday” barely in the rearview, Marvel unleashes the cherry to the frenzy-fest sundae that is Episode VII anticipation. Get ready to thank the maker of your choice- the new four-part mini reunites a well-received Punisher creative team and wastes no time reconnecting with the revolution of a galaxy far, far away.
Given their previous collaboration, pairing writer Greg Rucka with artist Marco Checchetto may seem like an abrasive interjection into the identifiably all-ages franchise. However, for the generation(s) that may have grown up since “Return of the Jedi”, the duo thankfully strips the milieu of its “cutesy-wootsy” elements (or at the very least, puts them in their place). Instead, they get down to the very adult business of regime-toppling and routing pockets of Imperial hold-outs. For the continuity buff, there’s even a “no-prize”-type explanation and some scene expansion that debugs a few moments from the film’s finale along the way as well.
For a comic billing itself as a springboard to “30 years later”, it is ridiculously intertwined with the last legs of the Original Trilogy. By no means is this a bad thing, though. As a means of pre-emptively defusing new character “left-fieldness”, the story makes tremendous strides in rounding out some of the other Rebels. Indeed, spotlighting characters Lt. Shara Bey and her husband, Sgt. Kes Dameron, goes a long way to making the other freedom fighters seem less “red shirt-y” and more on equal footing with the varsity Skywalker posse. Furthermore, even though the new action figures pretty much reveal jack-all regarding greater plot or mythos, it’s a safe bet the widening of the cast lens starts here in an “Issue -1” sense.
Checchetto also re-teams with color artist Andres Mossa, collaborating as recently as the “Before Time Runs Out” issues of Avengers World. Thematically similar to that work, there’s a tonal starkness that is immersive and grounding. Mossa’s cool, washed-out palette is as sobering as a morning-after surprise raid on the Empire’s other Endor base. There’s a few little weird visual nitpicks, such as the oddly understated Death Star explosion and C-3PO’s strangely detached neck things but the unabashed anti-dayglo and overall verisimilitude far outweighs any “bad”.
From cover to cover, the first installment of Shattered Empire is another decisive victory for Marvel’s synergistic “comics as canon” status. Not only does it excel in priming excitement for the forthcoming cinematic experience, it also subtly nudges re-examination of established pillars. In twenty pages, the creators prove more than adept in finding moments to plant important seeds. More than that, they seem to already wield a cumulative ability on par with Marvel’s other, top-tier regular Star Wars titles. Suffice to say, anytime any of the monthly guys need a break, it’d be best to keep this team on the substitution short list.