As Marvel’s all-new chronicling of the iconic space opera moves into its second arc, the original movie trilogy’s “in-between times” continue to flesh out. While the previous story serves as a fantastic bridging piece of the cinematic and comic page experiences, it’s only here that the “funny book” creators really start owning the ball in their court.
Most noticeable is the debut of the title’s new visual aesthetic. Color artist Justin Ponsor technically has been on board since last issue’s transitional Obi-Wan Kenobi one-off spotlight but rounding out the team is the veteran pencil and ink duo of Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger. Whereas initial artist John Cassaday drove more for authentic “photo-real” representation, the new guys truly lean into the unique qualities of their chosen medium. Things might not necessarily look like they’ve been ripped straight off the big screen anymore but it’s apparent from the opening double-page layout that “Immobager’s” signature Kirby-meets-manga “big and bold” style is indeed the right choice.
The pacing of Jason Aaron’s script also lends itself tremendously to this showcasing. Laying back somewhat in the framing segment so his cohorts can establish themselves, Aaron proceeds to feed the others explosions and bar-fights to masterfully express for the next eighteen pages. In doing so, he intercuts between the two main plots like a cross between a DJ and a boxer. It’s an apt analogy as there’s even a great needle-drags-off-the-record-at-the-party “awkward silence” stare-down moment when Luke Skywalker demonstrates he’s oblivious to his own naivete (and lack of proper Jedi swagger).
The pugilistic “jabs” genuinely come through in the dialogue department, particularly the loaded interplay of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Closing your eyes, it’s difficult not to hear their multiple spitfire exchanges as the back-and-forth of Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. If early installments give a vague impression of Aaron unintentionally “fast-forwarding” through some of the characters’ thick and storied sexual tension, then this issue summarily throws a big bucket o’ ice-water on those notions.
No matter how squirm-inducing things become for the protagonists, “Showdown on the Smugglers’ Moon” is an engaging “win-win” for the audience throughout. Featuring talent from the perennially-acclaimed Nextwave, the art department starts to develop more of an independent identity while Aaron’s characterization ratchets-up to a new level of lock-step with the source material. Sure, the going is now arguably a little bit more hardcore “comic book” and less of a gateway for casual fans of the movie franchise but it’s easily pushing all the right buttons and then some. Perhaps now it would just be best to reinvent the whole damn dashboard of “Star Wars: The Comic”.