Star Wars Adventures may only have been around for nine issues so far, but it’s reached the milestone of getting its first ‘Annual’, which is great news for IDW Publishing and readers alike. This bumper-sized entry features two stories as usual, but both are markedly larger than their regular-issue counterparts.
As fond as the series is of covering various points in the timeline, both strips here are set in the Original Trilogy-era. First up is ‘Mind Your Manners’, penned by long-time Star Wars writer John Jackson Miller. We open with Luke and Leia (accompanied by C-3PO and R2-D2) travelling to a diplomatic rendezvous on the planet Sarka, in a bid to bargain for their gem-mining operations to power the Rebellion’s weapons.
When a rough landing leads to a minor injury, Leia persuades Luke to take Threepio and negotiate in her place. But the Sarkans are a deeply traditional culture, and the slightest deviation from established formality could scupper our protagonists’ plans. Fortunately, they’ve brought a dedicated protocol droid with them. Unfortunately, the queen’s advisor, Lord Rooz, appears to be working to his own agenda…
From its opening panels, this tale seems reminiscent of Issue 4’s ‘The Trouble At Tibrin‘, also based around a remote meeting to secure resources for the Rebellion. Similarly, this is also set after the events of Yavin IV but before those at Hoth, putting the relationship between Luke and Leia at that fresh-faced stage. To this end, the script here is light, punchy and dusted with a few wry gags for good measure.
Jon Sommariva’s art is dynamic to match, with the facial likenesses of our human heroes being less important than their expressiveness (although the familiarity of outfits and hairstyles make up any shortfall). Matt Herms’ colours round out the trio, bold without being garish, and with wonderful depth. Much like ‘Tibrin’ (and although that story had a different writer and artists), this instantly feels like classic Star Wars – a standalone tale which is lighthearted without being silly, but political without being dull, even if the 28-pages occasionally feel like they’re padding things out a little.
The main thrust of both the humour and the drama is the use of arcane, elaborate and often contradictory customs held by the Sarkans – an altogether alien race to the visitors. Younger readers will see some parallels with the larger world they’re still tentatively exploring, while older ones will recognise the apparent ridiculousness of things we often take for granted. The writing is never preachy about this, and indeed goes on to use protocol as its central plot-mechanic. ‘Mind Your Manners’ is a solid yarn, perfect for a title like Star Wars Adventures.
Following swiftly on, Emil Graf’s ‘Tales From Wild Space’ takes a break for the Annual and instead we find ourselves in a damaged Corellian freighter hurtling towards the surface of a planet while the ship’s cocky captain yells at his co-pilot. Yes, this can only be the re-canonisation of the infamous Jaxxon, originally introduced early in the classic Marvel run of 1977. Accompanied by fellow pirate Amaiza Foxtrain from those same stories, the pair find themselves attempting to smuggle precious cargo off-planet in ‘The Lost Eggs of Livorno’.
The goods-run becomes complicated, as these things often do, with all the action, grumbling and double-crossing we’ve come to expect. More striking than these though, is the fun. Upping the ante from ‘Mind Your Manners’, it’s pretty hard to take things too seriously when one of your lead characters is a caustically flippant six-foot tall green rabbit in a crimson flight-suit.
Yet at the same time, writer Cavan Scott manages to introduce Imperial agents, Stormtroopers, even a couple of familiar faces from the other side of the fence, and the narrative more than works under its own steam. Mauricet is on pencils and inks, his stylised renderings bringing vintage characters seamlessly into the modern saga. Chris Fenoglio’s colours follow-suit, again bringing a vibrant feel to the pages which never tips into gaudiness, and Tom B. Long’s crisp lettering anchors the whole thing together as usual. My only complaint is that the adventure is only 12 pages, and its ripping-pace makes it feel over in no time.
Visually and tonally, both stories here are coming from the same direction, and both are ideally suited for the ‘all ages’ ethos which IDW are proving so adept at catering for.
Most of all though, your humble correspondent is just genuinely delighted that Jaxxon is back. Today, Star Wars Adventures; tomorrow, Episode IX…
Star Wars Adventures Annual 2018 is available from your preferred comic retailer from April 18, 2018. After reading, remember to come back and let us know your wishlist for future jaunts with Jaxxon…