Star Wars Adventures #14 – Comic Review

IDW's ongoing Star Wars series continues with a great starting point for newcomers...

With September fading fast and an autumnal snap wedging the door open with its foot, the home-release of Solo has finally arrived to keep Star Wars fans safely indoors by the warming flicker of a television set. And with almost uncanny synchronicity once more, Star Wars Adventures turns its attention back to everyone’s favourite Corellian wide-boy in issue #14.

IDW Publishing’s title aimed at the younger end of the reading demographic has undergone something of a redesign, with an internal layout change courtesy of series-letterer Tom B. Long. As we’d expect from a man of such demonstrable precision, the new look is tighter and more formal, but in the same spirit which has been established over the previous year.

The issue still comprises two stories, but the ‘Tales From Wild Space’ segment is taking a break for a while (although its narrator, Emil Graf, excuses his absence with an in-character editorial on the letters-page). Emil’s parable is replaced by the first chapter in an anthology-within-an-anthology series titled ‘Flight Of The Falcon’. This ties in to the junior-novels and Choose Your Destiny books of the same heading, published across late 2018.

Part one, ‘Spy Games’, sees Chaaktil bounty hunter Bazine Netal seated in a sleazy cantina, questioning one of its droid patrons about their experience attempting to capture Han Solo’s infamous freighter. Bazine will be known to readers as the hooded female in Maz Kanata’s castle who comms through the message “Inform the First Order… I’ve found the droid”. It’s therefore suggested that the framing device for ‘Spy Games’ takes place shortly before The Force Awakens (and also on Takodana, no less), although this by no means guaranteed.

Netal’s conversational quarry here is none other than IG-88, the bounty hunter seen on the bridge of The Executor in The Empire Strikes Back. Blurring the lines of broadcast media further, the droid’s tale follows the time he was hired by the Empire’s Agent Kallus (from Star Wars Rebels) to assist in capturing the Millennium Falcon after “the Rebel activity on Savareen”. This means the nested story flashes back firmly to the Solo-era, around ten years before A New Hope.

The eight pages of the tale are meticulously laid out, with Arianna Florean’s art executed in bold, firm strokes. Michele Pasta lends a hand on inks, as Adele Matera does the same with neutral colours and warm earth-tones to produce a gorgeous piece; one which fits in with the Disney-era aesthetic of Rebels perfectly. Writer Michael Moreci does well to capture the flippant swagger of Han Solo, while penning a short, punchy caper that also evokes the fun of Nelvana’s animated Droids series from the 1980s. Although a fair amount of that last reference arises solely from having a stylised IG-88 in a dustbowl environment.

READ MORE: Star Wars Adventures #13 – Comic Review

The ‘Flight Of The Falcon’ strand will run until issue #18, presumably with Bazine gathering testimony from other eras of Solo’s career in each chapter, and will then conclude in a special one-shot issue. Never let it be said that IDW don’t know how to join in with a party.

In all this excitement of course, we’ve skipped straight past the issue’s opener, ‘Chewie’s Day Off’. In the depths of an asteroid-field, we join young Solo and his Wookiee companion on the run from Vullen Candroon, a Pau’an scammer. Candroon had been in possession of some marked Sabacc decks, until our heroes had somehow liberated them before racing to a crooked casino on the planet Marquinn in an attempt to fence the cards.

While Han brokers the deal on the leisure-world, Chewbacca enjoys some free time, hoping to indulge in a massage and a fur-conditioner (no, seriously). Naturally, their pursuer is one step ahead of his prey and has contacts on-world to ensure that Solo’s transaction does not proceed smoothly…

Written by John Barber (the author of issue #9‘s ‘Trouble Again’), ‘Chewie’s Day Off’ is surprisingly fun given its narrative urgency. This is another cat-and-mouse tale of bickering and slapstick, full of species-cameos from familiar forms, plus an additional reference to animated Star Wars, in that it takes place partly in a spa. Artoo Deetoo famously went for a dip and a polish in ‘The Greet Heep’ episode of Droids, as well doing the same in the ‘Evil Plans’ episode of The Clone Wars.

More cartoonish in style and with a looser panel structure, Mauricet’s art is intricate and dynamic in equal measure, complemented by Charlie Kirchoff’s array of colours. But the most interesting aspect is that the main thread of the strip, involving Chewbacca’s fracas with the wronged-merc, is dialogued in three languages. Chewie barks his native Shyriiwook of course, while Candroon yells in Utapese and the salon-proprietor speaks in (presumably) the local Marquinn dialect. This is notable because none of it is translated for the reader, relying entirely on the visual storytelling but without the conceit of being presented as a ‘silent movie’. Best of all, it’s all wrapped up with a pretty decent punchline, too.

In terms of the younger audience, this is bound to lead to some fun scenarios with parental admissions of “no, I have no idea what they’re saying either”, followed by a re-evaluation of the story on the structure and pacing alone. For a title at this level to be so calculatingly playful really is outstanding work.

Star Wars Adventures lives up to its name in every way this month, deftly riding the zeitgeist of the Solo-era while pulling in references from the original, prequel, sequel and televisual realms. If you hadn’t been sure about the title before now, this is the perfect place to start.

Star Wars Adventures #14 is available September 26 from your preferred comic outlet.

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