One has to hand it to it to San Diego’s IDW Publishing, while their Star Wars centered content is regular and plentiful, its overall addition to the annals of the Galaxy Far, Far Away is never less than variable.
Mid-way through the run of the thematic rollercoaster which is the Tales From Vader’s Castle mini-series, Star Wars Adventures #15 sees a return to the more regular formatting of two fables from separate parts of the galaxy, collected under the auspices of story-collector Emil Graf. First up are cover stars Poe Dameron and BB-8 in ‘An Unlikely Friendship’.
Taking place on an unnamed planet at some point before the events of The Force Awakens, we open with the flight-suited pilot sprinting through swampland after a botched diplomatic meeting. His navigator droid keeping a close second-place, the pair are running from the furious, purple skinned, members of a local tribe when they encounter a huge, moss-covered beast. They’re saved by a hooded boy, Kori Ong, who happens to be close by and is handy with a slingshot. The three lie-low for the evening, and the youngster is inspired by Poe’s talk of the flying among the stars and of the Resistance…
The main problem is that the brief synopsis in the previous paragraph is essentially all that happens over the 14 pages of the strip. There are a few more tight scrapes thrown into the mix, but structurally this is a meeting, a conversation and a farewell. Writer James Gilarte’s core message of ‘don’t let go of your dreams’ is a fine one, but the narrative surrounding it feels utterly inconsequential. It’s framed as an origins-story but for a character we’re meeting for the first time, and so have no wider context for.
There’s some background detail of the boy being on a ‘walkabout’ rite of passage, with intentions of moving onto greater things once he returns to his own tribe, but this feels like it’s all for nothing as Dameron ultimately goes on his way, as he must. ‘An Unlikely Friendship’ seems like a snapshot of one night in Poe’s life rather than an adventure he’d tell by the fireside in later years. There’s not even anything particularly unlikely about this friendship; they’re both clearly decent people. Unless Kori is due to turn up in either Star Wars Resistance or the upcoming Episode IX, this parable is going to mean even less in the future.
And it’s a great shame, because Mauricet’s striking pencils and inks, paired with Charlie Kirchoff’s colours and shading, really bring the most out of the characters and the mystery jungle location (the locals’ indignant cries are asterisked as being in “Neijaian“, although we don’t get a similar caption properly introducing the planet, so it’s unclear if this is their species or social-grouping. Your humble correspondent’s reference-library and online searches to expand this returned the same number of results as the hunt for Kori Ong). And it’s not just the visual character likeness which sells this as Poe Dameron, but his dialogue too. It’s just a real pity that all that’s missing from the story is… *well, the story*.
As the ‘Tales From Wild Space’ segment is currently on hiatus, we move then to part two of the ‘Flight Of The Falcon’ anthology. In ‘The Planet Of Misfit Droids’, Chaaktil bounty hunter Bazine Netal follows up her interrogations of the previous issue by mining two droids for information on sightings of Han Solo’s infamous ship.
As they squabble over which of them is recalling it correctly, Bazine hears of a time on Lotho Minor (the junk-planet where Darth Maul was re-discovered in The Clone Wars) when the YT-1300 freighter in question landed. Han, Leia, Luke and Chewbacca step down the boarding ramp scouting locations for a new Rebel base (the timeframe denoted by Luke’s post-Yavin yellow jacket).
In exploring, the gang quickly come across a Duros by the name of Akar Duel, who has reconditioned and enslaved an army of scrap-droids. But when the mechanical workforce see C-3PO acting and speaking of his own volition, they quickly begin to question their lot in life…
In the framing for this installment, the mercenary is grilling her quarry outside, and contrary to the suggestion in ‘Spy Games’ this doesn’t appear to be Takodana. Certainly not in the locale of Maz Kanata’s bar/castle, at any rate. The droids we meet (both in the marketplace and later on the junk-world) are a composite of recognisable components already established through the Star Wars films.
Continuing the flow for ‘Flight Of The Falcon’, Arianna Florean provides the art for this section, assisted by Michele Pasta in the inks and Adele matera with the colours. And what colours. The rust and earth-tones of Lotho Minor are brought to life vividly, and the character renditions are almost Disney-like, evoking the Junior Graphic Novel series of movie adaptations, also published by IDW.
But when it comes to the crunch, Michael Moreci’s story here is almost as hollow as James Gilarte’s, above. The Falcon lands on a planet. Its crew inadvertently cause a droid uprising which is relegated to a single panel. The Falcon takes off from the planet. At some point in the future, two droids talk about this. *That’s it*.
With a little more self-awareness at least, Netal is livid at having had her time wasted when she’s searching for the current whereabouts of the Falcon. But this anger isn’t so much a knowing wink to the reader as a tacit admission of a filler episode. The final page hints that next month we’ll be meeting a familiar face from the Clone Wars. Hopefully he’s bringing more to the party than the droids.
IDW can do better than this. They *have* done better than this, and hopefully Star Wars Adventures #15 will go down as the issue where two of its less-memorable stories just happened to be packaged together. But come for the artwork, and stay for the artwork.
Star Wars Adventures #15 is available October 24 from IDW Publishing.