2018 was a busy old year in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, with the paint barely dry on The Last Jedi before Solo took to the screens, a new animated TV series in the shape of Resistance and a plethora of web shorts.
And that’s been a pace matched step for step by the publishing world, as the established run of tie-in books and magazines was complemented by the continued efforts of Marvel and IDW Publishing. The latter has had a particularly busy time with two spin-off series, Forces Of Destiny and Tales From Vader’s Castle boosting their monthly Star Wars Adventures series.
IDW’s flagship Star Wars title has now arrived at its 16th issue, each carrying a pair of tales aimed at (although by no means limited to) the younger end of the readership demographic, and ranging across the timeline for maximum inclusivity. Always keen to expand upon newly revealed lore, this month’s main story is ‘All Aces Battle Royale’, focusing on Kazuda ‘Kaz’ Xiono from Resistance, the young spy living on the Colussus refuelling platform on the ocean world of Castilon.
Installed in the facility by Poe Dameron to try and uncover a First Order informant, the aspiring racer Kaz feels his true calling tugging at his sleeve when the All Aces speeder race is hosted on the platform. What’s more, one of the contestants appears to be using the competition as cover to broadcast sensitive information off-world, so it’s down to Kaz to take part and surreptitiously jam the transmission.
All of this is fine and completely in-keeping with the ethos of the animated show and at first glance Valentina Pinto’s artwork does a sterling job of capturing the stripped down, cel-shaded aesthetic. The pastel colours and lack of thick outlines mean that the simple shading does the work of fleshing out characters, while their background settings are rendered with stucco-like texturing. As well as our central hero, we get appearances from series regular BB-8, podrace announcers Fode and Beed from The Phantom Menace and of course Poe Dameron himself. And it’s here that the problems begin.
Certain panels seem to have been drawn and coloured in something of a rush. And despite Kaz looking like his animated counterpart, Poe isn’t so lucky. The Resistance’s finest flyboy seems to resemble what can only be described as “child’s painting”. This lets down the rest of the artwork, and is a real shame since we’ve seen much stronger work from Pinto previously in Star Wars Adventures.
But it’s not just the visuals which raise an eyebrow, here. While Kaz may be burdened with being our protagonist in Kevin Burke and Chris Wyatt’s story, he’s also weighed down with industrial levels of internal monologue, most of which simply isn’t needed. Granted, it’s Kaz’s first appearance in this title and not all of the readership may have caught the TV show yet, but his ongoing stream of consciousness isn’t even particularly neatly written. One panel sees the youngster use the word “ship” three times in a single speech-bubble (four if you count the adjoining one). ‘All Aces Battle Royale’ certainly feels like a Resistance story, but unfortunately that’s not enough to make it fly.
Rounding out the issue we have part three of the ‘Flight Of The Falcon’ anthology, titled ‘Home Again’. Set in the Sequel Trilogy era, bounty hunter Bazine Netal scours the galaxy for Han Solo’s famous ship, stopping along the way to gather tales from those who’ve encountered it. We catch up with her on Felucia, where she’s quizzing Clone Wars-era bounty hunter Embo about the freighter. He in turn relays the story of the time he boarded the Falcon shortly after the Battle of Endor, when Lando Calrissian and Nien Nunb were keeping the cockpit warm.
Michael Moreci continues his run as writer here, with Arianna Florean returning as artist (with Adele Matera assisting on colours). While the simple stylisation brings a clean look to the cluttered ship, the problem is the length. The eight pages are used economically at least, but whereas the usual bugbear with the shorter tale is one of a script being compressed to fit, here there’s just no real story to tell. The whole thing seems to point to a reference to the events of Solo, but even that’s sketched in because the story would otherwise make no sense.
In the final panels, Bazine appears to be as annoyed with this non-event as anyone, leaving a cryptic clue as to next month’s interviewee. As a series, ‘Flight Of The Falcon’ isn’t yet fulfilling its potential, although with two more mini installments and its own one-shot comic to come, there’s still time to turn this ship around.
Sadly, Star Wars Adventures #16 follows on the heels of its predecessor in being something of a disappointment. This consistency is no consolation…
Star Wars Adventures #16 is available now from IDW Publishing.