With heavy hearts we pack away our festive party hats for the year, determined to ride out the dark evenings for a couple of months yet. But what could be better to lift the spirits than a romp through the Galaxy Far, Far Away?
IDW Publishing stride into January with the final instalment of their Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down spinoff trilogy, determined to bring a little sunshine back into our lives. Even if that sunshine is beaming down on the harsh wastelands of Jakku. And we’re trapped deep inside a felled Star Destroyer. Ah well, much like the season just past, it’s the thought that counts…
When we left her, young Rey was investigating the storm-uncovered remains of the Imperial Star Destroyer Spectral, downed in the battle above her adopted homeworld decades earlier. Now in Episode III of the title-story, subtitled ‘Protect’, Rey locates the specific fuel pump requested by Plutt, and in the process comes across the wreckage of a Rebel Y-Wing fighter in the Spectral’s hold, the means of arrival for the atromech droid Zeet she’d previously encountered. Unable to resist, Rey hops into the cockpit, imagining herself among the stars and on the run from a squadron of TIE fighters.
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Meanwhile, pursued by a group of Unkar Plutt’s other scavengers eager to ride on Rey’s coat-tails and score some untouched salvage, the ship isn’t quite as bereft of life as the inhabitants of Niima Outpost had expected. Imperial security droid K-828 still stalks the halls of the cruiser, looking for intruders and unaware that the war has long since ended.If they’re to escape the hulk with their lives, Rey and her competitors may have to put aside past grievances and work out what’s really important while living in the desert.
And so the vaguely uneven ‘present day’ half of the story comes to a vaguely uneven conclusion. Derek Charm’s artwork paired with Tom B. Long’s lettering is crisp and striking, particularly atmospheric within the Spectral itself where no daylight reaches. But ultimately Cavan Scott’s story feels as noncommittal as its earlier instalments, with Rey providing a running monologue rather than letting the visuals do the talking.
The artwork for Rey’s flying sequence is equally impressive, but feels like padding the story out to its specified 14-page length. And without going into spoilers (because if you want to know how the story pans out, you really should buy the comic), the means of ensuring that the Star Destroyer becomes off-limits once more to Jakku’s denizens is as bizarre as it is unfeasible; a callback to the first issue of ‘Destroyer Down’ and call-forward to The Force Awakens, while making little actual sense.
The quiet note which acts as this tale’s coda is a nice touch, but the feeling remains that it’s taken far too long to get there.
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Rounding out the issue, and the overall story, is the closing chapter of ‘The Ghost Ship’, ‘Gravity Matters’. Set around the time of the Battle Of Jakku, New Republic pilot Bak Rychuk and astromech Zeet have hitched a ride in their Y-Wing fighter through hyperspace with the fleeing Star Destroyer Spectral. Leaving a holovid in what he knows could be his last message, Bak manages to inadvertently cripple the ship above the desert world. Meanwhile Imperial Admiral Traz tasks his forces with restoring the Spectral’s capabilities, and has a special set of instructions for security droid K-828.
With only six pages to play with, Beatty’s writing is a lot zippier here. There’s an urgency to Rychuk and Traz’s dialogue which feels more ‘Original Trilogy’, and the incidental quips from the Stormtroopers on the Star Destroyer lighten the mood considerably without becoming too silly. The art team of Jon Sommariva on pencils, Sean Parsons’ inks and Matt Herms’ colours keep the stylisation at a similar level to ‘Protect’, but with slightly more detail and texturing (no mean feat aboard the sterile interior of the capital ship).
As with the previous issue, the reciprocal link between the two featured stories is at its best when ‘The Ghost Ship’ is creating reveals to complement what’s just been read as happening in the future. But also as before, the short page-count means that these arguably more interesting characters feel slightly wasted here. But the fate of the Spectral isn’t necessarily the fate of all those aboard it as it hurled into Jakku’s atmosphere, and certain narrative markers are set in place, should IDW ever want to return to this particular stop on the timeline.
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On one hand this is a great touch, expanding the universe with new faces and filling it with previously untold events. On the other, the open-endedness of the story’s climax underscores the overall lack of consequence to ‘Destroyer Down’ as a whole. As noted at an earlier juncture, potential movie tie-ins like the story behind the crashed destroyer or the origin of Rey’s Rebel-helmet aren’t implemented here, and this has little impact or revelation on the events of The Force Awakens. And while we get a solid snapshot of Shepherd Squadron in the Galactic Civil War era, there’s almost no expansion to Rey’s character that IDW haven’t already covered anyway.
‘Destroyer Down’ has been an interesting ride, if not a particularly satisfying one. While the dual storylines have brought a more literary aspect to the comic format, this isn’t what Star Wars Adventures is best at – namely short, punchy anthology tales which get younger readers asking larger questions. Maybe next month…
Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down #3 is available now from IDW Publishing.