As the evenings slowly begin to get lighter, so too does the tone of Star Wars Adventures, IDW Publishing’s monthly title aimed at the younger reader.
Recent issues have focused the attention of their main story on the Star Wars Resistance TV show, sadly failing to capture on the page the unique elements which make it work on the small screen. Similarly, the ongoing ‘Flight Of The Falcon’ anthology series started intriguingly, then settled into a number of consequence-free tales as the framing device crept forward.
But all this negativity can be swept aside now, as the hero of the Star Wars saga – the very character who makes the whole thing buzz with acerbic vibrancy – returns to the pages, ushering in a sense of lighthearted fun while also connecting to the wider saga. Yes, Jar Jar Binks headlines one of issue #18’s stories and Han Solo is a central component of the other. You, dear reader, can choose which one of those names fits best with the paragraph preceding them.
We open with ‘Raiders Of The Lost Gundark’, a prequel-era jaunt set after the events of The Phantom Menace, while Padmé Amidala is still queen on Naboo. With an outlandishly knowing tip of the fedora to one Henry Jones Jr, everyone’s favourite Gungan arrives at the Naboo palace with a message from Boss Nass. An ancient treasure map has been discovered which leads to the fabled ‘Soshinyday Blobball’, a relic held in high esteem by Nass.
READ MORE: Star Wars Adventures #17 – Comic Review
Unable to lead the trek himself, the leader has assigned Binks to the case, reminding his charge that the Theed government still owes a debt to their people after assisting at the Battle of Naboo. Always keen to explore and get a bit of fresh air in her lungs, Padmé agrees to help – after an advisory word from Captain Panaka, of course.
Written by Delilah S. Dawson ( Star Wars: Phasma) and illustrated by Star Wars Adventures regular Derek Charm, the strip is as dynamic and zippy as the contributors’ past form suggests. While the story itself is on the disposable side of ‘standalone’, Dawson captures the essence of both Amidala and Binks remarkably well (which yes, includes that slightly stilted, grandiose lilt to Padmé’s first screen-appearance).
And as we’ve noted elsewhere, while most people love to complain about the Binks, it’s not an easy feat to get him ‘right’. The Jar Jar in these pages feels very much like the careless, worrisome yet happy-go-lucky adventurer of Episode I and that is to be applauded.
Naturally the exaggerated nature of Gungan physiology lends itself to Derek Charm’s bold, efficient artwork, as does the fantastical quest upon which our heroes find themselves. Strong linework and broad, comic likenesses are held in place by a slightly muted colour palette. And as the title would suggest (in fact, demand), there is more than one reference to the second-greatest movie trilogy of all time, each executed with the perfect visual framing of key iconic shots.
READ MORE: Catch up on our reviews of all IDW Publishing’s Star Wars Adventures comics
But much like the appearance of the Staff of Ra in The Clone Wars, this Indy-centric referencing is an out-of-universe wink to the readers rather than something which drives the narrative. ‘Raiders Of The Lost Gundark’ is light and a little throwaway, but it’s a perfect fit for Star Wars Adventures.
Bolstering the second part of this month’s issue is the fifth instalment in the ‘Flight Of The Falcon’ strand, the more clunkily monikered ‘Grand Theft Falcon’. In a callback to the opening chapter, we find ourselves back at Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana.
Bounty hunter Bazine Netal has finally caught up with someone who holds a little more first-hand knowledge of Han Solo’s famous ship, and is in the process of wheedling that out of him. The subject in question goes by the name of Gannis Ducain. As readers with a memory for minute detail may recall, Ducain is the chap named in The Force Awakens as the one who originally stole the Millennium Falcon from Solo – here he recounts that tale to an impatient Bazine.
And so we alight at a stop which has something to add to the background texture of the Star Wars movies. Previous entries in ‘Flight Of The Falcon’ seem to have depicted events with no real impact on the larger story, but seeing the YT1300 freighter lifted from under Han’s nose is a key moment – certainly for Han.
READ MORE: Follow our TV Rewind series through Star Wars: The Clone Wars
We don’t get the Corellian’s reaction to this of course, as Ducain understandably didn’t hang around to witness it. This is also just one link in the chain of thievery which saw Solo separated from his ship for so long. Whether the others will be fleshed out in the pages of Star Wars Adventures or elsewhere remains to be seen.
As is standard for this story, the writing comes courtesy of Michael Moreci, with Arianna Florean and Adele Matera on art and colours respectively, while Tom B. Long provides the lettering. The lean, stylised look is a good match for Derek Charm’s work in the first story, and the script even gives us a firm nod toward canonising the events of The Star Wars Holiday Special (thank the maker!). Not bad considering it’s all crammed into eight pages.
Alas, our Chaaktil mercenary is no closer to the boarding ramp of her elusive quarry, and ‘Flight Of The Falcon’ is set to conclude in its own standalone issue. Watch this space.
It’s something of a relief to see Star Wars Adventures veer back onto the path of enjoyability (even if half of issue #18 definitely won’t be for everyone), and it serves as a reminder that great storytelling (in- or outside of the Galaxy Far, Far Away) comes down to solid writing and characterisation. The future, as ever, will be judged on its own merits…
Star Wars Adventures #18 is available 20 February from IDW Publishing.