Star Wars Adventures #23 – Review

Ah, that blistering heat can mean only one thing: it’s time to get sand in our shoes as IDW Publishing’s Star Wars Adventures #23 evokes the spirit of Tatooine…

The first stop on this month’s journey is ‘A Race For Answers’. Following a brief respite from combat after the Rebellion’s victory in Return Of The Jedi, Lando and Chewbacca have been despatched to Neskar to uncover information about a pirate gang who have been intercepting vital supply-routes. Their informant is taking part in a ‘battle race’ (think podracing, but with the unrestricted use of heavy weapons), and Lando knows the only way to wheedle out the necessary intel will be as a fellow participant. But the newly shattered Empire is still trying to maintain order and the arrival of a Star Destroyer spells trouble for everyone.

As a piece which revolves around racing, this is an action-packed twelve pages. Tony Fleecs’ artwork (with Lauren Perry’s’s colour-flatting) is more than qualified in bringing that movement to the page. The stylised, cartoonish character and starship likenesses are playfully loose yet instantly recognisable, and the whole strip moves at great speed.

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So it’s a real shame that it has nowhere to go. Despite reuniting the audience with a prominent podrace pilot from The Phantom Menace, the actual reconnaissance mission is treated as a shoehorned setup then a blithe afterthought. While this is fine in principle, since an action sequence will always outweigh an interrogation in the pages of a comic, the competitive group-race occurring in the roomy vacuum of space just doesn’t look as engaging as one on the ground.

Light and breezy with snappy dialogue and little consequence, this is undoubtedly filler. ‘A Race For Answers’ no doubt seemed like a solid pitch at the outline stages, but writer Ian Flynn seems unable to make it any more than a great idea for a story.

We travel to the Dune Sea itself for the ‘Tales From Wild Space’ segment, witnessing the laborious admin of palace-life from the perspective of Bib Fortuna. In ‘Majordomo, Major Problems’, Jabba’s exasperated chief servant is hugely overworked by his Hutt overlord (which is to say that this story takes place before Episode VI). Story-collector Emil Graf uses this to illustrate that we should always appreciate the contribution of those around us, even if those boons aren’t readily apparent.

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As with the previous missive, writer Arie Kaplan tries to fashion a vague idea into a meaningful narrative and comes up short (although also as above, should be applauded for the effort itself – maybe we need a Wild Space homily specifically about this?). Artist Drew Moss shows a welcome sketchy characterisation allowing for an expressive Jabba, while Valentina Pinto’s colour blending brings real warmth and depth to the visuals. But with the framing device removed, ‘Majordomo, Major Problems’ is only six pages, which isn’t long enough to properly illustrate its point – not least because the events take place over several days.

Older readers will appreciate the artwork and roll-call of Jabba’s Palace background characters. Youngsters are more likely to grow rightly impatient as they feel they’re being lectured by someone who hasn’t properly prepared a lesson. To have one tale which comes over as padding is an ever-present hazard in anthology storytelling. To showcase two sells the title short, undercutting the format’s potential as well as the great things it’s achieved in the past.

If Star Wars Adventures is to live up to its own name at least, the comic needs to try harder than this…

Star Wars Adventures #23 is available now from IDW Publishing and your preferred comic outlets.

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