As the comic industry begins to right itself against woes thrown from every angle by 2020, IDW Publishing’s Star Wars Adventures #32 finally lands, concluding both the triptych of Sequel Trilogy character one-shots and a three-part Tales From Wild Space story.
This review contains plot-spoilers.
First out of the gate is ‘The Battle For Horizon Base’, with Finn getting the pre-Rise Of Skywalker spotlight. The eponymous stronghold has appeared previously in Star Wars Rebels, and here plays host to Resistance hero Finn as he surreptitiously tries to recruit a nomadic band of soldiers to the fight against the First Order. Stumbling across their leader, Mezlo, after being recognised by a Stormtrooper patrol, the grizzled warrior will take some persuading that the Resistance aren’t more trouble than they’re worth…
As with the previous stories focusing on Kylo Ren and Rey (not yet Skywalker), this entry is written by Michael Moreci, with art from Arianna Florean and Mario del Pennino, colours by Valentina Taddeo and lettering from Jake M. Wood. Florean’s broad cartoonish strokes capture the likeness of John Boyega with enough playfulness that the exaggerations are more than forgiven, and the sense of speed and action crackles out of each panel with carefully rendered solid tones. Once again, the strip looks fantastic.
So it’s a real shame that the whole thing feels like a waste of 12 pages and the reader’s time. Finn is accompanied by Gannis Ducain, the thief we saw previously describing his theft of The Millennium Falcon. Ducain has seen the error of his ways and joined the Resistance. The comic tries to show a progression through his self-doubt to redemption, but with so few pages to play with this is represented by Finn openly chastising Ducain for his past at one point, then telling him that past doesn’t matter and all is forgiven two pages later. Nothing between is shown to change Finn’s mind.
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By the time the pair finally (read: accidentally) locate Mezlo, his chasm-deep reservations are assuaged by only three lines of dialogue, then he pledges his loyalty to the Resistance with the caveat of ‘not right now though, obviously’ (paraphrased). The end result is Finn returning to Poe to report that his mission to recruit help has been successful even though he’s returned without any help, because Mezlo’s warriors will step in when it’s needed even though that immediate and pressing need is what facilitated the mission in the first place.
This is, one imagines, intended to be a brief prequel to Poe’s mission in Episode IX before he arrives at Exegol with a massive ragtag Resistance fleet; a way of illustrating to the title’s young readership that Poe was looking up old contacts and calling in favours. Instead, ‘The Battle For Horizon Base’ (the base itself is not battled for, here) comes off as transparently consequence-free, quickly-written filler. Which, for Star Wars Adventures, is really saying something.
Bringing up rear-support is the final chapter of ‘The Lost Stories’, a thread of the Wild Space series concentrating on story-collector Emil Graf as he becomes trapped in the lost library of Nelgenam, attacked by rogue security droids and now in the clutches of a Tarinna, also known as ‘Critonian story-vampires’. Trapped in a psychic spell, Emil begins having a series of rapidly morphing flashbacks to all the tales he himself collected (albeit by more benign means), with the creature erasing each one from his victim’s mind as they’re transferred. Now Graf’s crew have to race against the clock to rescue him…
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It’s another high-speed romp as we’re dropped straight into the first of Emil’s hallucinations, finding himself the subject of the stories flitting through his mind. In itself, this is nicely done – with the familiarity of each situation slowly creeping up on the reader until the appearance of a cloaked IG-88 from issue #9 finally cements what is happening, even if our hero himself isn’t sure.
David M. Buisan’s art and Charlie Kirchoff’s colours coalesce this ‘greatest hits’ into a relatively consistent array, applying bold yet detailed illustration to what has been a visually diverse run over the years.
But Cavan Scott’s writing is as scattershot here as it has been over the previous two instalments, feeling like a chapter linked to its forebears only by character appearances, and where a definitive end has not been mapped out in advance. The eight-page structure of Wild Space has always worked against it, yet it’s ironically even more troubled when a single tale is given three times that. The lengthy gap between issues cannot be helped of course, but even reading the three chapters back-to-back, they feel narratively incoherent.
When Emil’s rescue is carried out, this is as rushed as it is nonsensical. Although Graf manages to escape before the Tarinna reduces him to a mental husk, he’s now lost all of the intervening memories. This is both an end to the current form of Tales From Wild Space, and a new beginning for the characters and their adventures in the unspecified future. The former of these is by no means a bad thing.
And so, what began and continued as a staggeringly average trilogy, peters out with a burst of energy and no direction. Star Wars Adventures returns to the fray just in time to find itself at a self-imposed crossroads. Hopefully some much-needed introspection has taken place over this year’s enforced downtime…
Star Wars Adventures #32 is out now from IDW Publishing.