I’ve always felt that the best trades tell complete story arcs that can serve as an accessible jumping-on point for new readers. I understand that trades are usually collected editions of ongoing series, so there are always going to be elements of the narrative that might be lost on new readers, but at the very least a trade should feature five to six issues that tell a complete story arc. And that’s why I find Star Wars Vol. 13: Rogues and Rebels so frustrating: the issues included tell the last one-third of one story arc while cramming four “primer” stories into the tail end of the trade, resulting in a perplexing reading experience.
Star Wars Vol. 13 collects Greg Pak and Phil Noto’s Star Wars #73-#75 in addition to Star Wars: Empire Ascendant #1, which features a slew of creative teams on various short stories meant to launch the second wave of Star Wars comics. The problem is that issues #73-#75 are the final three issues of the Rebels and Rogues arc that started back in issue #68. So readers buying this trade are getting only the last bits of an eight-issue arc.
I read Star Wars comics as soon as they release, so I’ve already read the “Rebels and Rogues” arc, and it’s a very strong arc. Aside from some story elements that I think are a little too wacky for Star Wars, I thoroughly enjoyed how Pak and Noto were able to capture the vibe of Star Wars so perfectly. But when I re-read the last three issues in the trade, the story lacked any punch. I was dropped into the middle of a story that I had already read, and even I could notice how disjointed it felt. Imagine being a new reader who’s jumping into this story for the first time?
It’s particularly frustrating that Pak and Noto’s full story has been inexplicably split into two trades rather than one slightly longer eight-issue trade. Writer Greg Pak nails the dynamics between the classic characters and even introduces a fantastic new character in the street-rat Warba, who shares some particularly enjoyable moments with Luke. While I found the ending to be a little too far out there and more appropriate for Saga than Star Wars, the story features so many awesome scenes— especially when Darth Vader is involved.
Artist Phil Noto has such an incredible aesthetic for Star Wars and it shines throughout these issues. His light tones really help the book exude a sense of hope and he does a great job recreating the iconic characters— a challenge unique to comics featuring live-action, canon-sharing characters. Noto is known most by Star Wars fans for his work alongside Charles Soule on Star Wars: Poe Dameron, but his work in these three issues (and the arc as a whole) rivals his work on the Poe series.
These last three issues complete a pretty good story arc, but it’s just not enough of the story to justify being put in a separate trade. It doesn’t help that the Star Wars: Empire Ascendant #1 one-shot included at the end of the trade doesn’t really connect to the previous three issues in any way and ultimately falls flat.
Star Wars: Empire Ascendant #1 was published as a primer for the upcoming 2020 slate of new Star Wars books. It collected short prequel stories for the relaunches of Star Wars, Star Wars: Darth Vader, and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, as well as the brand new Star Wars: Bounty Hunters series. While there’s nothing wrong with these little stories, I can’t understand why it was included in a trade like this.
Each story is enjoyable, but every one save for the Doctor Aphra tale feels unimportant and forgettable. Simon Spurrier and Caspar Wijngaard’s Doctor Aphra story “Epilogue” is definitely the stand-out of these stories and serves as an emotional send-off to the first volume of Doctor Aphra. But regardless of the quality of Empire Ascendant #1, it just feels tacked on and weirdly crammed into the back of this trade.
At an $18 price point, I can’t see why someone would buy this trade instead of just buying Star Wars #68-#75 and get the full story arc for just a couple extra bucks (or, if you bought the previous trade, just buy issues #73-#75 for a little more than half the price of this trade). The quality of the stories collected in this range from good to great, but they’re so disjointed that you will end up questioning why these issues were collected this way. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’re better off buying the individual issues in this case.