Though we might not have a new movie or television series coming out soon, there’s still an incredible amount of Star Wars stories releasing regularly. In fact, there are now seven ongoing Star Wars comics hitting shelves every month, including Charles Soule and Jan Bazulda’s main, titular series. This week saw the publication of issue #11, pitting the not-so-merry band of Rebels against seemingly insurmountable odds as they try to break free from the clutches of the Empire while simultaneously developing a new secret code to communicate with other Rebel cells using a High Republic era communications droid. Phew — I am out of breath just from typing that sentence.
For a series that has mostly taken a much slower approach to its narrative than most Star Wars stories, this issue is surprisingly action-heavy. It’s easily the most action-centric issue of this arc and possibly of the entire run thus far. Starlight Squadron’s attempt to break free from a surprise Imperial ambush is an entertaining spectacle to watch unfold and features some pretty interesting tactical maneuvers to boot.
This battle’s turning point, which sees Starlight Squadron escape an Imperial tractor beam by “riding” the beam into the hangar before seizing control of said hangar from their cockpits, is particularly exciting. It’s a sequence that feels like the perfect encapsulation of Starlight Squadron’s expertise and should really be looked at for inspiration by the makers of the upcoming Rogue Squadron film. Artist Jan Bazulda does a wonderful job illustrating these panels too, keeping the reader locked in on the action without allowing any pages to get overcrowded or too chaotic.
A big complaint I have about this whole action sequence, though, is the glaring lack of stakes. See, Starlight Squadron is comprised mostly of characters who we have already seen grow into old age — namely L’ulo L’Ampar, Shara Bey, and Wedge Antilles. The other members are characters who have just been introduced or have the slightest of backstories, meaning there’s no real investment into their survival.
The reader knows that the three main members of the squadron will absolutely survive this battle because they’ve seen these characters in other stories after this clash. As for the remaining members, the readers likely don’t have the buy-in to care what happens to them. So despite the coolness of the whole ambush plot, the lack of real stakes severely lessens the impact of the whole scene. It ends up just feeling like an empty, but cool, spectacle.
The pace of this action is occasionally interrupted with transitions to less energetic scenes featuring Leia, Lando, and Kes Dameron back at Rebel HQ, but these breaks in pace help let the action breathe while not overloading the reader with chaotic space battles. More importantly, however, is how much more interesting and emotionally engaging these moments are.
Here the reader sees the Rebels faced with a choice: continue using this High Republic droid to communicate with Starlight Squadron at the risk of killing Lando’s best friend, Lobot, whose circuits are being bled dry by this droid, or save Lobot by turning off the droid but losing contact with Starlight Squadron. Oh, and did I mention that during this ethical quagmire, Lando is being held at gunpoint by Mr. Shara Bey, Kes Dameron?
It’s during these scenes that the story feels like it has tangible stakes, albeit emotional ones. Yes, we know that Lobot survives because we know his story continues on thanks to Aftermath: Empire’s End, but watching Leia grapple with the decision of whether to save Lobot or potentially save Starlight Squadron is where this book is at its best. We know this decision is going to emotionally challenge her and really define her commitment to the Rebellion, and witnessing it all unfold is very engaging.
In terms of the series’ overarching narrative, this particular issue doesn’t do too much to move things forward, which is unfortunately how nearly every issue of this run has been. Again, this feels like a story that didn’t need to be an entire issue, and really only inches the main plot forward by now giving the Rebels a means to communicate with one another. This slow burn might be okay if each issue still had standout moments to tide over the reader’s patience, but so far those moments have been few and far between — certainly not enough to make up for the lack of real narrative progression.
On a brighter note, however, this issue does establish two new storylines moving forward that will hopefully speed up the overall story. First of all, I find the idea of Lando being disillusioned with the Rebellion and possibly willing to sell them out a fascinating story opportunity and one that falls right in line with Lando’s characterization. Second, I am interested to see how Shara Bey escapes from Imperial custody. Does she stow away on Tarkin’s Will and make a daring escape eventually? Or does Starlight Squadron eventually come to the rescue? Either way, I am excited to know what happens next.
Star Wars #11 might do a good job setting up future plot threads and it does have some dazzling action with solid emotional moments, but the overall absence of stakes and continued lack of meaningful narrative progression really leaves this issue feeling insignificant.
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