In last month’s penultimate chapter to the world’s most predictable story arc, it was revealed (after enough foreshadowing to manifest as a physical fog) that Arrochar betrayed the Rebel Alliance to the Empire.
Will the story’s final chapter salvage what has easily been this series’ weakest stretch of issues… and is it good?
Star Wars #18 (Dark Horse Comics)
Vader, who has been grounded by the Emperor in Coruscant, is updated by his Imperial forces that the Arrochar leaders have ‘met their end of the bargain’ (insert derisive comment about predictability here). Vader acknowledges this and immediately orders an orbital bombardment that will wipe out everything… including the people who just helped him out (insert genuine surprise and dismay here).
Right off the bat, Brian Wood dives back into one of the things he does best: Adding layers and intrigue to already established stories and characters. Sometimes, the expanded universe gets a little too fond of humanizing Vader to the point that he seems a bit neutered. Here, however, we are made painfully aware of just how ruthless the Sith lord can be when it comes to hunting down his enemies.
“As long as no one discovers my weakness against sand, I will still be feared.”
Vader begs the Emperor to let him join the fight, receives a harsh scolding (because that’s just how their relationship is), and left to hope that his commanders can successfully complete the operation.
Back in the palace, Mon Mothma and Princess Leia go full Charlie’s Angels on the Imperial/Arrochar troops, shooting their way out of trouble while bantering back and forth with each other.
“I thought that thing was just a bachelorette party gag gift!”
Outside, Han is determined to rescue the princess while Rogue Squadron attempts to neutralize the threat from above. Solo runs inside the palace just in time to see the Prince of Arrochar discover what a terrible man his father is…and shoot him to death.
This issue ends with a great escape scene, but none of that even compares to the pure badassery Mon Mothma displays by taking down her Imperial opponents in the skies above.
In the issue’s coda, Wood gives us one more surprise. It’s subtle, but enough to break your heart.
Is It Good?
I have hated, HATED this entire story arc…until now. Allow me to explain:
For the last several issues, all we’ve gotten is cartoonishly obvious foreshadowing about the eventual Arrochar betrayal. Add in Luke’s ridiculously fortunate means of escaping from a death trap (along with his uncomfortable/incestuous rage over Leia getting married) and you have a pretty weak story. It’s hard enough working with characters whose fates are already known, but the second layer of mystery around their present circumstances felt rotted and spoiled.
In this chapter, however, Wood does some pretty amazing stuff. He uses the climax of the tale to help explain Vader’s dogged insistence at being front and center at every military operation he can. He also helps establish Mon Mothma as a true military genius and fighter rather than a woman respected simply for her ethereal nature.
We also got a few surprises, including the heartbreaking exchange between the Prince of Arrochar and his murderous father. Leia’s two major scenes are handled incredibly well, showing her to be just as strong as she is vulnerable to besieged planet’s plight.
This issue also had a ton of action, all gorgeously rendered by Stephane Crety. It all made for a shockingly great conclusion to a story arc that I gave no chance of having any redeeming qualities. I stand corrected, however, and will gladly eat my crow slathered in barbeque sauce.