Let’s just get the main point out of the way: Star Wars Annual #4 is what every standalone comic should strive for. That’s not to say that its the best comic book of the year, or that it’ll go down in history as a major achievement, but for 33 pages of storytelling, it does everything it needs to and more.
This story is set shortly after A New Hope where Luke is trying to hone his Jedi skills while helping the Rebellion acquire funds to build more ships. Sana Solo has been contracted by a collector to retrieve a Sith relic of which the Empire is also looking for. When Darth Vader finds out that she’s sold half of the relic to the collector and the other half to the empire, he personally takes it upon himself to retrieve what he wants. What makes this comic so engaging is that you have Luke and Vader in the same place at the same time without ever crossing paths. There’s a lot of juxtaposition between the two characters through this story, including how the Sith relics affect their temperaments. Luke recognizes the rage being channeled through him from this artifact while Vader’s senses are clouded from its aura.
A fun moment is when Luke steals a podracer in an escape as Vader looks on via hologram. Its a rare tie-in to the past that I think works really well and isn’t ridiculously far fetched or campy. The announcer remarks on the impressiveness of Luke’s abilities and how only stories from lesser systems have a human being able to win a major circuit race like this.
Annual #4 does an excellent job of telling a closed story that doesn’t need to be a part of a larger plot, but builds small threads that could easily be used to expand the universe in future stories. It creates suspense between several near misses of all three characters and the threat that is Vader. It isn’t trying to expand the universe in any major way, but still tells a better story in its short read than a lot of Clone Wars and Rebels episodes do in 22 minutes. I also get wondering, if these Sith artifacts are able to have an effect on someone such as Luke, could Ben Solo also have been corrupted in a similar way?
My one and only complaint is that the cover art does not do the comic justice due to its Saturday morning cartoon feel and may give the wrong impression of whats within. However, the art style in the book is spot on and each character looks great.