StarWars14Finalby Michael Brown, staff writer

Dark Horse Comics has been churning out quality Star Wars comics for years, from one-shots to long-running series, with almost everything winning awards. For years we’d been reading stuff like Dark Empire and getting tales of the Heroes of Yavin after the First Galactic Civil War. We fell in love with Knights of the Old Republic, which gave us stories of Jedi from even longer ago. And we marveled at Legacy, in which came stories of years in the future and the exploits of another Skywalker.  When it was announced over 14 months ago that they would be putting out a new Star Wars book set directly after the events of  Episode IV: A New Hope, and starring Luke, Han, Leia and the gang, fan excitement went through the roof.  And I will confess that I, your humble reviewer, was part of it. It did not disappoint.

Star Wars #1 was released with a stunning Alex Ross cover and was easily accessible for both hard core fans (those of us keeping up with the Expanded Universe) and the more casual fans who may have only seen the movies. Writer Brian Wood added depth to characters we already knew and loved. Throughout the series, Luke is still the idealistic farm boy, but now he’s saddled with some responsibility and dealing with abilities he’s only just beginning to understand. Han is still the incorrigible scoundrel, yet still wondering if he’s ready to throw his lot in with this band of rebels. Leia is no shrinking violet. Wood depicts her as a strong fighter, a warrior in her own right, who is just as comfortable behind the yoke of an X-Wing as she is behind a podium. For over a year,  Star Wars has been acclaimed by both fans and critics and is showing no signs of slowing down, despite its impending return to Marvel in 2015.

 

MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!

 

Star Wars #14 is the second of a two-part story concerning Darth Vader and his attempts to clean up the mess after the events in Star Wars #12, the finale of a 12-issue arc which dealt with the Rebel Alliance searching for a new home after Yavin, and the mole who is sabotaging the Alliance’s mission. Brian Wood delivers a solid and chilling tale of a Sith Lord who has had enough and wants some payback. Five Days of  Sith is told from the point-of-view of Ensign Nanda, a 22 year-old Imperial officer assigned to be Vader’s special assistant during what becomes five days of Vader ruthlessly killing anyone responsible, however indirectly, for the events in issue 12.  Accompanying Vader is what appears to be an early version of the 501st, the elite stormtrooper regiment that answers only to Vader. I liked this fill-in tale, which also shows a smidgen of Vader’s vulnerability. The Dark Lord has been snubbed by the Emperor after the disaster at Yavin, even having been removed from command of  the flagship Devastator as punishment. Vader’s mission of vengeance is just as much personal as it is a way to get back into the Emperor’s good graces.

Carlos D’Anda, who is the usual penciler for the series, took a break for this one (probably resting his hand after that epic space battle in issue 12), handing the artwork duties over to Facundo Percio, who worked with Warren Ellis on  Avatar Press’ Anna Mercury. Artists I’ve met and talked to at cons have always said, regarding work on Star Wars, that the hardest thing about penciling is drawing Vader. Percio handled it admirably in a book that was all Vader.

Brian Wood has been scripting excellent stories all year and the feel of Star Wars has definitely been present throughout the series and this offering is no different. As I said earlier and as comics and Star Wars fans already know, Marvel Comics is scheduled to pick up the Star Wars license from Dark Horse in 2015. But until that happens, Dark Horse Comics has promised their fans that they would continue with high quality Star Wars stories until it was time to stop. As far as I’m concerned, they are keeping that promise with a vengeance. I’m not going to speculate on the future of Star Wars once it gets to Marvel. I’m just going to say that if you like classic Star Wars in a comic that captures the tone and the feel perfectly, with every issue almost mimicking the excitement you felt when you were in the theater and John Williams’ score blasted in the dark. you seriously can’t miss this book.

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