Another new hope emerges.
Inasmuch as “The Ashes of Jedha” has succeeded over the past few months, it’s done so in spite of the artwork rather than because of it. That fact is only made more apparent in the sixth and final chapter. With Star Wars #43 capping off this storyline on a fairly underwhelming note, it’s clear that Marvel’s flagship Star Wars comic has some very fundamental problems that need addressing.
“Anticlimactic” is perhaps the best word to describe Star Wars #43. As strong as Kieron Gillen’s scripting has been since taking over the series, there’s not enough payoff in this finale. Nowhere is that problem more pronounced than with the final showdown between Luke and Commander Kanchar. This scene is treated less like a true battle and more like a brief skirmish delaying the inevitable rematch. Compounding this problem is the fact that so much of this issue hinges on an abrupt plot twist that only really works in the context of Gillen’s Darth Vader run. As fun as it is to see Gillen drawing connections between the two books, it would have been nice to see more buildup to that dramatic and sudden reversal in this storyline.
Those complaints notwithstanding, this issue doesn’t entirely lose sight of this arc’s strengths. “The Ashes of Jedha” is ultimately more significant in terms of its character-building than for how it pushes forward the narrative of the growing Rebel Alliance. Han continues to benefit under Gillen’s hand as we see the self-absorbed smuggler steadily grow into the man who will one day be known as “General Solo.” The strong characterization is one reason I hope to see Gillen remain on this series at least as long as Jason Aaron did before him.
Visually, the book is a very different story. It’s becoming harder and harder to find fresh ways to restate the same complaints. Salvador Larroca’s art is incredibly awkward and not at all adept at giving life to this ambitious tale. Star Wars has become a series that prioritizes photo-realism above all else, even when that results in page after page of eerie, artificial figures who are pulled directly out of film frames. Guru-eFX’s colors do little to smooth out those considerable rough edges. Larroca is perfectly adept at telling a story, but by leaning so heavily on photo-referenced elements and leaving it to Guru-eFX’s colors to fill in so much of the finer details, the book becomes an eyesore. We need more comics like Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Darth Vader that worry less about mimicking the films and more about building a unique artistic vision for the franchise.