Be­fore the Awak­en­ing

SFX - - Reviews -

re­leased 17 Novem­ber Pub­lisher mar­vel Comics

Writer Greg rucka

Artists marco Chec­chetto,

an­gel Unzueta, emilio laiso

The Star Wars Ex­panded Uni­verse is gone for good, and since early 2014, Lu­cas­film’s new, more co­he­sive story canon has been largely keep­ing to the pe­riod be­tween Episodes IV and V (es­pe­cially in Mar­vel’s cur­rent Star Wars and Darth Vader on­go­ing comics). How­ever, with The Force Awak­ens about to ar­rive in cine­mas and lots of ques­tions to be an­swered, they’re now start­ing to give us our first proper glimpses of what came af­ter the events of the orig­i­nal tril­ogy.

To ful­fil this role there’s a pub­lish­ing cam­paign, not-sos­nap­pily ti­tled Jour­ney To Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens. We’ve al­ready had Chuck Wendig’s post-Episode VI novel Af­ter­math. Now Mar­vel gets in on the act with four-is­sue minis­eries Shat­tered Em­pire, now col­lected to­gether as a graphic novel.

The story kicks off at the cli­max of Re­turn Of The Jedi, in the midst of the bat­tle to de­stroy the sec­ond Death Star. We’re soon fol­low­ing the life of dar­ing Rebel pi­lot Shara Bey, who’s also the mother of Force Awak­ens char­ac­ter Poe Dameron. Her hus­band Kes is a Rebel soldier, but de­spite the vic­tory on En­dor, their lives re­main in dan­ger as rem­nants of the Em­pire refuse to go qui­etly.

There are plenty of ap­pear­ances from the main Star Wars char­ac­ters through­out the story, and writer Greg Rucka does an ex­cel­lent job of cap­tur­ing the right tone, while also giv­ing a strong, hard-edged feel to the story’s mil­i­tary ac­tion. It’s a rous­ing, fast-paced ad­ven­ture that de­liv­ers the kind of high-stakes drama that Star Wars is best at, but it does end up srug­gling to make all its el­e­ments co­here.

The se­ries ar­guably tries to fit too much ma­te­rial into its four is­sues, and be­tween all the main char­ac­ter cameos (in­clud­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role for Princess Leia), it doesn’t al­ways feel like we get enough of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Shara and Kes that’s sup­posed to be the heart of the story. The episodic pac­ing doesn’t help mat­ters, and the hinted con­nec­tions with The Force Awak­ens are vague and per­plex­ing.

Rucka still does an ef­fec­tive job though, while the art (largely done by Marco Chec­chetto) show­cases the ex­pected level of pol­ish, giv­ing the se­ries a mix of emo­tive drama and epic space ac­tion. Shat­tered Em­pire re­mains an en­ter­tain­ing read, but isn’t quite an es­sen­tial one. Hope­fully, any fur­ther ex­plo­rations into the post-Episode VI world will do a smoother job of bal­anc­ing con­ti­nu­ity ref­er­ences and fran­chise re­quire­ments with a fully sat­is­fy­ing story. Saxon Bul­lock

Chec­chetto’s work will also be ap­pear­ing in the up­com­ing pre­quel-era minis­eries Obi-Wan & Anakin, start­ing in Jan­uary.

We’re not sure Harrison Ford’s looked this young since Amer­i­can Graf­fiti.

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