Age of Rebellion: Recap 1

Marvel’s Star Wars: Age of Rebellion is the second wave of one-shot comics exploring major and minor characters through new bite-sized stories. This time we jump into the Galactic Civil War, also known as the Original Trilogy era. Do these new stories hold up to the overall great Age of Republic stories? Read on to find out with a recap of the first three issues – Princess Leia, Grand Moff Tarkin, and the 3-part Special.

We’re talking comics today kids, and that means taking a ride through a mercenary art form. The ‘Age of’  series has been a bit of a rollercoaster thus far, with ups and downs in the storytelling and choices of stories themselves. While the die-hard lore fans may not regard every story as ‘necessary,’ they’ve been regarded overall as fun stories with new backstory tidbits and connective tissue to the greater lore. The stories don’t connect to one another, as every issue is a one-shot (and each issue numbered as #1) but instead fill in minor backstory or tell new stories in between films and existing books.

So, let’s dive in. . .

*****The following article recaps the first three issues of Marvel’s Age of Rebellion, and it contains spoilers for the Princess Leia, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Special issues. These stories are very short and it’s difficult to discuss them without spoilers, so if you haven’t read them yet and want to enjoy any potential reveals/story beats, head to your comic shop before you read this article*****

Princess Leia #1:

Thus far, I’ve loved everything I’ve seen involving Leia in canon, and this comic is no exception. Claudia Gray’s novels starring Leia (Bloodline and Leia: Princess of Alderaan) are great reads and viewed by many as essential reading. The earlier Marvel comic series starring Leia is also great, and I wish it would have gone on longer. I’m happy to say that minus one (in my opinion) shortcoming, this is a fantastic kickoff to the Age of Rebellion series.

We begin following Leia and Chewbacca, who are gearing up to confront Jabba the Hutt and rescue Han Solo from his carbonite lockup. The pair are interrupted by a distress call from rebel ally and close personal friend of Leia, Evaan Verlaine. Evaan was created for Leia’s original comic miniseries and even if it isn’t an on-page appearance (it’s a distress call, we don’t get to see her) it’s good to get a cameo from her. This issue is actually loaded with cameos and good references, but more on that later. Evaan’s call details a rebel ship has been shot down by bounty hunters. And who is it whose in trouble? None other than Lando Calrissian.

We cut to Lando, who is under fire and soon subdued by the bounty hunter Boushh. Lando attempts to disarm the bounty hunter with his charm, and he starts talking numbers to pay the hunter off rather than face Jabbe the Hutt or the Empire. But the assailant removes their helmet, and it turns out to be Leia in disguise.

So, slight detour. My only gripe with this particular issue is that I hadn’t seen the Forces of Destiny episode yet called Bounty Hunted.  I watched it right after reading, and they are two halves of the same whole. That short episode of the YouTube series shows Leia meeting Maz Kanata for the first time, and they are soon attacked and pursued by Boushh himself. Leia kicks his butt and steals the outfit she’d later use to sneak into Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. It just so happens that the two are about the same size, so Leia should be able to pull off the disguise. Where does my grievance come in? Well, it just feels like that episode should have been worked into this comic somehow. The episode shows Leia gaining the outfit as well as the thermal detonator, Boushh’s weapons, etc. And this comic references that episode heavily, showing her gripping the detonator, donning the outfit, and even uses the same comment about being the right size for the clothes. It doesn’t come off as forced or for that matter even that big of a deal that these are two separate things, but to have them be separate means that only the most voracious readers and viewers will ever get this complete set of minor details.

After rescuing Lando, Leia gets angry. All she wants is to rescue Han, and a big part of why he’s frozen in carbonite is Lando’s failed plans on Cloud City. We learn that Lando was setting up a double cross – he planned to sell out the rebels as a fakeout, only to turn on Darth Vader and Boba Fett after. And that’s one of the great things about Han and Lando. They always have these elaborate plans that don’t work the first time around, and it usually isn’t until plan B or plan C that they can get back on the right track.

The rebels are interrupted by a hunting party, and a pair of bounty hunters find and capture Chewbacca. They use a form of stun blaster called a bolo-gun, which I liked the design of. It has some similarities with the shotguns from Pandemic’s Battlefront II, and they fire green arcs of energy that entangle and shock the hunter’s prey. Basically it’s a stun blaster, but appears more painful than the usual blue rings of stun blasts we’re used to seeing. Good design, and it’s fitting once we see who these bounty hunters are teamed up with – the infamous Bossk. We get to see his ship, the Hound’s Tooth, and a reference to how Boba Fett was trained (in part) by Bossk. This is of course a nod to the Clone Wars TV series, where we see Bossk and Boba work together as well as do time in prison together.

Thinking quickly, Leia dons her disguise again and goes to talk to Bossk in the local cantina. She of course finds the unconscious Chewbacca but can’t rescue him alone. We learn Bossk was after Lando, but Chewbacca will fetch a fair sum of credits until he can track down the intended scoundrel. Leia (as Boushh) departs, saying he’ll see Bossk again on Tatooine. This tips Bossk off that Boussh is up to something, and he takes his goons back out to follow him into the woods.

Back out in the wilderness, Leia starts her plan. She has Lando tied up, feigning his capture. Lando pleads, saying that if he can get to a casino he can drum up the necessary winnings to pay off his own bounty. He mentions Canto Bight by name, which is a name drop I really appreciate. I’m one of the nine or so people who didn’t absolutely hate that scene on the casino planet in The Last Jedi, and seeing it brought up by Lando makes perfect sense since he’d probably spend all the time he could in a place like that. Realizing that Boussh intends to capture Lando himself, Bossk and his team strike. Boushh (Leia) retaliates with a bolo-gun, stunning Bossk’s teammates. But she’s quickly drawn into a fight with Bossk one-on-one, which is just as bad as taking on the whole group.

Realizing she is outmanned and outgunned, even after disabling Bossk’s blaster by knocking him down a ledge, Leia pulls off something we’d expect Han or Lando to come up with. She kicks Lando into the nearby campfire and shoots him. We learn soon after it was (obviously) a non-fatal wound, but it’s enough to convince Bossk that Lando is done for. She then bargains with Bossk, sparing the lives of his men in exchange for Chewbacca. Bossk takes the deal, gets pissed off at his men, and leaves. At least I think this is what happens. It seems like Leia is immediately unmasked and talking to Lando, but Bossk is in-fact gone in the same panel. So it’s assumed from there that the very next stop is to go after Han on Tatooine.

The Leia and Tarkin book debuted on the same day, but this was the first one I wanted to read given how much I’ve enjoyed previous Leia-centric content. As per usual, the art is very good and this issue is packed with references – Clone Wars, Forces of Destiny, the sequel trilogy (The Last Jedi specifically) and even Leia’s own comic from years earlier. If you want to go in order, watch that episode of Forces of Destiny first for a slightly more complete picture. Otherwise pick this up and have at it, it’s a great issue.

Grand Moff Tarkin #1:

Tarkin’s #1 issue takes strong inspiration from, and makes many references to, James Luceno’s 2014 novel, Tarkin. It opens with flashbacks taken straight from the novel, where a young Tarkin’s battles beasts as part of a formative hunt on his homeworld of Eriadu. From a young age, a kill-or-be-killed attitude is instilled in Wilhuff Tarkin by a tough mentor, his uncle Jova. The boy is attacked by a pair of cat but also wolf-like blue beasts. Much later we see that an adult Tarkin keeps a claw belonging to one of these beasts in his quarters aboard the Death Star, and he’s since fashioned it into a curved knife.

Next we meet with Tarkin as an adult, as the Grand Moff and commander of the Death Star. This short story takes place in the narrow gap between Rogue One and A New Hope. For reasons left unsaid, Tarkin has brought the station to the planet Rango Tan with the intention of testing the stations’ crew with live-fire. We learn that it takes 168 gunners to operate the planet-killer weapon, and some of them made the grave mistake of hesitating when given a direct order by Tarkin. However, this firing was a test, not a battle, so Tarkin demands to personally meet with every gunner aboard the battle station. It’s here that without seeing Darth Vader, we immediately understand why Vader and Tarkin work together so often.

Tarkin speaks with the chief gunner, and asks him if he has any scars from battle. The man does not, though he does admit to having a scar on his knee from a game of grav ball. This offends Tarkin, who proceeds to punch the gunner in the face. Before the gunner can get back up, Tarkin begins removing his shirt, and it reveals numerous scars from Tarkin’s many battles – both during the war and during his many hunts, presumably. To prove his worth as a warrior, the gunner his given a vibroblade. Tarkin draws his curved hunting knife and is able to brutally defeat the man in seconds.

Except that isn’t exactly what happens. See, Tarkin has extremely violent daydreams, and in his mind he should gut the chief gunner for his perceived failings. Shaken back into reality by the gunner showing his minor scar, Tarkin reminds the Death Star crew who and what they are. We get a nod to Director Krennic, whose leadership aboard the station wasn’t up to Tarkin’s standards, and Tarkin lets the crewmen off with a warning – they can shape up or be decommissioned and shipped out to Imperial labor colonies.

Flashing forward ever-so slightly, the iconic Alderaan scene from A New Hope is reenacted on-page with a few minor additions after the planet’s destruction. Story-wise, the most notable addition here is showing some gunners hesitating once again, but still firing the main gun and blowing Alderaan to bits. We learn that Tarkin had tracking equipment installed in the gunners’ helmets, monitoring their vitals and indeed showing signs of hesitation during the most recent firing sequence. The chief gunner is brought to Tarkin again, and it is confirmed that the man, Endo Frant, grew up on the planet that was just destroyed. He lashes out at Tarkin (well, as much as you can lash out at Tarkin without him murdering you) and asks how he would feel if he’d just been asked to destroy his own planet. It turns out that that’s something Tarkin would probably enjoy, but he shrugs it off by saying he would do his duty.

Before retiring to his quarters, Tarkin has the gunner crew ejected from an airlock. They die in the vacuum of space, and Tarkin is reading something in his quarters. For a second I thought he had put on some Count Dooku-style space pajamas, but it’s actually just his uniform with the shirt unbuttoned. I don’t think it’s necessarily important what he’s reading, I think it just means he can kill dozens of people and move on from it – individual lives aren’t important to him, only the ultimate goal.

So, in closing on Tarkin, I think this issue makes a great companion to the novel. Seeing Tarkin as a cool and collect leader with a snarling animal just beneath the facade is an interesting take on a classic character. He’s elevated to one of the highest positions within the Empire, yet his mind still works like that of a predator in the jungle. I suppose this means that between destroying Alderaan and the Battle of Yavin IV that a whole new crew of gunners had to be trained to fire the main weapon? Or there was a B-team? Look for the B-team to get their own book someday, that’ll be good stuff.

Oh, and one note on the art in this issue. It’s all great, consistent stuff – except for the cover. For some reason this cover looks nothing like Tarkin to me. His face isn’t skull-like enough, the hair and forehead are slightly off, and he looks too broad. I’ve seen art where Grand Admiral Thrawn was drawn in a similar way and I never liked that either, but that’s just personal preference I suppose. Covers are important though, because that’s the first thing a reader is going to see, and I might not have read this book if the rest of it looked like that cover.

Special Part One: IG-88

I have never once been secretive about my weird love for bounty hunters. They take the job to get paid and don’t care about who wins or who dies so long as they get paid. I think a lot of people might identify more strongly with those feelings than they’d ever care to admit, but everyday life also doesn’t come down to those choices for most of us (I sincerely hope.) This comic keeps the faith alive with a great glimpse into the life of an under-explored bounty hunter, the infamous IG-88.

This short story does a great job of bridging the gap between Legends and Canon. In Legends, IG-88 turned on his creators shortly after his activation and implanted his consciousness into multiple bodies, effectively creating identical copies linked by one superior mind. The canon comic story opens with a narrator talking about IG-88, how no one truly knows anything about him. The droid doesn’t collect bounties, he exterminates them. He has no need for money and doesn’t always cash in on his contracts, meaning sometimes he’s the only one who knows if a mark is alive or dead. Much like his Legends counterpart, IG-88 seeks perfection. He’s patient, has little need for money, and prizes the kill as pleasure enough to keep working.

We meet up with IG-88 as he stalks and terminates a mark named Venga Liss. Years later, we meet IG-88 again with a team of bounty hunters – 4-LOM, Embo, Dengar, and who appears to be the Wookiee known as Black Krrsantan. An Imperial stormtrooper tips off the hunters that the same Venga Liss is on the run – this tricks the other hunters into running off, but IG-88 knows he blew this person up with a thermal detonator personally, and he isn’t buying the story. IG-88 unmasks the fraud and discovers another wanted man. He is then quickly surrounded by other criminals disguised as stormtroopers, and the assassin is blown to scrap by blaster fire.

These criminals have heard the horror stories of IG-88, and they decide to cash in on his notoriety by claiming the bounties stored in his memory (inside his physical head, of course.) These small-timers decide to cash out with with a local mob leader rather than dealing with the bounty hunting guilds or the Empire, presumably because using IG-88’s head as evidence would draw too much suspicion. It isn’t long before the deal falls through, however, and IG-88’s head takes an opportunity to seize the advantage.

While the heat is drawn away from him, IG-88 makes a call to his ship, the IG-2000. A new body drops through the ceiling and does a perfect superhero landing, then reattaches the head and goes to town murdering everyone in the criminals’ lair. He adds the kills to his database and declares the mission worth his while.

I loved this start to the Special issue and wished it kept up this kind of momentum. More on that later. IG-88 was an unexpected choice to get his own story in one of these and they nailed it. Everything in the issue has a setup and payoff, which is very hard to do in such a short page limit. And it gets a lot across about the character without the character monologuing or explaining himself – it all comes from some horrified bystander who knows what he’s been through has to be seen to be believed.

Special Part Two: Yoda

Yoda’s short (no pun intended) story takes place minutes before the former Jedi Grand Master meets Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. After his feelings of failure and guilt drove him to self-exile, Yoda made his way to Dagobah to live out a solitary life until the time was right to train Luke. With Obi-Wan Kenobi gone, Yoda is the last hope to train Luke in the ways of the Force. But what does a typical day look like when you’ve fallen from esteemed master at the Jedi Temple to total isolation?

Our little green friend and at-the-time last of the Jedi is restless, unable to sleep soundly and haunted by the anger, hate, and suffering that destroyed the Republic he vowed to protect. It’s either early morning or the middle of the night, hard to tell on a planet as dark as Dagobah, and Yoda is either ready for breakfast or a midnight snack. He’s out of the native animal fats he uses to cook with, however, so he gears up for a hunt far away from his swampy dwelling. Yoda has not carried a lightsaber since his defeat on Coruscant, and informs us he would never use a saber in the pursuit of hunting for his own survival. For one, he feels it would diminish the weight and value of the Jedi’s traditional weapon. And secondly, he puts away the blade as punishment for not seeing the downfall of the Jedi until it was far too late.

Yoda assembles a bow and arrow and uses it to hunt some feline-type creatures with bat faces and tusks. Seeing Yoda out and about on Dagobah, especially in survival mode, was very interesting to see. It’s a glimpse into what Yoda had to go through, both by living off the land as well as dealing with the crippling guilt of watching the Republic fall. We actually get a flashback to those very moments. A ledge crumbles beneath the diminutive Jedi, causing him to fall and hang on by his nails just like in Revenge of the Sith when he is defeated by the new Emperor. He falls into a cavern and is buried by rubble and rotten soil. Though it appears hopeless, Yoda knows that to give into hopeless feelings is to let the dark side win again, and he simply can’t have that. He musters his still-considerable strength in the Force and blows the debris away, allowing him to continue his journey back to his hut.

Shortly after Yoda returns home, Luke Skywalker’s X-wing arrives, crashing through the forest canopy and landing in the muck of the swamp. Yoda remarks that a ‘new hope’ has arrived, and that he, the current ‘last Jedi,’ won’t be the last Jedi. Playing on movie titles can be corny or even cringey if not done well, but I thought connecting this moment from the Original Trilogy to the Sequel Trilogy was pretty good – one last Jedi to another.

Special Part Three: Biggs and Porkins:

Disclaimer: Sooo I hated this story. There’s a time and place for stories that aren’t equal to the films, side stories that maybe aren’t as great or satisfying. I. . .don’t know who this story is for or what purpose it serves. It’s just. . .a thing. It exists. And I’m not going to get butthurt over it being canon like some do. I strongly dislike this story for a lot of reasons but every piece of art has a right to exist and to be criticized. So, here we go.

The final short story in the Rebellion special begins with Biggs Darklighter and Jek Porkins on an unspecified mission near Kashyyk, homeworld of the Wookiees. The pair narrowly avoid death in yet another fighter engagement with the Empire. Biggs gives a warning to Porkins, and Porkins wipes out one last TIE fighter. A small holoprojector is among the debris, which strikes Porkins’ canopy and activates. The image is of the TIE pilot, helmet removed and smiling with his wife and child. Our introduction to this story is basically fine.

And then Biggs and Porkins proceed to be assholes for the rest of the story. Porkins is distraught over that last kill over Kashyyk, but Biggs undercuts it by making so many bloodthirsty remarks about the fight. He mentions that the pilots must be in millions of little pieces and he likes to imagine the pilots screaming as they die (and exclaiming how much better X-wings are than TIEs at the same time.) Porkins is in no mood to celebrate with Biggs despite the mission’s success (we never get to know what mission was successful or what they were up to by the way.) Deciding they need a vacation from the war (yes really) they decide to take advantage of a vacation planet with a struggling economy. The exchange rates are in their favor so they decide to go and live it up. That exchange rate joke might be a clever observation but I don’t think that’d be the first thing on the minds of some adrenaline-fueled fighter pilots.

The pilots head to the planet Irff, which is remarkably similar sound to a sigh. This vacation planet is an interesting concept, I’ll give it that. I’m a huge Invader Zim fan, and Zim’s species the Irkens are notorious for conquering planets and repurposing them to serve a single function – food court planet, convention center planet, prison planet, the list goes on. This planet, however, is very strange. I don’t so much mind the coloring, it actually gave me Holiday Special Boba Fett cartoon vibes. But the tour guide alien character states littering is encouraged on the planet, the pilots eat small creatures alive right out of the air, and Porkins drunkenly asks a purple dinosaur to marry him. Then they’re literally thrown out, into the sky anime-style, to accommodate some Imperial guests.

Porkins and Biggs decide to immediately abduct the Imperial officer and see what she knows. Now, this tactic has been used on both sides of this war, but it was used during war time or in the midst of a battle, not in the middle of a resort that seems to favor neither side. The pilots hide their arms under towels, pretending to have blasters, and we learn that the officer is merely impersonating an Imperial to get perks at the hotel. Oh, except she isn’t and she reports them. The pair runs for it and has to wait on a space bus to take them back to the rebellion base.

Back at the base, Porkins whines about how complicated the war is, how good and evil aren’t clear lines and anyone could turn out to be an enemy depending on their point of view. A strange stark-white alien we’ve yet to meet seems to think it’s much simpler, that these potential threats should just be killed off before they have a chance to hurt anyone he loves. And he mentions a handful of people who died while Biggs and Porkins were gone, but they can go to the funeral or funerals of whoever dies next.

Elsewhere, the Imperial officer has returned to base and has to unclog some toilets. And we cut back to Porkins one more time, who has been called into battle again. And he laments, wondering when the war will finally be over.

As I mentioned, I didn’t like this story at all. It’s tone is all over the place, the writing thinks it’s saying something deep, and the jokes feel cringey at best. The writing bookending the vacation scenes thinks it’s saying profound things about war fatigue and loss, but it’s completely undermined by a bloodthirsty Biggs Darklighter, a weird white alien who exists only to inform us of several off-page deaths of people we’ve never met, and a space vacation that drowns in its own weirdness. At best, this short story is a “what-if?” story that should be ignored because it goes so far to do something completely different and actually pretty not-Star Wars. But I can’t even recommend it for that, or for being “so bad it’s good,” because it really, really isn’t. Awful way to close out an otherwise great special issue.

Age of Rebellion is so far very strong. Although the Leia, Tarkin, and Yoda stories bookend other stories we’ve seen on film and TV, they do so in a way that doesn’t feel tacked-on. IG-88 was a clear standout for me as a bounty hunter fan, though I think the best of this first batch has to be Leia. On the whole these are good but short reads that leave you wanting more without feeling like you’re being shorted something. They’re all great in their own way (except that vacation mess that doesn’t, doesn’t count)

As always, thanks for reading and may the Force of Others be with you,

-Supreme Leader David

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