Confidently featuring a “new arc” about Princess Leia transferring Doctor Aphra “to a secret prison that the Rebel Alliance maintains for the most dangerous of Imperial prisoners” this twenty-page periodical probably demonstrated the best and worst aspects of Jason Aaron’s penmanship to its impressively large 110,407 strong audience in February 2016. For whilst the month’s second biggest selling comic book undeniably both starts and ends with plenty of pulse-pounding action, as well as a smattering of laser fire, the Alabama-born author’s narrative arguably sags in the middle under the weight of some seriously word-heavy scenes.
Indeed, for large swathes of this publication, its readers are disconcertingly treated to a seemingly endless patchwork of dialogue-driven panels portraying Organa’s long-winded attempt to recruit Sana Starros as a Rebel sympathizer, some seriously sarcastic sniping from Darth Vader’s captive female “sidekick”, and the over-confident ramblings of Sunspot Prison’s arrogant warden; “Doctor Aphra will be quite secure here, for as long as you wish. As I told you, this facility is the safest, most secret prison in all of…” True, the Inkpot Award-winner does manage to engineer a moment of interest amidst all this talk by briefly visiting Han Solo just as the Corellian smuggler is caught cheating at a dive’s Sabacc table. But this adrenalin-pumping glimpse of the Millennium Falcon’s owner, along with Luke Skywalker, running for their lives is disappointingly fleeting.
Perhaps far better written is Aaron’s inclusion of a skulking group of ne’er-do-wells, who have assembled in a spacecraft located “as far as we can risk going [near the Rebellion’s prison] without being picked up by their scanners.” These rogues seemingly mean to rescue Chelli despite a number of them being “burned alive” due to the closeness of the penal facility to its star, and their sudden gun-toting assault upon the secret installation’s guards in Q Sector doubtless provided any perusing bibliophiles with just the sort of cliff-hanging hook needed to ensure they returned to the store’s spinner rack the following month.
Disappointingly, what does seem somewhat apparent from the storyboarding of this comic is that Jason has not previously worked with Leinil Yu before, despite the pair at the time of this book’s printing arguably being “Marvel mainstays”. The Filipino penciler’s artwork for Issue Sixteen of “Star Wars” is definitely dynamic enough, especially during Aphra’s unsuccessful attempt to overpower her captors whilst aboard Starros’ ship. Yet his somewhat scratchy style doesn’t really imbue his figures with any noticeable vivacity whenever they’re not fleeing or fighting for survival, and that lifelessness resultantly slows down an already somewhat ponderous plot…