Star Wars: Shattered Empire
Art: Marco Chechetto, Angel Unzueta, Emilio Laiso, Phil Notto
Colors: Andres Mossa
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Star Wars created by George Lucas
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Shattered Empire is one of the media tie-ins to the The Force Awakens written by Greg Rucka covering the thirty year gap since the end of Return of the Jedi. While the four issue series does feature the main protagonists from the older film, its purpose is to set the stage for the events of TFA via the introduction of a few new characters who will never be seen or heard from again. Their personal connection to one of the film's cast members will be immediately recognizable to anyone who’s seen TFA . But as with most tie-ins, the revelation is more of an afterthought retrofitted into the timeline with no noticeable effect.
If the comic drives home one point, it’s that the conclusion of ROTJ didn’t spell the end of hostilities between the film’s two warring factions: The Empire and the Rebel Alliance. The story begins in media res with the final stages of the fateful Battle of Endor, but seen through the eyes of a young married couple. Shara Bey is a crack A-wing fighter pilot participating in the Rebel Alliance attack on the second Death Star, while Kes is one of the commandos led by Han Solo during the concurrent ground assault on its force field generator. They're reunited at the victory celebrations on Endor, and begin to look forward to civilian life and raising a family.
It's not long before those plans are put on hold. Now on the losing side of the intergalactic struggle and acting on posthumous orders from Emperor Palpatine, the scattered Imperial forces are nevertheless determined to make the Alliance pay dearly for every world they liberate. Shara and Kes are separated for such long stretches by their respective deployments that Shara begins to feel torn between her loyalty to the Alliance and her desire to lead a more peaceful existence. The comic arrives at a satisfactory solution to the couple's predicament in the end, while leaving the greater conflict between good and evil still very much in the air since this is something being addressed in the film.
Naturally, the story contains a number of continuity nods. The more obvious ones include a mission to wrest the planet Naboo from the Empire led by Leia Organa which acknowledges The Phantom Menace as officially still a part of the Star Wars canon. Then there’s a mission led by Luke Skywalker to retrieve a sacred Jedi object which references The Clone Wars and foreshadows his enigmatic role in TFA. These actions might still have repercussions in the upcoming films of the franchise or, as more likely the case, they could just be empty filler. But within the context of the comic alone, their plot threads are largely disconnected from one another. The more established characters Han, Leia and Luke et al, aren’t clearly fleshed-out, dependent largely on readers’ pre-existing emotional investment from watching the original Star Wars trilogy.
If there’s any reason to buy this comic, it’s the gorgeous Star Wars space battle porn. A few other artists get involved, and the resulting visual contrast in their styles can be jarring. But Marco Chechetto handles the bulk of the pages. His interpretation of faces can come across as a little too smooth and static, but he possesses a serious command of the futuristic technology, especially the franchise’s numerous spaceships. His action set pieces are densely packed without sacrificing legibility. And his art lends a certain grittiness that enhances the impression of a lived-in universe vital to the franchise. Colorist Andres Mossa holds things together with a subdued but eerily artificial palette that bathes the technology in fluorescent blues and the natural world in umbers and sepias. Overall, Chechetto and Mossa come closer to replicating the visual aesthetic of the film than any of the other artists presently working on the various Star Wars comic titles.