To be perfectly honest with you, I wasn’t sure whether Brian Wood would be able to top #2 of Star Wars, but he has absolutely blown above and beyond all expectations in this third installment. Coupled with the fantastic art team of Carlos D’anda and Gabe Eltaeb, Dark Horse is delivering the goods on this new Star Wars series, adopting a deeper glance at key characters from the saga, while upping the ante for expectations.
Now with the secretive "black ops" X-Wing group christened Grey Squadron, Princess Leia leads her team in training operations in preparation for the ongoing search for a new Rebel Base location, and to uproot the suspected Imperial spy. Luke Skywalker, also in Grey Squadron, falls short of expectations in the team, as his heroic reputation begins to corrode his sensibilities and cause him to be reprimanded.
Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca have snuck onto Coruscant, the heart of the Empire, on a secret mission based on intelligence provided by Mon Mothma. They are placed into an almost impossible quandary, cornered by Imperial Stormtroopers after their intelligence is found to be compromised.
The plot in Star Wars #3 is the best of the series yet. Brian Wood continues to take the very beloved characters into previously uncharted territory, exploring their hearts and minds both in turmoil from the very recent experiences of A New Hope. The depth into which he studies the characters brings forth some memorable moments: Brian Wood is adding new dimensions to our favorite heroes of the Rebel Alliance.
There are some nice clever trickeries used in the book to promote a little ambiguity in places (Did Luke say that, or did Prithi say that?). As well as that, there are some surprising inclusions, such as the cameo appearance of the Second Death Star above Endor at the start of the issue, establishing Darth Vader’s whereabouts and setting up the situation for something significant to come.
But Brian Wood is going beyond what you could possibly foresee within this new Star Wars series. There’s a section in which Leia is reflecting on her moments on the first Death Star during the destruction of Alderaan, in which he writes: "…and Vader’s hands gripping her forearms so hard as he forced her to watch that she was bruised for weeks." The visual spirit of imagining Sith-caused bruises on Leia’s arms from that fateful moment in A New Hope is something I have never considered. This is just a sample of some morsels Brian Wood entices the readers with, underscoring elements that make you look at the original movie in a completely new light.
Another example is Wood’s contention that Han Solo, does very much indeed, shoot first.
The artwork, like the writing, also soars above expectations, with D’anda’s out of the ordinary rendering of well-loved characters that stays very close to likeness but is clearly his own style. Mon Mothma’s look is sublime and true to the saga, as is his approach to illustrating Leia. Eltaeb’s colors are pointed in this issue, more so than the last, where they seem to amplify settings and situations in this chapter.
The unstoppable team of Wood, D’anda, and Eltaeb are establishing themselves as a new cornerstone of significance in Star Wars comics – rivaling (and, dare I say it, topping) teams behind classics such as Legacy and Dark Empire.
Dark Horse’s new Star Wars series is quickly becoming a title not to be missed by comic book fans. This is not just for the Star Wars nerds – this is a comic book event that will be long remembered and cited as trailblazing material with the intense focus on characters. Run out and get this issue right now, and while you’re at it, grab the first two. Brian Wood’s vision of Star Wars is kicking ass!