From A Library – Star Wars: Shattered Empire

Star Wars: Shattered Empire collection cover

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1–4
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Marco Checchetto (and Angel Unzueta and Emilio Laiso)

I didn’t expect to see Rucka writing a Star Wars comic, especially one that starts at the end of the Battle of Endor; what I did expect was that Rucka would write a good comic book, and at least I was right about that. Lieutenant Shara Bey is an Alliance pilot in Green Group, fighting Imperial ships outside the Death Star; she comes close to accidentally shooting Luke Skywalker as he exits the Death Star following his battle with the Emperor. She is married to Sergeant Kes Dameron, part of the Pathfinders team assigned to Han Solo, which is how she ends up volunteering as a pilot for his team when it goes on a clean-up mission after the celebrations. Her adventures in the weeks after see her acting as a pilot for Leia and Luke on separate missions, as she also struggles to come to terms with being a rebel but who wants to settle down with the husband she barely sees and their baby they haven’t seen since joining the rebellion.

I know this is a cliché when it comes to talking about Rucka’s writing, but he writes phenomenally good female characters, mostly through writing really good characters who happen to be women. It’s a sad indictment of fictional entertainment that we still have to make a point of highlighting good female characters, but that’s the way it is so I will continue to highlight them, especially with Rucka’s excellent track record (Tara Chace, Renee Montoya, Forever Carlyle, to name a few). Shara Bey is a human being doing her best under difficult circumstances, who is good at what she does but doesn’t want her life to be nothing else but the job; she is relatable, admirable and believable. Rucka does a nice job of fitting her in the Star Wars mythos but he makes sure to focus on her character first before the story; it just makes the fun of seeing Bey in stories with the main Star Wars protagonists even more enjoyable.

It’s good to see Rucka working again with Checcetto – they did a great job on the Punisher series that should have been allowed to continue, and seem to have a good synthesis of their styles. It’s a shame that Checcetto doesn’t do the art for the whole four issues, but the other artists don’t drop the ball – I’m not sure which artist was responsible for the Leia sections but the likeness was perfect.

If I have a criticism of this collection is that four issues isn’t enough – I would gladly read more stories centred on Bey interacting with the Star Wars characters. This is compounded by the strange choice to include the first issue of Princess Leia by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson and the first issue of Star Wars from 1977 by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin at the end of the book. The Princess Leia chapter is very good, and I will go out of my way to read it, but I would feel cheated if I bought this book and the Princess Leia collection, paying twice for some of the same content. The original Star Wars comic book is an oddity, being the start of an adaptation of the film but seemingly from a shooting draft of the screenplay that had sections removed for the film – it has various scenes with Luke and Biggs on Tattoine that aren’t in the movie; also, and I say this as a Chaykin fan, the art isn’t as strong as Chaykin’s previous work on the likes of Cody Starbuck or later work on American Flagg!, so doesn’t act as a great incentive to read more of those earlier Star Wars comic books. However, as I said, it’s only a small criticism – Rucka has crafted a great new character in the Star Wars world and a very enjoyable story.

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