The character of Han Solo is no stranger to retroactive continuity. The most famous alteration in the history of film existed solely for the purpose of softening his character. Even given such, the revelation at the end of issue #6 that Han was (possibly) once been married was far more radical a change than having Greedo shot first.
This in itself was not an unworkable idea. Harrison Ford’s characters are no strangers to sordid romances from the past suddenly coming back into his life (cf. Marion Ravenwood). Sana, however, has thus far added very little to the character. For the past several issues, nearly every panel featuring Sana, Han, and Leia could be summarized identically: Sana reiterates her claim to being Han’s wife, often interjecting some new factoid about their history together; Han angrily denies her accusations without offering any clarification on what actually happened between them; and Leia (like the reader) grows increasingly exacerbated with both smugglers equally. Everyone hoping issue #10 would finally break that formula will be sorely disappointed.
A formula that’s working far better is Luke’s bumbling efforts to continue his Jedi training in the absence of his mentor Obi-Wan and in the aftermath of his failed confrontation with Vader. In this issue he plays the part of Sparticus or Maximus, enslaved and training for gladiatorial combat. His capture emphasizes his failure to master the lessons he received under Kenobi’s tutelage (evidently, not every adventure need start with walking into a bar and looking for trouble), while the lightsaber practice it leads to shows the growth fans knew must have occurred between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back in a far more narratively interesting way than his session with hover remotes several issues back.
This issue also teams-up Chewbacca and Threepio, another classic pairing straight out ofEpisode V. In fact, the whole second arc of the series (Showdown on the Smugglers’ Moon) is clearly constructed to be The Empire Strike Back to the first arc’s A New Hope. Whereas the initial story saw all of the primary heroes sneaking around one of the Empire’s most fearsome base with Luke flying in at the end to destroy it, the follow-up splits the heroes apart: Han and Leia’s budding romance expressing itself through petty bickering, Luke with Artoo searching for lost wisdom, and Chewbacca growling loudly as a certain protocol droid provides comically dry commentary.
For some reason, Jason Aaron decided this Empire Strike Back homage needed a large injection of The Phantom Menace, and so introduce in this issue a Gungan character that is indistinguishable in his speech from Jar Jar Binks. It’s a baffling decision, to say the least.
On art, Stuart Immonen is no stranger to a deep space setting, having worked alongside Bendis on his run of Guardians of the Galaxy. That veterancy shows here. He maintains his signature cartoony style, yet his faces never fail to maintain a clear resemblance to the actors they’re based upon. The real treat, though, is anytime someone fires a blaster or swings a lightsaber. The static image of a comic book panel suddenly comes alive with motion under Immonen’s skilled composition.
This art is the issue’s saving grace. The adventure on Cymoon 1 which started this series out felt like the true immediate follow up to A New Hope that 1978’s Splinter in the Mind’s Eyehad always wanted to be. It was more than just another entry in the ever expanding Star Wars canon; it was, for all intents and purposes, Episode 4.5. Showdown on the Smugglers’ Moon (and issue #10 particularly) in contrast, is like so much of the now discarded Expanded Universe; a fun diversion, but hardly essential.