There are many Star Wars. The title itself implies as much, the use of the plural indicating not a singular Star War but a series of such conflicts. But not only at the textual level do there exist multiple wars, ranging from the Galactic Civil War to the Clone Wars, but also at the meta-textual level. Throughout the Star Wars universe certain motifs recur time and again, lending their stamp of authenticity more so than merely the shared space-fantasy setting. This is what makes Knights of the Old Republic a more genuine Star Wars game than Battlefront; the latter is a mere simulation of certain scenes from a few films, whereas the former gets to the heart of the particular archetypes, flavoring them with the familiar sci-fi/samurai/spaghetti western trappings emblematic of the series.
In any Star Wars there’s always the fledgling Knight, the wizened Master, the menacing Dark Lord, the distressed Damsel, the charming Scoundrel, the accompanying Droids, etc. While the most familiar instances of these types are the ur examples or Luke, Obi Wan, Vader, etc., often the remixes are far more compelling characters. Give me the deathstick smoking, bounty hunting Cade Skywalker over his great-great grandfather any day. Rohm Kota likewise made for a better Jedi General than Kenobi, just as Canderous Ordo was a better Mandalorian than Boba Fett. Yeah, I said it.
The genius of Star Wars #13 comes from Jason Aaron taking all of the various evil incarnations of the aforementioned archetypes, as established by Kieron Gillen in his run on Darth Vader, and pitting such against their classic counterparts, often to comedic effect. The showdown between Han Solo and Dr. Aphra (who also pulls inspiration from Ford’s equally famous Indiana Jones) is particularly inspired. Both feign their familiarity with the other, with Aphra sarcastically suggesting Solo’s reputation preceded him, while Han proving reluctant to admit aloud her notoriety. Brilliantly, both think too highly of themselves, regarding the other a fool for falling into the same trap they themselves had unknowingly wandered into. I’m not often tickled by slapstick, but the sight of Solo and Aphra simultaneously beset by wasp-worms, running head-first into one another for a double knock-out left me in stitches.
Meanwhile, the plucky Artoo, allegedly better than squad of battle droids if you care to recall the prequels, finally meets his match against the aggressively armed BT-1. Their clash proves that, like hokey religions and ancient weaponry, a single electrical prod and some rocket thrusters are no match for a few dozen blasters and missile launchers at your side. Artoo may very well be my favorite character from the original trilogy, but even I agree the squatty astromech’s comeuppance here is well deserved.
The best use of the evil ectypes, however, is found in the scene with Triple-Zero and Chewbacca. The pattern which Aaron otherwise employs throughout the issue of having the various doppelgangers confront their counterparts is wisely discarded, there being better comedy to mine from a callback to the original film. Watching the Wookiee rip the pernicious protocol droid’s arms out of his socket is a satisfying substitute to witnessing such wrath befall the faux-British butler bearing the same chassis.
All of these encounters are excellently realized by Deodato’s art, which is every bit as praiseworthy as his recent work on Vader Down #1. Cassidy and Immonen were both genuinely great pencillers, but Deodato handily handed in the most realistically rendered and just plain gorgeous issue of the series to date. He has a knack for everything: explosions, electricity and other effects that pop off the page, machinery so accurate it looks like ripped straight out of blueprints, and environments which are somehow simultaneously detailed and desolate, their desolation even evoking a certain sehnsucht.
I had been planning on bringing a pair of headphones to the midnight premier of The Force Awakens so as to prevent anyone shouting spoilers from affecting the enjoyment of my initial viewing, but now I’m reconsidering bringing my iPad instead so as to evangelize the Aaron’s Star Wars and the Vader Down crossover to fellow fans. Episode VII is expected to smash all kinds of box office records on it’s opening weekend; there is not a single reason why every single individual seeing that film should not be purchasing this series as well. After all, there are many Star Wars. Whether The Force Awakens properly belongs among them remains to be seen. But this? Now this is Star Wars!