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Review by Jesse Schedeen

Marvel's Star Wars Comic Takes a Dark Turn (Star Wars #50 Review)

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Hope cometh before the fall.

Perhaps the single biggest question Marvel's flagship Star Wars comic has to answer is this - how did the Rebel Alliance find itself in the state it's in at the beginning of The Empire Strikes back? How did they go from being victorious destroyers of the Empire's massive super-weapon to ragtag freedom fighters on life support in the span of three years? The series makes some major in-roads on that front as it reaches its 50th issues. Star Wars #50 is a reminder that there's still plenty of room for drama and surprises in a story where we already know the beginning and the end.

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With a name like "Hope Dies," there's little question as to the tone of Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca's latest collaboration. This issue opens with the Rebels on the rise, celebrating their new fleet and the new tactical possibilities brought about by having the resources of both Mon Cala and Shu-Toran behind them. It goes without saying that there's a major shoe to drop here. The fun of this issue is riding that wave of storytelling tension and seeing just how things go south for Leia and friends. Gillen's methodical plotting makes the most of that tension and heightens the drama as a simple celebration devolves into all-out horror for our heroes. Even after having read Gillen and Larroca's Darth Vader run, their ability to do so much with so little when it comes to depicting the character never fails to impress.

This issue is also a showcase for another talent Gillen has shown on this series. He's able to craft a cohesive take on the Star Wars universe that combines old favorites like Han and Leia, newer characters like General Draven and Hera and original comic book creations like Queen Trios. All of these disparate characters are brought together for a comic that captures the tone of the old movies while still reflecting the much bigger scope this franchise has built up in recent years.

Larroca's art has long been the major sticking point with this book. For all that Larroca can impress with his sweeping, cinematic shots and dynamic framing choices, his blatantly photo-referenced figures are distracting and awkward at the best of times. The good news is that this issue fares better than many over the past couple years. Larroca's line-work sports more detail, reducing the odd clash between shadows and colors usually seen on the book. Even so, the Uncanny Valley effect at work on this series will always work against it.

This issue also features a back-up story from Gillen and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli that offers more insight into one of the key plot points in the main story. Camuncoli remains one of Marvel's best Star Wars artists, as he focuses less on mimicking the look of the movies and more on capturing the sinister quality of Vader and his underlings. This story enhances the main tale, but it also succeeds on its own merits. It manages to show a Vader who reflects upon and learns from his mistakes. It also showcases the relationship between Vader and General Veers, highlighting how Veers is one of the few Imperial officers in the galaxy whom Vader actually respects.

The Verdict

Marvel's main Star Wars series celebrates the issue #50 milestone by kicking off what promises to be one of the series' most dramatic story arcs to date. This issue offers a compelling look at the Rebel Alliance in free-fall and some fascinating insight into the minds of several key characters. The series lackluster visual style is still holding it back from achieving its full potential, but the art is less a distraction than it has been lately.

Good
Star Wars #50 suffers from familiar visual flaws, but it offers a compelling look at the struggling Rebel Alliance.
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Star Wars [2018] #50