Writers – Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron
Artists – Angel Unzueta, Leinil Yu and Gerry Alanguilan
Colourists – Paul Mounts and Sunny Gho
Volume 3 – Rebel Jail consists of the first Star Wars: Annual and issue 15, which is an Obi-Wan adventure, which I will look at sometime in the future, and issues 16 – 19 which all make up the ‘Rebel Jail’ storyline.
The Annual follows a Rebel spy on Coruscant, Enab Ray, who has been infiltrating the Empire’s highest levels. He receives intel from Leia that a group of Rebellion sympathetic Senators are to be executed and Palpatine will be present. Ray gathers other Rebel spies and they disguise themselves as the prisoners. When they are brought before Palpatine they start firing on the Imperials. Ray shoots Palpatine, killing him before it is revealed that it was a double. The real Palpatine in on a shuttle above the prison. Ray is blasted with Force Lightning as the Prison explodes. Ray escapes the shuttle, beaten and injured from Palpatine’s attack.
The main plot follows Leia who has enlisted Sana Starros’s help in transporting the captured Doctor Aphra to a Rebellion prison which is located near a star.
Aphra is belligerent and we find out her and Sana have a history but we don’t know what exactly that consists of. Once Aphra is locked up the prison is infiltrated by a group who proclaim to be Rebel sympathisers and they take over the control room and start killing off the Imperial inmates.
Leia and Sana break Aphra out and send out a call for help which is eventually answered by Han and Luke who have been on their own mission to get supplies for the Rebellion but after Han gambles away the money they have to pull a quick job, smuggling a herd of Nerfs, making Han a “Nerf Herder” (see what they did there?) before making the pick up.
Han and Luke are captured by the leader of the attackers who turns out to be a horribly scarred and disenfranchised Enab Ray who informs people that Palpatine is a Sith Lord and believes that the Rebels should murder the Imperial prisoners.
Leia, Sana and Aphra subdue Ray and he is imprisoned. Leia allows Aphra to ‘escape’ before leaving on the Falcon which she claims ‘smells like Nerfs.’
This arc, whilst short is packed with great stuff. The art style really adds to the tension to the Prison storyline. As a Leia-centric story the writing is brilliant and we get to see her in action. However the Han and Luke storyline feels like filler and essentially a one-note joke to reference an insanely popular line from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ which screams of fan-service.
The team-up of Leia, Sana and Aphra gives us three very different characters which leads to a fun dynamic that has them working together but coming at it from differing points of view. My big issue with it though is that Aphra just doesn’t feel right in the hands of Jason Aaron. I wonder if he had given Kieron Gillen a pass at her dialogue she may have come across better and more in line with her character in the ‘Darth Vader’ series.
The Annual has great art and Kieron Gillen writes a compelling story that is full of surprises. It’s played out almost like a ‘Noir’ novel with Enab Ray’s voice-over narration and having him become the antagonist of their story arc makes a lot of sense. We’re Saw Guerrera still alive he would have fit in well with the Partisans.
Whilst overall the full arc is good I can’t help but feel like I wanted more from it. Or maybe less. Like less Han and Luke. Maybe if their story had been cut from this arc and condensed the story to maybe three issues where they arrive to help out AND THEN have another short arc that tells us their adventure and arrival at the Prison I would have enjoyed it more and their story would have been able to be fleshed out more instead of feeling shoehorned in.
I love the art style for the main arc, it feels dark and gritty which really enhances the story and the armoured design of Enab Ray looks both familiar and different enough to feel Star Wars but not be likened to any of our other favourite armoured characters.
In terms of continuity it fits in with the third volume of Kieron Gillen’s ‘Darth Vader: Volume 3 – The Shu-Torun War’ which has a subplot of Vader hiring Bounty Hunters to find Aphra, look out for the review next week.
It’s definitely an enjoyable read but I have my issues which I have mentioned here but like I said, it’s great to get a Leia-centric story and throwing her in with two characters you would never have put her on a mission with.
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