Artist: Marco Chechetto
Note: No Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in this review. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you should rectify that post-haste. You can find our spoiler-free review for the biggest film release ever right here.
While we’re all still on a Star Wars kick, I thought it wise to take a look at some of what’s happened since that fateful battle on the forest moon of Endor. Much to my chagrin, Disney has rendered all of the expanded universe developed around the original Star Wars films non-canon. However, since Disney owns both Star Wars and Marvel (effectively giving Disney a stranglehold on pop culture), any Star Wars comic that Marvel creates from here on can be considered in-canon. So let’s take a look at one of the first forays into the new expanded universe, Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakened: Shattered Empire.
The book was written by Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Gotham Central) and drawn by Marco Chechetto (Avengers World, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up), a team famous for their seminal run on Punisher (which you can look forward to a review of in the future).
Our tale opens during the space battle taking place above Endor. While Luke Skywalker confronts destiny aboard the new Death Star, rebel pilots fight valiantly to prevent disaster. We follow the journey of ace pilot Shara Bey from the climax of the battle, where the Millenium Falcon destroys the new Death Star, to celebrations on the forest moon, to the endless wartime against the Imperial Remnant.
Despite its title, this story does not take us right up to Episode VII. Rather, it serves as a sort of continuation of Episode VI. And really, the story here isn’t all that much to write home about. That’s strange to say about a Rucka production — and don’t get me wrong, the man can still set a stage and write great dialogue — but it just felt like the book was being careful to hold too many important details lest non-comic readers be at a disadvantage. The story isn’t bad, just sort of hollow, in a sense. There’s much more emphasis on action here than there is the narrative, which is kind of disappointing. There are only a few real developments of consequence, one of which is… [SPOILER ALERT] the early reveal that Shara’s husband is none other than Kes Dameron, making the pair Poe Dameron’s parents, which is neat.
You do get plenty of appearances from your favorite ragtag band of acquaintances turned war generals. Luke, Leia, and Han all get chances to show off how cool they are. It’s especially great to see Han leading Spec Ops missions. Star Wars media that turns up the grit and tamps down on the whimsy always gets bonus points from me, and Rucka does a great job of grounding it.
Being Star Wars, there’s actually a lot of death. Between the visceral dogfights and vicious guerrilla attacks, the body count gets up pretty high. However, since there’s no blood and lasers appear to just do concussive damage, you could just as easily believe that people were being knocked down. In light of that, I would say that if you’re okay showing your kid any of the Star Wars films, or even the animated media, then they should be fine with this book.
Nothing beyond the occasional command to, “Trust in the Force”.
There are plenty of examples of bravery, loyalty, and strong female characters here that will get that John Williams score playing in your head.
I really wish that Marco Chechetto drew more books, because he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. The book is very action heavy, which gives Chechetto’s art a chance to shine. The numerous space battle scenes are gorgeous, with X-Wings, A-Wings, Y-Wings, and TIE fighters all engaging in dogfights. There’s a lot going on, but it very rarely feels crowded. The opening spread, with Luke fighting Darth Vader juxtaposed against X-wings strafing a Star Destroyer sets an epic tone for the art that persists throughout.
Shoutout to Andres Mossa on the colors. I don’t usually note the colorist on a book, but the colors here are very rich and the shading is expertly done. Between Mossa and Chechetto, the art makes all the action engaging, so that it doesn’t feel wasteful.
Shattered Empire is a decent story with well crafted characters and dialogue. It feels like Rucka was limited and the story is actually irrelevant when it comes to preparing for the film, besides establishing that there is indeed an Imperial Remnant. However, excellent art and action help to make up for that, making this book a satisfactory read for anyone looking for a Star Wars fix. It is pretty exciting, and I read it all in one sitting and made all the blaster noises in my head. If you can’t get enough of that galaxy far, far away, then this book will do right by you.
[amazon text=Buy it from Amazon&template=carousel&asin=0785197818,B01542FPNU,B016APHPQA,B016N4JEPS]
+ Great Action + Beautiful Art + Strong Character Moments + Feels Like Star Wars
- Narrative Falls Short - Feels Like It Should Have Been Longer - Rather Inconsequential
The Bottom Line
Shattered Empire may not be the Episode 6.5 I was hoping for, but it's a visually stunning and exciting piece of the new Star Wars canon. If you're looking for a quick Star Wars fix that helps fill in the gap and features your favorite characters, then this will do you just fine.