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Star Wars by Charles Soule vol. 1: The Destiny Path

February 13, 2021

He’s written two miniseries, “Lando” and “Obi-Wan & Anakin.” He’s also written two ongoing series, “Darth Vader -- Dark Lord of the Sith” and “Poe Dameron.”  Oh, and he’s also a key player in the new “High Republic” initiative.  With all of these achievements under his belt, Charles Soule has finally got his shot at writing the main “Star Wars” series.  This also comes at an important time for the license at Marvel as all of the ongoing titles transition over from the post-”A New Hope” era to the post-”Empire Strikes Back” era.  Which means that this will be an ongoing “Star Wars” title without one of its key players:  Han Solo.  As you might’ve already guessed, that’s not going to be a problem for Soule.  Even if this first volume doesn’t quite excite as you’d hope it would.

It does get off to a rousing start, though.  That’s because Soule and artist Jesus Saiz go for the ballsy approach of showing us what happened between the Millennium Falcon’s jump to lightspeed and the scene on the Alliance medical frigate at the end of “Empire.”  It’s an expert bit of fill-in-the-gaps plotting with plenty of drama, space battles, a vindictive Imperial Commander, and some questionable use of the Force before everyone is able to get to safety and the writer is able to pose the questions which look to provide the direction of his run from here:  What are the Rebels going to do about how their codes were cracked? (And) How does Luke Skywalker go about becoming a Jedi now that he knows his father is Darth Vader?


The answers to these questions will lead the cast to Jabba the Hutt’s Palace on Tatooine, back to Cloud City, and to a backwater fishing planet called Serelia.  Searching for these answers also takes a much more sedate pace than what the volume opened with, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  For one, it allows Soule to make his case for the one and only Lando Calrissian being a worthy addition to this cast.


If I’m being honest, the best parts of this volume all revolve around the former Baron-Administrator of Cloud City.  Whether he’s trying to talk Chewbacca into letting him pilot the Falcon during a firefight, exuding calm under pressure as his former city fires on him, or tries to make his trespassing seem like a totally normal thing to some stormtroopers, the man exudes cool in every scene he’s in.  It’s like he’s so smooth that he can’t help himself.  Especially when he’s trying to lie to save his life.


It’s those personally life-threatening situations which are the most interesting here.  The first one involves a patrol crew over Tatooine and it’s a well-staged bit of wordplay and bluffing that saves the day.  This scene is also long enough to show you that Soule and Saiz know how to generate tension just by simply having two parties negotiate ship-to-ship.  It leads to Lando getting to Jabba’s palace and having to do the same thing again in a much less advantageous position.  He winds up having to make a deal with the Hutt, the terms of which are less than savory and threaten to place him in the same kind of position he was in during “Empire.”  It’ll be interesting to see if the writer decides to run with this setup or close it off quick to avoid covering the same ground.


Luke and Leia, unfortunately don’t get anything as interesting to do.  Luke gets to deal with the fallout of Vader’s revelation, and it’s understandable that he’d feel some degree of uncertainty about becoming a Jedi after this.  Too bad for him that uncertainty is a dramatically moot point at this point in the franchise’s life.  Soule and Saiz try to sell Luke’s uncertainty as best they can, but doesn’t really work until the last third of the volume, a two-part story that has him meeting up with a woman that he saw in a Force vision.  While there’s some decent action in their encounter, the real engaging stuff comes from learning about this woman’s history and how it has shaped her current, cynical view on the Force itself.


As for Leia… well, there’s always next volume.  That is to say she gets some good scenes venting her anger and suspicions at Lando, and then winds up fading into the background a bit even after she joins him, Luke, and R2-D2 on a trip back to Bespin.  Part of the reason she’s in the background is that she becomes part of the scenery in a way that’s meant to be shocking for anyone who has seen “Empire.”  I say “meant to be” and not “actually” because a) it’s not very shocking and b) it doesn’t last all that long.  I’ll be expecting better things from the creators’ use of Leia in the next volume, especially with Commander Zahra gunning for her now.


Saiz has a long history of doing solid work at Marvel and DC and even a brief history of working with Soule on “Swamp Thing” at the former company.  If the writer had a hand in getting the artist his shot on this series, then he deserves to be commended for it.  Saiz has a detailed-yet-grounded style that feels ideal for “Star Wars.”  Remember when Salvador Larroca was running his style into the ground on this title as he was shooting for photorealism?  Well, Saiz’s style has an inherently photorealistic look to it without looking like a photoshop experiment gone wrong.  There’s a naturalness to his style that captures the characters likeness in an appealing way while also allowing for fantastic space battles and tons of aliens to look like they all belong here.  In short, he’s an ideal artist for “Star Wars” and I hope he returns to this title at some point in the future.


Overall, “The Destiny Path” isn’t quite the success you’d hope for this relaunch of the series.  Holding it back right now is the fact that half of it’s direction -- Luke’s uncertainty about becoming a Jedi -- isn’t really working, and not all of the cast is being used to their full potential.  On the plus side, we’ve got a promising new antagonist, a good hook regarding the fate of the Alliance, and smoothest operator Lando Calrissian to hold our interest.  Throw in some fantastic artwork from Saiz and the first volume of “Star Wars” written by Charles Soule still wind up being a decent read.  It’s just that there’s more room for it to improve than I was expecting.

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