This is a spoiler review.
Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens: Shattered Empire #1 is a mouthful of a title. But I found it to be a good mouthful overall. In many ways, this is what fans like me (who liked but didn’t love the Expanded Universe—now Legends—take on the fall of the Empire after Return of the Jedi). This is the first time we are seeing the puzzle put together well, in my opinion.
If I had to be critical it would be that the opening of the issue spends a lot of time meandering on pilots at the Battle of Endor. This basically does nothing to advance the story as we are well familiar with Return of the Jedi and the five people that are reading this comic that never saw the film aren’t worth making everyone else read it again. That isn’t to say it doesn’t matter to our main characters–it does. It was kind of cool to see Return of the Jedi’s ending from a slightly different point of view and there were moments that I loved.
We follow Shara Bey as she worries about her lover, Kes, during the Battle of Endor. We see Shara about to attack the shuttle Luke Skywalker is flying out of the Death Star II with Darth Vader’s body until Luke messages her it is him in the ship. She then offers him safe escort.
I particularly enjoyed a moment early on when the Rebels win the battle, realize what they’ve lost, and then go onto celebrate with the Ewoks. There was a mixture of emotions for Shara there which I thought was interesting. It both interfaced with the jubilee we saw at the end of Return of the Jedi and the characters suffering from PTSD like Norra from Aftermath. During the celebration, Rebels express their desire to sleep, eat, and others (while they don’t say it) want to get down and dirty! All of these are perfect reactions someone might have after what these people have endured.
The anxiety of the first issue of Shattered Empire is centered around Shara Bey trying to find her lover, Kes. (Kes is that character the StarWars.com article purposefully didn’t give a last name to.) Comically, we see Lando try and put the moves on Shara before she can find Kes (you can’t blame the charming rogue).
Shara finds Kes with the Pathfinders of the Rebellion. It is her we learn his last name: Dameron. That’s right, Kes Dameron. It is probably safe to say Kes and Shara will go on to become the parents of Poe Dameron of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In this issue they certainly get down and dirty and call me crazy but I gotta feeling that Ewok birth control is a total joke as those little bears have way too many kids. Anyways, we learn that the couple believes the war is over. They want to spend time together privately, build a house, all that stuff. Basically if this were Bachelor in Paradise or whatever, Kes just gave Shara the rose. Yeah, that serious.
But the love stuff gets shelved when it turns out there are still Imperials on Endor and the Rebels realize it would be a total jerk move to leave the Ewoks that just helped them topple the Empire with a legion of bucketheads. So they go to destroy the remaining Imperial forces on Endor, which brings Kes and Shara back into the battle once again.
The issue has a good sense of humor. Ewoks are as annoying to some of the Rebels as they were to Han Solo in Return of the Jedi. The little critters push buttons on the ship and they have to tell them to stop but there’s no time spent on this stuff, it is just an added detail that fills out the tone and setting of the story. Likewise when Kes finally tells Shara they should find a place to build a house, he tells her as they are landing and about to go off and fight the Empire. It does a good job of balancing the romance with the action, making the story a bit swashbuckling and romantic at the same time.
We see in Shattered Empire that these characters care about each other and that in turn makes us care about these characters. When Kes go into the bunker, we see the other guys like Han come out and no Kes. It makes you worried for Shara that Kes might not come out.
The art style is very pleasing to the eye. However, the scans on the digital version of the comic look weird. The text feels blurry to me. I generally prefer reading my comics in guided view on the Marvel website but this time I felt like it wasn’t up to par with other Star Wars offerings over the last nine months.
All in all, I think Shattered Empire feels like it will be a wonderful series.