Star Wars Empire #17
Dark Horse Comics, $2.99
Released March 2, 2004
Reviewed by Adam Pawlus on March 11, 2004
There aren't many corners of the Star Wars Universe in the time period shortly following A New Hope left to cover, but somehow, they managed to find one with a story worth telling with Empire's "To The Last Man" story arc. In this three-issue story, a small Imperial outpost is about to be overrun by one of the most distinctive and underused alien races in this particular Universe, the Amanin.
This issue is part two of the three-issue arc.
Story & Art
There's really no good reason for this story to be set shortly after A New Hope, because the outpost is really in the middle of nowhere. This could even take place before the film, or after Return of the Jedi since as of yet, no major characters from elsewhere have made an appearance. Giving a face to the Empire has been something numerous writers have done over the years, but making them seem sympathetic is rare indeed. Sure, the Imperial officers exhibit fairly generic personality traits, but they're presented as characters that can think rather than cannon fodder or tools of the system.
When the vast tribe of the creatures surrounds the Imperial base, Welles Hartley was smart in not giving us a face that we know. If a character like Baron Fel was stationed on this world, or another face we might recognize, the story wouldn't carry the same weight as it does now. With some of the protagonists painted as inept cowards, but at least thoughtful inept cowards, it seems that they might actuall fight to the last man, and the last man might not survive. Happy endings are usually a prerequisite, but given the nature of the characters, there's a real question of who you should root for. The Amanin are a savage tribe, sure, but their home was invaded by inferior, grey-stuited monkeymen with goofy hats. The humans are merely doing their jobs, and while some may relish an opportunity to prove their might, not everybody in this story is concerned with things like glory of the Empire. Maybe it's not as complicated as all of that, but the story is much more interesting than most Star Wars books because while the writer places his sympathies with the Imperials, it doesn't necessarily look like he wants them to win this battle.
Davide Fabbri and Christian Dalla Vecchia were given a lot of opportunities to show what they're capable of, and while I originally doubted they'd be able to take the stiff rubber green and yellow aliens and make them into believable savages, they manage to do a great job pulling it off. While it was unlikely that the design of Amanaman was meant to allow him to be some sort of rolling wheel of death, it certainly lends itself to just that purpose. Placing these creatures in the space presented in this issue really makes it seem as if they belong there, blending in with the surroundings at times and, of course, inspiring great fear in those who stand against them. Of course, some designs weren't nearly as spiffy. The Imperial surgeons were a mishmash of a Stormtrooper helmet and a regular Imperial officer uniform, and as such not too innovative. The design does make for an easy custom figure, though, and this reviewer hopes to see one in the near future.
The look and feel of the book isn't astounding, but it does a great job of telling the story clearly and there's little if anything that looks substandard. If I had a large quantity of thumbs to point up to indicate how good this is, I'd be pointing them up now.
It's at fine comic book stores everywhere as of last week. As such, get ye to the store and snag a copy. Cover price is $2.99 in the United States.
This is definitely a fun series to read so far, and with one issue to go, is a pretty cheap three-issue story. There haven't been many tales like this told in Star Wars comics recently, and it's a bit of a shame it didn't come out earlier. You know, when $2 Amanaman figures littered shelves everywhere. It's a nice enough story to justify reading, and if there's ever a televised Star Wars anthology show, animated or otherwise, this might make for a great episode. Here's hoping, anyway.
Our sample was purchased from a local Atomic Comics in Phoenix, Arizona.