Thoughts on Star Wars #40 – Ashes of Jedha Part 3

Star Wars #40

The rebels have to deal with a giant mining machine sent to get the kyber crystals from Saw’s old base, but that’s only their smallest problem in Star Wars #40.

Star Wars #40

Star Wars #44 CoverAshes of Jedha Part 3
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Guru-eFX

Cover Price: $3.99

Release Date: December 13, 2017

Amazon/Comixology Link

Collected in: Star Wars v7: The Ashes of Jedha

As Queen Trios’ forces move in to strip what’s left of Jedha, the Rebellion and the remaining Partisans struggle to save the planet for its survivors! The echoes of Rogue One continue to be heard through the Rebellion!


Background

Now that Rogue One has been out for a while and is firmly entrenched in the Star Wars canon it makes sense that Disney would try to integrate it more fully into the saga.  The Ashes of Jedha arc seeks to do that by bringing our original trilogy heroes to the planet that united some of the first heroes of the rebellion.  In the first two issues of this arc we’ve been introduced to the true devastation brought to Jedha by the first Death Star test firing, as well as some of the survivors.  In the movie we never saw the aftermath of the Death Star’s test fire and just assumed it was akin to a massive nuclear bomb going off, but in reality it appears to have broken the planet apart.  How anyone lives on it at all is a mystery, but this is also the same galaxy where binary star systems apparently can still support habitable planets so that’s not a big deal all told.

In addition to the Empire’s plans for Jedah there’s the personal quest by Luke Skywalker to learn more about the Jedi.  This makes sense for his character journey and is a logical next step for him following some of the other stories that have been told in this era.  We haven’t seen too much of that up to this point since the primary focus has been on making contact with the partisans, but it does factor into this issue.

General Thoughts

Star Wars #40 is essentially a split issue with two separate stories being told.  The first half of the issue is given over to the rebels destroying the Shu-Torun mining machine we saw last issue, which doesn’t seem to give them any problems.  The second half is dedicated to Luke finally making a spiritual journey with an aspiring member of the Disciples of the Whills (a group parallel to the one Baze and Chirrut were part of).  The first story gives the art team an excuse to draw some pretty explosions, but other than that not much is worth mentioning here.

More notable is how the Empire and Queen Trios of the Shu-Torun react.  General Kanchar, contrary to typical Imperial fashion, does not start executing officers and assures them that he is aware mistakes happen, but not to make a habit of it.  I appreciate the attempt to add a bit of temperance to the Empire, especially from writer Kieron Gillen who has thus far been quite willing to go completely over the top with his Imperial characters.  Between that and Queen Trios’ attempts to seduce General Kanchar (it’s unclear if this is a powerplay or if she is genuinely interested in the man) I found the sidebar stories about the Imperial side of this arc to be more interesting.

Star Wars #40 - Falcon's Attack RunOn the rebels’ side of things are a bit more muted.  Luke gets a first hand look at how ruthless Saw’s partisans are, but outside of that this is a straight action romp.  They infiltrate the mining machine, find the weak points and launch the attack.  While the straightforwardness of it is refreshing it does also make it come across as a non-threat all around.  It feels like there were a number of missed opportunities for character development here, but they mostly get passed by for firefights and explosions.  On the plus side, there is a nice interlude between the first and second half of the book which shows the last interaction between Leia and her adopted father.  It’s a small addition, but a much needed one in this story.

The second half of Star Wars #40 focuses on Luke being escorted to the old temple by the monk Chulco.  In theory this should be an enlightening journey for Luke, but in practice it just shows how the Force can corrupt things when it is not in balance.  The journey is also interrupted by a giant worm which tries to crush Luke and the monk, but really just comes across as filling pages so that we can get to the last page reveal that Luke may have walked into a trap (shocker!).  The majority of this story should materialize in the next issue so it is hard to judge it yet.  So far, though, it feels like padding on this arc meant to stretch it to six issues so it fits nicely into a tradepaperback.  Given that Luke learning more about the Force and the Jedi should be a big deal at this point, reading as filler material probably isn’t the goal.

 

Thoughts on the Art

Artist Salvador Larroca provides the interior work this issue, with help from the Guru-eFX studio for the colors.  What we have here is, charitably, a mess.  To be fair the much condemned (and rightly so) use of heavily photo-referenced faces on the main characters likely wasn’t the decision of the art team.  We’ve seen this style of character work in other books by other artists and it has looked just as bad there.  Larroca’s art has been solid in the past with some great work on the Darth Vader series, which would likewise suggest that this decision on how to render the characters is outside his control.  That said, even his skilled work can’t save this book from a poor decision.

Star Wars #40 - Tales from the Uncanny ValleyIt is worth noting that anything that isn’t a human face looks perfectly fine in this book.  The giant machines look menacing and dangerous, the non-human aliens look as natural as they can and the general desolation of Jedha is well drawn.  Additionally, Larroca has a strong sense of panel layout and artistic flow, which makes this an easy book to read.  It is just the human faces that have fallen so far into the uncanny valley that they make Tarkin’s representation in Rogue One look perfectly natural and organic.

 

Final Thoughts

Star Wars #40 reads exactly like what it is: the padded middle issue of an overlong story arc.  The introduction and destruction of the mining machine only comes with minimal plot or character progression, and even Luke’s journey to the Jedah temple is blocked by unnecessary sidequests.  The Imperial part of the story is more engaging than the rebel part, and both Queen Trios and General Kanchar have more interesting plots going on than any of the lead characters.  The underlying mystery of what exactly is happening to Jedah in the wake of the Death Star test firing is still intriguing, but it has taken a backseat to less interesting developments.  There’s a lot of potential in this return to Jedah story, and so far it has failed to really get the traction it needs.  Perhaps it will read better once the arc is complete, but right now it is floundering.

Star Wars #40

3.99
7.5

Star Wars #40 Final Score

7.5/10

Pros

  • Good to see the Rebels get a clean victory (for now)
  • More exploration of the history of the Jedi is a good thing
  • The art looks pretty, except when faces are involved
  • Seeing Leia and Bail together one last time was sweet

Cons

  • Those faces look horrible
  • Much of the book feels like filler