Publisher: Marvel Comics (Paperback – 10 November 2020)
Series: Star Wars (2020) – Volume One
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Jesús Saiz
Colour Artists: Arif Prianto, Jesús Saiz, Rachelle Rosenberg and Dan Brown
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Length: 136 pages
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The next stage of the Star Wars comic universe continues as Charles Soule, Jesús Saiz and their team of talented artists present the first volume of the Star Wars (2020) series, The Destiny Path.
Shortly after the Disney buyout of Star Wars and their subsequent creation of a whole new canon, Marvel Comics started to develop a new range of Star Wars comics. While there were several great series, limited series and standalone comics set during various periods of Star War history, the main series were set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. These key comics, which included the Star Wars (2015), Darth Vader (2015) and Doctor Aphra (2016) series, did a fantastic job of filling in the gaps between these two films and presenting readers with some clever and unique adventures. All these series came to an end in late 2019, with their plots coinciding with the start of events from The Empire Strikes Back. In the wake of their cessation, Marvel announced four new Star Wars comic series that would take their place (after suffering some pandemic-related delays), set in the aftermath of The Empire Strikes Back. While I have already looked at some of these comics, including the first entry of the Darth Vader (2020) series, I think it is time that I explored the flagship series of this new run of comics, the Star Wars (2020) series.
The Star Wars (2020) series will explore what happens to the main cast of protagonists after the events of The Empire Strikes Back and is set in the year or so between that film and Return of the Jedi. This looks set to be a long-running series that will not only tell its own tale but will tie in to the events of the other current comics, probably resulting in some crossovers. This first volume, The Destiny Path, contains issues #1-6 of the Star Wars (2020) series and serves as an excellent and compelling introduction to the rest of the series.
Following the battle of Hoth, the Rebel Alliance is in disarray. With their fleet scattered around the galaxy and the might of the Empire reigning supreme, these are the darkest days the Rebellion has ever faced, especially as the Empire appears to have found a way to locate their ships and hiding places. The hope of the entire Rebel Alliance may lie in the hands of its greatest leaders and heroes, but, after the events on Bespin, even these shining beacons of rebellion have been damaged beyond recognition.
With Han Solo captured by the Empire and handed over to the bounty hunter Boba Fett, those on the Millennium Falcon are dispirited and lost. However, finding a Rebel cell under attack prompts them into action. Despite missing the man she loves, Princess Leia is determined to rescue him and revive the Rebel Alliance by any means necessary. At the same time, reluctant Rebel recruit Lando Calrissian attempts to make himself useful, despite mistrust from everyone around him. Finally, Luke Skywalker, after losing a hand and finding out the horrible truth of his parentage is in shock. Worse, his meeting with Vader appears to have damaged his connection to the Force, and neither of his masters will appear to talk to him.
As the Rebel Alliance seeks a way to survive, each of these players, with the help of Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2, begin the next stage of their journey. As Luke seeks a lightsaber, Leia looks to find a way to save Han and Alliance, while Lando looks for redemption in all the wrong places. All their journeys lead the back to the scene of one of the worst moments of their past, Bespin. But how far will Luke, Leia and Lando go to achieve their goes, and will they be able to survive the dangerous enemies chasing them?
This is an outstanding and intense Star Wars comic that does a wonderful job of setting up a brand-new series of exciting adventures. Charles Soule, who has written some of the best Star War comics out there, creates an exceptional and captivating tale that highlights the tragic consequences of The Empire Strikes Back. Featuring some incredible artwork, amazing big moments, and a perfect portrayal of some of the iconic original trilogy cast, this is an outstanding and awesome comic.
For this cool first volume in the Star Wars (2020) series, the author has come up with an extremely compelling and clever multi-part narrative that I deeply enjoyed. The Destiny Path has a strongly character-driven story, following Luke, Leia and Lando as they attempt to recover from the traumatic events of The Empire Strikes Back. The narrative starts right after the heroes escape from the Cloud City at Bespin (technically before the closing scene of The Empire Strikes Back) and places the shell-shocked characters right in the middle of a firefight against an intriguing new foe. The next stage of the story contains an intriguing couple of sequences aboard the Rebel medical frigate, showing off some new angles to the film’s final scenes, while also following Lando and Chewie as they head to Tatooine to scope out Jabba’s palace. This part of the narrative is very clever and exciting, especially as it paints Lando as a bit of a wildcard, with unclear loyalties. The next section of the comic takes Luke, Leia and Lando back to Bespin, each for a different reason. There are some high octane and emotionally rich comic issues here, especially as all three of the characters are forced to face up to their recent mistakes and losses, while also taking on the Imperial garrison stationed there. All of this leads up to the final part of the book, which is primarily focused on Luke, who journeys to several distant planets following a vision to find a new lightsaber. There are some really cool sequences here as Luke continues to battle his own personal demons (and a real one, but we’ll get to that later), before eventually coming away with an unexpected prize. All these disparate storylines work really well on their own, but their real strength lies in the way in which they tie together perfectly throughout The Destiny Path. You end up getting a fantastic story as you follow one major event to the next, and I liked the unique tales contained within each section. All of this serves as an awesome and powerful start to the Star Wars (2020) series, and there are plenty of hints of awesomeness to come as the Rebels bounce back while Luke continues to grow as a Jedi. Epic Star Wars storytelling at its best!
There is no way that I can talk about The Destiny Path without geeking out about some of the cool and memorable Star Wars elements and references featured within. I deeply, deeply enjoyed seeing the intriguing and dramatic aftermath of The Empire Strikes Back that Soule envisions here, especially as he took the time to explore the various traumas and consequences of the events at Bespin. This was a fantastic heart of the entire volume which is going to appeal to all fans of the Star Wars franchise. Other cool Star Wars moments that fans will love include the mysterious events occurring around the Skywalker lightsaber. This lightsaber, which disappears at the end of The Empire Strikes Back and reappears in The Force Awakens, is a major item throughout the Star Wars canon and I liked seeing Luke trying to find it in the bowels of Cloud City, only for it to slip into another mysterious person’s grip. It will be interesting to see what happens to that in the future, and foresee it being a fascinating narrative thread throughout this entire series.
In addition to these elements from the films, Soule also fits in a lot of other cool references and call-backs to previous Star Wars comics, especially ones that he has had a hand in. The most obvious of these was the appearance of Verla, who Luke encounters while trying to find a new lightsaber. Verla is a Force-sensitive woman who first appeared in The Burning Seas volume of Soule’s Dark Lord of the Sith comic series. It was great to see that Verla survived, and Soule does a good job working her into this story, portraying her as the damaged and cynical former Jedi student who is just trying to survive. Verla’s inclusion allows Luke to learn more about Vader, both as a Jedi hunter and a Jedi named Anakin, and it was interesting to finally see him learn about the Jedi purges, Order 66, and the Inquisitors. I also noticed a lot of mentions about the High Republic in this volume. I really should not be too surprised about this, especially as Soule is one of the leading creative minds behind the High Republic range, having written the first novel in the series, Light of the Jedi. It looks like Star Wars (2020) is going to rely on several events from the High Republic books, and I am intrigued about how Soule will work them into his cool story. All of these Star Wars elements are extremely cool, and I think that they will deeply appeal to every fan of this franchise. While mega fans are obviously going to love some of the more obscure references that Soule fit into this comic, this series is also very easy to enjoy if you have a more basic knowledge of Star Wars.
I do have to quickly highlight that one of my favourite parts of this entire comic is one of the final sequences in the volume. In this sequence, Luke visits an abandoned Jedi temple which is filled with a mound of untouched treasures, including a lightsaber which he desperately needs. However, it turns out that this entire building is a trap (Luke was warned, to be fair), as he is quickly attacked by the ghost of the Grand Inquisitor. The Grand Inquisitor is an awesome character who served as the main antagonist of the first season of the Star Wars Rebels animated series. Soule has previously utilised him in his Dark Lord of the Sith comic series, especially the first two volumes, Imperial Machine and Legacy’s End, but this current comic is set after his death in Rebels. There are so many cool elements to the Grand Inquisitor’s return in this comic, including a fantastically drawn fight between him and Luke, where Luke encounters a double-bladed lightsaber for the first time, and I loved the Grand Inquisitor’s fiery, spiritual appearance. However, the best part of this whole unique inclusion was the characters final interaction with Darth Vader. Here it is revealed that Vader is the one trapping the Inquisitor’s spirit in this world, using him as a tool and a trap. When the Inquisitor begs Vader for his release, Vader refuses, as the Inquisitor still has use to him. The forlorn spirit starts to fade, but not before sadly uttering “there are worst things than death”. This is an outstanding call-back to the character’s final words in Rebels, and it was so cool to see his morbid prediction come to pass. This whole sequence really pushed The Destiny Path up a level for me, and I love how the creative team worked this into this fantastic and awesome comic.
Easily one of the best parts of this entire comic is the creative team’s portrayal of the iconic Star Wars characters who serve as the main protagonists of this amazing first volume. Soule has done an incredible job writing a character-driven narrative around these protagonists, and I love his in-depth examination of their psyches and actions following The Empire Strikes Back. The author pulls together some great storylines around these characters, and I loved seeing what amazing adventures they went on between these two films.
One of the main characters explored during this book is the original Star Wars hero, Luke Skywalker. Now, Luke is going through a lot at this point, having just had his hand chopped off and learned that his father is Darth Vader. Luke spends most of the first part of the novel absolutely traumatised by these events and ends up doubting himself while also concealing this revelation from his friends. To compound his issues, Luke finds his connection to the Force somehow damaged or fractured, as neither of his masters, Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda, are reaching out to him. This results in a more scattered Luke, and I loved the way that Soule dove into his damaged mindset. There are some great and powerful moments throughout this comic that show off Luke’s trauma, as well some dramatic moments when he lashes out uncontrollably with the Force. After receiving some visions and engaging in a hunt for a new lightsaber, Luke starts to come to terms with the events surrounding him, and it is great to see him recover somewhat, including by learning more about his father. This slight reconciliation with his identity enables Luke to regain his control over the Force, and there are some very cool scenes where he uses his powerful and advanced abilities against the Empire. Overall, this was a pretty spectacular look at Luke, and I really appreciated the cool story that Soule spun around him. It will be interesting to see what is going to happen to Luke in the future entries of this comic, especially as he continues along his journey to become a full-fledged Jedi. It will also be cool to see more of Luke’s new yellow lightsaber, which was an intriguing decision by Soule which I think is going to really pay off.
In addition to Luke, a lot of the story focuses on Leia. Like the rest of the characters, Leia is pretty traumatised, as she discovered her love for Han only to lose him in seconds. While at times she seems in control, especially as she works to salvage the Rebels fleet, she is clearly still impacted by this loss. As a result, she desperately attempts to find a way to save him from Boba Fett, even if that means risking herself and her friends. Her recklessness leads her back to Bespin with the others as she attempts to find more about the carbonite freezing process. While Leia’s arc is possibly the least interesting (which isn’t a criticism; it’s just the other two main characters have some outstanding stories), she does have some great moments in this comic, and I especially loved the visual of her also trapped in carbonite. It was also great to see more of badass Rebel leader Leia in this comic as she steps up and takes charge to protect those around her. I imagine that the creative team have some great ideas for Leia in the future and I cannot wait to see what they are.
The other main character of this volume was the flashy and charismatic rogue, Lando Calrissian, who finds himself stuck with the other protagonists after helping them flee from Bespin. Despite his attempts to do the right thing at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Lando is still not trusted by anyone, as they blame him for his betrayal and the loss of Han. As a result, Lando attempts to find some form of redemption with them, although he mostly comes across as a self-centred bastard. Soule works a really intriguing storyline around Lando, and I loved seeing his meeting with Jabba the Hutt as he makes some initial inquiries into Han’s location. Lando is able to talk his way out of a meeting with Jabba, although the reader is left wondering whether he plans to sell out the Rebels. This nicely leads into his storyline on Bespin as he accompanies Luke and Leia back there. It was great to see Lando returning to his city, especially as he manages to con his way through a range of different Imperial obstacles, and he was fully in his roguish element. While Lando appears to return to Cloud City for selfish reasons, such as throwing a big middle-finger to the Empire, his jaunt does awaken his inner hero a little, and you get a glimpse of the person we eventually see in Return of the Jedi. Lando is easily the most entertaining character in the entire comic and most of The Destiny Path’s humour is derived from his interactions with most of the other characters. He is a very funny character, and it was great to see so much focus on him after barely featuring in the last stage of Star Wars comics. I look forward to seeing what Soule and the creative team have for him in the future, and I think he is going to be the MVP character of the entire series.
Aside from the three main characters above, The Destiny Path also includes a great range of other characters from various points in Star Wars history. Like its precursor comic, Star Wars (2020) also follows Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2, although I think these three great characters were a little overshadowed by Luke, Leia and Lando in this volume. Chewie does have a bunch of fun moments throughout the comic, mostly in his interactions with Lando, and it is entertaining to see him be forced to deal with the cocky former friend. R2-D2 does have a great sidekick time with Luke, and it was always fun to see him save the mighty Jedi’s life again and again. There is also an interesting focus on a couple of new or lesser-known characters. For example, it looks like Soule is going to spend a bit of time following Kes Dameron and Shara Bey, the parents of a certain Poe Dameron. The Destiny Path also introduces an intriguing new antagonist in the form of Commander Zahra, a fanatical Imperial officer placed in charge of eliminating the remnants of the Rebel Alliance. Zahra is tactical genius who I understand is going to have a major role in some upcoming comics. This volume proves to be an excellent introduction to this cool new character, especially as it establishes her dangerous intelligence, murderous mentality and the insane grudge she bears against Leia, all while she commands the unique Star Destroyer, Tarkin’s Will, which still bears scars from being hit by wreckage of the original Death Star. Zahra proves to be an outstanding antagonist, and I cannot wait to see what deviousness and insanity she brings to the rest of the series.
I definitely need to highlight the incredible and eye-catching artwork that was an outstanding and memorable feature of this awesome comic. The artistic team behind this comic did an amazing job from start to finish, and every page was a visual treat for the eyes. While all the art in this comic is great, there are a few things that really stood out to me, such as character design. The artists do such an incredible job capturing the main characters throughout this comic, especially in the first issue where all their post-The Empire Strikes Back pain and emotion is on full display. It was uncanny how similar these characters looked to their portrayal in the film, and it is a testament to the artists’ amazing ability. There are also several awesome combat sequences scattered throughout the comic and I loved the way in which the art brought them to life. A particularly good example of this was the opening space battle between the Empire and a small Rebel fleet. The artists come up with an incredible background for this fight, which takes place between a sun and a concentrated barrage of green turbolaser bolts, which are being used to fence the Rebels in place. This was so visually pretty, and it really enhanced the cool story and fighter combat that was taking place in front of it. I also deeply enjoyed the way in which the artists have recreated several key scenes from The Empire Strikes Back. These scenes, which include Luke losing his hand, finding out that Vader is his father and Han giving his iconic “I know” to Leia, are scattered throughout key parts of The Destiny Path. Not only are these cool visually, but they are also clever from a writing point of view, dragging the readers back to the emotional impact of these events and driving how much they are still sticking in the mind of the protagonists. I cannot overstate how awesome this art is and I had an absolute blast seeing every explosion, Force burst and clever flashback that they were able to fit in.
Well, if the above multi-page rant above didn’t give it away, then I’ll say it clearly here: this comic is incredible! Soule, Saiz and the other talented artists have done an amazing job with this first volume of the Star Wars (2020) series, and The Destiny Path is an epic and awesome read. I loved the in-depth examination of these key characters after The Empire Strikes Back and there are so many cool Star Wars elements worked into the story. This is one of my favourite Star Wars comics and it gets a full five-star rating from me. I cannot wait to see what extraordinary stories and powerful artform this fantastic creative team comes up with next and I need to order the next volume in now.