Star Wars #16, written by Charles Soule, ties in very well with War of the Bounty Hunters #3 (also written by Charles Soule), which sees Luke Skywalker showing up to help the rescue effort of Han Solo – and preparing himself for a rematch with Darth Vader.
But more than any of that, this issue gives us a look at where Luke is at in this period, and it’s very interesting to see him still wrestling with his defeat at he hands of his father.
Let’s dive into a review of the issue!
As Luke Skywalker approaches Jekara in his X-Wing, preparing to help rescue Han Solo from the clutches of Crimson Dawn and to face Darth Vader, he re-lives their duel on Cloud City. Luke thinks he’s much stronger than when they faced off previously, but then is honest with himself and realizes he’s still no match for Vader. Meanwhile, on the Vermillion on Jekara, Vader duels Qi’ra while Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbacca debate about the best course of action to try to save Han. Leia wants to seize the opportunity at the moment, but Lando recognizes that they can’t defeat Vader and have to be patient.
Luke approaches the planet but encounters the Executor first. Admiral Piett deploys TIE Fighters in pursuit of Luke, who flies close enough to one of the smugglers’ ships that the TIEs inadvertently hit it. Not needing much prompting, the Son-Tuul Pride War Cruiser enters the action, distracting the Empire just long enough for Luke to escape. On the surface, Vader senses Luke’s arrival and orders Piett to disengage and not kill the Rebel but instead to establish a secure communication between Vader and Skywalker.
Vader talks to Luke, telling him that he’ll kill Han Solo if he doesn’t come to face him. As Leia implores Luke that Vader is going to kill Han, Luke peels off in his X-Wing, flying away from the planet, saying he’s not ready to face Vader yet.
This Star Wars line has been, from the very start, centrally about Luke Skywalker dealing with the fallout from his devastating defeat at Cloud City and the shattering reveal of his parentage. In the previous issue we saw him miss a shot he’d previously made because he’s still reeling from these things, and then in this issue we see him re-playing it in his mind.
Luke re-lives several moments from the duel while flying in his X-Wing, telling R2-D2 that it wasn’t just Vader’s proficiency with a lightsaber but the fact that he attacked him with everything he had, including the Force. Luke was reeling, just trying to defend and survive. But Luke then insists that he’s much stronger both with a lightsaber and in the Force than when he faced Vader, and Luke imagines the duel differently: this time he’s wielding the yellow lightsaber he retrieved in this comic series, and he’s the one who slices off Vader’s hand (instead of the other way around). Even then, however, Luke imagines Vader still able to get the advantage, and Luke knows that he’s still not strong enough. It’s very interesting to get a look at Luke’s inner state, his mental anguish, in this time period, and I’m glad that this comic is exploring it (and will continue to). By the time of Return of the Jedi he’s quite confident and secure in himself and his resolve to face Vader, but how does he get there? That’s what we’re seeing in-process right now.
And all of that leads, then, to Luke actually fleeing instead of coming to face Vader. This is quite a surprise and it’s a cliffhanger of an ending for the issue, and even though subsequent issues explain what he’s doing (thus the benefit of my delay in writing this review), it’s still very curious to see here. But it goes to show just how afraid he is of facing Vader again – and that’s precisely what he had told R2 earlier: it’s fear.
Luke feels like everything Yoda had taught him, Vader was able to throw right back in his face. Of course, Luke doesn’t mention that he was the one who chose to leave his training early despite Yoda’s pleas, but he doesn’t have to say it outright because we know it. Luke left his training early, thinking he was strong enough to save his friends, and he wasn’t. He failed. And that’s an interesting connection to this comic series, since it’s all about trying to rescue his friend that he couldn’t save before. And so I imagine that Luke has PTSD from the previous encounter and is far more hesitant to rush in to save the day. It didn’t work before, and he was defeated by Vader. Why would this time be any different?
I love seeing where Luke is at, and it makes a lot of sense why he’d be thinking this way. While it’s very surprising to see Luke Skywalker – the heroic Jedi and lovable hero – in such a fragile state, of course he would be considering everything he’s just went through and the fact that he’s nearing another confrontation with his father – the one who left him so devastated. We’re seeing the young Jedi growing, and it’s very interesting. He’s not leaving this fight altogether, but he’s going to go about it differently for fear of facing off with Vader again.