Star Wars Adventures: Forces of Destiny—Rey
Publisher: IDW Comics
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Arianna Florean
Cover: Arianna Florean (A), Elsa Charretier (B)
Colors: Adele Matera
Letters: Tom B. Long
Reviewer: Steve Sellers
Although Star Wars comics have been generally in solid hands at Marvel, it’s good to see other publishers handling the franchise. The Forces of Destiny initiative is a worthwhile and laudable one. The basic idea appears to be to shine a spotlight to the Star Wars franchise’s many worthwhile female characters, featuring stories by women working in the industry. These are all one-shot short adventures that fit in the gaps between appearances.
The character of Rey is a natural choice for this kind of series. Partly it’s because she’s only appeared in two films and hasn’t had the depth of exposure as, for instance, Princess Leia. This gives her plenty of room to explore and learn new things about her. The other reason is that unlike the others, Rey is the main heroine of her trilogy, and as such, it only makes sense to give her a featured issue. I’m quite surprised that she hasn’t gotten her own title by now.
While this issue doesn’t make a massive impact, Forces of Destiny—Rey does offer a fun short glimpse into her life on Jakku.
The official main cover by Arianna Florean looks unfortunately generic. This is regrettable because it’s not bad artwork, and it isn’t unpleasant to look at. Rey’s speeder is drawn quite well and accurately, though it takes too much of the cover space. There is good use of perspective and sense of motion through the use of line work. I don’t even think that Rey is necessarily drawn badly either. The problem is that, as a cover, it doesn’t really draw attention to itself or give a concrete sense of what we’re supposed to be looking at. Because Rey is in her full desert covering and her face is concealed, we don’t even get a real glimpse of Rey as a character from this cover. There just isn’t anything in this cover that convinces the reader to buy this over another Star Wars comic. It’s solid artwork that doesn’t succeed as a cover.
To be honest, I think IDW should have led with the variant cover by Elsa Charretier, because it’s far more dynamic and highlights the main character better. Charretier is perhaps best known for her work on Marvel’s Unstoppable Wasp, and she turns out to be a good fit on a title like this. Here, Charretier brings a good animated style to Rey, who is recognizable and prominent in this cover, even if she is displayed in a stock heroic pose. At the same time, her vision of Rey is recognizable as Daisy Ridley, and it also shows Rey in a strong, heroic light. The silhouette of Rey’s head in the background featuring an image of Jakku is a nice visual touch. While it still doesn’t necessarily give the reader a sense of what this comic is, we at least get a good sense of the lead character, and the art style is striking and visually interesting.
This is my first exposure to the work of Arianna Florean. Unfortunately, the preview pages don’t show her work at its best. This is a shame, because her artwork shows solid craft, especially on a second reading. Her visual portrayal of Rey in this comic is somewhat inconsistent, though in fairness, it improves noticeably in the later pages. Early on, though, Rey looks perhaps too cartoonish and deformed from how she should appear. That said, Florean is a capable artist, and we see more of her strengths in the later pages. Her Rey is extremely expressive, and her facial expressions, while perhaps a little exaggerated, are quite well rendered. The layouts of Jakku look desolate and give an accurate portrayal of the planet.
I’m probably most impressed by Florean’s depiction of aliens and technology, especially the droids. BB-8 looks nearly perfect in virtually every panel that he appears. The sense of detail in the droid reflects the design of the movie and she captures his sense of movement well. Rey’s battle staff could have been oversimplified, but Florean doesn’t do this, instead choosing a more film-accurate representation. The aliens are all varied and distinct in their designs, both characters from the movie and the native creatures of Jakku. The interior shots from within the junked spacecraft also look true to the films while also coming across well in the animated style.
The coloring in this issue is provided by Adele Matera, who lends some striking work to this tale. The colors are fairly bright in this issue and are consistent with the animated tone of the artwork. It’s very easy to give Jakku a simple dusty color, but the brightness of the desert sand makes the landscape much more visually interesting than it would be otherwise. The use of shadow effects then contrast against the brighter tones, giving definition but also detail. Small points such as the shadows beneath Rey’s speeder as it flies or the shadows cast by the junked Star Destroyers add texture to the visuals. The lighting is superb as well, and even the scenes with Rey in total darkness stand out nicely with these colors.
The lettering is one of the aspects of this comic that concerned me the most. For the most part, it’s not badly done. The word balloons and narrative captions are perfectly well handled, for instance. Long doesn’t conceal too much of the artwork, at least not with the captions. However, the sound effects are somewhat more of a concern. In some respects, he does quite effective work with them, particularly in his choice of fonts. Squishy sounds look distinctive from the sounds of solid objects. My one main concern is that sometimes the sound effects appear too large on the page when it’s not necessarily needed. This creates a louder sense of volume to sounds that may need more subtlety, and it also covers more of the art than is necessary. Still, mostly the lettering does what it needs to.
I’m not aware whether this is an issue with the script or the lettering, but there seems to be a growing habit for SF comics to use sound effects for blaster shots. Sometimes this isn’t always a bad thing, but for Star Wars comics, this should be handled more subtly. Blaster shots in Star Wars have a distinctive sound, and one that sound effects don’t get across easily, which is why many Star Wars comics don’t use them at all. It’s often best to allow the reader to imagine those sounds as they read. However, sound effects such as “pew” don’t really work in a Star Wars comic, and they tend to break the immersion. While not something that ruins the comic and it happens infrequently, less is more when trying to portray laser or blaster fire in a comic.
Jody Houser is the writer on this issue, and she’s perhaps best known for her recent work at Marvel as well as co-writing Supergirl over at DC. Generally speaking, this script is reasonably good, though probably not quite up there with Marvel’s current Star Wars books. At the same time, the Forces of Destiny issues are lighter in tone than those books and are more consistent with the feel of an animated Star Wars show.
Although it’s not clear how well this story fits with The Force Awakens, I’m willing to let that pass because it fills a necessary gap in that film. The movie is more focused on the grand epic with Kylo Ren and Rey’s awakening to the Force. Consequently, it loses sight of a major element on Jakku, which is how Rey comes to change her mind about BB-8 and why she’s so unwilling to sell him later on. This issue does a good job answering that question, and it makes perfect sense for Rey’s character. Rey’s personal journey is that of a lost girl abandoned by her family, and we see here how Rey comes to gradually think of the droid as a friend and even something of an adopted family member. It’s a story of a girl and her droid, and in that sense, this issue works effectively.
Beyond that, though, don’t expect any new revelations about Rey in this comic. It’s mostly just light adventure set on Jakku, dealing with Rey’s life as a salvager. There are humorous moments, good back and forth between Rey and BB-8, and shootouts with blasters. For what this comic does offer, though, it delivers in those respects. If you just want a fun Star Wars story, I don’t think this script should disappoint you.
Although this review may sound somewhat critical, on the whole, I found Forces of Destiny—Rey an enjoyable short trip into the Star Wars galaxy. While I would not recommend breaking your budget for this title, you may want to give this one-shot a chance if you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan, especially if you’re a fan of Rey. This issue is not without its faults, but it was better than I expected, and it’s better than the preview pages would suggest. This issue offers a fun and light-hearted adventure in space, and on that basis, it hits the correct notes.
Written By Steve Sellers
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