In Star Wars Annual #4, opposing sides clash over a lost weapon and then eventually reach the same resolution of how to best deal with it.
This article discusses plot points for Star Wars Annual #4.
Star Wars Annual #4
Writer: Cullen Bunn | Artists: Ario Anindito; Roland Boschi; Marc Laming | Colorists: Jordan Boyd; Andres Mossa | Cover: Tradd Moore & Wilson | Assistant Editors: Heather Antos, Tom Groneman & Emily Newcomen | Editors: Jordan D. White (with March Paniccia)
Since Marvel began creating new Star Wars comics in 2015, they have introduced many new intriguing characters. Janus Kasmir from Kanan, Evaan from Princess Leia, and, of course, Aphra from Darth Vader #3 are some examples. One of the most controversial is Sana Starros. Since her introduction, she has integrated herself into the Rebel cause in a manner similar to that of Han Solo. Star Wars Annual #4 puts Sana, Luke, and Darth Vader in an adventure on Hradeek that combines elements of the prequels, the original trilogy, and other Star Wars properties in perhaps the best Star Wars annual issue yet.
The Scope of Star Wars Annual Issues
Star Wars Annual #4 might be the best annual issue of Star Wars to date. Annual #1 featured a spy story that teased future developments in later issues of the “Sunspot Prison” story arc. By comparison, Annual #2 told an isolated story of Leia and an independent engineer that attempted neutrality during the Galactic Civil War. It was a fine stand-alone story, but it is often overlooked. Next was Annual #3, which was a fine story, but seemed repetitive when compared to other stories featuring the search for a new Rebel base, such as The Storms of Crait.
Star Wars Annual #4 tries something a little different by going back in time before the events of Star Wars #8. Readers may recall that Star Wars #8 featured “Sana Solo.” She was introduced in the concluding panels as part of a cliffhanger in Star Wars #6 when she arrived at a hideout where Han took Leia to get away from the Empire. Sana boldly introduced herself as Han’s wife despite his denials. Later issues got to the bottom of the story and revealed they weren’t actually married. This annual issue puts Sana in the same location and environment as Luke and Darth Vader. She just never comes face-to-face with Luke.
Another thing that makes Star Wars Annual #4 fantastic is the setting. This story occurs on Hradeek. A new planet, the art of this issue portrays Hradeek as a planet similar in appearance to Batuu. If that world sounds unfamiliar, that is because it has not yet appeared in any Star Wars material yet. Batuu will be the planet setting for the expansion to Disney theme parks known as Galaxy’s Edge. This new world is also featured in the upcoming Thrawn: Alliances novel.
Hradeek is a lush world featuring technology and buildings built into the surrounding hills. It is also home to an illustrious podrace. Luke Skywalker arrived on Hradeek to conduct some business on behalf of the Rebel Alliance. Meanwhile, Sana Starros has business of her own. She is selling an ancient Sith lightsaber, belonging to the former Darth Atrius, to a local crime lord. However, she also had business with the Empire and sold Darth Atrius’s other lightsaber to them. Vader arrived on Hrabeek to collect the prize.
One of the things Sana is known for is maximizing her profits. Both the crime lord and Darth Vader know Darth Atrius had two lightsabers. When each realizes that they were only provided with one, they erupt in fury and begin slaughtering those around them. Eventually Darth Vader catches up to Sana in his search for the other saber, but she utilizes some old smuggler tricks by hiding and planting a trap to elude him.
This isn’t the first time readers have seen Sana maximize her profits with multiple sales of the same merchandise. In Star Wars #34, Sana sold the same blasters to the Empire, Jabba, and pirates and played them all against each other. She feigns ignorance of the second saber when challenged by the crime lord. Of course, she isn’t believed here.
Over the course of the various appearances in Star Wars comics, Sana proves she is a bit more cunning than Han Solo. Where Han gets by on his wits and luck, Sana succeeds by careful planning. In this issue, however, she didn’t quite count on the impact of the sabers themselves.
The Sabers of Darth Atrius
Darth Atrius must have been a formidable warrior. Like Asajj Ventress, he must have used dual lightsabers as well. The style of these blades is like that of Kylo Ren with the side vents. In addition to potent weapons, Darth Atrius’s blades exhibit a powerful rage effect on their wielders. The most noticeable effect appears when Luke discovers one of the sabers near the body of the crime lord (that Sana must have killed). As a young, untrained Jedi, he is naturally curious about the saber. When he first uses it in combat, he savagely destroys the stormtroopers that confront him. Similarly, Darth Vader found himself driven into an unexpected rage when employing one of the sabers in combat as well.
Marvel utilized this effect previously in Star Wars comics. The first time readers saw this was in Lando #4. The helmet of an unknown Sith exhibited influence on Lando’s crew after they discovered it on a yacht belonging to the Emperor. Several of Lando’s allies exhibited aggression and the desire for power after encountering it. The sabers of Darth Atrius seem to have the same influence.
Once Luke overcomes the influence of the saber, he retreats from the oncoming stormtroopers. His escape path leads him straight to the starting line of a podrace. Throwing caution to the wind, Luke snags a helmet and commandeers a pod. Although he expected the pod to work like a landspeeder, that isn’t the case. However, after struggling with the controls for a bit, he eventually gets the hang of it and begins to make up ground on the leader.
Darth Vader enters the podracing arena during Luke’s run. Despite his disdain for his former life, Vader is as enthralled by the crowd by Luke’s performance (even though the crowd runs away). In addition, this issue occurs shortly after the time Vader learned of the existence of Luke. Whether he wonders if this human podracer might be Luke is unknown, but the connection and appreciation is a nice touch. Ultimately, Vader puts an end to Luke’s run by destroying one of his engines with the Force.
Fate of the Sabers
Once the race is over, Artoo retrieves Luke via his X-wing. Before Luke climbs aboard, he uses Anakin’s old lightsaber to destroy Atrius’s blade. Vader observes Luke’s escape from afar, and before making his own exit, he does the same to Atrius’s other blade. The decision by both makes sense. Despite the historical significance, there was no demonstrated advantage to these weapons. As a Jedi, Luke would naturally reject the dark side influence. Vader is too strong a personality to let a blade overwhelm him. Furthermore, observing both father and son reach the same conclusion is very poetic.
Concluding Thoughts on Star Wars Annual #4
Even without the backdrop of the other Star Wars comics, Star Wars Annual #4 is an engaging read. Longtime readers of Marvel’s other Star Wars offerings will undoubtedly enjoy this issue even more. This is a classic Star Wars adventure. Bunn, who previously wrote the Darth Maul miniseries, did very well by not diluting Vader and Luke’s confrontation in The Empire Strikes Back by having the two engage in another duel here. In fact, this novel still had plenty of compelling action without a saber duel. Sana Starros was a star even if she wasn’t as famous as Luke or Vader. This review would be incomplete without at least mentioning the wonderful art from the team of Ario Anindito, Roland Boschi, and Marc Laming. The illustrations were beautiful throughout. This is a first rate Star Wars adventure.
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.