"Star Wars" #2 from Brian Wood and Carlos D'anda is a better issue than the series' debut and opens up the throttle to give characters true moments, pushing the narrative into some very cool places. Leia assembles her strike force to root out a spy in the Rebel Alliance ranks, which gives the book a deeply ingrained opening mystery. Elsewhere, Han and Chewbacca flee the Imperials and wind up out of the frying pan and possibly into the fire.
A licensed comic depicting actors as they appeared over 30 years ago will always be judged by how well it replicates their faces and movements. Carlos D'anda doesn't do a perfect job -- these aren't photo-referenced stills -- and this is why his art works. D'anda is more concerned with bringing the essence of the characters to life than making sure Harrison Ford's cheek bones are intricately developed every time. The artist has a clear storytelling style and his work in this issue ranges from expansive space dogfights to intimate moments.
Brian Wood is adept at writing rich characters and he brings this keen eye for craft to this series. He lets readers view Leia in a state an entire trilogy never depicted: grieving. She mourns for her lost homeland of Alderaan and Wood delivers a solemn moment, setting up the scene nicely as D'anda executes the emotions on the page. Leia rises in this issue as a star both through her personal journey and her ability to lead the larger mission at play. She is in charge of a new team that must discover the spy amongst the Alliance selling their secrets. It's a pleasure to see Leia treated so seriously and able to do anything the male companions could attempt. Wood aims to bring new layers to Leia, and the result is a character even denser than her film counterpart.
While playing in an established sandbox can be fun, Wood also wants to shake things up. He plays the Slave I card a little too early and simply, and the X-Wing dogfight makes for a boring set of pages -- but he makes up for it with a new character creation. Colonel Bircher is the officer charged with taking over Darth Vader's personal Star Destroyer. This is no small task and Wood establishes Bircher as a man with high self-esteem and obvious high ability. He's an arrogant and certain man, precise in his relations with the world around him. There is a lot of villainous hubris and dangerous combustibility at play, which makes him a fantastic piece to add to the game.
"Star Wars" #2 is the issue where Brian Wood and Carlos D'anda demonstrate they don't just know how to handle these characters, they know how to take them new places. The final scene shows Han and Chewie headed to a special rendezvous and the reveal of the location is exciting in a way all "Star Wars" fans will love. This book has character moments as often as it has intricate interplay with the established universe. There are plenty of reasons to stick with this book whether you're a longtime or casual fan. Everyone is welcome.