First, I really wouldn't have predicted that Chewbacca and Threepio could be fodder for a great buddy comedy, but Aaron definitely proves me wrong here. It's these scenes that really make the issue. Threepio actually exhibits something that we've never previously seen from him: sarcasm (with a hint of menace). He and Chewbacca confront a series of individuals on Nar Shadda as they try to track down Luke. In each case, he "translates" Chewbacca's threats for the victim. Given Threepio's dry delivery, it's often the set-up that provides the comedy, and Immonen handles his part perfectly. For example, he gives us the brilliant moment of Threepio speaking to Chewie over the shoulders of the clueless droids confronting him. ("These droids seem to be nothing more than common criminals. Trust me, I am as shocked as you are.") We're then treated to the dawning sense of realization on the droid's faces as they turn their attention to the person that Threepio is unexpectedly addressing. Not surprisingly, the droids give up Grakkus' name, and Threepio repeats their act in a bar as they try to find Grakkus' location. "If we have been misinformed I do apologize. The droids who gave us that information were rather...inoperable at the time." Hilarious. It's so effective because Aaron continues to get down Threepio's voice perfectly; you can hear Anthony Daniels saying the words. It's this unexpected twist -- his ability to translate Chewbacca's implied violence into a politely worded but not subtle threat -- that brings us an entirely new insight into Threepio.
Then, we have Luke. He's brought face-to-face here with someone named the Gamemaster, the person that Grakkus hires to make sure that combatants are sufficiently skilled to put on a good show in his arena. The Gamemaster is actually an unexpectedly sympathetic figure here. He tells Luke that the Jedi Temple on Coruscant no longer exists (it's now the Imperial Palace) and that his only hope to learn the Jedi's teachings is to survive long enough to get a look at the holocrons. Moreover, Grakkus has probably all the lightsabers in existence, but they're one-by-one dying since no one knows how to fix them. It's another reminder to Luke of the stakes at play. It's all pretty effective, as inspirational speaking goes. Plus, I think that we may learn here how Luke got his lightsaber training. The Gamemaster makes quick work of him, and I could see Luke starting to learn some basics from him, probably the only person alive at the time that understands how to use a lightsaber. I hope we wind up learning more about him, because Aaron implies that there's more to him than meets the eye (and not just because he's hooded). Is a former Jedi? I hope we'll see.
Finally, we have the equally amazing Leia-and-the-Solos story. No, we still don't get to the bottom of Sana and Han's "wedding." But, Sana manages to jump to light speed and evade the Empire. When they're safe, Leia learns that Luke is in trouble and trades Sana Han to convince her to fly them to Nar Shadda. This sequence is amazing not only for Leia literally using Han as a bargaining chip (seriously, she just effectively hands him to Sana), but it makes it clear that we're heading in the direction of everyone converging on one position. It's unexpected and exciting. Plus, it also reminds us of the affection that they've all clearly developed for each other at this point. Han is particularly troubled that Luke went to Nar Shadda, like an older brother complaining that he can't take his eye off his little brother without him getting into trouble.
It's all just masterful. Aaron is really succeeding in the most important aspect of this series: we're not just here to fill in the blanks. Sure, it's exciting to see Luke get his first real training in combat with a lightsaber and wondering how far this training will go. But, it's also about the story itself, of Chewie and Threepio trying to track down Luke and Han and Leia immediately redirecting to help rescue him. Again, it's getting to be less and less about fleshing out some details of the original trilogy and more about the feeling that you're watching an entirely new trilogy every time you read these issues. I just can't rave enough about the work that Aaron and Immonen are doing here.
***** (five of five stars)