*Ahem.* Sorry. #awkward
This issue is amazing. As expected, the Imperials and our gang converge on the arena on Nar Shadda at the same time, leading to utter chaos. The Gamemaster reveals himself as an Imperial spy to Grakkus, but Grakkus reminds us that he's not defenseless. He sets off an emp field that not only disarms all blasters in the area of impact but also the restraining collar of the monster that Luke had been fighting. It prompts a resourceful Artoo to collect some of the lightsabers hanging around Grakkus' reliquary, setting up possibly the best splash page ever, as Chewie, Han, and Leia (!) all wield lightsabers to fight their way to freedom.
But, as usual with excellent comics, this issue is all about characterization and relationships.
First, we continue to see the evolution of Han and Luke's friendship, through (as you'd imagine) the deepening of their banter. If you watch the first movie, it's really not all that developed. They're really not friends, like they are in the third movie. But, here, you see that relationship starting to blossom. I'm talking particularly about the scene where Luke apologizes to Han for dragging him into "more of [his] craziness" and Han hilariously replies that his trip couldn't have been any more crazy than Han's. True dat.
Even better, though? Even better? Sana admits that she's not really Han's wife, but that she's after him because he took her cut! Of course he did! Scoundrel. Then, she and Leia have a heart-to-heart conversation where she admits that she needs the money from Han for something, but stops herself before saying what it is. Of course, since it's Leia, this conversation doesn't happen over a nice cup of tea, but as they're fleeing the arena, with the monster that Luke had been fighting rampaging in the background.
We also learn that the Gamemaster, a.k.a. Sergeant Kreel, has been an undercover Stormtrooper for the entire time that he was with Grakkus, sent to monitor him as he collected Jedi artifacts. I hope that we see Kreel again. He's not only easy on the eyes, but he's incredibly intriguing. After all, he was so motivated by his love of the Empire that he willingly made himself a slave and fought his way to freedom, all to be a better-placed spy. This guy has a story.
Finally, the issue has one of the most devastating final panels of all time. Han had to have Chewie pull Luke from the arena since he wanted to return for the holocron and other items in Grakkus' collection. In the end, he's left only with Ben's journal, the one item that Artoo was able to retrieve before they fled; he sits dejectedly with the journal in his hands on the Falcon. We know that he's right to be dejected, after we saw Vader crush the holocron and congratulate Kreel for leading them to such a wealth of Jedi relics to destroy. It really is a devastating loss, one that I have a hard time even processing. Like Luke, I had figured that these items were the path to him discovering his heritage, if you will. But, now, he's at square one.
Can I give an issue six of five stars? Is that kosher?
***** (five of five stars)