Underrated: Star Wars The Last Flight Of The Harbinger

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Star Wars: The Last Flight Of The Harbinger

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Star Wars comics in general. I said then that I’m the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, and even though I did enjoy (all) of the live action movies to some extent, I’d never really read many of the comics.

Despite being a big comics fan, and a relatively new Star Wars fan, I never once thought about reading the comics that were going to reintroduce us to the world and build upon what was known from the movies. It just never occurred to me. Star Wars was something I watched not something I read.

That changed this year when I found a rather significant haul of Star Wars trade paper backs for a remarkably decent price, but that’s not news for regular readers of this column. One of the books I had picked up was a trade collecting the several issues from Jason Arron’s Star Wars series (issues #20-25). The story takes place some time after the events of A New Hope but before The Empire Strike Back. Most of the book focuses on our favourite rebels steals a Star Destroyer to break a blockade while confronting an elite squad of Stormtroopers called SCAR Squad, with a single issue looking at an older Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting off a bounty hunter on Tatooine during his secret guardianship of Luke (who’s around ten or so here).

There’s also a bonus story with R2D2 that’s of the fun but easily forgettable type that you’d usually find in a Sunday paper.

The Obi-Wan story fleshes out Luke’s uncle, and opens a door for an eventual live action story set around this period by showing that Obi-Wan doesn’t need to be fighting a galactic threat to be a hero – there are plenty of more intimate battles he can fight whilst staying within close proximity to the Skywalkers.

But the meat of the story, and the part that lends the book its title, focuses on the Rebel’s capture of a Star Destroyer, first by dedicating an issue to explaining who SCAR Squad is, and then by showing the action unfold. That we get a look at what the Rebel’s did off camera during the intervening years adds another layer to the original movies, and it really does serve to give you the sense that the Rebellion versus the Empire wasn’t limited to a few battles, but was a much larger galactic conflict by a band of guerrilla fighters. With the The Last Flight Of The Harbinger taking place mainly over a day (at most) and flashbacks, Aaron shows without any other context, that this really is a protracted war and not a series of minor conflicts with some lovable characters.

I read this as a standalone book without realizing when I purchased the trade that it was volume four in Aaron’s collected Star Wars run, and it didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all. Perhaps because these are characters that are so embedded without the public consciousness coupled with the fact that the story is entirely self contained (with only one or two references to previous events) meant that I didn’t need to know what had gone on before to enjoy the book in hand. Which ultimately is a hallmark of the Skywalker Saga; with so many years in between some of the movies, you rely on the legendary yellow scroll and a general sense of who is who to get by more often than you don’t.

Or maybe I’ve grown to care less and less about What Went Before if the story is good.

Star Wars comics may not be for everyone, but if you’re a comic reader (and I assume you are if you’re reading this), and a Star Wars fan and you haven’t read these stories, then you owe it to yourself to check out the books being published by Marvel. If you have read them, then I shall gladly listen to the “I told you so” if you want to follow it up with “now read this…”

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.