I already posted up a review for the Star Wars Adventures: Tales From Darth Vader’s Castle books – which I really enjoyed. I jumped into this Destroyer Down book as well, because I was keen for something centering on Rey.
Oddly, this turns out to be kind of a ghost story affair too – so maybe the whole approach with these books is the same.
What I really enjoy here is just getting much more Jakku – and a sense of Rey’s life pre-The-Force-Awakens.
I read a book a few years ago along those same lines – it was all about Rey’s life, Jakku and her perspective on the graveyard of ships (I think it was called ‘Rey’s Survival Guide’ – a beautiful little book with stunning illustrations).
This comic seems to tap into the same thing, perhaps even informed by it.
I don’t know how or when I already started feeling nostalgic for Scavenger Rey, Jakku and Nima Outpost, but apparently I am – and this book very much caters to that sense. It’s great seeing Rey’s place in relation to the other scavengers and in relation to Unkar Plutt; and the Graveyard of Ships itself is endlessly absorbing. We only saw a bit of it in TFA, but it’s such a rich, evocative playground.
Unkar Plutt sends the scavengers of Nima outpost on a hunt to find and scavenge an old Star Destroyer (“a ghost ship”) that is said to have re-emerged from the Jakku sands. Rey races off to be the first to get there. That’s pretty much all there is to it: but it’s style and tone of the book that makes it a winner, rather than plot.
Like the Tales from Darth Vader’s Castle series, Destroyer Down has a playful, cartoony tone – but not quite as much as the other book does.
But it has a spritely, playful style to it: like hearing the scavengers trade wide-eyed theories or hearsay about whether the Star Destroyer is haunted or not. One of the best of these being one scavenger’s claim that the ship is haunted by the Emperor Palpatine himself and that a full squad of (ghost) Stormtroopers stand to attention every day to honour the Emperor’s ghost. Another good one is that the ship is haunted by the ghosts of Ewoks who were prisoners aboard the vessel when it crashed into Jakku’s sands.
In the second installment, we see Rey and a trio of rival scavengers sent by Unkar Plutt, both on board the Star Destroyer (The Spectral), stepping on each other’s toes. Rey is shown as fearless and dogged though, while the other trio is shown as jittery and easily frightened. This is still basically a ghost story – admittedly, the sight of practically a sea of long-dead Stormtroopers (in full gear) tumbling down from a compartment is quite unsettling.
The brilliant narrative device here, however, is that – like the Vader’s Castle book – the story is split into two sections: the first telling the story of Rey and co looking for the downed Star Destroyer on Jakku, while the second story goes back in time and actually show the battle between the Rebels and the Empire that resulted in the Destroyer falling down into Jakku in the first place.
It’s a really clever way of doing this.
The discovery than an imperial K2-S2-type droid is still protecting the ancient Star Destroyer is a nice twist: I don’t know if a droid could stay active for that many years in these circumstances, but I guess it’s possible. Certainly, this droid seems a little unhinged and has entirely failed to process the reality of the situation: he keeps repeating his mantra (“This ship protects the Empire, and I protect this ship…”) and acting like the vessel is still in space and the Empire hasn’t fallen.
There’s something kind of moving about an imperial droid from that era still being conscious and functioning here, as if stuck in a time warp. Rey, of course, finds a way to deal with the droid and escape the ship – Unkar Plutt, needless to say, isn’t happy about the lack of salvage, but Rey lives to fight another day.
Overall, these opening couple of installments of Destroyer Down are a really fun, easy read: a visual treat, but something to just enjoy at a child-like level and not have to process too seriously.
As I said in the Tales From Darth Vader’s Castle article, there’s plenty of Star Wars to go around – and it’s great to get different, diverse visual, stylistic and thematic interpretations of what Star Wars comics can be.