When Dark Horse Comics first announced the Invasion comic book series back in February 2009 Executive Editor Randy Stradley warned fans that Invasion would not just 'fill the gaps' left in the 19-book The New Jedi Order series nor would it 'patch up the cracks or answers all of the questions from the Del Rey novels', so I'm glad to say that Tom Taylor and Colin Wilson's first story in this series, Refugees, lives up to Randy's assertions. Taylor's story contains the right mix of drama, adventure, intrigue, action and tragedy to keep the reader interested from the first panel to the last.
Our chief protagonists in this story aren't the 'big three' of Luke, Han and Leia (although they do make good, in terms of storytelling, cameo appearances), instead we have the four members of the Galfridian family from the planet Artorias and our introduction to them, as well as to the antagonists, the extra-galactic invaders that are Yuuzhan Vong, is done gradually throughout the story. We are first witness to Caled Galfridian's birthday celebrations, husband to Nina and father to a son and daughter, on the eve of the unprovoked and unannounced Vong invasion of Artorias. Then as the devastating and horrifying invasion unfolds in front of our eyes, we learn that Caled, as well as being a veteran of the Battle of Hoth, is also the king of the Artorian people, while his son, Prince Finn, is Force-sensitive. But where assumptions may lead that such a royal family should lead a privileged lifestyle we find Nina and daughter Kaye, shopping at the local market on the very day the Vong invade.
Yet even amongst the horror and drama of the invasion, Taylor still finds the time to add some individual touches. He injects some humour into the story with Finn's attempt to lift a small rock using the Force and Luke's response when he succeeds; and invokes pathos from the reader with Han's moroseness at finding fewer and fewer strands of Wookiee hair on his clothes. Although these individual touches add a respite to the story, it is Taylor's ability for intrigue and drama that really drives from this story forward. The opening premise of 'The Yuuzhan Vong are coming' and 'What's a Vong?', spoken as deathly cries in the opening pages, grab the reader's desire to know more and Taylor simply doesn't let go of this premise throughout his story.
Just as Taylor's introduction to the reader of the Galfridian family was piecemeal, so too is the Yuuzhan Vong's. Taylor deliberately reveals sporadic pieces of information to the reader throughout the story: their origins, their purpose and their beliefs. For readers unfamiliar with The New Jedi Order series of novels, this spasmodic supply of information forms a good part of the story's intrigue, while fans cognitive of the novels will tend to concentrate of Taylor and Wilson's portrayal of the Vong and their 'technology'. Fanboys will simply love the cameos by not only the big three, but by Kyp Durron, Mara Jade, Lowbacca, and the Solo twins Jacen and Jaina.
As in so many real-life war situations, the Galfridian family finds itself torn apart and separated by the invasion: while Caled attempts to secure the evacuation of his people and form a resistance to the invaders, his wife and daughter are captured and imprisoned on a Vong slave ship, while Finn is rescued by the surprise and timely appearance of Luke Skywalker and taken off-planet to the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 for training. Taylor establishes within this story three separate, yet at the same time intertwining and connected, story arcs to follow in this and future Invasion publications.
Wilson's art compliments Taylor's story perfectly: from the sorrowful brow of Han Solo, to the frightening scream of an attacking Vong warrior, Wilson's artwork captures the real passion and emotion expressed by the characters, the drama and horror of the invasion as it affects not only the protagonists but also the supporting characters. Wilson's superb use of perspective, especially in the drawings of the attacking Vong, from the looming warrior over Kaye to the impaling of Lar Le'ung on an amphistaff, only help to extenuate further Taylor's unfolding drama. There is a natural flow to the story as the reader moves from panel to panel with the right balance between action and necessary exposition.
Refugees will appeal to all Star Wars fans, however, if you've never read a Star Wars comic story, Invasion: Refugees is not only an excellent read in itself, but also a great place to start reading Star Wars comic stories (the second Invasion story arc, Rescues, begins in May 2010 with the release of Invasion issue #6).
[Review originally published at [...]]