A new arc is coming. Marvel’s Star Wars #20 will wrap up the current story, and issue #21 will launch a fresh adventure for our heroes and their foes. “The Last Flight of Harbinger” is set to introduce an elite group of Imperial stormtroopers who will prove to be quite the foil to the Rebels. Writer Jason Aaron is joined by artist Jorge Molina in bringing this special seven-member squad to the page. StarWars.com caught up with Aaron to discuss the upcoming arc and how it begins — he says we’ll see a glimpse of the stormtrooper squad at the end of issue #20 before spending more time when them. “We really get to see the whole group in action with the next issue. It [issue #21] is both a standalone and the beginning of the next arc. It really focuses in on this new group of stormtroopers. We get to see them in action on their own little mission that also sets the stage for where we’re going in that next arc. At first it’s a mystery as to who the leader of the group is, but it will eventually be pretty obvious that it’s somebody we’ve met before.”
That somebody is Kreel. Sergeant Kreel, a.k.a. Agent 5241, was last seen working in Grakkus the Hutt’s arena. He crossed paths with Luke there and even helped him prepare for a fight with a little lightsaber coaching, but that wasn’t the last of Kreel’s story. Aaron says, “When we last saw him, he was talking to Darth Vader, and it was hopefully clear this was a guy you were going to see again, a guy who was going to get back in the game in terms of being an Imperial agent.”
Kreel will lead the squad and we’ll spend time getting to know why they’ve all chosen Team Empire instead of Team Rebellion. The motivation of the troopers was an important aspect Aaron wanted to explore. “The main thing I wanted to do was give more of a face to some of the stormtroopers. We’ve seen lots of them in the series, but they’ve all been pretty interchangeable, faceless bad guys. We haven’t gotten to know them. That was one of my favorite parts of The Force Awakens, getting to see and getting to know a real character who was a stormtrooper and somebody who, of course, has a conscience and changed his ways and joined up with the good guys. This is the opposite of that. It’s us peering inside the heads of somebody who is very gung-ho for the Empire and then the question, of course, is ‘Why? Why would you sign up to fight for the Empire?’ That’s something we’ll answer over the course of the story. We wanted to put a face on those enemies and also create a formidable group of bad guys because they’re up against our heroes,” Aaron says.
Aaron’s digging deep into the reasons characters might have for training to be Imperials. He says, “If you look at five different characters, you might get five different answers as to why that is. I want an answer that’s something beyond, ‘Well, they drafted me and they’re making me do this.’ I’m interested in the characters who would really buy into what they’re doing and really feel like they’re fighting on the right side. I want to explore a few different answers to those questions.”
In some part, the members of the stormtrooper squad were inspired by the clone troopers. Aaron says, “Part of the inspiration for this group comes from the ‘Bad Batch’ characters who are from the unproduced episodes of The Clone Wars animated series, which I think you can still find the animatics for online. They were a ragtag bunch of clones working together in one small fighting force, so this in some ways inspired by and maybe linked to that.”
This fighting force is very capable and versatile. “[This is] a group that’s used to being dropped into all sorts of different circumstances and far corners of the galaxy. You drop these guys in, they can operate on their own, they can get done whatever sort of mission you need them to do. There are guys within that group who have different functions. There’s an explosives guy, a sniper, and a scout, and a big burly bazooka guy,” Aaron explains. StarWars.com has an exclusive early look at the squad below, though note that these are work-in-progress designs.
Aaron had a blast working on the looks of these characters with Molina. He’s worked with him before (specifically on Wolverine and the X-Men). “He’s an awesome artist,” Aaron says. “The designs in particular, I’m really excited about. We sketched out who these guys were and what their functions were and left it up to Jorge as to what they actually looked like and what any sort of unifying theme was between these guys. I love that he brought a lot of personality to each one of them. Even though we’re working with the standard stormtrooper outfit, Jorge was able to tweak it a little bit and really give each guy his own look and feel. I like that you can look at these dudes and get an idea, just from their appearance and their paraphernalia, what their specialty is. And in this first issue, these guys aren’t just standing around. We get to see them leaping into action. It’s completely different than anything we’ve done in the book so far; it’s really a straightforward all-action story that focuses on the bad guys.”
After introducing the Imperial fighting force in #21, the following issue will bring us back in line with Luke, Han, and Leia. “The next issue [#22] really shifts gears and we jump to a completely different part of space and catch up with our main cast. They’re in the middle of a massive space battle. They’re fighting a bunch of TIE fighters and trying to take down an Imperial Star Destroyer. As the battle goes on, you see maybe it’s not as simple as just trying to blow this thing up. Again, I wanted to do something very different than what we’ve done before and the idea of our group of Rebels stealing and operating a Star Destroyer was really fun. There were a lot of possibilities there. But as for how they do that, why they do that, and what they’re up to, you’ll just have to wait and see. You can expect to see lots of scenes of Han on the bridge of a Star Destroyer yelling at Chewie in the engine room. There’s a lot of that. And, of course, there’s still the group of stormtroopers we’ll have just introduced who are running around out there, too, who presumably will be playing a big part in the arc as well.”
And speaking of how the paths of the Rebels and these stormtroopers will converge, Aaron teases, “Issue #21 is about setting the stormtroopers up, issue #22 is about setting up what our Rebels are up to. I would expect after that you’d see those groups and those two storylines collide.”
Star Wars #21 will be available from your local comic book retailer in July.
Amy Ratcliffe is a writer obsessed with Star Wars, Disney, and coffee. Follow her on Twitter at @amy_geek.