Star Wars Adventures: Forces of Destiny #5: Rose and Paige
Delilah Dawson (writer), Nicoletta Baldari (artist and colours), Tom B. Long (letters)
31 January, 2018
In the final Forces of Destiny comic, sisters Rose and Paige Tico set out to explore a new planet, as the Resistance tries to stay alive and defend themselves. Readers of this issue may very well have followed the previous installments, each focused on different female characters, and/or enjoyed The Last Jedi enough to want to check out Rose and Paige’s adventures in comic form.
The planet D’Qar hides a secret: General Leia Organa and the Resistance have claimed it as their base, and they need resources. Young Rose Tico volunteers to build vehicles from the parts kept in the camp’s junk heap, so that she and her sister Paige can explore the planet for anything that the Resistance might be able to use.
Her youth means Rose isn’t taken seriously by the older Resistance fighters, but she pushes forward anyway, with Paige’s faith in her as a driving force. She succeeds in building the vehicles, but when she and Paige set out to look for resources, it’s not quite the adventure either of them had envisioned.
For a comic that’s meant to flesh out Rose and Paige’s characters and relationship, there isn’t much here that moves the reader forward. Those who have seen The Last Jedi know Rose from the film—we know that she’s stubborn, and that her relationship with her sister motivates her to take action and do things she might otherwise be afraid of doing. We are perhaps not as familiar with Paige, and it’s hard to see who she might be in this story, besides the person that inspires and encourages her sister. The beats of the story play out in predictable fashion, via Delilah Dawson’s script. There aren’t any surprises or small character moments that build the sisterly bond or Paige’s individual attitudes and truths or the sisters’ history. The focus on the theme of the story—not giving up on things—overshadows the characters themselves.
Both Rose and Paige are drawn in a distinctly Disney-esque way, but it’s jarring to say the least. Rose’s cheeks and chin are sharply sculpted, leaving any trace of Kelly Marie Tran’s round cheeks off the final design of the character. This Rose’s hair behaves, staying put without any sign of frizz from having ridden a wheeled vehicle she engineered herself out of some junk parts. Paige looks like she was modeled off of Mulan, as opposed to Vietnamese actress Veronica Ngo.
Ngo’s eyes are smaller and deeper-set than what we see of Paige in this comic. Rose’s face is slimmed down, turning it heart-shaped instead of giving it the soft roundness of Tran’s face. Neither character needs to resemble the actors down to the pores, but Baldari’s art focuses on their eyes and cheekbones without letting the rest of their faces move naturally. Rose especially ends up looking like a Disney princess, which is not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s just not the role she’s playing, or one she’s ever expressed a desire to play.
That said, the colours in this book are absolutely stunning. I loved the way Baldari played with texture and watercolour shades in the landscape, making D’Qar feel alive and vibrant. The squonks are delightful, and they feel natural to the planet, one that’s lush and full of forests and hills.
Forces of Destiny #5 could certainly serve as an introduction to the characters prior to seeing them in The Last Jedi or reading about them in the middle-grade novel Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein. But it’s the kind of story that may leave readers who are already familiar with Rose and Paige wanting more than what they end up getting.
As I mentioned earlier, Rose and Paige have made appearances in various media. In all of these appearances, the characters have been written by white writers. Rian Johnson introduced them to the Star Wars universe, true. But in as wide a universe as Star Wars, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been if an Asian-American writer or artist had been tapped to work on any of these stories. What further character details might those creators have been able to draw out of Rose and Paige’s shared history, given the chance? For the first time, Asian-American/diaspora Asian people are seeing actors that share their experiences in a historically popular franchise. I hope Forces of Destiny is not going to be the last place we see Rose and Paige, and that the next time we do see them, they’re guided by the hands of Asian creators into new adventures and beyond.