Star Wars: Aurra's Song
Aurra's Song was originally featured in Dark Horse Presents Annual 2000: Girls Rule! It has since been collected in the Rise of the Sith omnibus.
Aurra's Song is a short origin story that fleshes out the background of one of the most popular bounty hunters in the entire canon: Aurra Sing. At only 12 pages, it isn't the most elaborate story ever told, but as a piece of history it is a good read for anyone looking to find out more about this massively popular character.
The gist is that Aurra has been captured by an Anzati bounty hunter that has known her for many years. The two recount a bit of their history, which leads us to a look back at Aurra's earliest days as a trained killer and gives us some insight into just who taught her what she knows, and we get to see a bit of what makes her so deadly. There is a fairly predictable twist involved, revealed at the very end, but despite the fact that it is so poorly constructed it doesn't really detract from the main idea of this piece. What does detract from this book is the bizzare dialogue that the characters spout off at each other. Aurra taunts her Anzati (a species known for drinking brain fluid to sustain themselves) captor with the decidedly amateurish and juvenile "You suck!" and that is one of many terrible lines in this book, though most of which are simply clumsily written attempts at exposition instead of out of character banter. Disappointingly, this origin story doesn't look at all at Aurra's mysterious parentage, nor does it reveal what species she is, as it focuses more on her time learning valuable skills instead of the more essential bedrock of her existence.
The artwork in this story is a puzzling take on Aurra's appearance. Instead of the skeletal, hard edged physique that she has sported in many of her roles, Aurra is instead drawn as a beautiful woman with porcelain skin and rounded features. She has just a hint of eye shadow instead of the more dramatic dark circles, and even sports a full head of hair in the flashback sequences. Also of note is that she is shown in a slave dancing girl costume not all that dissimilar to Leia's infamous apparel from Return of the Jedi. This is clearly an effort to appeal to male fans and emphasize a totally different element of the character. For my part, I'm not a big fan of it because Aurra is a far more intimidating and interesting character when she isn't being so obviously fan serviced and made to be something we already have plenty of in science fiction and the Star Wars universe. Other than that, the art looks really good. Apparently it originally was published in black in white, but the omnibus edition is a full color version. The coloring isn't the best, though it is at least fitting and probably a bit more suitable than the black and white artwork.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this short story is what it represents. At the time of its publication, Aurra Sing was one of the hottest properties in all of Star Wars. Fresh off the hype of her brief appearance in The Phantom Menace, Aurra was a very mysterious character poised to become the next Boba Fett in terms of popularity relative to movie screentime. She was everywhere at the time: in video games (Star Wars: Demolition,) action figures, cover articles for Star Wars Insider, and of course, comic books. Aurra had major roles in many Dark Horse comics, including the Outlander and Hunt for Aurra Sing arcs of the Republic ongoing monthly. To newer fans, the character has been far less active, appearing only in the Clone Wars animated series and having a minor role in the Legacy of the Force novel series. Going back to a time when the character was extremely prominent and people actually wanted to learn more about her makes for a great slice of history for newer fans and a bit of nostalgia for those of us who lived it the first time.
Probably not worth tracking down on its own merits, Aurra's Song is a fun little story that does a bit to improve on the depth of one of the more intriguing characters from this period in Star Wars. I'm not a huge fan of many of the paths taken in this piece, most of which feel like dreadful fan service intended to hyper-sexualize an otherwise cold and menacing killer, but it is an interesting piece of Star Wars history and a nice inclusion in the Rise of the Sith omnibus.