Comics and Cosplay
Rough Draft Of The Force: The Star Wars Reviewed

Marshall Lemon | 16 Jul 2014 17:00
Comics and Cosplay - RSS 2.0
thestarwars coversmall

The overstuffed story would be forgivable, however, if the characters were actually interesting or charming, but they're not. The protagonists are heroes only by virtue of happening to be the underdogs, and have little else to offer. Character behavior and dialogue relate only to what's happening in the immediate scene; deeper motivations or personality quirks that elevate them beyond pulpy sci-fi tropes are set aside. Given that The Star Wars was directly inspired by pulp serials like Flash Gordon, perhaps this was understandable. But knowing for a fact that later drafts elevated Star Wars beyond its inspiration makes this version a disappointment by comparison.

Take Annikin, the closest we have to a central character. The most The Star Wars bothers with developing Annikin is showing that he's a Jedi Apprentice and immediately putting him through the typical "this is what happens to the hero" plot points. He lacks discipline and is insubordinate to General Skywalker, but constantly proves himself on the battlefield. When Annikin does lose a conflict and ends up captured, it's usually so he can dramatically escape in a later scene, making you wonder how he got captured in the first place. When someone close to him dies, (or announces that they're dying), he mourns about it for a panel, then forgets about it and never mentions them again. And in one of his first meetings with Princess Leia, he ends up punching her in the face, which of course means they'll spontaneously fall in love despite an utter lack of chemistry. The prequel trilogy's romance between Anakin and Padme makes more sense than that pairing.

On the positive side, the artwork is fantastic. The Star Wars creative team put a lot of effort into designing a book that could fit visually in the Expanded Universe, albeit a parallel version of it. Familiar ship and costume designs appear throughout the story, but in different contexts that will feel new even to long-time fans. There's even a subtle in-joke in which the art team made General Skywalker look unmistakably like (a much more fit) George Lucas. The art ably conveys the visual spectacle Lucas intended for his masterpiece from the very first draft, with multiple space battles dwarfing the scope of those from the initial trilogy.

the-star-wars general lucas

The Star Wars also has merits as a quasi-historical document. Notes and sketches in the back of the book reference character, ship, and environment designs based on unused content from Lucasfilm's archives. Not only does this give a better idea of where Star Wars began, readers can personally track alterations from this story to the finished film if they so choose. It can be a little tricky to tell exactly what content comes from George Lucas or The Star Wars' creative team; for example, Darth Vader wasn't supposed to have his iconic helmet, so glimpses of it are added as a courtesy. But even those elements serve to remind readers that a very different story might have unfolded.

It's clear that The Star Wars had in it the seeds for perhaps the greatest science-fiction franchise of all time. Alas, in its earliest form, that franchise was an average space opera that did little to elevate itself from its pulp origins. From a historical perspective, The Star Wars is an absolutely fascinating look at where characters, concepts, and even iconic lines of dialogue came from. But George Lucas definitely needed time to refine these concepts; film history is better because he had it.

Bottom Line: If The Star Wars was the movie we'd got in 1977, it might have been a sci-fi classic on par with Flash Gordon. But compared to the Star Wars we actually got, this story is a slog, lacking the charm and personality that made its characters household names. Only the art and Dark Horse's presentation rescue it from mediocrity.

Recommendation: History buffs and curious fans will love The Star Wars the same way archaeologists love artifacts. But if you're looking for a solid story, you'd be better off trying elsewhere in the Expanded Universe.

The Star Wars collected trade paperback hits stores July 23, 2014.

Comments on