Lightsabers? Sniper Wookies? Hives of scum and villany? Check, check, and check. Marvel’s return to the Star Wars universe is strong with Force.
Last year, comic readers learned that Marvel would be reclaiming the Star Wars franchise after more than twenty years of stewardship by the fine folks at Dark Horse. It wasn’t really all that surprising. With Disney taking possession of Lucasfilm and already owning Marvel, it was only a matter of time before the house of mouse pulled the famous franchise back into the clutches of its in-house revenue-generating monstrosity. Even so, it was a considerable disappointment, especially taking into account the de-canonization of the Star Wars expanded universe, of which the various Dark Horse titles were an integral part.
If the first issue of Marvel’s new Star Wars is any indicator however, what we’re gaining could very well be worth what we’re losing. In the space of 30-something pages, writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday have delivered easily one of the best Star Wars stories in recent memory. It takes the characters we love, recreates them just you remember and pushes them forward into a new continuity that’s fresh, exciting and, above all else, genuine feeling.
Star Wars #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art by: John Cassaday
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date Jan. 14, 2015
A long, long time ago…
Star Wars #1 opens with a static take on the franchise’s classic text scroll. Set shortly after the events of A New Hope, the issue begins with the Rebel alliance flying high after the destruction of the Death Star. Hoping to capitalize on that victory, they send the invincible trio of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia to raid an Imperial weapons factory.
Posing as emissaries of Jabba the Hutt, the trio sneak into installation to enact a risky plan that, if successful, will leave the factory in ruins and the Empire’s war machine crippled even further. Things, of course, don’t go to plan and our heroes are left to try and pull things off completely against the odds, as usual.
All about the characters it is.
While this set-up provides some obvious foundations for exciting action sequences, it also gives Jason Aaron some great opportunities to demonstrate just how good he is at replicating the speech and mannerisms of the classic characters and their actors from the original Star Wars trilogy. Han’s lines are imbued with a sarcastic cock-sureness that’s impressively close to the way Harrison Ford spoke in Episode IV. The opening section where he essentially smarms his way past Imperial security is practically worth buying the comic all on its own.
Leia and Luke likewise, come across as authentic extensions of who they were at the end of A New Hope. Luke is no longer a naïve farmboy, but he’s still rash and clearly governed by his emotional responses to situations. At one point, for instance, despite the fact that their mission is high risk and reliant on stealth, he frees a cage full of slaves who then have no choice but to trudge along after the trio as they work their way through the Imperial factory. While his actions are noble, they demonstrate his inability to be someone who can’t bring himself to sacrifice for the greater good.
Leia, in turn, is still very much the woman in charge. Even though Han is the one leading the mission she has no problem overriding him and taking command, sometimes even to the detriment of the group. As the comic progresses, Darth Vader shows up (big shock I know). Han, smartly, tells Chewbacca (lying in wait in a sniper’s roost) to ignore the Sith Lord lest they alert the entire factory and all of its Imperial inhabitants to their presence. Leia, however, insists that a chance to take out Vader would be worth failing the mission and orders Chewie to “take the shot.” Chewie does, Vader survives and all hell breaks loose. Good call Leia.
Layers of Leia.
While clearly a bad move on Leia’s part, it was also probably her most interesting moment in the entire book. Granted, I could just be reading too much into it, but her command to kill Vader came across to me as being motivated by more than just his importance to the Empire. While Darth Vader would obviously be a priority target for the Rebels, he’s still just one guy. I don’t buy that Leia, portrayed as more of a pragmatist at other points in the comic, would be willing to let the Empire keep “the largest weapons factory in the galaxy” just to take out Palpatine’s personal enforcer. Her response to Vader’s arrival struck me as the sort of emotional response that an otherwise strong person might have when confronted with who, oh, I don’t know, tortured them before making them watch their homeworld’s destruction.
In the least, I’m definitely hoping that’s what Aaron was trying to portray. It’s always kind of bothered how The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi never really addressed the fact that Leia should, by all rights, be more than a little bit traumatize by what happened to her in A New Hope. I would love to see one of the new Star Wars comics Marvel has planned to touch on that, even if they only do it subtly.
Vader is best in moderation.
As much as I liked Leia’s response to Vader however, I found myself annoyed in moments by the villain himself. Don’t get me wrong, overall, Aaron and Cassaday employ Vader really well. His entrance is perfect; a gorgeous, wordless splash page of the character marching forward, buttressed ominously by matching columns of stormtroopers. I also really enjoyed the way he countered Chewie’s sniper attack. The lazy way to do it would have just been to have him deflect the blaster bolts with his lightsaber. Instead, he force lifts a pair of stormtroopers and uses them as human shields. In addition to being really cool image, it did a great job of driving home just how casual he is about sacrificing and killing his own men.
What bothered me was Aaron’s seeming rush to throw Luke up against him. Part of what made Luke’s confrontations with Vader so special in the films is how rare and climactic they were. Just think about their confrontation in The Empire Strikes Back. Before the two characters were even in the room, the film treated audiences to at least a solid hour of people telling Luke how screwed he be if tried to take the dark lord on too soon. By the time they fought the tension had already been keyed up to 11, something that wouldn’t have been possible if the movie had rushed things. Luke, in turn, charging off to fight Vader at the end of issue felt somewhat pandering to me. Luckily, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s disembodied voice was there to tell the budding Jedi to “run,” so we might be spared a gratuitous lightsaber battle in issue two.
In the end.
That quibble aside though, Star Wars issue one is a great start to what will hopefully be an interesting new interquel continuity. It doesn’t just stay true to the content of the original film trilogy, it lays groundwork to take those classic films and user them as fodder for new tales. Time will have to tell if Jason Aaron, John Cassaday and Marvel will be up the task of following in the footsteps of Dark Horse’s long legacy, but with issue one they’ve at least gotten off to a good start.
Bottom Line: Marvel, Jason Aaron and John Cassaday have a produced a comic that every Star Wars fan should own. While it isn’t perfect, it manages to recreate the characters, dialogue and feeling that has captured and created so many fans over the past four decades. A great comic from its first page to its last.
Recommendation : If you like Star Wars you should buy this comic book.[rating=4.5/5]