You’ve heard of Star Wars, right? The world famous samurai-influenced space opera that’s part “hero’s journey” and part “tale of redemption”, featuring aliens, aerial dogfights, and mystical powers? The multi-trillion dollar franchise that sells movies, toys, bed sheets and cheese graters? Yes, that Star Wars.
For over twenty years, the publisher Dark Horse had rights to the comic version of the Star Wars universe, and released dozens of series: new stories featuring the movie heroes; alternate universe versions of the original movies; and tales from even longer ago in galaxies sometimes even farther away. Now that the Disney company has purchased both the Star Wars franchise and Marvel Comics, Dark Horse is out and its creations, for good and bad, are being wiped from the slate. Marvel is starting more or less fresh, using the live action movies (and possibly some of the recent cartoon series) as their touchstones.
The new eponymous Star Wars comic series from Marvel takes place between Episodes 4 and 5 (aka Star Wars (aka A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back), and actually serves as a very nice bridge between the two. It provides compelling answers to questions I wasn’t interested in asking, but am pleased to read about. In the movies, we only see the Rebel Alliance blow up a few Death Stars and fight off one Imperial attack on a snow planet. This comic series shows them engage in other missions, squabble internally, and make plans for success with their limited resources against a gargantuan foe. Princess Leia grapples with a leadership that disagrees with her aggressive tactics. Han Solo is torn between his cynic’s lifestyle and the hope for change that he sees in the Rebellion. Young Luke Skywalker is torn by guilt about the death of his brief mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, his desire for revenge and heroism, and his clearly limited skills as a fighter and Jedi. And Chewbacca, well, he shoots things.
This first volume is largely telling the tale of our familiar team of rebels attempting to sabotage an immense weapons factory that serves the evil Empire (followed by set-ups for future story arcs). As always seems to happen, our scrappy heroes’ clever plan hits unexpected snags, but they manage to beat the odds with quick thinking, luck, bravery, explosions, and dry quips. The plot itself is a little thin, but the tone is the genuine article, classic Star Wars. We see Han Solo and Princess Leia harangue each other. We get short scenes featuring the menacing Darth Vader, the mendacious crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and the calculating bounty hunter Boba Fett. Space battles, laser blasts, C-3PO saying, “Oh dear!” It’s all in there. In short, the comics feel like a surprisingly natural follow-up to the first movie, both in plot and tone.
The artwork is also satisfying, with faithful representations of the characters, settings, and iconic weapons and spaceships we have come to know and love and buy the related Burger King collector’s cups. The action scenes are exciting, the dialogue fits the characters, and the evolving schemes of hero and villain alike draw the reader along to the next chapter. All in all, a great way to enjoy the Star Wars universe without watching re-runs or reading internet spoilers for the upcoming films.
Star Wars, Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes
by Jason Aaron
Art by John Cassady
Marvel Comics, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Teen