A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars comics were published by Dark Horse, a comic book publisher famous for properties such as Hellboy and Sin City. Once Marvel was brought under the wing of Disney, however, along with Lucasfilm, the stage was set for Star Wars to return to their original comic book stomping grounds. Yes, from 1977 to 1986, Marvel had the sole right to print all funny books related to Star Wars and had crafted many storylines for the universe. Now, in the present, Marvel is hoping to piggyback on the recent fervor stirred up by the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, along with the general enthusiasm for the franchise, by telling new stories within the universe of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia.
Hit the jump for my Star Wars #1 review of the first issue of Marvel Comics’ new endeavor.
Instead of telling stories with entirely new characters acting as our protagonists, Marvel made the decision to focus these books on the original protagonists, and it works well for them. Our first story takes place following the events of Episode IV: A New Hope but prior to Episode V: Empire Strikes Back, as the Rebellion begins standing on two shaky legs, attempting to stay ahead of the Empire at every turn. When I first heard about the plan for this book and many subsequent Marvel Star Wars tie-ins to essentially be stories taking place in the middle of the franchise, it raised an eyebrow. I always feel that when you have a story that takes place either before or somewhere in the middle of events that has already happened, it takes away some of the dramatic punch that the series could have. This issue does something that I consider very difficult to pull off and manages to dodge that problem altogether.
No, we aren’t going to see Darth Vader die or Luke have his leg cut off since the events following this issue are set in stone, but there is still a high sense of tension to be found in these pages. The story sees the gang landing on a moon currently under the Empire’s iron fist, attempting to bamboozle them by pretending to be an envoy of Jabba the Hutt, lead by Han Solo. The story starts off with the famous text crawl and from hereon in, you can practically hear Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher deliver their lines through the characters’ mouths.
The character beats are spot on here, and there’s a particular moment with Luke diverging from the rest of the group that I really loved; it gives us a more in-depth look into Skywalker’s personality and how it clashes with those of his friends. This story does a great job of building on the characters while also offering new insights and situations that they hadn’t found themselves in before. How will C-3P0 handle being forced to handle a gun and intimidate scavengers? How menacing can R2-D2 really be? How good is Chewbacca’s aim?
Speaking of the lovable wookie, Chewbacca offers what is far and away the best action beat of the story. As the team rallies to complete their task, Darth Vader lands on the scene in a glorious splash page, reminiscent of the Emperor’s arrival in Return of the Jedi. Chewie, hanging from a tower with a sniper rifle, is told by Leia to take the shot, regardless of their own lives, at Vader. His attempts are ultimately futile as Vader begins using the force to slam Stormtroopers in the projectiles paths and rips the tower down in a grandiose show of force. It’s a really fantastic scene and there’s a lot of kinetic energy just flowing right off the page.
Let’s talk about artist John Cassady’s work here. Considered among the best in the business with his prior work on Astonishing X-Men, Planetary, and Uncanny Avengers, Cassady does a fantastic job of bringing the Star Wars universe and characters to the page. The characters look appropriate and you can see the actors in each facial expression. It’s a tough job to balance some of the extreme action scenes with the character moments, but Cassady prides himself on doing just that. Along with Cassady’s images, Marvel got one of their biggest writers to christen the Star Wars universe in Jason Aaron. Aaron’s most widely known for his work on Scalped, Wolverine, Southern Bastards, and Ghost Rider to name a few. While his writing style normally tends to focus on mature themes and anti-heroes (which works well for his rendition of Solo), he manages to balance all the characters here well.
Star Wars #1 is a fantastic jump back into the universe in comic book form and if you want a great excuse to jump back into the universe before this holiday season’s blockbuster, you’d be hard pressed to find stories as good as this.