Arguably this week’s biggest news in the comic world was the release of Marvel’s Star Wars #1. A big deal has been made about the Star Wars license returning to Marvel after a few decades under the stewardship of Dark Horse Comics. I recently chatted with a friend who manages a popular comic shop here in the Los Angeles area and asked her what she thought of the new Star Wars comic, and her initial response was, “Well, I didn’t really follow the Dark Horse stuff….” To that, I replied, “That doesn’t matter. Did you like it?”
As comic readers and fans, we often get too caught up in the ideas of continuity, and so something like a popular license switching from one comic publisher to another becomes a context from which we judge how much we like a thing – “Did the new company handle the license better, or worse?” Such things are going to be lost on the casual reader, and honestly make no impact on whether or not a book is “good.”
And let’s make no mistake – this is a good comic. The creative team made the very smart decision to focus this first of what will no doubt be a big line of Star Wars stories on the time period just following the events of the movie Star Wars: Episode IV (what most people refer to as “A New Hope” these days). This is a brilliant decision, as it not only recalls back to Marvel’s very first Star Wars comics of the late 1970s (the first issue of which was the very first comic I ever read as a youngster way back when), but also wisely avoids much of the Extended Universe stuff that Dark Horse was so good at producing (either futuristic or historic tales in the Star Wars universe that involve new, rather than established, characters). Putting the story in this setting helps to recreate the sense of wonder and fun that we all experienced the first time we saw Star Wars, but didn’t know anything else that was to come. Who’s going to get the girl? What happened to Darth Vader after the Death Star exploded? Will Han stay with the rebels, or will he return to Jabba the Hutt to pay him off?
As a very fun touch, the creative team also opens the issue with the familiar Star Wars crawl, helping to tie this story to the movie universe, and for those of us who might care about such things, hinting that the story to come is to be considered “canon.” After that nostalgia-evoking opening, the book contains pretty much everything that a Star Wars fan would want to see in a story – all of the familiar characters, ships, tech, and most importantly, the personality of Star Wars – is here in spades.
Visually, this is a beautiful book. John Cassaday does an excellent job with his character designs – the familiar characters are very reminiscent of the actors who portrayed them in the movies, so there’s no odd disconnect when looking at, for example, Princess Leia. However, beyond just this, Cassaday has a very strong command of panel layouts to convey energy and action, even in scenes where not a ton of movement is happening. He turns things on odd angles to emphasize key elements, such as a “hero shot” of Han Solo descending down the ramp of the Millennium Falcon. The technological elements are all well-detailed and have a real, lived-in look to them, which is something right out of the original movie trilogy, but somehow missing from the prequels when all of a sudden everything was shiny and new. There’s also a very minimal color palette here, provided by Laura Martin, and it works really well given the time period and the nature of this first story arc, which looks to be dealing with the sordid underbelly of the Empire. Neither the rebels nor the subjects of the Empire live in a cheery and happy universe, so the muted yellows, browns, and grays of Martin’s colors, emphasized here and there with pops of red, are the perfect choice to match Cassaday’s panel layouts, and also the story in general.
Star Wars #1 is a great example of how much fun Star Wars can be when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still manages to pull of a fantastic space opera story that fits right in with the original trilogy’s sensibilities. If this is the sign of the quality of things to come from Marvel’s Star Wars titles, that’s great news for Star Wars, and comics, fans everywhere.