Review: Star Wars#1
“Star Wars #1 easily does its job in instilling the sense of wonder and excitement first seen in the original movie trilogy. The biggest compliment I can give the book is that it made me care about Luke and the Rebel Alliance again and their adventures in a galaxy far, far away.”
Star Wars #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Release Date: Wed, January 14, 2015
Disclaimer right up front: I’m what you would call a passing Star Wars fan. In the same way that some folks can watch Marvel movies and leave it at that, I enjoy the original trilogy and that’s about it. Oh, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi—far from it. Those films will always be inextricably tied to my childhood and probably shaped me more than I’ll ever know. If I’m flipping through the channels and see any of the three playing, I will always stop and watch for a bit, even though I’ve seen them an innumerable amount of times and can quote every Luke whine and every Threepio nattering by heart.
That said, that’s about where my love for the franchise ends. Even before the prequels attempted to pulverize what affection I had for Obi-Wan and the gang, the various comic book series churned out by Marvel Comics and, later, Dark Horse didn’t engage me. Aside from the Grand Admiral Thrawn novel trilogy written by Timothy Zahn and the alternate reality Infinities series from Dark Horse, no other iteration of the story of the clash of the Rebellion and the Empire spoke to me. No disrespect meant to Star Wars fans in the least; I know that plenty of folks don’t understand my love for comic books, and that’s perfectly fine. However, that’s why, while I planned to check out the first issue of Marvel’s much-touted relaunch of the comic line after reacquiring the publishing rights from Dark Horse, I didn’t expect to be dazzled.
And damn if Marvel didn’t prove me wrong. Writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday hit the ground running with Star Wars #1, capturing the feeling of those original films but hinting at the idea that anything can happen. That’s a huge feat, given the almost 38 years that have passed since A New Hope was released and all of the stories across all media that we’ve been a witness to in the interim. I mean, we know the end of the story (at least in terms of continuity of the movies and until The Force Awakens hits theaters in December): Darth Vader kills the Emperor, restoring balance to the Force and reclaiming his humanity in the act of saving his son Luke. With all of the stories that have been written about the gaps between those films, what else is there to say? What else can surprise us?
If the first issue is any indication, plenty. The tale Aaron and Cassaday have given us takes place sometime after the end of A New Hope, and we’re told that the Empire is in dire straits following the destruction of the Death Star, with the Rebellion hoping to use this opportunity to strike down the Empire while it’s weakened and vulnerable. That’s why the Empire is willing to deal with smugglers and gangsters to acquire much needed technology and raw materials to rebuild and retain its stranglehold on the galaxy. This gives the Rebellion, specifically Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and the gang, the perfect opportunity to infiltrate an Imperial weapons facility. Posing as Jabba the Hutt’s representative, Han bluffs his way into the Imperial stronghold and, with a disguised Luke and Princess Leia, sabotage a facility’s reactor. However, an unexpected enemy, a bevy of found slaves, and a feeling pulling Luke away from the fray and the fighting might spell doom for the whole operation.
One big draw for anyone who might want to check out this new series is that it’s incredibly reader-friendly. For the reader who only has a passing knowledge of Star Wars, the book is very easy to follow. The only knowledge you really even need to know if what happened in A New Hope, but even the basics of that tale are hit in the comic’s opening pages. In addition to its accessibility, the first issue is appropriate for all-ages without feeling watered-down. A younger reader can enjoy it for what it is, while a more seasoned fan can appreciate it for the nuances inserted into the yarn. This might make a fan think that this story is pretty by-the-book, but how Aaron crafts the tale makes it feel like it would be an interstitial story taking place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
In addition to the ease of readability of the premiere issue, Aaron manages to capture the feel of adventure and gravitas that the original trilogy captured. He manages this by nailing all of the personalities of our band of rebel rogues. Han, Luke, Threepio—all of their voices are completely on-point. While some may quibble that Luke felt less whiny and more seasoned than he did in A New Hope, I found that refreshing. It’s clear that the events of that film have seasoned the characters, Luke included. They’ve all been through some shit, and the first issue allows us to see how the characters become more war-weary by the time we encounter them in The Empire Strikes Back.
Another astonishing thing about Aaron’s plot is the amount of storytelling that he’s able to inject in the confines of the time period of the epic in which he is writing. There are points that he can’t reference in the story—such as Vader being Luke’s pop—but he still manages to insert a sense of urgency into the tale. We know that Luke and company live to fight another day because they’re still around in Empire and Jedi, but Aaron still keeps readers on the edge of their seats wondering how the Rebels will get out of this latest quagmire.
Enough can’t be said about Cassaday’s contribution with his chores on art. Not only do the characters look like they were pulled from the silver screen, he manages to give them personality, giving Leia a defiance in her eyes and Han a cocky demeanor with just the slightest twitch of a smile. Further, and just as important, the art manages to have a dynamism about it, giving the action just as much heft and kinetic energy as what George Lucas originally put on screen.
Star Wars #1 easily does its job in instilling the sense of wonder and excitement first seen in the original movie trilogy. The biggest compliment I can give the book is that it made me care about Luke and the Rebel Alliance again and their adventures in a galaxy far, far away.