Is there a more beloved franchise than Star Wars? Possibly, but is there a more thoroughly merchandised franchise? No, definitely not. Keep that in my mind when I tell you that Dark Horse Comics has begun publishing Star Wars, a new ongoing comic-book series documenting the adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia had after they destroyed the Death Star at the end of A New Hope, and before their base was discovered on Hoth at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. Acclaimed writer Brian Wood teams with artist Carlos D’Anda to bring the world a new glimpse into the Jedi, the Sith, and the world in which they live.
The issue opens with Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, shortly after the Battle of Yavin, flying in their X-Wing fighters and having a conversation about their losses in the name of the rebellion. Luke has lost his family, the only home he ever knew, and Old Ben Kenobi, his mentor. Leia has lost her planet and her entire family (except for Luke and Darth Vader, but that comes later). Their musings on why they don’t feel badly enough is interrupted by an ambush of an Imperial Star-Destroyer. They must first escape to the surface of the planet they were examining, and then back to the Rebel fleet. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is given vague new orders from Emperor Palpatine in order to make up for his failure during the Battle of Yavin.
This series takes place in a time period not often referenced in the series of films, a stretch of roughly three years where Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C3PO, and R2D2 were fighting for the rebellion and avoiding the Empire. Choosing to set the series during this time allows for many potential stories to be told without risking overlap or retreading the ground the film series has already covered. I am, admittedly, not well versed in the extended universe, so I do not know how well this series slots into the canon of all of the books, comics, videogames, etc. based on Star Wars. This first issue is all setup; it sets up our heroes’ current status quo, what Vader will be doing during this time, and what the current goals are for each of the factions.
This issue is the first of a three issue arc titled “In the Shadow of Yavin” and that is certainly accurate. Essentially everything in this story is influenced by that battle, from the mental states of the protagonists to the opinion the emperor has about Darth Vader. An aspect of this comic that I really liked was that it incorporated the more political and economic elements of the universe in a manner that meshed well with the action and the storyline. This is contrast to the sudden tonal changes present in the prequel trilogy where such elements would not fit well with the rest of the film. A general talking about supply lines while fighting a war is natural, a general stopping a war to talk about supply lines is not.
Brian Wood has a good grasp of the voices of all of the major characters and they all manage to sound like themselves at that point in the story. Luke is his somewhat cocky, somewhat intimidated, yet definitely gifted self. Han is basking in his definitely-shot-Greedo-first style of bravado. Leia is working herself hard so she doesn’t have to confront what happened to her home planet. Darth Vader is eager to please the Emperor, yet the kernel of skepticism started by hearing the word “Skywalker” is there. Wood also does a solid job of making tertiary characters unique in this comic, whereas they were so frequently background noise during the films. For example, Wedge Antilles is shown to be competent and level-headed, and Mons Mothma is struggling to keep her moral high-ground over the Empire while still being an effective leader for wartime. The narration in this issue is a bit much at times, but it never becomes an annoyance, and I can see the need for providing that information without adding in pages of expository dialogue.
The art, by Carlos D’Anda is very cinematic, but his versions of Luke, Han, and Leia seem off. They aren’t drawn poorly, they are drawn well in fact, but they just don’t really seem like the same characters from the films. This is most obvious in the case of Luke, who looks very little like Mark Hamill. This is only the first issue, so maybe the differences will either grow on me, or fade. D’Ando has a style that is very reminiscent of the cinema; it is very vibrant and bright. His landscapes, interiors, and non-iconic characters are, for the most part, done extremely well. He also draws one mean Darth Vader, and isn’t that what this is all about?
Star Wars by Brian Wood and Carlos D’Ando is off to a promising start in this first issue, and despite the issue being mainly setup for the series’ plotline, it ended in a manner that left me curious to see where it goes. Brian Wood is one of the rising stars of the world of comics, and Star Wars seems to be another successful notch on his belt; Dark Horse may just have a hit on their hands. I would definitely recommend this comic for fans of the franchise, but those unfamiliar with Star Wars (Ha! Who am I kidding?) will probably not enjoy it as much as those who are. If you can’t wait until 2015 to (most likely) see more of Luke, Han, and Leia, pick up Dark Horse’s Star Wars.