*Spoilers for the issue follow*
(For posterity, I’ll only be talking about the original trilogy throughout this article. We can argue the merits and flaws of the prequel trilogy another time.)
I, like a lot of people, grew up loving Star Wars. The majesty of watching Luke Skywalker grow from a young boy working on his uncle’s moisture farm on Tatooine to becoming a Jedi knight and facing down his father was a regular source of entertainment for me. The budding romance between Han and Leia, the sage wisdom of Obi-Wan, and the looming threat of Darth Vader helped add to the wonder of these films for me. The final film, Return of the Jedi, is still one of my all-time favorite movies (even if it is just because of Luke’s cool, green lightsaber). Other stories may come and go, but Star Wars will always have a special place in my heart.
But despite all of this, I could never get into the expanded universe comics for this universe. I had read a few titles, trying them out to see if I liked them, but none really struck me as being as good as the movies. They either took too many liberties or simply didn’t feel like the characters I grew up loving. Regardless, when Marvel announced at this past year’s Comic-Con that they would be unveiling a new line of Star Wars comics, I figured I’d give them a try. The five year-old inside of me was excited for them, at least.
The first of three new series to be launched, Star Wars, written by Jason Aaron with art by John Cassaday, immediately jumps out of the gate with a strong first issue that manages to grab the reader and pull them into a fun, rollicking good time that feels right at home with the rest of the original trilogy.
The series begins almost immediately after the events of A New Hope, as Luke, Han, and Leia begin a massive campaign alongside the rest of the rebel army to hurt the already weakened evil empire, reeling after the sudden destruction of the Death Star. The trio, alongside Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3P0, all head to one of the outer moons of Tatooine to begin this crusade, where the book begins.
Even before the story starts, readers can get a sense that this series is going to honor what came before and treat the films almost as gospel. The first five pages alone begin as every film did, with the tagline “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” followed by a two-page spread of the Star Wars logo. Finally, the reader is treated to a “scrolling” introduction that elaborates on the backstory of the book and throws the reader right into the action. Any fan of the movies will get a kick out of experiencing this intro on the page. Right from there, one can tell this is going to be something special.
One the reader actually gets to the heart of the story, the fun really starts. Aaron manages to bring back the voices of all the characters flawlessly. Han takes center stage for most of the issue, and all the swagger that Harrison Ford brought to the role is once more apparent in the dialogue Han speaks. Leia and Luke feel the same as well, bickering with Han about plans and making noble decisions for the betterment of the galaxy. Even C-3P0, with his nervousness and bleak outlook on all of Han’s plans, feels like Anthony Daniels is back voicing the character just like he did throughout the films.
On top of this, Aaron plays with established ideas in the universe and makes them his own for the book. One line in particular, known to all fans that echoes an uneasy feeling, has been altered enough that it feels fresh without feeling devoid of the original trilogy. Aaron clearly is a fan of the source material, and it shows in every line of dialogue and action taken.
But Marvel didn’t just get a strong writer for the flagship book in their line of Star Wars books. John Cassaday brings some of his strongest work to the book, making each page feel like it belongs to Star Wars. From the Millennium Falcon hiding among a pile of scrap to an assembly line for TIE fighters, even the background details of Cassaday’s work are head and shoulders above what other artists might bring to a book like this.
But Cassaday’s work is perhaps best shown in his character work. Most times when a live action property is adapted to a comic, the look of the characters falls short of the source material. It’s not the fault of the artist, it’s simply that a drawing of a real person will never look as good or as exact as they actually look. Here, Cassaday infuses his own style with the looks of the actors that originally played the roles. It’s never perfectly a match, but many times their looks are close enough that you can get lost in studying the high quality of the art. It’s quite a feat, but one that Cassaday pulls off.
Perhaps one of the only flaws in Cassaday’s art is the look he gives to the kinetic motion of moving lightsabers. Akin to the way certain artists draw The Flash, Cassaday draws several blades in the air next to where the actual blade is, giving the sense of movement. It is visually intriguing, but one that at times looks odd. If one were to quickly glance at the image, the reader might think Aaron and Cassaday are trying to design a new type of lightsaber for this book.
The only other flaw this book provides is a certain lack of danger for the characters. Since this book takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, it’s hard to truly worry about our heroes when they face danger. By the end of the book, Luke is about to face down Darth Vader for the first time since the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han and Leia are in danger of being captured by the empire, and C-3P0 has to defend the Falcon from being picked apart by scavengers. It’s a real mess the rebels have gotten into, but one the reader knows they’ll get out of.
Now, it could be argued that this is a tiny flaw and the point of this is more to see how they get out instead of if the get out. I understand that, but by the time I was finished reading the issue I felt no sense of danger for these characters. I’ve seen Empire enough to know they all will make it out in one piece. That previous knowledge takes away from the foreboding “doom” headed the heroes’ way.
But despite these flaws in the presentation, the first issue of Marvel’s new Star Wars book is a fantastic start to the series. Aaron and Cassaday work well together, bringing a fun adventure to the pages of this book. It’s definitely something worth checking out, even if you haven’t experienced Star Wars in years. The little kid that grew up loving it will most definitely thank you for it.