Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 at 8:00 pm
Star Wars: Episode I Adventures Written by Henry Gilroy, Mark Schultz, Timothy Truman, and Ryder Windham
Art by Chris Chuckry, Steve Crespo, Martin Egeland, George Freeman, Harold Mackinnon, P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, Howard M. Shum, Lisa Stamp, Robert Teranishi
Cover Art by Hugh Fleming Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: December 21, 2011
Cover Price: $7.99
With the Star Wars 3D Movie logo on the cover of Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Episode I Adventures, it is clear that the comic company (along with many other licensees) is now gearing up for the 3D Re-release of The Phantom Menacescheduled to be released on February 10, 2012. Despite the negative outlook on the prequels by vocal movie fans, I am sure there are some, almost 13 years after its first release, nostalgic enough and looking forward to the 3D screenings — and prequel fans will undoubtedly be excited too. However, this collection of Episode I-related narratives isn’t quite for everyone, although there are some positive elements to the book.
Star Wars: Episode I Adventures is essentially a comic book/graphic novel equivalent of an appendix in a book in some ways. It tells a few accounts, centered on the main characters, which are set during the events of the movie that we don’t see on-screen. The stories give you a glimpse into things such as what Anakin was up to before Qui-Gon and crew landed on Tatooine and what materializes in between certain scenes.
Divided into main chapters (reprints of the original comic releases in 1999), the collection focuses on a tale each from Anakin Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Skywalker’s story is centered on the events of his day before he meets Qui-Gon and Padme, and includes numerous moments he refers to in the film, such as hearing about the Angels of Iego and his dream of being a Jedi. It’s extremely flimsy on the ‘adventure’ angel, but it’s a nice prefix to Anakin’s main participation in the movie.
Amidala’s story is perhaps the most original of all four. Set on Tatooine just before the pod race, Jar Jar witnesses a sentient wasp-like creature steal an essential component from Anakin’s podracer. With Padme in tow, they both follow the insect on a mini-adventure that reminded me a lot of a couple of episodes from the current Clone Wars television show.
Qui-Gon’s tale is fairly interesting – expanding upon his shifty deals with Watto. The story doesn’t add too much to the character really, but there are a few fun moments in various places. Personally, I would have preferred a tale that expanded upon his relationship with Shmi Skywalker though — I’m dead certain those two had some Episode I Adventures of their own happening if ya know what I mean…
The Obi-Wan Kenobi yarn is a major disappointment. Essentially, it is a “tl;dr” retelling of the events from the movie. Nothing extra is added, and it is quite a wasted opportunity: the creators could have taken a wonderful moment to expand more on the young padawan in an approach that may have been a little enlightening to fans. Instead, it’s a rehashing of the movie, without anything substantial to add to the mythos of his character.
One aspect about the collection that is nice is that several deleted scenes from the film make their way into the story. Anakin’s fist fight with Greedo is in there, as is the Naboo waterfall scene. The (almost creepy) scene where Anakin mentions to Padme they’ll be married one day is in there too – incomprehensibly with very little reaction from Padme. I did kinda question this inclusion though, because it was obviously removed from the movie for a reason – and it barely adds any substance to Padme’s adventure.
Jar Jar’s discourse in these comics is atrocious, with the writers mimicking his speech patterns so poorly (or perhaps in parody of?) that most of his lines are utterly unreadable, and those that are readable are unnecessary. This transpires across all of his appearances in the book. Perhaps it was the writers adjusting to this strange new character that fans would eventually form a love/hate relationship with back in 1999; but it was so poorly done that it utterly took me out of the moment I was reading about.
The artwork, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. All of the artists involved in this project should be commended for their excellent work – capturing the vista on Tatooine without making it boring is not an easy feat (we are talking about a desert here, after all, folks). Anakin’s story has some very rich artwork indeed, with David Nestelle pulling out as many colors as he can to make detailed focal points in the dreary Mos Espa setting. His effort drags you into the culturally rich aspect of the setting, allowing you to focus on many things that we didn’t get a chance to see in the movie. Steve Crespo‘s and George Freeman‘s artwork also stands out in this adventure.
Sadly, there’s not much else to dive into with this publication. Understanding the context is important here though: this is not one large quest or story; rather a collection of side story anecdotes that just so happen to occur during the events of The Phantom Menace. None of the events really impact elements of the film that much, but for the Expanded Universe aficionado, it does give a small look into tiny elements from that in-universe era of the Star Wars timeline.
Also, I don’t usually go on about this aspect of trade paperbacks, but one winning element is the cost: it’s fairly cheap ($7.99) compared to most Dark Horse collections, so that’s pretty good.
Episode I Adventures is not horrible by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it to be somewhat limiting. I got the sense of a lot of lost storytelling opportunities here. I think younger kids into comics might enjoy this, and I’m sure the hardcore Star Wars nut (like myself) would like to have a read of it – however, I don’t think your casual Star Wars fan or casual comic reader will find this of interest.
Perhaps, with the 3D re-release coming up, Dark Horse may take on board a similar project like this and deliver some tales from the in-universe era of The Phantom Menace and give us some stories that are a lot more eye-opening, enriching, and give us a deeper look into facets of the Star Wars universe we have not yet considered. For the time being however, this collection of Episode I Adventures, just isn’t that.