Comic Review: Star Wars #1

Star Wars #1
Written by Brian Wood
Art by Carlos D’anda
Colors by Gabe Eltaeb
Cover Art by Alex Ross
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: January 9, 2013
Cover Price: $2.99

Boldly titling their new Star Wars comic series as just “Star Wars,” Dark Horse has launched a new look into the era of the heroes and villains of the original trilogy, specifically zoning in on these specific characters from the classic saga. Welcome back to Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, Wedge, and Darth Vader. It has been a while, you lot. Sit down, stay a while. Fancy a coffee?

The new Star Wars comic series has erroneously been labeled as a reboot by many websites and fans, and yet the results are far from what this misleading label would suggest. In fact, it seems the reboot label was nothing more than a fantasy gone wild from a blogger who obviously finds comprehension challenging. This is not Star Wars Infinities – in fact, it is far from it: The concept behind Star Wars was to picture, in the minds and lives of the characters, that the events of Episode IV: A New Hope has quite literally just transpired, as if (to the characters) the events of the other episodes in the original trilogy haven’t happened yet.

This conceptualization has been mistaken by many as a reboot, as they have wrongfully assumed that everything except the first film is being ignored.

Well, exhale a sigh of relief, jedi geeks, because nothing could be farther from the truth.

Star Wars #1 straightforwardly takes the reader back to the events immediately following the end of A New Hope. And while the wild party that must have happened on Yavin IV after the medal ceremony is not documented, the next main event of the rebels searching for a new home base is – and there are plenty of nods, winks, hints, and tips of the hat to all other areas of the Star Wars galaxy, including the prequels and the expanded universe.

However despite these wink-wink-nudge-nudge moments, the plot of the new Star Wars series is not drowning in them, nor relying on them. Although we, as the audience, already know the relationship between Vader and Luke, it is not elaborated on at all. Mon Mothma makes an appearance, even though she is not present on-screen during the events of Episode IV, and this – like the former example – is not elaborated on either. Though, while on the subject, I wouldn’t mind Mon Mothma giving me a bit of the old “wink-wink-nudge-nudge”, if ya know what I mean… Does that make me weird?

Rather simply, the reader is immersed into this new series without the need of prerequisite knowledge beforehand. If you have no idea as to what Mace Windu was doing on a planet called Haruun Kal twenty-two years prior to the Battle of Yavin, you are NOT going to get lost or confused in this series. There’s no need for a working knowledge of the in-universe history before reading – and frankly, this is a good thing.

Fundamentally, the crew at Dark Horse has taken a lesson out of the page of the long-running Doctor Who television series. All you need to know is that there’s this guy called the Doctor, he travels in a blue box that is a time machine, and he ends up somewhere in time and space, and saves the day. Hooray!

It seems this is going to be the same deal with Star Wars #1 and onwards: all you need to know is there’s this gang called the rebels, they’re trying to restore freedom to the galaxy and dispose of the Empire, and each issue they will end up somewhere and (most likely) save the day. Hooray!

For some, this could be formulaic and become tiresome over time; but as mentioned before, Doctor Who has been doing this for 50 years, so there must be something to it.

Dark Horse’s Star Wars #1 commences a new journey that will not be a reboot of what you know and love, but instead complement it, and be the initiation of what might even be the first exposure to original trilogy characters that some younger fans will have. Although there is a “fun” element attached to it that was existent in the old classic Marvel series, there is also a more serious side. One might call it a mild splash of the cerebral in your cup o’ Star Wars.

Within the plot, there is a deeper examination of the emotional development of the core characters from the first film. Princess Leia puts on a brave face having just lost her home world, but away from others and alone, how exactly does she deal with the disturbing turmoil and grief of said loss. Luke is still discombobulated in this new and weird place called the Rebellion, and is (unsurprisingly) a bit of a whiny bitch. Han looks forward to manipulating his way to more fortune and glory with his seedy smuggler lifestyle, but still unable to get away from the Rebellion and accompanied by his moral compass in the form of Chewbacca the Wookiee. How will these individuals transition from the way we saw them in Episode IV to the way we will see them in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and what happens to them that assists in that transition?

Whilst at this juncture it is difficult to critique the plot because of this issue being just the first step in a larger story arc, the overall result seems and feels to be a good step. Issue #1 provides us with acclimatization into these days following A New Hope, a quick glance of where the characters are at, and positions them for what they will be facing in the next issue. Brian Wood has done well at giving us the teaser, and his standing among comic fans is so positive that I’m intrigued as to where he is taking us, and the characters. The first few pages are dialogue-heavy, which felt a bit unusual for a Star Wars story, but was acceptable at setting the scene. There is, however, a great conclusion to this issue that is visually spectacular, wonderfully establishing the direction for the next chapter.

On the subject of the visuals, the artwork Carlos D’anda and Gabe Eltaeb is nothing short of brilliant. D’anda stays relatively close to the likeness of the characters as they were in 1977, but allows a touch of his own flair and essence to the dynamics of the individuals, depending upon the situation they find themselves in. His rendition of Chewbacca is probably the best I’ve ever seen in ANY comic interpretation of Star Wars, and his handling of the other characters seems to focus more on complementing where they are at developmentally speaking.

Eltaeb’s colors effortlessly complement D’anda’s art, and reflect the palette of the first movie very well. As per usual, colors play a huge role in Star Wars, and this series seems to be of no exception. For example, rather than the earthy tones of the rebels from the original trilogy, Leia originally wears a pale white flight suit at the beginning, reflecting her coldness and displayed numbness at the loss of her home world. This changes at the end as we see her in a new duskier flight suit, one indicating that the characters may perhaps be facing some darker challenges in future issues. Foreshadowing is cool, folks.

Which steers me to another factor”¦ in the new Star Wars series, we’re also seeing some different aspects of the story we’ve not yet seen before. Princess Leia shows up as an X-Wing pilot for one thing, while Darth Vader ends up getting (what at least seems to be) a demotion by the Emperor (!!!). There’s a lot to take in.

The cover artwork by Alex Ross is a bit surprising. Rather than having his familiar painted realism, his design complements and seems inspired by the Brothers Hildebrandt, familiar for their history of Star Wars poster art. Conceivably it’s a tip of the hat to them, but while it does look like a Hildebrandt poster, it doesn’t look like a Ross cover. I’m sure fans of Ross were looking forward to some of the realism he brought to many individuals in the past to this new series, but sadly it’s not to be. And while there are realism elements in there, it just doesn’t capture the vibe of the work he’s previously been known for.

So, is this new Star Wars series worth looking into? Definitely”¦ and first and foremost, hardcore continuity nerds like me can breathe a sigh of relief as it does appear that this is indeed fitting into the universe we know and love, and is not some gimmicky reboot. The dedicated fans will love this, as will casual Star Wars fans. It’s also a good starting point for sci-fi fans and other general comic fans as well, and the team of Wood and D’anda may entice them into the series.

It may not be earth-shattering (or Alderaan-exploding), but it is most certainly NOT a shaky start. Star Wars #1 confidently and boldly steps forward to make a new impact.

And I am intrigued as to what will happen next”¦

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

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