Comic Review: The Star Wars #1

The Star Wars #1
Written by J.W. Rinzler
Illustrated by Mike Mayhew
Adapted from an Original Rough-Draft Screenplay by George Lucas
Colored by Rain Beredo
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Cover by Nick Runge
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: September 4, 2013
Cover Price: $3.99

At first glance, the “The” in The Star Wars #1 looks like an unfortunate typo. After all, everyone knows (or should know) that the George Lucas-created Star Wars franchise doesn’t and never has carried an article before the title. It’s simply Star Wars. The “the” in this comic book series, however, isn’t a typo or mistake. It’s intentional. It’s the new eight-issue mini-series produced by Dark Horse Comics based on, as the cover proudly proclaims, Lucas’ “Original Rough-Draft Screenplay” for Star Wars (“Longer ago, in a galaxy even further away”¦” per the cover copy), as in the first screenplay Lucas produced on the long road (three years) between the release of American Graffiti in 1974 and the release of Star Wars three years later.

Since then, the Star Wars universe has expanded exponentially into every visual medium imaginable (e.g., TV, books, comic books, video games), feeding the near-religious devotion from several generations of fans. Star Wars made the jump into comic books long ago, beginning with the first licensed adaptation by Marvel Comics back in the late “˜70s, but quickly expanding into a long-running series of interrelated comic books set in the Star Wars universe. For readers of Star Wars comics, the jump to reading The Star Wars will be a short one, especially considering that J.W. Rinzler, the writer/editor responsible for the comprehensive “Making of”¦” series (original trilogy only), stepped in with Lucas’ approval to adapt the original screenplay.

Unfortunately, that decision might turn out to have an ill-advised one. Whether Rinzler was constrained by the need (or demand) to stick closely to Lucas’ original draft or whether his comic book inexperience played too important a role, the first issue of The Star Wars disappoints on practically every level. Not that the first issue doesn’t start off promisingly; it does, introducing a middle-aged Jedi Knight, Kane Starkiller, and his two sons, Annikin, a sullen teen, and Deak, an overeager preteen. Sadly, Deak doesn’t make it past the first scene, a confrontation between the Starkiller family and a masked Sith warrior (with laserswords instead of lightsabers in case you’re keeping track), a grim indication that the Starkiller family isn’t immune to loss. Additional details delivered by verbiage-heavy dialogue fill in the seemingly dire predicament for the Jedi Rebellion and the still-as-yet unnamed Emperor’s political machinations to isolate the Rebellion before sending in the Galactic Empire’s forces to complete the task.

Eventually, Kane arrives at the rebel stronghold with Annikin, but he’s not there to fight or at least not primarily. He’s there to pass off Annikin’s Jedi training to one Luke Skywalker, depicted here as Kane’s old friend and contemporary (i.e., Obi-Wan Kenobi). Princess Leia – somewhat close the character moviegoers have known and loved for thirty-six years – also gets a brief introduction (she’s set to go off to university, a far cry from the diplomat and secret rebel leader of the original trilogy) while her father sits in counsel with his advisors discussing the way forward, if any, against the Galactic Empire. A member of the Emperor’s inner circle, General Vader, makes an appearance too, but it’s nowhere near as dramatic or memorable as his Star Wars entrance. Although he’s just as eager to crush the rebellion as Star Wars fans remember, he’s not wearing a breathing mask in this iteration (at least not yet).

Not surprisingly, the first issue ends on a cliffhanger, promising to deliver more action and less exposition, but based on the awkward, unwieldy set-up of the first issue, it’s hard, if not impossible, to care about the individual or collective fates of the characters. Thankfully, Mike Mayhew’s art makes up for many – but definitely not all – of the first issue’s clumsy approach to storytelling. Taking his cue from the original trilogy and the concept art thereof, Mayhew’s character and ship designs are real standouts. They add to the sense that readers are in a familiar, yet distinctly different, universe; one that, based on the art alone, is one worth visiting repeatedly. Hopefully, the second issue will improve on the first. If there’s anything Star Wars fan know, it’s hope (cf., the prequel trilogy).

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