(Dark Horse Comics, 2013)
Review by Cory Thrall
Dark Horse made a very curious and dangerous move with the announcement of their new ‘Star Wars’ title, one that obviously would be taken pretty seriously by a ton of comic and Star Wars fans. The issue being, of course, that this would be focusing on the main characters from the original films, and would be a story taking place between ‘Star Wars’ and ‘the Empire Strikes Back’. Truth be told, when I had heard that this title was coming, I was very surprised. Interested, for sure, but surprised that they would make such a crazy move. To many, many people – most of whom are probably comic fans one way or another – the Star Wars franchise is unlike anything else in American Pop Culture. It is valued as one of the most important cinematic happenings of our time, and in tons of ways helped shape Hollywood into what it is today, for bad or worse. So, knowing full well that if this title turned out poorly there would be some fans with murder in their eyes, I simply had to read this series. I guess it also helps that I’ve been a Star Wars nut my whole life, as are most of my friends and many of my family members.
I read #1 and was amazed at how well they had pulled it off. It not only felt like the original trilogy ‘universe’, but the characters for the most part looked great. To me, that’s one of my least favorite things about franchise comics – it’s really hard to find any that can capture the look of the actors in such a way that you don’t need to study the faces or clothing, you just accept them instantly as the character and actor they represent. In this title, and especially in #2, this is strongly evident with the rendering of Han Solo. I would imagine Harrison Ford has a pretty unique face that might be hard to capture. Artist Carlos D’Anda’s Han looks so nearly exactly like him, both in Han’s look and his visual personality. He moves like Han, and when he speaks you can’t help but hear Ford’s voice in your head. It’s perfect. More on the artwork later.
Issue #2 finds the Rebel Alliance in dire straights, still searching in vain for a permanent home base. Mon Mothma has given Leia orders to form a new secret team and sniff out a spy she suspects is hiding within the Rebellion itself. Leia’s new group is tasked with finding this spy, all the while searching out a location where they can set up home base. At the same time, Han and Chewie are deep out in the Corsair Outback, working an entirely different job for Mothma. Suddenly, while thinking they are well hidden within a mess of debris, the Falcon is are under attack by the one and only Boba Fett. Luckily, they escape quickly, and enter lightspeed just as a Star Destroyer arrives.
Eventually we enter a scene aboard the Star Destroyer ‘Devastator’, Vader’s old personal ship before he was relieved of command in the opening issue. His replacement, Colonel Bircher, is given free range by Emperor Palpatine to find and kill any Rebels he can, hunting where ever he needs to find them. He seems a very professionally cold man, but has plans and a mean streak to get them done. He may not be Vader, or even close, but he looks to be a serious character to deal with, which I’m sure Leia’s new team will have to do eventually.
Leia forms her ‘secret’ team, consisting of some obvious characters such as Luke and Wedge (who is to be her 2nd in command), and explains that they are about to go “off the grid” and basically disappear to complete their mission. They are given a new fleet of X-Wings, all given a nice black and red paint job, which I personally think looks awesome. We end with Han and Chewie heading into Coruscant – the current Imperial Center – to meet a contact of Mothma’s.
The artwork, as mentioned earlier, is some really spot-on character work, but when it doesn’t work (which is rare), it really doesn’t. Wedge looks like Han, except with a slightly different head shape, and nothing like the actual actor/character from the films. Another thing that irked me was the overall look of everything. One of my favorite aspects of the original films, and especially in the first two, was the fact that while the Empire had all kinds of sharp technology and masses of fleets, soldiers, etc., while the Rebels are barely staying relevant and using what looks to be used, patched together equipment – worn to rough edges, ships barely holding together. Whether it was due to the budget constraints of those films that gave it that look or not, this is the ‘universe’ those stories are told in. As this one should be. What bothered me was that things in this title look as if they have more in common with the prequel trilogy than the original – the ships, weapons, vehicles, etc. are all shined and fresh, everything looks beautiful and well preserved. Keep in mind, this is the rag tag crew that only became a bigger player due to their luck in finding a way to destroy the Death Star before it was fully unleashed. Not only that, but this is a Rebel Alliance still trying to recover from massive battles and losses. This title makes it seem as if their resources are as unlimited as the Empire’s, and that they possess tech that will be shown eventually in the film “the Empire Strikes Back”, where it is back to the original film’s low tech and grungy feel. This may be a problem that stems from the artwork or the script, or even both in concert.
Either way, it is the one glaring thing that takes me out of the set universe that the first issue had tapped into so well. Point of fact, one scene in #2 has Leia is watching ‘travel advertisement’ type of video footage of Alderaan on huge, beautiful display screens, while in “Empire Strikes Back” – which, remember, is the future of this title’s present – the best technology they have are sheets of glass with markers and lights, a few crappy screens that barely show anything, and tons of colored lights. Again, the budget of the film is obviously at play here, but I wonder why this title couldn’t present that tech in such a way. Why is she viewing this video on screens that would be better suited in something such as the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier in ‘the Avengers’, or something out of the ‘Mass Effect’ video game & comic franchise? It makes no sense, except to make this feel more cohesive with the whole of the Star Wars films, not just the originals this is based on.
The script from Brian Wood is also not as spot-on this second issue, and at times reads so dead cold that I thought they might have accidentally printed his scene notes instead of the script text. His explanation of the whole Jabba/Boba Fett/Han situation is a whole two sentences or so and, while pretty much everyone reading this title knows more than enough to get what’s going on, this ‘whatever, you already know’ way of addressing it fell flat. Other such explanations and character intros are handled as badly, leaving the overall ‘narrative’ tone of the book empty and seemingly absent minded. Weird from a title that is so solid otherwise, even with this #2.
So, overall I am still excited about this series, though such a bum issue so early in the run makes me a tad wary of it’s future. I’m hoping this issue was just a round of table setting, and the real ‘good stuff’ will take off with #3. I guess we’ll find out. This wasn’t a bad issue, it just has some glaring flaws. I still really enjoyed it. Now, however, I want to go watch the original trilogy right away! This title still has that large of an effect on me, at least.
Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter: @FeralFang27