Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Carlos D’Anda
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: January 9, 2012
We are never going to see the end of these Star Wars. Afghanistan is Grenada in comparison. Long after all of us are dead, massive corporations will still be churning out toys, movies, and videogames based on George Lucas’s fiddle faddle. That’s not a bad thing—in fact it’s actually kind of comforting. No matter how cynical or burned-out you get, Star Wars is pretty damn awesome.
I forget that sometimes. Not because of the prequels, which are all totally fine in their own way (and thanks to the absurd and embarrassing overreactions of the most vitriolic detractors, a huge help in knowing who not to take seriously). The ubiquity of Star Wars can obscure the greatness of those first three movies and the world they create. With the new Star Wars comic, Brian Wood and Carlos D’Anda hope to remind all of us how fantastic Star Wars can be.
(Let’s pause for a second. I just looked at Wikipedia and found out that Dark Horse has been publishing Star Wars comics for over 20 years. That completely blasts my mind. I knew Dark Horse had been in the Lucas biz for a long time, but had no idea it stretched all the way back to 1991. I still think of the Marvel series first and foremost, because, you know, I am depressingly old.)
Like Marvel’s old series, Wood’s Star Wars picks up right after the end of the first Star Wars movie. The Death Star just went kablooey, but the tide hasn’t turned—the Empire still dwarfs the Rebellion in every possible way. Alderaan’s destruction has scared other planets away from supporting the Rebels in any way, and they’re struggling to stay in business. Desperation and disappointment abounds, from Luke and Leia’s attempts to find a new base and funding for the Rebellion to Darth Vader dealing with what’s effectively a demotion after the destruction of the Death Star. Everybody’s at least a little bit bummed.
Assuming Wood doesn’t stray from the original source material, we know broadly where this is headed. At some point the Rebels will wind up on Hoth. Eventually Luke and Vader will have a pivotal meeting deep within the bowels of Cloud City. Until then Wood’s challenge is to tell new stories while faithfully recapturing the spirit and tone of the most popular piece of genre fiction of the last forty years. The first issue is a good sign—Luke is a proven fighter pilot but still has a bit of farm-boy naiveté within him, whereas Leia, whose loss in the first film is more significant, is already the pragmatic and battle-hardened leader seen in later films. (You know, before she becomes a metal bikini-clad space slave). The notion that Vader faced a personal and professional set-back after the events of the first film isn’t broached by the movies, and a humbled and thus more determined Vader is compelling.
Like all tie-ins, Star Wars is in a weird position. It could turn into the greatest Star Wars story ever told, but only a fraction of the world’s Star Wars fans will ever read it. As good as it might be, it’ll be a surprise if it doesn’t always feel superfluous. I’ve never seriously debated what is or is not “canon” for anything in my entire life, but nothing outside the six official movies matters to the majority of Star Wars fans. I’m one of them. Even the Timothy Zahn novels, which many fans love, are insignificant compared to the films’ reach. These characters are archetypes that directly influenced most of the comics and cartoons I grew up on, but I don’t particularly care about them outside of the story George Lucas and his collaborators told when I was a kid. Like most superhero comics today, it’ll be hard for this comic to not feel a little hollow, no matter how thoroughly it lives up to the original Star Wars legacy. Wood seems to be laying the groundwork for a good Star Wars adventure, and perhaps in time he’ll prove that this comic exists for any reason other than the fact that people will buy it.