Evil Geek Book Report – Star Wars #1
I’ve always wanted to like Star Wars comics.
I love Star Wars and I love comics, so why wouldn’t I love the marriage of both? Well, let’s just say that the combination of the two has not historically gone down like “chocolate and peanut butter”, with a few notable exceptions. I’ve tried, I really have! But the Star Wars comics have been, as far as I’m concerned, astoundingly lackluster. I’m a big fan of the Tag and Bink stories, the Infinities mini-series, and Star Wars Tales… but that’s about the extent of what I’ve enjoyed.
Tag and Bink Are Dead and The Return of Tag and Bink were Hope and Crosby “Road to…” style comedies of errors set juuuuust in the background of the Star Wars saga starring two inept Stormtroopers who either witness or inadvertently cause just about every major event in the series without ever realizing it. If that pitch doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what would. The Prequel Tag and Bink: Revenge of the Clone Menace was a prequel which poked fun at Episodes 1-3 in the same manner, so those are some easy laughs. Infinities was another case where the concept alone could bring most people in; What If? styled alternate versions of the original Star Wars trilogy. I love this premise, and while I enjoyed the stories I felt that these books never quite lived up to their potential. Now, Star Wars Tales was an anthology book which allowed the top creative talent in comics to do short-subject work in the Star Wars universe. When these stories were good, they were great. And when they were bad, they were still better than the majority of Star Wars’ comic output.
What all of these stories had in common was that they were in some degree apocryphal. They weren’t as firmly entrenched in the Star Wars canon as the bulk of the comics have been and it worked out much better. I really believe that being forced by Lucasfilm to work within a sandbox has seriously crippled the creators of Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics. The Marvel books didn’t have that excuse (at least not at first) so I guess they were just shitty.
Now, as a young nerd I read a decent amount of the Expanded Universe books. And, like most everyone I know, my favorite was Shadows of the Empire. It filled in the gap between Episodes V and VI and was able to use most of the main characters without doing any damage to them. Plus, it was a badass Nintendo 64 game. Since then, we’ve had three disappointing movies to sour us on the idea of Star Wars backstory so most of the stories set before the core series and set long before them. But at long last, we’re being shown the “official” story of what happened between Episodes IV and V. Now, I know it was kind of done in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, but the inconsistencies between the 1978 novel and the following films combined with the palpable sexual tension between Luke and Leia make that story kind of easy to ignore.
So, when Dark Horse announced that they would be publishing Episode 4.5 I was on board, sight unseen. And when they unveiled an Alex Ross cover, and the sight WAS seen, I was so on board that I had placed my tray in the upright goddamn position. I was ready to, for the first time in a long time, enjoy me some Star Wars comics.
Set two months after the destruction of the Death Star, this storyline surprised me off the bat in that it was focused mainly on Leia. This isn’t at all a bad thing, and Brian Wood made a very good choice. While she may not have had the meatiest part in A New Hope, as sassy as she may have been, she was still ultimately the damsel in distress, Wood brings attention to the fact that her home planet was destroyed in front of her eyes just recently. It wasn’t really touched upon in the movie, she just stepped up and assisted the rebellion the day after all of this went down. Wood also gets right to work in showing how Leia grew from a dead planet’s diplomat to a military leader over the course of three years.
Now, Wood’s take on the book showcases the “Wars” just as much as it does the stars. It’s almost like reading a straight-up war comic set in the Star Wars universe, and I can see how some people might be turned off by the presence of military action rather fantasy fiction. But he does it very well, and I hope those people can see fit to give it a chance. The first half of the book is mostly dogfights, it feels like Top Gun only the weird sexual tension is between Luke and Leia rather than Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards. During a routine exercise, Leia is separated from Luke and Wedge and her X-Wing (along with the opposing TIE Interceptor) crash lands on the surface of a nearby planet Dominus III. We see a shockingly brutal moment when Leia kills the Imperial pilot. At first it seems as if she is reacting in a panic, but she then shows her mettle by calmly finishing the job. Disney’s newest princess may need to go back to finishing school.
We don’t see much of Han and Chewbacca, but what we do see of them is perhaps the most predictable section of the book. I don’t mean that as an insult, but this scene had to glimpsed eventually. The smuggler and his faithful companion have decided to help the Rebellion rather than rush to pay off Jabba the Hutt (we all know how that works out for them).
Back on Dominus III, Luke and Wedge have come to the grounded Leia’s side, and with her ship patched back up they scramble out of the system rather than tangle with more TIE fighters. Once again, the narration in this section was quite clever. We learn that, destroyed or not, the Death Star has the galaxy shaking in its boots in fear of the Empire, so the Rebellion is having a hard time finding safe haven. Back with the Rebel fleet, Leia is summoned for a face-to-face with Mon Mothma. The two known female humans in the Rebellion have apparently built up quite a trust in the last two months, as Mothma assigns Leia with a top-secret mission. There’s a spy hiding somewhere in the Rebellion, and Leia is charged with finding both the Imperial rat AND a new base of operations for the Rebel forces. Thankfully, she gets the bring C-3PO along.
Lastly, we get a glimpse of Darth Vader’s life at the office as the Emperor reams him out for allowing the destruction of the Death Star. You know, you treat your employees like that and you’re liable to get tossed over a railing someday, I always say. So, between trouble at work and presumably drifting around in space for a bit after Han Solo shot him down over the Death Star, Vader’s got a real mad-on for our favorite rebels.
I really enjoyed this book, my only regret is that I wasn’t patient enough to read the full series as a whole because I’m really jonesing for some more. I’m not always Wood’s biggest follower, but I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read so I may be doing some back issue hunting. My only real experience with Carlos D’Anda was his concept and companion art for the Batman: Arkham Asylum and City games, and while I don’t seem him as the best possible fit for this book it’s certainly not ugly and I don’t think it’ll be a distraction. I’m very excited to see where this goes. I’m really hoping for two things before Dark Horse loses the rights to this property. I want to see some ghostly Obi-Wan action, and I want to find out how the hell Luke learned R2’s language. Did the Rosetta Stone software exist “A Long Time Ago?”
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