Like so many who write, review, blog, and just generally participate in this zany, crazy thing called the World Wide Web today, I was there when STAR WARS opened theatrically back in 1977. I saw it twice on the opening night in my hometown, and, like so many whom I’ve already referenced, I fell in love with it immediately. The characters were vivid enough for my fertile mind that they truly helped transport me from that darkened theatre across time, across space to that galaxy far, far away. Like so many, I knew instantly that I’d probably always love that original film. In those moments, none of us really had any idea just how rich the Star Wars universe should, could, and would inevitably grow – spawning more films, TV programs, books, toys, and comics – but we knew we always wanted to be a part of it.
Dark Horse Comics has now taken George Lucas’s world in an entirely unanticipated direction: with the ultimate Jedi Master’s blessing, they’re bringing to life his original vision of those places a long, long time ago. It may not seem as familiar as I would’ve liked, but it’s still nonetheless a fascinating journey into the mind of a man, the mythology of a generation, as well as all things fantasic.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re more accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
I’ve already decided that it would be entirely inappropriate for the purposes of this review to recount the story that unfolds here. This isn’t because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for audiences necessarily, and it isn’t because there’s any desire or demand on the part of the artists or the production company for reviewers to keep all of this tightly under wraps in order to produce greater sales. It’s just my personal take on the work, especially given the fact that this is a first issue; as such, it kinda/sorta jumps into the events of THE STAR WARS with very little exposition.
There are some elements of which readers will be immediately reminded of what’s now known as STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE. Much like the films, there’s an opening ‘crawl’ of text that does what it can to set the time and the place and the greater circumstances of the events. There’s an opening bit of adventure involving some Jedi-Bendu (instead of simply just ‘Jedi’), and, eventually, readers are introduced to a handful of characters they’ve come to see as part and parcel of the Star Wars universe.
Therein, the similarities end, so far as the Original Trilogy of films is concerned. In fact, the story that unfolds in these first twenty-plus pages feels and sounds vastly more like the Prequel Trilogy – there’s some major political conflict going on between multiple worlds; there’s far more talk of the Jedi-Bendu than there was in A NEW HOPE; and much of the fashioning of the characters, uniforms, and locations is much more colorful than the opening sequences of the first (and still the best) STAR WARS film. Not that long back, I wrote a piece about dystopia and science fiction, and I’d remarked how even A NEW HOPE is heavily peppered with dystopian elements – a world fallen apart, grim settings, some almost apocalyptic-style circumstances, etc. – but the look and feel of THE STAR WARS is thematically closer to A PHANTOM MENACE or, say, even the look of the original sci-fi classics of BUCK ROGERS and FLASH GORDON. Everything’s a tad too squeaky-clean for my tastes.
Given the obvious drafts that followed Lucas’s first exploration of his space opera, it’s very clear that he artistically went in a different direction at some point, and that might even come to life as THE STAR WARS continues. As a first installment, this work only serves to introduce a few characters and a few worlds – it looks very little like the film of my youth. However, it’s still STAR WARS … so I’ll be here in thirty days to see what develops in the next installment.
In the meantime, the Force remains strong in this title.
THE STAR WARS (#1) is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by J.W. Rinzler; the art is by Mike Mayhew; the colors are by Rain Beredo; the lettering is by Michael Heisler; but all of it is based on the original work of George Lucas. The issue bears the cover price of $3.99, and that’s still a bargain for Star Wars purists hoping indeed for a rare glance inside what the original ideas, places, and characters looked like.
RECOMMENDED, but readers might find themselves at a bit of a loss as this first installment of THE STAR WARS – an adaptation based on George Lucas’s original script for STAR WARS – bears little if any resemblance to those hallmark films of the late 70’s and early 80’s while instead looking and sounding a bit more like the Prequel Trilogy that many fans dismiss as vanity-inspired drivel (I’m not one of them as I enjoy each film for varying reasons). Clearly, the inspiration for some of the most beloved characters in science fiction and fantasy is there; if you’re like me, then you’ll probably find yourself feeling pretty glad that this isn’t where Lucas decided his epic space saga needed to begin.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital copy of THE STAR WARS (#1) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.