I kid you not: reams and reams of paper have been printed in examining the ‘success’ of the Original STAR WARS Trilogy (OT) versus the ‘failure’ of the Prequel Trilogy (PT).
At this stage of the franchise, I’ve no interest in re-hashing those arguments. Rather, I’d like to point out one simple difference between the OT and PT I’ve always said gets very close to why one triple-feature is embraced while the other is dismissed, and that’s that the OT is clearly populated with characters who have far more personal stake in the established conflicts. They’re fighting for their very survival – not the survival of a government or a way of life, per se – but for the basic rights to exist, to draw breath, and to pursue whatever happiness it is they desire. It’s this thematic difference, I believe, that makes the OT vastly superior to the intergalactic shenanigans that went down in the days of Qui-Gon Jin, the Jedi Council, and the inevitable fall of the Republic.
To my utter delight, writer Brian Wood has tapped deeply into that zeitgeist in launching an all-new series of adventures based on the original characters and situations created by George Lucas back in the 1970’s.
(NOTE: the following review contains minor spoilers solely necessary for the discussion of characters and plot. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. However, if you’re accepting of a few hints of ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The Death Star is no more. Well, that is as of only days ago. However, the daring assault finally brought to its successful climax by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo has served up one unforeseen consequence: once again, they’re desperately on the run from the forces of the Galactic Empire! The rebel base on the fourth moon of Yavin was necessarily abandoned, and, by decree of Mon Mothma herself, Princess Leia and Skywalker are tasked with an even greater challenge: find us a new planet to house operations from.
Despite what others say, I think it’s safe to conclude that the first STAR WARS film (Episode 4: A NEW HOPE) has always been the most relatable. After all, who wouldn’t want to save the universe? Who wouldn’t want to storm the castle and rescue the princess? It’s the oldest set of fairy tale legends that combined into the perfect formula, and it set the box office ablaze: to this day, the STAR WARS Saga remains one of the most successful and most identifiable in all the world, if not all the galaxy. The first film introduced us to some of filmdom’s most beloved characters, and scribe Brian Wood has been tasked with revisiting these tumultuous times in his new series.
Using the proven STAR WARS formula, this first issue starts off with a bang, throwing three familiar faces into the midst of great chaos. As they’ve managed to do in the past, they continue snatching success from the jaws of defeat, but, at the same time, Leia and Luke jointly realize that finding the Rebel Alliance a new home is proving far more treacherous than they’d ever suspected. Meanwhile, on the other side of the galaxy, smuggler Han Solo and his trust sidekick Chewbacca are being tasked with their own private little mission … and so long as Han’s trademark cockiness doesn’t get the best of him they might get out alive. Yet, even more fascinating is the position the Dark Lord of the Sith – Darth Vader – finds himself in. His Emperor – genuinely not a nice guy – is very disappointed in his protégé’s failure to save the Death Star from a single starfighter. Stripped of his personal ship and demoted, Vader finds himself with some very big shoes to fill, indeed.
Wood effortlessly brings established fans as well as a new audience up to speed on the particulars of his tale’s setting, and I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention the stellar work of his team. Carlos D’Anda shows us Luke, Han, and Leia as we remember them, all with youthful faces modestly etched with lines of fatigue. In particular, Chewbacca looks terrific – with great emphasis on coloring from Gabe Eltaeb – and even Mon Mothma looks precisely as we remember her from the OT. Granted, it’s only a first installment, but it’s easily a winner. I’ll be counting the days waiting for the next one, and I’ve got faith that Wood and his crew will do no less than Leia and hers did – they’ll help define another generation of entertainment “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”
STAR WARS #1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN (Part 1 of 3) is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Brian Wood; art is by Carlos D’Anda; colors are by Gabe Eltaeb; and lettering is by Michael Heisler. The issue bears a cover price of $2.99, and, so far as this reviewer is concerned, it’s worth every penny.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. This is a return to the quintessential Star Wars era of our collective childhood. This is Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Artoo, and Threepio the way they were meant to be, fighting against the odds, their backs to the galactic wall, the entire universe stacked against them. Darth Vader and the Emperor are at the height of the malevolent power. The rebels are on the run, and the TIE Fighters are hotly in pursuit. Writer Brian Wood has done some jaw-dropping awesome work on CONAN, so, while my hopes are quite high, he’s certainly delivered a cosmic first issue … one that picks up only days after the events depicted in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE … but he’s set course for a journey worth taking.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with an advance digital copy of STAR WARS #1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN (Part 1 of 3) for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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