Written by J.W. Rinzler
Art by Mike Mayhew
Published by Dark Horse Comics
To quote the other guys “Its life Jim, but not as we know it,” based on George Lucas’ original draft of Star Wars, this series contains a lot of familiar names and locations but all played out very differently to its eventual cinematic incarnation. It’s an issue that demands repeat readings, as it is next to impossible to read the first time on its own without comparing it to the finished film. Once the novelty of recognizing characters and spaceships wears off, only one question remains – As a standalone comic is it any good? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. The tone has changed enough to differentiate it from Lucas’ space opera. The action is entertaining and characters, both new and old, have no trouble holding the reader’s attention.
The story opens with a Jedi, Kane Starkiller, hiding on a remote planet with his two sons, Annikin and Deak. A ship arrives containing a Sith Lord that looks like a cross between Darth Vader and Bebop from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and attacks the two children, killing Deak. Kane arrives, and in a beautiful panel, slices the attacker in half. Mike Mayhew’s art throughout the issue is a delight. It looks very cinematic and adds the heft and scale that is required with an event book. He has managed to adapt Ralph McQuarrie’s conceptual art while adding his own touches without ever feeling like he is rethreading existing works.
The next arc of the book suffers from some of the same problems that affected the later trilogy; it gets bogged down with a lot of political to-ing and fro-ing. It is not quite a “Trade Federation blocking Naboo” level of boring, but it isn’t far off. There is nice exchange between Kane and a man who looks like a ringer for George Lucas himself, called Luke Skywalker no less, when he is asked to continue Annikin’s Jedi training. Against the backdrop of this is an as-of-yet unnamed Emperor’s political plans to stop the Rebellion, before sending in the Empire’s troops to eradicate the Jedi once and for all.
There are a couple of nice cameos and nods to the original, Antilles gets a small scene, Princess Leia is introduced briefly as she leaves for university, General Vader is revealed and bears more than a passing resemblance to the crazy ghost chaser from “The Frighteners.” If there is one area where I felt let down it was with Vader who I thought deserved a far more memorable introduction then simply arguing with his underlings.
Overall the issue was a positive if flawed one. There are a number of potentially interesting threads and it is a nice sideways version of the movie. Hopefully the exposition heavy middle segment will not reoccur in future issues, the nice final line of the book seems to confirm that. The artwork is the real stand out; Mike Mayhew’s work is gorgeous. His designs of both ships and characters elevate the book above its sometimes clunky dialogue, as Harrison Ford famously said “you can type this $hit, but you can’t say it,” turns out even when typed it is still as clunky. Names like Darklighter, Starkiller, and Whitsun seem like they came from a small child’s playtime. There are a number of wonderful panels including a standout moment when Kane reviles the full extent the battle against the Sith has taken on his body. There is more than enough here to keep me interested in future issues and now that the mental hurdle of comparisons to the original has been overcome I can’t wait to see if the book can stand on its own two feet.
3.5 out of 5 nerds