First Impressions – THE STAR WARS #1

theStarWars1_01

You already know what happened long ago in a galaxy far, far away. But what if the science fiction epic turned out differently? Based on George Lucas’ original story outline, THE STAR WARS #1 begins the tale of empires and space knights anew, in many ways different but in many ways the same. What changed in the old drafts to make the Star Wars experience we love?

I don’t think I need to explain what Star Wars is. So I won’t.

I will say that Star Wars is one of the biggest geek and nerd subcultures ever. Because of this, it’s made Lucas Arts and its creator, George Lucas, a lot of money. And now it’ll be making the Disney Corporation (even more) money.

Before the comic rights to the Star Wars franchise comes back to Disney and it does whatever it wants with them (like publishing them through Marvel or its own imprint), Dark Horse is busy publishing all they can with the property.

With that in mind, THE STAR WARS.

THE STAR WARS #1 introduces readers to the Kane Starkiller, one of the last remaining members of the Jedi-Bendu. The Jedi-Bendu served as the personal guard of the Galactic Empire until the recent Great Rebellion. Now their order is dwindled and on the run, their place being usurped by the Knights of Sith. While this goes on, the New Galactic Empire marshals its forces to attack Aquilae, the last remaining hold-out from the old order and the final piece in the puzzle of a complete galaxy-spanning imperium. Among the Empire’s leaders is a Darth Vader that is most certainly not more machine than man; he’s just a guy with facial scars. But someone else certainly is more machine than man.

Having lost his youngest son to a Sith assassin, Kane Starkiller and his eldest son Annikin travel to Aquilae, where they meet with another surviving Jedi: Luke Skywalker, leader of Aquilae’s military. But they come just in advance of the Empire’s forces. What’s more, in spite of Skywalker’s suggestions, Aquilae is woefully unprepared for war.

Moreover, the Jedi-Bendu and their Sith rivals display none of their now iconic Force powers, being merely heavily trained laser swordsmen. The only reference to The Force, in fact, is a passing mention of “The Force of Others” as a generic well-wishing to a departing Leia…Kayos? I think that’s her last name, or perhaps her father King Kayos is called such by his given name. It’s unclear.

So as one can tell, just reading THE STAR WARS #1 is an exercise in cognitive whiplash. But perhaps it’s for the best. I predict the plot will remain unpredictable, since this version of the story diverges so thoroughly from the work that it would become.

Although that all raises an important question: how much of this comic truly reflects the original designs, and how much is informed by later trends? How much of the film’s art design was formed by the point when this script was written? It could be that much of the artistic elements – here depicted by Mike Mayhew’s paint-like style – was filled in from established elements in the Star Wars franchise. The environments, the technology, the fashion, the character designs. All of these things existing as a result of what the franchise already decided upon, minus whatever designs that come straight from early production sketches of course.

Speaking of Mike Mayhew, his characters are dynamic and expressive, and all unique from each other. We see echoes of actors in many of them, reproduced faithfully. Oh, and for some reason Luke Skywalker, here an older general, looks uncannily like George Lucas. I can only assume this serves as a tribute to the director/producer who made the series possible. I assume this because of Lucas’ retirement, because otherwise I’d have to assume this was an massive ego trip by the man.

And I couldn’t possibly do that, could I?

Personally, I’m not feeling the series, though it’s by no means a product of its own quality. A more casual Star Wars fan, I’ve never gone out of my way to read any Star Wars comics, or any of the expanded universe (though I know bits and pieces of lore). For more ardent fans of the franchise, however, THE STAR WARS #1 is certainly recommended. The plot seems less polished than the famous film – the latter being strictly bound to The Hero’s Journey of Joseph Campbell fame – but it sticks much more closely to its 1930s Space Opera serial roots, so it can be forgiven. As of this writing, the second issue is on sale, so feel free to see what could have been.

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