Thirty some-odd years ago, Marvel Comics started putting out a Star Wars series that aimed to tell the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Leia Organa after the Rebel Alliance blew up the Death Star. Tomorrow, they're doing the same thing. A lot has changed since Marvel last published anything Force-related, most of it for the better.
The old Star Wars comics happened in a sort of alternate universe, starring the same characters as in movies but with wildly different adventures, alien races and sensibilities appearing each month. When these comics were being made, George Lucas himself and his movie-making inner circle didn't even know what the final forms of Empire and Jedi would look like. There were lightyears of blank canvas that Marvel's creators could fill up with their own imaginings and they did exactly that. Look at the Jabba the Hutt that appeared in the classic Marvel series before the character ever appeared on movie screens:
The entire pop cultural landscape -- and its relation to geek culture -- has shifted since then. Tons of Star Wars lore and merchandise has accrued in the decades since Episode IV. Some of it got blessed by Lucasfilm, only to be jettisoned after Disney acquired the House of the Force years ago. In the meantime, seemingly every possible data point about the Skywalker-centric fictional universe has been debated, quantified and debated some more for years on end. With Episode VII on the horizon and excitement on the upswing, the new era of Star Wars comics will be entering a much more savvy and potentially hostile environment than their predecessors. Good thing this first issue doesn't suck, then.
In Star Wars #1, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa wind up on a planet-sized weapons factory that supplies the Empire's war machine, with the aim of destroying it. This issue does what many comics tethered to serialized movies or TV shows do: it places its action in the negative space surrounding the big flashpoints audiences already know and love. Previous Star Wars comics did the same thing, except for the ones that retold the stories of the cinematic episodes. The difference with this new Star Wars #1 is that it feels like it extends the energy of the source material in invitingly clever ways. There are real emotional stakes at play here: Luke feeling out his newly awakened abilities and taking his calling as a Jedi seriously, the evil of the Empire shown trickling down to individual lives and Han's self-interest battling against the greater good of helping the Rebels.
The first issue deftly balances the tones of grandiose space opera and two-fisted pulp action that made Episode IV so beloved but slows down the pace enough to let character-centric moments and foreshadowing breathe. When Han and Leia have a charged conversation, it's simultaneously familiar and new. When Luke seems both overconfident and like a novice Jedi, longtime fans will nod in recognition. Jason Aaron's gift for crackling yet weighted dialogue shines here, giving us a Leia who's tough yet compassionate, a Han caught between rogue and hero and a Luke who quietly burns for vengeance. Those characters' faces come to life in spectacular fashion at John Cassaday's hand, hitting the sweet spot between being fantastically idealised and completely recognisable.
There were burning questions that the old Marvel Star Wars comics never touched on, things that hadn't happened yet or were still too new to reckon with. Questions like "Why wouldn't the leaders of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire have met again in dramatic fashion before Episode V?" After reading Star Wars #1, you'll get the sense that blind spots like that won't be a problem. There's no lack of faith here. This is a comic that's being made by people baptized in the Star Wars sacraments. They believe in the Force and they want bring lapsed Lucas-ites and new converts into the fold. Odds are good that they will do exactly that. You'll be able to get the digital version of the comic right here.