Star Wars Comics Are Getting Better

Star Wars Comics Are Getting Better

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:

Star Wars Comics Are Getting Better

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.

Star Wars Comics Are Getting Better

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.

Star Wars Comics Are Getting Better

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.

Star Wars Comics Are Getting Better

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.


    Considering the general quality of Star Wars EU books, and the bulk of the older comics in particular, improving wouldn't be that hard.

      there's actually some REALLY good stuff in the EU. There's some book and comic series that are at the same level as the movies. There's also some rubbish though.

        Absolutely. Though I read a lot of it as a teenager and I've found that my tastes back then were largely quite suspect, there's certainly some parts which were very high quality. A lot of my issues with the comics were around inconsistent art - found it quite jarring when the artist would completely change each issue in stuff like the Tales of the Jedi comics. Also anything that Kevin J Anderson was involved with is pretty awful. He's not even the worst offender either.

        There might be some good or salvageable stuff in the EU but the bad far outweighs the good. Disney did the right thing by wiping the slate clean and starting over.

          Kevin killed it for me. Even as a 15 year old I just found his stuff to be the worst. I stopped reading after that.

          I STILL re-read the thrawn trilogy though. Great series!

            Original Thrawn trilogy is fantastic. All the X-Wing novels were great too. I, Jedi was okay and so was the other Thrawn-related duology that Zahn wrote. There's a few other okay entries but beyond that you hit diminishing returns really fast.

            One of the reasons I said my taste when I was a teenager was suspect is that I didn't actually mind Kevin's crap original trilogy, was just happy for more Star Wars. Went back and re-read it a bit older and I realized just how awful it was. They had to spend ages unmangling canon after he went off to apply his wonderful skills to Dune instead.

            Kevin killed it for me. Even as a 15 year old I just found his stuff to be the worst.

            Really? You couldn't appreciate the finer points of blob racing? ;)

              I have no idea what you are talking about. I must've repressed all that. Thanks for bringing it up. I'll prb dream about it tonight. Thanks a lot!

    Probably a bajillion times easier for them to do these comics since Disney own LucasArts and Marvel comics now.

      That's the exact reason why they are doing it.

    This is being released through Marvel... So I'll wait 6 months and grab it before the "All-New Star Wars NOW" reboot series launches.

    Man, why oh why did it have to be set between movies. I dont give a shit about inbetweens; i already know what happens then.

      Yes but Splinter of the Force and Shadows of the Empire etc have now been thrown away by Disney.

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