The Force is strong with Marvel's new comic series

| 0 Comments
covers.jpg
Property of Marvel Comics Ltd.

Since the announcement that Dark Horse would no longer be publishing Star Wars comics, many fans have held their breath for news on their favorite silver-screen heroes. Thankfully, starting in January 2015, their wait is over, as Marvel's Star Wars universe bursts on to the scene with three ambitious stand-alone titles. Featuring some of the best artists and writers in the industry, Marvel has set out to expand the Star Wars universe further than anyone could imagine. As a fan of both the films and comics, I could hardly resist the chance to get my hands on these issues and weigh in on how Marvel brought these stories to life.

(Please note, the following reviews may contain spoilers and plot elements featured in the comic books. Continue reading at your discretion)

***

Star Wars: Princess Leia

22 pages

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist(s): Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

Leia 1.jpg
Artist: Terry Dodson

The artist chosen to bring Leia's adventure to life was Terry Dodson, an American artist known for his work on titles such as Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn and Uncanny X-Men. Reviewing his past works, it became quite clear that although Dodson's style lends itself well to many universes and characters, he has a particular style when it comes to female characters.

My initial exposure to Dodson's art style was during his tenure on Wonder Woman. I found his rendition of the Amazonian Princess to be fantastic. My only issue, and it's more of a slight than an issue, was that I found Luke Skywalker and Han Solo to be a bit goofy. This isn't a major problem, as neither of them are the main focus of the comic (nor are they in more than 2 - 3 panels), but beyond that everything was fantastic. His portrayal of the ships, aliens, and characters of the Star Wars universe were engaging and energetic.

The comic opens on the final scene of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Leia is presenting awards for bravery and providing a eulogy for those who had fallen at the battle of Yavin 4. We see all the familiar faces: Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, C3-P0, R2-D2, and even Chewbacca. The main problem for Leia to overcome is not presented by the Empire, but instead the overprotective General Dodonna. Citing a promise he made to her parents, Dodonna wants Leia to stay out of the fighting, advice our rebellious princess has no intent of taking. Told not to leave the compound, Leia's savior comes in an unsual form: the blonde female fighter pilot Evaan, a newly introduced character to the Star Wars universe. Evaan, a native of Alderaan, is still upset over the loss of her friends in the battle of Yavin 4, and believes Leia to be uncaring and cold. Leia takes their bitter first confrontation and finds her salvation to her protective imprisonment: the two women will find any surviving people from Alderaan. Stealing a freighter ship, and quickly outmaneuvering the supposedly ace pilots - Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, the two women set off to bring their people home.

The comic has a light feel to it, despite an earlier eulogy monologue about recently lost comrades, and you quickly move from the more serious elements of the war between the Alliance and the Empire to Leia's quest to reunite her fellow Alderaan(ians?). The book does well in establishing the key characters to the plot, or at least as much as it can in the short twenty-three pages (not counting advertisements) the story takes place. It sets the reader up well for the following issue and provides us a teaser of what's to come: Naboo.

Leia 2.jpg
Artist: Terry Dodson

We explore the period of time between Episode IV and Episode V, as well as the political and royal background of Princess Leia Organa. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek element of Princess Leia's rebellion from the Rebellion, but I found some of her characterisation was a bit off. Having seen the films, I always found Leia to be a very strong, self-assured character, but in the comic it quickly became apparent that her confidence we saw in the films was lacking. I think this could easily be explained away as the comic book taking place early on in the canonical timeline, but I still liked the kick-ass attitude Leia showed in Episode V and VI. I did enjoy the depth Waid provided towards the hierarchy and social structure of Alderaan and its citizens. Having never read the books and only sparingly touched the Dark Horse line of comics, it was enjoyable to learn a bit more about the universe.

***

Star Wars: Darth Vader

33 pages

Writer: Keiron Gillen

Artist(s): Salvador Larroca

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Keiron Gillen has been charged with bringing the pages of Darth Vader's newest conquest to life: comics! Story wise, much like the other Star Wars comics that have begun in the last few months, Darth Vader's tale begins shortly after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Reeling from his recent failure and the destruction of the Death Star, we find Vader trying to re-establish himself as the universe's number one bad guy. His quest to redeem himself has Vader wadding through some of the scummiest places in the universe; first stop: Jabba the Hutt's Tatooine Palace. Threatening his way in to the palace, Vader approaches the repulsive Jabba on a personal matter. However, Vader's livelihood is challenged after his failures, as Jabba reminds Vader that even the Sith can have bounties on their heads. Laser blasts and lightsaber slices ensue, and after mutilating most of Jabba's guards, Vader reminds Jabba why the Sith prefer force to the Force. The issue ends on an ominous meeting between Vader and the fan-favorite Boba Fett to resolve Vader's personal matter: the capture of Luke Skywalker.

I was particularly impressed with the attention to detail of this comic. The effort that went in to applying even the smallest of traits, such as the glossy nature of Darth Vader's armour, did not go unnoticed. Subsequently, the fight scenes were well done and the characters were easily recognizable. Until this issue of Darth Vader, I had never seen any of Salvador Larroca's work, but after reading the comic I can easily understand why they brought him on board. I was particularly impressed by his ability to capture the presence of Darth Vader, a feat I consider particularly difficult without Vader's trademark hiss-breathing or the booming Imperial March playing as he enters. Additionally, I really enjoyed Larroca's efforts to pay homage to Episode IV. His panels that depicted scenes from the movie were exceptionally done and very reminiscent of the films.

Vader 1.jpg
Artist: Salvador Larroca

Through out the issue, we're treated to numerous flashbacks and homage through out the thirty-four pages of sith-y goodness. The pacing of the issue was always on par, and never did I feel like the dialogue (or lack of in some panels) weighed down the art. I really enjoyed the duality of how Darth Vader interacts within the Empire. On the one hand, you get a strong sense of subservience when he speaks with Emperor Palpatine, but then within a page or so he's back to instilling fear in everyone around him. Gillen has done a wonderful job of capturing the complexity of character that is Darth Vader. I found his dialogue especially to be on point. Vader's dialogue is almost always menacing and curt; just what we have come to expect of the Sith Lord.

In regards to how the comic fits in to the greater scheme of things, it doesn't really introduce anything that we as readers don't already know. The issue serves more as a reminder of what happened in Episode IV and lays down some initial ground work for what will inevitably happen in subsequent issues. While I enjoyed the comic, partly due to my fondness for the character, it added little to the Star Wars universe when compared to Mark Waid's Princess Leia.

***

Star Wars

32 pages

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist(s): John Cassaday

Colorist: Laura Martin

If you're familiar with any of John Cassaday's work, it is most likely from either his work on Astonishing X-Men, or his Wildstorm title: Planetary. He has a very gritty, realistic style that lends itself well to the Star Wars universe. I found out of the three comics that his renditions of the characters to be the most comparative to their real life actors, you could easily see the resemblance of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Throughout the issue, I found myself almost envisioning Harrison Ford making the same faces in my head, just as Cassaday illustrated the roguish hero. Beyond that, the action is captured as well, and between the pacing of the story and transitions between full page layouts and paneled frames, the issue really captured my interest. Cassaday's use of paneling, I found, is very provoking and really compliments the story that Jason Aaron is trying to layout.

Star Wars 1.jpg
Artist: John Cassaday

Similar to Waid and Gillen, Jason Aaron's Star Wars takes place just after the end of the film, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The issue has our intrepid rebel heroes moving on the momentum of their recent success, the destruction of the Death Star. As far as the storyline, Aaron does a good job of capturing the clumsy nature of heroics that we see in the first half of Episode IV. The mission starts off well, but invariably goes wrong at some point, leaving our heroes in dire jeopardy. What I felt was very well done was the interactions between characters. Just as I mentioned that I felt Cassaday had captured visually how Han Solo should look, I found Aaron's dialogue for the scruffy nerf herder to be spot on. The two breakout characters, or rather the characters he captured the

The issue wasn't particularly in-depth in any sense. It read more as a checklist of things that made the Star Wars movies fun. Han Solo being tricky? Check. Lightsaber cutting off some bad guy's hand? Check. Stormtroopers having lousy aim and then getting shot? Check. It wasn't a bad Star Wars comic per say, but it also wasn't a very good one. I think of the three, this was probably my second choice of what I would have initially expected to enjoy. It might have been due to the large cast, or the need to make certain that the readers got a real sense of the history of these characters, but I just felt like the issue fell flat. best, were Han Solo and his roguish charm, as well as C-3PO's pessimism and sarcasm.

Although I enjoyed the dialogue immensely, I found the story to be a bit of a letdown. This was meant to be a flagship issue, Marvel's re-introduction of Star Wars to the comic book format. I realize that for a first issue, the draw will be to attract both new and familiar readers to the franchise, but I felt like there was too much emphasis on bring in the former. The only new element that was introduced to the storyline was that we have been shown Luke Skywalker openly using a lightsaber prior to the more trained version of the character we see in The Empire Strikes Back.

***

Overall, I think if I had to choose my favorite of the lot, it would have to be Star Wars: Princess Leia. While I was a bigger fan of Salvador Larroca's and John Cassaday's artistic vision of the Star Wars universe, I found that as a whole, the art, story and dialogue of Princess Leia cumulated in just had a more satisfying read. I don't say this to say the other two issues were bad, but I found that Mark Waid and Terry Dodson's experimental take on Leia was a real departure from what I had initially expected. My initial mindset was that it was going to most likely focus on some kind of love story / being saved by a hero-esque type of story, which typically I've sadly come to expect from comics, but I was happily surprised by two kickass ladies out to take the universe by storm.

Leave a comment