Dark Horse Comics starts their new eight-issue series, The Star Wars, based on the 1974 draft screenplay by George Lucas. It's familiar and yet very, very different. Swank-mo-tron and GONK both review Issue #1, out today.
The Star Wars, written by J. W. Rinzler and art by Mike Mayhew, kicks off this week with the first issue (DarkHorse.com profile), giving us a first look at how Star Wars looked in its first rough draft form in 1974. J. W. Rinzler is better known as the author of several Making Of... books and editor for several other behind-the-scenes and other non-fiction books on Star Wars and Lucasfilm. To learn more about how The Star Wars came to be, check out my interview with Rinzler at Comic-Con earlier this summer. Spoilers ahead! (or go ahead and see a seven-page preview on StarWars.com)
Quick Summary: This first issue gives us an opening crawl that sets the stage for The Star Wars, letting us know that the Jedi-Bendu, once defenders and expanders of the Empire, are now nearly extinct, hunted by the New Empire and their Knights of the Sith. And then we see a Jedi, Kane Starkiller, and his two sons, Annkin and Deak, hunted by a gruesomely-masked Knight of the Sith. On Alderaan, capital of the New Empire, the Emperor makes the public case for a final push against the last hold-out world of the Jedi rebellion, Aquilae. And Aquilae's new Imperial governor, Hoedaack, lets Darth Vader know that Aquilae may yet still be defended by a Jedi General Skywalker. King Kayos of Aquilae has Skywalker prepare for war, while sending a delegation to respond to the Empire's final treaty demands, and sees Leia off to college. Kane Starkiller arrives on Aquilae with Annikin and begs that Skywalker train his son, because Kane is dying.
Review by Swank-mo-tron:
The Star Wars is a fascinating concept. J.W. Rinzler has taken George Lucas's original draft of the Star Wars screenplay before it was shaped into what we know and love now, and has adapted it into a comic book.
I've read that original draft of the screenplay a couple of times over the years and was always amazed by how different the world was, but how familiar.
Rinzler's adaptation truly is faithful to that draft and it highlights what George Lucas's strengths as a screenwriter are. The opening of this book (and of that original screenplay) starts with a bang and heads right into a story of intrigue, raising more questions than it answers and it has a breathless Flash Gordon quality.
In fact, this story has a much more classic Flash Gordon feeling than the Star Wars films ended up with.
The character archetypes are all there, many of the names are there, even much of the vocabulary that we know and love in Star Wars is there. And it's amazing to realize the restraint Lucas has had with using the vocabulary. The word "padawan" appeared in that first draft of the screenplay (and appears here in the comic), but it never once appeared in the classic trilogy because there wasn't any call for the language. It wasn't until The Phantom Menace came out that Lucas busted out all of these original ideas.
This comic is beautifully rendered and I felt completely breathless reading it. It feels like Star Wars, but different... I suppose the way to look at it is this: Imagine if Star Wars had been made in the 30s or the 50s instead of the 70s and that's what this comic looks and feels like.
And I can stand more of it. I'm invested in the story and want more. The art is beautifully rendered, the coloring vivid and the inking is bold and clean. This is an incredibly worthy entry into the Expanded Universe.
I'll admit, I was wary of it, though. It seemed to be a gimmick. And the screenplay this is based off of is weird. But why not have this story out there for us to consume. It's more than a curiosity or a gimmick: there's some genuinely great storytelling here.
And I think it'll help fans wrap their heads around the possibility, no matter how certain or remote, that we might be getting an "Alternate" timeline for everything in the Post-Return of the Jedi world. Maybe it won't, but it won't hurt to try.
Overall, I'm on board for this book. I can't wait to see more of it.
Review by GONK:
While having many basic similarities to Star Wars, The Star Wars has a very different feel to it - While A New Hope brings in some everyman-type characters in farmboy Luke Skywalker, and scoundrel Han Solo, we haven't seen any common folk yet here in major roles. It's all Jedi and nobility on both sides of the conflict (much like the prequels). We might yet see what type of character Whitesun is. With all the gleaming palaces, the series reminds me much more of the Flash Gordon type serials that inspired George Lucas, without some of the other elements that also got blended the final product haven't been in the mix yet - Westerns, Kurosawa, WWII films, etc.
And knowing Star Wars works a little against you here - while we know that eventually in the story development, Starkiller became Skywalker, and the old general eventually became Luke Skywalker, with the Jedi-in-exile motif becomes the mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, I found that I got a bit confused when Starkiller and Skywalker meet - maybe they just seemed alike, I just didn't connect that they were separate characters here - it's the beards, I guess. Also, Tarkin works for King Kayos, while Bail Organa is on Alderaan, though is a Trade Frigate captain, grounded on the capital of the New Empire. The Emperor definitely gives off a Flash Gordon villain vibe - a kindlier, less racially-intoned Ming the Merciless, as he talks into a gigantic hanging radio microphone.
The art here by Mike Mayhew (colors by Rain Beredo, letters by Michael Heisler) is great - really capturing a classic feel, and putting new twists on what we 'know' - Star Destroyers are smaller, speedier ships, now flying in fighter-style formations over the capital. And in a nod to the Tusken ambush in ANH, we get a pop-up by the Knight of the Sith against Annikin and Deak through the electrobinoculars. We also get some great action between Kane and the killer, which makes Kane's angry revelation at the end even more a surprise - he's dying, and is more machine now than man. The ships looks great, and the scenery gleams to establish these luxurious settings, yet we also get into some moods - when tragedy strikes on Utupau, Kane and Annkin's emotional responses are definitely different.
Overall, this story was interesting and a good introduction to this world. There's a lot of characters being introduced in this issue, with an appropriate amount of dialogue. Perhaps too many so that we really don't have a sense of any of them except perhaps Kane, Annikin, and General Skywalker. No real sense of who Darth Vader or Whitesun or Leia are - or how important they might be in the overall storyline. And interestingly enough, no droids and only one non-human really seen or introduced. We do start off with a little action to get us excited, then we slow down a bit as the shift goes to Alderaan, and various people talk. Then on Aquilae, people talk - in a scene fairly reminiscient of the Death Star conference room scene: nobles and ministers bickering in front of their ruler. Then a little action as the Starkillers show up in the war rooms under the Palace of Lite.
Unlike Bryan, I'm not as familiar with the details of early draft screenplays, so this story is very new to me. Turning the draft screenplays into a comic series wasn't really something I would have seen as worthwhile, but my curiosity has been piqued. I am a fan of the Ralph McQuarrie concept art, and seeing that incorporated into a full story is pretty neat. But is this Star Wars? We shall see.
Variant and Exclusive Covers: To kick off the series, Dark Horse has made 3 different cover variants for the first issue - the regular cover with the Nick Runge artwork giving the characters of this comic a treatment akin to the classic Star Wars style C poster by Tom Chantrell. The harder to find variant covers are also inspired by the Chantrell poster: the variant by Jan Duursema (DarkHorse.com profile) and the ultravariant by Douglas Wheatley (DarkHorse.com profile). There may also be a black & white version of Duursema cover (spotted by Jedi News). There's also some retailer exclusive covers: Midtown Comics has John Cassaday's re-interpretation of the Hildebrandt poster, while TFAW has a cover with artwork by Jenny Frison.