Aquilae is under attack, and it's up to General Luke Skywalker to keep the Space Fortress* from destroying them all in The Star Wars #2. Meanwhile Annikin Starkiller macks on a female officer and punches royalty. This is Star Wars as envisioned in George Lucas' 1974 draft screenplay -- and as you've never seen it. *Death Star
The second issue of The Star Wars (DarkHorse.com profile) is out this week and the Empire strikes. Aquilae manages to scramble together six fighters to take on the massive spherical Space Fortress, and you thought that sending two fighters against a star destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back was some poor odds.
Summary: Kane Starkiller heads off, leaving his son Annikin apprenticed with General Luke Skywalker. Skywalker petitions the king over dinner for a declaration of war as he believes the Empire is preparing for an assault on Aquilae with a large asteroid-sized object on the scopes -- that suddenly disappears. Back in the command center, Skywalker draws his lightsaber on Starkiller for trying to put the moves on a female officer, then learns that his agent from Alderaan, Captain Whitsun has arrived in the medical station. Learning that the Imperial star force plans to attack before sunrise, Skywalker sends Starkiller to drive out and pick Princess Leia from school. At Chathos, Leia resists leaving without her luggage and handmaiden, and Annikin punches her out and carts her off back to the the palace.
As sunrise approaches, King Kayos, en route back to the palace after meeting with the Senate, calls General Skywalker with the war code, but is destroyed in a mushroom cloud. With the attack order given, only a single squadron of six starfighters is able to be launched as bases are being hit by the weapons from the large armored space fortress. Devil Squadron attacks the surface of the Space Fortress, causing damage inside, which causes two droids to question their own survivability, and the bickering pair escape in a life pod. Deep inside the Space Fortress, General Vader assuages Governor Hoedaack of their attack's success, and the governor reminds Vader to capture one of Aquilae's ruling heirs alive to maintain control. With the king confirmed dead, Skywalker confronts his rival, Senator Sandage, who has already gotten the queen to surrender to the Empire, and orders Skywalker to cease fire. With his final pilots ordered to return home, and then blown out of the sky by the Empire, Skywalker vows to fight on, even if it is treason to do so.
Review: Artoo and Threepio are droids working on the Death Star, err.. Space Fortress??? I was slightly skeptical of this series from the first issue, mostly because of the general premise - it's an adaptation of an early draft of the Star Wars screenplay, and I wasn't sure why we needed this. After all, we *know* the story of Star Wars, more or less. Well, this issue shows us that we might know Star Wars, but this isn't that Star Wars -- this is really, really, different. Not just cosmetically with some name changes and role substitutions. This is a different story. And that has gotten me on board and excited. Sure, there's a starfighter battle on the surface of the proto-Death Star - but this is still the opening act of the story, and it ends with zero planets blown up, (though large parts of the surface get zapped), and the battle ends with the final survivors of the squadron getting called off for a ceasefire, then getting shot down.
And we finally see the droids - who go unnamed, and R2-D2 talks in long sentences. But they bicker and yet stay together. But they're working aboard the Death Star. Annikin tries his best to be respectful while in the state dinner, though shows off his humble origins while trying to enter the conversation with his mouth full. And then trying to have his way with a pretty face in the halls on the way back to the war room? and punching out the princess rather than argue with her? Definitely a keeper. Some elements that are better in their final state in Star Wars. But it all highlights how different and unfamiliar this story is, even with familiar names. As with the first issue, J. W. Rinzler drops a lot of names on us - we hear about the Ureallian Han Solo (though we haven't really seen a non-human yet), and we get a Chewie and a Mace among the pilots.
There's a lot of fighter pilot action in this issue, with lots of pilot chatter going on within Devil Squadron, and with the main base. You can definitely see the genesis of elements of how the Battle of Yavin is portrayed here, though with perhaps a bit more combat chatter with these sleek two-person fighters.
Once again, the artwork by Mike Mayhew, with colors by Rain Beredo and lettering by Michael Heisler, really makes the story shine. Mayhew and Beredo bring a great quality to the faces of the characters, capturing some great expressions in the close-ups. I really enjoyed the shot of Annkin with his mouth full of food, trying to talk, and Luke Skywalker and Governor Hoedaack have some excellent character looks. The battle over the Space Fortress is like the classic McQuarrie artwork (or Chantrell's poster based on that artwork) come to life. -- part rough sketch of the surface, part painting. The interiors are more refined, like actual sets, with a real contrast between the Aquilae war room and the Space Fortress war room.
I'm in. I'm hooked. Bring it on. Who knows where it will go?
Cover Variant: Dark Horse has two cover variants for wide release. The Nick Runge cover (seen in the right column) is the regular cover, while a Ralph McQuarrie piece (left) is the rarer retailer incentive.
Bonus Comic: If you were curious about Brian Wood's ongoing Star Wars series that started earlier this year, Dark Horse released this week a reprint of Star Wars #1 for only a buck as part of their #1 for $1 series. Get it for a single dollar and if you like it, there's the first trade paperback out there to catch up on issues 1-6.