Thursday, 19 February 2015

Star Wars #2 - Marvel Comics

STAR WARS No. 2, April 2015
Having seen the first issue of “Star Wars” sell a staggering 985,976 copies, at least according to Diamond Comic Distributors, the anticipation for the follow-up edition by “Marvel Worldwide” was always going to be high… And in many ways “Skywalker Strikes” lives up to these hopes and expectations by packing its twenty pages with a series of action-packed sequences which would not look out of place upon ‘the big screen’ itself. 

Indeed Jason Aaron’s storyline, from opening light-sabre confrontation between Sith Lord and farm boy through to the rather dubious scene of an All Terrain Armoured Transport (AT-AT) first ‘stomping’ then later ‘blasting’ Darth Vader, is all danger and excitement. But whilst a lot of these ‘set-pieces’ probably looked good on paper, and clearly sate many a dedicated fan’s desire to address some of the film trilogies most asked ‘What If’ questions, the American writer’s inclusion of such elements also detracts from the impact of events which occur much later in the ‘Star Wars’ motion picture canon.

Luke Skywalker’s dual with his father above Bespin was a sensational conclusion to “The Empire Strikes Back”, and something which director Irvin Kershner spent most of the film building up to. The apprentice Jedi had trained long and hard in preparation for the contest and though it was obvious that the rebel was outmatched, there was still some glimmer of hope, for a while at least, that he might succeed and avenge Ben Kenobi’s death. Ultimately however he was soundly beaten by the dark side of the Force, so why spend so much of this comic’s opening depicting an earlier meeting of the two combatants? Not only is the end result of such a meeting not in any question. But it arguably diminishes the impact of that fateful meeting on Cloud City; having simply become ‘round two’ as it were.

A similar criticism can be levelled at Aaron’s inclusion of the AT-AT and 74-Z speeder bikes. Both of which had tremendously memorable appearances in their respective movies. So except to appease readers who wanted to see Han Solo driving one of the huge walkers or Skywalker knocking down stormtroopers like so many bowling pins, why cram all these iconic Star Wars vehicles into a single comic all at once? Alongside such scenes as See-Threepio being shot and dismantled, and Vader having his helmet removed, it really does seem to be a case of the author trying to jam-pack everybody's favourite trilogy moments into this ongoing title’s first few issues. Such behaviour begs the question therefore, just what surprises or ‘wow’ moments will Aaron have left to maintain interest in hopefully a long-running series?

Concerns about plot pacing aside, artist John Cassaday clearly shows why he was the 2006 Eisner Award winner for best penciller/inker. His drawings are consistently competent throughout the book, doubtless helped by the storyline forcing him to concentrate much more of depicting Luke Skywalker than the other rebel leaders. The American illustrator captures a good likeness of actor Mark Hamill and also draws an impressive looking Lord of the Sith. But his portrayals of Han Solo and Leia Organa are much less satisfying, especially when Cassaday unsuccessfully attempts to really ‘nail’ the appearance of the respective actor or actress.

Fortunately, bearing in mind the gargantuan vehicle plays a prominent role in the comic’s proceedings, the penciller’s technical drawing of the AT-AT walker is also rather impressive. Though it is still hard to appreciate the grandeur and scale of the spectacle when Darth Vader stops the mechanical behemoth in mid-stride with just the power of the Force.
The variant cover art of "STAR WARS" No. 2 by Leinil Francis Yu

4 comments:

  1. Interesting so I take it these comics are supposed to fill in the gaps between the movies? How many times are they going to do this I wonder, as an avid collector at the time of the old Star Wars Weekly series in the seventies I can still remember how the story began to veer off in all directions after issue 12 (the end of the first film) with Han Solo leaving and going off to pack back Jabba and then getting involved in a fight for a small community and recruiting hires guns (like the magnificent seven). In fact I cant remember how or even if they managed to drag the story back in line by the time "Empire" came out and the comic version of that started, I seem to remember getting a bit bored with the comic story towards the end of my buying it (not long after issue 100) and being much more into the other guest strips that appeared in the comic such as Gardians of the galaxy, Were Stone, Micronauts, Star lord, Deathlok and Wartoy etc..

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    1. This is a good comic Roger, but think we'd both agree that its been done before both by "Marvel Comics" and in recent years by "Dark Horse Comics". I think this one goes awry because it tries to incorporate all the films before two of them happened. So for example Jabba in these comics will be depicted as the over-sized slug we all know and love. But when 'A New Hope' was made, Jabba was played by a portly human actor and ended up on the cutting room floor (though Lucas does suggest he was thinking of doing something in the editing stage of production to him). So that's why he was never seen in the first run of comics. I think they should have done something similar with these comics. I too used to read the weekly for my love of Star Lord and the other side-strips. Though the Star Wars story set on the water-world with the pirates and serpents was superb and I always thought that would have made a good film in its own right.

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  2. Funny I always liked the idea behind the water world storyline too, and there was a bountyhunter one with a cyborg guy hunting Luke a one point thay I remember being good as well,sadly I no longer have most of my issues now as I sold then and my DrWho weeklys like an idiot to a woman in our local market who ran a book and comic stall for next to nothing when I was a teenager.

    Cheers Roger.

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    1. I'm not sure how much it costs these days but I own the "Star Wars Omnibus - A Long Time Ago..." Volume One, which includes both "Doomworld" [waterworld] and "The Hunter" [Valance the bounty hunter] in it. Great stuff :-)

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