|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|