From 1977 through 1986 Marvel Comics ran the first Star Wars comic book series, a group of books recapping the films in the original trilogy and bridging the gaps between them with new stories and characters. This of course led to the Expanded Universe, a canon of novels, spin-off comics, video games and television shows collectively constructing a new history and populating the Star Wars landscape into a never-ending agglomeration. In a current comics landscape where both Marvel and DC are relaunching their major titles with Marvel Now! and DC’s New 52, Brian Wood and Dark Horse Comics have relaunched Star Wars.
Wood’s series starts fresh, in a bubble he has constructed for the series where, so far, only Episode IV: A New Hope, the first Star Wars film exists. That means he is writing as if there have been no other films and no Expanded Universe. Attacking the material as if written in 1977, Woods is taking us back to the time when Star Wars was pure and good, uncorrupted by mass marketed canon and prequels we’d all assume forget. The first arc in his series, the three part “In the Shadow of Yavin” picks up some months after the destruction of the Death Star.
This is Star Wars at its absolute best. The book opens with Luke, Leia and Wedge piloting X-Wing fighters to the outer rim of the galaxy in search of a home for their new Rebel base. Wood writes dialogue that reflects the type of thinking a long post-battle journey like theirs would ultimately lead to. Luke processes the loss of Obi Wan while grilling Leia on her composed indifference after the destruction of her home planet Alderaan. With this brief exchange, Wood creates greater empathy for these characters than even Lucas himself was able to muster from the first film. Here, Leia is written with a more hardened edge. She is both a leader and a fighter.
Han Solo and Chewbacca are here as well, hanging back in the parade of ships that make up the Rebel Fleet. Wood addresses Han’s reluctance to stick around at the end of A New Hope by having him concede that with an Imperial death-mark on his head he’s better off sticking with the Rebels for now. Wood is skilled at preserving the strengths and subtlety that make these characters classic while tweaking their few flaws with thoughtful revision. There’s something about this comic that feels like home; a return trip to a galaxy far-far-away that I hope translates just as well with the new Star Wars film coming in 2015. Maybe Disney should hire Wood as a co-writer.
Carlos D’Anda’s art adds perfect depth to the book, especially during scenes of space battles where the action flows as naturally as in the films themselves. The cover art by Alex Ross is a masterwork recalling the classic film posters of Drew Struzan.
Its refreshing to see a new and original extension to Star Wars that regards the series humble beginnings. While moments of Wood’s story draw similarities to early episodes of 2004’s Battlestar Galactica series, its important to remember that the first BSG series in 1978 was itself TV’s response to Star Wars. Wood says he’ll occasionally mix various elements from the Expanded Universe into the stories, but overall the focus will remain on the core cast of characters. Issue one ended with Vader’s demotion by the Emperor, a moment of sheer humility that sets the tone for one of the most personal Star Wars incarnations to date. I for one look forward to seeing where it all goes from here.
– Tony Nunes