The biggest new release of 2015 (so far) is Marvel’s first endeavor into Star Wars comics for the first time since the 1980s. There are loads of variant covers, quite a few release parties, and rumored sales numbers around 1 million. Star Wars #1 is set after the destruction of the Death Star and features all the big name characters from the original trilogy. It also marks award winning artist John Cassaday’s return to interiors for the first time since his short run on Uncanny Avengers in 2012. Here is what several Sound on Sight writers (who happen to be in the same room Marvel Bullpen style) thought about this issue.
At the top of the story, we see Overseer Aggadeen, head of Cymoon 1’s armor corps factory, greet negotiators from Jabba the Hut. In this cold open to the factory planet, Aggadeen’s loyalty to the Galactic Empire is plainly seen through his complete rigidity. He is on high alert, calling them scum and ultimately distrustful prior to their landing yet politely greets Jabba’s negotiators upon their landing. He serves as a wonderful foil to said negotiator: Han Solo. Not only is Han sporting a very Harrison Ford look from the movies, he retains his full personality. He keeps a more relaxed stance and uses smuggler slang as if he were talking to a client, and gives the Overseer a quite annoying nickname. Classic Han. When we learn that Chewbacca is sitting in a makeshift sniper’s nest and that Han’s bodyguards appear to be more than they are made out to be, the plot is set into motion in a very Star Wars way: Infiltrate the massive factory and put it out of commission through subterfuge. Through some more on-the-fly thinking and a quick decision from R2-D2, the Rebel infiltration begins.
Plenty of one-liners show up when the stormtroopers and Aggadeen are taken down, making Jason Aaron’s story feel right at home with the movies. The backgrounds and color choices Laura Martin picks makes the environments feel unique. Any part of the planet’s surface is covered with a warm set of of brown and orange, properly representing the industrial world. Inside the factory, however, shades of electric blues can be seen not just from the factory floor, but in the additional hallways and rooms. This creates a distinct separation from the surface of Cymoon 1 through a much more clinical color palette. She overlaps characters with background colors in especially sneaky scenes, which makes for a true espionage mission.
Jason Aaron and John Cassaday nail the voice and look of these famous characters from the get-go as Han Solo lays some of his trademark snark on the Imperial overseer of a Corellian weapons factory. Cassaday’s photorealistic style is a perfect fit for these characters, who first appeared in films, but he uses speed lines or cuts up his panels to avoid an Uncanny Valley look. Aaron’s script allows him to draw many iconic characters, vehicles, and objects from the Star Wars films while still telling a coherent action adventure story. However, with his command over voice through dialogue, they aren’t interchangeable, and each have an integral role to play in the plot even if Han Solo does get all the best lines.
Between scenes of lightsaber swinging, blaster bolt dodging, and several jawdropping full page splashes, Aaron checks in with some of the major relationships of Star Wars including Han and Leia and Luke and Ben to keep the story grounded in its relatable, human characters. He captures the outlaw spirit of the Rebel Alliance with their easy-going patter compared to the long winded, technical monologues of the Imperials. Star Wars #1 does have a few flaws in the midst of its space operatic glory, including questionable lightsaber physics, a couple stale in-jokes, and one fight scene shot from an awkward angle, but for the most part it is the perfect mix of a nostalgia trip and a new beginning for the franchise.
Star Wars #1 starts out as a proper homage to the classic Flash Gordon science fiction that inspired it in the first place. Without the brand recognition, this issue starts as a satisfying pulp action romp. It’s a tight paced espionage adventure where anything can (and will) go awry. Almost everyone gets a moment that’s their own. There are scenes of Luke forming into the future Jedi knight, Han Solo into becoming a full-fledged Rebel hero, and C-3PO being the stuffy automaton everyone loves him as. Sadly, the one major player denied any action to make her stand out from the rest. As the leader of the Rebel Alliance, she could use more characterization beyond talking down Han for his cockiness.
John Cassaday’s art work captures the spirit of Star Wars perfectly. With so many iconic characters, clothes, and vehicles, the transition from screen to page adaptation is nothing short of Herculean. Han, Luke, and Leia are all perfect. When given the chance, he makes use of about half a dozen races and they all hit their mark. Unfortunately, Cassaday drops the ball hard on any lightsaber action. The lack of proper motion lines throws the reader out of what should be a big epic moment and kills the story’s pace.
Unfortunately, it’s also about half way through the issue where references to other iconic Star Wars material starts piling up and makes it remind you that it’s Star Wars. The story hits its beats like a fully scripted scene meant to be in one of the films. Despite the hiccups, it’s a satisfying adventure and a welcome return to the galaxy far, far away.