January 14th, 2015 is an important date in Star Wars publishing history. It marks the first original Star Wars story created by Marvel Comics since 1987. Written by Jason Aaron and with art by John Cassaday this monthly title will be the flagship book in Marvel’s Star Wars line. So the question is, is this a book worth picking up?
Before I get into dissecting this issue, I should probably say that I am in one of Marvel’s target demographics for this book. I am a huge Star Wars fans who read, subscribed, and collected comic books regularly when I was younger. Now growing up in a small town without a vibrant geek community at the time my comic exposure was very much big name titles at the two major publishers during the 1990’s, Superman, Batman, X-Men and Spider-Man were the titles you would most likely find me reading with an emphasis on Superman and the X-Men. But as life goes on, comic books are one of those things that was laid aside as other interests captured my attention.
One of the obstacles that has kept me from jumping into comic books again as an adult is the brevity of comic book stories. I am a fairly quick reader and single issues of comic books feel more like an appetizer than a meal to me, so for almost the cost of a paperback novel I get much less entertainment time for my money. A similar issue presents itself for the trade and omnibus formats which can be rather expensive for only an evenings entertainment. Another obstacle is the issue of collecting and space, thankfully the advances in digital comics have alleviated that concern and except in rare circumstances the comics I read now are almost exclusively in digital format.
With the announcement of the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, it was plainly obvious that the Star Wars comic book license would be moved to Marvel, the only question was when that would happen. Once we learned that it would be January 2015, I began to prepare myself. Owning an iPad I signed up for Marvel Unlimited, which is Marvel’s back catalog of digital comics. I have been slowly plowing through the Civil War event and really enjoying the experience because with Unlimited I can read until my storytelling appetite is satiated.
I explain all that in order to frame my perspective on comics generally and on this new title specifically and as a way of explaining that I am the consumer that was always going to by this issue. The real question at the center of this review is, whether this issue was good enough to get me to buy the second issue?
Star Wars #1 opens in classic Star Wars fashion with a brief opening crawl and then follows with a classic shot of a ship in space. What unfolds in the story is a classic undercover operation gone wrong staring the main characters from the original trilogy, Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, R2, C-3PO, and Vader are all here.
The art style of Cassaday is not something I am very familiar with, there is a lack of some definition due to what appears to be a relative minimal amount of pencil lines, yet the characters and action is all recognizable. This lack of definition is most obvious in the larger crowd shots featuring the slaves and stormtroopers. Han looks a little chubby in the book but other than that the main character all look to my eye as they should. Cassady does a great job varying his panels from page to page. My highest praise in terms of the art may go to Martin, with a few exceptions she uses a beautiful palette of warm colors for exterior shots and a equally pleasing palette of cool colors for the interior shots. An example of the art from interior pages of the book is available for preview on Starwars.com.
The plot of the book by Aaron is fairly simple, much like Return of the Jedi, our heroes have a stolen ship and are infiltrating an Imperial stronghold under false pretenses. In this case it is the use of one of Jabba’s Tatooine Shuttles is on a mission is to Cymoon 1 to negotiate the providing of raw materials to Weapons Factory Alpha. It appears that the factory is producing TIE fighters and AT-AT and possibly other weapons of war.
We meet a new character in Overser Aggadeen who is in charge of the facility and see the cameos of what appears to be 4-LOM as well as the strange alien merchant from one of the J.J. Abrams Force for Change videos.
To my ear Aaron does a very good job capturing the voice and psychology of the characters of Han, Luke, Leia and Vader. It is easy to say that Han the smuggler is reckless, but Cassaday portrays in a pivotal scene a conservativeness to the character that is sometimes missed. Han doesn’t ignore odds and take wild gambles on whim, but does so when it is the only way out of the situation. In some ways Leia often portrayed as the more controlled and conservative character can be just as reckless as we see in the same scene. Leia is a zealot, she puts cause above self and even above her friends. This is understandable because this is a cause she has been fighting her entire life. The banter between Han and Leia works well, but it is a bud that has not yet blossomed into what we seen in The Empire Strikes Back.
The Luke we see in this issue is curious and impetuous, he is drawn to first help and then towards danger and acts decisively without a great deal of critical thought. The Chewbacca we meet is a pretty awesome, he is in full action hero mode in this book. Threepio and Artoo also make appearances while Artoo’s role is very small, Threepio gets a bit more of the spotlight. Of all the characters Threepio probably feels the most off in terms of voice to me.
When we meet Vader he is in full kick butt mode. This is not the conflicted Vader that we see develop in The Empire Strikes Back and the Return of the Jedi. This Vader is very much the Dark Lord of the Sith and this makes sense because as we see from his dialogue he does not yet have hint of Luke’s true identity.
The one character I really had a problem with was Cassaday’s portrayal of was Overser Aggadeen, who in five panels when from shock to arrogance to fear in such a rapid progression that it did not feel natural. It is as if his character was meant to provide some comic relief in that moment but it didn’t work for me at all.
I don’t want to spoil all the fun of reading the issue but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention in closing two things that caught my attention. First, one of the largest Imperial weapons manufacturing facilities is located in the Corellian Industrial Sector. To me this points to in the new continuity a much firmer Imperial control of Corellia than I was expecting. I am interested to see where this goes. Secondly, Aggadeen rather dismissively equates Moffs with two-bit Hutts. This is curious given the limited number and position of Moffs talked about in the Empire as described in the novel Tarkin. Does Aggadeen hold a supremely high rank so I he considers Moffs below him or perhaps is there some institutional distrust in the military for these politicians?
Overall I think this is a must read issue for Star Wars fans. I really enjoyed my time with Star Wars #1 and I will be back for issue #2 in February. Star Wars #1 is available for purchase now in print and digital editions.
Issue Credits: Jason Aaron (writer), John Cassaday (artist/cover artist), Laura Martin (colorist/cover artist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Charles Beacham (assistant editor) and Jordan D. Whte (editor).