Here is my review of The Star Wars by George Lucas, as adapted by J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew in an eight issue Dark Horse Comics series. This review only pertains to the first issue which came out this week on September 4th. It is impossible for me to divorce myself from my past relationship with this script. So I do go on some tangents. I apologize, but they are relevant to my grasp of the material. My future reviews will stick entirely to the issues being reviewed, I hope.
My first read of George Lucas’ first rough draft of The Star Wars was really exciting. It was also really confusing at times, especially with no visual key to take the vague descriptions and make them into something tangible. It wasn’t so much that my imagination wasn’t up to the task. It was. But it almost meant I had to hang on Lucas’ words and really fill in what he was getting at. In other words, it makes it a slow and complicated read. That is not to say it is not rewarding. It is. I would even say it is actually a good read. The true value in Rinzler’s adaptation is that it makes Lucas’ script viable as a quick read. All of Lucas’ intentions are relayed by Rinzler with the best of intentions and approved by George Lucas himself. This comic book is a very respectable stab at making Lucas’ 1974 vision into a tangible piece of fiction for general audiences.
The prequels were still a few years away when I first got my copy of the script in 1997. I sat there in the garage where my band rehearsed and read the first few drafts numerous times. I had poured over the Star Wars Annotated Screenplays by Laurent Bouzereau like a religious zealot during that time. Maybe… just maybe… the new Star Wars film would be based on that script. Or perhaps recycled elements would show up. It seems a bit silly today. But if I had a script for the Sequel Trilogy from back in the day, with Episode VII on the horizon, I would probably read it in the same veracious fashion.
The best part about J.W. Rinzler getting permission from George Lucas to produce that script as a comic book is we finally get some visual representation of what it might have looked like, how it might have flowed, and most of all, it puts a face to the characters, which on the page are really open to interpretation. Rinzler and artist Mike Mayhew’s interpretations are essentially that rough draft with a dash of Ralph McQuarrie aestheticism put in for good measure.
Did I like the comic adaption of the first few pages of Lucas’ rough draft? No. I loved it. I loved it a lot. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the lame fake out, but it was really awesome and something I’ve wanted for years. The art is beautiful. The humans in the story look like humans, not cartoon characters. It really feels like they cast those roles. The architecture is as beautiful as anything you might see in The Phantom Menace. You can see Lucas’ characters and imagine what the real actor would have looked like for the first time. It captures the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon undercurrents Lucas was apparently going for, and remained an undercurrent in all six Star Wars films.
In a hotel room in 1999, Randy Lo Gudice (who does Now, This is Podcasting! with me) and I read the novel to The Phantom Menace after long days at Star Wars Celebration I. We would read a chapter or two and then discuss what we had read. Randy asked if I had noticed anything from the original scripts I had read and talked about for all those years before that time. I replied that mostly just names seemed to come up. But one scene in The Phantom Menace novel and the film did seem like it might have sprang to life from a sequence in that script.
In the film, the good guys, Qui-Gon and Anakin are approaching Queen Amidala’s ship hidden on the outskirts of Mos Espa when a phantom jumps out of nowhere and attacks the heroes. Qui-Gon shouts “Anakin, drop!” and he does. Well, in the script, or I should say, in the new The Star Wars comic, that sequence might be depicted in an early form. Annikin Starkiller and his younger brother Deak stakeout a ship as their father Kane attempts to draw out a Sith attacker. The Sith however, springs out of nowhere, killing Deak before Annikin slays the Sith (notably by cutting him in half just like Darth Maul). Is there a relationship between the rough draft and what we saw on screen? I can’t say. But it is fun to draw and extrapolate on such sequences. The first issue of the comic brings those types of sequences to life in a compelling manner.
There are little things that do kind of annoy me about the visuals at times. For instance, the Starfighters flown in the first issue are tiny wedge Star Destroyer looking fighters. Rinzler and Mayhew just shrink down a Star Destroyer. They look like parade floats. It looks really dopey and nothing like what I imagined when I read the script. I actually imagined something much closer to what we saw with the Jedi Starfighters in Attack of the Clones, which is probably the first reiteration of that idea. Does it break the comic? Not at all. But I do think taking the Jedi Starfighter and giving it a Buck Rogers once over would have been a better way to go. Thankfully they do reverse engineer the Trade Federation Tanks for the series and do a good job of representing those faithfully within their aesthetic trajectory.
I understand the media coverage needs to be sensational. I get it. Han Solo is a green alien. We get it. But is it really Han Solo? For the most part, in name only is that Han Solo in the most general sense. There is also an attempt to make it seem as if characters evolved from the craziest of places into what they became. In doing so, I feel huge portions of the creative process are obscured. The vast majority of the time, the characters did not evolve, new characters simply took on old abandoned character’s names. It is a great marketing approach but it does kind of annoy me. For instance, the name Tarkin is used arbitrarily in this story. It doesn’t mean Tarkin used to be something else and that was a different vision for Peter Cushing. It simply means the name was made up and applied to someone and then reapplied to someone else later on.
I don’t intend to spoil the first issue anymore than I already have (sorry Deak fans). But I do love it. It is a must read. The graphic novel for it down the road will be a must own book. I really hope the graphic novel contains the script, officially published. My complaints are very few and very minor. The art is beautiful. The storytelling is handled with the utmost respect. The comic book is worth every bit of your time. The notes at the end are also a good read and the concept art is presented in a very nice way at the end as well. I can say without any hyperbole that this is an important comic book series and I cannot recommend it enough. It is a lifelong want come to fruition. I cannot wait for issue two next month.
Great job J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew and good job Dark Horse for standing by this project!