Star Wars is the main title of Marvel’s new Star Wars Comic line. This comic is officially canon and takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
The story focuses on the three main characters of Luke, Leia, and Han. Luke has been told he is a Jedi, but there is no one to train him on how to become a Jedi. Luke is on a hero’s journey and this shows him truly struggling with his new found but unfocused powers. Like Empire, he quickly separates himself from the other two main characters to find himself (which isn’t as hokey as it sounds).
The first 12 issues can be divided into two (actually three) stories. Issues 1-7 are entitled Skywalker Strikes and focuses on an attack on a weapons plant for the empire. The story begins with a great action sequence that shows our heroes survive a lot on luck and that Vader is one of the most powerful beings in any universe. Luke knows what he should do, but he struggles in being able to do it. After the first battle he makes his way to Tatooine and has his first encounter with Boba Fett. Han is his overconfident self, but in this story arc, he for the first time allows himself to be known to the Empire. He already has a price on his head from the Hutts but now he will be wanted by the Empire. In other words, his transition from loner to selfless hero is gaining momentum. Leia is brains of the operations, but also a gambler. She wants to push the rebellion on the offensive, something it literally can not do. The last issue of this story arc is an outlier in that it show what Kenobi was doing while Luke was a child. I would love to see more stories like this where Kenobi is a shadowy figure guiding the young Luke in his own way. There are so many Star Wars titles now they may have already done this.
In the next five issues, entitled Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon, we see Luke continue his journey, Han is “married” and his ex-wife pays him a visit, Chewbacca prove yet again why he is the best best friend in the Star Wars Universe, and a Hutt that has very large interest in the history of the Jedi. In other words, the story starts to expand in scope. New characters are introduced. However, what stays the same and what gives this story it’s power, is that Vader knows who Luke is now and is searching for him with a fury. The fact that Luke doesn’t know, but we do, gives this story a dramatic tension that sustains it throughout.
Jason Aaron is the author for Star Wars and this must be a daunting task. Unlike the Vader and Leia books, he can’t focus on a single character with a single story arc. He has to be in charge of the larger universe with different characters having their own arcs. Plus, he needs to work in concert with the other titles to make sure the universe stays coherent. Aaron wisely focuses on Luke to be the main story thread with all other threads unraveling from his. Let’s fact it, Luke whines a lot in the first movie, but here we start to see some maturity the first movie never allowed him to show. The first movie doesn’t treat Luke well (he never grieves for his aunt and uncle), but Aaron makes his uncertainty about his future and his powers a strength. As one character refers to him, he “is more brave than wise.” He is also knows his limitations. This makes Luke extremely likable and you want to root for him. Han’s story, is a little clunky and forced, for my taste. Then again, I’m not sure any Star Wars film has truly handled love stories all that successfully. Vader, whose first 12 issues takes place at the same time as these issues, is the shadowy menacing villain of the movies. Overall, I think Skywalker Strikes is more successful than Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon, but Smuggler’s Moon does have some excellent action sequences.
Artwork was split among three artists during this run. John Cassaday handles the first six. His final images of the series, in which Vader discovers the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, is hauntingly good. He handles the early action scenes well especially since there are large numbers of stormtroopers. Simone Bianchi does the Kenobi offshoot and makes it fit in with the other issues yet be distinctive at the same time. Stuart Immonen handles the multitude of characters thrown at him in the Smugglers arc. Even with three different artists, the artwork remains consistently good throughout. Laura Martin and Justin Ponsor handle the coloring throughout. Their palette is bright when it needs to be and dark when called for. The Kenobi book, colored by Martin, is the most striking in the series as it looks a little more watercolored, probably to give it a flashback feel.
Overall, I think the character focused books are better. Aaron is fantastic and is doing great work, but it is a lot of stories to juggle. The beauty of having comics focus on specific characters it allows for the one thing the movies never did – character development. While Aaron has more freedom than the movies do in this regard, he still needs to have action to keep the story going. I also find his handling of Han and Leia to be clunky and a speed bump for the overall handling of the story. When the story focuses on Luke, it does shine.
Now don’t get me wrong, Star Wars is a fantastic comic, one that should make Marvel and Star Wars proud. When I reread it by itself it was gripping and fun. However, for my first read I alternated between it and the Darth Vader series and found myself reading Star Wars quicker while I savored the Vader series.