Review: The Star Wars #3

It’s a Desert Ambush as the cover proclaims in Issue #3 of The Star Wars, out in comic book stores today.  Jonathan Rinzler and Mike Mayhew continue to adapt the original draft of A New Hope in an action packed issue with more sass than you could possibly imagine.  (And hey, I can imagine quite a lot.)

Darth Vader searches for the royal family of Aquilae, hoping to complete the Empire’s victory and a new player joins the search: Prince Valorum; a Knight of the Sith.  Meanwhile, See Threepio and Artwo Detwo disagree about how to handle being stranded in the Dune Sea only to both end up being found by Annikan and Leia as they hurry back to the hidden fortress to the Palace of Lite.  With the King dead, Leia is now the true Queen of Aquilae but for her safety, Queen Breha orders General Skywalker to take Leia and her younger brothers to the Ophuchi system.  But first, they must get safely past the Empire’s army on planet.

For an issue that starts with the droids being stranded in the desert, this issue certainly isn’t lacking for action and goes by so quickly that readers will likely find themselves surprised when they reach the last page so soon.  Rinzler definitely knows how to keep readers coming back for more.  The weirdness of how some of the names are spelled has yet to wear off and I suspect I’ll never be able to type Artwo correctly on the first try but the weirdness is honestly a part of the book’s charm.  It’s difficult to find a reason to complain about Rinzler’s grasp of dialogue and pacing.  Again, his use of lines from the film invokes smiles instead of eye rolls and that is absolutely a good thing.

One of the best things about this particular issue was the banter between different pairs of characters.  To put it simply: the sass levels were off the charts.  I frequently found myself chuckling at Artwo’s lines and downright laughing when Threepio puts an end to the argument.  This version of Princess Leia continues to take none of anyone’s crap.  Some things stay true no matter what alternate universe they are in.  She also has quite the mind for retaliation tactics.

I’m also still not over Mike Mayhew’s artwork.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  Mayhew also continues to excel at costume design.  The official royal regalia that Princess Leia and Queen Breha wear in the throne room are truly magnificent.  I haven’t the faintest idea how Leia can sit with that headdress much less stand but wow does it have a visual impact.  Another strength of Mayhew’s artwork is the facial expressions of the characters.  At times, it feels like some of the panels don’t even need the dialogue bubbles for the words to get across.

The Star Wars #3 has elevated this book from a ‘pick this book up if you’re intrigued by the concept’ to ‘you should definitely give this book a try’ so run out and go find the first three issues!

Review: The Star Wars #2

The Empire Strikes in the second issue of The Star Wars as Jonathan Rinzler and Mike Mayhew continue to tell and adapt the story of George Lucas’s original draft.

That’s no moon that’s rapidly approaching the planet of Aquilae.  The Empire has made its move and now General Luke Skywalker is scrambling to get the war codes from King Kayos so he can mount a proper defense.  Meanwhile, Annikin Starkiller is sent to retrieve the recently departed Princess Leia and bring her back safely from school.  General Darth Vader presses the Empire’s attack and things are not looking well for Aquilae or for two familiar looking droids who’ve found themselves in the middle of the space battle.

One of the things that makes this book fun is how Rinzler isn’t afraid toss in a familiar iconic line or at least an incredibly strong allusion to one.  The story feels distinctly different enough from the A New Hope we all know and love that the sly little nods are a nice little tie back instead of feeling groan worthy.  We also get to see snippets of scenes that survived from the rough draft into the final film which are another element that helps readers remember that this is a sort of alternative universe Star Wars.  Overall, Rinzler’s writing is a definite check mark in the positives column.

Mike Mayhew continues to be the perfect choice to draw this book.  His clean lines and overall art style give that slightly retro feel to it.  It meshes well with its status as the adaptation of a rough draft.  The costume design is also quite fabulous.  In particular, General Skywalker’s uniform stands out. It’s not terribly similar to the Jedi robes but still manages to have a similar feel while looking cool.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a cosplayer or two sporting the look at future conventions.  Leia’s outfit is another standout with a corset element to her look that almost feels like a steampunk influence but still fits with the overall outfit to give off that ‘Princess of Aquilae at her university’ vibe.  There is nothing negative that I could possibly say about this art.

The characters are definitely one of the most intriguing aspects of the book though.  We’re only two issues in and I’m already finding myself to be quite fond of this older Jedi General version of Luke Skywalker.  He’s definitely not a farmboy but rather an established and respected leader.  Princess Leia is perhaps the least changed from the films and is her usual stubborn yet sassy self and is a nice thread of continuity.  On the other hand, we have Annikin Starkiller who is, for a lack of a better term, infuriating.  His people skills seem to be a bit… ahhh… questionable.

Above all though, it was fun to see Threepio and Artoo for the first time.  It’s really quite strange seeing Artoo with dialogue instead of beeps and deets.  We seem to be heading towards a part of the story that we’re more familiar with so I look forward to seeing how their part in the story changes with no Obi-Wan Kenobi and no farmboy Luke Skywalker to carry the story along.

Again, I recommend picking up this book if the concept even remotely intrigues you.  Rinzler and Mayhew are making it worth it.  (And hey: if you needed another reason, context clues indicated that we’ll be meeting Han Solo soon.)

Review: The Star Wars #1

This is not your father’s Star Wars: it’s your alternative red-tinged universe’s father’s Star Wars.  The Star Wars has taken George Lucas’s original rough draft screenplay of A New Hope and has been translated into a comic by writer J.W. Rinzler and artist Mike Mayhew.  The names are similar and so is the basic galaxy but otherwise, this is absolutely a different story.

It is a somewhat familiar tale at the start: the Jedi-Bendu are all but extinct as the Knights of Sith hunt them down for being enemies of the New Empire.  Jedi Kane Starkiller and his two sons are on the run while the Emperor announces to defeat the last frontier and conqueror the final refuge for the Jedi: the Aquilaean system.  King Kayos of Aquilas prepares for war along with General Skywalker.  In the midst of all this, the Princess Leia leaves the palace for her studies and Starkiller arrives on Aquilas with a plea to Skywalker.

This first issue is very much about exposition and establishing this alternative universe and yet it never feels boring.  If nothing else, the familiar names and places that continuously pop up in different ways than fans know them will definitely keep readers intrigued.  The elements and archetypes are familiar but they’re put together in a completely different order.  I’m actually mostly unfamiliar with the original script aside from the basics but Rinzler has definitely done a good job with his translation.  He manages to make you care about some of these new characters in just a few short pages and to hook your interest by the final page.

The artwork by Mike Mayhew with colors by Rain Beredo is a perfect fit for the story.  It gives it that very classic and almost retro feel while still being dynamic.  Seeing all the visual changes and tweaks from the original script is fascinating.  Characters like the stormtroopers and Darth Vader and ships like the Star Destroyers look both familiar and yet quite different.  It helps establish the story as being in its own universe and they even include a few pages in the back with sketches and commentary on “redesigning a universe.”  Princess Leia will still look familiar to readers with her double hair buns while characters like Darth Vader present more of a mental what if? scenario.

At the end of the day, The Star Wars is a visual treat with a “new” twist on a story we all know so well.  Is it essential reading for all Star Wars fans?  No.  Was the first issue enjoyable and does it warrant a read if you’re even the least bit intrigued?  Absolutely.