Wednesday, September 4, 2013

THE STAR WARS #1 (review)

Review by Tony Pacitti
The Star Wars #1 (of 8)
Writer: J. W. Rinzler 
Artist: Mike Mayhew 
Colorist:  Rain Beredo, Brad Anderson 
Cover Artist: Nick Runge 
Published by Dark Horse Comics

It’s an interesting time to be a Star Wars fan.

The brain trust at Disney/Lucasfilm have declared that one era of looking back has ended and another has begun.

Goodbye prequels, hello nostalgia.

Episode VII is science-fiction-fact.  Rumors abound that all of the OT OG’s are coming back, whether you want them to or not, and in a move that must have Kodak excited it’s going to be shot on film.

The Clone Wars was cancelled and replaced almost immediately with the upcoming Rebels—formerly code-named “Star Wars—Relax Old Nerds: We get it!”—set firmly in the era of Star Wars that your bitter uncles prefer.

Cautious curiosity is the way to approach all new projects as far as I’m concerned, yet of all of the new announcements, tie-ins, cross-promotions or flat out nostalgia-grabbing exploitations on the horizon, the one thing I’ve been genuinely intrigued by is Dark Horse’s new mini-series The Star Wars.

Based off of Lucas’ original first draft of what eventually became Star Wars and scripted by J.W. Rinzler, that archive scouring mad man behind the unbelievably hefty and crucial Making of Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back tomes, The Star Wars looks back not to tell the story of characters we know from before we knew them, but to tell an alternate universe “What if…” story about the Starkiller family and a Luke Skywalker like you’ve never seen him.

Artist Mike Mayhew brings the galaxy to life in ways that fans who have drooled over the late Ralph McQuarrie’s paintings have only dreamed of. The Starkiller clan is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever flipped through McQuarrie’s work, as are certain ships and on the whole the world reflects that perfect balance between concept art and the final set and costume design as scene in the first two films.

There is a lot of familiar blended with a lot of strange and new. There is a Luke Skywalker, but here he’s filling the Ben Kenobi role. There is a Princess Leia, but here she’s much more of a vulnerable teen than the spunky senator we know and love. Darth Vader is exactly as you remember him from the neck down, but in the place of his iconic helmet is a handsome, square jawed Nazi looking villain with red Sithy eyes, and the Emperor looks like a cross between Ming the Merciless and Sinestro.

There are talks of treaties and trade routes, a family is attacked and broken by an Empire and set on a journey to change the galaxy. A character is more machine than man. The Jedi are outlaws and have been all but wiped out and a large “comet or asteroid” heading towards a Rebel stronghold can only be one thing.  

The story resembles key parts of The Phantom Menace, Revenge of the Sith, and A New Hope all scrambled up together.

Anyone who has read Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars or seen early drafts of Lucas’ space opera will be familiar with a lot of the concepts in this comic. This comic is proof-positive that the original trilogy was built off of the more exciting plot points, leaving long winded, boring scraps to be stretched over the three prequels. This comic sells the idea of intergalactic politicking and trade debates so long as they’re mixed in with characters who are worth a damn and more driving action.

By using all the good stuff for episodes IV, V, and VI he left himself little to work with by the time he got around to making The Phantom Menace.

I’m not saying it’s a good excuse. I’m just saying.

Certain outside influences are hard to ignore now that we’re seeing his original idea fleshed out. The desert world from Dune obviously made the final cut, but the way politics work and a particularly Harkonen-like ugly really hit the Herbert influence home.

Again, the Ming the Merciless look to the Emperor is no accident since he was trying to ape the old serials from his youth. Other goodies include some subtle nods to unused or altered elements from the movie that did get made—a deleted scene human version of Jabba the Hutt complete with big goofy fur coat here, a Sith with mask that looks like it was straight out of feudal Japan there.

I haven’t expected anything from Star Wars in a long time, and certainly never thought that looking backwards was the way to go, but I guess they hadn’t been looking back far enough. It also helps that this isn’t canon. It’s simply playtime, a bit of make believe from someone who loves this stuff enough to know that there isn’t any harm in looking at how it could have been if only. It’s like pulling the curtain back on the wizard and finding something a bit unwieldy, sort of stuffy and too ambitious, but there’s greatness if it just focuses.

 A New Hope was “Point B” and now someone’s trying to shed some light on “Point A.”

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