Review: Star Wars #1

Star Wars #1


From the off Star Wars #1 impresses me as a package. Not the cover (in any of the thousands of variants), so much as the text-only pages. This is my first ever Star Wars comic, so maybe it has been standard all along to do the recap as a scroll - maybe that's what Dark Horse had been doing. But I doubt it. Every little detail has been sweated over.

Big details matter too. The biggest detail in a licensed comic - a bigger detail to me even than the story - is the likenesses. Plenty of good artists can't do them. Plenty of bad artists can sort of do them well enough to get the gig, but then resort to drawing characters with the right build and hair but no facial resemblance whatsoever. John Cassaday (art) and Laura Martin (colours) are about at the right place. Close-ups are good likenesses, managing a trick of looking like the character without necessarily looking like the actor. In all sorts of poses, with all sorts of expressions and in all sorts of lighting conditions. They'd never pass as portraits, but that's not what they're for. They're to make us believe that it is Carrie Fisher as Leia in this comic. And they work, with any puffiness clearly part of Cassaday's style.

Getting faces right is only part of the tough art gig that is the Star Wars comic, mind. There's also the tech. Cassady, with his background in Planetary, pulls this off splendidly, from the Correllian moon that is the setting of the issue, which feels immediately Star Wars-like and yet also distinct enough not to be mistaken for Coruscant for a moment. There's a familiar bevvy of spaceships, as well, from the period-appropriate Star Destroyers and TIE Fighters. (I would hope not to see anything other than Fighters and Bombers, here, going by my deeply-embedded knowledge of spaceships derived from X-Wing, TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance, three of the half-dozen half-decent Star Wars games).

I suppose it's time to pay a little attention to the writing now. This is an underlooked technical art that nobody really mentions in comics reviews, and if they do it's usually in a paragraph right at the end. The comic certainly had words, and as far as I can tell none of them were mis-spelt, although you can never be sure with so many made-up words as Star Wars has, words like "Tatooine", "Jabba" and "Millennium". Some of them were funny, and this was consistent enough to make me think the writer (Jason Aaron) may have done this deliberately. Action was fun, and the characterisation was spot-on; it really does pick up the emotional arcs straight from the end of the first film. It must be difficult to work in this space; to try and make an interval interesting. Prequels are rarely worthwhile; a prequel to one thing and a sequel to another, ouch.

The gap it's in is only there because of something else that happened, involving the c-word. One of these days, I'll write my "canon considered harmful" rant, but in case you didn't know, there was already a large, and consistent (if you squinted at it in a good light during a full moon) body of tie-in material called the "Expanded Universe". This was swept away last year, not because of Disney, but as it was always going to be if there would be sequel films. This comic is therefore the first to be free of the burden of complying with 40 years worth of another c-word, cruft.

Star Wars #1 is everything I was expecting from a Star Wars comic. But it's not going to sell you on Star Wars. It certainly bodes well for Star Wars: Darth Vader, which, I must admit, has sounded more interesting to me from well before day one, and might pick up some non-fans.