(This essay contains no major plot spoilers for Star Wars #1, but does mention a few characters who appear in the issue and where it falls in the Star Wars timeline.)
The first issue of Marvel’s new Star Wars series arrived with much fanfare last week. Before its release, Marvel announced that the issue had pre-sold more than a million copies, making it the best-selling single comic book issue in nearly 20 years.* With that kind of hype, and the enduring strength of the Star Wars brand, people were interested — even people who aren’t regular comics readers. But the question remained: are the comics any good? Reviews and fan reaction have been almost universally positive. Having now read Star Wars #1 myself, I’d say the answer is yes. In fact, this issue was GREAT.
*It should be noted, however, that any reported sales figures only reflect the number of copies ordered by retailers, not how many actually are sold to customers. There is no central reporting system to show how many issues retailers actually sold and how many are gathering dust on shelves.
Let’s be clear: if you don’t like Star Wars (the original trilogy — liking the prequels is irrelevant), this comic isn’t going to change your mind. But I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since I can remember, even before I was old enough to watch the movies. Star Wars: A New Hope was released when I was six months old, so it’s always been a part of my world. The first pop culture t-shirt I remember owning, at age three or four, was an Empire Strikes Back shirt featuring C-3P0 and R2-D2. I watched a VHS copy of Star Wars almost every day after school when I was a deeply depressed thirteen-year-old, and it saved me repeatedly during some very dark days. The prequel trilogy made me think that maybe my Star Wars fandom was over, but when the trailer for The Force Awakens appeared in November, it all came rushing back to me.
Star Wars #1 captures the original-trilogy feeling perfectly. Writer Jason Aaron is a huge talent and it is clear from page one that he’s a longtime fan. He replicates the characters’ voices so well, it was impossible for me not to hear the actors’ voices in my head while reading their lines. He gets what made the original films so appealing: they’re FUN. My parents have always insisted that Star Wars had such seismic, immediate impact in the culture because before its release, it had been a long time since movies were fun. The good guys — if a movie even had any — rarely won. In Rocky, which arrived about six months before Star Wars, Rocky (spoilers for 1976!) loses the climactic fight but wins a personal, moral victory by “going the distance.” It’s a great, triumphant ending, but he still lost the fight and looks like he was run over by several large trucks. If you wanted to go to the movies to get your mind off your troubles, or take your kids to the movies without dealing with their post-movie existential crisis, the pickings were slim.
But Star Wars was fun, and funny, and left its audience feeling good. It was loaded with great one-liners and memorable, likable characters. Some of them were people you might actually enjoy meeting! Who wouldn’t want to hang out with Chewbacca? I had a general sense that I might like to hold hands with Han Solo. Han Solo is nice to think about. As a kid, I knew I was supposed to identify with Princess Leia because she was the only female character under 50 (and to be fair, Leia was 80 kinds of amazing — the movie’s second-greatest badass, surpassed only by Darth Vader). However, I was a nervous child who already knew way too many facts and was constantly worried about failing or getting into trouble, so I truly identified with C-3P0.
And I laughed a lot of C-3P0’s parts in Star Wars #1. I laughed a lot in general. It’s very funny, and the interplay between the characters is, as it was in the movies, the best thing about the whole enterprise. John Cassaday’s art does a great job of selling the action and bringing the characters to life. There’s one particular panel featuring Chewbacca in action where his fur is rendered so well that it gives a real sense of his size and speed as he is jumping off a… non-spoilery thing.
Speaking of action, my favorite moment in the whole issue is one I won’t describe because the surprise of it is the best part. Suffice it to say, Darth Vader shows up and pulls a move so awesomely badass that I cackled with pure joy. We’ve all seen Vader for a million years now, and especially since we know all about his childhood, it’s easy to take him for granted and forget how dangerous he is. But that’s how you end up like this guy:
So yeah, I loved it. It’s rare that a comic adaptation of a movie or TV show is able to capture the original source’s tone and voice, but Aaron and Cassaday managed to do it as if they had help from some mystical force. (Note: It’s actually due to talent and many years of practice.)
Marvel assigned A-list talent to its three new Star Wars series (which are all set right after the events of A New Hope, and will bridge the gap to The Empire Strikes Back): the flagship title by Aaron and Cassaday; Star Wars: Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, which launches in February and I CAN’T WAIT; and a miniseries launching in March that will focus on Princess Leia, by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson. That miniseries is the first in a series of planned five-issue cycles focusing on various characters in the Star Wars universe. And thanks to the magic of intellectual property rights, since Disney owns both Star Wars and Marvel, all of these series are considered official Star Wars canon.
If you like the original trilogy and are reading a website about comics, there’s a high probability that you’ll like these comics too. As always, may the Force be with you.