Star Wars #1, the beginning of the new ongoing series from Marvel, hit shelves on January 1st, just a couple of weeks after the release of The Rise of Skywalker in theaters. And if you’re feeling sad about the end of the Skywalker saga, this comic is a good way to dive back into it at a different point in time. It takes place just after the events of The Empire Strikes Back: Lando Calrissian just betrayed the rebellion to Vader, Han Solo is trapped in carbonite, and Luke is newly missing his hand.
Star Wars #1
Clayton Cowles (letterer), Arif Prianto (colorist), Jesús Saiz (artist & colorist), Charles Soule (writer)
January 1st, 2020
The message is clear: unlike a lot of the new Star Wars media that focuses on the characters from the new trilogy, this is a story meant to trigger our nostalgia for the old Star Wars stories. It sets the scene for that immediately. After the opening scroll (which a great way to set the scene for a story, even in print format), the first thing we see is a flashback to the famous scene between Vader and Luke, his hand still holding his lightsaber, plummeting down into a seemingly bottomless pit—replaying it for us, as Luke is replaying it over and over in his mind. We see a Luke Skywalker who is dealing with intense trauma, grieving the death of his friend and desperately grappling with finding out new information about himself that shook his belief in everything he thought he knew. And of course it did! In Return of the Jedi, we see a Luke Skywalker who has already had a chance to do a lot of processing and learning. We know he comes out of it strong and capable, but it feels very real to watch him struggle with grief that’s still fresh.
I’ll admit it: I was a little worried that this comic would feel like fan service, capitalizing on the dose of nostalgia many fans want after the new movies, without delivering much substance. But actually, Star Wars #1 just feels like good, classic Star Wars stuff. All our favorite characters are there, and they’re all in top form, with snappy dialogue that really feels like the rebels we know and love. (Han Solo is an obvious exception, but here’s my hot take—I don’t like Han Solo and it’s a plus for me that he’s not in it. Don’t @ me.) Leia is a particular standout; I love the way it highlights how deeply important she is to the rebellion, both as a source of hope in trying times and as a courageous commander who never gives up. Her banter with Lando is impeccable, and sets up what may be a primary theme of the series—the tension between an inclination towards self-preservation, represented by Lando, and a principled belief in something bigger than oneself, personified by Leia.
The only major new character is the primary Empire baddie, Commander Zahra, but she follows the template of what an Imperial officer should be like so well that she kind of feels like classic Star Wars stuff too. Right off the bat, she’s established as a tactical mastermind; cold, efficient and utterly ruthless. It’s a template because it’s an effective way to portray fascistic villains, and I can see Zahra being an interesting foil to the rebellion, although I’m curious if we’ll find more about her that will make her feel like a more fleshed-out character. (Her star destroyer is called Tarkin’s Will, which is fan service, but I’m okay with it.)
And fans of the new trilogy don’t get completely left out either. There’s also a cameo from Kes Dameron and Shara Bey, the parents of Poe Dameron and main characters in the 2015 comic series Shattered Empire. While they don’t get a lot of screen time in this first issue, I’m hoping we’ll see more from them and their rebel friends. I love when individual rebels get fleshed out and we can see what the Rebel Alliance really means to different people, and the depiction of them stewing in their anxiety inside their ship during the firefight felt very real. Lots of people die during these battles, they should be stressed!
In addition to a compelling story, Jesús Saiz’s art is excellent throughout. The characters are incredibly expressive and the emotion in their faces is, at times, truly poignant. The science-fiction aspects, particularly the interiors and exteriors of ships, are super detailed and look great. The colors perfectly complement the action—bright and vibrant during the actions scenes, shadowy and mysterious during more dramatic moments. I’m normally not a fan of big space battle scenes in comics because I don’t think it’s a great medium to express that kind of action, but here it’s a particular triumph. Saiz does an excellent job conveying the feeling of movement, and his use of perspective really gives the impression of a large scale battle, with different clusters of ships having their own individual little dogfights all across the sky; I haven’t seen many artists achieve that effect this well.
Overall, it can be difficult to tell compelling stories that have to fit seamlessly into an already well established canon, and I think Star Wars #1 really hit the mark. There are lots of great plot threads introduced in the first issue: a grieving not-quite-Jedi grappling both with his trauma and with his budding Force powers, a powerful princess and all the brave rebels who rely on her, and a cunning enemy who still has everything to prove if she wants to impress Lord Vader himself. Personally, I think it will particularly shine if it focuses on the internal workings of the rebellion, but in any case, I’m looking forward to see where it goes as an ongoing series!