Wednesday, 25 September 2013

New Beginnings - The Star Wars #1

Not to be confused with the ongoing Dark Horse titles, this week’s review is a new title that also has Jedi, an Empire, lightsabers and Sith knights. Confused? Bear with me.

In May 1977, Star Wars Episode IV hit the big screen and began its journey to become the cult favourite story we all know. However as with all films, the end product isn’t necessarily how the original screenplays were designed. This is another fine (albeit a little narcissistic) example of one which has resurfaces almost four decades after its original inception.

J. W. Rinzler has taken the helm on writing this comic adaptation, and his association with the films and LucasArts positions him well within the established lore of the two trilogies.

The parallels between the filmed version of Episode IV and this adaptation of the original screenplay are abundant, but although they share a large amount of common themes, they are two very different stories at the same time.

This first issue is a scene setter for the miniseries and as such introduces a young Annikin Starkiller, who has been raised by his father Kane in the ways of the Jedi-Bendu. Although he has some training and is skilled, it was still not enough to prevent an evil Knight of Sith from cutting his younger brother down. After being rescued by his aforementioned father - himself a fully fledged Jedi-Bendu - they are forced to return home to Aquilae, the last free planetary system. The galaxy is ruled by the Emperor and the Jedi-Bendu are dwindling, hunted down after their rebellion (and thus falling from grace as the Emperor’s personal bodyguards). Violence is sadly the only thing that people seem to recognise or respond to. 

After presenting the reader with the Emperor - and a distinctly non-cybernetic or masked Darth Vader - the fight moves towards Aquilae. Below the surface we see the Rebellion resistance whose numbers bolsters by the Starkillers' arrival. Then the impoverished plea of a father wanting more for his son changes the tone. Annikin’s tutelage has to continue under General Skywalker, as it’s revealed that Kane Starkiller is nothing more than a head and right arm, atop a robot body. He is slowly dying.

With a mysterious object heading for Aquilae, the cliffhanger is set for the end of issue #1...

The artwork (by Mike Mayhew) is a strange affair. Whilst it is full of detail and features some great depictions of reimagined ships and weapons (often heavily based on Ralph McQuarrie's original designs), when re-reading it the thought that George Lucas had passed his eyes over every frame stuck with me. The main characters of Luke and Kane have a distinct Lucas look to them (nice beard) for starters, making it very much feel like Lucas originally cast himself as the heroes. Very much a Mary Sue approach to Star Wars.

The cover is full of nudges and winks to other things. The C-3PO droid screams Metropolis, whilst the Knight of Sith leering over them all has elements of the Orient, with a samurai style face mask. Obvious references to the films such as the Death Star, Cruisers and a rather hairless Chewbacca are there as well. With all this I can’t help wondering how much of this still adheres to Lucas’ original ideas on how it would look.

There is part of me that has enjoyed the twists from what is established as the norm, but at the same time I’m also very aware that this was not the final cut for the screenplay, and there's clearly good reasons as to why it was rewritten! It’s full of powerful dynamics, but in some parts it is weighed down with cheesy cliches. I’m not sure die hard fans will gravitate towards it, and compared to some of the other more original expanded universe Star Wars titles, it definitely feels weaker. One that is only for completists I felt.

Matt Puddy is never in one place for long.

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