Star Wars 1

Alternating Currents: Star Wars 1, Drew and Taylor

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Star Wars 1, originally released January 14th, 2015.

Drew: I was eight years old when Michael Crichton’s The Lost World was published. I hadn’t read Jurassic Park (reminder: I was eight), but I LOVED the movie. Nothing, not even my reading level, could stop me from consuming this new tale of genetically resurrected dinos, so I convinced my parents to get me the book on tape. When the film adaptation came out in 1997, it was my first experience seeing a movie based on a text I was already familiar with. There were substantial changes to the plot, but I didn’t care — the draw for me was dinosaurs, and the movie definitely delivered. I was similarly undaunted by the streamlining of the plot in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations — the draw here was a heroes journey set in a lushly detailed fantasy world.

It wasn’t until Zack Snyder’s Watchmen that I was first apprehensive about a film adaptation — the draw for me was no longer the plot or specific characters, but the medium of the story itself. A film couldn’t hope to capture the formal elements specific to comics that makes Watchmen such an achievement. I find myself confronted with these questions as I think about Marvel’s new Star Wars series (my first foray into any non-film explorations of the universe) — what is the draw for Star Wars? Is it the space operatics? The characters? The actors that play them? The thrilling John Williams score? It turns out, my answer may be “all of the above,” but that doesn’t stop this issue from being a largely successful translation of the Star Wars universe onto the page.

The issue opens with a self-indulgent — if entirely understandible — simulation of the signature Star Wars opening title crawl. It’s a lot of pages to burn on preamble — what amounts to the opening seconds of any Star Wars film — but with an oversized issue, it doesn’t really take up any storytelling space, and it sure feels right. Actually, setting that tone may have been the biggest hurdle this issue had for making this feel like a Star Wars story — John Cassaday delivers some canny likenesses of the cast, and Jason Aaron slips in enough near-catchphrases to hear every line in the appropriate actor’s voice. That really just leaves a suitably Star Wars-y plot to make this feel like a lost film.

Aaron delivers, but again, largely by cannibalizing the films. The rebel plan to pose as friendlies in order to blow up an important Imperial installation is straight out of Return of the Jedi, but I’m mostly struck at how much this feels like Empire Strikes Back. Luke’s force powers are growing, the Millenium Falcon pretends to be garbage (and behaves like garbage even when it isn’t), and Han and Leia antagonize one another like a couple of schoolkids. This issue is set between the events of A New Hope and Empire, so it makes sense that it might presage some of the events there, though by issue end, some of that nostalgia is yielding diminishing returns.

In particular, I’m a bit disappointed by the closing standoff between Luke and Vader.

"Luke, I am your -- sorry, got something caught in my throat there."

It’s not that that’s not a jaw-dropping, fist-pumping moment — on the issue’s own terms, that’s a hell of a cliffhanger — but, as a part of the established canon of the films, I’m not sure it really works. Wouldn’t this rob the climactic lightsaber battle at the end of Empire some of its weight as the first confrontation between Luke and Vader? Granted, we don’t know how this ends — maybe Luke just runs away, maybe Vader just learns his name, maybe this is just some kind of force vision, and Vader is still outside — but this calls into question one of the stickier, and unfortunately, less interesting questions that face this series: what is its relationship to the movies? Are they both canon to one another?

That may sound like a dumb question if you think the answer is “yes,” but I honestly think that answer makes this issue less interesting. It’s so obviously inspired by Empire — even down to specific lines — that it feels kind of redundant in a world where both exist. I may need to resort to some serious fanon to make this all work in my head, but I actually enjoy this issue much better if I just pretend that Empire was never made — or at least hasn’t been made yet. Without that, any scene between Luke and Vader is going to need some follow up where Vader kicks himself for not telling Luke about his true parentage.

Obviously, this issue wasn’t intended for that kind of intense fanon, which leaves the proceedings with a thick layer of dramatic irony — we roll our eyes especially hard when Han and Leia fight, because we know they’ll end up together in the end, for example. Dramatic irony isn’t my favorite narrative device, but when you think about it, all of our experiences with Star Wars are colored by knowing how it ends (you know, unless you’ve only seen the films once, which would be INSANE). In that way, Han and Leia fighting here is really no different from when they do it in A New Hope.

What do you make of that reading, Taylor? That our knowing the end might now be a definitive element of the Star Wars fan experience? I’m not totally sold on it yet, but it certainly makes me think of the familiar elements here a bit more fondly.

Taylor: That’s an excellent question Drew, especially for people of our generation and younger. I know I can’t speak for everyone our age, but who doesn’t know that Darth Vader is Luke’s father by now? We live in a world where practically all aspects of the original trilogy have been so suffused in our culture that anything involving Star Wars damn well better make reference to it. That being said, knowing just how the trilogy plays out means writers have to tread carefully when playing in the Star Wars universe. Either it can turn out wonderfully or or poorly.

So how does this issue perform? I would say somewhere squarely in-between. I’m not sure I enjoyed this issue as much as you did Drew and the reason essentially boils down to the above problem. Being one who knows his original trilogy well (as are you, no doubt), I recognize when Jason Aaron is giving a nod to the original trilogy. We see this happen many times throughout the issue in moments like this:

This isn't the reference you're looking for...

We all know the phrase “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” from A New Hope. Aaron here puts a spin on the old saying with the knowledge that any Star Wars fan worth their salt will recognize it. While I can appreciate this reference to the first movie, I feel like I’m being pandered too. It feels like an attempt to show continuity between the two mediums by using a well known line as opposed to having events or characters dictate the similarities between the two.

Indeed, the Luke of this issue doesn’t ring true to the Luke of the movies in any way. Shortly after his failed mind-trick shown above, Luke replies to the guard’s warning about not drawing his gun by  stating “won’t reach for his blaster.” Again, we all know what he means here — here’s going to whip out his lightsaber. However, this quip doesn’t seem like something the earnest and serious minded Luke of the movies would say. A line such as this seems more at home in the mouth of Han.

However, where Aaron maybe shows a bit too much of his cards, Cassaday saves the day with some subtle and pleasing nods to the original series. Much of this is quite subtle and can be detected in the design of the environments and the ships in use. In particular, I appreciated the design of the Tattoine Shuttle our heroes use to infiltrate the Imperial weapons factory.

Cruiser abuser

Those who have seen Return of the Jedi will surely see something recognizable in that shuttle. The design is quite similar (if not almost identical to) Jabba’s Sail Barge.

E6S-KEY-122_R_1000

The slanted front, the tail fins, and the color scheme are essentially all one in the same. It’s the type of thing your one-time-Jedi-watcher might easily overlook, but for those who have an intimate familiarity with the movies the similarity is immediately apparent. This is a clever and fun way to show the connection between this issue and the movies that’s frankly just pleasing. It seems like a more honest way of acknowledging the Star Wars universe than simply cashing in on some well-worn dialogue.

One last thing: did anyone notice the big ol’ Disney logo at the end of the issue on the credits page? It was pretty startling to see that logo slapped on there instead of 20th Century Fox. Whether that’s nostalgia coming into play or a comment on our modern day society I’m not sure, but it sure is different, right?

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

13 comments on “Star Wars 1

  1. I gotta say, I’d forgotten how much I like Star Wars until I started this issue and got to those opening pages recreating the credits. It put the biggest, dumbest grin on my face.

    I don’t know if this issue does much new or original with the franchise, but in terms of recreating the feeling of first watching and falling in love with those films, I give it an A+

    • I’m smitten with it. I mean, not too long ago I actually bought a few Marvel comics proper just to get those rare John Cassaday interiors, so having him on a Star Wars book instead is an absolute win/win for me. My eyes just drank in these pages. And we got to spend such little time with these characters originally (less than 8 hours total), that I don’t care in the least that canon is dictating outcomes. Having these characters interacting again, in a visual medium, where they actually look and feel like the characters from the films is priceless to me. So many moments here; the AT-AT walker bit, the beautiful, cinematic quality to Luke severing the slaver’s hand with his lightsaber, and indeed that opening title splash page… This is the best Star Wars comic experience I’ve ever had, and I greatly anticipate the next issue. For my money, this blows Dark Horse’s A-list last hurrah push with Brian Wood right out of the water. In short, I love it.

  2. I’m a bit older than you guys. I saw Star Wars on film at my library in the summer of ’77. I saw Empire multiple times in the summer of ’80 (I saw it opening weekend with my mom, my best friend, and his mom. It was life changing.). Jedi in ’83 was right before 8th grade and I remember how hot that summer was, and every day it was too hot to be outside, we spent our allowance to go see Return of the Jedi.

    We had (and have) an original Millenium Falcon, all the original action figures (with the little slide out light sabers out of their hands), and so on. I don’t believe there has been anything like it ever as far as growing up, having Star Wars grow into existence from my age 7 to 13. I’ve read probably 50 of the books, tons of the comics. . .

    and on page 3 or 4 when Han Solo walks down off the ship as Jabba’s envoy, and then I was interrupted because dinner was ready and I had to wait 25 minutes to read it, I don’t think anything has brought me back to 1980 like that since 1980. To me, this was as good of a job of bringing back the feeling of the original (although a lot of it felt more Jedi to me than Empire with Luke’s swashbuckling ways and the aforementioned ship that looked like the ship above the Sarlacc Pit) as anything I’ve seen or read.

    Loved this comic. Completely. I thought the art was great, the story was familiar yet new (and it has to be familiar in issue one. It has to), and the voices of the characters sounded like what I remembered. The only one I had an issue with was Threepio – he seemed off to me, but he was off screen so it was a bit hard.

    I thought this was awesome. I can’t wait for more.

    • I always know that previous experience with a franchise (especially experiences from childhood) are going to color reader’s experiences in pretty profound ways, but I think I’ve been discounting it a little bit. I was born in 82 – so the only movie that came out in my lifetime was Jedi, but y’know, clearly, I was too young to see it in the theatres. The movies were always home-video experiences for me, which meant I literally don’t remember a world without it. I loved the shit out of it and have all three flicks committed to memory, but I think I missed out on the crucial experience of discovering Star Wars. I never got to participate in those films when they were new, which I think irreparably weakens my connection to the franchise. I liked this issue just fine — I worry about some of the same pandering issues Taylor and Drew mentioned, and I nitpicked Threepio’s comment about the Falcon passing for garbage again (this takes place before Empire) — but I sure would have been thrilled to love it.

      I wonder if that’s part of what’s happening when Drew and I fawn over TMNT. I know that’s a switch that was never flipped for you, but holy hell, does it work for us.

      End of the day: I’m excited to see where Aaron takes this once we’re past introductions. Star Wars is such a rich ground for new shit, and I can’t wait to see Marvel tackle that – the new.

      • Your comparison to TMNT definitely gave me pause, but I think the substantive difference is that TMNT is a remix. (I’m honestly not sure if this is just me trying to justify my feelings to myself, so please let me know if this doesn’t hold any water). For me, the art of a remix is that it doesn’t bring in any new elements, it simply rearranges them, bringing them new contexts and hopefully new life. For me, this issue isn’t tied to those rules, but it seems just as devoted to the source material as TMNT does, which makes it feel kind of incestuous.

        Ultimately, I think this is the reason that I never really got into the extended universe — it just felt like everything was spiraling further and further inwards, with the universe getting smaller when it could be getting bigger. I understand why people did it — they only want to read stories that are somehow tied to the movies — but I can only hear so many one-degree-of-separation characters (Jabba’s dad! Chewie’s brother! Leia’s poolboy!) before I roll my eyes and wonder exactly how tiny this universe is that there are only 14 people in it, ever. That’s also one of my biggest pet peeves about the prequels (Darth Vader built C-3PO! Yoda knew Chewie!), and I think what made Return of the Jedi the worst of the original trilogy. The first two films just kept building new ideas, new planets, new creatures, new situations, but Jedi finds them returning to planets and situations we’d already seen before. I think that kind of set the pace for the Extended Universe for taking place within those parameters, rather than exploding out of them.

    • I think a big part of what makes Threepio’s lines so clunky here is that he’s saddled with exposition. It doesn’t feel like him, but I don’t think it really would have worked coming out of anyone’s mouth. I wish they’d played this more like the opening of Jedi (which you’re totally right to see similarities with), and just let the plan play out in front of us. I guess that wouldn’t have allowed for the “the plan isn’t going as planned” thing when the Falcon inevitably doesn’t work (and I have to admit, I am looking forward to seeing Threepio with a blaster), but it would have made those first few pages way less awkward.

  3. Good thoughts guys. This is the second review I’ve read of the issue and I wanted to ask: Drew, I know you said you haven’t read any of the expanded universe stuff. Taylor, have you, and if so, how does this issue feel in relation to that?

    • I’ve read a slew of books when I was in middle school and junior high. I’ve also been courtside while friends have played through Shadows of the Empire and Knights of the Old Republic. Of all these, my favorite was a book called Tales of the Bounty Hunter, which is a collection of stories focusing on the seven bounty hunters Darth Vader employes to find the Millenium Falcon in Empire Strikes Back. I think the reason I enjoy it rings true with a comment Drew made. These stories expand the universe by following new characters on weird adventures. It gives the universe that is incredibly fun.

  4. I asked Shelby about the cover she selected for the header (you know, because there were like 63 variants), and she mentioned that it’s a remake of the original cover to Star Wars #1 (which predates the release of the film, btw). Here’s the original cover.

    I was mostly curious about the appearance of Obiwan Kenobi – he’s dead, yo!

    • Oh cool, that’s interesting! There’s also that release party variant with the green bunny, that I was super excited about because I thought it was Michael Golden’s Captain Bucky O’Hare, but it turns out it was some weird character created during the initial Marvel run.

      • NO!!!! I also thought it was Bucky O’Hare! Well, I’m officially not interested in it anymore. No fooling: I just asked Shelby how much that variant was at her shop – she said $9.99, and I was considering it. NOT ANYMORE!

        Also, Mogo, let’s put out our own Bucky O’Hare comic.

        • I, too, had the exact same sequence of considerations. I also considered the 9.99 at my own shop, but decided on the Kenner action figure variant, because I’d always know that it’s not really Bucky. But, yes! Let’s petition Michael Golden for the rights to do a Bucky book. Definition of passion project.

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