A Review of Star Wars #1, “In the Shadow of Yavin”

Script: Brian Wood. Art: Carlos D’Anda. Colors: Gabe Eltaeb. Lettering: Michael Heisler. Cover Art: Alex Ross.

Brian Wood is a creator who, over the past few years, has built an impressive resume working in the realm of both creator-owned comics and established franchises from corporate publishers such as DC and Marvel to independent publishers Image and Dark Horse — amongst a number of other indies companies.  This month saw one of the biggest career accomplishments surrounding Wood’s involvement with Dark Horse’s newest and hotly anticipated, Star Wars. Not surprisingly, newsstands inventory was cleaned out within twenty four hours when this title hit the shelves and a second printing is already on its way.  For those of you who are still waiting to pick up your copy, here’s what you can expect.

This ongoing series is set immediately following the battle of Yavin Four between Star Wars IV: A New Hope and Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back, and it follows three storylines: Luke and Leia, Hand and Chewie, and Darth Vader.  Although Luke is present throughout the story, it is Leia who commands the spotlight in this first issue, and Wood aims to shed light on the strength and leadership behind this character who is all too often remembered most for her metallic bikini in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi, than she is for her military capabilities.  That she is shown on the first page piloting an X-Wing fighter on her own alongside Skywalker and noted pilot, Wedge Antilles, speaks to her aptitude as not only a leader but a skilled fighter as well.

The storyline with Han and Chewbacca is brief as it is takes place over just two pages consisting of expository dialogue between Han and Chewie.  It serves the purpose of telling the reader of Han’s intention to remain a part of the Rebel Alliance, and it set the context for future conflict with his past underworld connections; however, there isn’t much to this scene that visually engages the reader nor does it show Han or Chewbacca in a situation that helps us better understand their motivations for leaving behind their underworld lives.  As a point of comparison, Luke tells a fellow pilot that Leia is “not like us.  She’s better.  Tougher.”  And we’ve already seen this from her earlier in the story and believe Luke when he says this.  It’s the difference between being told and being shown something.  Considering this passage consists of only two pages of twenty-four pages, however, it is hardly worth raising any sort of red flags over.

The final storyline that Wood introduces is that of Darth Vader and how his failure to protect the Death Star precipitated his fall from grace with Emperor Palpatine.  Although this is only about four pages in length, it is arguably just as engaging — if not more so — than the storyline he spends developing with Leia and Luke.  In this, we see him brought low and his position challenged by an upstart imperial officer whom Palpatine personally selected to replace Vader.  For fans who continue to look for more about Vader’s backstory and how he earned his reputation as an intergalactic force to be reckoned with, Wood will whet their appetites with this storyline.

Finally, one cannot overlook the artwork in Star Wars #1, as the artistic team has produced a comic that possesses both the polish and visual appeal one might expect from a group of veteran collaborators long used to working with one another.  Each character is depicted in such a way that they are easily recognizable but in no way does D’Anda merely attempt to provide readers with exact replications of Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, or Harrison Ford.  Vader is unmistakable, and yet, there is a certain air and stature D’Anda imbues him with that enhances the awe and power characteristic of the Sith Lord.  Finally, Gabe Eltaeb’s work on colors should not go overlooked.  His tie-fighters in particular looked as though they might fly right off the page altogether.  And with Alex Ross on cover art, what else could a fan look for?

Overall, it is clear Dark Horse has another smash hit on their hands with Brian Woods’ take on filling the gaps between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.  For fans of the original films, this series sets a tone that will no doubt remind one of how good the Star Wars franchise really was, and Wood’s series is a welcoming re-introduction to a familiar world without the painful and awkwardness experienced in Episodes I-III.

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Forrest C. Helvie lives in Connecticut with his wife and two sons where he is chair and professor of developmental English at Norwalk Community College. His literary interests are broad-ranging from medieval Arthurian to 19th-century American, and most importantly, pedagogy, comics studies, and super-heroes. In addition to academic publications, he writes a variety of comic short stories, including his own children’s comic series, Whiz Bang & Amelia the Adventure Bear. He regularly writes for Sequart and reviews comics for Newsarama. Forrest can also be found on Twitter (@forrest_helvie) discussing all things comics related.

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Also by Forrest Helvie:

How to Analyze & Review Comics: A Handbook on Comics Criticism

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