It’s been a strange few months for Star Wars fans, not just because the franchise changed owners, but because we’re not entirely sure what the future holds right now. That, combined with years of prequel angst (never underestimate the power of prequel angst) has many of us longing for a back-to-basics look at the universe we all came to love as kids, and a sense that the original, pure Star Wars isn’t dead yet. Well, the time for worrying about that is over, because Dark Horse Comics has you covered.
The title of Brian wood and Carlos D’Anda’s new series is a bold statement in itself: Star Wars. No modifiers, no colons, no character focuses. This is Star Wars, plain and simple, and the first issue sells that idea completely. Wood and D’Anda aren’t the first creators to tackle stories of what went on in between the original trilogy films, but this first issue proves they may turn out to be the best, not just because their story is compelling, but because they really get what they’re working with here.
The Battle of Yavin is over, and the first Death Star has been destroyed, but the Rebel Alliance is far from safe. They must find a new base as the Empire’s grip tightens around them, and they must find it fast. To speed things up, Leia Organa has volunteered for a series of scouting missions with Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, in an effort to quickly find a new home for the Alliance’s secret base. Meanwhile, Han Solo is adjusting to life as a die-hard member of the rebellion, and Darth Vader must deal with his failure to defeat the alliance, a mistake which cost the Emperor his planet-destroying battle station.
Clearly the goal here from a simple storytelling perspective is to fill in the gaps between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. How did the Emperor react to the Death Star’s destruction? How did the rebels flee Yavin and eventually wind up on Hoth? How did Han wind up staying long-term? How did Leia get tougher? These are all issues Wood seems geared up to address in his writing, and I can’t stop applauding his approach. It’s both familiar and refreshing, recognizable and revelatory, and that’s because he really seems to get what George Lucas was doing in the very first Star Wars stories. It’s hard to articulate exactly how Wood matches Lucas step-for-step here, but he does. You hear it in the dialogue, you see it in the settings, and you feel it in where the story’s going from page one.
But what’s more important – and this is something that’s been sorely lacking in even some of the best Star Wars comics – is that this world really feels lived in. That’s partly Wood’s doing, but we really have D’Anda to thank for it. He doesn’t try to simply recreate the faces of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. He’s after his own world, a world with all the rusted charm of the original Star Wars trilogy but with its own visual vocabulary.
What all this amounts to is a substantial, fascinating first issue that’s bound to be one of the best series debuts of 2013. Wood and D’Anda have done something truly wonderful here: they’ve captured the tone of Star Wars without cynicism or radical departures, and yet they’ve delivered a story that’s completely fresh. If they keep going like this, Star Wars will become not just a classic installment in the Lucasfilm canon, but a classic comic. Period.