Written by J.W. RINZLER/ Original Screenplay by GEORGE LUCAS/ Art by MIKE MAYHEW/ Colors by RAIN BEREDO & BRAD ANDERSON/ Published by DARK HORSE COMICS
In The Star Wars #1, J.W. Rinzler and company bring to the world something that has very literally never been seen before: George Lucas’s first, rough draft of the screenplay that would become Star Wars. It’s a unique book, and has the double duties of appealing to already existing fans of the franchise as well as appealing to new blood. As such, there are two ways this book must be evaluated: as a book made for Star Wars fans and as its own beast.
For readers who are already Star Wars fans, this is nothing short of twenty-two pages of pure, fannish glee. It has many of the recognizable parts of Star Wars – Jedi and Sith Knights, a Jedi named Luke Skywalker and a princess named Leia, Sith Knight Darth Vader serving under the Emperor, and even a former-Jedi father that is more machine than man – but everything has a different spin to it. It’s genuinely cool to see concepts and characters in their beta stages; to see ideas that would be used again, fine-tuned, or the few things that stayed as they are. Mike Mayhew, the artist, is given due credit for the brilliance of his art. Mayhew practically reverse-engineers Star Wars’ final designs to come up with his images, creating an uncannily familiar atmosphere of a world that almost was.
But as familiar as it all is, there are enough differences to keep a reader interested. Annikin, the hero this time around, already has some Jedi training and Force proficiency, so what exactly Jedi Master Luke Skywalker will teach him remains a mystery – perhaps there will be more explanation of the ways of the Force in this draft? Princess Leia is seemingly no longer a leader in the rebel alliance – that’s Luke’s job now – but a simple student, which is admittedly a disappointment. Even the backstory of the Jedi has been dramatically changed. Darth Vader’s motives and much of his persona remain a mystery, and he lacks the ruthlessness immediately demonstrated by his film counterpart. Four key members of the cast – Han Solo and Chewbacca, and more glaringly R2-D2 and C-3PO – have yet to appear. There are details that had yet to be polished out (lightsabers are much less cool when everybody has them), some that would be recycled later, and others that would have been cool to keep around. From the perspective of a Star Wars fan, this book is really something special, a never-before-seen first take, and a definite buy.
For the casual fans, people who are just looking for a neat sci-fi comic, The Star Wars is a more difficult recommendation. The comic’s source material is called a rough draft for a reason. A movie of this script would not have been good, and the comic can only be so much better. The dialogue is typically Lucasian – it could work when spoken, but it’s undeniably clunky when read. There are tons of characters introduced, and none of them get enough page-time or development to care about or be interested in them as characters. Annikin Starkiller, the protagonist, barely speaks and doesn’t act on his own. There are hints of drive and determination, but his father Kane is the driving force. Kane isn’t all that likeable either, ordering around his two kids or shouting at Luke to train his kid. Leia shows up briefly just to leave for school, and shows nothing of the grit and steel that made her instantly loveable in the final product. Darth Vader has the same level of action as Annikin as he stands around and listens to myths about the Jedi. He’s still seemingly the villain of the piece – give the Dark Lord of the Sith something to do! But no one in this issue does much of anything. The Starkillers get a little something at the start, but then the book diverts into exposition and introduction. It’s 22 pages of introduction with little else, and that’s something not worth the $3.99 price tag.
The Star Wars is a great find for readers who are already fans, but for everyone else it is not the comic you are looking for. But that said, it’s likely more than enough readers are already fans to still give this a very solid recommendation.