Marvel taking back the reigns of the Star Wars comics is a homecoming. In 1977 it was they who launched the first Star Wars tie in comics in a deal which became so successful Jim Shooter, the editor-in-chief of Marvel in the late seventies and early eighties said “Star Wars single-handedly saved Marvel… And that kept us alive.”
Marvel continued to produce stories throughout the success of Star Wars and the sequels up to 1987 when they ended the series believing that public interest had dried up. In 1991 Dark Horse took over, beginning with the classic Dark Empire and continuing for over twenty years to publish high quality Star Wars stories, but in 2014 with Disney owning both Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd they announced they would be taking Star Wars back into the fold.
Star Wars is their first and main ongoing title. Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, it focuses on our main cast of known heroes, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa and Chewbacca running missions against the Empire. The opening assignment, an attack on the Imperial weapons factory planet of Cymoon 1 has the style of a heist about it, our small team infiltrating an enemy stronghold being exactly the kind of mission the Rebels would be expected to have been running in those intervening years.
The artwork by John Cassady is good but inconsistent, and while some panels have wonderful detail, accurately capturing the likenesses of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher others though seem to have less attention paid and set within the context of the superior panels the contrast is harsh.
Reading this causes a blend of nostalgia with a touch of cynicism. It feels like a comic story which might have been picked up from old Marvel. Jason Aaron (The Other Side, X-Men) has created a first issue which practically buzzes with a sense of adventure, but at the same time it seems like it is aimed for a less critical and demanding audience than that of contemporary comic book readers; there is a frantic sense that someone has finally got a chance to play with their old toys and that they are throwing them all together.
The story introduces Darth Vader very early on and gives a faceoff between Luke and Vader long before either reach Bespin in Empire. While this leads to some good moments such as Vader recognising Luke’s lightsaber, it feels unnecessary. While this confrontation could have happened in the intervening years between the battle of Yavin IV and exodus from Hoth, rushing into it and throwing major characters at each other right out of the gate feels like it is being written for the fanboy “wow” factor rather than establishing a coherent story which observes continuity, one of the stated goals of the “new” expanded universe which will dovetail into The Force Awakens.
Part of the reason for this push could be to tie in with Star Wars: Darth Vader, the Dark Lord’s own title which would indicate sales leading stories. Considering alongside the unjustifiable number of variant covers published (some reports have it over one hundred) there are indications that this is being published almost as part of a merchandising strategy. It may have some of the sense of adventure of A New Hope, but the focus on marketing forces rather than the Force is a feeling we’ve not had since The Phantom Menace.
Star Wars issue 4 is scheduled for release on 22nd April 2015