By Molly Jane Kremer. It’s only been four months since any Star Wars comics have been published, but Marvel’s amazing publicity machine has somehow made it feel like it’s been eons, while fostering our legitimate hunger for more. While this writer is a bit confused as to where all this slavering Star Wars interest was when Dark Horse’s solid (but not “canonical”) releases were on the shelves last year, those books admittedly had nothing near the pull of this new Marvel title. Now, oh now, we have the achingly delicious prospect of Star Wars comics finally being “in-continuity” (the Lucasfilm Story Group is writ large in the credits – thanks Disney!), the addition of a blockbuster creative lineup, and zero need to worry about George Lucas somehow throwing a spanner in the works.
And this comic is, if you’ll pardon the pun, absolutely stellar. While we know Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford will be appearing in the new Star Wars film set to debut in December (ugh, it’s eleven months away), they’ll be… well, looking old as hell. (And seeing gray ol’ Harrison Ford – once the love of my young life – on screen nowadays, well… it makes me feel like a bit of a granny myself.) But, due to the magic that is comics, in Star Wars #1, we have artist John Cassaday (drawing the best he has in years) illustrating everyone how they looked back in ‘77. And with his penchant for detailed realism, and Laura Martin’s subtly perfect colors on top, the nostalgia hits you hard, but damn if it doesn’t feel like a kiss.
And I’m most certainly not mentioning the nostalgia factor as a negative: far from it. The creative team elevates it above the rehash it could have easily been, and they are obviously reverent fans of the source material. Writer Jason Aaron has somehow conjured dialogue that sounds like it could have been written for The Empire Strikes Back, and each character’s voice is pitch perfect. Even the random Imperials, who we’ve never seen before and probably won’t again, sound as perfidious and persnickety as we know they should. And yes, even Chewbacca’s onomatopoeia reads convincingly.
If you only know Jason Aaron from his gritty, crime-drama series’ like Scalped, PunisherMAX, and Southern Bastards, he might seem a strange choice to write this decidedly PG space-opera adventure romp. But if you’ve read some of his other (more lighthearted) superhero offerings – and holy hell you really should, like Wolverine and the X-Men, or his new Thor – and has an uncanny knack for sprinkling in just enough comedy (not to mention a whole lot of emotion) between the book’s roaring action sequences.
John Cassaday’s style, his fine, precise eye, makes him one of the most appropriate artists to pencil the continuation of arguably the biggest and strongest film franchise that has ever existed. John Cassaday has always been a master of widescreen action, from his days on Planetary with Warren Ellis to Astonishing X-Men with Joss Whedon, the perfect preparation for Star Wars. Add to that his meticulous attention to detail, and you’ve got a comic that feels like a movie in your hands. Many high-profile artists have trouble getting likenesses down, but Cassaday seems to have no problems with rendering any of these actors’ faces. Though on occasion one can see which still or shot he might have been using for photo reference, as some facial expressions stick in the viewers’ mind when they’ve seen a film a hundred or so times.
Laura Martin’s coloring is phenomenal as well. Everyone’s faces are shaded and shadowed with artful precision, and close-ups show the gleaming depth of Luke’s blue eyes (there are at least two panels where that blue, as Luke looks at the reader, is absolutely stunning). The brilliant whites of Stormtrooper uniforms, the bright blues and reds of lightsabers and blaster shots, and the grungy general dinginess of the surroundings; Martin’s additions turn these images into recognizably iconic pillars of pop culture, and gorgeous ones to boot.
The entire issue has the same high-tension feel as the scenes on the Death Star from A New Hope, at least in part because the gang is all here: there’s something so reassuring and wonderful about seeing Luke, Leia and Han, again running around through geometrically-decorated blue-grey hallways with blasters drawn, shouting at each other between witty comments – but this time, it’s new. The characterization here is uncanny, and the dialogue snaps and crackles. And Darth Vader… he’s just Darth Vader as fuck. Aaron brings him back to his roots as the ultimate badass, and after many years of George Lucas’ attempts to neuter him of all his scary-coolness, it might be my favorite aspect of this book.
The thought of being able to somehow rewind one’s brain (à la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) to again experience the joy and amazement of watching the original Star Wars trilogy for the very first time, is something I’ve discussed with friends (and honestly wished could actually be done). But this comic truly is the next best thing: it’s a book featuring yet more adventures of this galaxy far, far away, and it has a truly authentic feel that most of the prequel films could scarcely approach. Star Wars #1 transcends the trappings of wistful (and ubiquitous) nostalgia in the name of pure pop fun.
Written by Jason Aaron.
Art by John Cassaday.
Colors by Laura Martin.
9.5 out of 10