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It’s been hyped and it’s been selling tons of copies, but we’re finally at the point where we can see the new Star Wars #1 from Marvel Comics for ourselves. Writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday have teamed to explore the galaxy far away. As with the recent Star Wars comic book from writer Brian Wood, and published through Dark Horse Comics, the series follows the core group of the original Star Wars trilogy – Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO with Darth Vader on the Empire side. Star Wars #1 from Aaron and Cassaday provides a lot of tense action, crisp dialog, excellent art but falls just short of being great.
As with Wood’s Star Wars, Aaron and Cassaday begin Star Wars #1 in the time between the movies Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. As the issue begins, Han Solo arrives at an Empire base supposedly as a negotiator for Jabba the Hut, who is going to sell supplies to the Empire. It’s a ruse and Han has along with him R2 and Luke and Leia (who are both disguised as bodyguards). While waiting for the Empire’s negotiator, Han and his crew begin their sabotage mission.
It’s all going relatively well for the Rebels until the Empire’s “negotiator” shows up and it turns out to be Darth Vader. Chewbacca, stationed in a sniper position, tries to shoot Vader, but Vader uses some random nearby Stormtroopers as a human shield and then collapses the structure where Chewie is perched, forcing him to flee. It’s a pretty great Vader moment. Meanwhile, C-3PO, who was supposed to pilot the getaway Millennium Falcon, finds it being dismantled by local scavengers. So now Han, Luke, Leia, and R2 are struck inside the Empire base as Vader, aware a Rebel team is inside, goes to confront them.
Overall, it’s a strong start to the new Star Wars series. All of the characters have their familiar touchstones. Han is a cocky showboat with a heart of gold. Leia is mission driven. Conscientious Luke is curious enough to find slave workers who have been imprisoned and frees them. Vader does not get a lot of dialog in this issue, but his entrance is very dramatic (as it usually is). It’s nice to see Aaron mostly nailing the characterization since I found that sometimes lacking in Wood’s take on the Star Wars characters.
Perhaps the best thing about this issue is John Cassaday’s art. Cassaday has an idiosyncratic style that is sometimes gorgeous and at other times bizarrely rough (some of his covers for early issues of Uncanny Avengers are not his best work). However, Cassaday really draws the hell out of Star Wars #1. The characters are very reminiscent of the actors (especially the Harrison Ford look of Solo). Likewise, Cassaday’s scenery is highly detailed and evocative of the Star Wars world. I hope Cassaday can keep the quality up on the title, since as a prominent comic series it is probably going to be on a strict release schedule.
Although there are many strong elements, the first issue of Star Wars is promising but not exactly a jaw-dropping debut. The narrative is tense but takes quite a while to unfold in the oversized issue. It’s also pretty obvious from the moment we see Solo depart from his plane that Luke and Leia are the guards with him. I think the story could advance a little more quickly, and it might drive up the excitement without really sacrificing the character development. I do like that Aaron and Cassaday immediately drop the characters into a dramatic situation.
Another effective touch in Star Wars #1 is that it ends on a pretty interesting cliffhanger. It’s nothing shocking – Vader is descending to confront the trapped Rebels. However, it would be hard to not want to pick up issue #2 in order to see what happens next because there is no immediate way out for Han, Luke, Leia and the dozens of freed slaves with them. Star Wars fans are a tough crowd, and with the mostly great job Dark Horse did with the comics, there may be some critics of Star Wars #1. Honestly, though, it’s a good first issue and one that should please most receptive Star Wars fans.