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The Force will soon be awakening in print, too. It is only a month until the debut of the new Star Wars comic book line from Marvel Comics. With the release of the Star Wars VII movie teaser causing a great deal of excitement, mostly positive feedback, and record-breaking viewing numbers, it’s the perfect time to launch a new Star Wars comic book. This is obviously not a coincidence from Disney and the relevant companies it owns, LucasFilm and Marvel Comics. It seems to have worked, too: Star Wars #1 is already assured of being the highest-selling comic of the past twenty years.
Marvel Comics is not planning on just throwing an afterthought series or two about Star Wars. They are going to rolling out numerous series, with some of their top talent attached to the titles. The keystone of the line is obviously Star Wars, which is written by Jason Aaron and drawn by John Cassaday. The other series will be Star Wars: Darth Vader by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larocca starting in February 2015 and Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson for March 2015. There will also be a new series called Star Wars: Kanan (creators not announced), featuring a character created for the Star Wars Rebels animated television series.
Besides many copies sold and many, many (seriously, like a ridiculous amount) variant covers produced, what will we see in the new series of Star Wars comic books from Marvel? The first question fans may have related to the Star Wars comic book is who is going to be in it and when is it set? Brian Wood’s Star Wars series from Dark Horse Comics was set within the time frame of the original Star Wars movies and used the same characters from the movies – Luke Skywalker, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, Darth Vader as well as less popular and new characters. It was a good choice as the series’ first half was quite strong.
Coincidentally or not, Marvel is beginning their Star Wars comic book in much the same way. The comic will feature the same beloved characters from the Star Wars Episode IV-VI movies (What, did you expect that it would tell the origin of Jar Jar Binks?). Like Wood’s Star Wars, Jason Aaron’s Star Wars series will also begin in the time between Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I would expect that the Princess Leia and Darth Vader series will be set in the approximate same time frame. There have not been any announced crossovers between the series, but even if that’s not immediately planned, it would make sense to have a relatively consistent time frame for fans reading all of the titles.
Details about the plots on the Marvel Star Wars comic books have been pretty scarce. There is not a lot of information about what kind of storylines Aaron, Gillen, Waid, and others will tell. However, one thing that was demonstrated through Wood’s Star Wars comic book was that it is important to use the movies wisely. Things Wood did well were using the Battle of Yavin as a jump-off point and showing the Rebels as an upstart force but one that still was a huge underdog. He also effectively explored characters’ back- stories.
The areas where Wood’s Star Wars struggled in my opinion related to things happening in the comic that were never mentioned in the movie. It can be difficult to sustain tension when putting characters in dangerous situations when we know they are going to live. The main characters in Star Wars: A New Hope show up in The Empire Strikes Back. Therefore, we know they will survive. Unless Marvel is treating its comics as a separate reality from the movies (which would seem unpopular with fans), they have to understand that fans will know the main characters make it out alive. So relying on “Will he die?” dramatic tension will not work as well as with regular Marvel Universe characters.
Also, creating large storylines with real impact is very tricky since they will not be mentioned in the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. For example, in Wood’s Star Wars comic book, Princess Leia gets engaged. Obviously, we know that marriage will not occur, but it also seems strange because the engagement is something never referred to in the movies. So the Marvel Star Wars comic book creators have the somewhat contradictory challenge of creating stories that are fascinating and dramatic but no so monumental that it seems odd that they are not referenced in the future (i.e. the movies, which occur later in story chronology).
One area that Marvel may have an advantage that Dark Horse did not is that there are new Star Wars movies coming out. I doubt that J.J. Abrams is going to give a bunch of comic book creators early access to his movie plot (especially considering how secretive Abrams is about projects he’s in the process of making). However, what Marvel will eventually have is more movies, which means more new stories and more new characters that fans care about to explore in their comic books.
Star Wars #1 from Jason Aaron and John Cassaday will be released by Marvel Comics on January 14th, 2015.