Synopsis: After their victory over the Empire and the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance desperately searches for a new home while attempting to uncover a spy in their midst. Elsewhere, Darth Vader, disgraced after the Empire’s disastrous defeat, struggles for redemption in the eyes of the Emperor.
The first Star Wars comics were published by Marvel in 1977 and spanned 107 issues, not counting one-shots, side stories, movie adaptations, novel adaptations, and any other Star Wars story someone wanted to tell. While fortunate to have so much content, it can get… confusing.
Dark Horse Comics’ new Star Wars monthly, the first six issues of which are collected in this trade paperback, In The Shadow Of Yavin, wisely chooses to reboot the established continuity of the comics and start fresh. This offers non readers of the comics the welcome chance to go back to a new beginning with the characters introduced in A New Hope.
For writer Brian Wood, this offers the opportunity for a more contemporary and mature exploration of the Star Wars galaxy and its characters than has sometimes been the case.
His Luke Skywalker, while well intentioned, can easily come across as cocky, brash, and entitled. This is a great way to draw parallels between Luke and his father, and is also a perfectly logical characterization of a 19 year old, hot shot farm boy thrust into instant celebrity as a war hero on his first trip off world. The post Episode IV timeframe means that Luke isn’t yet the man we know he’s destined to be, and seeing him evolve through Wood’s eyes is a refreshing angle for a character who can occasionally get stale after nearly 40 years.
Also given a new sense of energy in the series is Darth Vader, who is depicted as disgraced after the Empire’s defeat at Yavin and struggling to come to terms with the revelation of the Death Star killer’s identity. Vader’s obsession with finding Skywalker, displayed with deadly purpose during the events of The Empire Strikes Back, begins here. And though it’s never specifically mentioned, you very much so get a sense of Anakin Skywalker with Vader in a way that uses the reader’s knowledge of the prequels to enrich this comic’s characterization of him without diminishing his mystique.
But the character benefitting most from Wood’s writing is without a doubt Princess Leia. Wood takes a character who, while memorable to say the least, usually remained more on the periphery of events rather than front and center, and makes her the heart and soul of the story. Leia is focused and determined here in a way that she was never required to be in the films, and it’s a natural progression of the character we’re introduced to in A New Hope. Wood writes her with a vulnerable, yet extremely capable presence that establishes the former Senator from Alderaan as a serious force to be reckoned with.
Beautifully complimenting Brian Wood’s writing is the art of Carlos D’Anda. His somewhat stylized interpretation of the characters manages to perfectly capture their essence while not being limited to exact drawings of the actors who portrayed them.
This is commendable and shows an intimate understanding of Star Wars on an elemental level. As the original trilogy has aged it has transcended its original purpose as strictly film and evolved into the signature modern myth of our time. As with any myth, the essence of the characters and their world, or in this case, galaxy, becomes more important than their visual depiction, especially if that depiction doesn’t stray so far away from its original form so as to remain recognizable. D’Anda’s art is a perfect illustration (pun intended) of this.
Also deserving special mention is colorist Gabe Eltaeb, whose work absolutely nails the spectrum of the galaxy far, far away. Try to imagine a Star Wars without the brilliant color palette that helped further define the warm, human tones of the Rebel Alliance and contrast them against the cold, authoritarian hues of the Galactic Empire and you’ll understand why a skillful colorist for this series is an absolute necessity. In comic book culture it’s the artists and writers who usually get the lion’s share of adoration, but Eltaeb’s work here is a perfect example of the kind of seamless coloring that’s so good at breathing life into the art that you can easily forget the work that goes into it. Take some time to appreciate it while you read (or re-read).
Dark Horse’s new Star Wars monthly comic is a must read for any Star Wars fan, and this trade paperback is the perfect way to take your first step into a rebooted world. If you missed the boat when the series debuted in January, pick this up and see what you’ve been missing. You’ll be glad you did.