The Star Wars #1, by George Lucas, JW Rinzler, and Mike Mayhew
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve read about George Lucas’ original story for Star Wars, about a Jedi named Starkiller and a different way of cracking the story of the Empire, the Jedi, and the Sith. Lucas has revealed half-remembered glimpses of that version in interviews from time to time, and I always wondered what kind of story it would have been. Well now I get to find out, because somebody had the bright idea of taking Lucas’ original rough draft and adapting it to comics.
So yeah, I couldn’t really resist this one. Well, okay. If it had looked like crap, I might have. But it doesn’t…
…so I’m in. That lovely piece of sci-fi landscape drawing is by series artist Mike Mayhew, who slaved for months over Ralph McQuarrie’s original production sketches, the existing films, Lucas’ various inspirations, and whatever else was needed to come up with the look of the Star Wars That Wasn’t. The result is nice, an amalgam of Seventies design aesthetics and Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, all with little hints of the final film designs peeking through. You can see the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon above, for instance, and the wedge-shaped Imperial Star Destroyers here are sleek two-man fighter craft. Of course, my favorite bit of film design theft is in Mayhew’s galactic trader Bail Antilles…
…who puts me in mind of the actor in the unused Star Wars footage of Jabba the Hutt:
I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t take a moment to praise Mike Mayhew’s art here, apart from the design stuff. Those are both beautiful pages I’ve posted above, and (though they are my favorites) they’re not the only good work in the issue. Mayhew’s figures are sometimes a bit stiff, but otherwise this is a very nice-looking comic. I should also praise colorist Rain Beredo, who kicked particular ass on the Antilles page above. Love those warm reds and yellows.
But pretty as this book is, it was the story that drew me in. So… How’s that? Pretty good, actually. It’s more complex than the streamlined Campbellian Hero’s Journey we get in the film as released. Thus far, it feels like an amalgam of the two Star Wars trilogies, combining the vitality of the original film with the intrigue of the prequels. So the Empire’s domineering boot is coming down on the galaxy’s throat just as hard, and we’re shown the real human cost of it. But the story’s being told from the perspective of those in charge rather than a desert farm boy and a crazy old wizard. So the situation’s basically the same, but presented in a different context. Here. I can’t possibly explain it any better than the comic’s opening scroll-text can:
From there, we’re introduced to Jedi-Bendu Kane Starkiller and his sons Deak and Annikin. They’re in hiding on a remote world, until they’re assaulted by a Sith Knight and have to go on the run. That right there should probably tell you that you’re dealing with less sterile characters than in the prequels: Kane has two kids, and it’s no big thing. Later on, we also meet this guy:
That’s General Luke Skywalker, another of the last surviving Jedi and military leader of the last remaining free system in the galaxy. He strikes me as a bit of a hard-ass. So, yes. These Jedi are more like I’d imagined them as a kid: holy warriors and total bad ass laser sword fighters. I do wonder about young Annikin, though. They go out of their way to tell us that he’s a bit undisciplined, and… well… this face…
…reminds me maybe a bit too much of this one:
Still, I like these Jedi more, I think, than the ones we actually got on film (of course, it’s just the first issue, so I reserve the right to change my mind if this thing goes south later).
The villains don’t get fleshed out quite as much, but the Emperor’s slimy duplicity seems mostly intact, even if he is a bit more… dapper… than we’re used to:
We also have a cool-looking Sith Knight…
…a brooding Darth Vader…
…and THIS grotesque sonnuvabitch:
That guy’s name is Vantos Coll, and we learn next to nothing about him in this first issue. If you want my theory, though… I think he’s a Sith, one of the original race of dark side sorcerers who formed the order. I’m betting he’s the one who introduced the Sith religion to the Empire, and orchestrated the coup against the Jedi. The power behind the throne. Judging from what I know of Lucas’ original plans for Emperor Palpatine as a simple corrupt politician, I’m guessing he eventually combined Palpatine and Coll into one for simplicity’s sake. I like complexity, though. And I like horrible fat yellow bastards. So I’m all for the original plan.
I’m all for this funnybook, too. It’s far from perfect, but scripter JW Rinzler has adapted Lucas’ rough draft to the page smoothly, and Mayhew’s art is, as I’ve already gushed about, very nice to look at indeed. As the opening chapter of a multi-part serial space opera epic that I’ve been a fan of since childhood… I’m pleased.