2012-12-30-star_wars_01Just a few hours ago, in a town, not so far away…. I picked up my copy of Brian Wood’s Star Wars at my local comics shop, where they know me by name and keep begging me not to bring Rob there, ever again.  Getting the issue is apparently no small feat since even our fearless leader Rob couldn’t get his hands on a copy of this mutha.

Wood is tackling an interesting time in the Star Wars timeline. His focus is on the original characters during the several years between the destruction of the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, and where Empire picks up on Hoth. It truly surprises me that this period is rarely addressed, with the absolute breadth and depth of expanded universe novels, comics, cartoons, and slashfic. There’s an awful lot of un-addressed character development that takes place off-screen between the movies. Luke has gone from whiny farm boy to a confident and able fighter. Han has shed his “only looking out for number one” attitude, and emerged as a real leader within the rebellion.  Leia has transformed from a mouthy princess to… well, a mouthy princess.

Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe in spoilers…

In the exposition-heavy opening pages, Wood makes it clear that, while acknowledging the expanded Star Wars universe, he isn’t going to be beholden to it. This is Star Wars as I remember it: X-Wings, blasters, astromechs and Wedge Antilles. It’s Star Wars, but with a modern sense of realism woven into it; not in the science, but in the politics.  This rebellion is a war of attrition and even following their greatest victory, the rebellion is precariously close to failure. We’re also reminded that even the mighty Galactic Empire is subject to the realities of maintaining a vast regime. Tie Fighters don’t grow on trees, recruitment is down, and the Emperor is PISSED at Vader for his failures at Yavin.

It’s interesting that Wood has decided to spend most of his story time with Leia. Luke is along for the ride, but still struggling with the losses incurred, and Han and Chewbacca make what can only be described as a cameo. To be fair, at this point in the timeline, she is the most action-oriented of our heroes, and maintains a larger role in the Rebel Alliance than her male counterparts. While this allows for faster forward momentum, I’m not sure I was quite ready for a Leia who dogfights an X-Wing and executes a Tie Fighter Pilot with a casual blaster shot to the head. There’s a lot of room for character growth ahead, so I’ll have to see where this goes before I completely buy into the idea of a bad-ass Leia.

I’ve always preferred the aesthetic of Star Wars to that of Star Trek: I like my starships with rough edges and cluttered cockpits, and that’s what this universe is all about… feeling lived in.  With that in mind, artist Carlos D’Anda really conveys the feel of Star Wars. The visual characterizations of Luke, Leia, and Han are immediately recognizable without being caricatures of Hamill, Ford or Fisher. Gabe Altaeb complements D’Andas line work with rich and effective color work here. I loved the use of blues in the opening pages; the pop of the orange visors against the realistic hues cast by the nearby blue star. The shades of black on Vader were as impressive as anything I’ve seen lately, effortlessly conveying the menace of the Dark Lord.

This book sold out everywhere; Dark Horse would appear to have an unqualified hit on their hands. But what kind of future does this title have now that all Star Wars properties are transitioning to Disney/Marvel.  Word on the street is that Dark Horse will not be offered any extensions or new contracts for Star Wars after the current ones expire at the end of 2013. So what happens to this book when Marvel takes over?  Will it be abandoned? Will the new stories and revelations be ignored and cast aside from the canon of Star Wars?  Its fate remains to be seen, but we can address the most important question… is it any good?

To be honest, this issue’s story itself didn’t really grab me, but this book feels a pleasant reminder of things lost to the destructive whims of Gungans and neckbeards.   I had all but given up on Star Wars, but my interest has been rekindled, and I’m looking forward to what Mr. Wood has to offer.  Pick it up if you can find it, and get in line early for #2.

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