Star Wars The Force Awakens: These Are The Comics You’re Looking For
There’s a distinct buzz in the air. A presence many of us haven’t felt in a long time. Unless you’re living out in the Jundland Wastes, then you’re counting down the days to Star Wars The Force Awakens (it’s 156 by the way).
After Star Wars Celebration, two soul warming trailers and everything from SDCC, you’re craving that wonder and heroism that Star Wars brings in its beautifully distinct way. Now you might be breaking out your old VHS copies of Empire and Jedi, or kicking back into a galactic conquest on Battlefront or going on the road trip of an era in Knights of the Old Republic, there’s nothing wrong with any of those (except that we’re still waiting on KotOR III… ) but these are adventures you’ve been on before and you know whats coming, so why not dive into fresh adventures in that Galaxy Far Far Away?
Star Wars recently returned to Marvel Comics and they’re already firing on all cylinders. There’s a litany of Star Wars comics in the pipeline thanks to Dark Horse, and Marvel continue the trend of capturing the space opera on page. If you haven’t picked up Kieron Gillen’s take on Darth Vader or Jason Aaron’s Star Wars main title, here’s a few reasons why doing that is worth your precious euros:
So far the comic series that are out take place in the interim of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, dealing with how the relationships between Han, Luke and Leia develop. They’re not the best of friends at the end of A New Hope, but they’re on the road to it. The writing of the big three isn’t an easy task but every line from the page feels right and isn’t hard to imagine in motion on the screen. While Han and Leia are playing off each other and figuring each other out bit by bit, Luke is on his own path. The issues released so far deal with a somewhat underplayed part of Luke’s journey from zero to hero, where he’s afraid and uncertain. With no mentor and no path set out before him, the young soon-to-be Jedi strikes out on his own to try and discover what he must do. And, of course, R2 comes along as well. It’s refreshing to see our heroes in a place of relative uncertainty, where their characters grow into what we see in Empire. The art can spike from nothing of note on one page to spine tinglingly good on the next. And there’s beautiful action to boot. Each panel is dynamic and flows smoothly with a brilliant cohesion between the art and writing that’s worth stopping and appreciating. These issues have already stuck happily in my mind, I’m loving the delivery on the humour and how alive these characters are on a flat page.
At present, there’s nothing rehashed or thrown together about this title; we’re seeing our heroes challenged in a few more ways than a blaster can, action that almost lifts itself off of the page and those group dynamics from 1977 we miss so much.
So far there are six issues of this series available and have given me an unforgettable afternoon read.
There’s no shortage of tales regarding The Emperor’s Fist. From The Ghost Prison to Vector, we’ve seen Vader in as many lights as several decades of comics will allow. So it isn’t much of a surprise that Vader is dealing with Palpatine’s many ways to replace him. Same Sith, different comic. The Dark Lord is at arm’s length with Palpatine, kept in the dark until it suits the Emperor for him not to be. It’s the underlying theme of the master/apprentice relationship, and not too surprising that it’s featured so early.
The story weaves into it nicely, but what Palpatine had waiting on the sidelines to replace Vader could intrigue or irritate you. Like the Star Wars series running concurrent with this, one of the sticking points of the series is the emotional weight throughout. One of the early arcs is Vader on the hunt for the identity of the rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star. The page where the Dark Lord finally discovers that it was his son is an outstanding moment. I felt that classic Vader rage coming off the page.
My interest couldn’t be more piqued, with Aphra bringing some levity that I love, and The Emperor delivering on the cold sinister scheming, Gillen’s Vader is engaging from issue one
The stand out point of Gillen’s run is the characters accompanying Vader. A strange trio comprising of one Doctor Aphra and her two assassin droids are somewhat unknown, and instantly likeable. There aren’t many alive who sass Vader from time to time but Aphra gets away with it,easily making her a favourite.
While the plot certainly isn’t boring as it’s laying the threads of other happenings around the galaxy, it feels somewhat familiar. But it’s overshadowed by how Gillen understands Vader, and the accompanying cast that remain mysterious and likeable like any good group of rogues. Its a fresh and well written take on Vader that has great promise for the coming issues.
I have some bias here, but you should be giving these a chance on the basis that they’re new Star Wars! Even the shorter Princess Leia comic run is worth the read. Arguably more interesting than the series running alongside it as Mark Waid‘s run throws Alderaan’s remaining royalty in the deep end. Faced with challenges to her beliefs, letting her father and planet down, and pushing herself to save every son and daughter of Alderaan left in the galaxy, Princess Leia doesn’t let up and brings us a side of her before the efficient and self assured commander of the rebellion. It’s a captivating journey, and while we all knew Luke had soul searching and work to do to become a Jedi knight, seeing Leia “get this walking carpet out of my way” Organa on the back foot and scrambling to save her people isn’t something we’re used to and seeing her develop into a true leader shows her in a fresh light. It’s a great read for the character alone, and you’ll be hooked on the dynamic between Organa and Evaan after one page. An incredible women duo, and pushing the envelope and how we perceive Leia; this issue is a must for any fans of the Princess and left me fairly bummed that its only a five issue run.
Whether inadvertently or not, Gillen’s Vader run has reminded us of what we already know when it comes to Star Wars properties: Give us unknown characters! There’s something refreshing and unique to meeting a new lone Jedi or some smuggler down on their luck. Doctor Aphra steals the spotlight on this premise (and keeps it with her winning personality). There’s a safety and entertainment in reading Luke’s travels across Tattooine, or Han’s past love life. But as so many previous comics and Star Wars Rebels have proved; we’re hungry for brand new stories off on some backwater planet. That’s how these people ended up meeting, so why not?
Although not tied in any way to The Force Awakens (so far…), the current run of comics is an excellent starter to warm yourself back in to the Galaxy Far Far Away and experience new adventures with those familiar faces. I’m definitely expecting a few tie-in comics, (hopefully something that gives a look at that badass Captain Phasma). They’re not alien to Star Wars and each film has a comic iteration by now.
Star Wars comics have been kicking around since before the films were even released (and are one of the reasons that Marvel Comics didn’t die a horrible death in the seventies). They have gone through many eras of creators and focuses, so I’m nothing if not excited to see where this new era takes us!
Just to remind you of what’s coming on December 18, check out the trailer below:
And if you haven’t seen it already, take a look at the behind-the-scenes footage recently released at Comic Con:
Have you read any of the Star Wars comics? Old or new? How excited are you for The Force Awakens? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and join me next month for another Star Wars Countdown column!