Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Force is strong with these 'Star Wars' comics

Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm's big announcement that the "Star Wars" print franchise would be returning to its comicdom home was met with a big "meh" from this lifelong SW fan.

After all, it made sense. To partially quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, especially "from a certain point of view."

Think about it: the Walt Disney Co. bought Marvel several years ago. (Despite the initial -- and certainly irrational fear -- by some Marvel fans that members of the Avengers and X-Men soon would be wearing Mousketeer heats, the transition has been silent and seamless.) Disney also bought Lucasfilm, which also means there's a strong connection between Marvel and the "Star Wars" universe.

Put 2 and 2 together and it was only inevitable that Marvel once again would be publishing STAR WARS comics. (Despite the iconic, red Marvel logo on the top left side of each cover, the art style of the new issues honestly doesn't look too different from the comics published by Dark Horse starting in 1991. I love the irony there!) 

Somewhere along here, the STAR WARS novels got rebooted. 

Gone from the official canon are the Expanded Universe novels, most of which I enjoyed. Until they killed off Chewbacca.

As the EU line went along, the novels became hit-and-miss; they started out strong and grew weaker over time, especially as there were multiple novels that made up one storyline. But the SWEU ended very strong with the compelling, page-turning "Fate of the Jedi" series.

Back to the present time. The STAR WARS novels being published now are being aligned to make the events taking place between the original trilogy -- and after -- make sense. In essence, Lucasfilm is cleaning up and streamlining its "Star Wars" chronology.

This collage of STAR WARS comics appears courtesy of popcultureuncovered.com.
Sorting out its most valuable property had to be a priority for Disney. And nothing says "order" more than the films, comics and novels having the same continuity.

I've read a few of the rebranded/rebooted STAR WARS novels.

This group of writers obviously have been ordered to write lock-step together. But unlike the more talented SWEU authors, these lesser known writers take no chances. How can they when they're not allowed?
Darth Vader makes a visit to Jabba the Hutt's palace in this unscripted
version of the two-page spread in DARTH VADER No. 1

These scribes get to play with the beloved universe set "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," but they must do so with kids' gloves. That means all the stories are rather bland with very little "oomph."

Having said all that and gotten it off my chest, I feared the same thing would happen with Marvel's new STAR WARS comics.

Not to fear with the first issues of STAR WARS and DARTH VADER.

The characters closely resemble the actors and what we've seen onscreen.

Han Solo is still a loveable, "scruffy lookin' nerfherder." Luke Skywalker remains the idealist who is struggling with his newfound Jedi abilities. And yes, Vader is a badass not to be messed with.

The colors, page designs and art pop off the pages.

But even more important than that, they're fun.

I'm not sure what compelled me to buy the two No. 1 issues recently in Toledo, Ohio; maybe it was sentimentality. It could have been The Force nibbling at the back of my mind or conscious. (Highly doubtful -- but fun to say!)

Either way, I enjoyed each and every page.

There's no doubt the stories will move on from each issue into a bigger storyline, but each issue has enough of a one-shot feel that I was content by the time I reached the last page. The stories gave me my fill. And if I so desired, each one might compel me to see what happens next.

Honestly, I doubt I will pick up any more issues. On the other hand, the start of each series left me with the confident gut instinct that they're off to strong starts.

The family of STAR WARS novelists need to go back for some remedial Jedi Padawan training. But at least the comics appear ready to make the jump to light speed. Grade: A

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