Back in the 1970s it was pretty exciting to anticipate what was going to happen after the original Star Wars aired and Marvel Comics was going to take us on a journey into the further adventures of Luke Skywalker. With the end of the movie adaptation in Issue #6 of the comic book series, this meant Issue #7 was going who-knows-where in this rich new universe. The surprise was that once we got the issue in our hands we learned it was to be a Han Solo and Chewbacca adventure, beginning with a Seven Samurai-inspired Western story. This was before we knew what would happen in The Empire Strikes Back, so the writers and artists could use their imaginations to take the characters anywhere. The writers proved prescient, creating the title The Empire Strikes for one early issue.
In January 2013 Dark Horse Comics went back to the same time period in the Star Wars saga and gave us a new look at our favorite characters, written by Brian Wood. It was a good run and a fun story if you thought of it as a separate possible storyline. The struggle with addressing this time period? We know specific benchmarks in the future. We just know without being told anywhere that Luke does not confront certain characters, like say Darth Vader or Boba Fett, between Episode IV and Episode V. Yet with comic books you can intersperse different story elements, have different encounters, between the bookends of the stories we know. It is up to the reader to decide which of these encounters work and which don’t. We discussed the Dark Horse effort back here at borg.com back in 2013.
This year with a brand new Star Wars monthly comic book series, Marvel writer Jason Aaron has taken on the same time period again–those days, months, and years between the destruction of the first Death Star and the Rebellion being discovered in the Hoth System. Like Brian Wood, Aaron has written a fun story, full of those main characters fans know and love. He introduced surprising encounters between main characters we never would have imagined, and even introduced a wife for Han Solo we never knew about. But the struggle with the concept is the same. Readers need to see their main characters intermingling–it’s almost a requirement that a Star Wars book include everyone or fans won’t buy it. And this new series fulfills that need. Yet maybe readers don’t need that so much, as the best issue and story in this year’s run can be found in a standalone story in Issue #7. It addresses Obi-Wan Kenobi as he watched over Luke as a boy on Tatooine–something new and different and not dependent on surprising confrontations with old characters–and gives us a hint at the great potential the Marvel Star Wars universe can create for readers.
Enter a new series beginning this month, Star Wars: Shattered Empire, Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, written by Greg Rucka with interior art by Marco Checchetto and a fabulous cover by Phil Noto (who interestingly provides a cover for Issue #1 which is similar to the last of the original Marvel monthly issues–like a jumping off and on point). Shattered Empire is set immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi. Now we are back in a world like Issue #7 of the original Marvel Comics Star Wars spin-off. It really is unchartered territory, and Rucka must have more freedom than writers have with the time between Episode IV and Episode V.