“In the Shadow of Yavin” is a great subtitle for this year’s regular monthly Star Wars series from Dark Horse Comics, although it inexplicably seemed to vanish from the series introductions after Issue #5. Written by Brian Wood, the Star Wars monthly comic book series goes back to a key, relatively unexplored segment of the Star Wars universe–the period between the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, and The Empire Strikes Back. In 13 issues spanning this past year, readers could take a look back to their own vision of the future of Star Wars in the 1970s when all we knew were the events of that first movie and later, three novels by Brian Daley. Of course this isn’t altogether new territory. This period was examined by Marvel Comics following on their own adaptation of the first movie, the now classic comic book series created by Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin and Howard Chaykin, along with Carmine Infantino, Donald F. Glut and Rick Hoberg.
So how did this series fare? The new Star Wars monthly (not to be confused with The Star Wars limited series or the several other Dark Horse Comics Star Wars Universe titles), is to comic books what “popcorn movies” are to cinema. It’s a great mag that you can pick up and enjoy each month for what it is–images of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, and Darth Vader when their roles were much simpler. Full of X-Wing and Tie-Fighter battles, it’s a print edition action movie, thanks to pencillers Carlos D’Anda and Ryan Kelly, and movie poster quality covers by Alex Ross. We even get some fun exploration of Darth Vader’s banishment by the Emperor for losing the Death Star, and appearances by Boba Fett, who back in the day we wouldn’t meet until The Empire Strikes Back, and Mon Mothma, who we would not meet until Return of the Jedi.
The addition of these key characters by Wood makes sense here. They are inserted in the story in ways that don’t take away from their later introductions in the movies. The addition of Boba Fett and Bossk may feel like a cheat to some, like adding bacon to your Iron Chef tourney meals, since it was their cloaked past and brief encounter in The Empire Strikes Back that created their mystique. But this series isn’t about canon and detail as much as creating a fun serial. This includes Luke and Wedge Antilles hanger deck scenes that may be inspired by the knuckledragger sequences of the Syfy Channel Battlestar Galactica TV series.
Where this series does rise above the typical Star Wars story, including Lucas’s own creations, is in its exploration of four primary female figures even to the exclusions of fleshing out Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Princess Leia Organa is the series lead, she pilots her own X-Wing, she scolds newbie farm boy Luke for not following the rules, she strategizes and carries out tactical plans. Mon Mothma carries out her own separate level of political maneuvering to help ferret out a spy plot, even turning the tables on the Empire itself. On Coruscant, Han and Chewy team up with a smuggler and pilot just as savvy as Han in the new character named Perla.
But it doesn’t stop there. Darth Vader taps his own protégé by promoting a confident and determined woman named Moff Birra Seah, even defying his own Emperor when he wills Seah to kill herself when he is dissatisfied with her role. As Princess Leia typifies the story of the citizen of a destroyed planet trying to rebuild a rebel defiance, Seah’s character illustrates the complexities of survival within the confines of the military machine of the Imperial Fleet.
All said, this Star Wars monthly will keep readers engaged in its ongoing pathway to the inevitable promotions of Luke and Han to generals, the knowledge of Darth Vader of an enemy named Skywalker, and a rebel base entrenched in the ice planet called Hoth. Issue #13 of Star Wars from Dark Horse Comics is available in comic book stores now. You can pick up trade editions of issues #1-6 in Star Wars Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin and Issues #7-12 in Star Wars Volume 2: From the Ruins of Alderaan, both available from Amazon.com.