If you really want to see the best of popular comic book publishing titles in 2013, you need look no further than Dark Horse Comics’ series The Star Wars. You have a great independent publishing house with the enviable license to the greatest genre franchise, add in an original script by a young, pre-fame George Lucas, an adaptation by Star Wars expert J.W. Rinzler, and the best interior art panel work in the industry, and you have the first four issues of a sci-fi classic in the making.
Regular comic book readers, and diehard Star Wars fans already know about The Star Wars, first a 1974 script that is the stuff of sci-fi legend that has sat in a file drawer for nearly four decades–Lucas’s first draft of Star Wars, before editing, when all the big fantasy ideas first danced around his mind, and now a limited edition monthly series. What is amazing is that your average passing Star Wars fans may not be aware of this new comic book series that is bringing the original source material to the public for the first time in dense, colorful, action-packed pages. We’re no doubt that the hardcover edition that will ultimately bring together the eight-issue series and a director’s edition due out next week (“The Official Guide to a Different Galaxy”) will be a mainstream bestseller. Dark Horse Comics just needs to get this series in readers’ hands.
So what’s the big deal? Artist Mike Mayhew’s incredible panel art. Mayhew pulled from the unused, original design concepts for Star Wars to re-design an entire, comprehensive, fleshed out galaxy. Beginning with the Starkillers, a father named Kane who is a cyborg and sons Annikin and Deak, Mayhew looked to Flash Gordon and Ralph McQuarrie for inspiration. Annikin takes on many plot points that would later fall to Luke Skywalker, yet if The Star Wars was released with Star Wars we’re thinking this Annikin would have been perceived as the coolest Jedi, bringing in some of the hot head qualities we know from a certain space smuggler.
In The Star Wars, General Luke Skywalker is a veteran of many battles in his 60s. But the greatest challenge must have been designing Han Solo himself, who in 1974 was a large green hulk. Mayhew designed the look entirely himself to have the general silhouette of Swamp Thing or the Martian Manhunter, a boisterous fellow who carries the humor and mass of Chewbacca. Imperial General Darth Vader is not a cyborg or Sith in The Star Wars–he’s a villain to be sure, but here Mayhew pulled in elements from the famous uniform from the films. Stephane Roux created the new Imperial troopers, who bear a similar look to Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art, complete with the “light swords” that would one day be coined lightsabers.
The cityscapes, the gaseous planet Alderaan (not Cloud City), the ships, all feel like they belong in the “other” Star Wars universe, with familiar “camera angles,” and design detailing, yet for the most part they are new–you’ll feel like you’re reading a Star Wars book, but the world is just slightly askew.
The honesty in the 1974 script comes through in Issues #1-4 as Rinzler seamlessly pulled Lucas’s work, which had some gaps, into a complete story. You’ll find darker components here than the story you know, beloved characters get killed, the Empire is made up of several Flash Gordon-inspired Emperor Ming types, and the deeper political themes that weren’t as well carried out in The Phantom Menace make more sense in the context of this different story. The action is plentiful–we wouldn’t be surprised if Disney looks here for element ideas for its coming Episode VII film.
The Star Wars Issues #1-4 can be ordered from your local comic book shop and Issue #0, consisting of some great background and art not found in the monthly will be released next Tuesday, December 31, 2013. Issue #5 is expected to hit the shelves in February 2014.