The Star Wars hardcover version Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse bestseller

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last week Dark Horse Comics released the trade paperback and hardcover of The Star Wars—the eight-issue comic book series adapting George Lucas’s original screenplay for Star Wars from 1973, including its original three-word title.  Writer J.W. Rinzler, artist Mike Mayhew, and colorist Rain Beredo created a parallel universe for Star Wars that stands by itself as the single best Star Wars universe graphic novel ever produced.  It’s now hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for Paperback Graphic Books and #3 for Hardcover Graphic Books.  If you dodge Times bestsellers because they are usually trite, banal and over-hyped, The Star Wars is certainly commercial, but it’s the exception to the rule.  You will not have read a Star Wars comic book this much fun and so brilliantly and vividly illustrated since the classic Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back

Lucas’s giant story, fleshed out over six movies via his Episodes I-VI, was concise in its infancy, and greatly right-sized and polished by Rinzler for this adaptation.  Its genius is in its essential Kurosawa-inspired story elements: last of their breed wizard-warriors versus a suffocating empire led by heartless dictators, a broken royal family saved by a band of rogues, a mix of disparate races and conflicts, and an unlikely pair of androids.

The planets and systems are not the same, yet they are entirely familiar: the desert planet Aquilae for Tatooine, a wookie battle on Yavin for Ewoks on Endor.  Some of the occupants of the story are familiar, like Han Solo and Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  Yet here they are very different.  Annikin (not Anakin) Starkiller and brother Deak would later become the impetuous Luke Skywalker.  Obi-Wan Kenobi was far more energetic and a hands-on warrior when he was the bearded and military garbed Jedi-Bendu General Luke Skywalker.  Han Solo by every appearance was a cousin of Swamp Thing.  Princess Leia would become more dynamic and tough in the movies, but was originally more like Padme Amidala in her infatuation with her young love, Annikin Starkiller.

Deluxe The Star Wars Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse Bestseller

Other characterizations were flipped on end for the villains, too.  The Sith was originally represented as Prince Valorum, not Darth Vader, a not-so-vile bad guy.  Here, Darth Vader is merely an imposing villainous human.  Neither was Vader the cyborg of the tale—that was reserved for a superbly complex hero of the Jedi-Bendu order named Kane Starkiller, whose sacrifices propel the heroes of this story forward.  Unfortunately Kane never made it to the screen in any form.  An emperor and governor are here, too, but a bit different from the Palpatine and Grand Moff Tarkin we’d meet in theaters in 1977.

The Star Wars, available in trade paperback, a hardcover, and a deluxe boxed set, includes Issues #1-8 of the comic book series released over the past year.  It also includes Issue #0, a “Making of” issue, including original sketches and explanations for the designers’ final renderings and re-renderings of characters we thought we knew all about already.  With a new generation of readers, it would be fun to introduce new readers to The Star Wars before Star Wars.  And what could be a better “what if” than for Marvel Comics to continue this parallel universe with other worlds and stories.  Unfortunately that does not seem likely since Marvel promises it has its own exciting plans ahead.

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The Star Wars is a great cover-to-cover read.  Mike Mayhew’s artwork is superb, creative and action-filled. It’s a book that would make a great gift for any Star Wars fan that missed it in its bestselling single issue format.  Each version is available at your local comic book store now.  If you can’t find it there, check out Amazon.com for discounts off the cover price for the trade version here, the hardcover version here, and the deluxe version here.  As Dark Horse Comics’ licensing of Star Wars comes to an end this year, The Star Wars will no doubt be looked back on as the pinnacle of its decades of great storytelling about that galaxy far, far away.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
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