Review by C.J. Bunce
Which is more intriguing: C-3PO wielding a lightsaber with the power of a Jedi, or Luke Skywalker masquerading in a C-3PO droid suit? How about Luke experiencing his own space slug, a privilege (?) he missed in The Empire Strikes Back? Or the escape from Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi through another lens? If you missed the kinds of fresh stories with familiar faces that graced the first 107 issues of Marvel Comics’ vintage Star Wars comics, you’re in for a treat. Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker–The Manga brings back all the reasons you loved Star Wars when there was only the first movie to think about. It has the same excitement and edge as the Disney+ Visions series, but it’s more consistent in quality and feels and looks even more like vintage Star Wars.
Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker–The Manga is a manga adaptation of author Ken Liu’s Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi–The Legends of Luke Skywalker. Don’t worry, it’s nothing about The Last Jedi, but Liu’s creative anthology of tie-in stories about Luke. Liu’s stories are the very stuff we read about in George Lucas’s original Star Wars novel: The Journal of the Whills and the referenced (but never again expounded upon) Adventures of Luke Skywalker.
This manga pulls only four stories from the novel: “The Starship Graveyard,” by Akira Fukaya and Takashi Kisaki; “I, Droid,” by Haruichi; “The Tale of Lugubrious Mote,” by Subaru; and “Big Inside,” by Akira Himekawa. Each is true to the character of Luke, unlike many a tie-in novel, and each brings surprising situations incorporating the franchise’s lead hero.
We’ve seen stories told by Imperials before, like stormtroopers in both the Marvel Comics and the third Skywalker trilogy of movies. “The Starship Graveyard” is told from the view of a loyal young Imperial officer, whose Star Destroyer crashes on a desert planet. The young man has seen holograms of the wanted man Luke Skywalker, but doesn’t immediately place him when Luke rescues him from the wreckage. What does it take to convince an Imperial he is being duped into service and sacrifice?
In “I, Droid,” a large, powerful service droid is rounded up with others, including a pair of droids Star Wars fans are very familiar with. The ideas of “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” blends with the A New Hope phrase “we don’t serve their kind here.” Luke is known for rescuing Imperial captives across the galaxy, but does that include worker droids? The lengths Luke goes to in this story presents the kind of iconic imagery that made Coca-Cola posters back in the 1980s. It’s truly a marvelous artistic achievement and fun piece of storytelling.
“The Tale of Lugubrious Mote” may be even more clever, providing the story of Luke’s infiltration of Jabba’s palace, but from the vantage of the unlikeliest of sources: the rebel sympathizer and hero Lugubrious Mote. Never heard of her? It’s because she was a telepathic flea on the hair of Salacious Crumb. It sounds like it’s all humor, but it’s actually a poignant tale of a partnership between a famously scantilly-clad princess and wise little bug.
In the final story “Big Inside” (a Doctor Who reference?), Luke partners with a young alien woman seeking transport home, and they find themselves strategizing their escape, Fantastic Voyage style, from the innards of a giant space slug.
Each story is great. Each story has new characters you’d love to see return in future TV or movie stories. As mangas go, the look is completely consistent with other Japanese comics stories, although the story reads Western style–left to right and front to back, unlike to typical manga, which actually takes some getting used to. Each artist’s take is unique, but this anthology, like Star Wars Visions, provides fresh looks at the universe we’re already so familiar with.
Highly recommended, Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker–The Manga is available in print now here at Amazon, or get the digital edition now by adding it to your VIZ account here. Keep coming back to borg as we review more manga from VIZ Media.