Tuesday, December 22, 2015

CBR The Star Wars (Dark Horse Comics)

With a new Star Wars finally back on the silver screen, it's time to look back at the best Expanded Universe material ever produced in my eyes.

Let's dig into an alternate take on George Lucas' original vision...

Don't miss out my previous Star Wars-related reviews!

Comic title: The Star Wars
Art by Mike Mayhew
Written by Jonathan Rinzler

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From 2014
Lineup Star Wars franchise
Format: Hardcover trade paperback collecting The Star Wars issue #1-8 and #0.

If you're reading these very lines, chances are, you will be no doubt familiar with Star Wars. But probably not this Star Wars.

People often call Star Wars a fantasy story, and not proper science-fiction - and for a good reason. In no way is Star Wars supposed to be realistic or a depiction of our world with more advance science. In fact most of the series revolves around these magical samurai-wizard that have telekinetic abilities.

That's because Star Wars draws most of its inspirations from old vintage pulp classics. Like Buck Rogers! Or Flash Gordon! And even some John Carter!

Back when George Lucas was trying to launch the original Star Wars we now know as "A New Hope", he made a lot of revisions of his original rough draft. Because it was way too complicated at first, but also due to how expensive making a big budget take on old serials would be. That's how we went from the "Adventures of Starkiller - Saga 1: The Star Wars" to six movies spread over the decades. That's right, the original tale sort of covered the prequels as establishing arc before movie to a compressed take on the original trilogy.

While writer J. W. Rinzler had been working with George Lucas for research on oter projects he was able to find a ton of artwork and material from Lucas' original rough-draft in the LucasFilm archives. He tried asking Lucas if he could adapt it. For years the whole idea was kept on hold, until Dark Horse license came to a close. Now was the perfect timing to make an official adaptation of the original Star Wars screen.

Long before Star Wars, there was The Star Wars! The Star Wars was released through an 8-issue run since it is so massive, from 2013 to 2014. It's an alternate take on the familiar original trilogy. It's actually just the original film, but it contains elements from all six films in one way or another.

It's clearly inspired by Ralph McQuarrie's original paintings for George Lucas' pitch to the studios. Showing us a familiar yet different galaxy far, far away where Jedi are known as Jedi-Bendu. They used to work for the Galactic Empire for thousands of years, before the rise of the villainous Knights of Sith who killed them all...

Our story opens with a flashback. Jedi-Bendu Master Kane Starkiller had been in hiding since the Knights of Sith started hunting Jedi. But he was finally find out by a Sith Knight! With help from his son Annikin Starkiller, they were able to fend off the Sith.. but not before he killed his other son...

Years have passed. Jedi-Bendu are now a long gone memory. The Empire they once served oppresses the entire galaxy. They've been trying to get their forces to move on the last free world of Aquilae. This Jedi General Luke Skywalker is dispatched to protect the royal family, but the King is killed and the occupation by the Empire begins. Skywalker meets with his old friend Starkiller who sends him his son as a Jedi Padawan apprentice. Annikin is ordered to protect Princess Leia and her two younger siblings.

Meanwhile in the Empire's gigantic Space Fortress overseeing the take over, two familiar androids scared by the attacks ran off from the Empire (which was in no way in any risk whatsoever.. they're just easily scared droids!). By a long chain of events, Luke, his Jedi-Bendu partner Clieg Whitsun, Annikin and Leia find themselves with these two robots who have access to all the secrets and informations on the Empire's new weapon!

Lord Darth Vader is sent by the Emperor to take control of the situation. He is forced to recruit the help of a Sith Knight, Prince Valorum. They track down heroes with a squad of mounted Stormtroopers armed with laserswords like the Jedi-Bendu!

In a cantina near Gordon spaceport they hire the help of a smuggler called Han Solo to get Princess Leia as far as possible. But the Empire corners them, so they're forced to hide on Yavin, homeplanet of the Wookiees race. Leida is captured, Annikin runs to her rescue. But back on the ground Luke is able to prepare a force unlike anything the Empire has ever seen. A surprise they might not see coming, Luke trains the primitive Wookies the Empire had been underestimating for so long to pilot the ships the Empire has stationed on the ground.

It's almost like the 1977 Star Wars you'll never really get to see! Our hero is Annikin Starkiller, a mix of both Luke in the original trilogy and Anakin in the prequel trilogy. Our Obi-Wan figure is instead Luke Skywalker. Jedi are far from the monks we know them but instead impulsive war generals. And Han Solo is a big green alien!

Things are familiar, but different.

This official comic adaptation was developed by Jonathan Rinzler with artist Mike Mayhew. The series also featured some gorgeous covers by Nick Runge.

It's fun to finally see the prototypal take on the story that would inspire the actual films. A lot of elements from the finished products were already present in this original firs rough-draft, but some things turn out completely different.

The art takes inspiration from the depictions artist Ralph McQuarrie did, in fact they even used some of his art for alternate covers. This is McQuarrie's original vision for Star Wars the way he had fun developing it for George Lucas. Back then he knew this would have been far too expensive and too complicated for a feature film. (Although we would finally get a lot of it with the prequels.) His production paintings proved to be a valuable resource for this comic.

The art direction of the comic takes a cue from his original concept arts. It's a broader take on Star Wars, more pulp, and closer to big loud space opera classics.

And what an unique experience it is to see all these names, characters and places take form through this entirely different world. It's a really fun strange experience!

The Star Wars is a really fun comic! In a lot of surprising ways!

Most of the lore was already in place by Lucas. But nothing's quite the same exactly.

Here we have a Darth Vader that was neither related to the main character nor using the Force.

This is as close as we'll ever get to see the original Star Wars as imagined by George Lucas. Forget the original trilogy before all the changes and the special edition, I would love to see this made properly some day (we probably won't in our lifetime, though..). The original pitch was way too dense for a feature film, so it's nice to see it told through a serialization which is really the only way they could have made it. It had to be truncated for the studios, which would become Episode IV.

Strangely I found a lot of elements made a lot more sense here than in the actual finished Star Wars series. The reason R2D2 and C3PO had those plans in the first place, and how and why they escaped the Empire was a lot more organic here. Also the Empire never made two Death Stars here and instead of the contrived way the Ewoks played a part at the end of the trilogy was a lot more natural when it was Wookies the Empire had been underestimating and killing for a really long time.

It's great to see the original concepts Luke and the Jedi came from!

The story just felt closer to old serials. There's a lot more references to classic, such as the spaceport Gordon clearly named after Flash Gordon.

The Star Wars is something any Star Wars fan shouldn't skip. It's really interesting to see what could have been.

There's a lot of great inspired visuals. Giving a familiar yet entirely fresh new perspective on the saga. It's great to see the genesis of the Star Wars franchise.

The story is perhaps a bit too long and complicated, mixing a great deal of political intrigue from the prequels and the fantasy tone from the original trilogy. I loved seeing the original Millennium Falcon fighting in space, or the way it was intended to see the Jedi-Bendu use the force and lightsabers. Even the Stormtroopers carried them!

It's not as much a science-fiction/fantasy tale, and it has a more serial/pulp vibe to it. With plenty of fun surprise. If you're very familiar with the films, it's a great read to just see where things are taking you.

The comic book series was collected as both a softcover trade paperback and the above hardcover collection. The deluxe-oversized hardcover also contains the special issue The Star Wars #0 companion comic which features behind the scenes information, the various concept art, sketches and designs made by both Ralph McQuarrie and the various artist at Dark Horse to pitch the comic adaptation for George Lucas, by artists Mike Mayhew, Sean Cooke, Kilian Plunkett, Stéphane Roux and Scott Kolins.

Overall, The Star Wars is a great terrific read. Highly Recommended for any Star Wars or science-fiction fan.

This is Star Wars as it was originally intended to be. Big. Space Opera. And colorful! It's a bit more convulsed and complicated, through a lot of information at you, but that's the way old serials used to be.

It's the original tale, and it's unlike anything we finally saw. There's some familiar faces like Princess Leia which didn't change much, and others quite different like Han Solo. It's a lot closer to Flash Gordon. But most of what made Star Wars unique was already present here. The Jedi being clearly inspired by Samurai, a lot Old West feel on the distant frontier worlds...

For some reason I can picture people going back to "The Star Wars" in a few years, maybe 2 decades from now. Instead of simply making more movies they might just reboot the whole saga closer to the look of this comic!

While it was sad to see Star Wars go away from Dark Horse after so many years of great faithful services, it was good to see the license go on such a high and original note.

Marvel purist can be glad to know this comic, along the fantastic Star Wars Infinities comics ("What if..?" scenarios) will be amongst the first material from Dark Horse Comics Marvel will reprint first as part of the book Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: Infinities Volume 1, which will be released on December 29, 2015.

I give it:
3 / 3 Anakins!

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