*This is a review of the trade paper edition of The Star Wars graphic novel. There will be minor spoilers.*
"Before Star Wars, there was The Star Wars...."
I’d been wanting to read The Star Wars since the day I first heard it was going to be published. So, when presented with the opportunity to read and review the book, I jumped at the chance. I'm happy to report that I was not disappointed.
Reading Star Wars the way it could have been is an unusual experience. Everything is at once familiar, yet foreign. Not to say that it’s disconcerting in any way - Quite the opposite. It’s fascinating!
The Star Wars is based on the original rough-draft screenplay by George Lucas, as adapted by J.W. Rinzler. The story opens with a now-familiar crawl outlining the one-hundred thousand year history of the Jedi-Bendu, a group of warriors that served both as bodyguards for the Emperor and as architects of the Imperial Space Force. After the Great Rebellion, a new Empire arose, and the Knights of the Sith hunted the Jedi-Bendu to near extinction.
The first characters we encounter are Kane Starkiller, accompanied by his two sons, Annikin and Deak. The elder Starkiller was once a Jedi, and now he is training his sons in the ways of the Jedi-Bendu. The trio comes under attack from a Knight of the Sith, and Deak Starkiller is killed. This is the impetus for Starkiller to take his son, Annikin, and flee Utupau to search out General Luke Skywalker on the planet of Aquilae. Skywalker was also once a Jedi-Bendu, and Starkiller wants him to take over Annikin’s training.
Aquilae happens to be the homeworld of Princess Leia, daughter of King Kayos and his wife, Queen Breha. Starkiller arrives just as the planet is targeted for conquest by the Empire. As the planet is attacked by the Imperial Space Fortress, the King falls, leaving his daughter Leia as heir to the throne. While Skywalker fights to defend the planet, he places Leia under the protection of his Padawan, Annikin. As the story progresses, the heroes encounter space battles, Wookiees, bickering droids, romance, sacrifice, and a tall green reptilian alien named Han Solo.
That’s where I’ll leave my summary, because I don’t want to give away too much of the story - It's worth discovering on your own. Suffice it to say, all the characteristics we love about Star Wars are present in this first draft. (Oh, did I mention Darth Vader? He's there, too.)
While reading, it was interesting to take note of the many similarities between The Star Wars and what we now know collectively as the Star Wars Saga. There are elements from The Star Wars that are found sprinkled throughout the entire Saga - Only with their context shifted somewhat. Names, places, events - I found myself frequently reminded of scenes, locations, or characters from both the Original Trilogy and the Prequels. It was a bit like finding Easter eggs in a movie or a favorite TV show.
There are some differences, as well. The Force doesn’t seem to be the presence that it is in the films. It is rarely mentioned, and there is little use of Force powers. A few other (but certainly not all) notable differences include:
• The heroes wield red lightsabers
• ”May the Force of Others be With You”
• ‘Artwo Detwo’ is very chatty - and it’s not all beeps and boops!
Spotting the differences really is good fun, and I smiled to myself on more than one occasion.
As for the artwork - It is truly impressive. From the gorgeous cover by Nick Runge, to the outstanding interior by Mike Mayhew, The Star Wars has a richness that is a pleasure to look at from start to finish. The work of Ralph McQuarrie was clearly an inspiration, and some of the images are a welcome nod to Mr. McQuarrie’s beloved concept art for the Original Trilogy.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. Standing on its own merits, it’s an exciting tale - Although one that is not entirely fleshed-out. I wouldn’t mind seeing it more fully developed and adapted to the small screen in some way. However, when compared with the films we all know and love… Well... The Star Wars is still very much a rough draft.
That being said, however, I consider The Star Wars a must-read for Star Wars fans. Seeing how the seeds of the Saga were sown - and how they took root, were nurtured, and flourished - is definitely worthwhile.
My rating: Story - 4 out of 5, Artwork - 5 out of 5
You can purchase The Star Wars in the U.S. at Amazon.com.
It can be purchased in the U.K. at Amazon.co.uk.
Thank you to Titan Books for providing the book for review.
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