With Episode 7 in the hearts and fears of Star Wars fans, Brian Wood ( DMZ, Northlander) takes us back to a simpler time. Not just to a time before the dark shadow of Phantom Menace materialized the childlike optimism of Star Wars fans everywhere like bits of ol’ peaceful Alderaan, but back to the summer of 1977. Back when audiences were awestruck by Star Wars. An era before Empire, Return (and it’s Ewoks), The EU, etc.
Wood’s take largely focuses of Princess Leia at first, then shifts to Vader latter on. He opens with Leia and Luke lofting in X-wings among the stars. It’s a little jarring, as Leia has never been seen or mentioned being a fighter pilot before, and seems as if it wouldn’t be the best place for someone with her talents. Not that the very capable Leia could not learn to fly an X-wing, but seems an odd extrapolation.
The two have a long a conversation of the heavy losses suffered from the destruction of Leia’s home world and The Battle of Yavin IV. Luke is strangely introspective and empathic here. He dismisses calling Yavin a victory due to all the lost life’s. A fair point, but not the normal tone we hear from luke. It is all very much the opposite of the ending in A New Hope where everything was shiny and smiles.
Soon after the plot engages and we get to see Carlos D’andas art in combat. The initial OMG-tie-fighters semi-splash page is great. Reminiscent of Return of the Jedi’s “it’s a trap” science. It mimics Irvin Kershner directing style rather well, giving it a genuine Star Wars feeling.
After that page however the page layout is sloppy. Wood decides to focus on the dialogue instead of the events of the dog fight, but the dialogue is mostly just exposition. Wood is known for his character focus, but he has not found his voice with most the Star Wars heros just yet. The fight is mostly wasted pages. Seems the opening was really just a method to start the scene is space, as it Star Wars tradition, and the dog fight, and subsequent grounding of Leia’s X-wing a way to get her quickly back on ground.
The action scenes on the ground are better. Leia seemed sure with a blaster in the Death Stars Detention bay, and no less here. The art and layout quickly improves here too with some great shoots of her sulking through high grass with her blaster rifle.
Later we meet Han and Chewie as the Falcon takes off from The Redemption. Wood nails Han’s cocky tone perhaps even better than popular EU writers like Timothy Zahn have. Although, he makes another odd choice with Han, having him boast to Chewie how he is not afraid of Jabba. Seemed pretty afraid when he spoke about it on Hoth, but he did step on his tail (i guess) in the special edition so it’s open interpretation.
Vader is drawn awful. His mask looks like the pre-film versions, and it’s distracting. The stories take on Vader however is interesting. Darth Sidious appears in holograph before Vader and spits insults at the Dark Lord for his failure, and demotes him. Sidious’s tone is all wrong. He uses slang, complains about money. Despite the art and the poor execution of Sidious, Vader’s reactions in the coming issues are going to be some of the more compelling story lines moving forward.
The issue ends with Leia reviving a covert mission, and rumors of a spy, from Rebel leader Mon Mothma (her presences also breaks the 1977 theme since she was not known during 1977). Wood’s Star Wars is an interesting start to a familiar part of the universes past. Flawed layouts, exposition bloated dialogue, but a few bright spots, and the promise of better issues with the start of some interesting plot lines await.