As you might know, Star Wars is kind of a big deal, and it has been for decades. After the film took people by storm in 1977 comic strips in newspapers soon followed from 1979 to 1984. About a decade later, the strips were reformatted (colored, inked and even reworked) to fit in a more conventional comic book format. Marvel Comics is releasing these remastered strips in their second Epic Collection of newspaper strips. Based on the amazing stories and imagery here, this is not to be missed.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
More classic tales of Star Wars torn from the newspapers of a long time ago! Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 continue to take the fight to the Empire, but it’s a dangerous galaxy out there! As Luke is enslaved by the Serpent Masters, Doctor Arakkus prepares a death trap — and the rebels’ base is besieged! There are dangers in the depths of Aquaris and an ancient threat lurking in the heart of Yavin’s moon! But who is that claiming to be Ben Kenobi?! As the Rebel Alliance prepares to relocate to the ice planet Hoth, Luke gears up for a climactic showdown with Darth Vader — and Han Solo faces a rogues’ gallery of bounty hunters including the mysterious Boba Fett!
Why does this matter?
This is part of the Legends line so it’s not in the canon, but it’s still incredible storytelling. They are also written by Archie Goodwin, who worked on a wide range of Marvel, DC, and other publishers’ titles. Then you have the illustrator of most of these stories, Al Williamson, who was literally one of the inspirations for Star Wars as he illustrated the Flash Gordon comic strip for years. In fact, he also has an enlightening letter in the back of this collection reflecting on Star Wars and his connections to it.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Considering this is a reprint of “remastered” newspaper comic strips I had low expectations, but boy was I way off. This collection features some of the coolest alien life, alien environments, and depictions of Star Wars characters I’ve ever seen. They may not be in canon, but they’re incredibly fun and interesting. Taking place mostly between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, these stories fill in the gaps — much like Marvel Comics is doing with their current series. Things you don’t see in the movies open up the universe a bit more, like space suits and action outside incredibly well-drawn spaceships, or crazy lizard men straight from pulp sci-fi stories fighting Luke Skywalker. There is also a good amount of Force abilities and it’s fun to see Luke come into his own as a Jedi.
One of the standout stories collected here involves an Obi-Wan Kenobi dupe placed in the way of Luke to sway him. Darth Vader has basically hired an actor to pretend to be Obi-Wan and trick Luke. The story is an interesting one with plenty of great renderings of Darth Vader as he shouts at the fake Obi-Wan. It even ends similarly to Return of the Jedi with Luke holding this poor actor who Luke inspired with the goodness of his heart.
The art by Williamson is incredible and the remastering is so good it’s hard to believe the imagery here was ever in a newspaper. That’s partly because the panel work has been moved around to look similar to a comic book, but the color and inking are complex and vivid. There are plenty of strange muscular alien creatures that Luke must face and even Barbarella-style blonde dames to be rescued. There are many familiar faces, like the droids and Darth Vader who look spot on with their movie selves.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
I’m sure some will take umbridge with the more pulp sci-fi renderings and some of the more general sci-fi ideas in this collection. It doesn’t feel like Star Wars and I’d wager if the Star Wars story group existed or at least followed these newspaper strips they’d probably look a lot different.
Is it good?
The art makes this a joy to read and will spark your imagination when it comes to untold Star Wars tales that could have been.
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