The franchise that moved from Marvel Comics a long time ago to a publisher far, far away celebrates a return home with a fresh start in “Star Wars” #1 by Jason Aaron, John Cassaday and Laura Martin. In this relaunch issue, Aaron eschews references to the expanded universe, instead working only with what was established in the original trilogy — in particular, the first film — with the issue picking up its storyline from “A New Hope.” The end result isn’t unlike the original movie: It’s readily accessible, enjoyable and just downright fun to read.
The issue couldn’t have started off better. The homage to the unforgettable and attention-grabbing opening of the first film pays tribute to one of cinema’s finest moments as best it can in a wholly different medium. The scene is symbolic of Marvel’s reclamation of the franchise by evoking a sense of starting over after nearly forty years, but it’s also a warm welcome to a fanbase that might have found decades’ worth of continuity to be as imposing and impenetrable as the Death Star, thermal exhaust ports notwithstanding. Right down to the simulation of the “A long time ago . . .” preamble that opens every film and sets up the issue, the beginning only lacks John Williams’ iconic music score, which will likely be triggered in readers’ heads regardless.
Cassaday’s talent allows him to capture the actors’ likenesses without making them appear as though they were drawn from stiff photographic references. Aaron’s natural sounding and faithful dialogue reads like it was lifted from a lost script of the original trilogy and, combined with Cassaday’s likenesses, make it difficult not to hear Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher’s voice while reading. Cassaday also knows his way around the Star Wars universe’s tech as well as he does its lifeforms, both the familiar and the unfamiliar. And with her coloring, Martin captures the same beat-up and well-worn look of this corner of the universe George Lucas did in his movies.
Aaron’s story takes place between “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” and he competently and confidently scripts a scenario that could quite comfortably have called itself the original movie’s first sequel. When the initial characters are introduced, Aaron rapidly elevates the tension to a level that rivals some of the films, and then delivers some honest surprises. There’s no writing-for-the-trade mindset here; encounters and conflicts happen, and they happen quickly, and Aaron supplies a cliffhanger that would be on the level of something expected in the penultimate chapter of an arc, not its first.
While Aaron wastes no time accelerating the story, he doesn’t try to rush expanding the mythos. There are no major new characters introduced here, no new alien races or overly strange worlds and no elements brought in beyond those already present in the early films. In that regard, the issue takes on a somewhat tentative tone but doesn’t significantly suffer for it as Aaron has plenty of story to tell with the relatively few toys that he brings with him. This minimal approach is also in large part what gives the issue its comforting sense of familiarity.
“Star Wars” #1 is a fitting and superbly-constructed homecoming, one that is inviting to more casual fans while delivering excellent storytelling that will encourage existing fans to make the jump to lightspeed and travel to the franchise’s once and future home.