It’s a funny thing going back and reading the once canon, now “Legends” Star Wars comics produced by Dark Horse Comics because technically speaking, they never happened. Since Disney bought Marvel and Star Wars, most of the comics of the past two decades have been erased from the official history. The “Legends” designation still gives them a pertinent feel as one might argue they existed via rumor or storytelling, but probably didn’t actually happen. We got our hands on a recent Marvel release in their “Epic Collections” line which may not be in canon, but dammit there are good stories within!
Writer: Brian Wood, Ron Marz, Jeremy Barlow, Ryder Windham
Artist: Facundo Percio, Stephane Crety, Carlos D’Anda, Brian Ching
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The rebels and the Empire – locked in conflict! When Leia announces plans to marry, will the Rebellion lose a princess, or gain a new safe haven? Darth Vader is on a mission to instill fear and discipline into the Imperial ranks using his elite stormtroopers! But as Obi-Wan Kenobi haunts the Dark Lord’s dreams, the name Skywalker dominates his mind! Meanwhile, Luke fights side-by-side with a veteran of the Clone Wars and Han Solo flirts with an old flame. When Leia risks everything for a childhood friend, Han, Luke and Chewie must risk it all for her!
Why does this book matter?
Collecting stories from Dark Horse’s Star Wars #13 through #20, Star Wars: Empire #19 through #27 and material from Star Wars Kids #1 through #20, there’s a lot of content in this book. The main stories take place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back and showcase some of Brian Wood’s best work on the series. Ron Marz also tackles a longer story, with some great shorter tales within too.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
How scary would this be?
Though it’s not part of the main story sold via the summary, issues #13 through #15 focus on a three-part story that’s simply excellent. Brian Wood writes (with art by Facundo Percio) a story about Darth Vader attempting to get some revenge after the Death Star’s destruction. The Emperor blames him and he will have his vengeance! Ensign Nanda is his second in command and she serves as the narrator of the story. She does as he wishes without question, though she has the strength to question Vader if she sees fit. Wood writes Nanda very well and you’ll quickly latch on to her as a character you can relate to. The captions are written well and capture the fear and mental gymnastics to be okay with Vader’s killer actions along the journey. Wood also incorporates Obi-Wan in an interesting way as he’s a ghost that haunts Darth Vader. This element adds to Obi-Wan’s claim he’ll be stronger if he’s struck down. Percio’s art in this portion captures Nanda’s facial expressions well and does a great job with technology and ships throughout.
Nearly half of the book is focused on the title story listed in the summary which is written by Wood and drawn by Stephane Crety. This is a clever story as it weaves well into the Rebellion’s eventual landing on Hoth and reveals they did some searching around before finding a planet to hunker down on. This story element is further explored later with Leia going on a mission to find geological surveys so as to pick the planet the Empire would least be looking for. Wood weaves in Leia’s princess status well too as the Rebellion uses it to wed her to a prince so as to allow them to camp on their planet permanently. Wood uses this to explore Han’s feelings for Leia (mostly jealousy), which is a theme used later in this volume as well. The art has a sharp look that’s great at capturing the world and the technology.
The last half of the book is a collection of one-shot stories (an excellent chapter about Darth Vader possibly being reminded of his love for his departed Padme) and shorter story arcs. These stories do well to capture different elements of the Star Wars universe, from the crazy alien worlds we’ve yet to see, to the bond between Han, Leia, and Chewie, to a fun story about a long lost clone trooper who isn’t too keen on what has become of the Empire. The Star Wars Kids comics, originally published in 1997, contain four different story arcs each with very different adventures. One has Han and Chewie go off and find treasure and in another deals with an Imperial spy. A highlight of the bunch, and the last issue in the run, is drawn by Glen Murakami and the style of his work is akin to Mike Mignola. The art style is so striking and feels so modern, you wouldn’t think it was 20 years old!
Plenty of great art in this book, including this page by D’Anda.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Most of the issues with this collection are minor though they can sour you on entire sections. The main story, with Leia attempting to marry so as to give the Rebellion a safe haven, runs on a bit long and characterizes Luke in a bratty annoying way. It concludes about as you’d suspect too.
The second half of this collection, containing multiple story arcs, has a few duds which again, drag on too long. Leia visiting an old fling becomes a monster adventure more than anything else, and in another story with Han (again, meeting with an old fling) the story goes on for too long and feels like filler more than anything else.
On top of all this, there’s the hard-to-shake feeling that none of this matters due to the change in ownership. Or at the very least some of the ideas are being used again in Marvel’s latest series, which certainly feels strange. As a nice blast from the past, and a smattering of well-told tales that flesh out the adventures of our favorite Star Wars characters it works well, but don’t expect it to feel anything more than a quick visit as opposed to a way to see the development of the characters.
Is It Good?
This is a good collection that’s a reminder the Star Wars “Legends” comics had some great ideas and well told stories. It also contains some fun one-shot stories that are must-read material, especially if you love Darth Vader, making this a good time all around.