It’s hard to follow a legend. Van Halen was never the same when Sammy Hagar took over for David Lee Roth. The Office floundered once Michael Scott left and Andrew Bernard took over. The Denver Broncos still haven’t recovered since the retirement of Peyton Manning. Whether it’s music, TV, or sports, there’s always an undeniable standard of expectation when a revered star leaves for someone else to step in — and Star Wars comics are no exception. The marks Kieron Gillen and Angel Unzuenta’s left on Star Wars are mind-boggling, and their magnum opus on the ongoing Star Wars comic was unforgettable, making newcomers Greg Pak and Phil Noto’s first issue on the series an absolutely daunting task. Luckily for fans of the galaxy far, far away, Pak and Noto’s first issue of Star Wars is a seamless transition that wastes no time putting the beloved trio of original trios on a thrilling, impactful, and sprawling adventure.
This new era of Star Wars comics opens with an incredible opening panel from artist Phil Noto that lets all readers know: This. Is. Star Wars. A daunting image of a Star Destroyer lying dormant in space as drones are launched on a hunt for Rebels opens the comic, feeling like a poignant homage to the opening of Empire Strikes Back. This one panel at the onset of the book not only establishes a notion that readers are getting closer to completing the gap between A New Hope and Empire, but also makes it crystal clear that this new creative team wholeheartedly understands the fundamentals of what makes a Star Wars story a Star Wars story.
The biggest challenge in adapting any beloved franchise, especially Star Wars, for the comic book medium, is ensuring the heart and soul of the original characters is captured within the dialogue. For Star Wars, fans are more hyper-vigilant than any other franchise. Writer Greg Pak easily captures the ebb and flow of the conversations between Han, Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO — readers will feel like they’re really reading an unreleased storyboards and scripts from within the Lucasfilm archives. From the boyish naivety of Luke Skywalker to the caring yet dismissive attitude of Han Solo, Pak truly captures the charisma of all the classic characters in a way that will make fans feel right at home.
It’s not only the dialogue and actions of the characters that are captured so wonderfully in this new issue; the look of the characters and aesthetics of the universe are also expertly captured by Noto. Just as important as capturing the feel of the monumental characters in Star Wars is capturing their iconic looks and physical mannerisms, which has plagued previous spin-off comics in the past. Noto, who is no stranger to the Star Wars franchise, has no problem illustrating the likes of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hammil, and the late Peter Mayhew, further establishing this new run as a true extension of the original trilogy.
In this first issue on their new run, Pak and Noto establish a three-pronged adventure featuring all the classic characters that already feels like it is building towards something huge. Past creative teams with Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen at the helm have taken a slow, methodical approach building towards the Rebel Alliance’s discovery of Hoth as the perfect Rebel base, but Pak and Noto’s first issue makes it feel as if that discovery is coming much faster than anticipated. Though this issue is hampered by a heavy onset of exposition at the start, what is established is undeniably tantalizing to fans who are dying to find out how the Rebels found Hoth and is already a ticking powder keg teasing a thunderous explosion.
Like so many other fans, I was saddened to hear Kieron Gillen and Angel Unzuenta would be stepping away from the Star Wars franchise. Thankfully, after reading this issue, I have nothing but the utmost excitement for the future of the main Star Wars title and it is abundantly clear that Greg Pak and Phil Noto are building towards something truly incredible.