As part of the Lucasfilm’s 2012 acquisition by Disney, all approved licensee contracts were reviewed and, in some cases, revoked. And so it was that Dark Horse, holders of the rights to produce Star Wars based comic-content since 1988, who found themselves handing the reins back to the mighty Marvel. This came as no real surprise to many of course, as a) Marvel had authored the original Star Wars run from 1977 to 1986, and b) The Disney Corp had also owned Marvel since 2009. And while arguably the biggest name in comics has been doing sterling work with numerous titles ever since, a gap exists in the market for tales aimed at the younger reader (or ‘all ages’, in industry parlance). Enter IDW…
San Diego’s burgeoning publisher has brought us the monthly anthology title, Star Wars Adventures; not to be confused with the 2009 digest-sized series of the same name, although it’s similar in tone and approach. Intentionally lighter and more briskly paced than their siblings at Marvel, IDW’s stories are (mostly) self-contained within the issue, with a broad covering of the saga’s timeline. With clean styles from a roster of artists which lean toward the outright cartoonish, it would be easy to dismiss these issues as ‘not real Star Wars’. Lucasfilm’s designated Story Group, however, remains involved to oversee the final product, and Adventures is described as being “set in the Star Wars canon” (a big deal / sore point since the Disney takeover).
The main difference between this and other more ‘serious’ titles though, lies in the all-important writing, rather than the visuals. The shorter page-counts mean that stories tend to be focussed on one character in one location, and with dialogue which isn’t exactly simplified but certainly compressed into more dynamic or explanatory bursts. At this early stage in the publication’s development, it’s unclear how literally we’re supposed to be taking things, as the intentionally broader audience also means a higher level of physical humour within the panels – by no means a problem in itself, but older readers may struggle to reconcile this with the ‘between the scenes events’ they’re seeing.
Each issue is built around two main segments, the ‘front’ story, which comprises around 14 pages and centres on one of our well-known heroes from The Galaxy Far, Far Away, and a second shorter one with its own framing device named ‘Tales From Wild Space’, where spacefaring junk-collector Emil Graf shares a morally loaded parable with his small crew, featuring characters we know from the movies. The first two releases use their lead strip to run a two-parter entitled ‘Better The Devil You Know’ – a sequel-era story set on Jakku sometime before the events of The Force Awakens and featuring Rey and Unkar Plutt. While the prime demographic will be instantly familiar with the scavenging heroine, the separate ‘Wild Space’ entries take place in a certain diner on Coruscant with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Dexter Jettster (a bold choice of era for an opening gambit) and next on the moon of Yavin VI shortly after the Rebel victory at the first Death Star.
Opening issue 3 of Star Wars Adventures is ‘Pest Control’, written by Landry G. Walker and illustrated by Eric Jones. This follows First Order Stormtrooper FN-2187 (later to become Finn) as he capers after a small, feathered alien stowaway aboard the Star Destroyer Finalizer, picked up from a recently visited planet. Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren feature in supporting roles, playing the comic straight-men (sorry, Phasma) to Finn’s slapstick pursuit. The story is a light, character piece, fluffy and inescapably sweet. For those who aren’t taking Star Wars too seriously, it’s a lot of fun – although older readers may be put in mind of the vintage Ewoks series.
Following up, ‘Tales From Wild Space’ brings us ‘Adventures In Wookiee-Sitting’, with Cassian Andor and K-2SO from Rogue One carrying out a mission on the moon Charissia, when everyone’s new favourite grumpy droid finds himself… well, the title spells this one out. Much like its predecessor, it’s firmly tongue-in-cheek, although with a lead like K-2, it would be difficult to make it anything but. Arianna Florean’s inks are strong and cartoon-like, while Monica Kubina’s colours do them vibrant justice. The six-page short has been co-written by Shannon Eric Denton and K-2SO himself, Alan Tukyk, so even if the final product isn’t to all tastes, it still serves as an interesting curio.
Star Wars has proved to be a broad church with seats for all, and Star Wars Adventures is a welcome addition to the canon. As a nice chap named Frank once said, “We will watch your career with great interest…”
Star Wars Adventures #3 is published on 11th October, available from your preferred comic outlets. Remember to check back here and let us know your thoughts once you’ve read it!