Rogue One Graphic Novel – Comic Review

Just in time to catch the peak buzz in December comes IDW’s Rogue One, the latest in a series of sporadically published graphic novelisations based on the Star Wars films. Unlike previous versions from Marvel and Dark Horse, these adaptations are presented in a single issue (there have been additional hardcover compilations of the prequel and original trilogy sets). Although they’re aimed at the younger reader, little simplification is offered, these are just compacted versions of each story.

But the thing which really makes the run unique is its gorgeous artwork, channeling the 101 Dalmatians-era of Disney animation. Rogue One carries on this tradition. Exaggerated and dynamic in structure, the characters from illustrators Igor Chimisso, Stefano Simeone and Matteo Piana (at Disney Publishing Worldwide’s studio in Italy) are instantly and consistently recognisable as their screen counterparts, with Davide Turotti’s backgrounds painted in lush detail and scope.

These aren’t just stills from Rogue One which have been transposed to the page, the art here shows a love not only for Star Wars but character-study in general. It’s probably telling that these visually ‘Disneyfied’ versions of the last two movies have arrived on shelves approximately one year after their screen-releases, such is the amount of work that’s gone into each.

If ever a comic series was just begging to be turned into a feature-length animation, this is the one.

However. The problem that the Rogue One graphic novel runs into is one that’s dogged the series over its seven previous adaptations, namely the limitations of the single-volume format. Whereas Marvel’s recent six-issue series told the story of the 131-minute film over 130 pages collectively (managing to insert a few between-the-scenes moments along the way), this iteration attempts to squeeze it into 64 pages of storytelling. That kind of compression is always going to be a challenge, and it’s one which will always require things to be dropped.

While the lines of dialogue that writer Alessandro Ferrari has ported over are faithful to the original screenplay, the overall pace of the book means that entire scenes are reduced to five or six panels, sometimes less. The structural integrity of the story remains, but a reader who hasn’t seen the original work may struggle to keep up with the why of events rather than just the how.

Although it’s possibly a coincidence that this book is also aimed at the junior market, it omits the mercy-killing of Rebel informant Tivik at the hands of our hero Cassian on the Ring of Kafrene trading outpost, glosses over Saw Gerrera’s and Orson Krennic’s final scenes, and there’s not so much as a sniff of Saw’s tentacled truth-diviner, Bor Gullet.

The deaths of the central squadron themselves are present however (for obvious narrative reasons), handled with the relative subtlety they’re given in the movie version. As for Lord Vader’s scenery-chewing in the film’s final moments? That takes place over a single page, a family-friendly translation of events which nonetheless leaves no doubt as to who walked away from the battle and who didn’t. Considering how dark and intricate this story becomes, it was never going to be easy to adapt for a young audience.

But gripes about brevity aside, the Junior Graphic Novel series has been a solid accompaniment to the visual canon of Star Wars, and the Rogue One adaptation is no exception. But we’d happily wait twice as long for a version with twice the detail…

IDW’s Rogue One is published on 12th December, available from your preferred comic and magazine outlets. How do you think it compares to earlier entries in the series? Let us know!

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