Star Wars (Volume One): Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron (writer) and John Cassaday (artist)
Marvel now has the rights to the Star Wars comics, so they’ve been reissuing all the old Dark Horse collections and launching into several different series. In fact, there are so many new ones that I’m not even sure how they are all connected. But the two you need to know about are Star Wars (Volume One): Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron and Darth Vader (Volume One): Vader by Mark Waid, which I’ll be reviewing separately. These two titles are fantastic. Up until now, I’ve been a fan of the films only, never having read any other Star Wars novels or comics, but given all the hype around these new series, I’ve taken the plunge. And I’m glad I’ve done so. If you, too, are only a casual fan of Star Wars, this series is for you as well. Other than having seen Episode IV, you don’t need to have any other Star Wars-related knowledge. If you are a huge Star Wars fan, I don’t even need to tell you about this collection: I’m sure you already own this excellent, and well-advertised, book.
Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes includes the first six issues of this new series. The events take place soon after the end of Episode IV, which I find makes for a lot of fun: Luke and Leia still don’t know they are brother and sister, and of course, Luke doesn’t know he’s the son of Vader. Best of all, really, Vader doesn’t know Luke is his son yet. Luke is full of self-doubt and hot-headed. There’s plenty of humorous banter between Han and Leia: There’s enough sexual tension between them to make the comic fun for adults, but there’s not so much that you will have any problem handing it to your kids to read. And as in the films, the tension is at its highest when the action is at its peak, so the two tensions build together in a simultaneous crescendo.
The plot of the book is divided evenly in two. The first three issues are the perfect opening to an action movie: The rebels — Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 — are attempting to blow up one of the Empire’s weapon factories. It’s flat-out action all the way, with shoot-outs and high-speed chases, with cornered heroes and light saber duels, as well as Darth Vader and plenty of disposable Stormtroopers. The second half of this trade collection, issues four through six, deals with the aftermath of this initial, high-speed and explosive operation: Luke quietly, resignedly, goes off in one direction, and Han and Leia head off in another. And we even get to follow some other characters as plot lines multiply. Impressively, author Jason Aaron keeps everything very clear for the reader as we see what the following characters are up to: Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, and a mysteriously-masked deadly assassin.
The art by John Cassaday is equally impressive. Cassaday is known for his heavy use of cinematic-style, wide panels, and I’m certain that’s why they picked him for this title. He rarely uses square panels, and even more sparingly employs curved, or uniquely shaped, panels. His style does not look like the stereotypical superhero comic book. The art is almost perfect, and my main complaint is Han Solo’s face: Occasionally it looks okay, but usually, it has an odd quality to it. I can’t really put my finger on it, and I don’t know if it’s more a result of Cassaday’s art or a result of the colorist’s work (Laura Martin, who otherwise does a splendid job, if, indeed, even this fault is hers). Luke suffers from a few odd facial moments as well, but mostly, he looks good. Leia, to me, is the best looking of our three human stars: She looks very cool, very serious, and like somebody you don’t want to mess with. When she barks out orders, we take her seriously; when she fights, it’s believable. All the other art is perfect. The light sabers, the laser weapons, Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers — I have absolutely no more complaints beyond the nitpicky ones I’ve already mentioned.
I’m almost ready to give Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes five stars, but I want to see what happens in the quieter moments; we have only a few in this volume. If the first half of this volume ends after the initial action sequence, the second half of the volume ends when what has been lost has been found. Vader, Luke, Boba Fett, and our mysterious assassin are all looking for a lost person, for a forgotten object, or for new knowledge. And each of these plot lines resolve in this volume as the searches end; we are given multiple cliffhangers as we wonder, “Now that what is lost has been found, what will this person do next?” I’ll be reading the second volume as soon as it comes out, which won’t be long, since Marvel seems to be rushing to meet customer demands. Volume One is already in stores, and if the recent movie got you as excited about the Star Wars universe as it did me, then you’ll want to get your own copy of Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes right away.