8.14.2013

Star Wars #8 [The Wood Pile]

Star Wars #8 (Dark Horse): Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly pull a smart little maneuver (something like Lando at the Battle of Taanab) in their approach to this issue, which is following three primary plotlines centered around what most readers will cite as the three primary protagonists, Princess Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo, where audience expectation is understandably quite strong. It’s evident even in the letter column that the readership is still somewhat divided on what their majority interest demands, and where their interest truly lies conceptually for a new Star Wars title. Some clearly want to focus on the original “Big Three,” and some clearly want more expansion of the so-called extended universe, with additional characters and fleshing out of the world. That is to say, some want old and some want new. Good luck pleasing both, satisfy one and alienate the other. It’s a fine needle to thread. Welcome to Star Wars, Brian Wood, hope you survive the experience! Luckily, Wood is up to the challenge. He’s a skilled enough writer at juggling multiple threads and “team” books, and the Star Wars Universe itself is a big enough playground to stretch out a little, that he’s able to achieve both, hopefully satisfying both sets of readers comprising the larger audience.

Through the characters and their adventures in this issue, we alternately get sentiment, nostalgia, and action from the Leia, Luke, and Han scenes respectively, culminating with some grand cliffhangers for all involved. In a nutshell, that takes care of one set of readers. On the flip side of the storytelling approach, Wood offers plenty of new creations for the other set and their divergent desires. As a fan, I’m so satisfied with the sheer amount of new “stuff” being introduced in the interstitial space between episodes. You’ve got the ostensible search for a new Rebel Alliance base, Birrah Seah as one of Vader’s spies (at the same time Luke and Wedge are in a buddy team-up movie doing their own spying on the same ship!), Perla making an interesting foil for Han Solo (always at home in the garbage!), Prithi laying in wait (both literally, as a stealth fighter pilot anchored to the hull of the Devastator, and figuratively as a potential love interest for Luke), along with upstart Colonel Bircher vying for the Emperor’s favor. Now, any one of these single threads could make for a suitable arc. Brian Wood gives us all of them. They’re all interesting extensions of the existing universe, they’re more balanced with their approach to gender dynamics, and they contain callbacks to the originals, with talk of detention center breakouts, Han calling someone “sister” in a smart-ass fashion, and little touches about the Antilles family, all deliberately chosen with precise scripting.

Ryan Kelly feels right at home in the Star Wars Universe. From the close-ups of Boba Fett revealing the details of his battle-damaged Mandalorian super-commando armor, to the choreography of the improvised torpedo countermeasures atop Imperial Center as Slave I, the Hound’s Tooth, and the Millennium Falcon duel over the skies of Coruscant for the rousing crowd-pleaser (including a very dope overhead shot of the Hound’s Tooth chasing the Falcon over the skyline). Kelly strikes the right balance in his approach. His figures are pleasing on a macro level, natural in the foreground, always connected to the audience. But, the scenes work when you dive in on a micro level as well. This reveals the attention to detail in the backgrounds and a level of, just, dirty grit to everything that captures the spirit of what Lucas delivered in his original vision. My only small gripe is that the cover art is a far cry from Alex Ross, even a touch stiff and flat, but the interior contents are exceptionally strong. Writing and art are swirling around to create something more than the sum of its parts, rendering a nostalgic look and feel, but a renewed sense of excitement and wonder. Wood and his collaborators have been careful to create and not just re-create. Star Wars is so consistently strong that I struggle not to repeat myself, but the book still has it all. Action, heart, and brain. Old and new. Gender equality. Nostalgia and breaking new ground. Beautiful art and gorgeous color. That said, Brian Wood’s Star Wars is perfectly balanced. It’s one of the books I look forward to the most for sheer enjoyment of the reading experience and the craft of making entertaining comics. Grade A.

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