When I heard that Dark Horse was coming out with a comic book adaptation of George Lucas' original draft of what became Star Wars, I was really excited. I had been speculating about what was Lucas' original intent for years, and now we were about to find out.
It was with a sense of reverence that I obtained the first installment and read it. The art was breathtaking. But the story...well, I told myself, they're just setting things up. Surely it will get better.
They're five issues in, now, and sadly, things have not gotten better. The art is still a thing of beauty, but the story moves at glacial speeds, only without a glacier's sense of direction and purpose. It's about as interesting as watching toast cool. Let's put it this way: if this had been the story Lucas had put on film, we would know of him only as "the director of American Graffiti."
Somewhere between this draft and the finished film, somebody must have taken him aside and said "George, George, George...this will never work. Take it back and ask your wife to help you edit it."
There are too many villains, to start off with, and most of them are pretty much aspects of the same guy. There's the Emperor, who looks ever so slightly like Ming the Merciless, only with hair; there's his henchman Darth Vader, who only shares a name with his more impressive film incarnation--he's got a cybernetic eye, but otherwise looks like a normal man in black body armor. He's not even a Lord of the Sith. That part is played by Prince Valorum, who for some reason wears what looks like a gas mask (later he threatens to use some deady noxious gas on Skywalker and Solo, so I guess it's part of his job.) And there are scads of stormtroopers, which the heroes mow through like potato chips with hardly a second thought, so I guess they are in fact non-sapient drones or something. That ride around on ostriches.
There are also too many good guys. There's Jedi Knight Kane Starkiller and his two sons, Deak and Annikin. Annikin's a broody teenager, Deak's a bright-eyed kid. Deak gets killed off in the first few pages. Then we meet good King Kayos of Aquilae and his wife Queen Breha, who are parents to freshman college girl Princess Leia and her two young brothers, Windy and Biggs. Seriously? Prince Windy and Prince Biggs? It really doesn't matter too much, though, because Kayos also gets killed off, and Leia must be fetched back from college to become Aquilae's Queen, but that doesn't mean much since Aquilae has just surrendered to the Empire.
So now we meet General Luke Skywalker, a steely-eyed old Jedi Knight and advisor to the late King, who advises he take Leia and the two princes into hiding until they can figure out a way to restore Aquilae's freedom. General Skywalker also bears an uncanny resemblance to George Lucas.
He has with him an assistant named Whitsun, whose purpose I haven't quite figured out yet. I think he's some kind of spy, but he's sort of a fifth wheel after Skywalker takes on Annikin Starkiller at the behest of Starkiller's dying father, who happens to be mostly cyborg after a lifetime of battle.
Annikin and the Princess don't exactly hit it off--well, actually they do, but not in a good way--and on the way back from college they pick up two droids that landed in the desert after escaping from a starship engaged in the battle over Aquilae. Just what they need, two chatty and useless robots--yes, chatty; in this version of the story, Artwo Detwo talks. It's a shame he doesn't say anything much that's interesting.
Then for some unexplained reason, they decide to go look up the General's old buddy, Han Solo, who is a large green-skinned reptiloid. Oh, and EVERYBODY has a "lazersword" in this alternate universe, even Han, who seems to have been a Jedi, too. Apparently he and a bunch of scruffy-looking guys have been operating some kind of resistance to the Empire. No question about who shot first in this one--"Greedo" is one of Han's buddies. And there's no mention of Jabba the Hutt at all.
With the young twin princes conveniently placed in suspended animation and stored in two pods that look for all the world like giant beer kegs, which Annikin and Whitsun have to cart around on their backs (Ah, now we see what Whitsun is there for!) the cumbersomely large party have to try to get through spaceport security at Port Gordon (really?) and board a flight to the Chrome Company of Ophuchi, which is going to help Princess Leia regain her throne. Only, the Empire is on to them, and manages to get Skywalker and Solo seperated from the others so they can have a brief and somewhat pointless encounter with the Sith Lord, Prince Valorum. The heroes are captured but manage to break free, and escape the planet by commandeering a space ship that is drawn to look like the Rebel Blockade Runner from Star Wars. As they blast their way out of the hangar, somehow, the cry of "Next stop--the Chrome Companies of Ophuchi!" just seems to lack...everything.
And that's the biggest problem of this series--it lacks any real narrative excitement. While it is certainly eye candy of the highest order, the dialog is sparse and the plotting rambling. One doesn't get any sense of the characters' personalities enough to want to care about them. Even when Kane Starkiller sacrifices himself so that one of the young princes can use his energy pack to run his beer keg, ripping his battery from his chest like a still-beating heart, it has a distinct aura of "meh-"ness about it. As his father dies in his arms, Annikin's reaction to the Princess's quiet "I'm sorry" is "It had to be. Now he flows with the force of others." Even "The Force" is not so much a mystical philosophy, but a wish, like "gesheunteit"--"May the force of others be with you!" Kinda like "we are all brothers, kumbaya..."
In fact, the greatest point of interest in this series is in seeing what similarities exist between this story and the one that made it to the screen. Perhaps the rambling is the work of the comic book writers, attempting to flesh out a bare-bones script treatment from almost forty years ago, trying to include just enough familiar stuff to keep us interested, but having to invent much that was not there to begin with.
The battle with the Tusken Raider, where the creature rises up in Luke's binocular field, is here, as is the scene in the cantina where Ben slashes off the arm of the drunken creature harassing Luke.
There are place names like Alderaan and Yavin, only here Alderaan is the seat of the Galactic Empire and looks like Bespin and Cloud City, while Yavin is apparently going to be the Wookiee-world, according to the teaser at the end of Issue #5.
The two robots play little role other than being there, not even giving any plot exposition. Ominously, Whitsun is wearing a red shirt, so I don't expect him to survive to the end of the story, and since he's just about interchangeable with Annikin, it won't make much difference anyway. One of the only way you can tell them apart, is that Whitsun has short hair, and Annikin has some weird kind of samurai-inspired mullet going on. And Pricess Leia is a Spoiled Brat who alternately mouths off to Annikin (for which he punches her!) and confesses her love to him, right as they're rushing to escape Port Gordon.
The only character with any sort of definition at all, is General Skywalker, and that's expected since he's a Mary Sue--albeit one plumped up by Dark Horse's writers.
I'll keep reading this series, mostly because...well, it's pretty; but I'm still waiting to read the actual orignal draft of Star Wars someday.