Dark Horse has been publishing Star Wars comics for twenty years. There's nothing much to say about a new title from them, then, right?
Except with this one, there's plenty. I'm talking about The Star Wars, the new eight-issue mini-series that adapts George Lucas's original screenplay, the one he developed before his vision became a phenomenon. Plenty of names and concepts remain familiar, but they all seem to be playing from a different set of rules. And best of all, Dark Horse made sure it reads as brilliantly as the idea of releasing it in the first place.
J. W. Rinzler is in charge of adapting the script. He's previously made a name for himself as the chief archivist for books about the creation and world of Star Wars. If anyone knows the saga backwards and forwards, it's this guy, which makes him the ideal candidate to interpret and translate a completely different version.
The artist is Mike Mayhew (not related to Peter), who has been active in comics for years, but may have found his defining project here. His stuff is breathtaking, and integral to pulling the whole thing off. The characters all look unique (except for one who looks like a pint-sized version of Luke Skywalker from A New Hope), while certain ships and locations evoke familiar images from the films, as is acknowledged in accompanying concept sketches.
The opening issue makes it clear that George Lucas extrapolated a lot of what became the later six film saga from the original effort. There are strong traces of The Phantom Menace (specifically the politics of Naboo), in case you're still wondering how much of the prequel trilogy came from the formative development of the Star Wars universe. The central ideas of the Jedi and the Empire are here, as well as many names and personalities, all of them shifted just to the side.
It will be intriguing to read the whole thing, and I'm willing to bet that the resulting trade collection will become a staple for all true Star Wars aficionados.
This sort of thing has almost happened for fans before. Timothy Zahn's original Thrawn trilogy, the books that launched the entire expanded universe outside of Dark Horse's initial efforts, for instance, or Shadow of the Empire. I still hold to the idea that Lucas remains the heart of the whole thing, and that it's not really, or not enough, Star Wars without a Skywalker at the center worrying about their place in the universe.
With new films on the horizon from people other than George Lucas, this may be the first test of how well that will actually work. If the films are anything like this, I think we're good.