From Novels to Comics: My First Star Wars Comic Experience
By: Stacey Cline
WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Marvel's Darth Vader (2015) and Star Wars (2015)
Breaking the Stigma
We love our Star Wars novels.
The way they show us different perspectives on the same event and introduce us to different corners of the universe allow us to follow our favorite characters long after the end credits roll. Generally more overlooked than the novels of the Extended Universe, however, are the comics and graphic novels of the Star Wars world. Up until recently, I also excluded such works from my library. I never considered comics as an option for me.
Maybe the idea that they were for a different class of nerd? (and let's face it, we’re all nerds here) Maybe because I thought books were better for storytelling? Maybe I’d been conditioned to think books with pictures were for kids?
That all changed when I opened the first issue of Darth Vader.
Enter the Dark Lord
I had been toying with the idea of picking up the Vader comic ever since hearing about how incredible it was on a Star Wars podcast. And don’t get me wrong -- it wasn't just on the podcast. The love for Darth Vader was all over the internet, and everywhere I looked, I heard how insightful and fun this story was.
But like I said before, comics had never interested me. I had never read a comic in my life--I hadn’t even seen one. Crazy, right?
When I finally cracked open Darth Vader, I was hooked. Obsessed. At some point I was informed that this series and Star Wars were actually designed to be read concurrently (Thanks Rick!), so I started reading that series as well. Eventually, this path lead me to the Vader Down crossover event which combined both series into one, amazing story. I binged the rest, and suddenly, I realized that I had been missing out on all the fun my entire fandom-hood.
As I mentioned before, I read the first five issues of Vader prior to finding out about the Star Wars comic, and frankly, I’m glad about that.
Yes, there are a couple of flashbacks Vader has that come directly out of the other comic, which I didn't know until I started reading Star Wars, but my decision to read solely Darth Vader at the start didn't hurt my experience in any way. If anything, it may have made it better. However, after going back and reading the issues in their suggested order, I gathered a lot more perspective for the two series as a whole.
So, I went back and read Star Wars (2015) issues 1-6, all the puzzle pieces came together, and I was even more addicted than I was before. Oh me, oh my, it was SO. GOOD.
Old Friends and New
In the first few issues of Darth Vader, we find the Sith Lord visiting Jabba on a personal errand, requesting aide of some sort from the space slug. We don't find out the nature of this visit until later on (Spoiler: BOBA FETT--lots of Fett doing what Fett does best). Jabba threatens Vader, so Vader brings the proverbial hammer down and gets what he is after.
We also realize that Vader is in real trouble with the Emperor--quite literally fighting to maintain his status at the Emperor’s side after losing both the Death Star plans and the mysterious Rebel pilot. He still hates Tatooine, sand, and most of all Sand People; stopping to slaughter a tribe before the issue’s end.
Enter Doctor Aphra; she really is a delight.
A Han Solo-esque criminal, she steals ancient artifacts and sells them. This line of work allows her to discover a number of interesting items including the Triple Zero personality matrix (basically C-3PO’s polar opposite). Vader shows up to Aphra’s crime-in-progress, kills her opposition and tells her to help him. Vader commissions her to build him a private droid army as his distrust in the system grows, and Aphra, both nervous and flattered, enthusiastically agrees; what choice does she really have?
She essentially becomes Vader’s sidekick for much of the series and one of the coolest characters ever.
Meanwhile, in Star Wars, a dejected Luke, feeling guilty for the death of his comrades while destroying an Imperial weapons facility, leaves the Rebel base and searches for any inkling of a sign from Ben Kenobi or the Force that he is headed in the right direction and possesses what it take to become a Jedi to honor his father (sound familiar?).
Han and Leia continue their flirtatious bickering throughout the comics, everyone is mean to C-3PO, Mon Mothma & Admiral Ackbar make a few appearances, and we even get a glimpse at Obi-Wan’s struggle with isolation and trying not to be a Jedi. And that’s all within the first volume!
By the time we reach the end of issue 6, each series has rounded out smoothly.
After an intense confrontation with Boba Fett in Kenobi’s hut on Tatooine, Luke escapes his desert homeland with the journals of Obi-Wan Kenobi. After the defeat, Boba comes back to Vader with the Rebel pilot’s name that snowballs the rest of the saga as we know it.
With the revelation that he and Padme’s child survived, Vader realizes that the Emperor has manipulated and lied to him for decades. This is where he made the decision to turn Luke to the dark side and take the Empire for himself. This is one of my favorite scenes in the two series. It fills in a gap from the movies that we didn't even know existed.
Pullin' Your Leg...Err...Arm
These comics are funny too!
Triple Zero threatens to pull Chewbacca’s arms off, Chewbacca does actually pull one of his arms off and proceeds to beat him with it, much like the classic “stop hitting yourself” big brother move.
He and Dr. Aphra’s other droid, a BT-1 assassination model, have a similar relationship to R2 and 3PO.
Beetee is foul mouthed like R2D2 and occasionally a bit argumentative. Triple Zero is a protocol droid specialized in in etiquette, customs, translation and torture. He enjoys draining the blood of organics and carries Mandalorian Xenotox, a debilitating poison, in his finger.
As usual, C-3PO is destined to get the short end of the stick in every instance. He loses a leg, is forced to confront scavengers, loses both his arms to Triple Zero, and, of course, gets an earfull from R2. Leia punches Dr. Aphra and kidnaps her, there is an incredible wookie-on-wookie battle, and Han continues to ignore the existence of the Force by dubbing his new friend, Skywalker, as “Lucky Luke.”
I can't say enough good things about these comics. And these are just a handful of issues of two series--they wouldn't even fill a novel! The artwork is fantastic, and the easter eggs, foreshadowing, and humor is top notch.
It is easy to flow from one series to the next, and they’re even fun to read as a family. I can’t believe it took me so long to venture into the comic world from the comfortability of the novel world. I may never go back!
Okay, that isn’t true.
But the appreciation and excitement that lives in these pages...there are not enough words! I was treated to an adventure far beyond my expectations.
The book has been opened, that pages have been turned, and there is no going back!
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