While many have wondered and speculated about the future of the Star Wars franchise at Dark Horse comics, it seems the publisher is only doubling down on stories based on George Lucas' most famous creation. They recently started up a series by Brian Wood and Carlos D'anda that takes place in the gaps of the original movie trilogy, and now they're giving Star Wars: Legacy, a series that takes place almost a century and a half after the first movie, another shot.
While the first volume of Legacy boasted the talents of long-time Star Wars comics creators John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, this new edition comes to us from the married creative team of Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko, who have already successfully launched a motion picture-based licensed comic at Boom! with their Planet of the Apes material (two limited series and a current ongoing). Hardman and Bechko co-write, and Hardman provides the pencil art in an ambitious first issue that sets up what the world of Star Wars looks like generations removed from the moments we know best. The galaxy is explored at three levels. The first is the gestalt, macro level. The new governing body of the galaxy, made up of a combination of the Jedi Council, Imperial Court, and the Galactic Alliance, is trying to take hold of a fragile galactic ecosystem that's loosely-knit at best, and on the verge of falling apart before it has a chance to fully form at worst. This new government is trying to take steps to gain the confidence of far-reaching planetary systems by installing communication technology, bridging the large gaps between the governors and the governed. Focusing on the politics of communication and the appearance of goodwill from a newly-formed governing body is a smart way of grounding the story; though Bechko and Hardman are working in the milieu of a long time ago (though not as long) in a galaxy far, far away, they bring up issues that resonate in a contemporary, modern way. The tense formation of empire and the clashes between diplomacy and martial strategy are themes that hit home to comic readers today, and the creators of Legacy #1 are able to have them sing in the Star Wars universe just as strongly ("We're investing in window dressing, not solid statecraft," argues a former military general. "We need the galaxy's cooperation. They must agree to being governed," responds the new Empress Fel. "I'd rather put my trust in a strong fleet than perceived strength and promises," is the note the scene ends on).
While the debate goes on in the highest rulings classes, the comic also examines the practicality of the new government's plan, from the second narrative level – from the point of view of the boots on the ground. Master Val is the emissary knight sent by the Empress to a remote star system to install a new communications array. He is one of what must be many technicians sent out to carry out the master plan of the new government. Unfortunately for him, his mission does not go smoothly. Before long, questions are raised about the possibility of corruption in the government, the nature of the Sith presence in the galaxy is hinted at, and a new player whose motives remain unknown enters the fray, thus showing us that there is danger coming from all sides.
Third, there are those who are caught in between. Some people, regardless of what happens up top, are simply too low on the ladder to really be affected by high-minded matters of state. These are the junk haulers, the miners, and the everyday people who just go about and survive any way they can. It's here where we meet Ania Solo, descendant of Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa. Though she comes from a Royal family line, she also has the blood of a rogue smuggler in her, and her lifestyle shows it. Ania deals in junk, and lives in the muck, where she has to deal with crooks, dirtbags, and occasional run-ins with the law. Most endearing of all, she possesses all the hallmarks of wild youth and a sense of adventure. She's the type who will impulsively shoot first (ahem) and ask questions later while trying to get out of trouble. It's not an easy life, but it's hers. Still, she's out there searching for a bigger slice of life, and when she stumbles across an artifact that could lead to a big enough score to make that happen, she's all too happy to go forward and not let anyone get in her way. Bechko and Hardman set up a potential and always welcome buddy comedy dynamic between Ania and her new sidekick, a Mon Cal named Sauk who's really, really reluctant to go along with Ania's crazy plans. In issue #1, we get a glimpse of what this character interaction will look like, and we can anticipate some light-heartedness along with high adventure, not to mention a connection with iconic characters we grew up loving so much.
All of this is rendered in Hardman's gritty style that's heavily inked, giving the comic a weighty immediacy that's very personal and really fantastic to look at. The level of detail enhances the world we're looking at and reading about. Best of all is the sense of design in the book. Hardman, who also works in feature films as a storyboard artist, impeccably designs every single page, and it makes for some great visual storytelling. Hardman especially gives a master class in action scenes and moments of great kinetic energy during a lightsaber battle, which is wonderfully realized and conveys a frenetic sense of pacing. Hardman, being a co-writer, has a close relationship to the script he's drawing, and Legacy #1 is all the better for it. Meanwhile, Rachelle Rosenberg does a gorgeous job with the color art. Her muted palette establishes a sense of foreboding and her shadows and texture pulls the look of the comic together. This is a difficult and uncertain world, and Rosenber brings a rough-hewn quality that reinforces that fact. Still, she has moments where she gets to cut loose with a lot of boldness and frankly, her lightsabers just look awesome.
Star Wars: Legacy #1 is a comic that demonstrates what it looks like to look at a universe from various angles, and make them all work together as a whole. It's at once an expansive and intimate look at what our favorite universe can look like in its future, and it's a moody piece of storytelling that considers itself on a massive scale, while not forgetting about the smaller pieces that make everything work. There's a lot to take in, but Bechko and Hardman are able to follow through on their seed of an idea, and have opened up a lot of fascinating possibilities in this issue. It's a well-crafted first issue, and it's a great way to give us a new look at Star Wars.