Long ago in a galaxy far far away, George Lucas decided people needed laser swords and muppets who could play instruments in seedy cantinas. And it rocked the faces off nerds across the universe. The tradition continues today, with a fraction of the budget, in these here dusty tomes… er… comic books.
Star Wars: In the Shadow of Yavin takes place in an expanse of time somewhere between New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. We find ourselves dealing with a frazzled Darth Vader, trying to restore his sterling image of fear based perfection, while being continuously mocked and criticized by Emperor Palpatine. Leia and her rabble of rebels are scrambling about to find a home base for the rebellion. Han is off doing his shady things for the cause. It is an “episode” centered in space, and only briefly hits the ground. There are also some spy things happening, and some space battles.
Writer Brian Wood (the Massive, Channel Zero, Conan the Barbarian) and artist Carlos D’Anda (Batman: Arkham City), have created a follow up piece to New Hope that manages to resonate in tone and spirit something truly akin to the original trilogy.
I want to start with a bit of praise. Actually, there will be a lot of praise, but I want to begin with colorist Gabe Eltaeb. This talented individual managed to wow me as soon as Vader stomped foot into this trade. Vader resonates a crisp, clean brilliance in a dozen different shades of black, and I can’t imagine how time consuming or difficult making Vader’s appearance unique, shiny, and menacing must be when the only color you can work in is black. Somehow, lines manage to remain clean, and details sharp and stunning, and Vader comes across just as menacing as he first did on the big screen. OK, I need to back off, or I will keep gushing, but there is not a single panel, beginning to end, where I found a hint of a misstep from our brilliant colorist throughout this book.
I guess we will just keep trucking through the visuals. Whereas the color popped, the pen work of Carlos D’Anda was all sharp and stabby (in a good way). The composure of backgrounds from panel to panel was consistently detailed and astounding, while never overbearing on the scene itself. Facial expressions seemed very sincere and genuine, and even if you detracted dialogue, I imagine you would always have a sense of what was running through each character’s mind. Faces were done in pain staking detail. Really, the only time I did not find myself insanely impressed were the distance shots of tie-fighters and x-wings. Sometimes clarity was sacrificed on the vehicle for seeming expediency, but often times still supported by a really strong backdrop. Han and Chewie found themselves bouncing back and forth between intense and dramatic to cartoony and goofy, but I am not entirely certain this was not done intentionally. Long story short, this book is a visual gem.
Brian Wood, on writing duties, has (as I stated earlier) crafted a spiritual sibling to New Hope. Now, that is a statement with mixed praise for me. The work fits quite comfortably following the first film, in that it feels like it is still fleshing things out. There is action, but the action in not in abundance. There is a great deal of character development, and Leia is seen as a much stronger figure than I ever recall her being in the movies. The writing is certainly drawn out, as the writer is trying to create more of a sense of mystery than a science fiction blockbuster, and it’s well done. But when I say New Hope-like, I mean that it is a great piece of art, but of the amazing trilogy, is my least favorite piece. So, Brian Wood has created a great read here, but it suffers the burden of setting up future plot, and unfortunately, that often sacrifices intensity or excitement, as is the case here.
In summation, the art scorched my face off ( in a good way (it that possible?)) with the fine color work, and the 90% amazing work panel to panel. The writing was solid, but as it feels like it is a building block, suffers from being a bit dry and dull as the stage is still being set.
4 out of 5.