Quarterbin Follies #25: May the Fourth / FCBD Special

Image4Allow me to tell you a story. Actually, let me tell you two. The first one is mine, the second one is not. On to the first. This weekend was a great one for the nerds, for the freaks and the geeks and the socially disjointed. It was the weekend of Free Comic Book Day, and for the first time ever, I braved the road and the crowds and stood in a line at two shops to get my hands on said free comics. It was a whole contingency of Rhyses that came from our little Scotts Bluff County hamlet to the big Cheyenne city, to get books from The Loft, and from Gryphon Games and Comics. There were staff and participants in costumes; there were nerds of all ages. There were cosplayers and comic up-and-comers. It made me wish we had our own products ready to go. It was a lot of fun, and between the two shops and the many of us, we were able to get most of the 51 books available, plus, I laid down some cash for a few of the DC Convergence titles, and Cardboard a graphic novel by the towering Doug TenNapel. I have spent more time in the last 48 hours reading comics than I have in the last two months. It has been surreal. But really, none of that was what I came here to write about. See, today it May the Fourth, the official/unofficial Star Wars day, and being a huge fan of Star Wars, I wanted to do something I'd decided on before I even started comic-blogging. See, back in the waning days of 2013, I began picking up the monthlies of The Star Wars, a limited comic series based on George Lucas's original first-draft screen play for a film of the same name. It was a similar tale, but a different one, and I was excited to check it out. And then I was excited to review it! My original plan was to write an issue by issue review as it came out, but two things happened: 1) I am terrible at doing anything on a regular basis, and 2) I actually missed issue #7 when it was in the shops (remember, of course, that here in Scottsbluff, we have no regular comic shop, so our only in town access to new comic books is the newsstand!). Well, it was a few months ago that I chose to forgo my years long avoidance of the direct market shops, and ventured into the aforementioned Loft. Surprise, surprise, they had the missing ish, and I figured that a review of the entire volume of The Star Wars seemed more than appropriate for a May the Fourth special!Image1 Now, on with the story -- A vast and technocratic society ruled by a less-than-benevolent dictator sets its collective sights on an another world. This other world is ruled by a king and is dedicated to preserving its old ways — ways mocked by the mighty Empire, who sees in this other other world only a resource to exploit. As the kingdom is threatened by a giant space station, so is the king's only daughter and rightful heir. To the rescue comes a stiff necked and impulsive man and his rag-tag band of misfits; who are able to save the day only when the space station is destroyed. Can you tell what story I described? Uncannily, it more closely resembles Spaceballs than Star Wars, does it not? But that is the unadorned plot of The Star Wars. No Kidding. Now, I have to stop myself for a second here, because while I intend to make more of the "Spaceballs Corollary," I really like The Star Wars. It wasn't until after I finished the story that I noticed the parallels, and it doesn't really take away from the story. So, our tale proper begins on the desolate desert planet of Utapu, where our hero ANNIKIN STARKILLER lives in hiding with his father KANE and younger brother DEAK. They are among the remnant of the Jedi-Bendu, a class of warrior monks with a broken relationship to the despotic Empire. The STARKILLERS' life of survival and discipline is broken when the young one is killed by a Knight of the Sith. In grief, the STARKILLERS decide to return home to the planet Aquilae. Image3Unbeknownst to them, Aquilae stands threatened by forced assimilation into a Galactic Empire based on Alderaan (who is after Aquilae's cloning technology). Standing between Aquilae and oblivion are KING KAYOS and QUEEN BREHA, and an aged General LUKE SKYWALKER, here playing the familiar role of Old BEN KENOBI. As SKYWALKER scrambles to address the coming threat, he is met by KANE and Son. ANNIKIN becomes LUKE'S padawan and is sent across the 'Barsoomian' wastes to collect Princess LEIA. LEIA plays a real PRINCESS VESPA, "Not without my matched luggage" until a left cross makes her a lot more compliant. I have to stop the train for just a second here. I cannot find a better time to put this in, so here goes. If I have one HUGE complaint about this story, it is the shoe-horned romance between the Princess and ANNIKIN. (Yeah, not to spoil anything, but there is a romance between ANNIKIN and LEIA.) It is forced, and fake and shallow. In short, everything you might expect from a Lucas-style romance. Just imagine a mash-up of Indy and Willy from Temple of Doom and Anakin and Padme' from Attack of the Clones. Yep. Anyroad, back to the show. Meanwhile, Aquilae is attacked by a moon-sized battle-station, and her forces are no match, especially after the king is killed and the legislature votes to quit fighting and join the Empire. Of course, SKYWALKER and the Queen aren't willing to roll over so easy, and so make plans to spirit LEIA and her two brothers away to safety, thereby preserving the monarchy to later rise again! Enlisting the SWAMP-THING-looking HAN SOLO, SKYWALKER and crew escape Aquilae, only to find themselves crashing on Yavin — a Yavin populated by Ralph McQuarrie-designed Wookiees! While on the planet, LEIA is captured by Imperial forces, ANNIKIN is elevated to the station of Wookiee-god, and Luke preps the Wookiees to play "Ewok." In the final movement of the miniseries, LUKE ANNIKIN flies to rescue the princess while HAN and BEN LUKE and the Wookiees storm the DEATH STAR battle station. Hoo-boy! Image2All in all it was a great series. I first read most of the book when the thing was fresh off the newsstand, but it failed to bowl me over. The art by Mike Mayhew (with colors by Rain Baredo) was amazing, and the way they redesigned and re-purposed elements from the films was remarkable. The whole thing is gorgeous. Nevertheless, on my first reading, I was overcome by the stilted dialogue and awkward scene changes, but reading the whole eight issues in one sitting, the whole comes together wonderfully. There is a familiarity about it, but the story is still very different from Star Wars proper. Most remarkable yet is the universe feels very very comfortable — almost like a home. Truth be told, some of that familiarity may even stem from the awkwardness, as the writer J. W. Rinzler was able to preserve something very "Lucas"-ey in the work. It is new and very old. Shiny, yet shabby. It is everything it ought to be. So, while I've waited a while to review this here, I'm glad I did. On the one hand, I'm glad we got the Star Wars films and universe we did. But at the same time, I would not mind taking another trip, 'Longer ago, in a galaxy even further away.'
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Mathew D. Rhys

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