Today's the day, people. Eleven months ahead of a new movie, the latest round of Star Wars fever has already struck. Marvel just dropped their first Star Wars book since 1986, and it's probably the sweetest treat fans have had to sink their teeth into in a long, long time.
I was one of the (seemingly) few Star Wars fans not upset by Disney's relegating the currently existing Expanded Universe to non-canonical status. I saw it as a safe way to soft-reboot the Star Wars universe. With the films firmly in place as canon and the Clone Wars and Rebels series serving as official non-film stories, now was a chance for lapsed fans, new fans, and fans who simply hadn't been able to keep up over the years a chance to get in (or back in) at the ground level. Meanwhile, those deeply invested in the EU could still enjoy its stories and characters as extensions of the overarching mythologies of the core story—versions of the story that has been going on for so long of which we are now getting a solid, official continuation.
This is the first comic to be filed under what I'm calling the Revised Canon (Disney marketing team/Star Wars fan base, you can have that one for free). I don't think its overreaching to say that it's so good, it earns its place in the official timeline of Star Wars events without dispute.
Opening with a scene worthy of a proper entry in the film series, the tension builds to an explosive twist, setting off a breakneck series of events that are over far too quickly, as this book leaves you wanting more. All the heavy hitters show up, and they all have something awesome to do. Han Solo is a dastardly rogue with a knack for improvising. Leia Organa is no-nonsense and mission-first. Luke Skywalker is an idealistic crusader with his head just a little bit in the clouds. Darth Vader owns.
David Cassaday's art is some of the best he's ever done. Gone is the stagnant, expressionless, chunky figures of Uncanny Avengers. The visual storytelling of this comic conveys motion and energy. Especially impressive is the visual trick he pulls to show a lightsaber in action; it's one of the most clever visual displays I've seen in some time. The characters emote with genuine and varied facial expressions. What's more, Cassaday hasn't toyed with the look of the characters and the world they inhabit. He places his own style on top of the template that is the classical Star Wars visual signature, and it works out almost without flaw.
The best thing about this book isn't its storytelling, characterization, or art, however good all three of those are. This book's main selling point is that its fun. It really did feel like watching A New Hope all over again. It was fast-paced, action-packed, and full of all kinds of pop and wow. The fact that Jason Aaron gave us an economical script that still managed to pack in so much character building and child-like excitement is just a hefty bonus.
Dark Horse's Star Wars comics were great, there's no doubt about that, with far more hits than misses. They told some amazing stories and explored a fascinating fictional world with great depth and gravity. But they always missed that special spark that is the original trilogy; they were always a little too dark and serious. This is vintage Star Wars adventure that you fell in love with in the first place.