Saturday, April 18, 2015

Star Wars at Disney

It's old news now that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm, its most notable property being, of course, the Star Wars franchise. The true test for whether this was a good thing for fans or not will be the upcoming Episode VII: The Force Awakens. However, there are a few indicators as to whether this is a good thing or not, and so far I'm feeling pretty positive. What are these indicators, you might ask?

JJ Abrams - Put me in the pro-Abrams camp, as his Star Trek reboot is one of my favorite movies from the past decade. While I think that the sequel fell a bit short, it's gotten better on repeat viewings. I've also seen Super 8 and MI:3, and while I didn't love either one of them, it's clear that he's a competent director who knows how to get good performances from his actors.

Star Wars: Rebels - I know that I'm not the only one who's been impressed by this show, which fits in with the new continuity that Disney is establishing. While I have only seen a few scattered episodes of Clone Wars, I've found this show to be far more compelling - perhaps because it follows a specific set of characters. Also, I find myself a bit more partial to the Empire era than the Republic one, at least as far as storytelling goes.

What's so great about the show? Just about everything, really. The characters are fun and diverse. The animation is great. Also, it gives Star Wars fans what they want with bounty hunters, lightsaber duels, lessons on The Force, and even cameos by the likes of Lando, C-3P0 & R2-D2, and Darth Vader.

The comic books - Perhaps Marvel gets most of the credit here, but since they're owned by Disney, it all still counts. For those who don't know, Marvel used to publish Star Wars comics in the 70s and 80s. From the 90s through just last year, Dark Horse published stories in what was then known as the "Expanded Universe" of Star Wars. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, it was pretty obvious that Marvel would get the rights to the comics once Dark Horse's license expired. To their credit, Dark Horse produced a lot of really good stuff, and I know that they got me excited about Star Wars again with their initial offering, Dark Empire. Eventually, they started to saturate the market with titles, and many of them weren't all that great. Ultimately, this made me lose interest, and I only found myself picking up the random title here and there.

I've checked out every comic that Marvel has released so far, and as of now they're among some of my favorite titles. Even better is now that all of the comics are considered to be canon. In other words, it's all being overseen by the higher-ups to make sure that nothing contradicts the movies, novels, video games, etc. (Which is what happened previously.) They include:

  • Star Wars - This is the main title, which focuses mainly on Luke Skywalker and the other main characters from the original trilogy. We get a lot of great moments, including a great bit of Han Solo getting in way over his head, all the while Leia gives her critique of the situation. Plus, there's a really cool confrontation between Luke and Vader that manages to not take anything away from their more important one in The Empire Strikes Back. (The series takes place between A New Hope and Empire.) The first story arc has been completed, and it's left a pretty intriguing cliffhanger for the next one. I should also note that the writer, Jason Aaron, is one of my current favorites with books like Thor and Southern Bastards
  • Darth Vader - This one is becoming my favorite of the bunch. Writer Kieron Gillen has taken advantage of everything we now know about the former Anakin Skywalker and is using it to his advantage. He's a major player in the Empire, but he's definitely not in a comfortable place, especially after having been one of the few survivors when the first Death Star was destroyed. The story really picked up with the third issue as the character Doctor Aphra was introduced. Think of a female Indiana Jones, minus the conscience, who runs at the mouth when she's nervous - and Darth Vader makes her nervous. Vader has need of her services, and she's not going to turn him down. To add to this odd pairing, the anti-C-3P0 and R2-D2 are brought along. (It's a protocol and an astromech droid, and they're both programmed for homicide.)
  • Princess Leia - This is my least-favorite of the bunch, but that's only because the others are so good. It might just have my favorite art of all of them though, as I've always dug the work of Terry Dodson, and he's a great choice for this. Writer Mark Waid utilizes the fact that Princess Leia is a...well, princess, and he explores exactly what that means, especially considering that she's the princess of a planet that's been destroyed. How does she relate to her fellow survivors - especially those who are not royalty like she is but think that she's not living up to what a princess is supposed to be? Shoot, only two issues have come out so far. It might just become my favorite if the next few issues keep getting better.
  • Kanan - The Last Padawan - This follows the adventures of one of the main characters from the Rebels TV show. Kanan is one of the few Jedi to escape Order 66, and this series explores his earlier years. I was the least excited for this one. It didn't feature any of the characters from the original trilogy. It didn't have a creative team I recognized. However, with the first issue I was completely on board. In Revenge of the Sith, you get to see a lot of Jedi being gunned down while on combat missions. But what about those who were relaxing? What about those who bonded with the clones who were to become their executioners? That's what the first story of this series deals with.
George Lucas - From what I understand, Lucas gave Disney his outline for what he wanted the sequel trilogy to be. (A trilogy that he once said existed, then it didn't, then it suddenly did.) Disney decided to do something else. Turns out he's not even on the comp list for the comics, as he had to pick them up at Midtown Comics in Times Square.

How is this good? Okay, let's be honest. George Lucas created something wonderful and awesome. But Star Wars outgrew its creator. I'm not a prequel-basher, but I'm honest about the fact that they weren't as good as they could have been. I would hope that the folks at Disney at least listen to him every now and then, but yeah, it's a good thing that he no longer is in control of this. I don't think that he's going to miss any meals.

The novels - I haven't read any of the new, in-canon novels yet. How about you? Leave some comments if you have something to say about them.

The trailers - Awesome, right? I know.

Whether this is good, bad, or indifferent, Star Wars means a lot to me and a lot of other people. It's part of a shared experience. And truth be told, the stories from a galaxy far, far away always resonated more with me than any religious story I was told while growing up. (Although I certainly wouldn't have admitted that back then!)

Of course, we fans have been burned before. But right now, I think that we have a lot of reasons to feel pretty positive.

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