The Great Experiment continues as the adaptation of George Lucas's rough first draft of 'A New Hope' hits its second installment. While thinking the comic's first issue was beautifully illustrated I felt it was a bit wordy and confusing, something I attributed to the predictable hiccups of getting people caught up on an only vaguely familiar universe and something that would smooth out over subsequent issues. Turns out I was very wrong, and 'The Star Wars' is actually becoming a fascinating study of George Lucas the storyteller, and perhaps serves unintentionally as artistically framed proof that he was less a young genius and instead M. Night Shyamalan lucky. In Issue Two, Obi-Wanesque Luke Skywalker is left to care for his new padawan Annikin Skywalker as the king of Aquilae continues to deny Luke the authorization to go to war with the Empire. War however soon finds them as a certain moon-sized space station attacks, throwing the planet into chaos.
Like last issue the comic is an intriguing collection of completely new material and a reorganizing of events from the finalized film. We get a battle that sort of looks like the Battle of Yavin and R2D2 and C-3P0 finally hit the scene, with Artoo unsettlingly able to speak English as well as delivering some repurposed lines of C-3P0's dialogue. Again however, it's the strange similarity to elements of the prequel trilogy that stick out the most, from the onerous bulk of political yammering to Annikin's startling and occasionally creepy lack of people skills. It's the lack of knowing who or what I'm supposed to be rooting for which reminds me of the prequels the most. A similar scene to the Death Star run from 'A New Hope' appears in this issue, but sans the stakes or the involvement of any characters we know. Threepio and Artoo are Imperial droids this time, and instead of carrying Princess Leia's secret plans they escape the Death Star just to save their own hides. This reorganization of events and characters is mostly fascinating because of how little it works, showing how slight changes to the story we all know and love completely denature and dissolve the meaning that gave it an emotional pull. Our Luke archetype Annikan has a disturbing moment with a Aquillian woman and his first interaction with Leia ends on a laughably shocking note; are we supposed to like this guy? When there is action, we're emotionally removed from it and when there isn't, we're submerged in endless droning dialogue: sound familiar?
I don't blame J.W. Rinzler for any of it, my guess is he's doing his best to stay extremely faithful to the original script, and unlike 'Robocop: The Last Stand' he actually knows how the dramatic flow of an issue works, even if the story resists it. Equally Mike Mayhew and Rain Beredo's art is as good as it was in issue one, really wonderfully capturing the spirit of Ralph McQuarrie's concept art. Artistically this project shows incredible polish and care, making the weird dialogue and bizarre story choices almost feel unfairly applied to such quality comicking.
Most people who are dedicated fans of the franchise have heard the story of the original cut of the film, an unwatchable badly paced mess until it was re-edited with the help of Lucas's wife Maria to the masterpiece it is today. With 'The Star Wars' we get a glimpse of what could have been, and it's dark, a head-scratching uneven mess that has more in common with the legion of Star Wars rip-offs that directly followed the 1977 premiere like 'Starcrash' and 'Galaxina' than the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. Don't expect to be told a great story if you decide to keep reading; buy it if you love the art or are as fascinated as I am by this time capsule of Lucas history, but you'll probably find what is really being published here is the legacy of the luckiest filmmaker alive.
Writer: J.W. Rinzler Artist: Mike Mayhew Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/2/13