Five years after writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday launched an identically-titled series, Marvel Comics has relaunched their main Star Wars title, this time with Charles Soule penning scripts and Jesus Saiz skillfully rendering fan-favorite characters. Now, rather than taking place directly after A New Hope, the story centers on a post-Empire Luke reeling from the revelation that Darth Vader, Sith Lord and Imperial enforcer, is his father. The films touched on Luke’s internal struggle but never committed to a deep-dive into the trauma this bombshell caused. Soule, recognizing an opportunity to smooth out Luke’s transition from a conflicted Padawan to a steadfast leader, zeroes in on a period of Luke’s life that needed context and clarification and has a blast doing it.
Soule captures the essences and experiences of these characters with writing that’s almost too good for the book. When he isn’t lambasting Lando or throwing Luke into a patrilineally-triggered identity crisis, he’s introducing new villains, raising the stakes, and building on a beloved story with skill and passion. It’s the kind of assured writing we wished we’d gotten from the sequel trilogy, a beautifully dynamic start to what promises to be a memorable tailpiece to The Empire Strikes Back.
Saiz’s grasp of the characters and how they need to respond is astonishing, especially when he’s squeezing readers between Leia and Lando as they argue about the latter’s recent betrayal on Bespin. He has effectively and effortlessly captured nearly every facet of Carrie Fisher’s presence, from her withering glances at a defensive Lando to her ability to command at critical moments. It’s all there and it’s the next best thing to watching Fisher onscreen. Saiz is an impressive visual storyteller and he needs to be on readers’ radars. Luckily, his work here solidifies him as a go-to artist with enough skill and craftsmanship to carry any book almost single-handedly. It will be interesting to see how long he sticks around before Marvel yanks him away to work on another high-profile project.
Soule and Saiz have kicked off their new Star Wars adventure in fine fashion, delivering the high-stakes action, fun character work, and emotional resonance we’ve come to expect from this pivotal period in the franchise’s canon. It’s one of the best single issues Star Wars has ever given us, high praise considering what’s come before and what will undoubtedly come later. Next month’s issue can’t come soon enough.
Consider the bar raised.