The Star Wars By J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew, Dark Horse Comics, $20-$40.
With six live-action films and innumerable novels, comics, cartoons and video games creating an elaborate “expanded universe,” one might reasonably think Star Wars has been exhausted of every possible extrapolation and exploitation. But Dark Horse, which has been publishing licensed comics since 1991, has found a novel way to produce more Star Wars. In The Star Wars (note the definite article), the publisher has adapted George Lucas’ original first-draft screenplay into comic book form, producing the franchise’s strangest iteration in years—and maybe its most interesting.
Many character names and set pieces will be familiar, but all aspects will scan as oddly remixed. There’s a character named Darth Vader, for example, but three different characters in the comic split various traits of the film Vader. Or, for a more radical example, Han Solo is a big, green alien who looks more like Swamp Thing than Harrison Ford.
The ambitious plot contains events from all three films of the original trilogy, but the general aesthetic and storytelling leans much closer to the old-school sci-fi serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers that originally inspired Lucas. It’s ultimately less compelling than what made it to the screen, but its nevertheless a fascinating look at what might have been, from one of the few corners of our pop culture that could sustain such a strange project.