Last year’s Han Solo mini-series from Marvel comics (written by Marjorie Liuwas, art by Mark Brooks) was a true success story for the comic-book side of the Star Wars franchise.
The importance of the title is underlined by the shift it helped prompt in fans’ attitude towards the Han Solo movie planned for May 2018.
Prior to the Han Solo comic-book, much of the discussion about the film had centered on whether there should even be such a movie. As with the positive reception of the first standalone film, Rogue One, the Marvel Han Solo mini-series did much to assuage many (if not all) concerns.
The strength of the mini-series rests in the fact that it was mostly set outside the core strictures/backdrop/cast of the original saga. It is a relatively self-contained title, with its focus on the activities of Han and Chewbacca. Those characters effectively dictate the direction once they have been given their instructions and mission. After that it is Solo in charge, throwing abandon to the wind as only he can.
Set after the events of A New Hope the joy of the title is that it captures perfectly the swashbuckling element of the Solo character. George Lucas enjoyed the series so much that he asked to purchase the art from artist Mark Brooks. That’s a solid endorsement, and is on a par with Lucas’ praise of Edwards’ Rogue One last year.
The situation of the book serves Solo’s natural inclination to quick wit and flying by the seat of his pants. There is the usual funny repartee with Chewie. Unsurprisingly the two end up in a series of tight squeezes that they have to escape and outrun. Let’s just say that they want to avoid any Imperial entanglements. Alongside of that there is a interesting subplot in relation to a murderer that is working in close proximity to Solo’s activities.
A great decision for the title was adopting the mini-series format. 5 books constitutes the perfect length, leaves no room for padding, and lends itself to a short perfectly formed story. What was delivered to readers in the Han Solo series was an action-packed, high octane “Saturday morning matinee” style story arc with a series of built in cliff-hangers. The format helps propel the story along briskly. The Han Solo title also gave us a wide diversity of alien species, quirky characters and Imperial villains. Importantly, they were perfectly set “in-universe”.
Brooks’ art work is sublime. It authentically captures the seedy cantinas, the atmosphere of the traveling party of the Dragon Void racing fraternity, and most importantly the thrill of the race.
The book has a kinetic energy to it that is a vital trait of the Han Solo character in the films. In the standalone, ring-fenced adventure it replicates the self-contained nature of the other Marvel Star Wars mini-series. Those too offer short, sharp tales that do not detract from the complexities and mysteries of the deeper Star Wars universe.
In doing so these series avoid the pitfalls that some other titles have fallen into. The ongoing Star Wars title and now defunct Darth Vader title (not the new Vader title), as excellent as certain aspects have been (the Vader/Palpatine exchanges, the art), sometimes those books take the reader “out of universe” in some of their sillier aspects and new characters.
Han Solo, by contrast places the reader in a situation and environment that’s conducive to playing to the core strengths of Solo as a character.
With Rogue One movie-goers saw a successful achievement from the new Star Wars dispensation in delivering an out-of-Skywalker-saga film. That gave fans a large degree of comfort in the new owners’ ability to deliver on that front.
With the well-received casting of Alden Ehrenreich (Han) and Donald Glover (Lando) as well as the fact that Ron Howard has steadied the ship (or steadied The Falcon?), and the Kasdan’s in the background all is looking good for the Solo venture.
The Han Solo mini-series (alongside the depiction of Han in the other titles within the Marvel line) actively demonstrates that the creatives “get” what makes this character tick. This will help immensely in distilling his unique essence into planned new film when the time comes.
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