At first glance, The Star Wars seems like little more than a novelty. It’s a comic book adaptation of the George Lucas’ first draft of a screenplay that would eventually evolve into Star Wars. You may have heard trivia bits about the original screenplay before, and how bizarrely different it was from the final movie. That being the case, the main reason to read the comic is to experience for yourself what this strange prototype is like and see it in some way visualized. And, if The Star Wars was nothing more than that—a novelty to be gawked at—there would be nothing wrong with that, and it would still be worth reading. But, it ends up being much more.
The story, as a whole, is almost completely unrecognizable. There’s an evil Empire, and a rebellion against it of sorts, but the characters are largely unfamiliar. Many of them even have the same names as the ones we know and love: there’s a Luke Skywalker, a Princess Leia, a Han Solo, and many others. There’s even a character named “Annikin,” and a minor one named Mace. But, the actual personalities and actions of these characters bear little relation to their namesakes.
The actual plot matters little. It’s a bit all over the place and hard to keep track of, at times. Luke Skywalker is a grizzled, old Jedi, one of the last of his kind, and one of the leaders of a small planet called Aquilae—one of the few that refuses to be subjugated by the Empire. Along with his padawan, Annikin Starkiller, and a motley crew of other rebels, he attempts first to defend the planet from attack by the Empire, then guide Princess Leia safely to where she can take her rightful place as queen.
As stories go, this one’s not too bad. It’s obviously not as good as the Star Wars trilogy, but it definitely ranks higher than the prequels. The dialogue feels clunky at times, and the plot feels scattered and unfocused. But, this is one of the pitfalls of taking a first draft. We like to think of the classics we love as springing into being in their fully formed awesomeness, but the fact is, even the best, most iconic films were awkward and clunky at the beginning. Have you ever read the first draft of the Back to the Future screenplay? Don’t. It’s awful.
So, if not for the novelty, and if not for high quality storytelling, then what IS the reason to read this comic? To see how the ideas evolved. When the story starts out, it bears almost no resemblance at all to Star Wars, except for a few familiar names tacked onto unfamiliar characters.
As it progresses, though, we begin to recognize more and more. Suddenly, we see C-3PO and R2-D2, stuck in amid this unfamiliar chaos, bickering and carrying on the same way they always do—except that R2 can talk. We eventually go to a space bar that, though it has a different name, bears striking resemblance to Mos Eisley, where we meet a man who bears nothing in common with Han Solo except his name. Still, though, as we get to know him better, we can see how he evolved into the “scruffy looking nerf herder” that would eventually be immortalized by Harrison Ford.
Sprinkled throughout the story are verbatim bits of classic dialogue, vaguely familiar scenes, and more. We get to see the good bits that Lucas decided to keep, the bits he decided to throw away, and the things from which he drew later inspiration. There are things not only from A New Hope, but from all three of the original Star Wars movies, and things from the prequels, as well.
In short, it’s a window into the creative process: how this bizarre, disjointed story evolved into one of the most iconic sci-fi franchises in history. It’s something that no Star Wars fan will want to miss.