Marvel announced at this year’s Star Wars Celebration in Chicago that its main Star Wars comic series would be handed over to a new team this summer. At the helm for Marvel’s Star Wars #68 this week are writer Greg Pak and Eisner-nominated artist Phil Noto, and the results are spectacular.
The biggest change by far is in the look of the series’ iconic characters. Gone are the stiff bodies and warped, painted-on faces that the series has been criticized for over the past few years. In their place is Noto’s confident linework and an expressive grasp of human emotion. You’re not seeing Harrison Ford’s half-smile on these pages, you’re seeing Noto’s interpretation of Han Solo’s half-smile. It feels natural and effective on the page.
On the writing side, Pak has an excellent grasp of what’s missing from the arc of these characters. This first issue primes the series to fill in the gaps after Star Wars: A New Hope and reveal something about what happened to change our heroes in the lead up to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
[Ed. note: The rest of this piece contains spoilers for Star Wars #68.]
As far as the plotline goes, this issue boldly splits the party not once but twice. Luke is sent off to a desert planet for a solo mission and some quiet self-reflection with R2-D2. Meanwhile, Chewbacca and C-3PO are sent to a deserted lava planet where a few panels of genuine buddy comedy ensues.
The main throughline sits with Han and Leia, however, who are sent on an undercover mission on a populous planet near the galactic core. The upside is that we get to see the pair donning some fairly upscale, cyberpunk-style disguises. And while we all know that the two are about to kindle their romance in Empire, this issue also reveals, on its final page, Princess Leia’s current love interest.
“Remember when we found out you had a wife?” Leia quips.
“We’ve been over this. Sana wasn’t my wife,” Han says, referring to a major character named Sana Starros, a bounty hunter who was introduced in the Showdown on Smuggler’s Moon arc from 2015.
“Okay, fine,” Leia says. “Then Dar Champion is not my boyfriend.”
Suffice it to say, I’m thrilled at what Pak and Noto have presented in this first issue. No word on how long their tenure will last, but I hope it’s a good long one.