The phenomenon finally gets a comic book adaptation.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Force Awakens #1.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens #1
Writer: Chuck Wendig | Artist: Luke Ross | Colorist: Frank Martin | Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles | Cover Artist: Esad Ribic
Six months after its theatrical debut, The Force Awakens has finally come to the comics. Written by Chuck Wendig, The Force Awakens #1 is a fairly faithful retelling of the first part of the first act of the movie. This issue covers the beginning of the movie that spans the arrival of the First Order on Jakku and ends with Finn, Rey, and BB-8 about to board the Millennium Falcon.
The issue opens in cinematic style with the classic blue print on a black background, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” filling an entire page. Next, the Star Wars logo fills another page followed by the opening scrawl filling a third page. This is true to the spirit of the films, and it helps give the book a genuine Star Wars feeling. This issue is oversized at 35 pages. I like that the beginning of the book keeps with the continuity of the series. However, as an oversized issue, which is more expensive than the regular Star Wars comics, the space might have been better used. This is especially true since some scenes were cut from this issue.
Most Star Wars fans have likely already seen the movie once or multiple times are familiar with the story. Therefore, I am not going to spend a lot of time covering the plot points. As I mentioned earlier, this book is largely faithful to the movie. Instead, I’ll focus on some of the storytelling decisions and differences between the film and comic.
Starting the Story a Little After the Crawl
The most noticeable difference between the film and the comic appears in the first narrative panel. Wendig, and I’m assuming with the assistance of Heather Antos (who is making her solo editorial debut with this issue), elected to skip much of the opening sequence of the film. In the movie, the silhouette of the Finalizer, Kylo Ren’s flagship, is seen against the moon as troop transports depart from it. The troopers are glimpsed inside as they prepare to raid Tuanul Village on Jaaku. The shot moves to BB-8 observing their arrival, a conversation between Poe Dameron and Lor San Tekka, and then the assault on the village.
The comic skips all of that. Instead, the opening shot panel is of BB-8 watching the village. The First Order has already invaded. Kylo Ren has slaughtered Lor San Tekka. Finn’s friend has been killed, and Finn already has his bloody hand print on his helmet. Kylo is about to speak with Poe. I’m assuming at least part of the reason to skip the opening moments is for space. To fill in the exposition that is lost with those scenes, Wendig has written narrative boxes that fill in the backstory of many of the characters introduced in the opening panels.
Truncating the story in this fashion disrupts part of the story that was crucial in the movie. For one, much of Finn’s angst with the raid on the village is lost. His hesitation and unease doesn’t come through the pages of this comic as well as it did through the movie. His introduction into the book comes when Kylo Ren and Phasma order the Stormtroopers to kill the villagers. His first panel shows him not firing while his comrades gun down the innocent. They attempt to make up for this with subsequent reaction shots.
What is lost is his confusion as the battle in the village rages around him. Finn’s first moment of hesitation comes after Phasma orders the Stormtroopers to fire. His blaster is not raised into a firing position. The movie has the advantage of motion of course. In the movie, his hesitation is much more apparent as he looks around and slowly lowers his blaster. Phasma’s order that he submit his blaster for inspection makes much more sense in that format.
Similarly, Rey’s loneliness and solitude don’t quite come through the pages of The Force Awakens #1 like they do through the film. Her existence as a scavenger is made quite clear. Wendig and Luke Ross, the artist, show her scavenging, bartering with Unkar Plutt, and cleaning her goods. Her home in the abandoned AT-AT is featured. What is lacking is time. The reader moves through these panels at his own speed. The one panel that attempts to show how long Rey has been on Jakku is the wall she notches for each day she has been on the planet. However, they have only shown a small portion of that wall. The duration of her stay is unclear. In the film, the shot of this wall was huge. It was clear that she had been there for nearly all her life.
The Advantages of the Comic
The benefit of the comic is that it does provide the reader the opportunity to slow down and focus on what is in the panels. Characters, like Sarco Plank, that were barely glimpsed in the movie despite the merchandise that featured him can at least be seen in the panels of this issue. In other words, if you are wondering where that action figure you purchased appeared in the movie, you have an opportunity to figure some of that out here.
Overall, this is another fun way to experience the motion picture event of the year. If you have seen the movie, then you will most likely fill in some of the gaps and characterizations on your own. This actually brings up an interesting point. How much of our experience with Marvel’s comics over the past eighteen months actually depends on our knowledge of the characters from the movies? Is Leia’s portrayal in the comics convincing because the writer and artist got it right, or are we filling in her personality ourselves? For the record, I think the writers have gotten it right for the most part.
If there was one change that might benefit this comic it is the addition of a few panels in the beginning that could have prolonged Rey’s introduction to demonstrate just how solitary her life was. Similarly, Finn’s introduction might have benefited from a few more panels showing his confusion and concern. As the rest of the story of The Force Awakens is told at a faster clip, the pace of this comic should work well for the rest of movie.
The Force Awakens #1 Art and Favorite Panel
Overall, the art is good in The Force Awakens #1. Ross and Martin have made characters that are clearly identifiable. It is easy to follow the action. If this book could use one thing, it might actually be additional panels to establish a pace that matches the movie. Reaction shots would be helpful. For instance, after a TIE fighter causes an explosion at Niima Outpost that sends Rey and Finn flying. Rey rises first and wakes up Finn. He immediately asks her if she is okay. In the movie, Daisy Ridley’s reaction sells how ridiculous that question is. There is no space for that reaction in this comic, and Rey’s reaction seems as if it is simply in passing.
As for my favorite panel, I’ve settled on one that depicts Finn’s reaction to Rey’s question about being a member of the resistance. It made me laugh in the movie, and I chuckled when reading it here.
The Force Awakens #1
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.