Unless you are completely divorced from the internet and any and all news sources, you know that at the end of the year Dark Horse will lose the license for any and all new Star Wars fiction/non-fiction. That’s because the new owners of the license, Disney, are moving the production of all such material to their own publisher, Marvel Comics. And I find that to be a very saddening move because Dark Horse has given so many incredible tales over the years and I just can’t see the same being done at Marvel. Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s Star Wars: Legacy II is one of the finest examples of that.
Set in galaxy almost a century and a half after the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, this new timeline tells the story of Ania Solo, the distant descendant of Leia and Han as she and her friends make their way in a galaxy very different from the one we know so well. Like any great classic Star Wars story, their first arc Prisoners of the Floating World, involves reluctant heroes, Sith, political drama, high-speed chases, great twists and more. And it helps that the art is so damn cinematic and fun.
The story starts, as all such stories do, with the setup. The new Galactic government, a triumvirate of the Jedi Council, the Imperial Court and the Galactic Alliance, is doing all it can to bring people back into the fold. In the Outer Rim, somewhere around the Surd Nebula, a shuttle carrying a Jedi Master and a unit of Galactic Triumvirate troops is attacked by an unknown enemy, an enemy which does not reveal itself until later as a Sith Master. Master Val is forced to fight for his life but he is defeated and a Sith takes his place as the Triumvirate’s representative to the Carreras system, where a new communications array is being built. And on the other side of the story, we have Ania Solo herself and her Mon Calamari friend Sauk, who run into a damaged comm droid from Master Val’s ship and the droid’s cargo: Val’s lightsaber. This sets the two of them on an adventure throughout the Carreras system as they race to make sense of what is going on with the communications array and what a false Jedi is doing in the system. The Triumvirate also sends in another Jedi, someone known to Val, to see why he has disappeared and why there hasn’t been any communication from him.
All of this means that the story here is gripping and it is entertaining. Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman have written a hell of a story here, weaving together several different elements to tell a greater whole and to introduce readers to the new galaxy that Legacy II Book 1 is set in. The two writers ease the reader into the characters and the situation as it is in the present, and then they tell a grand adventure involving all sorts of people. A criticism I have of the story is that it doesn’t exactly delve into what has come before it, namely John Ostrander’s original Legacy comics, and so there is some confusion here on my part as to what the new galactic order is all about, but that passed very quickly because I was caught up in Ania and Sauk’s adventures.
There are several fight scenes in the story here, whether we talk about Master Val versus the Sith or Imperial Knight (Jedi) Jao Assam versus the Sith or simply Ania and Sauk on the run from Carreras Major’s police forces, who have been co-opted by Sith impersonator, who plans to make a stunning galactic debut. There isn’t any particular mystery as most of the cards are already on the table as we get introduced to the characters in the first couple issues, so what really holds my interest here is the story of Ania Solo, Sauk and Jao Essam as they become heroes and save the Carreras system from a madman. Whether we talk about the streets of Carreras Major or the spaceways of the system, there is a lot of intense political and character drama happening that really explores this corner of the galaxy.
The writers do in pull some of the bigger names, such as Imperial Knight Antares and the Empress herself, but they keep these characters to the background. Others, such as Master K’kruhk and Admiral Stazi, are in a similar boat. Personally, I preferred it that way. The entire story is kept localised in a small area of the Outer Rim, and that allows the story to remain focused on the bigger picture within that context. It is nice to see some of the political tension back home on Coruscant, but it is a diversion from the events in Carreras, which are what excited me more.
Gabriel Hardman does the artwork for this first arc, with colours from the ever-awesome Rachelle Rosenberg and letters by Michael Heisler, who is one of Dark Horse’s go-to letterers. Dave Wilkins, another fantastic artist, does the cover work for the first arc. Overall, the art in these graphic novel is really good. Each character is clearly drawn, although sometimes the inks can be a bit much and there are some inconsistencies in how the characters are drawn. But combined with Rachelle’s colours, the art takes on a very gritty cinematic feel, and I loved that in all the five issues. This isn’t the Star Wars galaxy that I’m intimately familiar with so I don’t recognise all the different things, but there are enough clues and enough throwbacks to the familiar that I don’t feel lost at all. And each cover is pretty badass, especially the covers for issues #2 and #3, which are the best of them all I believe. Star Wars comics have always been defined by their covers, I feel, and the covers by Dave Wilkins carry that trend forward.
See, the thing is, I take a look at this comic, and Brian Wood and Carlos D’Anda’s Star Wars, and I’m reminded constantly of how Dark Horse’s Star Wars fiction has been, for the most part. Under Dark Horse, the Star Wars universe has dared to go in places that no one even thought of before. We’ve seen events of the past and the distant past. We’ve seen events of the future. We’ve seen hundreds of new heroes and villains emerge, and of all that, Star Wars: Legacy II is one of the finest examples. Sure, Ania Solo bears the infamous name of Han Solo and she is a descendant of two of the original characters (although we don’t get any details to that effect), but she is a character in her own right who shows glimpses of the personalities of those two ancestors. Sure, the droid AG-37 might be a knock-off of some sorts of IG-88 but he is fantastic too, especially when he comments on the olden days, and he’s pretty badass as well. Sauk, he brings some lightheartededness to the story, but he never goes overboard with it. Jao Essam and Yalta Val are typical Jedi Knights, cut from the same mold as others that have come before them, but they too manage to stand apart. And the same goes for the Sith character who is our main villain here.
In all of these characters is the classic feel of Star Wars and Dark Horse has always been great about that. They’ve got the classic feel down pat, even as they have the modern down to a science.
So yeah, in the final accounting, I’d say that Star Wars: Legacy II Book 1: Prisoners of the Floating World is one hell of a Star Wars tale that you should most definitely be reading right now. When the series ends this year, I’ll be sad to see it go, but will revel in the facts that it existed in the first place and that it was so good.
For more Star Wars comics reviews, you check out my listings here.