Book Review: Marvel Comics ‘Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope’ (Remastered 2015 Edition)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Cover art by Adi Granov (C) 2015 Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope

Based on a screenplay by George Lucas

Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas

Artist: Howard Chaykin

Consulting Editor (1977): Archie Goodwin

Cover Artist (2015): Adi Granov

The original comic adaptation of the greatest space-fantasy film of all is remastered for the modern age! Weeks before George Lucas’ first Star Wars film hit theatres, Marvel gave fans their first look at Luke Skywalker, boldly asking: “Will he save the galaxy, or destroy it?” You may know the answer, but that doesn’t spoil the fun of seeing Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope like never before…including scenes that never made the silver screen! When Princess Leia is taken prisoner, Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 ride to the rescue and take on Darth Vader in his awesome Death Star. It’s six against a galaxy – one that’s far, far away and a long time ago! May the Force be with you, in the mighty Marvel manner!  – from the back cover blurb, Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope 

Marvel Comics Star Wars #1 was published in April of 1977, several weeks before the May 25 release of the film. (C) 1977 Marvel Comics Group and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

On May 5, 2015, Marvel Worldwide published Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, a 128-page volume that contains issues 1-6 of Marvel’s original 1977 Star Wars comics.

Published originally in 1977, the six-issue series was scripted by writer-editor Roy Thomas and drawn by Marvel’s legendary Howard Chaykin, the artist who also created Star Wars’ first poster for the 1976 San Diego Comic-Con. Based on an early version of George Lucas’s fourth draft of the Star Wars screenplay, Thomas’s comic adaptation gave fans their first in-depth look at Star Wars nearly a month before the film’s May 25. 1977 premiere.

For the most part, Thomas’s comics adaptation closely resembles Lucas’s finished film; however, it recounts the events in Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope in subtly different ways, due to differences between the screenplay Thomas was using as a reference and the final shooting script.

Early in the first issue, Thomas introduces Luke Skywalker in a scene that intercuts the capture of Princess Leia’s consular ship with panels of the young moisture farmer seeing the battle through his macrobinoculars. Director Lucas shot those scenes at the insistence of some of his friends who thought Luke needed to be in the movie earlier. But after thinking about it further, Lucas deleted them because they slowed the movie’s pacing.

There are other differences between the comic adaptation and Lucas’s Star Wars. In his introduction to the remastered version, the late Peter Mayhew, who played the role of Chewbacca in five of the nine  Star Wars Skywalker Saga films, writes:

In the comics, Chewbacca often comes off as a barrel-chested bruiser rather than the gentle giant he was in the films. Seeing another artist’s interpretation of the characters, whether it be in comics or book form, is always fun for me. 

Other minor changes include:

  • Darth Vader uses the Force to summon a cup across a Death Star conference room during his confrontation with an Imperial admiral.
  • Jabba the Hut (there’s only one t in this pre-1983 version of Star Wars) is presented as a humanoid alien in a scene that was filmed but deleted from the 1977 film. This sequence was restored for the 1997 Special Edition; the humanoid alien was replaced with a CGI-rendered slug-like Jabba the Hutt based on the character’s appearance in Return of the Jedi.
  • The two Rebel fighter squadrons’ call signs in the comics are Blue and Red; in the film, Luke Skywalker’s X-wing squadron was Red, while the Y-wings belonged to Gold Squadron.

My Take

The reverse cover features a “remastered” version of Howard Chaykin’s classic 1976 poster for the San Diego Comic Con. (C) 2015 Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Marvel Comics and other licensed comics publishers have reissued the six issues that comprise this 2015 collection before.  Marvel itself did this several times in the months following the film’s release.

In 1977, before studios started releasing movies on home media, Marvel’s comic books allowed Star Wars fans to relive the adventures of Luke Skywalker and his Rebel friends in a visual medium. Consequently, Marvel’s Star Wars issues #1-6 were so in demand that the publisher reprinted them in various formats, including a black-and-white trade paperback edition and a super-sized Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars #3 (1978).

In many ways, the 2015 Remastered Edition is a refined version of Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars #3. It presents Star Wars issues #1-6 in a single hardcover book, which is divided into six chapters. Each chapter is marked by a remastered reproduction of its corresponding comic book issue.

The six chapters are:

  • Star Wars  
  • Six Against the Galaxy
  • Death Star!
  • In Battle with Darth Vader
  • Lo! The Moons of Yavin!
  • The Final Chapter?

Howard Chaykin’s original cover illustrations for Issues #1-6 are recreated in their over-the-top 1970s style, with wildly imaginative illustrations that capture the swashbuckling spirit of the story but don’t accurately reflect the issues’ content. (On the cover for issue $6, for instance, Chaykin depicts a lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader with this breathless teaser line: See Luke Skywalker Battle Darth Vader!)

The comic books’ original artwork and most of the text have not been messed with – much. Disney-owned Marvel did not compel Thomas to rewrite his script to fit the film’s established canon, nor did Chaykin have to redraw Chewbacca so the Wookiee looks less like “a barrel chested bruiser.” Luke Skywalker is still Blue Five (instead of Red Five), and lightsabers are still referred in the text as “lightsabres.” There’s even an old uncorrected typo (“you’ry my only hope” instead of “you’re my only hope”) in one Chapter Two panel. 

Still, despite changes at the corporate level regarding ownership of the Star Wars franchise, Disney-owned Marvel did not erase Star Wars history with the remastering. When this book was released in 2015, Disney had still not released The Force Awakens, and 21st Century Fox was still owned by Rupert Murdoch and his family. Yet, Disney-owned Marvel (and Lucasfilm) respected the past, so much so that  the cover art for Issue #1 still says “Marvel’s Official Adaptation of the Monumental 20th Century Fox Movie!”   

The biggest difference between the 1977 comics and their 2015 remastering is that colorist Marie Severin’s original 70s Pop style color scheme was replaced by a more subtle new coloring done by artists from Chris Sotomayor’s Sotocolor.

To make this version of the comics adaptation more in synch with 21st Century graphics novel art styles, the coloring artists at New York City-based Sotocolor retouched every panel in the six issues to give them a more coherent and modern look. 

 Sotocolor also color-corrected the energy blades of the lightsabers belonging to Star Wars’ two Jedi characters – Luke Skywalker and Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi – especially on the issue covers. Howard Chaykin, not having seen the film yet, depicted all the lightsabers, not just Darth Vader’s, with red blades. 

Because Lucasfilm canon states that only Sith lords use lightsabers with crimson energy blades, the colorists at Sotocolor now show Luke and Obi-Wan’s laser swords with the more canonic blue ones.

Overall, Marvel’s remastered version of Star Wars – Episode IV; A New Hope is a nice compromise that will please most fans. It doesn’t try to change the 1977 comics’ text or art except where it was necessary. As a bonus feature, the remastered hardcover edition  of Star Wars includes then-editor in chief Stan Lee’s introduction to Issue # 1 and Roy Thomas’s essay “The Story Behind Star Wars: The Movie and the Comic Mag.”

I bought this book as an Amazon pre-order in April of 2015, and I received it on the day it hit bookshelves. I still have my 1978-era Star Wars Special #3 , so I was able to compare both editions. They’re both good; the only differences between them are that (a) the 2015 hardcover is more durable and (b) the color palette reflects two vastly different eras.

I wholeheartedly recommend this remastered edition of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’s classic Marvel Comics adaptation.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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