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Just Because You Can…. Limitations and Epic Moments in Star Wars

sw2-duel

Well, that was fast. A preview of Marvel’s second Star Wars issue went online last week ahead of it coming out this past Wednesday. Said preview blew a big plot moment by showing Luke versus Vader, or more accurately, Luke getting his arse kicked by Vader, who was on Maximum Contempt setting. There’s only one problem with this and that’s that these two aren’t supposed to meet until Cloud City. If Vader and Luke and previously crossed paths it removes a whole lot of power from that scene, and for what? What’s the creative return here for having them meet earlier save that someone thought it ‘cool’? Luke and Vader is cool… but on Cloud City.

Marvel and Jason Aaron are operating on the same principle that Lucas applied to his last re-edit, just because they can, they will. No matter that they’ll take those epic moments of the films and rip them to pieces – an extra duel or ten that happens between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, that has no effect on Cloud City, does it? Of course it does. Much as adding a pointless NOOOO robs the Vader scene in Return of the Jedi of its emotional impact because it renders it too obvious.

The Dark Empire story was notorious for having Luke attempt to do an inside job on the dark side by joining the reborn Emperor. For some, this insults Luke’s declaration on the Death Star II that he’ll never join the dark side. For me, it flew because, in the story, Luke never does willingly join the dark side. He lies to Darth Sidious that he will join him, but they both know that a fleet of pigs are doing fly-pasts outside the whole time. Later, his corruption attempts having failed, Darth Sidious basically mind-frells Luke into a zombie slave. Still no joining the dark side, but I can still get why people would dislike it. It’s that sense of having an epic moment undermined by another story development.

Why does restraint matter? It matters because it amplifies those great plot moments into something epic. It is the sense of anticipation, of the build-up that combines with the creative execution of it in a magical alchemy. Given that Marvel have, by putting Luke and Vader face to face, decided to undermine the Cloud City duel, they may as well go for broke. Have an adventure with Han between Empire and Jedi! He’s in carbonite? He can be got out and then put back in! No one will ever know! Luke and Vader by this time will have likely had about fifty inconclusive duels too.

Does being restrained compromise creativity? I don’t think it does and it can be argued that writing in a shared universe like Star Wars requires the ability to be creative while respecting limits. A case in point is the 1982-1984 newspaper strip that Archie Goodwin and Al Wiliamson did. Over the course of the story Vader becomes aware of Luke’s existence, pursues him, comes close to ensnaring him a few times but never does. It’s a quite glorious cat-and-mouse chase that explains why Vader is doing what he is in Empire. It adds a layer to the Cloud City duel, of Vader finally nailing the prey that he has obsessed over but never seen, while respecting its importance. An earlier meeting cannot help but detract from this, which is why Splinter of the Mind’s Eye can’t work for me. That story, however, has the mitigating factor of being written before Empire existed! What’s Marvel’s excuse? (Though apparently they did something similar way back when they had the licence first time around, so they have a previous form for it.)

On the other hand, fan-created fixes for conflicts and unnoticed messes have long been a tradition for SW fans. So is this any different? Not particularly. What makes it stand out is the speed at which it has come up, Marvel are on their second issue only and already those following need a fix to square it with the films! The reboot annihilated the SW canon material to a fraction, you would think it would be small enough to avoid something like this, yet there it is. At this rate the Leia mini-series will probably throw in a new mother for her, though I’d expect better of Waid. (But I also didn’t think Aaron would do what he has, so all bets are off.)

Arguably the biggest flaw of the Legends-verse towards the end was the Denningverse books. They deployed mad, bad concepts, that in other hands could have worked, with a tendency for slaughtering characters or rendering them unrecognizable! It was a series without any real check or restraint. Continuity? The fans will fix it. Is that same attitude to return so quickly to a toddler Expanded Universe?

The biggest question raised by Star Wars #2 is what does it herald for the future and indicate of the corporate owners’ view of their acquisition? The sense I get is that any story can be issued with the SW banner and it’ll sell. Hand in hand with that is a sense of heedless abandon – whatever the Story Group is doing, their remit clearly doesn’t extend to continuity control, even when that only covers a handful of items. I also get a sense that Marvel are applying their superhero story techniques to SW, thus we have this big created controversy for #2 that’ll drive sales up. All in all, it adds up to a discouraging picture for the new EU and my likely interest in it.

Will others feel the same way? It likely depends on whether they subscribe to the eleventh commandment of SW: Thou shalt not mess with The Empire Strikes Back!

7 thoughts to “Just Because You Can…. Limitations and Epic Moments in Star Wars”

  1. That’s a pretty important commandment to keep. Rewatching that duel in Cloud City, that moment is so important. It defines so much about the relationship between Luke and Vader, and just in general is so well put together as a scene. It’s a shame Marvel (and Story Group to some extent) is so willing to tarnish that meeting so soon.

  2. The way I look at this, “don’t mess with the films” is a fine rule, but exactly how to go about that changes a great deal from fan to fan, because it hinges on the aspects people like the most—which, naturally, is subjective. While I would hate to see Luke portrayed in this series as anything less than a rank amateur where lightsabers are concerned, I also have no special need for Empire to be the first time he and Vader come to blows.

    “Messing with Empire“, for me, would be having a three-year span of time where Vader is totally immersed in tracking him down—and all the while, Luke is actively engaged in both Rebel activity and some degree of Jedi training—and Vader never even catches up to him. While the films obviously mandate that Luke can’t get caught, it’s a fundamentally implausible premise, and seeing at least a couple close calls is more important to me than preserving the films’ “epicness”, which is a pretty subjective notion in any event.

    1. I’d be inclined to say Coop there’s a spectrum of options here, with Luke and Vader crossing sabers at the far end and then less extreme e.g. Luke gets captured, is interrogated by Vader, who doesn’t pick up on his identity. I think you can have close calls without a saber exchange!

      1. That there’s a spectrum is exactly my point—we all have lines we’d prefer the comics not cross, but we have to be realistic that they can’t honor all of them.

  3. Author Addendum: I should add, the very recently released lettered and colour preview for Darth Vader #1, only became available in the last 24 hours, has been very encouraging in contrast to Aaron’s take. Suspect I’ll be considering that as a trade buy.

  4. I kind of feel the same way, but as long as Luke-Vader meetings don’t happen a lot, I don’t think it does a whole lot to ruin the moment in Episode V. I hope the Star Wars series starts to go in a different direction after this first arc, with Luke, Han and Leia getting away from Vader and exploring some new territory or minor characters.

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