Written by: Marjorie Liu
Art by: Mark Brooks
Chronology Placement: Set shortly before “The Empire Strikes Back”
This graphic novel collects the following stories:
- Star Wars: Han Solo (2016) # 1 – 5
The majority of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars expanded universe content released thus far has focused on exploring the three-year period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, with its ongoing monthly series Star Wars providing the connecting tissue between the two films. This mini-series takes place just before The Empire Strikes Back with an impatient Han Solo struggling with his role as a devil-may-care smuggler and his newfound conscience and connection to the rebellion. It helps provide a bit more context as to why Solo doesn’t earn the required credits to pay off Jabba’s debt within those three years, as he finds himself losing his nerve and drawn to the Rebellion’s cause.
While Han Solo undergoes most of his character development throughout the events of The Empire Strikes Back, Marjorie Liu takes the opportunity to sow the seeds of growth within this mini-series as we see the conflicting sides of Solo at play. Rash, impulsive and willing to gamble everything on a losing hand yet heroic and self-sacrificing at the same time – it’s these qualities that made audiences (and Princess Leia) fall in love with the character and Liu’s writing captures the multi-faceted layers of the character perfectly. She also nails the dynamic between Han and Chewie, who acts as the conscience of the Millennium Falcon, forcing Han to evaluate his selfish traits and act in the greater good – it will be interesting to see their dynamic pre-A New Hope in the upcoming Solo movie.
The plot revolves around the Dragon Void race, a winner-takes-all event across multiple star systems, which only the most skilled pilots can survive. Liu pits the Millennium Falcon against an eclectic mix of rivals in a Cannonball Run–style high-stakes competition. However, Han’s participation in the race is only a cover for his real mission – to locate and extract Rebellion spies and uncover a potential traitor in the ranks. With his ego threatening to overrule his common sense, Han finds himself torn between his loyalty to the Rebellion and his loyalty to himself.
From the very first page, which features Han in a crowded cantina full of aliens, Mark Brooks manages to capture that elusive Star Wars vibe in his artwork. There is a strong sense of authenticity and consistency with the world that George Lucas brought to life on the screen, which then also comes to life on the comic page through Brooks’ sublime storytelling. Brooks is a perfect choice for this storyline, able to balance the grandeur and intense action of the deep-space battles, alongside the exotic alien life and architecture on each of the planets. To say that this collection feels cinematic is an understatement – this is unmistakably Star Wars.
While the Dragon Void race is the main focus of the action, Marjorie Liu also weaves in a intriguing ‘murder mystery’ with a touch of espionage. Despite the brevity of their appearances, the supporting characters in this tale were very well-developed and had their own story-arcs that developed alongside Solo. While Han is clearly the lead protagonist of the adventure, Liu has fun introducing her own elements into the Star Wars mythology and I would like to see Han and Chewie’s rival, Dorae, reappear in other adventures. In fact, Liu did such a great job establishing a prior relationship between the three smugglers that I had to double-check that Dorae hadn’t appeared in a previous story.
Star Wars: “Han Solo” examines the motivations of the titular character during a period when he goes through the most growth. While there is some overlap with The Empire Strikes Back and Liu is shackled by continuity, it remains a solid study on Han Solo and his journey from smuggler to hero. It acts as a wonderful companion to both the movies and the ongoing Star Wars comic series, filling in the gaps between “episodes” and foreshadowing major developments in the films. With flawless artwork from Mark Brooks and a scintillating script from Marjorie Liu, Star Wars: “Han Solo” is another impressive entry into the Disney Canon, building strong foundations between the existing continuity of the films. With the Solo movie on the horizon, this series has never been more timely and it makes a nice companion piece for the film, since it features a more mature (both physically and mentally) version of the character.