Sunday, March 22, 2015


No "Unboxing" for March. For the first month in a long while (like, years), I received nothing new in the mail! So instead, let's take an in-depth look at a book I received last month: Marvel's STAR WARS: THE ORIGINAL MARVEL YEARS OMNIBUS, volume 1.

I've never read Marvel's STAR WARS series, but I've wanted to check it out for years. I missed Dark Horse's original trade paperbacks, as they came out long before I became a collected editions fiend. Dark Horse later did their own "Omnibus" versions of the series in a group of five volumes, and I considered picking them up many times, but I could never bring myself to do it since they were printed in a little tiny trim size smaller than the original comic book dimensions. I never understand this. I know many comic book readers have fond memories of digests from their younger days, but I've never been on board with that format. Even as a kid I thought it was silly to shrink a comic book down to a smaller size. The art becomes tiny and cramped-looking and the letters are harder to read. I'll go a little bit smaller than the original dimensions, say for reading a comic on my iPad -- which I love -- but anything beyond that is a non-starter for me.

And speaking of iPads -- Dark Horse ran an insane sale before they lost the STAR WARS license, offering much of their digital content at bargain basement prices. Among those sale items was the full run of the original Marvel series for something like twenty dollars. I already had this Omnibus pre-ordered at that time, but I seriously considered cancelling that order and just getting the digital versions. But I really hate buying digital comics since there's no telling when or if the platform will become outdated and unusable, so I stuck with the Omnibus.

Well, I'm glad I did. As usual, Marvel has put out a delightful package. As noted, I haven't read these stories yet, so I can't speak to the content. But for some reason, as I've said before, I love licensed materials from the "prototypical" days of various properties. Reading interpretations of the characters and settings prior to having their mythologies firmly set in stone is very appealing to me. And from what I've read about Marvel's STAR WARS comics, I'm pretty sure I'll like them -- if for no other reason that that the bulk of these issues are written by the late Archie Goodwin, who did a phenomenal job on the syndicated STAR WARS newspaper strip.

And the artwork! After several issues drawn by Howard Chaykin, penciling chores are assumed for the vast majority of the book by Carmine Infantino, probably best known as an artist and editor at DC during the Silver Age. I've flipped through this book and Infantino's art is fantastic. It's cartoony to be sure, but I love it. His Han Solo is impossibly square-jawed and masculine. He does a great job with Luke, giving him long hair which, while not at all accurate to the movies, looks really cool. And holy cow, his Princess Leia is pretty darn hot!

Art: Chaykin (left), Infantino (center), Infantino (right)

Then, when the time comes for an adaptation of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Infantino steps aside to allow Al Williamson, artist of that same newspaper strip, to take over. Williamson's work is about as far from Infantino's as can be. Where Infantino's characters have a sort of rubbery looseness about them, Williamson goes as photorealistic as possible, and the work is breathtaking.

So, though I've not read it, on the creative side, this book looks to be a tour de force. (Pun intended...? You decide.) From a production standpoint, I'm fairly satisfied as well. First off: sewn binding. I know I mention this in every review I've posted of a Marvel book, and it should probably be taken as a given at this point, but I will continue to mention it for as long as DC and other publishers don't do it, if only to shame them a bit. There is no excuse not to have sewn binding on all hardcover collected editions, period. It holds together better in the long term and it allows the book to lay flat and open with very little, if any, loss of artwork in the gutter. Marvel has it right and should be lauded at all times for the practice.

The book is relatively slim by Omnibus standards, coming in at 880 pages. Eighteen of these are devoted to the standard Marvel bonus material, such as house ads, original artwork, and covers of previous collected versions of this material (including Dark Horse's various trade paperbacks). The majority of these bonus items are printed at quarter size, featuring four images per page, which is unfortunate. When you've got guys like Arthur Adams and Adam Hughes, among others, drawing STAR WARS, you'd kind of like to see their work at full size.

The pages are thin but not see-through, and are just glossy enough to be attractive without suffering from too much light reflection. Reproduction of the series' art and coloring, based on a fairly quick flip-through, is up to Marvel's usual excellent standards -- with the unusual exception of the initial STAR WARS adaptation, which looks a little shoddy compared with the rest of the book. I don't know if Marvel lost the original files for those issues or what, but it seems weird that the big opening chapters would look the worst in the book.

And as for the contents -- Well, there's an introduction from Roy Thomas, which is always nice to see, since many of the classic Omnibus collections forgo such pieces. Then we're off to the Omnibus proper, which -- containing as it does stories from the era of the seventeen-page comic -- contains a whopping forty-four issues of Marvel's STAR WARS series, covering the adaptation of the original film, moving into thirty-one issues of Marvel's original ongoing adventures, and then concluding with a six-part adaptation of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

I realize not everyone buys big bulky books like this sight unseen, and especially not if they haven't already got some familiarity with the stories contained therein. But like I said, I've wanted to read this stuff for many years so getting this book in an oversized Omnibus format is a special treat. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but the truth is that Marvel can do very little wrong these days with their collected editions. This is a terrific book and probably the best these issues have ever looked. I plan to read it very soon and I look forward to the next couple volumes, which Marvel has apparently fast-tracked so as to get the entire vintage series on shelves before STAR WARS EPISODE VII opens this winter.

Available now at Volume 1 | volume 2 (pre-order) | volume 3 (pre-order)


  1. I don't know if Marvel lost the original files for those issues or what, but it seems weird that the big opening chapters would look the worst in the book.

    Also weird because I think they're releasing "remastered" hardcover collections of each of three original film adaptations. Which either means the remastered New Hope volume isn't going to look that great, or they intentionally put an inferior product into the omnibus.

    1. Y'know, I briefly had that thought as I was typing this up, but I ultimately decided not to mention it since I hope Marvel doesn't indulge in such underhanded tactics. Though it does seem odd that they're going to release an updated volume if their master files really look this bad.

  2. I tend to buy my digital comics from the likes of Humble, Groupees and Storybundle and that's mostly because they are DRM free.
    You get PDF files and CBR files and can download them any time you please.
    What you buy is yours, and even better, you can buy comics worth hundreds of dollars for 15 or 20. All these outlets are pay what you want.

    I have the first 27 issues of the Marvel Star Wars, in a digital Dark Horse omnibus, ( yeah that doesn't sound belabored) and the pages are huge and the resolution sharp and crisp.
    I don't regret buying that bundle.

    But this hard cover Marvel omnibus is almost twice the size of the Dark Horse omnibus.
    ...It is really rather tempting.
    But they are also quite expensive.
    I wonder if there are any smaller soft cover collections for people to choose from.

    I am ...mixed on the contents of the book it self, especially the first issues.
    I know Thomas and Goodwin were treating on new ground at the time, but the least said about oh, say Jax, the better.
    The fact that the main characters don't change their clothes for 3 years is also a bit of a sticking point.
    Leia and Luke's garbs don't really suit themselves to these kind of adventures.

    But other then that, there is some good stuff in these books especially later on.
    I tend to rate the runs by Michilenie and Duffy rather high.

    1. I know some years ago, Dark Horse put out trade paperback versions of this stuff. Then, more recently, they released paperback "Omnibus" volumes which contain several issues per volume, but the book dimensions are smaller than a normal comic.

      Knowing Marvel, I wouldn't be surprised to see them release the original STAR WARS series in "Epic Collection" paperback format in a few years, after the Omnibuses have gone out of print.

      I look forward to reading the later runs as I keep pace with Teebore's reviews, though I have to say that I really like the Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino stuff so far.