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 But I really hate buying digital comics since there's no telling when or if the platform will become outdated and unusable, so I stuck with the Omnibus.
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 Amazon.com: Volume 1 | volume 2 (pre-order) | volume 3 (pre-order)