In Review: Han Solo #1

The premise is corny, but the visuals will have me returning.

The covers: It wouldn’t be a Star Wars comic debut without several different covers. I was able to locate 15 online. Strap in as I go over them all…It won’t be like dusting crops. The Regular cover is by Lee Bermejo and it’s a very cool frontpiece to start with. Han is posed with pistol ready, giving the reader a scoundrel’s smile, while Chewbacca is behind him. The wookie’s shadow streaks across the page allowing the Millennium Falcon pursued by several firing TIE fighters to be shown. In the bottom of his shadow is the profile of a concerned Princess Leia. A good cover. The first Variant is the Bermejo Textless, which is the exact same image of the Regular cover with all the text removed, save the title which has been moved to the lower right. Also nice. The Action Figure Variant is by the superbly talented John Tyler Christopher who has created a faux Kenner action figure cover. This figure is Han Solo in his Cloud City outfit when he’s frozen in carbonite; there’s even a block of Han entombed in the substance behind the figure. The image where the photo is supposed to be is the iconic image of the frozen captain. This looks great and if I see it somewhere, I’m going to buy it. However, there’s a second Action Figure Variant. This is also by Christopher and has Solo in his outfit when he first arrives at Cloud City. The large image of Solo looks great. Both of these covers are winners. The Michael Allred Variant has Solo action posed, leaping before the Falcon as an explosion goes off behind his ship. I’m not a big fan of Allred, so I’m not keen on this cover, and the coloring — with too much violet — looks really odd. The Blank Sketch Variant cover is an empty cover but for the title and credits. A fan could take this to any artist and have them create a unique cover for this book. The John Cassaday Color Variant has a great bust shot of Han on the left side of the image. The right side has a light speed image of the Falcon speeding along sideways. Overlapping both images are full body shots of Han and Chewie. Han has his gun pointed to the left and looks good; Chewie has his bowcaster pointed off to the right, but he doesn’t look as good. Usually Cassaday does really strong Star Wars work, but the wookie isn’t winning. There’s also a John Cassaday Sketch Variant cover which is exactly the same as the color cover, just minus the colors. If you like the former, you’re sure to like the latter. The Fried Pie Exclusive Variant is a poster that is made to look old with creases through it and faded imagery. This has stark red and white colors, with blacks, showing Han, Chewie, and R5-D4 (I think). The text on the image is cheesy hype one would expect from forty years ago. Neat. There’s also a Fried Pie Exclusive Textless Variant that’s the same as the previous, just without any text. It looks better with the text. The GameStop Exclusive is one to chase down. Kanan artist Pepe Larraz is responsible for this edition that’s limited to 3000 copies. The dominate image is of the Falcon zipping through the bones of a long dead creature, as several ships fly next to it, only to be shot at by pursing vessels. In the bottom right corner there’s a circle that shows Chewie and Han in the cockpit. The art is terrific and so is the coloring. If you’re a fan, you’ll really want this. Next is the Hastings Exclusive Variant. I couldn’t find information as to who the artist is, nor could I find a large image of this cover. This has Han and Chewie with their weapons ready, the human before the wookie, superimposed atop blueprints of the Millennium Falcon. This looks good, but I wish could see it more clearly. The Millennium Falcon Variant focuses solely on the iconic ship as it shoots up the center of the book, bordered by two orange bands. This is by Scott Koblish and it looks good. The penultimate cover is the Movie Variant which is a photograph of a very young Harrison Ford posed with pistol against a white background. This is the image accompanying this review and a must own cover. The final cover won’t be out for almost a month: it’s the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Variant by Emanuela Luppachino. This is set withing the cockpit of the Falcon as it tools along at light speed. Chewie and Han have brought their weapons up as they exit this location to move elsewhere in the ship. The illustration and coloring is good. Luppachino never fails to impress. Overall grades: Regular A, Bermejo Textless Variant A, Action Figure Variant Carbonite A+, Action Figure Variant Cloud City A+, Allred Variant C, Blank Sketch Variant C+, Cassaday Color Variant B, Cassaday Sketch Variant B, Fried Pie Exclusive Variant B-, Fried Pie Textless Variant C-, GameStop Exclusive Variant A+, Hastings Exclusive Variant B-, Millennium Falcon Variant B, Movie Variant A+, and SDCC Exclusive Variant A

The story: Han and Chewie have taken a step away from the Rebellion after the destruction of the Death Star, but the captain of the Millennium Falcon finds himself unwilling to take any jobs that give him the spooks, which is all of them. In a bar on an unnamed world, he refuses yet another job. As he wonders why he’s doing so, he spots a familiar looking woman. He recognizes her from the last planet he was on all too late as a man puts a gun to his head as he exits the establishment. The two individuals take him to a location where Chewbacca is waiting: it seems the wookie knew Han would be brought in. A droid activates a holographic message from Leia. It seems the hired hands, Adame and Selentia, need the Millennium Falcon for something in the Gomar sector. Han’s not keen on giving the Falcon to anyone, so he wants to meet with Leia to find out why she needs his ship. Marjorie Liu has captured Han Solo’s voice and his motivations in this book well. His scenes with Leia comprise only six pages but they are the strongest of the book. There’s no action, only a conversation, which includes the premise of this series, but it has me wanting to see Liu do more Star Wars work, especially if this couple can be in it. The plot of this series is straightforward, albeit over used; it’s an excuse to get Han and Chewie to fly around in the Falcon without having them break any laws, which would put them at odds with Leia and the Rebellion. Characters are introduced that will provide conflict in upcoming issues; all that’s missing is Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in the Buzzwagon. I am interested enough to want to see where Liu takes this story. Overall grade: B-

The art: Mark Brooks is an excellent illustrator. I really enjoy looking at every page of this book, soaking in the details he’s created. The first page is wonderful dive into the Star Wars universe with Solo standing at a bar, looking at all those around him. There’s a lot of details in the setting and Brooks does this throughout the book. Impressive settings can be found on Pages 7, 9, 12 and 13, and 14. The humans in this book look good. Front and center is Han, naturally, and he looks the best when he’s one on one with Leia. Brooks gets several opportunities during their conversation to have the corellian emote and he’s gangbusters when the character speaks or responds with a silent glance. Leia also is terrific, with her moving between upset and angry; I’d love to see Brooks do other books featuring her. The design of the aliens will look familiar to fans and there are several new ones as well, including Adame and Selentia. The aliens really take over starting on 12, with the character that appear on 16 fantastic. Ships are a key component in this story, so one would think that Brooks would have his hands full illustrating the Falcon and the many ships around it. Hardly; Brooks’s starships are bursting with details. The first appearance of the Falcon is at the top of 6 and it looks great. When it leaves a location on 11 it’s just as stunning. As impressed as I was with this exit, I was floored by the detail of the double-paged spread of 12 and 13. The image contains five inset panels but the number of ships and the setting is a “Wow” moment to be sure. The final four pages of the book have the ships on their mission and they look great. I would have rather seen the final page not be computer enhanced to create a speed effect, as Brooks’s art is more than sufficient to create it. Every page is a winner in this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Due to his smuggler tendencies, I was concerned that Han’s tale would be colored too darkly, to show that Solo works in the underbelly of the galaxy, but that doesn’t happen. Colorist Sonia Oback does a stellar job in creating a dark atmosphere where appropriate, but keeps images bright enough so that every iota of Brooks’s work can be seen. Take the first panel, it’s a bar and should be dim. The characters are colored darkly, but they still can be seen. Behind Solo is a holographic display in neon green, catching the reader’s eye and directing it to the title character. The darkest pages of the book are 4 and 5, though note that Oback brightens things up by coloring the boarders of some of the panels and injecting colors into the background to keep the images from becoming wholly obsidian. Very smart. My favorite work by Oback is on 12 and 13: beautiful blues, oranges, and violets. I’d love to see Oback doing more books. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narration and dialogue (the same font), droid beeps, wookie speech, transmissions and droid speech (same font), and the “To Be Continued…” are crafted by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I’m disappointed to see that coloring and the shape of speech balloons are used to differentiate narration from dialogue and transmissions from droid speech. A lack of sounds during the space voyages is disheartening, though that’s not Caramagna’s fault, it’s the writer’s. Decent work, but nothing that stretches the letterer’s creativity or a reader’s experience. Overall grade: C

The final line: The premise is corny, but the visuals will have me returning. This issue starts the story rolling, with action only beginning on the final three pages. Let’s see where this goes. Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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