Star Wars Adventures
written by Jeremy Barlow
illustrated by Carlo Soriano
Dark Horse continues its Star Wars Adventure series, an older elementary school and middle school-friendly series in which each volume tries to focus on a particular character from the Star Wars universe. Having started out strong with Han Solo’s stories, the series now moves to Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader. But though the creators build strong, enjoyable tales for the men they are writing about, Princess Leia’s tale is unfortunately allowed to be hijacked by Han Solo and Chewbacca. The titular princess is relegated to captive maiden in her own tale, even though she talks a good talk about being able to take care of herself. Soriano’s muddled art further mires the volume, making the story hard to follow and the characters difficult to keep straight.
Luckily the series picks up again after that, offering two thought provoking, yet action-filled stories. Luke Skywalker and the Treasure of the Dragonsnakes takes place during Luke’s training on Dagobah with Master Yoda. Taylor allows himself to have fun with Yoda as Yoda in turn has fun with Luke in the name of training. (Teachers who can get this volume away from their students will completely sympathize with Yoda’s desire to gently torment his disciple.) When Yoda sends Luke on a journey to rescue treasure from a ferocious beast, Luke at first cannot understand why his monastic mentor would suddenly be making a selfish request. But, as with all of Yoda’s teachings, there is a deeper meaning. Daxiong’s art is vivid and perfect for action scenes, though he seems unable to draw any facial expressions which would allow his characters to show emotion. Luckily Taylor’s writing is strong enough to carry the story through to a full-circle finish that is not preachy or overly pat.
From there, Taylor turns his focus onto Darth Vader, crafting a story which shows off the massive power Vader commands, while also clearly pointing out the flaws in his philosophy of servitude to the Dark Side. Vader uses a captured smuggler named Luca to get to a Rebel base hidden deep within an asteroid field, but Luca is a wisecracking man who does not lightly given into authority. The brilliance in Taylor’s story is that Luca is not a stand-in for Han Solo. He is very much his own person, a theme which is central to the point Taylor aims to make. The ending of the tale is shocking, powerful, and will force readers to think about the nature of free will. Koschak’s art is both in-your-face and subtle, flexing with the needs of the story and Wiggam’s colors back him up masterfully.
There is some violence in the series, especially in The Will of Darth Vader, but most of it occurs off screen or in other ways that keep it from being gratuitous. The Star Wars Adventure series remains a terrific choice for middle school collections and a strong one for older elementary school readers. Adult fans will appreciate that the series doesn’t talk down to readers and fans of the movies who are not followers of the extensive comic and novel series will enjoy finding out that these volumes only require knowledge of the original movies. Overall an excellent series, though hopefully Princess Leia will get another chance to shine.