Star Wars: The Comics Companion
Ryder Windham & Daniel Wallace, Dark Horse Comics
Released February, 2006
Reviewed and scans by Adam Pawlus
Reviewed on February 8, 2006
Dark Horse Comics has been publishing various tales of the Skywalker Universe since 1991, and Marvel Comics started in 1977. Since it's 2006, the sheer quantity of materials in print and long out of print may be daunting to a new fan. Who's Lady Lumiya? When did Luke join the Emperor? And just who is Kir Kanos, and why should you care? There have been hundreds of issues of adventures published and dozens of collections, and this book's goal is to make sense of them in a simple format that will let you, the reader, be able to essentially have an index of the entire Star Wars comic book Universe. But did Dark Horse do their homework? And how much did they expand their reach beyond their own comic talent?
144 pages, color photos, trade paperback, $19.95.
The Golden Age of Sith through Chewbacca
The guide makes an impressive attempt to contain all the various comic books published by Dark Horse Comics from 1991 to some point in 2005. This not only includes most of the original Dark Horse material, but includes select reprints, such as the Classic Star Wars, Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures, and Classic Star Wars: Han Solo at Star's End series.
As such, a continuity is created. Obviously, the Elseworlds-style titles known as Infinities and Tales are in an appendix, but what's interesting is that the Classic Star Wars titles are in the main section. Marvel's tales are not, despite having been reprinted by Dark Horse in a series of excellent paperback collections in recent years.
Each section includes information on the artists, which collection the stories appear in (if appropriate), and most shockingly great of all, spoiler warnings. Dark Horse took great care and understanding that in many cases, fans buying this book are not the fans that have purchased every Dark Horse Comic since December, 1991 when Dark Empire #1 hit store shelves. It's a pretty safe bet that villains are going to be defeated and certain Jedi are going to be killed off, but the book treats almost every character with a fair amount of respect and makes sure that if someone is killed off and you might be irked to know this before you read the comic, well, they don't always point-blank say it, with a couple of exceptions. This is handy.
The stories are presented in a very close approximation of the Star Wars Universe timeline. Yes, it's finally here-- a listing of all the comics from 25,000 years before the Battle of Yavin in The Golden Age of Sith through the death and memorial of Chewbacca in Chewbacca. (At this point, you probably know he's killed off in a novel. If not, well, it was several years ago, and you'll live.)
On the whole, this is a great guide, but as far as presentation goes, it's a very good first draft. For example, in the Crimson Empire section, there's no images of Kir Kanos, and the Empire's End section has multiple images of Grand Admiral Thrawn-- who was killed a few series before that one. Also, there are a few examples of obviously unrevised text. For example:
...Vader learns that Fett will be of great service in a time to come (see XX, pg XX), and allows him to escape. (Page 62.) While anyone writing on the internet most certainly lives in a glass house in these editing-based situations, a few of these "XX" things show that the book wasn't as revised as it could have been before publication, and that's just a smidgen sloppy-- but with any luck, a second, expanded edition (or editions) will see release and include the comics from 2006 and beyond.
When making a definitive guide to anything, there's always going to be some things left out or forgotten. And of course, this is no exception. As the emphasis is on Dark Horse material, and on the whole this seems to be a $20 buyer's guide to Dark Horse's massive and excellent collection of trade paperbacks, keep that in mind when you read the following short list of complaints.
1. Dark Horse Comics' Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Originally serialized in Star Wars Galaxy in 1995, this trio of short stories in Mos Eisley does not appear anywhere in this book. The stories were collected in a one-shot comic and as far as I know, never spoken of again. (Other one-shots, like A Valentine's Story [Page 76 under the name "Breaking the Ice"], Shadow Stalker [in passing, Page 87], and The Jabba Tape [also in passing, Page 87] are mentioned but not expanded upon. The fact that any comic was originally serialized in the aforementioned Star Wars Galaxy magazine has been left out entirely, which is unfortnate, as that's the place many fans first this material.)
2. Marvel Comics (Star Wars). A list of the titles of stories as well as artists appears in the section in the back for the A Long Time Ago collections, however there's virtually no information on the actual stories and no original Marvel issue numbers. Information on the script, artists, and letterfolk are included, which, while appreciated, is not sufficient when you're wondering which issue introduced Plif of the Hoojibs.
3. Star Comics (Ewoks, Droids). No mention of the Marvel imprint's Star Wars line for kids exists. Even with the anti-Ewok bias of the modern fanbase in check, Droids provided some nifty stories and also had a three-issue miniseries showing Star Wars entirely from the perspective of R2-D2 and C-3PO.
4. Blackthorne Comics (Star Wars 3D). Again, no mention of these stories exists.
5. Marvel Comics UK (Star Wars). Tons of legendary, and now considered out-of-continuity, tales were published weekly by Marvel in the UK, most of which fans have never seen. Even Dark Horse's Devilworlds reprints were left out.
6. Promo comics (various). There's a Star Wars #0 that was given away, a Rogue Squadron #1/2, an Apple Jacks cereal box that had an exclusive Droids page, and a few others. It does include some comics like This Crumb for Hire which I actually have never seen. Dark Horse's Toys "R" Us Clone Wars comics and other items don't seem to be mentioned either.
7. Various other mini-series and one-shots. Some items were simply not included for reasons we don't understand, like the rotten Leia-centric River of Chaos.
There are, of course, more, but with several comics a month nearly every month for 16 years, that adds up pretty quick. As such, we'll leave that for the editors of volume 2 to correct, unless you've got a red pen and would like to get cracking.
Rather than cover shots like most guides, we're treated to a lot of art from the inside of the various books. Some doesn't exactly connect with the book described on the page, but it usually does. There's no original art, but as this is a guide to various comics, this is what you should be seeing anyway.
With images of Marvel's long-haired Luke from the post-Star Wars, pre-Empire days, well, that's worth the price of admission right there if you've never seen it. Quality stuff.
Uhhh... fine booksellers everywhere? Street date February 15, 2006.
At $20, it's cheap, and fairly useful. With all the comic stories in the past 29 years, it's going to be difficult to know which story is which, and which ones you may want to read next. This book more or less ignores non-Dark Horse material, but odds are that overall, this book is made for the casual fan wanting to start reading comics and not the tiny group of fans who has virtually everything and is looking for a handy reference guide to it.
If you're new to comics and want to know what's worth reading, get this. If you've already got everything, this isn't going to be of much use. As someone who has mostly everything, we found it to be a good read, a good guide, and while not perfect, it's the best comics-friendly story guide we've seen yet. However, when it comes to reference books, a fan who places a medium to low emphasis on his or her knowledge of the world of Star Wars comics should not be able to point out errors and such to the extent listed above, and then some.
If you want to know all things comics, though, we highly suggest starting your own web-based resource for such things. Not because this volume is bad-- far from it. It's just that when the scope of your project includes stories from at least two continents with several hundred (if not roughly a thousand) issues to comb (thanks Marvel UK), that's quite a workload.
The scope of any project can be compromised by things like deadlines, page numbers, and of course editors doing hefty editing. We expect this may have been the cause of some of the issues we had with the book, and we appreciate the amount of work that it took to get it to us. It just needs more people reading it before the book goes out the door.
Our sample was obtained from Dark Horse Comics in January 2006.