REVIEW: “The Empire Strikes Back” graphic novel

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back graphic novel (Dark Horse, 2006 edition)
Archie Goodwin
Pencils & Inks: Al Williamson & Carlos Garzon
Colors: James Sinclair & Frank Lopez
Lettering: Rick Veitch
Front cover art: Bob Larkin

The comic book version of The Empire Strikes Back first appeared as a six-issue series from Marvel in 1980. By 1995, Dark Horse had taken over the Star Wars comics license and re-released The Empire Strikes Back as a two-part graphic novel.

For about $5.50 more than buying only the DVD (based on first day of sale prices), Wal-Mart bundled a new printing of the comic book adaptation with The Empire Strikes Back: Unaltered DVD. This 2006 edition is also from Dark Horse, and collects all six parts of Marvel’s 1980 The Empire Strikes Back series.

Though it has been around for 26 years, this was actually my first time reading the comic version of Empire. After recently re-reading the Marvel Return of the Jedi adaptation, I was not exactly jumping at the bit to read this one.

Whether due to the various personnel differences, or perhaps more time allowed on the project, or just a more comic friendly story, The Empire Strikes Back turned out to be a surprisingly good comic.

The writing is a lot less jarring than Jedi. Sure, there’s still a lot of exposition stuff that they work into some of the lines, but it works a lot better than the clunkier dialogue of the Return of the Jedi comic.

Though the quality varies a bit, the art is generally very well done. Most characters are recognizable in most frames. There are some nice full-page spreads, which were rather rare back then as I recall.

A great full-page image of the Falcon racing back to Cloud City is unfortunately ruined by horrible coloring, though. Like Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back was re-colored (likely for the 1995 edition) to accommodate modern printing techniques. In this case, however, I don’t have the original comic book to compare the work.

A minor item that I also found slightly disappointing is that Yoda’s coloring (and possibly some of his artwork) was updated to reflect his actual appearance. The original version was colored based upon concept art for Yoda and not the finished puppet. As a result, he was apparently purple and more elf-like. I had been looking forward to seeing this, for fun, but it’s not included here.

Still, all in all, this is a great graphic novel. Since, again, it was based on earlier versions of the film, it includes the deleted attack of the wampas on the Rebel base, as well as a longer training sequence for Luke on Dagobah. And in this version, Leia actually takes Luke to task on Hoth for deciding to go off to Dagobah, much like she does with Han regarding Jabba.

Though the Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back comic adaptations were six issues long, Return of the Jedi was trimmed to only four issues for some reason and, as a result, felt rather compressed.

With Empire‘s six issue format, there’s plenty of time to properly build the exciting story. I’m definitely happy to have added this one to my collection for such a reasonable price.

Story/Writing: 8 (out of 10)
Art: 7
Cover Art: 6
Overall Experience: 7
Recommended: To all Star Wars fanatics