Wookiee Hut Book Reviews presents:
Star Wars Tales

Book Review by Diana DeRiggs

Authors/Illustrators: Various (yippee!)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Rating: Super Star Destroyer

The big hoopla with Episode 1: The Phantom Menace did result in at least one good thing -- suddenly there was a lot of Star Wars stuff out and about, including comics and more books! The GFFA was filled out with more information, far more than George Lucas ever imagined. But a lot of the official products faded and fizzled when expectations were not met, and the Star Wars franchise got a bit knocked around and tarnished.

I'm one of those people who liked -- no, I loved -- TPM and ATC. But even so, I understood the disappointment with the accompanying materials. As much as I love the Rogue Squadron and Wraith Squadron series, some of the stuff both within these efforts as well as other things simply sucked. Take the comics for RS, for instance ... not only were inks and colors generally substandard and some of the drawing shoddy and editing just bad, but many of the stories were stupid, pure and simple. Some promising arcs just stopped at a dead end, never to show up again anywhere in the GFFA. This was true whether the medium was comics, books, etc. It was as if the GFFA writers and scribblers knew how bad it all was, and wouldn't touch each other's crap.

So those of us who still loved Star Wars despite these setbacks and knew it didn't have to be like that, did what we needed to do -- we retreated to the world of fanfiction, where canon and continuity were important, but "flexible." Freed from the big engines that be, some sparkling story telling resulted. (And if we say so ourselves, WookieeHut has been blessed with some great tales!)

But all was not lost! It feels like Star Wars Tales was born from that tradition of flexibility, respect, and damned good story ideas and telling. And instead of a full 4-comic story arc, writers, pencils, and ink/color people created small stories delving into some aspect of the GFFA; they were free to create new characters, or even make the known characters behave in humorous or thematic ways. Popular culture is allowed to permeate, so if a tale involves an Iron Chef style competition, the 'droid cook could be called "MREM-02" (Morimoto, get it??); if Yoda and Mace Windu need to discuss the fate of Anakin Skywalker, they could do it in a cameo-filled Pulp Fiction diner homage. Or screwups like non-canon Tag and Bink get a story from the maw of the sarlaac. Or really really cool dudes like Mace Windu or Boba Fett get whole comic book fulls -- 64 pages worth of stories from many teams of writers/illustrators! The storytelling is rich and diverse, even if you do have to scratch your head a bit sometimes.

It's much more like fanfic, and we like that! Paired with great illustrations, what's not to love? And it's not all humor or fun and games. A lot of it is seriously analytical, explanations for how some things came to be. Like how did Lando Calrissian win Cloud City? After the clone era, how were grunt-level stormtroopers selected and trained? How far would a man go to have his own life spared? And how did C3PO end up with Chewbacca in that Bespin prison cell (this one is my personal favorite, a tale called "Thank the Maker," which sees straight into the heart of the man who had become Darth Vader).

Many people prefer when the characters are drawn so they look exactly like the actors on the big screen. Others appreciate stylization, or more artistic or interpretive endeavors. But the stories are good enough that you'll enjoy them anyway, no matter what side of that rotting fence you are sitting. The individual comics are published quarterly and cost $5.99 apiece. They have been collected annually into "volumes" -- Volume 4 had just been published, and these are minus the ads. A nice extra touch -- after No. 5, you can choose between drawn covers and photo covers. I prefer drawn, but for the obsessive among us, we'd likely buy both, or -- to be honest -- whatever the comic store has on hand, since the contents are identical.

Alas, as stated, because Star Wars stuff in general has been devalued, getting these comics is only a sure thing directly from Dark Horse or one of their vendors. They don't sell the huge volumes you might expect. Even so, some of the earlier numbers are already gone forever (or at least until republication become possible). As mentioned, at least they are collected in the annual volumes in "graphic novel" format, which are available through Amazon and other mainstream booksellers. (If you prefer to patronize your local small bookstore, ask them to order these for you from Dark Horse Comics.)

Yes, Wookieehut is at its core -- despite the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, recipes, reviews, and Wee Wookiee stuff we know and love -- a Star Wars fanfic site. But even we -- the hardcore GFFAites -- will admit a lot of what goes on in the official continuity is just plain stupid, or simply sucks. Some of us can't stomach the NJO. I personally tore up some paperback series from days of old in a rage at how idiotic the story was and sent the pieces with a terse note of complaint to the publisher. Some of us have even been chased into A.U. (alternative universe) territory when dumb stuff happens in the GFFA and we feel we have no other recourse. But we do have recourse! Either write or inspire a fanfic, and/or follow us into the semi-canon world of Star Wars Tales!

Comic and volume covers from www.darkhorse.com

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