With all the hype that the game has been getting, which from what I’ve seen so far, it certainly deserves, this comic tie-in has slipped under the Star Wars radar. Of course, it was always going to be an uphill battle, with the frenzy surrounding the upcoming LucasArts release, so it’s no surprise that this OGN (original graphic novel) appears to be the forgotten sibling in the game’s shadow. After reading this book I’ve come to realise that it can’t compete with the awesomeness of flinging around stormtroopers and frying everyone with lightning from your hands, but sadly, it can’t compete with a lot of the other comics out there either. It certainly doesn’t help that I couldn’t even find it on the official SW site, and that both Dark Horse and Amazon list the book as 104 pages, while it actually goes up to 126. That’s enough to make any SW loyalist about as confused as Jar Jar at poker.
Those with a bad taste in their mouth after the Clone Wars film may very well find relief in this darker tale though, and newbies need not be perplexed, as there is a short explanation as to where this adventure is set in continuity (2 years before Episode IV-A New Hope).
The tale concerns Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, Starkiller (named after Luke Skywalker’s initial name, before George Lucas rejected it), his pilot Juno Eclipse and personal droid Proxy, who is effectively the narrator of this once-hidden tale. There are some cameos to be seen here as Starkiller flits around the galaxy dispatching goodie and baddie alike with skill and abandon (and a lightsaber of course), but they will probably only be familiar to followers of the expanded universe, rather than the films. For such an important note in SW history, Starkiller’s story appears rushed. It deserves more than this. More expansion, more explanation of the main character’s judgements, more of everything. His turning from evil to not so evil, and almost a rallying cry for the birth of the Rebellion seems a hasty one. In fact, the whole TPB just seems haphazard, with mere snippets of Starkiller’s life, rather than a complete biography. I’m sure Haden Blackman, the writer of both this book and the game, had some restrictions placed on him by Mr. Lucas, due in part to the earlier release of this compared to the game. Hopefully more will be revealed when we get to pick up the controller for ourselves next week, and there is enough to mine here for future novels and mini-series. As it stands The Force Unleashed TPB comes across as an unsatisfying part of a larger picture. The art by Brian Ching. Bong Dazo and Wayne Nichols is serviceable and in line with the look of Dark Horse’s other Star Wars series, but it’s not enough to save it. However it did make me want to play the game even more, and that’s probably this book’s greatest audience- eager gamers. If that is its primary function; to serve as a companion piece, rather than a stand alone story, then its done the job. Anything Star Wars related has a lot to live up to, however and fans can be an unforgiving bunch. If you don’t want to be one of them, then leave this alone, and save your money for September 16-19 (depending on where you live), when the console game is launched and we can all breath a sigh of relief as the Star Wars franchise enthralls us once more. Hopefully.
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