A Challenge to Read all of the 'Star Wars' Comics Reveals the Trends of Another Era

Sometime around October, with a new iPad, I discovered how easy it was to read comics. Never again would I have to stammer awkwardly at the guy in the baseball cap behind the counter that I need the last four issues of Buffy. Here are all the comics I could want—instantaneous downloadable content. I went from buying three or four comics a month to suddenly having to apologize to the waiter for my declined debit card (twice in two months).

In my excitement at this immediate gratification, I decided to read every Star Wars comic available. There are nearly 500 of them, more than 35 real human years' worth of them, beginning with Marvel's series in the '70s to Dark Horse's continuing run. The comics jump around in time, a 36,000-year-long intergalactic soap opera, so, to challenge myself further, wouldn't it be cool to read them all in chronological order? Yes, kind of. The binge-reading of Star Wars comics had me broke, but enthralled. When reading Knights of the Old Republic, I was the most fiscally irresponsible. Purge, detailing Darth Vader's hunt and murder of remaining Jedi, had my friends avoiding me because I found a way to drop it into every conversation. Sorry, friends.

I justified plowing through the Star Wars timeline by viewing the jumps in the style of art as legitimate cultural observation. I saw our modern cinematic approach, where a facial tic is given an entire page of real estate, followed by a mid-'90s trend in stark impressionism and bleak colors. Then a cartoonish Breakfast Club-plotted one-shot with Darth Vader sensing "shenanigans" in the popular style of early-2000s Cartoon Network. I found it fascinating to see so many styles and storytelling traits mesh together for one continuous story notable for its near lack of internal contradiction.

But suddenly, when I started reading the earliest comics—the ones set right around the time of the original movies—my interest in them fell to zilch. That era is almost entirely represented by Marvel in the late '70s, when the trend in comics seemed to have been "tell, don't show," with hacky dialogue similar to that of The Phantom Menace. I can't legitimately say Marvel's era was terrible without a more lengthy discussion about comics being a product of their time. But I can insinuate it with a backhanded compliment: They are a product of their time.

Brian Wood's new Star Wars, published by Dark Horse, pulls a shroud over those old Marvel comics and rewrites galactic history, starting with the aftermath of the Death Star's destruction. Nondescript box-headed droids are gone, as are the unrealistic (for a series about outer space, anyway) characters with punny names. Instead of meeting up with Jax, Han Solo's giant green rabbit friend, our heroes are attempting to lead a seemingly unwinnable war after personal, emotional tragedy. In the first issue, Luke and Leia are in their own X-wings, orbiting planets, looking for a new rebel base. Leia is distracted, trying to find strength to lead the rebellion after the destruction of her homeworld and the billions of lives she represented. Luke is cocky, but still unsure of himself in his new role.

Battlestar Galactica-style angst permeates the tone. Leia organizes a secret squad of fighters, including herself and her—oh, she doesn't know yet, does she? Her brother.

Marvel's He-Man-sized Luke Skywalker and busty, glamorous Leia now seem like the kind of real, complex people I've gotten used to reading in modern comics.

As excited as I am for this welcome revisionist history of Luke, Han, Leia in 1 ABY, though, and after all this money I spent, I wonder what in the world possessed me to read every Star Wars comic in chronological order. I mean, what in the world?