Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Graphic Novelization is published by IDW Publishing is the latest addition to the Star Wars Movie Adaptation series for young readers that began in 2017. The team is led by known movie-to-graphic novel adapter Alessandro Ferrari, who is credited with titles such Wall-E, Alice in Wonderland, Frozen, Zootopia, Finding Dory and the all of the most recent Star Wars adaptations. The series itself has many of the same artists, colorists, and letters who have rotating credits depending on the issue: Alessandro Pastrovicchio, Davide Turotti, Igor Chimisso, Kawaii Studio, Matteo Piana, and Andrea Parisi, with Eric Jones rounding out the team with fantastic cover art.
Since this series is designed for young readers there are many choices that the team makes that I hope it lands with their target demographic. This is my first graphic novel in the series and I tried to put myself in young readers’ shoes, who may not be familiar with the older movies. It goes without saying that not everything from the film can make it into the adaptation. That said I hoped that they would include the lines and scenes that make Empire Strikes Back one of the best films in the series. I have to say right off the bat, the team delivers.
The issue begins with character profiles of both the heroes and villains in the Star Wars universe. This is a fantastic choice that I hope is common in the series. By pairing the real-life stills with the artist adaptations, it really grounds the issue in the art style the readers of previous issues may be familiar. Further, by providing background information on the characters it allows young readers to get to know iconic characters they may not be fully familiar with just yet.
At a first glance of the credits, I was surprised by the number of people needed to work on this issue. It is certainly the most credits I have seen on a comic, but from page one, you can see why. Starting with the background imagery, the artists are truly able to bring Hoth, Bespin, and Dagobah from the screen to the page with environments that are all different from each other. Every data screen, toadstool, and cloud is in just the right place.
Next, each character is drawn slightly different stylistically than their real-life counterparts, slimming down to sleek and colorful renditions. While the physiques are changed, their facial expressions and mannerisms come across so well panel after panel in both lettering and art that I found myself reading each interaction in the voices of our beloved actors.
The standout for the character designs has to be Darth Vader. His design in the adaptation seems reminiscent of his original concept art and how is portrayed in animated series Star Wars: Rebels. It will surely provide a pleasant surprise for followers of the creation of Star Wars and be a recognizable design for young readers who watched Star Wars: Rebels. It is this subtle attention to detail in the background, expressions, and character design that show that this series truly needs a large team that they utilized well.
If I had one gripe with the issue, albeit very minor, is some of the decisions to take out select scenes while they kept others. It is understandable that some scenes have to be taken out for the sake of time. However, that does not stop me from scratching my head on why Chewbacca choking Lando during Leia’s interrogation is cut while Vader Force-Choking Admiral Ozzel remains.
Iconic scenes, at least in my mind, like Han cutting, open the tauntaun on during his rescue of Luke or Luke singlehandedly taken down an AT-AT also don’t make the cut. In the end, I chalk this up to my nostalgia talking as I didn’t even think twice when scenes like Luke being dragged by the wampa, Han shooting the ground to find out they are in an exogorth, or Chewbacca finding C-3PO with the ugnaughts weren’t present either. All that being said, all the other scenes that you would come to love Empire Strikes Back are presented beautifully in the artists’ unique art design.
Despite being designed for young readers, I would recommend this graphic novel to any fans of the series. It will surely grab the attention of younger fans and more seasoned fans will have a pleasant experience reading the story through the lens of the gorgeous art and lettering while being accompanied by the voice of the actors in their heads. I look forward to their release of Return of the Jedi and Solo later this year and hope they decide to tackle the Prequel Trilogy as well.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Graphic Novelization is available anywhere comics are sold.
Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back Graphic Novelization
Despite being designed for young readers, I would recommend Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back to any fans of the series.