Written by Marjorie Liu with Art by Mark Brooks and Olivier Coipel.
Graphic Novel Review by Kerey McKenna.
Han Solo is always defensive of his beloved spacecraft the Millennium Falcon. Unlike Luke’s streamlined X-Wing fighter, designed to invoke the essence of an earth fighter jet, the Falcon’s size, asymmetry, and cobbled-together look do not suggest speed. But Han assures the skeptical Luke, Obi-Wan (and the audience watching) that this is a fast ship. In his capable hands this ship made the Kessel Run in an impressive 12 Parsecs (and nerds being nerds, there has been decades of discussion and retcons about Han’s famous boast). Over the course of the saga we see the Falcon tear through space, swerving around asteroids, running imperial blockades, and leaving Death Stars 1, 2, and the Starkiller base as refuse in its wake.
But maybe it’s about time Han put his money where his mouth is and prove just how fast the Falcon really is and whether he is as great a pilot as he claims. What if, instead of getting mixed up with a blood feud between warring sects of space wizards (which doesn’t end too well for him in episode VII), Han and Chewie found themselves in a classic madcap racing movie like Burt Reynolds's Cannonball Run?
Yes, in this story from Marvel Comics, Han, Chewie, and their iconic Millenium Falcon are up against the galaxy’s most esteemed racing pilots in the glamourous Dragon Void Space Race, a harrowing three-stage ordeal. Each stage consists of a jump to hyperspace, an obstacle course, and a mandatory refueling period at a nearby planet. For the pilot with the first ship across the finish line waits a Hutt’s Ransom of a winner’s purse, for the losers, the agony of defeat at best, or death in the cold vacuum of space at worst.
Set shortly after the events of A New Hope, Han and Chewie are racing for their lives on a mission for “Her Worshipfulness” Princess Leia and her rebel alliance.
There is an intelligence leak within the rebellion and three rebellion operatives need to be retrieved from the field and brought back for debriefing. This is all the more crucial because one of the operatives is most likely an imperial mole and will need to be dealt with. As Han and Chewie are not known to be part of the established rebellion hierarchy yet, Leia enters the pair into the Dragon Void Race with each of the three refueling pit stops to serve as chance to extract one of the operatives from the field.
When Han swaggers into the opening reception of the well-heeled professional racers with their purpose-built racing ships and corporate sponsors, my mind went instantly to the film Hidalgo where the American cowboy and his mustang go up against the thoroughbreds (both equine and human) of Arabia and Europe. In short order we are introduced to a handful of other pilots in the race worth knowing who turn up their nose at the smuggler that has found himself in their midst, with the notable exception of one respected elder racer that speaks of outer space racing with mystical reverence for the spirituality underlying all things laser gun and hyper drive. This being Star Wars, wizened elders that speak with mystical reverence tend to be on to something.
To defend the honor of the Falcon against these snobs (and accomplish the mission to thwart the Empire), Han and Chewie will have to push their piloting and smuggling skills to the limit not to be left in the dust or in the hands of the Imperials.
Is this arc of Star Wars a new epic for the franchise? Does it reveal new truths about the established characters or provide crucial errata for the saga’s lore? No and no...which in many ways makes it a fun quick read. I’m surprised I hadn’t come across other stories in which Han and Chewie take their cues from classic Burt Reynolds. Fun Fact: with his cowboy swagger and smuggling ways, Reynolds was actually offered the opportunity to play Han Solo in the first Star Wars, which he turned down. So it would make sense that Reynolds's style car chase movies are deep down in the Solo DNA.
The art is sharp, conveying the kinetic action the story requires, and Han and Leia look very much like Ford and Fisher looked when they portrayed the iconic heroes. I mention that last part because over the years, the degree to which the most recognizable characters resembled their screen incarnations varied from artist to artist, and with the new Solo movie landing this week, with Alden Ehrenreich in the title role, it’s possible future pen-and-ink Han will look more like Alden than like Harrison.
So if you still aren’t sold on the new Han Solo yet this may either help get you in the mood or reassure you that there are more classic Han Solo tales to be told.
Kerey McKenna is a contributing reviewer to Nerds who Read and SMOF for the annual Watch City Steampunk Festival. Check it out at www.watchcityfestival.com.