GONK checks out a new printing of some The Phantom Menace tie-in comics, as Dark Horse looks forward to the TPM 3D release.
With the upcoming release of The Phantom Menace in 3-D in February, Dark Horse Comics has brought some of their Episode I comics out of the vault for a new audience: digest-sized format versions of their adaptation of Episode I, and the quartet of stories about the heroes of the film in Episode I Adventures. Since I review these electronically, I’m wondering how well pages that were originally at comic book size scale down to digest size, with the detail of art and lettering height.
Star Wars: Episode I Adventures
Episode I Adventures builds some back-story and side-story to the events of The Phantom Menace, through four different tales. Originally published as four issues back in 1999, the adventures provide a greater glimpse into the characters of Anakin Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-wan Kenobi. We see what life is like for Anakin and others on Tatooine in the day before his encounter with the outlanders that change his destiny, and before the Boonta Eve podrace, Padmé and Jar Jar Binks have their own adventure – apparently hotwiring speeders is a skill taught to handmaidens. The Qui-Gon story takes place after the podrace, as the Jedi Master runs into some snags with Watto on Anakin’s release. The Obi-wan story is mostly a retelling of the movie from Obi-wan’s point of view, and Yoda’s own thoughts, and doesn’t really cover any new ground. When these comics first came out, I really enjoyed the first three, as they created some cool side adventures that helped explore the characters, but was bummed by the Obi-wan tale being mostly a plot rehash. But we get to see young Anakin deal with the rough Mos Espa life with his friends, and Padmé and Jar Jar bonding over their own escapade, and Qui-Gon’s perspective on using power and consequences (and how Sebulba ends up with Anakin’s podracer).
The Episode I Adventures work best for someone who has seen the movie already, so might make for a great gift to introduce a casual Star Wars fan to comics. Putting it in the digest format shows that Dark Horse is pushing this towards the kids, who might have missed these stories the first time around.
Sometimes with trade versions, we lose the cool cover art from the individual issues, but with this collection, Tim Bradstreet’s issue covers are included before each story. Hugh Fleming’s art from the first issue of The Phantom Menace adaptation has been recycled for the digest cover and stamped with the TPM 3D logo in the corner. This version also incorporates the pages from Star Wars: Episode I #1/2 into their respective stories, as done for the 2009 Emissaries and Assassins Omnibus, rather than having the issue remain separate from the four stories, as it was done in the original 2000 Episode I Adventures trade paperback.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
No real story surprises here – Episode I – The Phantom Menace collects the 1999 adaptation of The Phantom Menace. There are some slight differences between it and the film, but nothing major. With the 3D version of the film being slightly different than the original theatrical cut (longer podrace, new Yoda), the podrace in the comic doesn’t capture the full sense of that action sequence. In the end, it’s the story we all know and love – Anakin goes from slave to space ace, Jar Jar goes from exile to general, Qui-Gon Jinn goes from maverick Jedi to toast, and Darth Maul goes from 6 foot something to 3 foot something.
For fun, I pulled out my 1999 trade paperback, and compared the two and found that there are some slight modifications to the layout. Most noticeably, they re-did the title scroll page, removing “Episode I” and “The Phantom Menace”, and reformatting the yellow narrative, possibly to be more legible in a digest page size. The main story pages have been cropped for better fit to the slightly different page dimensions, trimming a little from the top, bottom, and outer edge of the original pages, and at least one typo got fixed. Oddly, they include one of Hugh Fleming’s individual issue covers (the cover to #2, depicting Anakin in the podrace) in between the opening scroll and the start of the story, but the remaining covers are not included anywhere (unlike the 1999 trade that had a cover gallery in the end for the four issues when it was serialized).
As with the Episode I Adventures, this trade paperback, in its digest size, is designed to be more marketed towards the kids – chances are that if you’re a Star Wars comics fan, you already have Henry Gilroy’s scripted adaptation of the film in one (or more) of its previous incarnations – 1999 trade or 4-issue arc, the 1999 hardcover edition, the 2005 slipcase containing all 3 prequel trades, or the 2011 Omnibus of the complete saga. But if you know a Star Wars fan new to comics, this might be a good first step into a larger world.