The Rogue One crew are back in action.
Rogue One introduced a terrific new cast of characters to the Star Wars franchise, so it’s a little frustrating that Marvel’s first attempt at capitalizing on the new film is a direct adaptation. Why can’t we get a comic about the early years of Jyn Erso or life at the Jedi Temple on Jedha? The fact that Marvel’s recent The Force Awakens adaptation was such a dud doesn’t help. Rogue One is better executed, at least, but it’s still guilty of telling a story that didn’t really need to be revisited in the first place.
Issue #1 follows the early portion of the film pretty closely, opening with a flashback to Director Krennic and Galen Erso’s fateful meeting and then jumping forward to established Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor’s shared mission. The flashback sets a bad precedent for the rest of the issue, blowing through that entire sequence in the span of two pages and completely skipping over significant portions in the process. Rushed pacing is one of the most common flaws with these types of adaptations, and this sequence is a perfect example of what can go wrong when too many story beats are crammed into one page.
The good news is that the pacing immediately slows after that point. Writer Jody Houser and Emilio Laiso and Oscar Bazaldua shift to a slower, steadier approach that allows the flow of the film to come across more clearly on the page. It’s no substitute for just watching the movie again, but at least the creators strive to do justice to the source material.
It’s unclear from the credits page whether Laiso and Bazaldua are dividing pages or working together on each one, but there’s a noticeable shift in quality from one scene to the next. The facial work in particular varies quite a bit. The scene with Bodhi first meeting Saw’s rebel fanatics features very expressive work, whereas other scenes suffer from more stiff, lifeless faces that seem more geared towards capturing actor likenesses than conveying emotion. The storytelling could also stand to be more clear at times, particularly anything involving ships on the move or blasters being fired. But this issue does succeed in creating a strong, foreboding sense of mood with its heavy use of shadow and vivid colors.
This comic’s greatest asset is the fact that the creators make an effort to expand the story outside the confines of the film. For example, one page depicts a meeting between Galen and Bodhi Rook shortly before the latter character is dispatched on his mission. Another explores the relationship between Jyn and her prison bunkmate (spoiler alert: they don’t get along). These moments are fairly minor in the grand scheme of things, but at least they serve to bring a little novelty to a now-familiar story. It’s too bad Marvel didn’t follow the approach Dark Horse took with their Force Unleashed II comic, which was less a direct adaptation than a side-story exploring what happened in between the beats of the main conflict. Marvel needs more of that “outside the box” approach and fewer beat-for-beat adaptations.