Hey there, and welcome to another edition of our games column, Pixels and Panels. As you’ve no doubt seen by our coverage here, the worlds of video games and comic books are more closely intertwined than ever before. This column will explore comic book video games and explore games that make the leap the other direction and become comic books. We’ll track the trends, give you some previews and reviews, and explore every side of the transition from Pixels to Panels and back again. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is becoming quite the hype machine. The demo released last week is getting good fan reaction, and some are looking to it as a new hope to revive the Star Wars franchise, as the widely-panned Star Wars: The Clone Wars did not have that affect. As part of the game’s buildup, Dark Horse has published an original graphic novel based on the game’s events. To connect the two, they even allowed Haden Blackman, the writer of the game, to write the OGN. The book bares the insignia of “The Rise of the Empire” and is noted to take place 2 years prior to the Battle of Yavin, firmly installing it in the larger Star Wars mythos. After a short prologue, the story begins, being told through the eyes of a droid named Proxy. Unsurprisingly, Easter eggs abound throughout, with the first thing out of Proxy’s mouth being his recording number: 91608, the date of the US release of the game.
Being based off a video game, the book is structured similarly. There are “levels” to the story, where clear-cut missions take place. There are definitely a few surprises saved for the game itself, as the story jumps around a bit, being told from the point of view of two ancillary characters. The real surprise of the story is a huge one for Star Wars fans. It will probably cause two camps to rise up, one glad that such a story element can finally be resolved, and one horrified by such a thing being pushed into continuity. It makes the story worthwhile, though, and gives it a resonance it would be missing if it were truly simply a tale of Vader’s secret apprentice.
The art, done by Brian Ching, Bong Dazo, Wayne Nichols, and Michael Atiyeh, keeps a similar style to the game, but with a decidedly comic book feel. The basic character designs are the same, but rather than static in-game shots, the team manages to lend a feeling of action to the printed page.
As a stand-alone story, well, this is probably one only for die-hard Star Wars fans, especially those who aren’t gamers (yes, the two of you out there) and won’t be playing the game. The story of Starkiller is absolutely 100% essential to the overall Star Wars mythos. As a tie-in or adaptation of the game, this is great. It’s absolutely worth the read, even before playing (if you don’t mind the basic plot being spoiled for you), as moment after moment jumps out just begging to have the reader take control of Starkiller. Even filled with spoilers, the book is a giant tease to any gamer anxious to unleash the Force. The book told a solid story with some great twists while still feeling like a video game story, as it should.
September 16th can’t come soon enough for gamers anxious to get their hands on the next chapter in the saga of Star Wars. Lucky for them, there’s an easy, great way to get in on the action right now.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed GN from Dark Horse Books is in stores now.