I think we all remember the pretty mediocre Chewbacca series from Marvel. What was the point? Was there one? I try and find something – anything – out in this post!
In a way, I think you’ll find that this post will serve as a defense of this type of series. Keep that in mind as you read this next paragraph or two:
The Chewbacca mini-series might have been one of Marvel’s biggest risks. Coming off the heels of the mostly mixed reviews of Princess Leia and the critically acclaimed Lando series (which is, really, the reason Soule has written two other series and is working on his second on-going), the series had a lot to live up to. It focused on one of the core characters of the Original Trilogy. Even worse, Chewbacca doesn’t speak Basic. This would add an incredible layer of difficulty to the making of the series.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to the pressure.
I am writing this review from memory, so bear with me: Chewbacca crash lands his A-Wing on a planet because he was too busy admiring his medal, awarded to him by Princess Leia after the destruction of the Death Star. He meets this young girl, who has a name, who is being forced to work for a villain who has a Shistavenen sidekick. At some point, Chewie and the girl are taken on board an Imperial ship.
Yeah… you can tell that most of the series failed to make much of an impact on me. Through a Google search, I have discovered: the planet is called Andelm IV, the villains are Jaum and Tyvek, and the girl is Zarro. She is the daughter of a debtor, and they are forced to work in a mine to harvest the larvae of beetles. Jaum cuts a deal with the Imperials to sell this substance to them at a higher cost on the backs of indentured servitude. They fight some beetles, there’s an AT-ST, some exploding droids (and some that don’t explode). Anyway.
The problem with this series, clearly, is that it didn’t make a huge impact. As far as I remember, we don’t see dedlanite, Andelm IV, or Jaum outside of the series or the Galactic Atlas. Neither did I remember Jaum or Zarro’s names, and I keep record of this kind of thing. The series was largely a dud, but it did introduce some interesting aspects that future mini-series have (and should) deliver on as well.
Why do I write this now, three series after Chewbacca, and with two new series on the way? Well, I think it’s good to appreciate what older series have done well, or where they need to improve. It helps us be more intelligently critical about future series, but it helps mold our expectations so we can more clearly communicate what we want to the editors for new stuff.
- Backstory: One of the biggest things that the Chewbacca series tried to explore was the concept of slavery in a galaxy far, far away. As we saw in Rebels, the Empire used Wookiee labor to build the Death Star. A lot were brought to the mines of Kessel, but we also know that slaves were kept on Kashyyyk. In fact, Chewie’s son, Waroo, was ket as a slave on Kashyyyk. It was his experience with slavery which drove Chewbacca to team up with Zarro.
Unfortunately, this just doesn’t pan out much further than a few panels in a few issues (I don’t even think it was each issue?). But this would have been exactly the medium this stuff could have been explored. A novel has plenty of room for this type of exploration, but comics have the added benefit of showing rather than telling. We could have *seen* the effects of slavery. Would you read a novel about Luke as a moisture farmer, or would it have at least a bit more appeal if it were a comic?
- New side characters: One of the biggest pitfalls of the early canon was the ways it fridged its female co-stars, and really failed to create many co-stars that shone. A notable exception, of course, is RAE SLOANE, from A New Dawn, who really took a life of her own. But we think of the other novels: Nakari, Ventress, uhmm…a co-star in Tarkin? Thankfully, with the addition of Sana Starros, SLOANE, Kallus, and others, the co-stars of any medium were given chances to shine.
I hope this trend continues in Captain Phasma. We need new side characters in the Sequel Trilogy to accompany greats like Terrex or…well, there’s the problem. The era is so woefully unexplored that Poe Dameron or Captain Phasma can inject life into the era quickly, and it needs it.
- Minor connections to bigger stories: there’s two ways that this can go. I could have meant, please, for the love of the Force, give us ~something~ that connects to the wider canon. Chewbacca, as far as I remember, hasn’t seen any of its elements have extended outside of the series. And sure! The Story Group has time to make this happen. I have faith that if something is important, we’ll see it. Maybe dedlanite is important in the construction of the second Death Star. Heaven knows we’ve seen too many new minerals and raw materials developed in the canon in order to advance the Death Star subplot. We can hold out hope.
But really? Maybe the more important thing is that some of these series don’t shake the galaxy. Maybe it’s good to be reminded where these stories sit in the grander canon, but we also need to see something new. We can’t burn through every story right now. What would be left for later? Nothing! How boring would it be if we ran out of stories by 2020 because we demanded that everything was groundbreaking as soon as it was possible? Maybe its okay to be entertained (or if they attempt to entertain us) by these side stories. Star Wars has a wide reaching future. Why fight it by trying to cut it short now?