Star Wars: Chewbacca
When you think about your favorite stories, it’s natural to think only in terms of the heroes and the villains. After all, they’re the ones that the story focuses on. And even among heroes, we tend to focus on just a few and enjoy but largely do not celebrate the sidekicks. Think about all the great sidekicks who have stood side by side (and occasionally back to back) with with the heroes we all know and love. How often do they get to tell their own stories? The trouble with sidekicks is that they tend to be overshadowed by the heroes. After all, they’re often meant to act as a foil to the heroes, in order to highlight attributes that we all want to see in our heroes. They might be incredibly loyal but when we think about a series like Star Wars, we often think in terms of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa and less in terms of C-3PO, R2D2 and, of course, Chewbacca. In the original trilogy, Chewbacca is Han’s best friend but also amusingly timid at times and comes with the standard Wookiee temper. Even though you can’t understand a word he says, it’s easy to love Chewie. Unfortunately, unless you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan who’s read all of the expanded universe books, Chewie doesn’t get much of the spotlight. Happily, Marvel recognized this lack and looked to remedy it in the Star Wars: Chewbacca series published in 2016 as a five part mini-series. Written by Gerry Duggan (largely known for his work on the new Deadpool series) and illustrated by Phil Noto, this series brings a new tale featuring everyone’s favorite walking carpet and puts him at center stage.
The Chewbacca series begins with Chewie crash landing on an Imperial-occupied planet by the name of Andelm-4 during an attempt to go home to Kashykk for an important personal mission. Since he’s flying a loaner ship and not the Millennium Falcon, the smuggler luck that he and Han tend to rely on isn’t exactly with Chewie this time. While trying to wrangle up the credits necessary to get the part he needs to fix the ship and continue with his mission, Chewie runs into a feisty young girl named Zarro who (along with her father) has gotten in some serious trouble with Jaum, a local loanshark/crimelord. In order to pay off debts owed, Zarro and her father are force to work for Jaum in the local mines which Jaum intends to use to enrich himself and ally with the Empire. In a daring (and not particularly well planned) escape, Zarro runs into Chewie and enlists his help in destroying the mines for the good of both Andelm-4 and the Rebellion. As usual for Chewie, they are both outnumbered and outgunned and the young girl and the Wookiee must find a way to make sure the Empire loses yet another battle, even if this one is a bit smaller in scale than the Death Star.
Duggan and Noto had a hell of a challenge in writing this series. It had to be compelling and fun to fit with everyone’s love of Chewie and yet somehow had to write a story in which the main character can’t actually speak for himself. Much like in the original movies, Chewie speaks through other characters. Only at one point is a translator present and Andelm-4 is a minor enough planet that for most of the series, Zarro doesn’t even know what kind of creature she’s allied herself with. She and Chewie communicate in gestures and her attempts to figure out his roars and growls. This communication occasionally stretches belief but the humor and strangely appealing fit of the girl and the Wookiee make it easy to overlook. The partnership between the two is what makes the series so enjoyable. It’s certainly not perfect and to be honest, this still isn’t my favorite of the newer Star Wars comics but Zarro is an amusing mixture of Leia’s feistiness and Han’s “fly by the seat of your pants with sheer luck” smuggler attitude that works well with Chewie’s more quick tempered, “blast first, ask questions later” personality. It’s a cute, entertaining story that will both amuse and satisfy anyone who wanted to see more of Chewie’s adventures away from the other well-known heroes of the Rebellion. And the art by Noto is absolutely gorgeous. The use of color and shadow makes the scenes really come alive and the creators have a knowledge of when to use dialogue that is unfortunately not always understood in the graphic novels world. A lot of times, you see entirely too much dialogue for a medium which can so easily show rather than tell the reader what’s going on. Noto’s use of shadows and facial expressions perfectly match Duggan’s writing and I was very impressed with the work this team put together on the series.
The Star Wars: Chewbacca mini-series is one of those stories that really helps to fill out the Star Wars universe as it transitions from the original trilogy to the new one that began with Force Awakens. Taking place after the destruction of the second Death Star but before Force Awakens, it also gives fans another look at one of our favorite characters who tends to see a bit less of the limelight than the others. While my heart remains with the Princess Leia series in terms of the best that the new Star Wars comics have to offer, the Chewbacca series is well worth your time for a fun, entertaining adventure with everyone’s favorite walking carpet and one of the better creator team-ups that Marvel has seen in the last few years.