Review: ‘Star Wars: Lost Stars’ Vol. 1

Star Wars: Lost Stars Vol. 1 Writers: Claudia Gray and Yusaku Komiyama Artist: Yusaku Komiyama Yen Press; $13 Rated T for Teen This is a manga adaptation of Claudia Gray’s 2015 prose novel of the same name, and as I read, I couldn’t help but wonder if Crossed Stars might not have been a better […]

Star Wars Lost Stars
Star Wars: Lost Stars Vol. 1
Writers: Claudia Gray and Yusaku Komiyama
Artist: Yusaku Komiyama
Yen Press; $13
Rated T for Teen

This is a manga adaptation of Claudia Gray’s 2015 prose novel of the same name, and as I read, I couldn’t help but wonder if Crossed Stars might not have been a better title. The book, um, stars Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, childhood friends from the planet Jelucan. When they first met, they were separated by their home planet’s class divisions: Ciena was one of the “First Wave” settlers, who came to the planet first and were poorer and agrarian (and dark-skinned), while Thane was a “Second Wave” settler, whose people came later and established mining and commerce (and are all white-skinned).

The racial elements don’t get remarked upon but are clear in the manga and are, in fact, impossible to overlook, as the varying shades of the Jelucan settlers is right there on the pages of the manga—even if it is black and white. Despite the fact that they belong to two different castes, Thane and Ciena bond over their interest in spaceships, and they eventually join the Imperial Academy together. But then they end up in opposite sides again after Thane defects: Now he’s a fighter pilot in the Rebel Alliance, while she’s an officer on an Imperial Star Destroyer. He wants to save her from the Empire; she wants to kill him.

The manga opens just before the events of The Empire Strikes Back, as that film’s opening battle on Hoth and the Rebellion’s retreat to a new base give Thane the occasion to start telling the story of who Ciena is. From there, it flashes back to the day of Thane and Ciena’s first meeting and how they joined the Academy together, where they were the two top students in their class.

Much of this first volume is centered on their time in the academy, giving it an unusual-for-Star Wars feel and focus as something intended specifically for teens, rather than the wider all-ages audience (and/or sop to adult super-fans, the latter of which category too many of the modern comics belong to). Their childhood friendship was just beginning to bud into something like romance when their relationship met an unexpected snag, when someone—the Empire itself, it will turn out—sabotaged one of Thane’s tests and cast suspicion on each of them in an attempt to drive them apart. It worked for a while, but then they patched things up.

The next challenge came when the Death Star destroyed Alderaan, an act so despicable that it broke Thane’s faith in the Empire, which is where the first volume of the manga adaptation ends. If future volumes stay true to the novel’s story, it will continue from that point—which occurs during A New Hope—and follow the characters all the way to the events of The Force Awakens. In other words, it’s the original trilogy, and the still being filled-in story that bridges the original and the latest trilogy, as told from participants on the fringes of the familiar mega-story.

Speaking of that story, its heroes and villains appear throughout, but generally seen from afar or in passing. Komiyama draws them in a few stage-setting splash images, and, through the course of the story, we see, say, Thane passing Han, Chewbacca, and Leia in the base on Hoth, and Vader surveying the troops on the Death Star and, near the end of this volume, scenes from the first film reenacted. Only Grand Moff Tarkin plays a sizable role in this volume, as a chance encounter with him on their home planet is part of the reason that Thane and Ciena are so driven to join the Empire.

I’m a little uncomfortable with certain aspects of the story as it is presented here, specifically the question of whether it’s Thane’s “Second Wave” male privilege that allows him the luxury of rebelling, but chances are that will be addressed in a future volume, and its hardly the sort of urgent question that overrides the rest of the manga’s pleasures.

Of these, there are many, not just in Komiyama’s adaptation of Gray’s already rather manga-friendly plot and characters or in seeing familiar Star Wars ships, machines, locations, and characters appearing in a story told in a non-standard style, but in the new-reader friendly approach of telling a new story in a new way atop one of pop culture’s most familiar ones.

I’m well aware that this book seems like it should be something of a creative dead end, seeing as it is an adaptation of an adaption, but having by now been filtered through various creators from two different cultures, and filtered through different media to arrive in its present state, a sort of purity has nevertheless been able to be extracted.

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