Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight is not your parents’ tale from thirty years ago, and the first indication comes quickly. The story is familiar, classic, the well-known and loved telling of Luke Skywalker’s journey from farm boy on Tatooine to Jedi Knight who saves his father and the galaxy. But some of the faces in the book’s illustrations take on new meaning in light of not only the prequel trilogy, but also the recent release of the official teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In fact, this new book by award-winning children’s author Tony DiTerlizzi ties the known saga together with its seventh installment a year in advance of the highly anticipated film.
The Ralph McQuarrie concept art inside the front cover of the book reveals quite a bit before the story even gets underway. A veiled woman who could just as easily be a prequel trilogy Padme as any incarnation of Leia who is seen throughout the saga, greets the reader as he turns the page. This is a fascinating inclusion in the artwork of a book whose contents take place before Luke and Leia’s mother was given a face onscreen. Even more intriguing at this point in time is the sketch of a character whose visage most Star Wars fans know and love. Or do they? The drawing in question looks a good bit like Leia. Or could she be the unnamed woman who speeds across Tatooine in the new trailer? Either could be correct from a certain point of view. Following that lead, the opening line, “This is a story of good versus evil, of light dispelling darkness,” immediately binds Luke Skywalker’s story to the upcoming Star Wars film. The words echo those spoken by the mysterious, deep voice in the trailer. To say this book’s release is timely is an understatement.
Bestselling author and illustrator DiTerlizzi’s chronicle of Luke from A New Hope through Return of the Jedi is a paean to the late McQuarrie, who died in 2012. In the book’s forward, the author refers to the late artist as one of his “silent teachers.” Indeed, all of the artwork is a posthumous tribute to the gifted McQuarrie, whose concept art breathed visual life into the kernels of George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight’s target audience is children, and the text includes the Batman-esque “WHAMs!” and “BLAMs!” to prove it. But Star Wars fans of all ages can appreciate the nuances in the text that allude to a richer and more textured story than the one that was told for the first time so many years ago. Several references are not explained in a way that a newcomer to the saga might require, but it is in the knowing tone that this version thrives. The familiarity is smooth and endearing, the perfect complement to the artwork. Subtle lines lend intimacy for those readers who have followed the saga and know Luke’s story and its characters by heart. “Obi-Wan stroked his beard, then turned to Luke,” fleshes out a wizened old man for a child while simultaneously tickling those who know and love Obi-Wan Kenobi and his quirks like those of an old friend.
Only one moment in the book threatens to pull the reader from full immersion in the galaxy far, far away. Describing the moment when Darth Vader learns of the rebels’ location on Hoth, this version states Vader’s reaction in this way: “’That’s it,’ Vader says with delight.” As many times as this Star Wars fan has seen every film in the saga, the only thing resembling delight from the Dark Lord is reserved for the lone unmasked moment when Anakin Skywalker sees his son again just before he dies.
But this is Luke’s story, and there are plenty of well-known and loved moments to drink in as this abbreviated retelling unfolds. “‘No,’ said Yoda. ‘There is another,’” and, “I am your father,” are just as powerful now as they were the first time the phrases were uttered on the big screen, perhaps more so for their nostalgic quality. In the book, an illustration of Luke and Leia facing the evil Darth Vader appears on the page at the point when Yoda reveals to Luke, “Your father he is.” Even the title’s wording hearkens back to The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, an early draft of what would become A New Hope. But it is Mr. McQuarrie’s art that cements the connection between the old and the new, the Dark and the Light, what the audience learned for the first time then and has taken to heart now. The images bring new life to an old tale, no small feat that affirms the brilliance of the work of an artist who has been gone for nearly three years and the considerable writing talents of an author who grew up loving Star Wars.
Read Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight as a Star Wars book to share with the children in your life, but mostly, read it as a stunning connection to what you will learn as The Force Awakens.
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