John Cassaday is a well-known comic book artist who worked for DC, Dark Horse and Marvel. He was on the artistic team who launch Astonishing X-Men (2004-2008), with Joss Whedon, and Uncanny Avengers (2012-2013) with the author Rick Remender. We find him again for the new Star Wars series with the author Jason Aaron (writer especially for Wolverine and the X-Men or AXIS). John Cassaday drew the first six issues of the Star Wars series for the first arc, Skywalker strikes. Then, he gave way to Simone Bianchi (Star Wars #7) and Stuart Immonen, starting on Star Wars #8.
The astonishing style of John Cassaday allows us to immediately identify the heroes of Star Wars, the ones we know from the movies : Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fischer). The fourth panel is clearly a portrait of a young Harrison Ford, when he was playing Han Solo. It’s amazing how John Cassaday managed to do so, giving a more realistic touch to his characters, and therefore to his series. Because everybody knows Han Solo with Harrison Ford’s features, John Cassaday is rooted in the continuity of Star Wars. Thus he might attract more potential readers who liked the movies. John Cassaday isn’t the only one doing so : a few other Marvel artists’ drawings were based on the actor who played in movies like Thor or Avengers.
The first panel of the next layout is a great one. It reunite the three heroes, with Han pointing a gun at us/the captain. The perfectly drawn perspective accentuate this pointing-effect. The two bottom panels of this layout are a good example of a dynamic scene. The gestures are inverse, as the point of view. On the first, we are in front of the captain and we see him through Leia’s eyes ; on the last, we are behind the captain. If the captain’s hand is black, Leia’s is white ; his gesture is a reflex caused by fear, Leia’s is a deliberate one. The all layout is organized by the character’s gestures : Han’s pointed gun, R2D2’s laser, the captain’s hand and Leia’s punch. They give the reader direction for his reading.
Now let’s talk about the villains of this story, the former jedi and messiah of the order, the magnificent Darth Vader. Getting of his spacecraft, Vader moves forward, surrounded by two guards of honor of Stormtroopers. The spaceship and his wings are shaped as a canopy, giving Vader a noble rank. This page is well-drawn. Every lines led to Darth Vader, the center of the composition. The contrast between the tall and black sith, proud and unique, and the identical and white Stormtroopers is seizing. Their knees are at the same height, following the same line, but their belt doesn’t. Vader’s legs are therefore bigger, so does is Vader himself. Even for someone who doesn’t know who’s who, the drawing allows to identify the minions and the boss, the meaningless soldiers and the powerful villain.
The next page I’d like to talk about depicted Luke’s training as a jedi. Like the padawans we saw on Star Wars II Attack of the clones, he’s blindfolded and must feel the Force in order to avoid the attacks of the little flying robots. Unfortunately, he’s not very good at this, and he has no one to turn to and ask questions about his training. His former master, Obi Wan, has been killed by Darth Vader, and he doesn’t know Yoda yet. The bottom view of almost all of the panels, except the last one, led the reader to this particular panel, the only one where we see Luke’s face and expressions. He seems both pissed and tired. How could he not be ? He’s not making any progress in his training, all of the jedi are dead, leaving him alone to defeat the Empire, and he almost died by the hands of Darth Vader, like Obi Wan. This is one of the most touching page John Cassaday draw for Star Wars.
The most dramatic scene is without any doubt the one where Darth Vader learns the name of his enemy, the young one who destroyed the Death Star, Luke Skywalker. A similar scene is drawn by Salvador Larroca in Darth Vader. Besides, both Star Wars #6 and Darth Vader #6 have been published in June 2015. Only two dialogue balloons are visible, both coming from the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Darth Vader is wordless, shocked by the news : his enemy is his own long-lost son, the one the emperor told him was dead with his wife Padmé. Would Palpatine have lied to his new apprentice when he asserted than the child died with his mother ? Or did Palpatine had no idea he survived ? Anyway, this page is one of my favorite in all of John Cassaday‘s run. Step by step, the reader move away from a sad Vader, before a sudden close-up to his clenched fist and a cracked glass. Powerless and alone, Vador can only blame himself for both the death of Padmé and the fights with his son. His only hope now is to convince Luke to join him into the dark side, before the emperor learns about him and tries to kill him – or worst, replace Vador with Luke.
The Skywalker strikes‘ run of John Cassaday is a promising start for this new Marvel comic book series based on a wonderful universe. I now can’t wait to read the Star Wars-Darth Vader crossover planned for November 2015, Vader Down.