#1 - coverStar Wars: Devilworlds

(1996), two issues, published by Dark Horse Comics

Writers: Alan Moore, Steve Moore, Steve Parkhouse. Art: Alan Davis, John Stokes, Adolofo Buylla

Dark Horse is the current holder of the licence to produce Star Wars related comics, but in addition to zillions of new and original projects, Dark Horse has also reprinted older comics from previous companies, usually under a "Classic" Star Wars label, including Marvel's long running series, and the old newspaper strip. Devil Worlds, a two issue mini-series, is an anthology collecting some shorter Star Wars tales originally published in the U.K. by Marvel's British branch, featuring the talents of soon to be fan-favourites Alan Davis and, most notably, Alan Moore, who would go on to become a critical fav among comicdom and who contributes five of the seven scripts.

Most of the stories are short tales -- around five pages -- and so are just that: short pieces. Two are longer -- fifteen pages -- and so can be more adventure oriented. And the overall result is...mixed. As a chance to dabble once more in the milieu of the original movies (most recent Star Wars comics and novels tend to take place either after Return of the Jedi, or long before Star Wars: A New Hope) there's a fun to the stories. And though some focus on the broader Star Wars "universe", most tend to employ the familiar heroes of Luke, Leia and Han as the protagonists.

But there's a kind of unsavory darkness to a lot of the tales, which perhaps reflects the sensibility of British comics (the nation that gave us Judge Dredd and hordes of nihilistic military SF comics) and of Alan Moore inparticular. I know I'm swimming against the tide, but I've never been as impressed with Moore as most others are (though I've certainly been impressed by some of his stuff) -- a writer who too often seems to confuse sadism with action, and clever with intelligent, and who seems to have more interest in villains than heroes.

There's a horror undercurrent to a number of his tales which doesn't fully suit the Star Wars "feel". His longest contribution (published in issue #2) has Han and Leia and Chewie being captured by some cosmic sociopaths so that sadism may ensue. It's a bit as if Moore's favourite Star Trek episode was "Plato's Stepchildren", only without Alexander the dwarf and in which the heroes don't really do a whole lot. At the same time, Moore contributes one of the best -- and most off beat -- of the tales (also in #2), as Leia and some pursuing storm troopers encounter some otherworldly beings. It's Moore at his most abstract and imaginative...though, likewise, it doesn't exactly conjure the "swashbuckling" feel of the movies.

Probably my favourite is the other "long" story (published in issue #1), by Steve Moore and Alan Davis, a story which is largely unremarkable but at least has the feel of being a Star Wars adventure.

In the introduction to these issues, it's explained that these were published before there was quite the same fidelity to continuity as there is in the modern comics -- though what it fails to mention is there was considerably less continuity to be true to. With only one or two movies released, the writers and artists were kind of left to fill in the blanks as they went. Though there are some blatant "errors", like a scene showing Luke inside his x-wing fighter as though it were big enough to walk around in, or another story suggesting the Millennium Falcon was a prototype advanced craft and Han it's original owner, when in the movies it was supposed to look like a hunk of junk and Han won it from Lando.

Ultimately, as a grab bag of assorted tales, and as chance to see early work by Moore and Davis and others, and to relive the days of the rebellion with Luke and the gang, Devil Worlds isn't without its interest or entertainment. But, despite those talents, not too much of it stands out as particularly exceptional or even that good.