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Review: Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker – The Manga – Does the Jedi Himself Live Up to The Legends?

Is Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker - The Manga a collection worthy of the Skywalker name or exile from your bookshelf?

Recent years have been a difficult time for Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Between losing his faith in the Force in Star Wars: The Last Jedi to having his family name taken by Rey in a sloppy attempt to save the new trilogy’s story in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, little has been seen of the heroic Jedi Knight who once saved the Jedi and assisted in dismantling the Empire. It seems as if this version of Luke exists only in memories, myths, and legends. Thankfully, the myths and legends spread by inhabitants across the galaxy who have encountered the farm-boy-turned-hero serve to keep the memory of Luke’s heroism and selflessness alive.

Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker – The Manga adapts four such tales of Luke’s bravery and compassion, first told in Ken Liu’s junior novel of the same name. The four stories, produced by four different creative teams, three of which making their English-language debut, each chronicle a different encounter Luke has offering his assistance to various strangers. While one story establishes a questionable retcon and characterization for Luke, the other tales in this anthology provide a breath of fresh air for those feeling as tired as Mark Hamill has of Luke’s Disney treatment, all beautifully illustrated by a mostly junior set of mangakas.

The first tale, “The Starship Graveyard” by FUKAYA Akira (Tetsuo – Bullet Man) and KISAKI Takashi (Zombie Men) follows Luke as he attempts to brave the deserts and save the life of an injured Imperial Gunner following the Battle of Jakku. This story puts the focus on Luke’s status as a mystical, almost messianic figure and his ability to instill confidence and hope in those around him. Of the four stories, “The Starship Graveyard” feels the most positively ‘manga-esque,’ particularly due to the antagonist obsession with the absolute concept of ‘order’ and an emphasis on Luke’s ‘mysterious stranger’ appearance.

“I, Droid”, by Haruichi (Leia Organa: Ordeal of the Princess), introduces readers to Zeta, a peaceful worker droid repurposed into a slave-driving droid who fights their programming to assist Luke in freeing a robotic prison colony. Featuring the most action out of the three stories, Haruchi’s dynamic artwork compliments the chaotic nature of a droid-based riot (and features what could be considered the standout moment of the collection, featuring a certain droid’s athletic feat). One particularly interesting aspect of this story is the exploration of Luke’s importance and sympathetic existence to droids because of his robotic hand, a theme rarely touched upon in new Star Wars canon.

Unfortunately, not all the legends adapted are as inspiring as the writers would believe, as seen in “The Tale of Lugubrious Mote” by Subaru (Hanamusubi). In this tale, taking place during Luke’s confrontation with Jabba the Hutt during Return of the Jedi, Luke is depicted as a naïve, bumbling anime protagonist akin to Tenchi Muyo’s Tenchi Masaki whose death defying victory against Jabba’s Rancor is credited to being ‘controlled’ by a microscopic, sentient organism known as Lugubrious Mote. While Lugubrious’ interactions with Leia and discussions of microscopic roles in large hierarchies are interesting, turning ROTJ-era Luke into a bumbling child who believes Lugubrious’ voice is that of the ancient Jedi’s is an unnecessary retcon at odds with the heroic myth being crafted around Luke.

The final story, “Big Inside”, comes from the most veteran mangaka team of the collection, Akira Himekawa, best known for their The Legend of Zelda series of manga adaptations. As Luke rescues a stranded biologist, the pair find themselves trapped inside and fighting for survival inside of an Exogorth, the giant ‘space slug’ first seen in Empire Strikes Back. Beautifully illustrated and featuring a cameo from Obi-Wan, this exploration of Luke’s respect for life and undying hope in the face of danger brings an emotionally optimistic ending to the anthology. In the most complimentary way, feels very much like a Legend of Zelda story told in space, with Luke serving as a vocal version of Link.

Courage, hope, compassion: it’s a welcome change of pace to see that the qualities that made Luke such an uplifting and impressive hero haven’t been completely erased from his post-original trilogy history.

As with most Disney-era Star Wars media, the anthology stumbles drastically with “The Tale of Lugubrious Mote,” undercutting the impressive visuals and interesting plot threads offered by the rest of the book. However, this one questionable story decision should not dissuade readers from picking up the collection, as it is guaranteed to remind readers why they first looked up to the legendary Jedi Master.

A review copy of this manga was provided by VIZ Media.

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