Stories from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Empire, and Star Wars: Legacy, have been the first to appear in this new iPhone comics format. Each series is set in a different era, covering roughly two hundred years in the Star Wars universe.
Formatting Star Wars Comics for the iPhone
Each of the titles in Dark Horse's re-released Star Wars comics has been reformatted specifically for viewing on the Apple iPhone. Dark Horse says that all effort has been made to "maximize the visual grandeur while staying true to the original comic books."
Early impressions from readers at the iTunes Store have been favorable, though some still have trouble reading the text on the new format (unlike other iPhone applications, the comic reader doesn't allow zooming).
The earliest (from in-universe chronology) comics to be released for the iPhone is Star Wars: The Clone Wars Vol. 1 – Shipyard of Doom. The story is set during the time of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated TV series and movie. It describes a Republic assault, led by Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano, on a vital shipbuilding installation worked by slaves.
Shipyard of Doom was originally published in 2008, and is written by Henry Gilroy and illustrated by the Fillbach Brothers. The story and art are rather unsophisticated, doubtless meant to appeal to younger Star Wars fans. However, the cartoon style and simplistic action and pacing mean that little is lost on the smaller scale of an iPhone screen.
Star Wars: Empire
The comic book series Star Wars: Empire debuted in 2002, and chronicled the time around the first Star Wars film. Dark Horse's iPhone comics re-release is the first four-part story arc from this series. In Betrayal, a plot to overthrow the Emperor and Darth Vader by Imperial officers looms as the Emperor is set to visit the now-completed Death Star.
Betrayal is written by Scott Allie and illustrated by Brian Horton. The plot has promise – a first meeting between Darth Vader and Boba Fett is one highlight – but the conspiracy story fizzles. Likewise, Horton's expressive drawing style may not be what Star Wars fans have come to expect. Darth Vader's helmet looks downright weird in some panels, for instance.
The Star Wars: Legacy Era
The last set of stories released for the iPhone come from the Star Wars: Legacy series (2006). In Broken, the action begins over one hundred years after Return of the Jedi, with Cade Skywalker, a descendant of Luke Skywalker, leaving the Jedi order and living as a bounty hunter. But he is drawn back into the conflict between Jedi, Sith, and Imperial factions, which has consumed the galaxy for decades.
Star Wars: Legacy's Broken is written by John Ostrander and drawn by Jan Duursema, both Star Wars comics veterans. While this story from the Legacy era may be the most enjoyable iPhone comics for hardcore Star Wars fans, it could prove a tough sell for neophytes. Knowledge of the rather copious Star Wars Expanded Universe is needed to make sense of the plot, and all the familiar characters from the films are long dead.
The re-release of Star Wars comics to a mobile platform like the Apple iPhone is doubtless a welcome move for Star Wars fans. And the low price point of the iTunes Store make these digital versions a good value, especially for those who missed the comics when they were first in print.
The stories released to date, however, are perhaps not the best Star Wars comics from Dark Horse's back catalog – past issues of Star Wars Tales or Star Wars: Dark Times, to name two examples, have more consistently compelling quality.
But hopefully more stories from the Clone Wars, Empire, and Legacy titles will be made available, as well as other classic Star Wars comics.