Underrated: Star Wars Chewbacca

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Star Wars Chewbacca

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Star Wars comics in general. I said then that I’m the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, and even though I did enjoy (all) of the live action movies to some extent, I’d never really read many of the comics.

Despite being a big comics fan, and a relatively new Star Wars fan, I never once thought about reading the comics that were going to reintroduce us to the world and build upon what was known from the movies. It just never occurred to me. Star Wars was something I watched not something I read.

That changed this year when I found a rather significant haul of Star Wars trade paper backs for a remarkably decent price, but that’s not news for regular readers of this column. One of the books I had picked up was a trade collecting the five issue miniseries by Gerry Duggan and artist Phil Noto. The comic takes place shortly after the Battle of Yavin, or the events of A New Hope for those of us who aren’t sure, and focuses on a mining colony owned by a loanshark who forces his debtors to work in his mine.

A father and his daughter are the latest to fall victim to the loan shark, and when the young girl escapes she runs into a certain wookie who is stranded on the planet because his ship is a hunk of junk (but not that hunk of junk). Chewbacca is the largely silent protagonist throughout the story, with the point of view character being the aforementioned daughter, which works to give the audience a way to interpret the wookie through the eyes of a somebody who can’t understand wookie.

On the whole, the story isn’t going the change how you view Star Wars, it won’t suddenly help something make sense, but what it does do is flesh out one of the rebellion’s greatest heroes a little more. Chewbacca’s past is hinted at through flashbacks and other interpreting his vocalizations, which is a really interesting way to add some exposition to the proceedings because it largely relies on the reader to to pick up on the visual cues from the wookie; Duggan and Noto don’t hand hold the reader into their revelations because they’re not integral to the story (though there is a little more gentle guidance in the finale).

As a standalone story, this fleshes out the universe and Chewbacca whilst remaining firmly in the “you should read this, but if you don’t you’re not missing anything integral to the Star Wars saga.” It’s a snapshot of what’s happening on fringe worlds during the saga, and for that reason alone it’s well worth reading – plus who doesn’t want to see more Chewie?

Star Wars comics may not be for everyone, but if you’re a comic reader (and I assume you are if you’re reading this), and a Star Wars fan and you haven’t read these stories, then you owe it to yourself to check out the books being published by Marvel. If you have read them, then I shall gladly listen to the “I told you so” if you want to follow it up with “now read this…”

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.