Hello, and welcome to another installment of Books Without Panels, where we try to highlight books from outside the comics spectrum that should still be in the collection of any nerd worth their pocket protector. Today, we’re going big, throwing down the gauntlet, and taking on some of the greatest names in all of fiction as we look at a trio of works that combine one of the biggest geek properties at all time with the style of the greatest writer who ever lived. Excited yet? You certainly should be, because today we’re going to examining William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher, which dresses up the nuanced lore of one of the Big 2 Sci-Fi properties in the eloquent trappings of the Bard.
Our story follows the timeless tale of Star Wars that we all know and love, moving faithfully from scene to scene. The twist this time, though, is that the tale of Luke, Han, and Leia has been rewritten as a Shakespearean play. Now, some of you might fear that this comes off as a cheap novelty, that it’s just Star Wars with a few thous and thees thrown in to give it a superficial similarity to Shakespeare plays. Well, have no fear; this is the full Shakespeare experience, complete with soliloquies and stage directions.
As you flip from scene to scene and act to act, Doescher constantly delivers both storytelling conventions and specific references from the Bard’s work. C3PO and R2D2, for instance, are re-imagined as a pair of fools, mixing in comic relief while preserving the same love-hate relationship the two have always shared. Darth Vader’s inner turmoil is brought to the foreground by brooding monologues worthy of Claudius. Towards the end of Book 1, Luke even gets to rally the Rebels in a speech reminiscent of the St Crispin’s Day Speech from Henry V. Heck, Doescher even recognizes when the Chorus has to prompt the audience to use their imagination, encouraging viewers to visualize the raid on the Death Star in the same way that Shakespeare asked his audience to imagine the Battle of Agincourt. Really, it’s hard not to be impressed by just how well Star Wars translates as a Shakespearean play.
In addition to the strong writing, the books are also filled with great artwork, redesigning our space-faring heroes with Elizabethan garb. The illustrations are used relatively sparingly, but still manage to represent most all of the trilogy’s iconic scenes. In this way, the reader is treated to a consistent helping of fun imagery that gives old classics an even older twist.
In a world where mash-ups are getting more and more common, and the breadth of quality in them can be pretty vast, it can be pretty hard to get excited about yet another one. This one, though, is definitely one worth checking out. It does what all good mash-ups should, combining the endearing and iconic elements of its two components and creating something that can be readily enjoyed by fans of both. A feat made all the more impressive here by the sacred nature of the two parent franchises. So give it a shot: you won’t be disappointed.