“I’m taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work.”
So said Grand Moff Tarkin to Darth Vader, as they allowed a Rebel contingent including Princess Leia to escape the Death Star in an attempt to locate the insurgents’ hidden military base. The plan succeeded, until a young upstart among that strategically liberated crew managed to destroy the Death Star before the base could be wiped out.
On December 27, writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker team up with artist Mike Mayhew to guide Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in search of a new home for their Rebellion in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – STORMS OF CRAIT #1!
Soon to be seen in the upcoming “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the mineral world Crait once received a visit from two prominent Rebels fresh off of their first major victory against the Empire. We spoke with Acker and Blacker to hear more about the history of the planet.
Marvel: What can you tell us about the how you two came to work on this particular comic?
Ben Blacker: We’ve worked with editors Jordan White and Heather Antos a number of times, most recently on DEADPOOL V GAMBIT (available in collected edition now!), and it’s always a pleasure receiving a call from them. Jordan and Heather know we’re enormous Star Wars fans, as they’ve read and publicly and privately raved about our young adult novel series, “Star Wars: Join the Resistance” (the first two books are available now!). So, to answer your question, they phoned us up and asked if we wanted to write this one-shot. We didn’t have to think about it. This is classic Star Wars!
Ben Acker: When Jordan and Heather call us up, we say yes. We said it even louder than usual about working on Star Wars with them.
Marvel: STORMS OF CRAIT takes place decades before the planet’s upcoming appearance in “The Last Jedi,” so what’s it like crafting this story while simultaneously sowing seeds that might connect to the film?
Ben Acker: It was the most fun tightrope to walk, getting to write for these characters. Our YA novel series takes place in the era of “The Force Awakens,” so this time we got to write the characters in the time period we grew up on. That didn’t feel like a tightrope at all!
Ben Blacker: It actually didn’t feel too precarious because, while the book does set up a location that will pay off in the new movie, our story takes place entirely in the time between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” Once we had that time period nailed down, the difficult part was keeping the characters consistent with the timeframe. Obviously, we end up knowing a lot more about the lives of Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewbacca than they do at that time. They’re still pretty young and untested, despite their recent success in destroying the Death Star. So, we had to put ourselves in that mindset and remember, like, they don’t know what an Ewok is yet.
Marvel: With the Rebels on the run, how did they come to select this particular planet? Did anything make it particularly appealing to Luke, Leia, and company?
Ben Acker: It’s got some strategic advantages to it, so that it makes sense as a base, but I’d hate to spoil anything by saying much more than that. Also, Leia has personal reasons to make a go of the planet.
Ben Blacker: Leia has an emotional connection to Crait, which forms the heart of the story. She’s the one who brings them there and she has a lot at stake.
Marvel: Mike Mayhew’s art—as well as the images fans have seen in the movie trailers—present Crait as a very visually striking planet. Will we discover the reasoning behind the unique red and white color of the world?
Ben Blacker: It’s a really cool location. Visually, obviously, it’s striking and a palette we haven’t really seen in the Star Wars universe yet. I don’t know if we can really talk about the color scheme, as the reasons for the white planet with red beneath sort of plays into our story. What we grabbed onto, beyond that, is that Crait was a mining planet. That fact helped us create a new character who’s an old ally of Leia’s father and opened up the story in both action and emotion.
Ben Acker: I’m not even sure we can say that! But since you brought up Mike Mayhew, he’s amazing, isn’t he?
Marvel: Absolutely! What did Mike’s contributions to the story do to make this book really stand out?
Ben Acker: I feel like I was just talking about him! He’s so good at it. He’s an absolute perfectionist to boot. He makes the comic feel completely cinematic; you can all but hear John Williams coming off the page. It’s dazzling to see. There is a fight scene involving a lightsaber that made me feel like a kid, but my favorite bit is these three panels about midway through the book…a series of Luke reacting to something. Mike just nails the expressions. I can’t wait for you to see the book, but I especially can’t wait for you to see the three panels of Luke on page 16.
Ben Blacker: Mike has created a stunning book. I think we’re pretty good writers, and our script got the job done. But Mike makes this an incredible read. Besides the usual stuff you expect with a great artist—the acting of the characters—Mike has an incredible attention to detail. The opening is an absolute knockout. It feels like you’re watching one of the movies. And with his stuff on Crait, you can really feel the roughness and bareness of the planet. And then there’s the titular storm, which is exciting.
Marvel: Things surely can’t go too smoothly for our heroes in this story, so what villains might we get to see in this story? How do they factor into the Rebels’ search for a new base?
Ben Blacker: You’ll see some familiar baddies from the Star Wars comics. There’s a lot going on in this brief book. And you might even say that the planet Crait itself acts as an antagonist to our heroes. I wouldn’t, though, because that’s dumb.
Ben Acker: And I’d just like to say it might be fun to see things go smoothly for the Rebels someday!
Marvel: How do you create a sense of tension while knowing so much about where these characters go after this story’s over?
Ben Blacker: It all comes down to the emotions of the characters. The story has to matter. They have to care about things. The stakes for both Leia and Luke feel big in this story.
Also, we kill Chewbacca. The wookiee you see in “Empire,” “Jedi,” and “The Force Awakens” is not Chewie.
Ben Acker: No spoilers, but the end of this book involves Han going to the store and getting a new wookiee, who they all call Chewie Three (the Chewbacca in “A New Hope” is Chewie Two).
Ben Acker: Nobody knows what happened to Chewie One. It’s one of the great mysteries of Star Wars along with what kind of alien Yoda is. R.I.P. Chewie Two.
Ben Acker: A good thing about writing for Star Wars has been that even our joke-around answers become totally canon. We’ve gone mad with canon power and we abuse it terribly. Ben Kenobi is really Darth Vader! Kenobi is Vader! Vader is Kenobi! Canon!
Marvel.com: Final question now: how did it feel writing a kind of backstory for a planet from an upcoming movie? Were there any “wow” moments?
Ben Acker: The thrill was connecting the characters we older fans grew up on with the ones in the current movies. They walk literally the same ground, but in different ways. It’s pretty heady to connect it all. It felt like one big “wow” moment to write. I hope it feels that way to the readers.
Ben Blacker: I think the biggest “wow” is Mike’s art. Seriously, people will be stunned by how beautiful it looks and how much it really evokes the feeling of watching the movies. Beyond that, though, what the Marvel Comics Star Wars books have done really well is tuck stories into the cracks and backgrounds of the movies, providing a depth and scope to the greater universe that feels thrilling for fans. As fans, getting to provide some of that backstory has been a particular joy.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – STORMS OF CRAIT #1, by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, and artist Mike Mayhew, drops on December 27!