Comic Review – “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace: Anniversary Special” Provides Anakin’s Perspective

Today saw the publication of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace: Anniversary Special one-shot, and below are my brief recap and thoughts on this release.

In the nearly 25 years since its release (the actual anniversary will fall on May 19th, later this month) it’s safe to say that general feelings toward George Lucas’s first Star Wars prequel have softened, as they tend to do with everything over time– this is coming from 44 years of experience immersed in the world of pop culture. And with the celebration comes a new comic book that retells the events of the 1999 movie from the perspective of Anakin Skywalker, which makes sense given that “lack of a real protagonist” is one of the most often-repeated critiques of the film. But this Anniversary Special opens with a vision of the future, wherein Shmi Skywalker is sold to Zygerrian slavers and is in the process of being shipped off Tatooine when her son Anakin returns as a Jedi Knight (wielding an unfamiliar-looking flickering yellow lightsaber) and rescues her. Then in the present day (prior to the events of Episode I), Anakin wakes up from his dream and is sent on a menial task to Mos Eisley to pick up a delivery for Watto.

There, Anakin does rescue a slave– a Tusken Raider who he frees from captivity after causing a distraction. He returns home to Mos Espa and refrains from telling his mother about this incident, and from that point on the comic (written by Star Wars: Darth Vader scribe Greg Pak, appropriately enough) overlaps with the narrative of The Phantom Menace. Every couple pages, in-between events that we are intimately familiar with from the movie, Pak and his capable artist collaborator Will Sliney (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) check in on Anakin’s thoughts and feelings, perhaps in a way that Lucas’s late-90s screenplay should have in the first place. Now I’m not saying that Lucasfilm Publishing and Marvel Comics have created this special in an effort to make The Phantom Menace better than it has been for two and a half decades, but I am saying that these emotional insights do serve as a welcome and enlightening complement to the story we’ve lived with for all of that time.

There are additional scenes that take place between Shmi and Anakin– and Anakin and Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn– on Tatooine, between Anakin and his Gungan pal Jar Jar Binks on Coruscant, and between Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin on Naboo, Then a final sequence follows up with Shmi, paying off Anakin’s good deed from the beginning of the issue and concluding with his mother’s own– perhaps more accurate– vision of the boy’s future. This is all good stuff when it isn’t repeating exact shots and dialogue we’ve seen countless times before via Episode I, and I almost wish Pak and Sliney had found a creative way to sidestep punctuating their new additions to the story with reminders of the beats we already have memorized thanks to the film. Still the writing on the fresh material is great, the art is nice to look at, and it’s a very effective idea to revisit this chapter in the Star Wars saga from a different point of view.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace: Anniversary Special is available now wherever comic books are sold.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.