Credit: Lee Bermejo/Marvel Entertainment/Lucasfilm

The toughest battle Han Solo ever fought was against his own self-interest.

In June, Marvel Comics is giving Star Wars fans a new look at his reluctant shift from so-so smuggler to pretty-good good guy with his own miniseries, set between the events of the original 1977 film and The Empire Strikes Back. Four previous limited books have followed other characters.

“This is a Han Solo who doesn’t quite know who he is anymore,” says writer Marjorie Liu, a veteran comic book scribe best known for Astonishing X-Men and Monstress. “He doesn’t think about politics, and suddenly he’s thrust into this life-or-death struggle for beliefs he didn’t even know he cared about — and it has changed him. He doesn’t want to believe 
that change, but he has.”

The five-issue story is illustrated by Mark Brooks (Amazing Spider- Man, Uncanny X-Force) and the cover is by Lee Bermejo.

The story involves a starship race known as the Dragon Void Run. “Han’s been dreaming 
of entering this thing for his entire life,” Liu says. “He finally gets
 the chance, except there’s a catch: Leia thinks there are spies in the Rebellion, and she doesn’t dare send anyone else to retrieve these vital informants who are on various planets in the system.”

As Han and Chewie start sheltering these Rebel contacts aboard the Millennium Falcon, the Corellian pilot fights the pull of his own ego’s tractor beam: If he ditches the mission, maybe he can actually win this thing.

Here’s EW’s exclusive interview with Liu about the new life forms she created for the story, her unlikely ‘80s movie inspiration (it’s not a Star Wars film), and the influence The Force Awakens had on her mid-way through writing the story.

Plus, on page 2, a look at some of the interior images illustrated by Brooks (minus the dialogue)…

Entertainment Weekly: Congratulations on getting this fascinating assignment. It must be pretty cool to be given the keys to the Millennium Falcon.

Marjorie Liu: It was sort of mind-blowing actually when Han’s name first came up, because when I was a kid I wanted to take Princess Leia and Han Solo and smash them together to create the perfect hybrid, gun-slinging space princess. [Laughs]. That’s who I wanted to be when I grew up.

Not a bad life-goal.

Han Solo has always been — and I think for a lot of people, too — this iconic character who’s the absolute definition of cool. He’s just a total badass. He has no super powers, but he’s streetwise, he’s tough, he’s brave, he’s a survivor. He’s not righteous, but he’s got his own moral code that reflects his basic decency, but he’s not the sugary type. He’s got this hard shell and can be a total jerk. What I always loved was if you earn his loyalty, his friendship, and his love, he became a total softie.

He’s also fronting quite often, isn’t he? What I love is that Han actually isn’t as cool as he’d like you to think.

I love that about him so much… He feels like a real person. Out of the entire Star Wars universe, he felt like the everyman, like someone that a person could really relate to, who finds himself in these really unfamiliar territories. He’s just, like, a regular dude.

When you begin work on a series like this, what are the marching orders from Marvel and Lucasfilm? Since this is considered canon, what are the restrictions you’re given and what are you able to add on your own?

Basically, I was told that the story takes place between Episodes IV and V, and then they sort of just let me loose. I turned in several different ideas, but the core of them — what I kept at the front of my imagination: He’s this working-class dude who lives paycheck to paycheck who has a business to run. He’s the Han we know and love. He’s a con artist, he’s a smuggler, he’s this wisecracking, streetwise dude, but he’s got this internal conflict where there wasn’t one before. He’s really trying to figure out who he is.

Credit: Mark Brooks/Marvel Entertainment/Lucasfilm

Any particular inspirations that led you to the race idea?

I started thinking about this old movie from the ‘80s that I really enjoyed, which is Cannonball Run. I thought, okay, what if this is sort of like Han Solo in Cannonball Run in space? So, I played with that and it finally came together in the story where there’s this infamous starship race. It’s the pilot dream race. Everyone wants to be in it, everyone dreams of winning it. The race is sort of a cover that will allow him to go on this mission for [Leia], but at the same time, even though the race isn’t a priority, it’s a real struggle for him because he knows he needs to focus, but he’s on the race of a lifetime.

He wants to win, right? He wants to do the selfish thing?

He wants to win! Yes, he wants to win!

When you mention Cannonball Run, I think of that as a comedy. Would you describe this series—is it largely a humorous story?

I wouldn’t say that. There are moments — I hope anyway — of humor, because it is Han. I feel like the character of Han Solo is irreverent. A very, serious, precious story about Han Solo would not be that enjoyable.

What can you tell me about the other characters we’ll see? You can’t have a Han Solo story without Chewbacca.

No, you can’t.

I love the way Harrison Ford talks about Chewbacca and Han, where he described them as an old married couple.

[Laughs.] They totally are!

Credit: Lee Bermejo/Marvel Entertainment/Lucasfilm

How does Chewbacca feel being along for the ride in this race?

To me, Chewie was always the heart and soul of the relationship. He was like the better angel, where Han is way more comfortable skirting the edges of morality. Chewie will go along, but he’s like, “Hey, man. This isn’t right.” I always loved that about him. I love that he is so incredibly loyal to Han. They’re absolutely 100 percent family. I always loved that Chewie can tell Han these hard truths that Han doesn’t really want to hear. Even though technically we can’t understand what Chewie is saying, we get it. We all understand.

Chewie is kind of like Han’s Jiminy Cricket.

Yes, I was thinking that. He’s like the seven-foot tall, crossbow-wielding, wolfman Jiminy Cricket.


Which other characters may we run into in your series?

We will definitely see Leia. I couldn’t not write Leia in the same way that I would have wept if I couldn’t write Chewbacca. That was also a bit of a dream come true. Again, this is sort of at the start of their relationship. Not that their relationship has ever been very peaceful, but I think we will see at this stage, in this comic, that it is still very contentious as they try to navigate each other and presumably any feelings that are beginning to arise.

Can you tell me about some of the new places and characters you’re adding to the Star Wars galaxy?

Yeah, so for example, the race itself is called the Dragon Void Run. It’s been around for thousands of years. One of the pilots is this legendary female alien who is called Loo Re Anno. She’s never lost a race, she’s part of a dying species. She might be the last of her kind, these aliens that don’t really have a home planet. They’re nomads. In fact, her people actually founded the Dragon Void Run thousands of years ago. She feels like this is going to be perhaps her last race for good, so she’s in this thing and she’s dignified and everyone’s a bit in awe of her. She takes a special interest in Han because he’s a very different pilot from the ones she’s used dealing with. He reminds her of herself at a much different time in her life.

What kind of creature is she?

She’s a new species. One thing that was great about Lucasfilm and the Star Wars universe was that they gave us not only permission but they encouraged us to go wild and start imagining and creating new faces and new aliens. We took that invitation and ran with it. I think readers will love the design that Mark Brooks came up with. I think he’s done a beautiful job with her.

Credit: Marvel Entertainment/Lucasfilm

Can you describe her a little bit?

She’s incredibly tall and incredibly elegant. Multiple limbs, because she is a pilot and her people are pilots, they spent a lot of time in space so they’ve evolved multiple limbs as a way of more efficiently flying their ships. There’s a beautiful, reptilian quality to her. I think she’s one of my favorite characters. She’s really lovely to write.

Is there a villain in the story?

The Empire pokes its head into it briefly, but they’re not the main heavies. I would say one way of describing it would be, there’s a heavy from Han’s past, and there’s a heavy from the present, someone who wishes to thwart Leia’s mission.

When you started writing months ago, did they clue you in about what was happening in The Force Awakens, or were they like, ‘That’s not really anything you need to know since it takes place in the past…’

No, oh no. Trust me. I knew absolutely nothing.

Credit: Marvel Entertainment/Lucasfilm

As somebody who clearly loves this character so much, how did you feel about what, um, happened in The Force Awakens? [NOTE: For those who still haven’t seen the movie, we’re getting into spoiler territory.]

[Laughs] Oh no! Oh gosh, let me preface it by saying that I really enjoyed the movie, but when we began to approach that scene, when they began staging it — when Han walks onto the bridge, I started getting a sinking feeling in my gut.

You got a bad feeling about this!

I got a really bad feeling about this. When the scene actually came about, I really felt sick to my stomach. I will not disparage any creative decisions people make, but for me, Han was very much a heart and very much an important living, breathing piece of the universe. Of course, one doesn’t expect characters to go on forever, but it was really sad. It was really, really sad to see him go out. As much as I love the movie, that was hard.

Did it lead you to add any foreshadowing or emotional beats to your story?

It has actually colored how I think about the book. That’s been sort of an internal conversation with myself, whether I change certain beats, whether I do certain things to reflect this now-future canon that I know is coming down the line for him. I haven’t quite answered that for myself yet, but it’s definitely in my head. It can’t not be, because writing the book feels very bittersweet in a way.

For more Star Wars news, follow @Breznican. Check out Marjorie Liu’s other work here, and Mark Brooks’ art here. Offer your thoughts in the comments about who else from the galaxy deserves a stand-alone comic book series.