Back in the day, part two

Hey everybody!

Last weekend’s look at some of the Classic Star Wars comics was so enjoyable, I thought I’d take a look at some more! Starting where I left off, then, let’s check out Luke’s mission to Fondor!

Classic Star Wars

This is actually a good premise: set against the construction of the Super Star Destroyer Executor at Fondor, Vader attempts to wheedle out some treacherous admirals with the assistance of Admiral Griff, a new recurring Imperial character. Griff’s plan is to test the loyalty of the admirals by suggesting working with the Alliance to sabotage the SSD project, lest Vader’s prestige with the Emperor increase any further. A message is sent to the alliance at Yavin, and Luke volunteers for the mission to get away from Han and Leia, as he feels jealous of the relationship the two are building following Ord Mantell. At Fondor, Luke manages to spy on the project, storing the information in Artoo, then escapes with the help of the transport pilot Tanith Shire. Cue lots of early-80s-style “courtship”, which Luke is a bit taken aback by.

Classic Star Wars

Anyhow, with Vader aware of a strong Force presence, Luke escapes in a barge drone, and crash-lands on Ophideraan, where it transpires Tanith has been sending Imperial barges to crash-land for the Serpent Masters. This whole story is a bit daft, if I’m honest, and it was a bit of a chore to get through at times because of that. Serpent Masters? It’s all a bit too fantastical for Star Wars, in my opinion…

Concurrent with this, Han has dropped Leia off at a planet called Kabal, where she’s trying to recruit more rebels, which seems to be a de facto role for her in most of these early stories. Anyhow, when Luke and Tanith escape Ophideraan, they land – where else? – on Kabal, where Leia sees them kiss goodbye. Oh, these early tales! In the pre-Jedi world, there was so much awkwardness around this triangle!

The Imperials show up, and the rebels escape Kabal only to find themselves in a deadly trap cooked up by an Imperial weapons technician. Some radiation experiment went wrong, and he’s now awaiting death at the hands of a neutron star or somesuch. Again, it’s a pretty weird story, and feels like a filler-story between the main storyline of the ongoing series – such as the newspaper strip can be called a series. Well, anyway…

Classic Star Wars

Again, the rebels are escaping, and they rendezvous with one of Leia’s newly recruited rebels, a reformed pirate chief named Silver Fyre. It soon turns out that Han knows her from his chequered past, although nothing is really made of this beyond the fact that he knows her, and is suspicious of her because of her past conduct. Anyhow, Han loudly talks about the information that is still hidden within Artoo, convinced they’re being bugged, and it turns out that’s right! Some weirdness results, as Silver Fyre and the rebels go on an underwater safari in search for the Demonsquid. Yes, that’s right – it’s like that sequence in The Phantom Menace, only not…

Classic Star Wars

The story carries over into volume two, The Rebel Storm, where the heroes survive the squid, expose a traitor within Silver Fyre’s organisation, and manage to finally get back to their base on Yavin.

Wait, they’re still based out of Yavin IV? Yes, apparently so! The Imperials know they’re there, too, as they have the moon blockaded, and yet nobody seems to have done anything about this situation. Hm. Anyway, the Falcon makes it through the blockade, and is followed by an Imperial craft that crashes into one of the Massassi temples, awakening a Night Beast! First serpent riders, then demon squids, and now this. It’s like D&D, only it’s not…

The Night Beast actually figures really quite nicely into the later stories around the Yavin IV temples, as it seems to be some sort of Force-aware construct/beast, something you could totally imagine Ludo Kressh creating. We also get to learn some of the early lore of the temples, as we’re told the beast is guarding the ruins after its masters left the galaxy – not quite how it was portrayed in Tales of the Jedi, but no matter. Luke manages to convince it to stop its rampage, and all is well in the world once more…

Classic Star Wars

News soon reaches the rebels that Obi-Wan Kenobi has been seen on Aridus, so Luke heads on over to check it out. This is one of those stories that is actually pretty goofy, and yet has managed to permeate the lore to become more than it actually is. Spoiler alert: it isn’t actually Ben Kenobi returned from the dead, but an actor hired by Vader to lure Luke into a trap. Once this actor sees how much Kenobi meant to Luke, he betrays Vader and let’s Luke escape. Setting aside the fact that Luke has seen Kenobi die, he’s actually quite annoying here anyway – in order to set up the actor’s change of heart, Luke is given lots of “I love you, Ben!” style dialogue, which begins to feel a bit out of character. Yes, Luke thought he was “a great man”, but the way Luke idolizes Kenobi here begins to belittle Luke as a character, like he can’t function without his old mentor. But anyway, it’s not a terrible story, it’s just a little weird.

But weird is par for the course with some of these things! I’ll explore this some more in the coming weeks, but suffice it to say, the early years of Star Wars were replete with this, well, weirdness!

Back in the early days…

Back in the early days, indeed!

Afternoon, all! Welcome to another blog about Star Wars comics!

I’ve been reading a lot of them lately, particularly some of the older ones, so thought I’d write something here about two volumes that, while currently difficult to find, will possibly be reprinted now that Marvel seems to be rummaging through the back-catalogue for stuff to print.

Have you ever wandered who was the bounty hunter Han and Leia ran into on Ord Mantell? Well, back in 1981 that story was told in the daily comic strip as The Bounty Hunter of Ord Mantell, which is a catchy title, I’m sure you’ll agree!

The bounty hunter in question is a strange chap called Skorr, who was specifically created to be a recurring villain and prevent over-exposure of Darth Vader in the early years.

Classic Star Wars

Basically, while out scouting for a new base, Leia and Luke are nearly ambushed by Imperials and their ship is destroyed: when they fail to check in, the Alliance presumes them dead, though Han refuses to believe it and heads off to see for himself. He rescues the pair, but in the process his ship is damaged and he needs to put into port for repairs – at Ord Mantell! There, the bounty hunter recognises Solo from Jabba’s posted bounty, and kidnaps Leia and Luke as bait to lure Han to his secluded base. Han follows Skorr to the base, and the three heroes are rescued by Chewie, but Skorr has planted a small homing beacon in Luke’s lightsaber, allowing him to follow the rebels as they flee the planet. They transfer the beacon to a life pod, which is picked up by the Imperials as they pass through the system on manoeuvres, and flee to Yavin IV.

It’s not a bad little story, very much in keeping with those being told around this time in the Marvel series, for instance. Luke is jealous of the apparent bond between Han and Leia, while still trying to come to grips with his growing power in the Force.

It was reprinted as part of Dark Horse’s Classic Star Wars line back in the early 90s, in the now-scarce In Deadly Pursuit.

Classic Star Wars

Well worth checking out if you can still find it anywhere, of course!

Also under the Classic Star Wars banner come a few little gems in The Early Adventures!

Classic Star Wars

Gambler’s World is an adventure set not long after the events of A New Hope, and was the first of the LA Times’ daily strips. While Dark Horse went through a lot of work to re-format the panels to fit a conventional comic-book style, and deserve a lot of credit for doing so, the nature of the original medium is such that we get a lot of recaps every few panels or so.

We follow Luke and Leia, and the droids, as they travel to Vorzyd V – the Gambler’s World of the title – on a bit of a weird mission for the Alliance. A high-ranking official from the world wants to divert funds to the Alliance, as currently the Emperor is deriving far too many credits from the casinos. The mission has been discovered by a shadowy Imperial agent called Blackhole, however, who receives orders from Vader to find out who the official is by kidnapping the rebels.

Classic Star Wars

Blackhole is a now-legendary character of the EU. I mean this in terms of the fact that he is a character that looms large in the lore, not just that the story is part of the Legends line! His role in this story is something of a spymaster, and he would later be revealed to be the Director of Imperial Intelligence, in a messy arrangement that seems to exist outside the otherwise-established history of the bureau being headed by Armand Isard, then his daughter Ysanne. Hm.

Classic Star Wars

At any rate, Blackhole kidnaps Luke and Leia by using his black-armoured stormtroopers, but his interrogation is interrupted when C-3PO rescues them. There’s a lot of running around the planet, particularly following the droids on their adventures as they are almost-captured by a group of “Freelies” – orphaned children who smack strongly of 70s/80s punk.

Anyhow, the rebels manage to escape from Blackhole’s stormtroopers, ready to fight another day!

Classic Star Wars

Among the pages of this book are some assorted adventures of the big three, all very much in the vein of “the further adventures”-types, giving the fans something more back in the early years between movies. One of these, The Frozen World of Ota, features what I think is the first comics appearance of none other than Boba Fett!

This strip first came out in the summer following Empire’s release, and showcases the rebels on another ice world, when they’re captured by a bunch of the natives who are trying to repair the heating mechanism of their city. Fett initially works alongside Luke to try to fend off the native Snogars, but soon goes after Han as a side-trip in his primary objective of pursuing the Imperial deserter called simply Mole. The bounty hunter is foiled in his attempts at both, however, which allows our heroes to escape.

Along with his cartoon appearance in the fabled Holiday Special, this comic was apparently intended to help build interest for the character of Fett. For someone of so few words during the movie, he speaks an awful lot here, often showing off just how good he is (“Fools! My armor insures my victory in hand-to-hand combat!” etc). It’s good in that throwaway-story style mentioned above, though I’d still recommend this book more for the Blackhole story than for this one.

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There are some really great Classic Star Wars stories to be enjoyed among the pages of these strips, and I’ll likely be investigating some more as time progresses!

Next week is a special week here at spalanz.com, however – make sure you come back soon for that!