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The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Star Wars Pt. 3

Brandon continues his look at the original Star Wars comic!

Welcome back to The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Marvel’s Star Wars. For those who missed the last tall tale told, Han Solo and Chewbacca teamed up with a bunch of misfits and pop culture references to fight an artist from MAD Magazine and a Kaiju. It was rather awesome.

I love how Don-Wan now looks like he needs to go back to Hogwarts for the new semester.

During those same issues of 7 through 10, the audience was treated to several asides featuring Luke Skywalker looking for a new planet to host the hidden Rebel base. He promptly went missing, and Leia stole a ship to chase after him, despite being a relatively high-ranking person in the Rebel Alliance. For those fans demanding more of the actual main character of Star Wars and the leading lady, issue 11 would at least satisfy one of those demands.

Issue 11, Star Search, welcomes Archie Goodwin as the new main writer and editor of the book. We also have a new art team, in the legendary Carmine Infantino and Terry Austin. Janice Cohen colored the book, while Joe Rosen lettered. Roy Thomas remains on as a consulting editor, and he presumably passed on any notes from his cast interviews to Goodwin. With this, we’ve actually gone from one legendary team of creators to another. 

Archie Goodwin? He worked on a lot of early-1970s Marvel books, and even co-created Luke Cage and the Jessica Drew incarnation of Spider-Woman. Carmine Infantino? He made roughly half of the Silver Age DC Comics roster, especially Barry Allen’s incarnation of The Flash. Terry Austin? He’d spent time on the seminal revival of Batman in the mid-1970s, and was also working on Uncanny X-Men at this time. The tone and feel of the comic is certainly going to change, but the quality is going to remain excellent.

Han and Chewie have been able to leave Aduba-3 finally, but spend less than an hour in space before they’re jumped by Space Pirates once again. It turns out Crimson Jack slapped a tracking device on the Millenium Falcon when he stole Han and Chewie’s reward last episode, and the two of them were unlucky enough to stumble their way into his path once more. This time, rather than running, Han lets the Falcon be taken by Jack and his pirate crew. You see, he’s got a plan: The Rebellion could always use a captured Imperial Star Destroyer, and-

Why is Princess Leia a captive of Crimson Jack?

Tragically, the cast is going to remain in their movie wardrobe for a while, but Infantino makes it work.

Leia was on her way to the mysterious Drexel system to find where Luke Skywalker had vanished when Crimson Jack and his motley crew grabbed her ship and captured her. Jack figures he’s going to keep the Falcon and kill off Han, then ransom Leia to the Rebels… when it turns out Chewbacca is blasterproof!

I never thought I would see a literal example of plot armor!

Han is able to wrangle up a blaster and uses it to weasel his way into a partnership with Jack. There’s totally a Rebel base with a ton of cash out there, and Han knows exactly where it is. Also, the Princess totally loves him, see?

Wait, how was Leia captured again?

I’m not gonna lie, I love how nuanced their flirting has become. It actually feels like something that could evolve and mutate into the sheer married couple bickering we see in The Empire Strikes Back. Leia “gives up” that the Rebel treasury is hidden in the Drexel system, but promises that Luke Skywalker is there, with deadly surprises!

Hey, speaking of, how is the farm boy doing anyhow?

Yep, that figures.

The comic slams back to Leia being escorted over to the brig by the first mate Jolli. Unlike her namesake, Jolli is a cold woman with no time for romance or humor. She even remarks she’d rather shoot Solo than kiss him, and Leia comes back with a weird remark that again perfectly predicts The Empire Strikes Back.

Jolli feels like a weird interpretation of a feminist character seen through the perspective of an older white guy in the 70s. Hates men, yet is tempted by the heroic handsome hetero male all the same. To be honest, a more modern interpretation of Jolli could make her asexual or aromantic and place her on a more diverse section of the spectrum of sexuality. I know Disney likely wouldn’t do this, seeing how their one bone tossed to the LGBTQ community in The Rise of Skywalker was an easily trimmed moment of background characters of the same sex kissing… but it’s still nice to dream. It feels like Goodwin is scratching at the surface of what could be a great character – or at least some good representation.

Jolli violently reacts to the idea of being kissed, and Leia takes the time to flash back to the movie she starred in a few months ago. Han bargains for Chewbacca to access the Falcon so they can provide accurate charts for the Drexel system, and the comic returns to Luke Skywalker as Han hopes the kid isn’t in trouble.

Well, issue 12 goes into the kind of mess he’s in, titled Doomworld. The creative team remains the same, but Roy Thomas has left the book as consulting editor. Now we have Jim Shooter, the man who would eventually run Marvel as Editor in Chief for most of the 80s. Luke’s escape pod has fallen onto a world of fantasy on the high seas, as dragons menace him – and sea pirates on hover boats hunt them.

It’s quite the change from Tatooine, for sure! Two of the four hunting skimmers are trashed before the dragons flee, including a weird man riding the dragons. Luke and his droids are saved by them, but they want to gut Luke and scrap the droids for spare parts. Luke takes exception to this

Ah, I see he picked up diplomacy from his father’s side.

Luke whips his blade around, sending people flying. While it looks like the art has them being hit, the dialogue explains they’re all jumping for cover. The end result makes it look like Luke is using his lightsaber as a baseball bat, and it is hilarious. R2-D2 squirts oil onto the deck to slip up the other sea pirates as Luke makes like Erroll Flynn and jump-kicks his way into command of the boat. Luke demands to meet the leader, and an explanation as to who these “Dragon Lords” are. It turns out Luke landed on the previous incarnation of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.

I’m not gonna lie, this is some fantastic stuff. I adore the image of a large sailing vessel having been turned into a home by necessity. Any free sailing this ship once did looks to have long since ended, and the homes seem to be made up out of a combination of the sails and what could be moss. It easily explains the kind of dilapidated life these sea pirates experience, and tells a lot without needing excessive narration.

The Governor is a horrible rotund man, looking like actor Trevor Howard in the role of Captain Bligh from 1962’s Mutiny on the Bounty with extra flair.

No, seriously.

We may no longer have Howard Chaykin making pop culture reference characters, but this doesn’t seem to be a coincidence.

And like Captain Bligh, Governor Quarg is a paranoid and vindictive man. He vows to kill everyone who let those two skimmers get wrecked, and only holds back on wrecking the new droids when Luke brandishes his lightsaber once more. Interestingly, this comic also lists the Jedi as Warrior Priests and Wizards in the rumors about them, which kinda nails what they would become to a vast degree for the prequel movies. I’m sure this stems from the ideas George Lucas had about the old Jedi Order at this time, but it’s still really cool to see what could be nailed this early in the franchise.

We cut back to Han and the Pirates, and Han is trying his best to continue lying about the treasure the Rebels have hidden in the Drexel system. He’s able to wrangle Chewbacca access to the Falcon for a little while, and Jolli provides a distraction by rambling about kisses and then trying to shoot anyone who tries to kiss her!

Yanno, I am totally ok with her killing rapist pirates.

Jolli says she hadn’t given consent to being kissed, and was frying those who were trying to take advantage of her confused state. And since it’s somehow Han’s fault, she slaps him hard. Meanwhile, Goodwin nails that Chewie is a lot older than fans guessed at the movies:

The fact that the pirates have no idea what he’s saying, but are just snapping to attention is hilarious and perfect.

Finally, they arrive at the planet Luke Skywalker vanished at, but it’s a water world! The Rebels couldn’t possibly have a treasury or even a base there, could they? Han sweats bullets as we roll into issue 13, Day of the Dragon Lords. Rick Parker has joined on as letterer, but the rest of the creative crew remains the same. 

Luke has been taken in by the Governor, as R2-D2 has proven to be a rather good mechanic in his own right. Luke isn’t too bad either, and Governor Quarg is considering making Luke his new Master Machinesmith. The old one takes umbrage with this and tries to kill Luke while the lad tests out a repaired sea skimmer.

Luckily, Luke is able to ditch the man into the sea, where he is merely knocked unconscious. Until the Governor gets his hands on him.

That’s a death by hanging, in a Comics Code approved comic book! Star Wars!

Luke realizes he’s only alive at the whim of the Governor while the madman relates his backstory. His father worked for the old Republic, as a Governor of an asteroid belt colony. They would salvage from wrecked ships, and would even cause a few accidents for nicer targets, until they were stopped by the Republic and their Jedi. Fleeing, they crashed onto the planet Drexel and tried making a life for themselves. A rebellion would result in some people fleeing and living with the sea dragons of this world, while others would fall under Quarg’s rule. Quarg would continue his father’s work, dragging down ships to salvage to stay alive and in power. And hey, an Imperial Star Destroyer has just come into orbit.

Crimson Jack and his crew are thrown into a panic when all power on the ship cuts off and begins a slow descent to the planet. Han and Chewie take the time to escape, and Leia seems to be the only sane person on board.

Han should know who wears the pants in these rescues by now.

Han, Leia, and Chewbacca escape in the Falcon to the planet’s surface to find Luke, only to crash in the middle of a massive war between the Quarg’s sea pirates and the Dragon Lords!

“This must be a Thursday. I never could get a hang on Thursdays.”

The Falcon is struck by turbolaser fire from a sea skimmer, and several of the crew are knocked overboard. Luke pulls up on his own to try and save who he can, only to be nearly killed by Chewbacca’s iron grip! Luke’s sea skimmer exploding stops this, but Luke wakes up in the brig next to the angriest Wookiee he’s had the misfortune of meeting!

I love how Chewbacca is just going to use C-3PO to crush Luke.

Luke’s life-threatening encounter with the limb-ripper himself continues in issue 14, The Sound of Armageddon! Denise Wohl takes over letting duties for this issue, as Chewbacca continues to rip the wooden brig apart as he tries to pop Luke’s head from his shoulders like a ripe space-grape. 

Luckily, Han is still alive, being dragged around underwater by one of the Dragon Lords. Leia is also safe, locked in the Millennium Falcon and waiting to blast anyone who walks onboard. While Leia is, again, captured by a group of pirates, Luke is barely able to hold off Chewbacca for R2-D2 to blast him with fire-retardant. This somehow knocks the Wookiee unconscious. Poor guy must be having an off day.

The Dragon Riders are still assaulting Quarg’s base ship, and Han meets with one of their leaders in their secret base. As it turns out, the very system that Quarg uses to bring down ships causes immense pain to the water dragons, and is causing ecological damage that is slowly driving them to extinction! Reluctantly, Han signs up to take out the ship, but is also told the Dragon Riders want to wipe out the Falcon too!

In the chaos of war, Leia is able to escape the Governor’s men, and Chewbacca rips free of his wooden jail. Luke and Han meet up in the Falcon by chance, and the plans of both men line up perfectly. Luke wanted to link up the Millennium Falcon to the Governor’s EMP beam to pretend to work with him, but the same link would make the Falcon immune to the EMP. Han realizes that this would allow him to destroy the device with the ship’s turbolasers, saving the Dragons and his ship! But they can’t fire yet, because Leia has found herself trapped by Quarg!

I’ve really got to wonder what Luke’s mental state is now that he’s willing to kill anyone who threatens this girl he likes.

Luckily, Luke swings by out of nowhere to save her and kill Quarg at the same time. Now that the war on the surface is over, however, Han is worried about what waits for them in space. That brings us to issue 15, Star Duel! John Costanza steps in as the letterer of the month, and the story starts out with a screaming red-bearded pirate.

Crimson Jack wants the blood of Han Solo. Han not only left Jack and his crew in the lurch, but he also sabotaged every single one of his fighters. Jolli manages to repair her craft first, which looks like a yellow prototype Y-Wing. She strafes the Falcon as everyone scrambles aboard, but not before Luke reveals one of his darkest secrets.

This is perfect. It makes sense that Luke wouldn’t know how to swim, coming from a world where moisture farming was a viable job. It also helps show that while Luke could someday become a super-cool space wizard, he’s still just a normal Joe. Leia helps Luke flounder to the Falcon so they can all escape into space. As they do so, Jolli reveals her dark past that made her hate men: her father abandoned her mother (and herself) rather than fight the Empire. A space torpedo then struck nearby, killing her mother. So, thus, she hates men.

As the Millennium Falcon streaks by the Star Destroyer, Jolli’s bootleg craft rams the Falcon. This somehow knocks loose the gyro control module, and they need a replacement before they can fly again. Luckily, the Star Destroyer can’t destroy the stranded Falcon, as Han and Chewie wiped their entire star logs from the pirate ship. This leaves the ship unable to jump to hyperspace without risking landing in the middle of a star, planet, or black hole.

Han proposes a trade: a copy of the Falcon’s star charts for a new gyro control module. How is this done?

IN SPACE.

Without the super-serious rules of “hard” science fiction to restrict them, the team working at Marvel decided that Buck Rogers rules were due for Star Wars. No fancy space suits, just a mask that keeps you with breathable air. This, hilariously, also predicts The Empire Strikes Back’s “asteroid cave” scene where Han and Leia survive in open space (space worm lungs?) with similar masks on their faces.

A massive shootout ensues, with Han having to face down roughly 30 pirates on his own. As he panics and flails like any scruffy nerf herder would, Jolli decides to rebel against Crimson Jack. The collision with the Falcon left her stranded in space, and Jack was ok with her dying out there, since it was her fault. She shoots nearly every pirate dead, then rams her ship into the bridge of the pirate ship, killing everyone else. Han takes the chance to shoot Crimson Jack dead.

Once more, Han shoots first.

The Star Destroyer is either damaged beyond repair, or they just don’t have enough people to crew the thing. Han finds Jolli’s corpse, just dangling out of her ship, and decides to thank her for saving his life in the only way he knows how.

I firmly believe that Goodwin and Infantino wanted to be touching and kind with this scene. However, with a modern perspective, this actually comes off as creepy. Yes, she’s dead, but she really was a confused person who may have wanted to explore what she wanted, but certainly never wanted to do so when she was alive. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this really struck me as wrong when I first read it as a kid, and still does today.

And with that, the second major original storyline of Star Wars comes to a close. Long-running multi-issue stories were rare in the 1970s for comics, and Star Wars had run two of them in their first year of stories. The comic has also been granted two fantastic creative teams, and it’s hard to see how a kid living in a post-Star Wars world wouldn’t love these comics. There’s action, adventure, weird romance, and everyone gets a chance to be awesome. Except C-3PO.

Fans adored these issues, but the letters were still highly focused on what they found to be wrong with the comic. The first-ever original novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster had been released a few months back, so comparisons between the two books were inevitable. 

As you can see, Bill here was convinced that we need to figure out why Leia and Luke couldn’t swim in one continuity or another. It’s amusing, but these things still happen. Again, it’s fascinating to see how little the fandom has changed.

The universe of Star Wars is starting to feel richer and more nuanced, with examples of corruption from the previous Republic and space pirates to go along with the space smugglers. The events of these issues are fairly self-contained, and with almost the entire cast of new characters killed off, it’s easy to see why. The Drexel System would get a namedrop in the later original Expanded Universe novels with a Drexel Minor System to have a planet named Drexel II since this Drexel System was a one-planet solar system. It feels somewhat convoluted for a name drop, but that’s the original Star Wars Expanded Universe for you.

The Tally Count:

Issues Covered: 17
Accidental Incest: 2
Cast Members Killed: 13
Lightsaber-related Injuries: 6

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