Here we have, most probably, the first original Star Wars story (other than the film and novelisation), and the first entry in what became the Expanded Universe (EU) in later years. After Marvel had finished their six-issue adaptation of the movie, naturally they wanted to carry on with a good thing. Beginning in January 1978, Marvel put out a four-issue story arc depicting the post-Star Wars adventures of Luke, Han and Leia. Many more story arcs and one-shot issues continued in the years leading up to the release of The Empire Strikes Back and the resulting 38 issues of Marvel Star Wars goodness remains a well-loved (if often downright bizarre) piece of nostalgia in the hearts of many fans.
Widely regarded as non-canon now in the wake of prequels, novels and other comics, the Marvel series was all fans had to go on once the film had left theatres (other than Alan Dean Foster's 'Splinter of the Mind's Eye' novel which came out about the same time as this story arc). Marvel didn't always get things right (a giant green rabbit called 'Jaxxon'? Honestly?), but they damn well tried. They did at least get some minimal approval from Lucas for each storyline, but took their time in bringing Darth Vader back in as a villain as it was not clear at that point what the plans were for the character in the upcoming sequel. So there were plenty of other villains devised to fill in the gaps in the meantime.
Issue #7 picks up pretty much immediately after the ending of the film when all the rebels are presumably recovering from their post-Death Star destruction celebrations. Han and Chewie head off on the Falcon with their reward money with the intention of paying off Jabba the Hutt (spelt 'Hut' here). Unfortunately for them they are boarded by a pirate known as 'Crimson Jack'. the cool thing about this guy (the only cool thing) is that he is cruising around in a hijacked Imperial Star Destroyer. He relates to Han in a later issue just how he came by this. After pilfering all Han and Chewie's money, Jack gives them the boot (theorising that he can rob them again sometime if he lets them go free). Poor old Han. Return to Start. Do not collect $200.
With a price on their heads and not a cent to their name, Han and Chewie decide to lay low on a backwater planet called Aduba-3. Here they get into some trouble with a mob of locals who object to a 'borg' (cyborg) being buried in a local cemetery (why Han cares about this or decides to get involved is beyond me). After brawling with the hoodlums, our heroes decide to hit the bars and check out the local girls. Their fun is interrupted by some cheerless looking fellows who have a job proposition...
Issue #8 tells us that the local moisture farmers are being plagued by a gang of 'Cloud-Riders' led by one 'Serji-X Arrogantus' who rustle their banthas and take off with their women. Han agrees to help for no fee, purely out of the goodness of his charitable heart (the writers here didn't seem to have a handle on Han's mercenary/scoundrel image yet) and so, in the upstairs room of a seedy dive, he begins interviewing potential guns for hire (with his shirt off for some reason). His chosen six include the aforementioned green rabbit, an eccentric old buffer called Don-Wan Kihotay (geddit?) who claims to be a Jedi Knight and even has a lightsaber, a 'spiner' called Hedji, a human kid called Jimm (who likes to be known as 'The Starkiller Kid'), a droid called FE-9Q ('Effie'), and Amaiza Foxtrain, an old acquaintance of Han's who, it is explained, used to head the infamous 'Black Hole Gang'.
Meanwhile, back on Yavin IV, Luke heads off with the droids to search for a new base for the Rebels. This bit is pretty brief but serves to assure us that the writers haven't forgotten Luke and Leia and the rest of the Rebels who are, with good reason, concerned that a fleet of extremely irate Imperials will be coming down on them pretty soon.
Back on Aduba-3, Solo and the gang soon encounter Serji-X who arrives with his crew on speeder bikes. Some banter is made and the battle lines are drawn with Serji-X taking off spouting threats.
Issue #9 sees Solo and his gang making their way across Aduba-3 to the village they have been hired to protect. En route they are attacked by 'High Hounds', giant bloodthirsty birds. Han spots one of the villagers, a pretty girl in a loincloth, being attacked and saves her. The birds take off and the gang reach the village.
Meanwhile, Luke's mission to find an new location for the Rebel base has brought him to the Drexel system. He makes contact with Leia, but something seems to frighten him and he abruptly breaks off contact.On Aduba-3, Han and his chums are confronted by an old man known as the 'Old One' who claims that their help is not needed, as he has faith in a mystical solution he once beheld in his youth. Ignoring him, the six companions take on Serji-X and his men who have just arrived on the scene. A battle ensues in which both Effie and Don-Wan bite the dust. Things look bad, but are set to look worse as the Old One summons a gigantic lizard creature from the mountain which brings us to...
Issue #10 - 'Behemoth from the World Below!'
The creature (which has a built in blaster) begins attacking Serji-X and his men, but its heavy footsteps begin an avalanche. It also inadvertently steps on Serji-X as well as the old duffer who summoned it. 'Heavenly Hutches!'
With the Cloud-Riders dealt with, Han and the gang attempt to take on the beast themselves with little success. Then, Don-Wan (who is somehow alive again - continuity, guys!) rushes to meet the creature head-on in chivalrous knight fashion...
Cut to a brief segment on Leia as she leaves Yavin IV to search for Luke who is now missing in action.
Don-Wan has little success against the beast with his lightsaber and Hedji tries flinging a few spines at it to no avail. Han theorises that the lightsaber is only making the monster madder and snatches it from Don-Wan and plants it right in the big lizard's chest. This causes the creature to rapidly disintegrate, leaving Han as the hero of the day.
The gang receive a handsome reward from the villagers for their efforts (weren't they doing it for free? Another continuity issue, I'm afraid). The girl Han saved in the last issue hitches up with Jimm and the heroes go their own separate ways. And so ends the first non-movie story arc in the marvel canon. But what about Luke Skywalker? Well, that's a different story...
I also came across some great Star Wars related ads within the pages of these comics. The first shows some 1978 calendars including a Frank Frazetta one which must have been awesome. Artist Howard Chaykin also treats us to a 'pin up' of the heroes. I wonder if any kids actually tore this out of their comic and pinned it to their bedroom wall. You've got to love Chewie's 'cat-face' and who the hell did Chaykin have in mind when he was drawing Leia? 'A Galaxy of Star Wars Treasures' greets us here showing all the staples such as those t-shirt transfers that seemed to be everywhere back then. I love how Obi-Wan is politely tapping that stormtrooper on the shoulder who is admiring a poster for the movie.
A couple of images from the back covers. The first is a particularly nauseating 'Patty Prayer Doll'. I can't imagine who Marvel thought its target audience was with this one. Presumably the same ad made its way onto the backs of Spider-man and Incredible Hulk comics too.