I have a passion for collecting vintage Star Wars merchandise from the late 70's. Action figures, comics, trading cards etc - anything related to the first Star Wars movie. But why only until 1980? It's not that I don't love The Empire Strikes Back and beyond (I really do), but there is something about that first wave of Star Wars mania that really grips me, back when it was all fresh and exciting...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

'We Want Those Robots, Boy!' Marvel #11 - #15

The pairing of Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin who had done the original 6-part adaption and first non-movie story arc had come to a close and the new guys, Archie Goodwin and Carmine Infantino, picked up the writing and penciling duties here with the second original story arc. When we last left our heroes, Han and Chewie and their new found friends had just defeated Serji-X Arrogantus and his gang of Cloud Riders on Aduba-3. Luke was MIA on a mission to find a suitable location for the rebel base and Leia had gone off after him.

Issue #11 picks up with Han and Chewie deciding to head back to Yavin IV. Throwing their lot in with the rebels for the time being seems preferable to gallivanting around the galaxy with a price on their heads. Unfortunately, upon entering the Yavin system, they run into their old pal Crimson Jack. But there is a further surprise on board for them in the form of Princess Leia who apparently didn't get very far in her mission to find Luke (didn't she start out from Yavin?). After a brief shootout with Jack's men, Han comes up with a plan and tells ol' Redbeard that there is a rebel stash of loot that only Princess Leia knows the location of. If Han can get the Princess to talk, Jack agrees to go 50/50 with him.

Leia and Han put on a little spat for the pirates (although Leia doesn't really seem to be acting much) before the Drexel system is named as the location of the loot. The Drexel system is where Luke went missing in the last story arc, so I don't know what Leia's reasoning is here. Perhaps she thinks that Luke is capable of taking on the whole of Jack's crew. Well, I guess handing out the names of random systems to enemies is kind of in character for her (remember Dantooine?).

Meanwhile, Luke and the droids have crash-landed on a watery planet in the Drexel system, and are under attack by a giant sea snake. Narrowly escaping, they witness the arrival of a second creature, only this one seems to have a rider...

I don't know about you guys, but this last bit really reminds me of the Holiday Special cartoon, when Luke and the droids crash a Y-Wing on a jelly-like planet and are attacked by a giant lizard only to be saved by Boba Fett on a similar creature. Maybe the '78 cartoon was loosely based on this issue?

Issue #12 carries on with Luke's storyline. The man riding the beast turns out to be a Dragon-Rider, but doesn't get to introduce himself as a gang of local pirates arrive on the scene and see him off. Luke and the droids are taken to the pirates' ship and introduced to their captain, Governor Quarg, who seems to be suffering from some sort of Napoleon complex.

Meanwhile, Crimson Jack's pirate ship makes its way to the Drexel system, but upon arrival, Jack's suspicions are raised as it appears that the planet is completely made of water. How could the rebel loot be hidden on a water world?

Issue #13
has Luke trying to impress
his captor, Governor Quarg, who would normally execute any newcomers. R2 repairs one of the damaged hydra-skimmers, but it's not enough to win the pirate chief over. Quarg instructs Luke to show off his target practice in the repaired skimmer. On the way out to the floating target, Luke is attacked by a burly looking man who has been hiding in the back of the skimmer. It is revealed that he is the master machine smith and is not at all pleased by the prospect of being replaced by Luke and his droids. A fight ensues at high speed and Luke succeeds in booting the machine smith out before heading off to destroy the target and win a place on Quarg's crew.

Quarg reveals to Luke that his father was once a Governor in the Old Republic who had a penchant for using sonic jamming devices to wreck and salvage ships. Rumbled by the Jedi Knights, he and his people fled but crash landed on the watery world of Drexel. A mutiny broke out between the settlers and was quickly quashed, but the ringleaders were set adrift by Quarg's father, only to master the local sea-dragons and become the Dragon-Riders, mortal enemies of Quarg and his men.

Meanwhile, in orbit above Drexel, things aren't looking too good for Han and Chewie. Crimson Jack doesn't believe that the watery planet could be the location for the rebel treasure, but doesn't get much of a chance to ask further questions as his cruiser is suddenly gripped by Quarg's sonic jammer. Amidst the confusion, Han, Chewie and Leia make their escape on the Falcon and head down to the water world below, landing right in the middle of a battle between Quarg's pirates and the Dragon-Riders. One of the pirates opens fire on the Falcon and is blasted by Luke who is unable to control himself upon seeing his friends fired upon. He brings his skimmer to a stop and is grabbed by the great hairy arm of Chewbacca who assumes that it was he who attacked the Falcon...

In Issue #14, things are looking pretty bad for our heroes. Luke and the droids are back in Governor Quarg's holding cell for blasting one of his skimmers, and their cell-mate Chewie, is none too pleased to see them, thinking that it was Luke who killed Han. Wait, Han's dead?! Not really, he was taken by the Dragon-Riders after hitting the water when the Falcon crashed. 3PO manages to trip up Chewie and R2 squirts him in the face with his firefighting foam, knocking the big Wookie out cold. As for Princess Leia, she's been captured by Quarg too and is looking pretty grumpy about it.

Quarg is still trying to bring down Crimson Jack's cruiser, but doesn't have enough juice to do it. He reasons that if Luke can tap the engines of the Falcon, then his sonic jammer will be powerful enough to do the job. If Luke refuses, well then it's bad news for Leia...

Meanwhile, Han is making pals with the Dragon-Riders and they all set off to do battle with Quarg's men. Han gets there first and boards his beloved Falcon to stop Luke from sucking all the juice out of its engines. Luke then cracks him one on the chin for this as he won't risk Leia's life not even to save the Falcon. The link up is completed and has a bad effect on the sea-dragons who begin to drop like flies. Leia chooses this moment to make a run from it with the newly revived Chewie's help. Onboard the Falcon, Luke and Han discover that their ship is operational again, and see a chance to end the battle by blasting the sonic jammer. But there's a problem...

Leia has made it to the top of the mast which puts a hole in the boys' plans to blast it to kingdom come. Cue Luke's swashbuckling heroics. Swinging from one mast to the other, Luke sweeps Leia away, reminiscent of their Death Star chasm stunt, just in time for Han to blow the mast (and presumably Governor Quarg) to bits. This may seem like the end of the story arc, but readers (along with a worried looking Han) might remember the huge imperial cruiser in orbit and its crew of bloodthirsty pirates...

Issue #15 ties up the loose ends involving Crimson Jack. Our heroes are trying to get the Falcon up and running again when they are attacked by an outfitted Y-Wing from the pirate cruiser. Heading off into space, Han and the gang attempt to take on the whole of Crimson Jack's starfighter force, One of whom is the man-hating pirate wench, Jollie.

At this point we are given a quick look at Jollie's childhood where her father abandoned her in the face of an imperial attack and her mother is promptly killed, thus explaining her hatred for all men.

The space battle continues and Jolli's ship is critically wounded. Jack refuses to send help and tells her to make it back on her own. Han tells Jack that whilst he and Chewie were aboard his cruiser, Chewie transferred all the navigational maps to the memory banks of the Falcon. If Jack destroys the Falcon, then the pirates will be marooned in outer space.

A deal is struck and Jack agrees to trade a gyro control module for the navigational charts. Han and Jack meet between the two ships (sustained by a magnetic field), but as could be expected, Jack pulls a fast one and has all his men launched into space to open fire on Han. Suddenly, Jollie appears and she's mad as hell at having been abandoned. Opening fire on her old crew, she then slams her Y-Wing into Jack's munitions deck, destroying his ship. Han pops a laser cap in Jack's ass and the other heroes drag the gyro module into the hold of the Falcon. In between its wreckage lies the dying form of Jolli who Han kisses (her first and last kiss). Turns out she wasn't such a bad girl after all.

With all their enemies dead and the Falcon fitted out with a new gyro control module (whatever that is), our heroes head off to Yavin IV and so ends this story arc.

Here's a few images from between the covers including an advertisement for the hugely popular Kenner figures which were just coming out around this time (notice the absence of the Jawa, Sandpeople and Death Squad Commander - these guys came out a little bit later). I love how off-model the illustrations are. Check out the collars on Ben and Darth, not to mention the colour-schemes on Han and R2. Ben looks like he's playing a round of golf with his lightsaber, and 'Hans' Solo...? Whilst not Star Wars related, I also liked the advertisement for Close Encounters trading cards hidden in packs of sliced bread.

A couple of images from the back pages.

No comments: