Finally got around to doing a proper post rather than sticking a few youtube videos up. These Marvel ones take some time. Also, I've been working on a new blog involving all things pulpy and trashy. Check it out! 20th Century Trash
We last left our heroes on their way to Yavin, having defeated both the water-bound Governor Quarg and space pirate Crimson Jack in issue 15. I've skipped a couple of issues here as they are really only one-shot stories which I'll cover at a later date. Issue 18 begins the third multi-issue story arc.
Issue 18 has the gang journeying through hyperspace towards Yavin IV when Luke passes out during his Jedi meditation, alarming both Han and Leia no end. Deciding to drop out of hyperspace to find a nearby system with medical facilities, the Falcon stumbles across a destroyed cruiser belonging to the Tagge family (who are thick with the Imperials, one member being a Fleet Commander). Amidst the wreckage they pick up a wounded rebel who tells them that the Tagge ship was destroyed by the Empire and made to look like a Rebel attack.
Just then, a light Imperial cruiser arrives on the scene and the Falcon has to scarper double quick. Chased into another sector, the companions find themselves in the shadow of 'The Wheel' which is explained as a luxury gambling resort full of sin and debauchery (naturally, Leia thoroughly disapproves, although Han is more then happy to put down in the nearest docking bay). Displaying a total disregard for his friend's well-being, Han then heads off to hit the casinos, dragging Leia in tow and leaving the droids to take Luke to the medical bay.
Now, normally, the Empire's jurisdiction does not extend to the Wheel, it being under the authority of Senator Greyshade. But the bald Commander Strom of the pursuing cruiser isn't about to let such protocols stand in his way of catching the rebels and so he dispatches a squad of stormtroopers to search the station. When Greyshade complains, Strom notifies him that the destroyed Tagge cruiser was carrying the Wheel's own profits to the bank. I sense a double-cross here as it is pretty clear that Strom was the one who destroyed the cruiser for reasons unknown. The issue ends with Greyshade spotting Leia on one of his security monitors and instantly clocking her as the daughter of his old senate rival...
Issue 19 picks up with Han and Leia battling stormtroopers in the corridors of the Wheel. Senator Greyshade's security forces arrive on the scene and order the Imperials to step down. Han and Leia are split up with Han taken away by security and Leia escorted up to the senator's quarters. Here she tells Greyshade of her suspicions surrounding Commander Strom, but the villainous Imperial arrives in time to cut a deal with Grayshade. Grayshade will keep quiet about what he has learnt about Strom if he is allowed to keep Princess Leia on board the Wheel with no Imperial interference (this all seems remarkably similar to the deal struck in The Empire Strikes Back between Vader and Lando). Leia's friends on the other hand, are to be disposed of.
With Luke still out of the picture in the medical bay and the droids under the possession of Wheel security, Chewie has fallen afoul of some ruffians and is soon fighting for his life in the gladiatorial arena. Han on the other hand, has been released by security, but with an expensive fee to pay should he wish to remain on board The Wheel, he decides to try his luck on the casino floor. Luck isn't with him however, and soon he too finds himself signed up for gladiatorial combat. Gee, I wonder what's going to happen next...
Issue 19 recaps the action with a conversation between Senator Greyshade and Commander Strom who have cut a deal to ensure that Princess Leia remains a prisoner aboard the Wheel and her companions are killed. Meanwhile, Han and Chewie (oblivious to each other's predicament, for the time being) are being put through their paces in the gladiatorial arena. Han soon finds himself up against a nasty beastie with four arms (each brandishing a poison dagger). He suspects, quite rightly, that foul play is afoot.
Meanwhile, Leia has busted out of her quarters by jamming the locking device with a serving knife and the droids have been rescued from having their memories wiped by Greyshade's personal robot assistant. Leading them down to the medical bay, they discover that Luke has now vanished...
Issue 21 and Darth Vader is back! Hurray! Granted it's only in a trippy dream sequence at first as Luke's disappearance is explained. Obi-Wan visits him in in his unconscious state and guides him in a fight against Vader. It is then revealed that it was not Vader he was facing, merely his own fears (another strange parallel to The Empire Strikes Back). Luke awakens and busts free of his bonds to go roaming around the space station and meets up with Leia.
Then we are treated to an interlude featuring the real Darth Vader encountering a massacred rebel information retrieval team on the planet Ultaar. It appears that somebody got here first (this somebody is the cyborg mercenary 'The Hunter' who got his own story in the one-shot issue #16). Vader tracks the rebels to the Wheel where all hell is breaking loose. Senator Greyshade has dispatched a squad of security troops to destroy the imperial cruiser. On board they discover the stolen Wheel profits that were said to have been destroyed aboard the Tagge cruiser. Witnessing this from the shadows is Luke and Leia.
Meanwhile, Han continues his fight for money in the gladiatorial arena, but who is this he is up against now? Why, it's his old pal Chewbacca...
Issue 22 kicks off with this cracking two page spread of Han against a brilliant blue background. I haven't spliced the two halves together very well, but what the hey. Han discovers that his blaster isn't working, deepening his suspicions that something stinks about this whole thing. Chewie's gun doesn't fire either and yet the two of them manage to take out all of their opposition by deflecting laser bolts with their deflector shields.
There's some double-crossing going on up in the control room as Senator Greyshade slips something into Commander Strom's drink causing him to keel over.
Luke and Leia are still hot on the tail of the looted Wheel profits and discover that they are being loaded aboard Greyshade's private space yacht. A brief firefight ensues resulting in Luke and Leia being taken hostage by Greyshade who has just arrived on the scene.
Darth Vader is still on the trail of the one he felt through the force in the previous issue and has tracked them to the Wheel, despite the impertinent comments of his underling.
Meanwhile, Luke and Leia view the gladiatorial games on Greyshade's monitor. He has a plan to take Leia away with him where they can live happily ever after upon the stolen profits. In the arena, Han and Chewie are the only ones left and Leia watches in horror as Chewie is forced to open fire on Han...
Issue 23 begins with Leia reluctantly agreeing to go along with Greyshade so that she doesn't have to see any more of her friends killed. Luke is given the boot but not before he and Leia have a quick smooch. Careful, Luke! You'll come to regret this sort of romantic tomfoolery!
Of course, Han isn't really dead. We are told that he avoided death by concealing a shield beneath his shirt and for the meantime is happy to play dead to get out of this infernal arena.
Meanwhile, the droids are busy causing havoc by playing a tape recorded by R2, depicting the theft of the Wheel profits from the Imperial Cruiser by Greyshade's security for all the station to see. Peeved that the Empire has been playing them for fools, the Wheel's inhabitants start a riot.
Stormtroopers charge the cargo bay and Luke is forced to retreat back to Greyshade's yacht. The Senator has a sudden conscience check and gives his life so that Luke and Leia can escape on his ship, killing his enemy Strom in the process. Han and Chewie make for the Falcon and the two groups of heroes meet up in outer space.
Vader's back on the scene! Attempting to suck Luke and Leia in via his ship's tractor beam, Vader is surprised to see the Falcon (a ship he most certainly recognises) come up on his rear and blast the bridge. Luke then connects with the Dark Lord's mind via the force and knocks the evil Sith for six, allowing the rebels to escape to fight another day.
Some images from between the covers here including some rather nifty-looking Spider-man toys. Good collection of Star Wars stuff here including the Kenner figures (minus only the Jawa). I never realised Marvel did a Jaws 2 adaption and its great to see a Kiss commercial in a Marvel comic. These were the four solo albums released by the band members in 1978.
I was pretty chuffed to see the Lego Car Chassis set on the back of several issues as I had this very one as a kid. I recently sold it on eBay for around $100 - money which ironically, went towards these comics (among other things). It's also fun to see some Battlestar Galactica stuff as I love the original series.