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...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Marvel #35 - #37

Here we are at last; the final story arc in Marvel's Star Wars comics before the Empire Strikes Back adaption came out and the comics went beyond the range of this humble blog. But I have a few one-shot issues to cover still so I'm not done with Marvel just yet.

The last story arc saw the undoing of Baron Orman Tagge and his brother as their cruiser was frozen by their own Omega Frost device and subsequently destroyed by the Falcon.

Issue #35 sees Vader finally learn the name of the rebel who destroyed the Death Star and hook up with General Tagge (brother of Orman) and reveal to him that the former Baron and his brother are alive and in stasis. The simple push of a button could revive them and Orman would reclaim his title which has passed to General Tagge. Vader holds this up as a threat to ensure Tagge's cooperation.

Meanwhile on Yavin IV, Luke and the rest of his X-Wing squadron (still called 'Blue Squadron' here, despite the changing of their name to 'Red' in the movie) rescue an unknown ship from the Imperial blockade that has surrounded the planet. On board is 'Domina' a priestess of the 'Order of the Sacred Circle' based on the planet of Monastery. Domina requires the Alliance's help as Darth Vader has landed on their planet to recruit their support of the Empire. Being neutral, the Sacred Circle requires a representative from the Alliance. Luke is chosen (now wearing his brown jacket that he wore during the movie's medal ceremony) and journeys with Domina to Monastery with Han and Leia secretly pursuing in the Falcon to keep an eye on things. The issue ends with a conversation between Vader and Domina which reveals that she is the sister of the Tagge brothers and is working in league with Vader to kill Luke in revenge for her brother's death.

Issue #36 begins with the Falcon being boarded by Tagge's cruiser. Han and Chewie play innocent with Leia stashed in the smuggling hold we saw in the movie. Meanwhile, down on the planet, Luke prepares for his audience with the Sacred Circle and the Imperial representative in the form of Darth Vader. But he's been double crossed. As the meeting quickly goes against him, Luke realizes that this whole business was a trap for him set by Vader and he challenges the Sith Lord outright, prompting Vader to suggest a duel to the death to settle things.

Back on Tagge's cruiser, Leia sneaks out from the Falcon's hold and blasts her way to Han and Chewie who are cooling their heels in the detention area. Making it back to the Falcon, they escape only to find a stowaway on board... the recently awoken Baron Orman Tagge!

Issue #37 features the long awaited duel between Vader and Luke. But before we get to that, there is the issue of Han and Leia dealing with their uninvited guest. During a bumpy landing, Orman Tagge is knocked off his feet and Leia grabs his gun. Fleeing, Tagge makes his way into the Crystal Valley where his sister, Domina, has arranged a duel between Luke and Vader with the intent of seeing them both killed.

Luke battles Vader only to discover that through a trick of the force, he has killed Baron Tagge. Vader lures him forward and Luke narrowly avoids being skewered by a crystal that thrusts itself up from the ground. Vader then, inexplicably flees in his TIE Fighter. Luke makes his way back up to where Domina is waiting with Han and Leia. Domina is distraught that her brother is dead (didn't she think he was already?) and declares that although the Sacred Circle cannot fight against the Alliance, she will always be an enemy of Luke's.

The final page is an odd one, and tries its best to lead into The Empire Strikes Back by having Jabba the Hut (sic), still portrayed as a humanoid alien (it had not been decided yet that he was to be a giant slug) come across the remains of Crimson Jack's cruiser (remember him?). Jabba sets a price on Han's head and Han blasts the unfortunate bounty hunter who comes after him. Presumably this is on Ord Mantell - the encounter Han mentions in Empire. Oh, and notice the promise at the bottom of the page stating that the Empire Strikes Back adaption begins next issue? Lies! Due to some new distributional system, the adaption was postponed for a month and instead the one shot issue 'Riders in the Void' was put out instead. But I'll get to that.

I put up an ad for 'The Black Hole' figures in my last Marvel post, but here are a couple of much better ones. And I've never seen these 'Lord of the Rings Figures'. Presumably they were influenced by the Ralph Bakshi animation of 1978.

I think almost every boy born in the last 50 years had little green plastic soldiers at one time. I used to get them in small plastic baggies but this 'footlocker' idea looks pretty cool. 'The Juice' was quite the spokesperson back in the day it seems with his image popping up in Marvel comics fairly often promoting some sports-related product or in the last case, cowboy boots (which seem to be totally ripped off in the ad following it by a clearly different company).


C.K. Dexter Haven said...

I knew a kid who ordered those toy soldiers and when he showed them to me, it was hugely disappointing to see that they were made from cheap plastic eating utensil-like plastic that could easily break. Worse than that, the soldiers were flat! They didn't have the construction or the dimension of the superior drugstore brand I always bought--and still have. I held onto my Navarone playset, complete with troop carriers and German soldiers.

As for the Tagge Saga, I'm sad to see it end! It's my favorite of the Marvel '77-'80 comic book stories. I'm looking forward to your recap of those other issues, like when Leia visits that industrial slave labor planet.

EJK said...

Another great selection of Carmine Infantino's artwork. I believe somewhere in his Star Wars run a reader asked if Infantino drew his characters' jawlines with a T-square. This holds so many memories for me that even the "better" Dark Horse stuff just doesn't compare.