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Star Wars 40th Anniversary Review: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Return of the Jedi, while being the weakest film in the original trilogy, is still a masterpiece. Luke’s own Hero’s Journey reaches it’s culmination in this movie and it is beautifully and artfully done in such a way that is both moving and exciting.
People have tons of fun making fun of Luke for how much he whines, needs his friends to rescue him, and is brash to the point of being a liability. But, in all fairness close examination of this movie in comparison to the previous two reveals how admirable a man Luke Skywalker actually becomes.
Disillusionment with one’s ideals is not uncommon in the growth of any adult especially when we see those whom we admired and imitated show their own flaws and imperfections to us. Luke Skywalker was a young dreamer who wanted to become a Jedi Knight like his own father and never stopped to consider how hard a life that would be for him. One can only imagine the bitter blow it would be to discover that the man he admired and made a role model was not who he thought he was. We all discover eventually that our own parents are human and imperfect, but rarely do we discover that they are evil! I truly admire and give credit to Luke’s character because a lesser man would have become cynical at the revelation that his role model was nothing more than a lie. Luke, on the other hand, stuck to the principle of his ideals and reacted to the truth of his father’s identity by attempting to turn his father back to the ideals that he had rejected decades ago. And when failure seemed inevitable Luke stuck to his guns in the face of certain death. He stood there even to the point of tossing his weapon aside and declared himself “a Jedi like my father before me.” If Darth Vader had ignored his son’s pleas for help Luke would not have given up and turned to the Dark Side to survive. Death was an option. Turning to the Dark Side was not. After truly considering all that I dare anyone to seriously call Luke a pansy.

And Darth Vader’s conversion to the Light Side of the Force and his final moments with his son is my absolute favourite scene in the entire Star Wars franchise. It’s a beautiful, moving, and meaningful finale that puts George Lucas high up on the list of great storytellers.

Sadly this film is rife with imperfections and flaws in its other parts. The epic final showdown with the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire is disappointing and drags more than it excites. The chemistry between Han, Leia, Chewie, the droids, and other characters is no where near as good as it was in The Empire Strikes Back and much of it falls flat and is overshadowed by Luke and Vader’s story.

The second Death Star is a very lame mcguffin to threaten the Rebels with since we already seen one of those in A New Hope. The lack of originality is a gaping problem with Return of the Jedi and as fantastic as the space battle is it doesn’t make up for the utterly absurd manner in which the Empire is taken down. The Ewoks are clearly a marketing gimmick to sell toys and make the film appeal to very little children, but for the rest of us who wanted an epic and believable conclusion to the Rebellion against the Empire we are disappointed with seeing care bears with stone age spears and slingshots take out a battle-hardened, heavily armed, and thoroughly trained Imperial military. It’s stupid, pure and simple, and the only commendable thing to come of the Ewoks was Warwick Davis’s future career which I have enjoyed immensely.

I also feel that the first half hour of Return of the Jedi really drags. The Jabba’s Palace sequence feels like a failed attempt to recapture the novelty of the Cantina scene in A New Hope, but the music the band plays sucks in both the original version and the Special Edition (although the Special Edition is admittedly worse) and I find myself thinking the scene would have been better if Jabba had booked Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes rather than Sy Snootles and her crew. It also would have spared us the excruciating Special Edition scene in which Boba Fett flirts with some of the female singers. Boba Fett is such an overrated chump as it is we really don’t need to mess with him more by having him getting distracted by a pair of legs and flashing eyelashes at a dingy party.

And if I am jumping on the Boba Fett is overrated bandwagon it is only because I sincerely sit in that camp. He had Han Solo handed over to him by a Sith Lord in a frozen block of carbonite before he could be bothered to take him in and after Han woke up feverish and blind as a bat he still managed to overcome the heavily armed bounty hunter with a stick. I wouldn’t hire Boba Fett to win an Easter egg hunt!

Also what the hell is up with Leia at Jabba’s Palace? She was tortured, drugged, and imprisoned by a Dark Lord of the Sith and yet still remained the independent spitfire we all know and love. But, now she gets captured and put in a degrading slave outfit by a fat gangster who needs help moving to the bathroom and suddenly that shuts her up? Whatever happened to telling Grand Moffs they smell bad, accusing Darth Vader of being on a leash, and calling the coolest man in the Galaxy a laserbrain and a nerfherder? After enduring physical torture and seeing her homeworld annihilated you would think a perverted slug would be just another day at the office; but, no, she is now broken, tamed, and needs Luke and Han Solo to rescue her. I am calling bull!
And don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining about the slave outfit itself. That puberty-inducing getup suits the straight male in me just fine. I just don’t like seeing Leia rendered inert by it. Her strength should not have been sapped by humiliation and I wholeheartedly object to it.

It’s the Jabba’s Palace and Endor stuff that really keeps this film from being perfect. But, the epic conclusion of Luke Skywalker’s path to being a Jedi and Anakin Skywalker’s redemption more than makes up for those imperfections and combining that with the groundbreaking special effects, John Williams’s score, Ben Burtt’s sound design, and all the other talents who put their innovative mark on Return of the Jedi are what make this movie a masterpiece. Adding it to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and The Original Star Wars Trilogy is to this day one of the greatest screen epics ever made along side with Coppola’s Godfather films (which also had a weak third entry), Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and cinematic treasures like Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and Ben-Hur. If people ask me why I love Star Wars so much and need a short answer I won’t point to all the multi-media, comics, games, books, and fan conventions. I will point to these three films by themselves as a whole and let them know that these films are what make me love Star Wars.
I have seen some hardcore EU lovers who have admitted that if the EU had not existed they probably would not care for the Star Wars movies all that much and that seriously bothers me. I have even heard one guy comment that by themselves the Original Trilogy movies were merely quaint and it was the EU that truly made Star Wars meaningful to him. While far be it from me to dispute one’s right to a subjective opinion, I do wonder at how someone could look at these films and see something quaint or uninteresting.
The Original Star Wars trilogy is enough for me. As much as I love the EU, I could live with just A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Boil it down to its purest essence and it is these three masterpieces that are what Star Wars truly is and I, for one, hold them in highest honour.

Check tomorrow for a review of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and may the Force be with you.

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Star Wars 40th Anniversary Review: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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The Empire Strikes Back is my favourite of the entire Star Wars saga and I think it is no surprise that so many other people feel the same way. Having the best pacing of all the films, a complex and engaging story, great writing and character development, a thorough exploration of the nature of the Force, some of the best music, and a darker and maturer tone are all ingredients that make a near perfect film.

The chemistry between Han Solo and Princess Leia is perfectly written and handled resulting in a romance somewhat reminiscent of Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in Gone With the Wind which I believe is far superior to the cringe-inducing and unconvincing romance between Anakin and Padme in the Prequels. More on that in a later review.

The droids are at the top of their form in this one and the separation from each other throughout the majority of the movie allows both of their characters to shine brighter. Threepio is still hilarious as always and his frustration and confusion in dealing with the volatile and irritable Han Solo provides some of the best comedy in the film.
In fact, the entire sequence involving Leia, Han, Chewie, and Threepio is one of the best demonstrations of how character development and character interaction is properly done.

Luke’s training on Dagobah is still to this day the best exploration of the Force seen in the films. Even the highly Jedi-centric Prequels never gave us as much depth and thought-provoking material on the philosophy behind the Force than the scenes with Luke and Yoda on Dagobah.

In A New Hope the bad guys had much less screen time, but here we get almost as much of them as we do the good guys. Darth Vader is amazingly bad ass in The Empire Strikes Back compared to A New Hope and Return of the Jedi in which he is treated more as if he was on someone’s leash rather than the commanding Dark Lord of the Sith who in this movie absolutely rules every scene he is in. His looming figure, shiny helmet, and epic theme music that plays every time he enters a room is enough to terrify any Imperial officer and with good reason. He doesn’t accept apologies for failure and if your clumsiness is proportionally equal to your stupidity then you better be ready to get Force choked.

The Empire Strikes Back has such great dialogue that it is readily the most quotable Star Wars film ever made. Darth Vader’s “Apology accepted, Captain Needa” is just fantastic and “Take the professor back and plug him into the hyperdrive” is still my favourite Han Solo quip of all time.
And when we talk about dialogue we cannot forget the wisdom of Yoda. “Do or do not. There is no try” is so classic that seeing Star Wars is unnecessary to recognising it. And adding to the mix “Always in motion is the future”, “Wars don’t make one great”, and “Luminous beings are we; not this crude matter” it soon becomes apparent that alien muppets make the best spiritual gurus.

John Williams’ score for The Empire Strikes back has turned up some of the saga’s best pieces such as The Imperial March, The Battle in the Snow, Yoda and the Force, and The Asteroid Field which are iconic and prove that Williams will always be the master unlikely to be paralleled or rivaled. Kevin Kiner and Michael Giacchino are good, but they can only be padawans to the Jedi Maestro that is John Williams.

While I said earlier that the pacing in this film was the best of the saga I would mention that some people have griped about how badly synced up the timeline is with Luke’s training and the Falcon crew’s time in Cloud City. It’s said that the training that Luke went through must have taken a period of weeks (maybe even months) while the Falcon’s journey seems to only take maybe a few days at the most. However, I really do not think this is a big deal and even if it was we should consider that Luke had successfully used the Force on Hoth to retrieve his lightsaber and we already know that three years ago he used the Force to destroy the Death Star. Three years of practising using the Force unaided by a master is nothing to scoff at and it would not be surprising me if Luke’s training on Dagobah was only about a week long before he left for Bespin. He is naturally talented and one should bear in mind that Yoda told Luke he was not ready to face Vader yet which means we know he didn’t even complete his training before leaving. I think the timeline is just fine.

All in all what have packaged in The Empire Strikes Back is a near perfect film that continues to impress me every time I rewatch it.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s review of Return of the Jedi and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars 40th Anniversary Review: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Today is the 40th anniversary of the movie I am reviewing. This is a momentous occasion for the millions of fans; many of which who are going to celebrate in their own way. Some will go cosplaying, digging out and dusting off old Star Wars books, comics, and video games; others will talk about Star Wars with friends, and some like myself are going to spend the next few days marathoning the series.

In the 40 years since its inception Star Wars has been unrivaled in the impact it has had on popular culture. Special effects films were never the same again since its release when it shook Hollywood at the core and completely reshaped the trends of filmmaking at the time. With the popularity of Jaws, American Graffiti, and the Planet of the Apes franchise helping pave the way before it, Star Wars had suddenly given birth to the summer blockbuster. It is thanks to Star Wars that cinema has given us Indiana Jones, Alien, Terminator, Back to the Future, The Lord of the Rings films, and the immensely popular multitude of DC and Marvel movies that get released once or twice a year.

And not only was cinema affected. I could go on and on about how Star Wars changed the future of merchandising, created an unparalleled multimedia franchise involving books, games, comics, TV shows, etc.; engendered a fandom so massive that millions of people including celebrities turn up at conventions once a year; and I could even go on about people I have seen who made Star Wars a career. For example, there are Youtubers who work hard daily producing content on nothing but Star Wars. There are even people who make it a hobby and don’t even get paid for it. These are types of people who collect Star Wars toys, dress up as their favourite characters, and even spend a couple hours a day writing blogs and reviews about Star Wars. Get a life, right?

But seriously, as I said, I really could go on forever. But what I am here to do is review the movie that started it at all and changed everything for the next 40 years.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope came out in theatres on 25 May 1977. The film, which at the time was only titled Star Wars, was a smash hit and before the year was over a sequel was being discussed, the main actors became instantaneous household names, and Hollywood producers were scrambling fast to cash in on and imitate its success. In the wake of Star Wars films like Alien and Star Trek: The Motion Picture were made which spawn blockbuster sequels of their own.

There are many people who remember first going to see Star Wars back in 1977 and will wax nostalgic about the entire 40 year ride of fandom since then. Alas, I am not one of them. Having been born in 1992 I was first introduced to Star Wars when the film was just old enough to get a drivers license. I was of the last generation to first see Star Wars prior to the 1997 Special Editions having had them on VHS when I was very young. I am half tempted to delve into anecdotes of my obsession with Star Wars when I was a 5 year old, but, as I write what is already becoming an overlong intro I realise that would address Star Wars as a whole and not this particular film that I am reviewing.
But, to be perfectly honest, do I really need to even bother? I mean it’s Star Wars! If you are the sort of person who needs to read a review of Star Wars then, frankly, you really have no reason following this blog.
And to be perfectly honest I am not even entirely sure what to say. I have went on about how it affected everything and changed the landscape of pop culture and fandom, but to me that is just trivia. That’s not personal. I wasn’t even alive when the original trilogy was released and I certainly wasn’t old enough to appreciate its affect on the future of cinema when I first saw them.

So what should a review of this subject consist of then? We already know the story. It would be insulting to the reader for me to review it the same I review the comics. We all know about the farm boy Luke Skywalker and his meeting with Threepio and Artoo which led him to Obi-Wan Kenobi. We know about Darth Vader and the Death Star. We know Senator Princess Leia of Alderaan is secretly a rebel leader. We know the secret base is on Yavin 4. We know how the Death Star solved Alderaan’s overpopulation problem. And we know how Luke blew up the Death Star after the rebellion ingeniously decided to give the controls of an expensive X-Wing over to an unknown 19 year old hillbilly from Tatooine who likes to turn their ships’ vital targeting systems off because the voices in his head tell him to. We know all that stuff. And we know it’s a great story. It has all the mythological and epic tropes of a classic fairy tale or fantasy. And it has all the fanciful space operatic worldbuilding found in great stories like Asimov’s Foundation or Dune. It has robots, wild western saloons with aliens for riffraff, space ships, princesses, smugglers, giant furry dogmen who hate losing chess, and weird old men waving shiny sticks around raving about invisible powers. In essence, it has everything we love.

Of all the seven currently released Star Wars movies A New Hope is the one that feels the most like a traditional fairy tell. It has all the colourful characters who tag along bit by bit, the evil sorcerers, the good sorcerers, the weird creatures, storming an enemy’s fortress, and it has a clear beginning and ending. It’s very much a classic yarn about a faraway place in a distant time that entertains both young and old. It’s a modern fairy tale in space.

While it is not my personal favourite of the Star Wars films it is arguably still its best. It does everything perfectly: telling a complete easy-to-follow story which loses none of its charm or rewatchability as the decades go by.

The only thing that can mitigate perhaps the film’s greatness is the fact that we may be too familiar with it. Knowing the story, the dialogue, the characters, and even the pacing of A New Hope so well it is hard to approach it any more without it starting to feel like white noise. Approaching it with new and fresh eyes becomes harder and harder and this makes it easier for us to miss any hidden gems the film has to offer that we had never noticed before. When a sight, layout, or image remains constant after awhile we stop really seeing it and it bothers me when I become conscious that this has happened to Star Wars. That is why tonight when I watch Star Wars in celebration of its 40th birthday I am going to cut out all distractions. The computer gets logged off and turned off, no fiddling with phones or tablets, no running back and forth from the kitchen for snacks, pure unadulterated attention, no heavy sluggishness-inducing foods like pizza to make me more docile, and no growth acceleration.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am going to watch Star Wars closely and soak it all in. See if I might just catch something new. I think the best birthday gift I can give A New Hope on it’s 40th anniversary is my full and complete attention. Just because we have had it for so long it doesn’t mean it needs to become white noise. All those years ago Star Wars was our first step into a larger world and however you choose to celebrate this special occasion we would be remiss to not pay our respects.

Before I go I would like to address the bantha in the room which are the 1997 Special Editions and the subsequent edits made since. Even though most fans seem to agree that the original theatrical editions were the superior versions the Special Editions have still succeeded in generating controversy. Many fans, myself included, feel that tampering with the movies was unnecessary and nigh to vandalism; and many have taken particular exception to certain changes that were made. Greedo shooting first is a notorious example, and there are also the extra content of Jabba the Hutt, adding obnoxious aliens to Mos Eisley, and other offences.
George Lucas’s reasoning for having Greedo shoot first makes no sense to me. He believes that having Han shoot Greedo in cold blood was too brutal for a future hero and he cites John Wayne as a proper frontier hero who displays unflinching honour and decorum during gunplay. Having seen The Searchers I know that to be utter nonsense. John Wayne has played absolutely despicable characters before and, besides, having Han Solo start off soft utterly lessens his transformation from a self-absorbed criminal to a sympathiser and patriot of the Rebellion. Character transformation is vital to good storytelling and the best stories make heavy use of it. Just watch Breaking Bad and you’ll know what I mean.
The Jabba the Hutt sequence was just unnecessary as most of his dialogue is just repeated from what Greedo was saying to Han in the cantina. The CGI in this scene is horrendous and subsequent attempts to fix it in later releases have only improved it marginally.
The only change that feels like a genuine improvement is the destruction of the Death Star which enhances what originally was nothing more than a glorified handful of sparks.
You know what would have been a good change? The lightsabers. You can’t sit there and tell me the lightsabers could not have been improved with CGI. The scene with Luke training against the remote aboard the Millennium Falcon still looks horrible. The blue blade is so washed out that it looks almost white. The lightsabers in this movie lack the vibrancy of colour that we will see in later films. Instead of fixing that George Lucas got too busy making Ewoks blink, adding aliens where they are not wanted, and reinserting scenes that were deleted for a reason.
I really hope one of these days Lucasfilm and Disney gets the right idea and releases the unaltered versions of the trilogy on Blu-ray. With the VHS, Laserdisc, and Betamax players no longer readily available there are no decent versions of the original trilogy to watch. There were Limited Edition DVD’s that contained them as a bonus discs, however those were direct transfers of the Laserdiscs and they look awful, sound awful, and are virtually unwatchable if you are using a large screen TV.
Oh well, no matter what stains and blemishes that may have been added to A New Hope it doesn’t cease to be a great movie and an immensely entertaining experience.

Check tomorrow for a review of The Empire Strikes Back and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Marvel #18-23

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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At last a good story arc! Some of the previous one-issue stories were decent, but this is the first extended arc in the comics that actually has a good story to tell. Devoid of green rabbits and speedo-wearing space pirates issues #18-23 is a tale of intrigue and complexity that respects its characters and actually delves into the Force where previous issues avoided the subject. Here marks the beginning the Marvel Star Wars line starting to tell intriguing stories fleshing out the characters and the Rebellion vs. The Empire. Gone is the era of Buck Rogers imitation and campy kitsch. The Star Wars EU is finally improving in quality. Now that isn’t to say that some of the goofiness of the series is wholly absent. But the goofiness is now balanced with the writing instead of sucking out the dignity of the Star Wars expanded universe with ridiculous plotlines and funny characters more at home in Flash Gordon than a Galaxy far, far away.

The story opens with Luke Skywalker aboard the Millennium Falcon falling into a comatose state after engaging in meditation in an attempt to improve his focus. The meditation technique accidentally leads him to touch the mind of Darth Vader causing his consciousness to war with Vader’s in a trance.
Han and Leia decide to find a medical facility but the Falcon accidentally drops out of hyperspace into an Imperial-infested sector after Solo forgets to readjust the navi-computer which was beginning to drift. The Falcon is accosted by an Advanced TIE Fighter which Han promptly destroys just before discovering in the sector a ravaged private merchant vessel with Tagge House markings. The Tagge family have strong ties with the Empire with one member even being a high ranking fleet commander. Aboard the vessel are dead and dying Rebel soldiers who were captured and then planted there by the Empire as a part of a plot to discredit the Rebel Alliance by framing them for piracy. Before they can get the Falcon out of there it is once again attacked by Advanced TIE Fighters led by an Imperial light battle cruiser commanded by a Commander Strom who is involved in the conspiracy to put the Rebellion in ill-repute.
The heroes flee to a nearby resort space station known as The Wheel. The Wheel is a known sanctuary for Imperial citizens containing a massive centre for gambling and gladiatorial entertainment. The Wheel is administrated by a former senator named Simon Greyshade whose facility has turned up major funding for the Empire’s military thanks to a tax on its profits. The tax has been especially lucrative because sanctuary policy against Imperial interference aboard the resort has made The Wheel a popular haven for gamblers. Han and his companions assume to take advantage of this sanctuary, but meet with complications when the Falcon and the two droids Artoo and Threepio are impounded due to illegal docking without a permit. Furthermore to make things more complicated Commander Strom decides to violate the sanctuary agreement by sending a detachment of Stormtroopers aboard the station to find the Rebels and eliminate them. Leia and the two droids are captured by Greyshade while Chewie is arrested and thrown into the gladiator pits. Meanwhile, Han in a bid to pay for the Falcon and the droids agrees to participate in the gladiator games voluntarily.
It is revealed that the Empire’s scheme to frame the Rebellion is a part of a plan to justify an Imperial takeover of the facility. The Tagge merchant vessel was delivering Wheel profits making a Rebel attack a serious economic threat. The Empire hopes convincing the resort visitors of this will make them open to Imperial control without losing a large portion of their patronage. Greyshade is in league with Commander Strom in this venture under the promise that his administration would remain unaltered when the Wheel changed hands.
Elsewhere, Darth Vader who sensed Luke’s meditative contact through the Force is now on the hunt for him. Aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer the Dark Lord orders Captain Wermis to change course toward The Wheel so he can track him down.Meanwhile,  Luke who has been treated at the Wheel’s medical section overcomes his trance and breaks out of his bonds.
Leia escapes Greyshade and teams up with newly awakened Luke and the droids to find a way to rescue Han and Chewie. They witness some of Greyshade’s personal guard stealing back the profits that were used by the Empire to frame the Alliance and Leia realises that her former senate colleague is double-crossing the Empire for some reason of his own. She quickly discovers what that reason is when he recaptures her and tells her what he wants. He has developed a romantic attachment to and has plotted a scheme to convince her to leave with him and start a new life away from the Empire. In return he promises to release Han and Chewie and let her friends go away from Strom’s hands. This, of course, does not sit well with the princess; but she relents when she senses no other options. Things, however, drastically change when Han fakes his own death in the gladiator arena which is once again set in the zero-gravity environment of space. With Han Solo slaying a giant lizard with a lightsaber and twice now enduring space with no suit I am beginning to wonder if the smuggler’s trade is a pathway to many abilities some to consider to be unnatural.
And in other news Commander Strom discovers Greyshade’s treachery and orders his men to hunt him and the Rebels down and kill them. Amid the chaos Greyshade gives up his dreams of having Leia for his own and flees with his droid companion Master-Com (the only true friend he ever had) only to be caught by an enraged and bitter Strom. Greyshade throws a grenade at the Commander killing him, but the close range of the blast fatally injures the former senator and damages Master-Com beyond repair.
Luke, Leia, and the droids escape in Greyshade’s private yacht and Han and Chewie take off in the Falcon. At this point Darth Vader and Captain Wermis arrive and attack the Falcon when Vader recognises it as the ship that shot him during the Death Star battle. Luke saves his friends when he once again meditates and releases strong feelings of rage toward Vader which temporarily incapacitates him buying them enough time to jump to hyperspace.

This story arc has its flaws, but overall it was a well-written piece. I enjoyed seeing the Force given more exploration this time around and it’s great to see Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, Threepio, and Artoo all have a fair amount of time to shine in the story. The characters are fleshed out and given plenty to do.
Casual readers may not notice, but the Tagge family which owned the merchant ship used in the Imperial ploy has appeared in A New Hope. The Imperial officer aboard the Death Star who expressed his fears that the Rebels may exploit the Death Star plans was a member of the Tagge House. This family’s affairs will be explored further in the Marvel series.
The overall story is pretty good and it doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence by giving a childishly simple plot. The political intrigue, while not at the level of complexity as War and Peace or even Dune, is still an impressive and unusual thing to see during this era of the EU.
Some minor gripes I have is largely to do with the resolution at the end. I find Greyshade’s true motives a bit stupid for a man who had it all. Throwing all his success away for a woman, even if she is Princess Leia, doesn’t fit the sort of character we are led to believe he is. Also I strongly dislike Luke using what is essentially Dark Side powers to escape Vader. Releasing anger in a fight is what Obi-Wan and the Jedi Order teach to avoid. It is an unsettling way to see Luke deal with a problem. And finally once again in one panel we see Luke turn on his lightsaber and the colour is red instead of blue. I still do not know why the artists were having difficulties representing Luke’s lightsaber colour accurately, but it seems to be a frequent inconsistency.
Otherwise, this arc is an excellent and worthwhile read.

Check in next time for my review of Star Wars Marvel issue #24: Silent Drifting and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Marvel #11-15

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Before Kamino the first water planet in the EU was a little world in the Outer Rim called Drexel. Instead of high-tech cloners we have seafaring brigands who use a sonic transmitter to cause approaching ships to crash and unlike the Kaminoans these pirates don’t care how well your manners are or how big your pocket book is. All they want is to take your ship for scrap and kill you in the process.
Unfortunately, for Luke Skywalker this happens to be the planet that he investigates during his search for a new Rebel base. After losing contact with Luke shortly Princess Leia takes it upon herself to look for him when she is suddenly captured by none other than the speedo-wearing space pirate Crimson Jack himself who is now the captain of a stolen Star Destroyer! Hoping to get a sizeable ransom from the Rebel Alliance for her safe return Captain Jack is frustrated when the Princess refuses to tell him where the secret base is. Hoping to find another way to persuade her he additionally captures Han Solo and Chewbacca using a tracer he installed on the Millennium Falcon after their previous encounter. Not realising that Leia is the same woman who saw an entire planet annihilated to protect the secret of the rebel base he seems to think threatening Han and Chewie would get him results. When this plan goes poorly Han Solo makes a counter-proposal by claiming that the reward that was stolen from them was only a small portion of a Rebel-owned treasure in the Drexel system. Leia and Han, hoping to find Luke and survive the pirate’s plans at the same time, agree to guide him the the Drexel system in exchange for their lives.
Meanwhile, Luke and the two droids Artoo and Threepio crash on planet Drexel thanks to the transmitter used by the local brigands. The band of robbers is led by an obese pirate named Captain Quarg who has an obsession with hanging anyone who happens to displease him. His group has had a longstanding feud with another group of locals called the Dragon Lords who ride the local Drexelian sea monsters across the planet’s ocean. Luke convinces Captain Quarg not to kill him by assuring the pirate that the mechanical skills of himself and the droids would be a greater asset to him in his war with the Dragon Lords than hanging him.
During this time Quarg reveals to Luke that his father was a former governor of an asteroid belt during the days of the Republic. However, the governor was deposed after butting heads with the Jedi Order who were informed that he was sharing profits in a business of wrecking space vessels to cannibalise scrap parts. The embittered governor escaped with his family and associates to Drexel and began the life of a pirate. A few years later a schism broke out among some of the technicians who were banished and later became the Dragon Lords.
Soon after this Crimson Jack’s ship arrives and is immediately assaulted by the transmitter. Han, Leia, and Chewie escape in the Millennium Falcon amid the chaos on the Star Destroyer and land on the planet in the middle of a battle between Quarg’s men and the Dragon Lords. The Millennium Falcon is hit and Han who was on the surface of the ship falls in the water enraging Chewbacca who sees Luke tinkering with the engines of one the vessels that attacked the Falcon. Chewie assumes Luke betrayed them and attacks him and the droids. Artoo, however, successfully knocks the Wookie out by smothering him with a fire extinguisher. Meanwhile Leia is captured by Quarg’s men and Han is rescued by the Dragon Lords who tell him that the Drexelian sea creatures they ride are actually sentient alien life forms who are helping them fight Quarg. With help from the Dragon Lords Han rescues his friends and the war against Quarg is ended in a great sea battle.
This leaves only the unfinished business with Captain Jack whose ship survived the attack from the transmitter thanks to its mass size being too much for the sonic device to bring down. The heroes take the Millennium Falcon for one final showdown against the space pirates eventually leading to a space duel between Han and Jack using only blasters and oxygen helmets in the zero-g environment of space. Apparently Correllian smugglers and speedo-wearing pirates can survive the intense pressure of space without spacesuits. To make a long and tedious story short Han wins the duel, Crimson Jack dies, and the formerly man-hating Jolli has a change of heart toward Han Solo and sacrifices herself by betraying the pirate captain out of love for him. Cue vomiting.

This story was weak. It’s a weird mess with two factions of good guys and two factions of bad guys having it out in a convoluted plot that makes no sense. We see pirates who are smart enough to commandeer an Imperial Star Destroyer act stupid enough to believe an enemy who tells them they know where some treasure is. That’s a classic trick more worthy of the Loony Tunes than Star Wars! We also witness two men fighting in space without suits and an important political figure of the Rebellion and last surviving member of the Alderaan royal family be allowed to take off just to find a friend who is missing in action out in the Outer Rim. Did General Dodonna have his back turned or something? There are so many things in this story that don’t work and are just plain stupid that even without green rabbits and Roy Thomas’s writing I found this arc much less enjoyable than the previous one. The last arc was at least entertaining in its absurdity. This one was a pain and a bore to read. Oh, and apparently Leia can swim now even though in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye she revealed she couldn’t!

Check in for my next review of Issue #16: The Hunter in the Star Wars Marvel line and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Marvel #7-10

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

11

When you really sit down and think about it you realise how profoundly disturbing it is that the same Galaxy where Yoda once said “luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” and where Luke Skywalker strove to redeem his father, Darth Vader, from the Dark Side also witnessed an event where a giant, green six-foot bunny rabbit got mad and kicked a man while shouting “I ain’t no rodent!”
Tonal inconsistency permeates the Star Wars universe and this Marvel story arc I am reviewing today is one of the prime examples.
I have seen a good deal of motley crews from Seven Samurai to A Bug’s Life, but I have never seen anything quite so motley as this one before.
A giant rabbit, a space bimbo, a porcupine man, a Luke Skywalker ripoff with his pet droid, and a crazy man who thinks he is a Jedi all walk into a bar. Instead of producing a joke this setup sadly instead gives us the earliest EU story ever put to print. These comic issues predate Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and they have none of its charm or integrity.

The story focuses mostly on Han and Chewie with Luke and Leia only briefly showing up in a side plot here and there. All you need to know about that is Luke is assigned to find the Rebels a new planet to serve as their secret base now that Yavin 4’s location has been compromised. Leia and the Alliance command centre suddenly lose contact with Luke when he approaches planet Drexel. Leia goes off looking for him with the conclusion to this story being given in the following arc.
Meanwhile the rest of the arc is about Han and Chewie’s adventures after getting their reward for rescuing the Princess stolen by space pirates. The pirates, led by a speedo-wearing rogue named Crimson Jack and his crew, decide to leave Han and the Wookie alive after the robbery despite Jack’s man-hating crewmember Jolli’s protests. For some reason she takes an immediate dislike to Han Solo and would like nothing better than to blast him into space dust! Thankfully she does not get her way and the now impoverished smugglers decide to lay low on planet Aduba-3 until they can scrounge up enough cash to pay back Jabba the Hutt.
In town they encounter a mob harassing an insectoid-priest attempting to bury a body in a casket. The body belongs to a cyborg which enraged the bigoted mob who protest the idea of providing a funeral for a sentient with robotic parts. Han and Chewie break up the mob and save the grateful priest. A group of farmers observing their physical prowess approach them asking for help in dealing with a band of raiders led by a villain named Serji-X Arrogantus, the Arrogant One. For years his evil band have been stealing crops, supplies, and even young women when they come of age. Seeing an opportunity for some paying work the Han and Chewbacca agree to help.
At the local cantina the two smugglers recruit any able-bodied person willing to stand up to the raiders. The volunteers Han and Chewie acquire are all types of bizarre. First is an alien named Hedji who needs no blasters or weapons instead opting to shoot sharp deadly quills from his body. Next is Amaiza, a scantily clad gang-leader and former love-interest of Solo’s. The third is a crazed old man in possession of a lightsaber who claims to be the last of the Jedi named Don-Wan Kihotay. The ridiculous name only leaves me picturing a lusty Casanova fighting a windmill while wooing a maiden in distress. While this crazy old man of course, does none of those things anyone with a knowledge of Cervantes and Renaissance poets will see the stupid pun hidden in his name. Next we have the notoriously reviled Jaxxon (or Jax for short, which he isn’t). Jaxxon is a green-skinned six-foot rabbit whose species is called  Lepus Carnivorous. He hates being called a rodent or a bunny and you will run the risk of being kicked in the stomach while hearing a groan-inducing one-liner if you dare try it. And finally we have Jimm, the Starkiller Kid and his treadmill droid FE-9Q. Jimm is a rash, immature boy who reminds Han of Luke. Nostalgia being good enough of a reason to endanger a minor Han recruits him and his droid along with the others.

As they gather at the farms to meet the raiders in combat the band meets a shaman who tells them that their help is unneeded because he has the power to summon a great behemoth to destroy the marauders for them. He is ignored for a fool and while the old guy chants in a corner the battle begins. Not long after the fights wages on the shaman’s claims are proven true when a giant lizard arrives on the scene to kill Serji-X Arrogantus’s band. The shaman himself is crushed underneath the weight of the monster and is killed leaving the lizard no longer in control. After the raiding band is killed Han and his recruits are left to deal with the creature to protect the farm. I assumed Han Solo’s first and only use of a lightsaber was to make a bed out of a tauntaun but here we see him “borrow” Don-Wan Kihotay’s and slay the beast with it. Perhaps Han Solo should have been the one Obi-Wan sent to the Dagobah system?
After all that is said and done Han and Chewie leave the grateful village and Jimm the Starkiller Kid gets in good with one of the farmer’s daughters. Everyone is happy.

This story arc was really a poor way for the Expanded Universe to begin. Roy Thomas who briefly wrote and edited the first few arcs of the Star Wars Marvel run emphasised action and adventure over a lot of the things that made Star Wars great like the Force and the structure of the Empire. Thomas seemed to prefer giving Star Wars a more Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon feel with campy dialogue, flashy colours, and alien babes in skimpy costumes for our heroes to rescue. Later on when Archie Goodwin took Roy Thomas’s place we see some improvement, but for right now we have to contend with absurdity that rivals The Phantom Menace for levels of awkward embarrassment. Jaxxon and Don-Wan Kihotay are seriously, in my opinion, worse than Jar Jar Binks. Binks was annoying, but at least Gungans were still a cool visual design. Jaxxon, however, is not only annoying, but also a GIANT GREEN RABBIT! I will take Jar Jar and his complaints about “icky icky goo” over Bucky O’hare wannabes any day of the week.

One of the most startling moments is a piece of dialogue where Han Solo sees the insect-priest for the first time. Failing to identify the religion with which the priest was affiliated  Han commented that he should have not skipped so much Sunday School as a kid. I have to ask what exactly did “Sunday School” in the Star Wars galaxy involve? Is this why Han disbelieved in the Force calling it a “hokey religion?” What kind of churches are found in the Core Worlds and the Outer Rim? Supposedly, Lor San Tekka from The Force Awakens was a member of The Church of the Force. Perhaps they had Sunday School? I am overthinking this, though. Time to move on.

Issues #7-10 of the original Marvel line is a ridiculous start for the EU, but a good-natured reader may forgive the flaws if they can look at the old Marvel comics with nostalgia or amusement instead of dismay. When you get over the nonsense they are enjoyable as kitschy Star Wars memorabilia that we can laugh at in retrospect green rabbits or not.

Check in next time for my review of issues #11-15 of the Marvel Star Wars line and may the Force be with you.