Comic Review: Marvel Star Wars – Part 1

Continuing with my run-down of the Star Wars Legends continuity, I’m taking a look at the first chunk of Marvel’s initial run on Star Wars, falling between their adaptation of A New Hope to the start of Empire Strikes Back. Yeah, I said I wasn’t going to cover Marvel Star Wars, but I changed my mind.

Writers: Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin. Annual written by Chris Clairmont
Pencillers: Howard Chaykin, Carmine Infantino, Walter Simonson, Michael Golden.
Editor: Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Jim Shooter (After Jim becomes Editor of the Star Wars books, he stays editor until he becomes EIC – then Louise Simonson takes over – but that isn’t until after Empire.

Publication Date: 1977-80

Plot Notes

I’m going to go a little more general here, since the books are covering so much more material, with a bunch of little plot threads. The main focus is on the Rebel Alliance continuing to operate out of Yavin until they’re forced to withdraw and move to Hoth, while continuing to take on various other opponents within the Empire, in addition to Vader. Of particular note is the House of Tagge, relatives of Admiral Tagge, one of the officers stationed on The Death Star, who was killed during the Rebels attack. The plots involving the House of Tagge focus not only on their conflicts with the Rebel Alliance, but their political maneuverings within the Empire as well, as they blame Vader for Admiral Tagge’s death.

Ironically, the Holiday Special would establish that Tagge did evacuate with some of the crew when things started going bad, a position taken by the current Marvel Star Wars comics as well. One of the brothers, Orman Tagge was particularly notable, as he in particular tried to take on both Luke and Vader in Lightsaber duels, using his cybernetic eyes which heightened his senses. This did not help him and he eventually was killed in a duel with Luke Skywalker.

An additional plot thread was related to Han Solo’s attempts to pay his debt to Jabba the Hutt. In these comics, Jabba is depicted in a manner similar to the original footage shot in the hangar scene for A New Hope, with Jabba being a fat human(oid) gangster. Han actually pays his debts, but in a manner that humiliates Jabba, ultimately leading (as the comics approached The Empire Strikes Back), to Jabba once again sending bounty hunters after them.

Darth Vader takes a particular interest in finding Luke, once he learns that the pilot who fired the shot that destroyed the Death Star is Force Sensitive. As the comics approached The Empire Strikes Back, and as they start getting story notes, Vader’s interest in Luke comes to the forefront. I doubt that the big twist of Empire was spoiled for Marvel’s writing staff, but I don’t think they’d need it to get the idea that Vader wants to recruit Luke.

Luke and Leia do still have romantic tension, but there’s a Luke – Leia – Han love triangle.

World Building

  • In addition to various worlds and alien races, this series makes it clear that not all is tranquil within the Empire’s own power structure, and Vader himself is not free of factions seeking to remove him from his trusted position with the Emperor, such as the House of Tagge and Simon Greyshade.
  • As Leia said to Tarkin, the Empire cannot tighten their fist too far – there are political forces (including noble houses) that can’t be too unsettled without risking problems for the Empire, which is why the Empire tolerates The Wheel.
  • There is cybernetic augmentation – as is the case with bounty hunter Beilert Valance – who is a cyborg who hates droids and cybernetically augmented people.
  • There are organizations with religious beliefs other than in The Force (such as The Order of the Sacred Circle).

Character Development

Luke Skywalker: Slowly develops in his awareness of The Force, and becomes a better pilot.

Princess Leia: Continues to be an active part of the Alliance, including going on solo covert-ops missions.

Han Solo & Chewbacca: Returns to the Rebel Alliance after paying off their debt to Jabba the Hutt, either due to Han’s attraction to Leia, or support for the Rebel cause, or both.

Other Notes

Issue 18 is titled “The Empire Strikes” which immensely amuses me for no real reason (Empire Strikes Back doesn’t start in the comic until issue 39.

My Thoughts

It says a lot that the the primary artist of this era of Marvel Star Wars is a fairly big name – Carmine Infantino, who was the first artist to draw The Flash II (Barry Allen), and it says a lot that Marvel picked him to draw much of the comic. It’s also interesting how Marvel shifts gears early with the writers, going from Roy Thomas (who had written X-Men) to Archie Goodwin – who  was an early writer for Iron Man and the creator of Luke Cage. Star Wars is, during this period, a book that they were giving to established writers, because they didn’t want it screwed up.