Book Review: Star Wars: The Complete Classic Newspaper Comics, Vol. 2

In IDW/The Library of Amercian Comics’ on-going presentation of the Star Wars newspaper comics, Volume 2 presents eight stories that ran from October 6, 1980 through to September July 25, 1982. The Empire Strikes Back had been released in May 1980, but none of the events had any impact on the stories because the first, an adaptation of Brian Daley’s novel Han Solo at Star’s End, is set before the events of Star Wars, and the remaining stories are set between Star Wars and Empire.

Adapted by Archie Goodwin, who wrote all the other stories in this collection, and drawn by Alfredo P. Alcala, Star’s End finds Han and Chewie team up with a group, including a pair of droids, to rescue those kidnapped by the Corporate Authority, an organization that is basically a generic stand-in for the Empire. There is some intrigue as the heroes have a traitor in their midst, and the story unknowingly supports the idea that Han shoots first, countering the grievous change George Lucas made in Star Wars: The Special Edition.

Al Williamson drew the remainder of the series, using much more detail in his art, which made the locations more believable. He also did fantastic work on the ships, especially when he used more than a single-panel space. I am almost certain they were taped to many a child’s wall. The first story in this set by Goodwin and Williamson is “The Bounty Hunter of Ord Mantell.” The title character, Skorr, uses Luke and Leia as bait to capture Han in order to collect Jabba’s ransom.

In “Darth Vader Strikes” tries to use the Rebel Alliance to find traitorous admirals within the Empire, but little did he expect a rebel spy with command of the Force. Part of the reason Luke took the dangerous assignment was to get away from the growing relationship between Leia and Han. During this story and moving forward, the Sunday strips tell less of a story as one of the first two panels is a random Star Wars-related drawing followed by a particular item identified under tghe banner Star Wars Scrapbook. Luke meets supply tug operator Tabitha Shire, who not only helps him escape, but leads him to a planet where her people are enslaved by “The Serpent Masters.”

Han takes the lead in “Deadly Reunion,” but the suicidal scheme of the villain Dr. Arakkus, while an interesting idea, clearly can’t affect any of the main characters, lessening the stakes. The gang head to the water world Aquaris in “Traitor’s Gambit” where they meet Silver Frye, a woman who “leads one of the biggest gangs of pirates and mercenaries. Leia has welcomed them into the Rebel Alliance, but no surprise that someone is working with the Empire. When they return to the Rebel base on Yavin, they encounter “The Night Beast,” a familiar story of a creature that is not all that it seems.

The final story in this volume is the best, “The Return of Ben Kenobi.” Even readers of the time knew Ben was already on a different plane of existence, so there is no surprise that Luke blindly runs into a trap set by Darth Vader. What is a surprise is how much of an effect Ben continues to have on people even though he doesn’t appear in the story. Goodwin shows a character deciding to be a hero, a marvelous choice in any story.

In this second volume of Star Wars The Complete Classic Newspaper Comics, the universe expands as does the pleasure these stories provide. They are fun adventures that don’t require one to be well versed in the movies or other media of the franchise as Han and Luke trade off leading the stories.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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