Book Review: Star Wars: The Complete Classic Newspaper Comics, Vol. 3

IDW/The Library of American Comics’ presentation of the Star Wars newspaper comics concludes with Volume 3, which presents nine stories written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson and others that ran from July 26, 1982 until March 11, 1984. Return of the Jedi had been released in May 1983, but none of the movie’s events had any impact because these stories are set between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. The book opens with “A Matter of Character,” an essay by Rich Handley about those who joined the ranks of the Expanded Universe, rebranded “Star Wars Legends” after Disney bought LucasFilm in 2012.

The stories are enjoyable adventures with an arc that sees the Rebellion setting up on the ice planet Hoth where they are located when ESB opens. Characters from the films like Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt appear chronologically before their movie debuts, adding a depth to the characters’ relationships. There is also the addition of new characters such as the space pirate Raskar.

First up, Han and Chewie head off to find “The Power Gem” that Leia believes will help them deal with Darth Vader’s powerful new ship Executor because the legend of the gem states it has “an aura that shatters force fields.” The path takes them to a planet where Raskar is offering the gem to whomever wins in the gladiator arena. At the same time, Luke and C-3PO end up on “Iceworld,” which turns out to be Hoth. They find an Imperial Govenor and his daughter Frija in hiding. She is delighted to meet someone her age, but her father is so desperate to keep their whereabouts a secret he is willing to kill.

Admiral Ackbar and his Mon Calamari soldiers unite with the Rebel Alliance six months before “the next film of the Star Wars saga…Revenge of the Jedi,” so surely the original strips from November 13 and 14, 1982 are valuable collector’s items. Battling Stormtroopers is the easy part of “It’s a Trap” after worm-giants drag the Millennium Falcon to the bottom of a lake.

“Doom Mission” is one of Goodwin’s better stories as he creates a much more complicated character in Vrad Dodonna, the son of a Rebel General trying to live up to the pressure of living under his father’s shadow. Even better is “Race for Survival,” which sees the Rebels evacuating Yavin IV. Goodwin allows the behaviors of characters to reveal who they are, such as when a Rebel acts selflessly. In turn, the villains act devious, as shown by Imperial Admiral Griff, who strives to foil the escape and wants to do so without sharing the glory with Darth Vader who is en route. Matters are further complicated on all sides as they deal with a sun’s deadly stellar flares.

A number of characters return in the next few stories. Some folks close to Luke appear in “The Paradise Detour.” In “A New Beginning,” Raskar intends to earn Jabba the Hut’s bounty on Han Solo, but matters get further complicated in “Showdown” as Boba Fett seeks to make money off the capture of both Han and Luke. Skorr, previously seen in “The Bounty Hunter of Ord Mantell,” is part of Fett’s crew and he’s not interested in turning Han over alive.

Williamson and his assistants do fantastic work illustrating the stories. The settings are full of wonderful details as are the vehicles. The staging of characters and framing of the panel help to create a sense of action as the eye moves to different panels. There’s great shadows with the inks and the colors on Sundays are strong as well. The first two panels of the Sundays continue to feature characters, more closely resembling the actors, and scenes from the movies along with characters and vehicles. The strip creators and even George Lucas make an appearance.

It makes sense that the strip came to an end when it did. Star Wars fans would certainly have been longing to see post-Jedi adventures moving forward rather than having the characters work around not knowing how big the Skywalker really is. It’s just unfortunate because the strip improved as it went along. All three volumes of the Star Wars classic newspaper comics are recommended and fans will appreciate the Library of American Comics collecting them.

Gordon S. Miller

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

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