Thursday, August 7, 2014

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago... Vol. 4

Written by David Michelinie, Jo Duffy,  Bob Layton, Archie Goodwin, Linda Grant, and Roy Richardson
Art by Gene Day, Tom Palmer, Kerry Gammill, Ron Frenz, Luke McDonnell, Bob Layton, Klaus Janson, Al Williamson, Carlos Garzon, Tom Mandrake, Bob McLeod, and David Mazzucchelli

The first comic I ever bought was Marvel's Star Wars #30, and with all of the hype surrounding the upcoming new movies, and the shifting of the license away from Dark Horse and towards Marvel, I've found myself occasionally wondering about those old licensed books, which I remember as being not all that good.  I was at a very good used bookstore the other week, which also carries a lot of remaindered graphic novels, and saw Volume 4 of Dark Horse's Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago..., their nice thick collections of the old Marvel stuff.  The price was great, so I thought I'd pick this up (mostly because I'm a sucker for Bobba Fett, and the cover made it seem like he was going to be prominent in the volume).

This book contains issues 68 through 85 of the regular Marvel series, an Annual (#3), and the four-part adaptation of Return of the Jedi (by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson, no less).

Most of the regular comics were written by Jo Duffy (whatever happened to her) and drawn by Ron Frenz, with very strong inks by the wonderful Tom Palmer.  There are a fair number of fill-in issues, some by writers I've never heard of, and a few real surprises in terms of artist choices, like Klaus Janson, and a very early David Mazzucchelli.

The stories varied a lot in quality.  This series was famously hampered by a lack of foreknowledge of what was going to happen in the next film, leaving the writers to find ways of crafting interesting stories that don't really develop the characters at all, and that don't contain information that's likely to be contradicted in the next movie.  For that reason, there is a lot of Chewbacca and Lando looking for the frozen Han Solo, without ever going directly to Jabba the Hutt.  After the events of Return, with Vader and the Emperor dead, the stories shift to Han's misadventures in reclaiming lost money, and having the characters travel around looking for planets to start working with the Alliance.

The focus is largely on the swashbuckling, as bounty hunters are chased, and lost Rebel pilots are hunted for.  There are some very unfortunate characters, such as Plif of the Hoojibs, a cutesy creature race that predates the Ewoks.  There are also some very good comics in here, such as the annual, which has two young boys decide which side of the galactic conflict they are on.

It was a bit of a trip to read these stories, despite the fact that I only ever owned one of them (having moved on from Star Wars comics to almost everything else Marvel published at this time).  There is a sense of naivety to these comics that matches the first Star Wars film, but considering the time period, I'm willing to forgive it.  Now, if Jason Aaron and John Cassaday's upcoming series reads like this...

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