Monday, January 31, 2011

14. The Rebel Storm

"The Rebel Storm" is the second volume published by Dark Horse that collects the newspaper strips that were originally published in the early 80's. As with the previous volume, the strips are not cut and paste directly into a trade paperback format, but they are edited and redrawn where necessary to make the story flow better in this format. While in the first volume this completely eliminated any repetition that necessarily appears in newspaper strips, in this volume there was a few times where the repetition was apparent, and it detracted from the flow of the story.

The stories in this volume were not as engaging as the first volume, and they seemed to develop a lot more slowly as well. There was a lack of character depth and development that made the first volume so enjoyable.

The last volume concluded with the Rebel heroes on Aquaris, trying to determine if the leader of Aquaris, Silver Fyre, was sincere in her commitment to the rebellion. When there is an accident involving Luke's underwater skimmer, and it's revealed that one of Silver Fyre's associates is an imperial spy.

The rebels return to Yavin and are caught in a battle where an imperial bomber crashes into the ruins of the ancient Massassi, releasing a monster into the rebel base. The monster has some force ability, and Luke is able to use the force to trick the monster into leaving the planet. This story arc was interesting because of the force ability of the monster, knowing what is revealed about the Massassi in later comics and books.

Following this, Luke is sent on a mission to a desert planet, where he encounters someone who appears to be Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke is fooled completely, until the person who hired this impostor, Darth Vader, arrives to spring the trap.

The next story arc focuses on Han and Chewbacca and their quest to find a power gem that could be used by the Rebels to destroy the Empire's latest super-weapon. They discover that there is a gladiator contest going on to determine who will get the power gem, but Han devises a plan to trick the former pirate who owns the gem into turning it over to him.

The next story has Luke and C-3P0 on the run from Imperials, and they escape by entering the slipstream of a passing comet, which takes them to the ice planet Hoth. There they find a father and daughter that have lived there for years, only to find out they were androids. Han and Chewbacca arrive to rescue Luke, and they are able to determine that this would be an excellent place for a secret rebel base.

When they leave Hoth and to request the aid of the Mon Calamari, only to find that the Mon Calamari fleet there has been defeated. It appears that some of the Mon Calamari may have escaped to the planet Daluuj. The heroes follow this lead and find the Mon Calamari, but have to tangle with an Imperial presence before they are able to leave.

Vader arrives as they are escaping, and his new ship, The Executor, is involved in a battle with a Republic cruiser. When the heroes return to Yavin, they find a distraught General Dodonna who has received word that his son was killed in battle. Much to the General's relief, his son soon arrives on planet in a battered ship. However, Luke recognizes the ship as one that fled undamaged from the battle, and questions Dodonna's son Vlad about this. Their conversation breaks into a fight, but before it can be resolved Vlad is summoned and assigned the task of taking the gem that Han and Chewbacca obtained and using it to destroy The Executor. Luke volunteers to go with him on this apparent suicide mission, because he doesn't trust Vlad to carry it out.

This story will conclude in "Escape to Hoth", which will be the end of the newspaper reprints. I hope it returns to the form of the previous edition. In general I've enjoyed the newspaper reprints more than the Marvel comics. It's too bad that the Marvel stories seem so shallow compared to the newspaper comics. Maybe that will change after "Return of the Jedi".

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

13. In Deadly Pursuit

"In Deadly Pursuit" is actually the first collection of newspaper strips published by Dark Horse, but it doesn't include the first newspaper strips. The earliest newspaper strips were re-published in Volume 4 of Classic Star Wars, "The Early Adventures". That is why I read volume 4 first and then volume 1. As with the previous Classic Star Wars collection, I was very impressed with this one. In general, the stories are engaging, the characters act the way they did in the movies, and the art is very good. This volume also includes some information on how these Classic Star Wars collections were made. They are not a simple copy of what was published in the newspapers. They have been edited, re-formatted, touched up, and colored. I think that Dark Horse has done a marvelous job in all aspects, and I'm thoroughly enjoying reading through these comics.

There are several story arcs presented in this volume. The first focuses on the bounty hunter from Ord Mantell that Han mentions in "The Empire Strikes Back". First, I appreciate how this medium is used to expand on a topic brought up during the movie. These off hand comments in the movies beg to be developed into full blown stories, and I'm glad they are done in these comics. The story tells how Han was almost captured by this bounty hunter, and shows his narrow escape.

The second story is very interesting because it features a group of Imperial admirals that are plotting the downfall of Darth Vader. They have realized that it is only a matter of time before they fall victim to Vader's choke hold, and have decided to take action. They contact the rebellion for help and Luke is sent on the mission. But things take an unexpected turn when a double agent is revealed. In my opinion, this is one of the best story arcs in any of the comics I've read so far.

Luke is able to escape from the failure of his mission with the help of a shuttle pilot/thief named Tanith. She takes him to her home planet where he and the droids are enslaved along with Tanith and her family. With the help of R2, he is able to overthrow the slavers and rendezvous with Leia who is on a diplomatic mission on the planet Kabal.

Soon after his arrival, Kabal comes under attack from an Imperial armada, but Luke and Leia are rescued by Han and Chewbacca. Upon escape, they are trapped by a disgruntled Imperial scientist who has decided that they need to die with him since it is the fault of the Rebellion that he has suffered radiation poisoning.

Our heroes once again escape, but are then sent to the planet Aquaris, since Leia has recently reached an agreement with the leader of Aquaris, Silver Fyre, that Aquaris will join the rebellion. Han has his doubts however, because he knows Silver is a double crossing smuggler. The collection ends here, with the story to be picked up in the next volume.

Here is the collection described above:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

12. Screams in the Void

"Screams in the Void" is the fourth in the series of Dark Horse collections of Marvel comics. It contains issues 54-67 of Marvel's Star Wars run, as well as the second annual. In my opinion, these are the best stories to come out of the Marvel comics so far. The stories generally cover multiple issues, which allows for deeper and more complex stories. New characters are introduced, such as Shira Brie, and other characters are explored with more depth, specifically Lando.

Issue 54 concludes the story begun in issue 53. It is revealed that one of Aron Peacebringer's assistants, Ygal Delois, is working with General Sk'ar, who is himself in league with the Empire. Aron and Leia are able to make it to Sk'ar's ship, where they attempt to defuse a giant bomb that Sk'ar is planning to use. Luke, Lando, Chewbaca, and another of Aron's associates, Kéral Longknife, distract the Imperial forces while Leia defuses the bomb. After she is successful, Chewbacca tosses a gun emplacement that results in the destruction of Sk'ar's ship.

Issue 55 introduces the reader to the Hoojibs, a race of telepathic rabbits that inhabit a planet the Rebels are scouting for use as a base. While the Hoojibs may seem annoying to some, reminding people of some of the other annoying characters and creatures that have made an appearance in Star Wars like Ewoks, I actually enjoyed the Hoojibs. Regardless of how you feel about them, the rebels help the Hoojibs destroy a space creature that has been tormenting, and in return the Hoojibs allow the rebels to use their home as base. The rebels continue to use this base for some time, and the Hoojibs and their leader Plif continue to make an appearance throughout the rest of this collection.

Issue 56 presents Lando's return to Cloud City. He finds that the Ugnaughts that had previously worked for him have left bombs throughout the city as revenge for the work they were forced to do. He also finds his former assistant Lobot, who has been damaged and now believes that Lando is trying to destroy Cloud City. The Imperials have also arrived, but their bomb squad is killed when they attempt to disarm the bombs, and only their captain, Hugo Treece, survives. Treece and Lando are forced to team up so that they can repair Lobot since he is able to disarm the bombs. But after Lobot is repaired, Treece double crosses Lando and shoves him off of the side of Cloud City. In issue 57 Lobot, who is now fully recovered, takes a jet-pack and dives off the edge to rescue Lando, and they land safely on the surface below.

Lando and Lobot land near an Ugnaught news crew, and they are then taken to see the Ugnaught king, King Ozz. It seems that Ugnaughts have been used as slave labor since the Imperials took over Cloud City, and Lando promises to help them defeat the Imperials. Luke and a fellow pilot Shira Brie, arrive to investigate and get caught in the battle between the Imperials and the Ugnaughts. Luke uses the force to trick everyone into believing the Ugnaught bombs have exploded and the Cloud City is about to plummet to the planet's surface. The Imperials beat a hasty retreat, leaving Luke to explain the deception to his allies.

Issue 58 finds the rebels hiding their fleet inside of a sun, protected by an energy pyramid. But there is a malfunction in the pyramid generator and a gas is released that renders everyone in the generator station unconscious, except for the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO. R2 and 3PO make a space walk to repair the damage, saving the entire Rebel fleet.

Meanwhile, Luke, Chewbacca, and Lando have traveled to the planet Bazarre, where they are trying to obtain some TIE fighters from a black market dealer named Orion Ferret, and this adventure is described in issue 59. (Just a side note, but never trust a black market dealer named Ferret.) Luke and Lando are sent to a nearby trash planet where the TIE fighters are being hidden, but Ferret has tricked them and plans to keep their money and the Millenium Falcon while they remain trapped on the trash planet. However, Chewbacca prevents Ferret from escaping, and Luke and Lando are able to escape the trash planet with the help of some people who have made it their home. In the end, they are able to tow the TIE fighters back to the Rebel base.

The purpose of these TIE fighters is revealed in issue 60, when Luke, Shira, and some other pilots use them to get close to an Imperial base and destroy it. After destroying it, it is revealed that a secret set of coordinates needs to be obtained in order to find the rebel base and return to it. Luke is given these, and upon their return Shira requests them as well since she needs to leave for a personal matter. Leia refuses, but Luke volunteers to go with her since he knows the coordinates. There are several allusions to a budding romance between Luke and Shira, and Leia is not happy about it.

Shira leads Luke and a few other rebel pilots to her home planet of Shalyvane. There they encounter the Em'liy warriors, who wiped out Shira's village when she was a child. They are able to defeat the Em'liy and escape after Shira has performed a ritual to honor her fallen family members.

In issue 61, the rebels have discovered that the Empire is transporting a being called a Teezl, and make plans to use their stolen TIE fighters to destroy it. Problems arise when the Imperials launch their own TIE fighters, and the rebels are not able to tell friend from foe. During the conflict, Luke is about to destroy the ship carrying the Teezl, but another TIE fighter is in his way. Using the force, he senses that the pilot is working for the Empire, so he destroys it in order to get to the Teezl and destroy it as well. However, when Luke returns to base he is not welcomed as a hero, because another rebel pilot has a recording showing that the last TIE fighter Luke destroyed was piloted by his close friend Shira.

Issue 62 begins with Luke as an outcast within the Rebellion. Lando allows Luke and Chewbacca to take the Millenium Falcon back to Shalyvane to find out why the force told Luke that Shira should be killed. They are again attacked by Em'liy, but when Luke is fleeing he finds an old Em'liy named G'hinji. G'hinji tells Luke that humans have never lived on Shalyvane, and that Shira's story was a lie. Luke returns to the ruins where Shira had performed a ritual and Luke repeats the ritual. Surprisingly, as the ritual completes, Darth Vader springs from the ruins.

It is quickly revealed in issue 63 that this Darth Vader is actually a hologram. This holographic Vader informs Luke that Shira was a spy. Luke isn't fully convinced, so he and Chewbacca journey to Krake's Planet, which houses a huge Imperial data center. Luke discovers that Vader was telling the truth, and he and Chewbacca are able to escape with the evidence that Shira was a spy.

Issue 64 is a forgettable issue involving Luke journeying to the planet Serphidi to prevent the Empire from establishing a base there.

A trial is held in issue 65 to determine Luke's fate regarding the killing of Shira Brie. Once Luke is able to show that she was a spy, he is cleared to resume duty. And duty calls soon, as it is discovered that the rocks on a planet called Golrath are capable of recording images of events that happen there. This is worrisome to the rebellion because the Empire has recently taken control of Golrath and the rocks may reveal the location of the latest secret Rebel base. Leia leads a mission to destroy the rocks and is successful, but Luke's X-Wing fighter is damaged in the escape, and he is left behind when the rest of the Rebels hyperspace away from the pursuing Imperials.

He is forced to land on the planet Beheboth in issue 66. In order to work for a way off of the planet, he gets hired as a bodyguard for a local moisture farmer. He is able to help her overcome the bandits that have been stealing water.

The second Star Wars annual is also included in this collection. It has Luke, Lando, and C-3PO on the run from Imperials when they stumble upon a shrine with a huge statue of Han Solo. The keeper of the shrine explains how Han saved the planet from a series of oppressive rulers. The rulers, called Satabs, had used the power of a mystical stone called the Shadeshine to rule the planet. The Shadeshine gave the Satabs super-human powers, but caused them to die within a year. In order to avoid dying, the Satabs entered a stasis chamber and stayed in suspended animation in anticipation of a cure. The current Satab was trying to pass this power on to Han, but was prevented by one of his consorts who kept the Satab out of the stasis chamber, resulting in his death. This consort then goes into the stasis chamber herself instead of passing on the Shadeshine, and the rule of the Satabs ended. Armed with the knowledge of the stasis chamber, Luke is able to trick the stormtroopers into entering, allowing himself and the others to escape.

R2-D2 gets lost in the Hoojib caverns in issue 67, and C-3PO and Chewbacca chase after to rescue him. They find an abandoned city beneath the Hoojib home, and also find that it is guarded by a malevolent creature called The Darker. The Darker is trying to use R2-D2 to escape the force field that imprisons him in this city, but C-3PO and Chewbacca are able to defeat him and rescue R2.

Overall, I found these stories much more entertaining than previous Marvel comics. The Shira Brie story arc was the best so far, and the recurring hoojibs contribute as well. The stories that span a single issue are generally weaker, but they are becoming more uncommon as the series continues. With this collection it seems that the Marvel stories have turned a corner. It's also good to see the addition of new characters that do not appear in the movies, on the rebel and Imperial sides.

Here is the collection that I'm reading through:

And here is the more recently published omnibus that includes the same stories:

Next I will return to the comic strip collections to begin reading In Deadly Pursuit (Classic Star Wars, Volume One).

Friday, January 14, 2011

11. Resurrection of Evil

"Resurrection of Evil" is the next volume in Dark Horse's collection of Marvel comics. It includes issues 39 through 53 of the Marvel run. This volume includes the comic version of "The Empire Strikes Back", along with eight other stories about the Rebel heroes.

"The Empire Strikes Back" comic version is good. There is nothing significantly different than what appears in the movies. The artwork is slightly improved over previous Star Wars comics.

Once "The Empire Strikes Back" comic version is complete, issue 45 features a story called "Death Probe." The Empire has made some enhancements to the Probe Droid seen in "The Empire Strikes Back", and Luke must prevent it from destroying the Rebel fleet.

Issue 46 has a story called "The Dreams of Cody Sunn-Childe", which is the first story to feature Lando Calrissian in a prominent role since his introduction in "The Empire Strikes Back." Cody Sunn-Childe is a former hero of the Republic who disappeared several years ago, and Lando and Chewbacca find him in an alternate dimension when they have problems with their hyper-drive. Sunn-Childe has turned his back on warfare and established a colony of pacifists on this dimensional pocket. Unfortunately, the Empire is able to track Lando and Chewbacca, and subsequently launch an attack on Sunn-Childe's city. During the attack, Lando and Chewbacca escape, but the Star Destroyer that was chasing them remains trapped in the other dimension.

Issue 47 features R2-D2 and C-3PO as the main characters in "Droid World", as they are tasked with taking a newly captured Imperial war droid to a place called Kligson's Moon, where Kligson can repair it. Kligson is a reclusive droid expert, who has abandoned the company of organics and surrounds himself with droids. However, one of his droids turns against him and starts a revolt, forcing Kligson to move his space station even farther away from the Empire and the Rebellion.

Issue 48 focuses on Princess Leia's efforts to obtain financing from Aargau in order to purchase new X-Wing fighters. The title of this issue is "The Third Law", which is a reference to the law which prohibits non-citizens from carrying weapons, but requires it of citizens. "The Third Law" again has Leia and Vader involved in diplomatic sparring, which is just not very interesting to read. Since no outside weapons are allowed, Vader brings three beings with what appear to be super-powers. Leia and the diplomat she brings with her, Viscount Tardi, are able to defeat these three aliens. Vader is finally successful in completing his goal, which was to kill Tardi, only to find out that it wasn't the real Tardi, but an android instead. But, it is revealed that Vader knew he was being tricked, and he has already secured his real goal, which was to obtain the crown jewels of Alderaan that Leia had brought for collateral.

There are so many problems with this story. Weapons are not allowed, but Vader is allowed to bring his lightsaber since he claims it's a ceremonial weapon. Why couldn't he have simply used the force to trick the guards into allowing his assassins to bring weapons? And the politics and financing of the war seem out of place. If the Empire is as dominant as is implied by the movies and other comics, why does this banking planet even exist outside of their influence? And if the real goal was to obtain the crown jewels, why didn't he just attack the rebel ship that brought Leia and Tardi? Why did he have to bribe the guard, when he could just as easily use the force to persuade him to give him the jewels?

Issue 49 has Luke and Leia traveling to the respond to a rescue beacon that has begun transmitting. Their hope is that the beacon belongs to a member of the royal household of Velmor, which is trying to decide to stay loyal to the Rebellion or join the Empire. They do indeed find the rightful heir of the throne of Velmor, and successfully return him to his home planet where he pledges his loyalty to the Rebellion.

Issue 50 is titled "The Crimson Forever" and involves the heroes trying to find a cure for a deadly disease that has been contracted by Luke and many other rebels. Leia thinks the disease may be related to a story told to her by Han Solo, and that story is told in flashback form. That story involves two crystals found in the Red Nebula, so the heroes head there to investigate. Upon arrival, they find a House of Tagge mining ship that is being captained by Domina Tagge. She has hired some familiar bounty hunters, IG-88, Bossk, Dengar, and Zuckuss, to spread the Crimson Forever plague in an effort to destroy the Empire and the Rebellion as revenge for the deaths of her brothers. The heroes thwart her plans and the story ends with the implication that the bounty hunters have decided to turn Domina in for a reward from the Empire.

Issues 51 and 52 contain the only multi-issue story outside of "The Empire Strikes Back" in this volumn. The Empire is recreating part of the Death Star, specifically the giant cannon, and have named it after Tarkin. Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and the droids are sent to destroy it before it can be used.

Issue 53 begins a story that has Leia crashing onto the planet Shiva IV. There she finds a primitive society led by Aron Peacebringer and Keral Longknife. She is quickly accepted into their society, due mostly to Aron's infatuation with the Princess. However their romance is cut short when they are captured by Imperial stormtroopers and brought before the alien General Sk'ar. And that is where this collection ends.

Overall, I found these stories to be pretty disappointing. There are no extended story arcs that allow the reader to find out more about the characters or their situations. Many of the stories are very strange and don't seem to fit in the Star Wars universe. Issues 46 through 48 are the worst issues so far. While the character of Cody Sunn-Childe in issue 46 is interesting, the idea that he could create a pocket dimension with the power of his mind seems silly. The Kligson character in issue 47 is simply annoying, and issue 48 was just terrible. Issue 53 is an improvement, but the conclusion of this story is left for the next volume.

Here is the edition that I read through:

The stories discussed above are actually split in the new omnibus that are currently being printed. Omnibus volume 2 contains issues 28 through 49, and volume 3 contains 50 through 67.

If I were to continue to read the comics in the order of publication, I would probably read "Classic Star Wars Volume 1: In Deadly Pursuit" next, but I'm interested to see how the cliffhanger ending of this volume will resolve, so I will continue with "A Long Time Ago"'s next volume, "Screams in the Void".

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10. The Empire Strikes Back

I enjoyed the novelization of "The Empire Strikes Back" much more than the novelization of "A New Hope". I think it is mostly due to the writing of Donald Glut. It's unfortunate that he has not written other novels for the Star Wars Universe. While Foster's writing of "A New Hope" seemed dry and uninteresting, Glut's writing really brings "The Empire Strikes Back" to life. The characters and scenes are more vivid, and the book is simply more enjoyable to read.

This novelization also follows the film a lot more closely than the novelization for "A New Hope". There are only some minor differences, although there is more information in the book regarding Luke's training on Dagobah. It's mentioned that Yoda is a blue-skinned alien, and at the end Luke actually falls out of Cloud City and is still falling when the Millennium Falcon rescues him. There are other examples, but really they are just adjustments to scenes and nothing consequential.

In case you're not familiar with it, the story picks up with the Rebels hiding in a secret base on the ice planet Hoth. While on patrol, Luke is attacked and captured by a monster. He manages to escape using the force, but collapses in a bitter, freezing snowstorm. Before losing consciousness, he has a vision of Obi-Wan, who instructs him to go to Dagobah and find Yoda so that he can complete his Jedi training. Han volunteers to search for Luke in the storm and finds him, and they are both rescued in the morning.

Han and Chewbacca were also responsible for destroying an Imperial Probe droid, but not before the droid was able to send a message indicating the presence of the rebel base. The Empire attacks, forcing the rebels to flee. While Han, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia get trapped in an asteroid storm, Luke goes to Dagobah as instructed. Han, Chewbacca, and Leia escape the asteroid storm, but are followed by the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

While Luke finds the diminutive Yoda and begins his training, the rest of the heroes flee to Cloud City, a mining facility run by an old friend of Han, Lando Calrissian. Lando, however, has been forced into a deal with the Empire, and turns the heroes over to Darth Vader and Boba Fett. This is all part of an elaborate trap that is being set for Luke Skywalker.

One odd thing that struck me as I was reading the book is that the time span of these two stories seem wrong. It seems as if the time that Luke spends on Dagobah is measured in months, while the time the heroes spend on Cloud City is at most a couple of days. But then they somehow end up on Cloud City at the same time. Maybe my perception is just wrong.

Darth Vader tortures the captured Han Solo knowing that Luke will be able to see his pain through the force. Luke does and prepares to leave for Cloud City. Yoda and the ghost of Obi-Wan advise against this, saying that Vader will be able to turn him to the dark side of the force, but Luke persists. As he's leaving, Obi-Wan laments that he was their last hope, but Yoda cryptically replies that there is another.

At this point, Han Solo has been frozen into a carbonite slab, but he is still alive. Boba Fett prepares to take Solo to Jabba the Hutt to collect the bounty, but Luke arrives and causes a disruption. Luke follows his feelings which lead him to a conflict with Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Lando has had a change of heart and releases Leia and Chewbacca, telling them he knows how they can save Han. Unfortunately they do not arrive in time, and Boba Fett leaves with Han Solo. Lando, Leia, and Chewbacca make their way back to the Millennium Falcon and prepare to depart.

Luke's battle with Vader is still raging, and reaches a climax when Vader cuts of Luke's hand, leaving him defenseless. But Vader does not kill Luke, but instead tries to recruit Luke to help him overthrow the Emperor. His efforts intensify when he reveals that he is actually Luke's father. Luke can't believe him, even as he realizes it is true. But instead of giving in and joining with Vader, he decides to jump to his death instead.

However, Princess Leia, now aboard the Millennium Falcon, feels Luke's distress, and orders Lando to guide the ship back to Cloud City, where the rescue Luke and prevent him from falling to his death. The story ends with Luke receiving a bionic hand, and Lando and Chewbacca leaving to search for Han Solo.

As I said previously, I really enjoyed this novelization. Even if you've seen the movie, you will enjoy some of the insights into the thoughts of the characters that can't be communicated through film.

Friday, January 7, 2011

9. Dark Encounters

Dark Encounters is the second collection of Marvel comics that were republished by Dark Horse. It includes issues 21-38 and annual #1, which were originally published between March of 1979 and August of 1980. These comics take you right up to the time of "The Empire Strikes Back."

Issues 21-23 finish off the story that started in the "Doomworld" collection. If you remember, Luke has just awoken from his coma, Han Solo and Chewbacca have been pressed into service as gladiators, and Leia is being held captive by the former Senator Greyshade, who is in charge of The Wheel space station where they are all trapped.

It turns out that Luke's coma was caused when he accidentally reached out with the force and touched the mind of Darth Vader. Not only did this cause his coma, but it also alerted Darth Vader to his presence, and so Vader redoubles his efforts to find Luke.

In issue 22 Han and Chewbacca realize they are both signed up as gladiators, which poses a tremendous problem as the fights are to the death and only one can escape. Greyshade tries to persuade Leia to flee with her in exchange for the lives of her friends, while Chewbacca apparently kills Han in the gladiator arena. Issue 23 reveals that this was just a ruse to allow them to escape. Greyshade has a change of heart and allows Leia, Luke, and the droids to leave, even sacrificing himself to aid their escape. Everyone meets at the Falcon and the escape from Darth Vader and the Empire, again.

Issue 24 is a flashback to a story of Obi-Wan, and tells how he helped a cruise ship escape from some pirates long ago.

Issue 25 begins a new story arc involving an attack on Yavin's moon by the Empire aligned House of Tagge. The House of Tagge is using their mining operations as a cover to sneak TIE fighters into a position where they can attack the rebel base. Issue 26 details how Luke is able to find and destroy the hidden Imperial base located on the gas giant Yavin. Baron Orman Tagge follows Luke as he escapes, while all the TIE fighters and Imperials on the secret base are trapped forever in what remains of the Imperial base.

Issue 27 features the return of the bounty hunter Valance, and it's revealed that his hatred of droids is due to the fact that he is forced to live as a cyborg. He is still hunting Luke, who is saved by the heroics of C-3PO.

Jabba the Hut (still misspelled) returns in issue 28, but it's not the Jabba we'll see in "Return of the Jedi", but the humanoid that first appeared in the comics adaptation of "A New Hope". Jabba is pursuing Han personally, and appears to have him trapped on the planet Orleon. Jabba's plans to capture Han are thwarted by a cave full of metal eating insects, and Jabba is forced to ask Han for help before his ship is eaten. Jabba agrees to forgive Han's debt in exchange for rescue.

Inspired by Luke and his faithful droid C-3P0, the bounty hunter Valance has decided to become his protector instead of his hunter. In issue 29, this sets up a conflict between Valance and Vader, who is still hunting Luke. While Luke escapes, Valance is killed in his battle with Vader.

Issue 30 features a story of Leia and her mission to start an uprising on the planet Metalorn. She has another run-in with Baron Orman Tagge, who by this point has become a recurring character.

Annual #1 finds the Luke and Leia captured by Kharys, who is the winged Majestrix of the planet Skye. Han and Chewbacca go to rescue them but are shot down by the local Imperial presence. Meanwhile, the Supreme Council of the Highland Clans that rule part of Skye recognize the lightsaber that Luke carries as the same one that was carried by a student Jedi who rescued their planet years before. According to the Supreme Council, this student Jedi had been traveling with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, and the implication is that this other Jedi was Luke's father. Based on this, Luke and Leia are released and they, along with the S'Kytri, attack the Imperial base on the planet and rescue Han and Chewbacca.

Issue 31 begins a story arc that has Luke returning to Tatooine to recruit pilots for the rebellion. While there he finds out about another plot by the House of Tagge, but is unsure about the nature of the plot. The story continues in issue 32 when Luke, now joined by Han and Chewbacca, determine that the House of Tagge scientist is working on the Omega Frost, a device that freezes a huge area, and is testing it in the most challenging place possible, Tatooine.

In issue 33 Luke, Han, and Chewbacca follow the House of Tagge ship off Tatooine as it rendezvous with an Imperial battlecruiser. Luke is lured into a trap and fights Baron Tagge in a lightsaber duel, with Tagge using a lightsaber he had acquired several years earlier. Han leaves to warn the Rebels of an impending attack from the Empire, but is misinformed and is actually leading them into a larger trap. In issue 34 Luke is able to disable the Omega Frost and the rebel fleet in turn destroy's Tagge's mining ship, supposedly killing Baron Tagge and his scientist brother who developed the Omega Frost.

Issue 35 continues the House of Tagge saga, as Darth Vader sets in motion a trap for Luke Skywalker involving two more members of the Tagge family, Ulric Tagge, an Imperial general, and Domina Tagge, a member of the peaceful Order of the Sacred Circle. Domina goes to the rebels on the ruse that she is trying to prevent the Order from siding with the Empire, and based on her obvious affection for Luke, it is decided that he should be the diplomat on this mission.

In issue 36 the negotiations do not go as planned, as Luke is not even allowed to make his presentation before the Order decides to join the Empire. Vader is the representative on behalf of the Empire and challenges Luke, but Domina forces them to take their conflict outside, to the Crystal Valley. Meanwhile it's revealed that Baron Tagge did not die, but in fact has managed to sneak aboard the Millenium Falcon, which is orbiting the planet observing the negotiations. Issue 37 has Baron Tagge landing in the Crystal Valley to confront Vader, but Vader uses the force to convince Luke that Tagge is Vader, and Luke kills Tagge, closing this story arc for now.

In Issue 38 Luke and Leia take an errant hyperspace jump and end up in the void, the space between galaxies. Their ship is caught by a gigantic organic space creature, that eventually returns them home and destroys the Imperial cruiser that was chasing them. The artwork in this issue is superior to others, as it features the talents of Michael Golden.

As you can probably tell from these recaps, most of the issues are one-shot stories. Except for issues 31-37, there is very little in terms of a continuous story arc. While there may be some recurring characters, the stories are mostly short adventures that lack much depth. I hope that the Tagge story arc is the beginning of a new style, and that subsequent stories have more substance to them. The artwork is again hit and miss, with some of it being barely tolerable to some that is actually good.

There are also some plot holes that become apparent as the Star Wars galaxy grows. Jabba the Hut(t)'s depiction is the most obvious, but the characterization of Vader as well is not in line with how he's depicted in the movies. I find it surprising that people in charge like Jabba and Vader would be so involved in the day to day activities of their operations, instead of leaving some of the more menial tasks to underlings.

Like the first volume, this collection of comics is ok, but nothing great. The comics near the end of the collection are definitely the best, and hopefully this improving trend will continue into the next collection.

This is the collection that I read:

however, Dark Horse is publishing these once again in the omnibus format. The comics contained in "Dark Encounters" will be split between Omnibus 1 & 2. Here they are in case you're interested: