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).

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