When you really sit down and think about it you realise how profoundly disturbing it is that the same Galaxy where Yoda once said “luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” and where Luke Skywalker strove to redeem his father, Darth Vader, from the Dark Side also witnessed an event where a giant, green six-foot bunny rabbit got mad and kicked a man while shouting “I ain’t no rodent!”
Tonal inconsistency permeates the Star Wars universe and this Marvel story arc I am reviewing today is one of the prime examples.
I have seen a good deal of motley crews from Seven Samurai to A Bug’s Life, but I have never seen anything quite so motley as this one before.
A giant rabbit, a space bimbo, a porcupine man, a Luke Skywalker ripoff with his pet droid, and a crazy man who thinks he is a Jedi all walk into a bar. Instead of producing a joke this setup sadly instead gives us the earliest EU story ever put to print. These comic issues predate Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and they have none of its charm or integrity.
The story focuses mostly on Han and Chewie with Luke and Leia only briefly showing up in a side plot here and there. All you need to know about that is Luke is assigned to find the Rebels a new planet to serve as their secret base now that Yavin 4’s location has been compromised. Leia and the Alliance command centre suddenly lose contact with Luke when he approaches planet Drexel. Leia goes off looking for him with the conclusion to this story being given in the following arc.
Meanwhile the rest of the arc is about Han and Chewie’s adventures after getting their reward for rescuing the Princess stolen by space pirates. The pirates, led by a speedo-wearing rogue named Crimson Jack and his crew, decide to leave Han and the Wookie alive after the robbery despite Jack’s man-hating crewmember Jolli’s protests. For some reason she takes an immediate dislike to Han Solo and would like nothing better than to blast him into space dust! Thankfully she does not get her way and the now impoverished smugglers decide to lay low on planet Aduba-3 until they can scrounge up enough cash to pay back Jabba the Hutt.
In town they encounter a mob harassing an insectoid-priest attempting to bury a body in a casket. The body belongs to a cyborg which enraged the bigoted mob who protest the idea of providing a funeral for a sentient with robotic parts. Han and Chewie break up the mob and save the grateful priest. A group of farmers observing their physical prowess approach them asking for help in dealing with a band of raiders led by a villain named Serji-X Arrogantus, the Arrogant One. For years his evil band have been stealing crops, supplies, and even young women when they come of age. Seeing an opportunity for some paying work the Han and Chewbacca agree to help.
At the local cantina the two smugglers recruit any able-bodied person willing to stand up to the raiders. The volunteers Han and Chewie acquire are all types of bizarre. First is an alien named Hedji who needs no blasters or weapons instead opting to shoot sharp deadly quills from his body. Next is Amaiza, a scantily clad gang-leader and former love-interest of Solo’s. The third is a crazed old man in possession of a lightsaber who claims to be the last of the Jedi named Don-Wan Kihotay. The ridiculous name only leaves me picturing a lusty Casanova fighting a windmill while wooing a maiden in distress. While this crazy old man of course, does none of those things anyone with a knowledge of Cervantes and Renaissance poets will see the stupid pun hidden in his name. Next we have the notoriously reviled Jaxxon (or Jax for short, which he isn’t). Jaxxon is a green-skinned six-foot rabbit whose species is called Lepus Carnivorous. He hates being called a rodent or a bunny and you will run the risk of being kicked in the stomach while hearing a groan-inducing one-liner if you dare try it. And finally we have Jimm, the Starkiller Kid and his treadmill droid FE-9Q. Jimm is a rash, immature boy who reminds Han of Luke. Nostalgia being good enough of a reason to endanger a minor Han recruits him and his droid along with the others.
As they gather at the farms to meet the raiders in combat the band meets a shaman who tells them that their help is unneeded because he has the power to summon a great behemoth to destroy the marauders for them. He is ignored for a fool and while the old guy chants in a corner the battle begins. Not long after the fights wages on the shaman’s claims are proven true when a giant lizard arrives on the scene to kill Serji-X Arrogantus’s band. The shaman himself is crushed underneath the weight of the monster and is killed leaving the lizard no longer in control. After the raiding band is killed Han and his recruits are left to deal with the creature to protect the farm. I assumed Han Solo’s first and only use of a lightsaber was to make a bed out of a tauntaun but here we see him “borrow” Don-Wan Kihotay’s and slay the beast with it. Perhaps Han Solo should have been the one Obi-Wan sent to the Dagobah system?
After all that is said and done Han and Chewie leave the grateful village and Jimm the Starkiller Kid gets in good with one of the farmer’s daughters. Everyone is happy.
This story arc was really a poor way for the Expanded Universe to begin. Roy Thomas who briefly wrote and edited the first few arcs of the Star Wars Marvel run emphasised action and adventure over a lot of the things that made Star Wars great like the Force and the structure of the Empire. Thomas seemed to prefer giving Star Wars a more Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon feel with campy dialogue, flashy colours, and alien babes in skimpy costumes for our heroes to rescue. Later on when Archie Goodwin took Roy Thomas’s place we see some improvement, but for right now we have to contend with absurdity that rivals The Phantom Menace for levels of awkward embarrassment. Jaxxon and Don-Wan Kihotay are seriously, in my opinion, worse than Jar Jar Binks. Binks was annoying, but at least Gungans were still a cool visual design. Jaxxon, however, is not only annoying, but also a GIANT GREEN RABBIT! I will take Jar Jar and his complaints about “icky icky goo” over Bucky O’hare wannabes any day of the week.
One of the most startling moments is a piece of dialogue where Han Solo sees the insect-priest for the first time. Failing to identify the religion with which the priest was affiliated Han commented that he should have not skipped so much Sunday School as a kid. I have to ask what exactly did “Sunday School” in the Star Wars galaxy involve? Is this why Han disbelieved in the Force calling it a “hokey religion?” What kind of churches are found in the Core Worlds and the Outer Rim? Supposedly, Lor San Tekka from The Force Awakens was a member of The Church of the Force. Perhaps they had Sunday School? I am overthinking this, though. Time to move on.
Issues #7-10 of the original Marvel line is a ridiculous start for the EU, but a good-natured reader may forgive the flaws if they can look at the old Marvel comics with nostalgia or amusement instead of dismay. When you get over the nonsense they are enjoyable as kitschy Star Wars memorabilia that we can laugh at in retrospect green rabbits or not.
Check in next time for my review of issues #11-15 of the Marvel Star Wars line and may the Force be with you.