As the title of issue #27 implies this marks the return of Valance the robot-hating cyborg bounty hunter we first met in The Hunter. On the planet Junction, an Outer Rim world teeming with equipment suppliers outside of Imperial regulation, Valance is biding his time in his search for Luke and his two droids by collecting bounties on local scum and purchasing used droids for the sole purpose of blasting them. The seller of these hapless droids is one Skinker, an equipment supplier all too happy to make some quick credits even if he does not understand precisely why Valance’s prejudice against mechanicals is so strong that he needs to throw away good money to entertain himself destroying expensive equipment.
Meanwhile, Luke and Threepio are on a mission to scout the extent of the Imperial blockade in the Gordian Reach (see last review) and to pick up components on Junction to repair Artoo who was damaged in the last issue. Aside from a brief run in with an Imperial battle cruiser Luke easily and quickly arrives at Junction and gets the parts he needs. The only unfortunate snag is that he buys them at none other than Skinker’s who sells the parts gladly, but delays on delivery so he can report to Valance. Luke and Threepio match the description Valance gave of the two he has been hunting and Valance pays well.
The bigoted and insane bounty hunter arrives at the scene and is about to blast Luke and the protocol droid into oblivion when Luke deflects the blast with his lightsaber which is yellow for some reason (don’t ask me, I stopped giving a damn at this point) and the deflected blast damages Valance’s organic components revealing the cybernetic machinery underneath. The shock of the bounty hunter’s hypocrisy causes enough hesitation in Luke for Valance to take advantage of it and knock the farm boy from Tatooine on his ass with his powerful metal arm. But before he can destroy Luke with his blaster Threepio bravely and uncharacteristically steps in front of his master hoping to give Luke enough time to flee. The heroic, noble, and very human act disturbs Valance who begins to question his own prejudices against machines. A droid willing to sacrifice itself out of friendship for a human? Unheard of! In his moment of indecision the confused and frustrated bounty hunter tells the two friends to leave and Luke and Threepio do so gladly before he changes his mind. As they head back toward their ship Luke posits that this is not likely the last they shall see of Valance.
Return of the Hunter is another prime example of the Star Wars saga’s penchant for replacing the current trends of gritty realism and pessimistic character studies that were so popular in 1960’s and 1970’s cinema and literature with an almost childish optimism and archetypal look at heroism and noble adventurers. On the surface a more discerning and more jaded critic would probably point out the cliched and unrealistic absurdity of Valance’s transition from longtime robot-hating bigot to a reformed man rethinking his beliefs so quickly. However, we should remember that this is Star Wars. It is not Game of Thrones or The Godfather and these innocent little snippets of optimistic heroism and opportunities for evil to become good is a common theme in the saga. Yes, I know Valance becoming confused and letting Luke and Threepio go free is silly; but it is endearing in its own little way. It’s why we love Star Wars so much. It’s not a bloody epic of realism and intrigue; it’s an entertaining space opera that is for children as well as adults. That is why I can forgive Star Wars when it gives in to cliche and norms we have seen a thousand times over in myths, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and fairy tales. We don’t need complex, shades-of-grey, antiheroes all day do we?
So while this is not one of the greatest examples of writing in the Star Wars EU I don’t mind it much and I would gladly read this over novels about zombie Death Troopers any day of the week. Sometimes a good dose of camp and naivete is what we need from time to time.
Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel #28 Whatever Happened to Jabba the Hutt?