Here ends the Valance trilogy. And it is a good ending. The Hunter and The Return of the Hunter ranged from lacklustre to modestly decent stories which set up the third act, Dark Encounter, which is the best of the three. If you are unfamiliar with those issues or need some memory jogging I recommend reading my reviews of issues 16 and 27.
Valance’s hatred of robots is not mentioned at all here so I assume he has overcome it. But he is still hard at work in the bounty hunting trade and his current trail had led him to planet Centares. Valance and Darth Vader are both racing to find a rebel deserter named Tyler Lucian who fled Yavin IV when the Death Star arrived. Vader is seeking Lucian hoping to learn the name of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star and Valance is seeking him hoping to prevent this. Lucian is tracked down to Rubyflame Lake simultaneously by Vader and Valance where Lucian hides inside a Guest Tower while the two hunters fight over their quarry. Rubyflame Lake was a former resort on Centares until the Empire tapped into the lake for industrial purposes leaving the water a highly corrosive and deadly acid.
Just before the fight begins we are treated to a brief interlude where on Yavin we see Artoo finally repaired and General Dodonna tells Luke that Princess Leia left on a mission by herself. This will play into the next issue.
The story then cuts back to the duel between Darth Vader and Valance. The Hunter tells the Dark Lord that throughout his life as a cyborg he loathed himself until he met Luke and his droid companion. Seeing Luke with Threepio convinced Valance that it was not impossible for someone like him with robot parts to be looked at as a friend rather than a freak. The admiration he now has for Luke and his rebellion is what compelled him to hunt down Tyler Lucian and keep Vader from finding him. A task he is willing to die for. Unfortunately, Vader proves to be the more powerful opponent and Valance is defeated; falling into the acid lake where he meets his end. Seeing this Tyler Lucian leaps from his hiding place into the same lake leaving Vader frustrated and angry at yet another failure to learn the identity of the person who destroyed the Death Star.
As I said in my intro this was a good finale to the Valance story arc. The Classic Marvel series is definitely picking up some steam and moving forward from the campiness that marred its early days.
Like in The Hunter we see very little of the integral characters in this issue, but this time the story is bearable and there are no Jaxxons or Amaizas to affect our enjoyment.
In a way the Valance trilogy perfectly symbolises the evolution of the Star Wars EU comics. The first issue was campy and not very good, the second was decent and showed signs of improvement, and the third was excellent. And it is nice to see more Darth Vader in these comics who sometimes goes long periods not making any appearances in the series.
Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel #30 A Princess Alone; and may the Force be with you.