Star Wars EU Reviews: Classic Marvel #35-37

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The story arc of issues 35-37 contains significant milestones for the Marvel series. Not only does it bring to a close the saga of the Tagge family, but it also marks the point where Darth Vader first learns of Luke’s identity.

On a Rebel refueling station the Dark Lord learns from a dying Rebel that the pilot who destroyed the Death Star was none other than Luke Skywalker. We the readers understand that this makes Vader aware that the pilot was his son, however, this is not revealed in these issues although the stage is obviously being set for their encounter on Bespin.
Back aboard his Star Destroyer Darth Vader confers with Ulric Tagge, the younger brother of Baron Orman and Silas Tagge. They discuss a plan to eliminate the Rebel leadership when Vader reveals to the now Baron Ulric that his brothers Orman and Silas are still alive! In the wreckage of the ship that was destroyed by the Rebels the compartment they were in was found intact and the critically injured pair were put in life-support tubes indefinitely until the Dark Lord found some use for them. Vader’s plan is to corrupt Domina Tagge, the younger sister of the family, who was hitherto a priestess of a religious order known as The Sacred Circle whose base is on a planet called Monastery who worship “the Eternal, Ever-renewing Circle of Life.” While that is not as corny as Wookiee Life Day from the Holiday Special it’s still cringe-worthy and eye-roll inducing. Thankfully this ridiculous hippy cult doesn’t go into too much depth here.
Domina was always the innocent, non-duplicitous member of the Tagge clan and Orman had always protected her from any chance to get involved in the family business or to marry into an Imperial family. However, with two of her brothers presumed dead sweet, little Domina has grown bitter and vengeful. She knows her brother hated Vader, but she is willing to team up with him in his plan to get vengeance on Luke and the Rebels whom she blames for his death.
Her ship gets chased by a few TIE Fighters who feign an attack so Luke’s X-Wing patrol can “rescue” her. She deceptively ingratiates herself to Luke to the point of flirtation so that he could be encouraged to join her on a diplomatic mission to Monastery. Monastery is still currently a neutral world and the Sacred Circle’s elders are debating over which side to join. When Luke hears that Vader is the opposing representative he jumps at the chance to confront the Dark Lord who killed Ben Kenobi and his father. Leia argues that it should be she who goes on the mission since she has more political experience. However, General Dodonna disagrees and tells the princess that he is holding her back from the mission because she is motivated by jealousy of Luke and Domina. Which, when you think about it, is idiotic since Luke obviously is motivated by vengeance in his agreement to take on the mission which in the end could be more disastrous. But anyway, Luke is the one who is sent with Domina despite Princess Leia being the logical choice.
Immediately upon disembarking on the planet Luke and Domina are attacked by an indigenous bat-creature called a Nightshrike. Luke quickly disposes of it with his lightsaber, but this is “conveniently” observed by Darth Vader and the Elders of the Sacred Circle who object to Luke’s reckless and violent actions. We learn later of course that the Nightshrike was antagonised to attack them for this very outcome. Knowing Luke’s penchant for recklessness it becomes apparent why he was chosen over Leia.
Things continue to go poorly when the Millennium Falcon is captured by a Star Destroyer which is tractor-beamed into its hold, Han and Chewie are thrown in a cell, Leia is forced to hide in a secret compartment aboard the Falcon, and Luke is once again finding himself on the Sacred Order’s bad side when he kills an animal that was “attacking” the priestess. Luke is brought before their council where it is revealed that the Elders’ authority had been revoked and Domina declared All-High Priestess. She declares that Luke and his associates should be eliminated as threats to the natural cycle of Galactic Life which the Order holds sacred. Luke becomes angry and accuses both Vader and the Priestess of conniving against him. Darth Vader takes this as a challenge and suggests settling the matter over a lightsaber duel.
Meanwhile Princess Leia sneaks aboard the Star Destroyer and plants grenade charges that cause enough considerable damage to turn off the ship’s artificial gravity and to disrupt Orman Tagge’s life-support tube. The former Baron escapes while Leia rescues her friends from their holding cell using rocket packs. I think magnetic boots sort of like the ones we see in Star Trek VI would have been a more practical choice, but, hey, it’s Star Wars and rocket packs look cooler. On board the Falcon they discover Orman waiting for them who forces them to land on Monastery so he can face Vader for unfinished business.
Elsewhere Domina dictates where the duel is to take place which happens to be a deadly field where crystal spikes erupt from the surface due to a chemical reaction between the moisture and the mists. She chooses this battlefield hoping both combatants will meet their ends as she has not forgotten her brother’s feud with Vader and hopes to achieve his vengeance for him posthumously.
After the Millennium Falcon lands Orman flees to find Vader while Leia and Han look for Domina hoping to convince her that her brother is still alive before it is too late. Orman Tagge eventually encounters Vader on the crystal field where the Dark Lord reveals that his beloved sister had been corrupted and was no longer innocent. Tagge becomes devastated by this news and begs Vader to kill him. However, the Sith Lord refuses and tells him that he has one last task to perform first. Vader puts Tagge in a facsimile of the Dark Lord’s body suit and breathing apparatus and even gives him a red lightsaber to complete the effect. When the pseudo-Vader challenges Luke, the young Rebel easily kills him with his lightsaber only to discover Baron Tagge underneath the mask. Vader then evacuates the planet leaving the Rebels’ relations with Monastery even worse than before.

In a brief epilogue Jabba the Hut (who is still more walrus now than slug, twisted and evil) discovers the remains of Crimson Jack’s vessel running derelict over Drexel. He checks the logs and realises that Han Solo was the one responsible for Jack’s demise. Jabba considers this just cause to reset his former bounty on Han Solo’s head and soon after Han and Chewie run into a bounty hunter on Ord Mantell. The chase is on again!

This was a good ending to Baron Tagge’s story which despite its occasional cheesiness was a well-written and well-thought out arc. I do think the writers went a bit too Michael Corleone with Domina Tagge, but subtlety with homages is not a staple of the Star Wars series and I let it slide. In all relevant respects this is another example of the good story arcs of the classic Marvel line.

Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel Star Wars #38 Riders in the Void!

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Star Wars EU Reviews: Classic Marvel #31-34

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While Princess Leia had her mission on Metalorn Luke Skywalker had one of his own on his home planet of Tatooine. His mission is to recruit pilots to serve as blockade runners for the Rebellion. While he is no more successful than Leia was he does manage to uncover a sinister plot from Baron Tagge that could spell doom for the Alliance.

After landing his ship in the Jundland Wastes Luke takes the two droids, Artoo and Threepio, in his landspeeder and heads toward Mos Eisley. On the way there he stops the speeder to visit his old home: the moisture farm where his aunt and uncle were killed. On the farm he runs into his old friends from Tosche Station, Camie and Fixer, who are now married and cleaning up the old farm for the new owners. Turns out the evil Baron Tagge still bent on revenge against Darth Vader for blinding him and against Luke for interfering with his schemes has been purchasing moisture farms all around Tatooine for reasons unknown.
Back in his landspeeder Luke is pondering all of this when they run into a dead bantha that had frozen to death mysteriously. While wondering how any creature could freeze to death on Tatooine Imperial stormtroopers suddenly show up and start blasting the bantha into oblivion to hide all trace evidence of its ever being there.
As the plot thickens Luke finally makes it to Mos Eisley he meets Han Solo and Chewbacca at the cantina where he tells them what he and the droids had seen. Before any definite plans could be made they are suddenly attacked by stormtroopers who were given a tip about Rebel activity in the area. Who is the snitch? Why, none other than Camie and Fixer themselves. Fear of reprisals for protecting Rebels and rewards to solve financial difficulties prompted Fixer to betray Luke to the Empire when he became suspicious that Luke was with the Rebellion.
Thankfully they all escape in the landspeeder, but a blaster shot from one of the stormtroopers causes a coolant leak which leads to the vehicle stalling hours later out in the desert. R2 and C-3PO nobly offer to shut themselves down so their own internal coolant can be used to temporarily fuel the landspeeder. This plan works, but when they get back to Luke’s ship they find it being scavenged by Jawas. They strike a bargain with the Jawas in which transportation back to Mos Eisley and getting the ship back is given in exchange for some of the bonus money Jabba had reluctantly given Han Solo a few issues ago. Befoere taking them back to Mos Eisley the Jawas make a few stops to scavenge more items including at a seemingly abandoned moisture vaporator. Unfortunately, they discover it is not a moisture vaporator after all, but a prototype for a device that freezes all matter containing moisture. Which explains the bantha Luke encountered earlier. The heroes and the Jawas escape from the area just in time to see the device suddenly freeze a large portion of the desert. While back in the Jawa sandcrawler Baron Tagge, his brother Silas who invented the device which they call the Omega Frost, and an Imperial troop carrier attack them with blaster fire hoping to capture Luke Skywalker for the Baron’s revenge and kill the others. The sandcrawler escapes by dumping drums of Skyhopper propellant and setting them alight. The explosion incapacitates the troop carrier giving the Rebels and Jawas time to get away. They soon discover that the droids were revived with stored coolant aboard the sandcrawler which the Jawas in gratitude for having their lives saved by the heroes donate to Luke for his landspeeder. They also return Luke’s ship and let Han keep his money.
Soon Luke, Han, Chewie, and the droids leave Tatooine only to discover Baron Tagge’s ship in orbit transferring cargo to a Star Destroyer. Luke attempts to spy on the operation using a space suit, but is caught and captured. Onboard Tagge’s ship Luke is challenged to a lightsaber duel by the Baron who wants to settle his score with the young rebel. He also informs Luke that the Omega Frost is going to be used in a trap set on the Rebel Fleet on route to planet Junction. Despite Tagge’s skill with the blade Luke draws upon the Force and destroys his enemy’s cybervision with his lightsaber. Luke flees the ship in a stolen TIE Fighter leaving Tagge alive, blind, and humiliated. Tagge’s defeat and humiliation leaves him in an incapacitated state of shock which means his brother Silas has to take command of the operation. Unfortunately for Luke the TIE Fighter he stole was rigged and he crashes on an airless moon with only his spacesuit to protect him for a limited time. He is desperate to save his friends from the Omega Frost, but luckily the moon he happened to land on was the location of the giant device that emits the frost. Luke tries to destroy it with his lightsaber but it has a protective shield that prevents him from doing so. He almost despairs before theorising that perhaps the shield does not extend below the surface of the moon so he digs to the roots of the Omega Frost device and slashes at them with his weapon. That section was unshielded just like he figured and the device is effectively destroyed and the Rebels are saved. The Tagges’ evil plan is thwarted, Silas and the Baron are destroyed by the Rebel fleet, and Luke is rescued just before his suit runs out of oxygen. The vengeful Baron Tagge and his brother are finished once and for all. But as the reader will see in my next review that this is not quite the end of the Tagge family saga.

Here we have another example of a good story arc in the Star Wars classic Marvel run. While the villains may be a bit cheesy they are not horribly written and the respectable and more dignified tone of the stories, while still a far cry from Timothy Zahn or Knights of the Old Republic, are becoming more consistent with their respect for the Star Wars Saga and its characters.

Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel Star Wars #35-37

The Best Star Wars Youtube Channels

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Youtube is an extremely diverse community that distributes all sorts of content to a wide range of viewers across the internet. Some of it can be brilliant and entertaining while some of it is just terrible and unimaginative. Some become overnight viral sensations while others reach hardly any audiences and are forgotten quickly if they are ever noticed at all. The content varies from vlogging, video game “let’s plays”, prank videos, top lists, reaction videos, and educational and informative clips.
Naturally Youtube has become a great haven for Star Wars fans to share there love of the franchise and bring their insights and knowledge to the Youtube community. So while Youtube in certain places can be a wretched hive of scum and villainy it is also a wonderful place to revel in our shared love of Star Wars and the universe it has opened to us fans for the past 40 years.
Today I am going to share a list of some of the best channels on Youtube for lovers of the galaxy far, far away.

1. The Official Star Wars Youtube Channel

This is an obvious one. Just like Starwars.com this is the place you want to go for the latest trailers and news regarding official licensed material in the Star Wars universe. The official Star Wars channel keeps all of us informed about what is happening with upcoming films, video games, and books being released. It’s also a great place during Star Wars Celebration as during this time dozens of videos will be uploaded per day with interviews and panels revealing the latest info about upcoming content.

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2. Star Wars Explained

This is probably my favourite Youtube channel for being educated on the Expanded Universe lore. Formerly known as Star Wars Minute this channel has released hundreds of short videos thoroughly discussing characters, vehicles, species, object, and aspects to the Star Wars EU and Canon. It’s extremely informative and professionally done. Bear in mind, however, that many of the videos contain spoilers so watch them at your own risk.

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3. Star Wars History

Star Wars History does exactly what Star Wars Explained does, but tends to release longer videos of less professional quality. The quality is still excellent though and when coupled with Star Wars Explained offers tons of variety for learning about Star Wars lore. I highly recommend both channels.

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4. StarGeek

If you are like me you have a weakness for top 10 lists. Lists are a common thing among Youtube channels and StarGeek cures that fix perfectly. Unlike channels like Watch Mojo or Planet Dolan which present lists of a wide range of topics StarGeek is exclusively Star Wars related. And for us Star Wars fans that is just wonderful! Do you want Top Ten Saddest Moments in Star Wars? This guy has a video for it. Top Ten Lightsaber Duels? Got it. Top Top Star Wars Villains/Sith? This channel has you covered. It’s absolutely fantastic and I cannot recommend it enough. Check him out.

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5. Nathan Butler

I owe this channel a tremendous debt because he is the man who single-handedly inspired me to create the Star Wars EU Reviews blog. Since 2013 I had planned on going through and collecting the entire Star Wars EU books, comics, games, etc. to experience for myself and I finally got around to it this year. However, I had no plans on reviewing them as I went along until I encountered Nathan P. Butler’s channel. Nathan is a podcaster and reviewer who has made some contributions himself to the EU lore in the Essential Star Wars Atlas. His channel features several videos where he reviews issue by issue the classic Marvel comics and some of the old books and home media releases of the films. I began watching his videos and was disappointed to find that he had not reviewed the entire content of the EU comics and novels so far. I was, however, so impressed with what he was doing that I began to conceive of a plan to review every part of the Star Wars EU on a blog myself. The concept eventually came to fruition and thus the blog you are reading now came to be born.
And Nathan Butler’s channel is a wonderful resource for becoming aware of the various Star Wars media available and I recommend him to collectors who are just starting to get into Star Wars.

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I hope you enjoy all of these channels and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Classic Marvel Annual #1 The Long Hunt

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The Classic Marvel comics in total had 107 issues, 3 annuals, and a four-issue miniseries. In their due time I shall get to the other two annuals and the miniseries, but today it is time to review the first of the Star Wars annuals. It’s a fun action-packed story and enjoyed my time reading it.However, it has a few problems. In earlier reviews I mentioned that seeming inconsistencies in the Star Wars lore could easily be retconned and explained by the reader if they have a good enough imagination. Unfortunately with this annual it is possible I may have spoke too soon. This issue has a doozy of a contradiction that will give any “head-canon retconner” a massive headache as you will see.

The story begins on planet Tirahnn where Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, and the two droids have stopped for supplies. Things seem to go smoothly as Luke and Leia get some much needed R&R when a spy spots them who is working for a woman named Kharys who is the Majestrix of Skye. Kharys, a green-skinned alien with wings, has bad blood between herself and Han Solo ever since he and a crew of smugglers attempted an operation on her home planet, Skye. She had killed most of the crew except for Han and a woman named Katya M’Buele who escaped. Kharys has been hunting them ever since. Knowing the connections between Han and Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia the spy reports to Kharys. Meanwhile Katya herself happens to be visiting Han on the Millennium Falcon this very moment.
Kharys who is strong in the Dark Side of the Force conjures up a Smoke Demon that invades the ship, kills Katya and absorbs her soul. Luke Skywalker struggles with the Demon, but eventually wins the combat by slaying the creature with his lightsaber. With the Smoke Demon destroyed all the souls it captured free themselves from its body and escape. Angered over the death of his old partner Han Solo flies the Falcon to planet Marat V, known as Skye to its inhabitants, to deal with the tyrant Kharys. In the planet’s orbit they are bombarded by Imperial TIE Fighters which badly damage the ship causing it to crash on the planet’s surface. Before this happens Han sends Luke, Leia, and the droids in an escape pod to the planet which gets captured by the locals. While Luke and Leia assume Han and Chewbacca to be dead Aragh who is another member of Kharys species (known as S’Kytri, or the Windborn) meets them in their cell. He summons them to a trial for the crime of landing on their planet which is forbidden for all non-S’Kytri.
The Council of the S’Kytri is on the verge of turning Luke and Leia over to the Empire when they discover Luke’s lightsaber and learn that his last name is Skywalker. They had apparently known a Skywalker before and according to a prophecy another Skywalker would free the S’Kytri from the tyranny of Kharys. Aragh reveals to them that the Falcon was captured intact by Kharys in her fortress and that there is a chance to save Han and Chewie.
The Council declares Luke and Leia friends of the S’Kytri and they fly to war against the Majestrix and the Imperials she is in league with. Since our two heroes cannot fly they are given makeshift wings made from anti-grav belt packs and artificial wings strapped to their arms. For those not reading the comic I assure you that the image is as ridiculous as it sounds.
There at Kharys’s palace the S’Kytri defeat the Imperial forces, Han and Chewie are rescued, and Luke kills Kharys in a lightsaber duel. During the brief celebration the S’Kytri are asked why they thought Luke was a fulfiller of prophecy. Aragh explains that years ago during the Clone Wars the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi brought two pupils with him and they saved the S’Kytri from destruction. Years later one of the pupils returned and told them that the Jedi were extinct and forced them to swear fealty to the Empire. That man was Darth Vader. The other was Anakin Skywalker! Now that the S’Kytri have aided Luke they feel their debt to the Skywalkers is done and they no longer swear loyalty to the Imperials.

So there you have it. The most inexplicable contradiction in the Marvel Comics. Obviously the writers didn’t know it at the time, but we all know that Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker were the same person. So how could they have both been at Skye together as two different students of Obi-Wan? Ben may have lied to Luke about Vader, but surely the S’Kytri would have no motivation to do this?
If the reader really really wants to find a way to fit this contradiction into the EU lore I do have a workable theory, but it is a giant stetch: Suppose the other pupil was some lesser known Padawan whose name was never made clear to the S’Kytri. During the Clone Wars Anakin had not taken on the name of Darth Vader yet and he was not disguised in the suit. He would have been physically unrecognisable to the S’Kytri when he returned and he may have simply chosen to lie to them. He could have easily told them that he was the other student and that his name was Darth Vader. Judging by Luke’s shock during the big reveal at the end of The Empire Strikes Back it is apparent that it is not common knowledge throughout the Empire that Darth Vader was formerly Anakin Skywalker. Luke would have heard something about it if it was. I think the Empire hushed up Vader’s identity making it easy for anyone to assume he was someone else. As I said that is a bit of a stretch, but it is the only theory that makes this issue work with the rest of the EU. Some people would just as soon not care and just accept that the Marvel era was fraught with flaws. That’s fair too.
Overall, though, this first annual was an entertaining read that has plenty of action and has all of our favourite characters together in an adventure. I always like best the stories that have Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the droids together. It seems Star Wars is more complete that way.

Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel Star Wars #31-34 and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Classic Marvel #30 A Princess Alone

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Issue 30 of the classic Marvel run marks a return for the recurring villain Baron Tagge, the Imperial governor who has hated Darth Vader ever since the Dark Lord’s lightsaber injured him forcing him to rely on cybervision goggles. Thanks to his failure in his last story arc Tagge is assigned a lowly overseeing position on planet Metalorn, an Imperial industrial site. There enslaved prisoners of the Empire are forced to mine ore in service of the Imperial military effort. It is on this planet that take Princess Leia’s finds herself on her new mission.

Leia Organa’s task is to contact an old mentor, Arn Horada, who taught her Galactic history when she was a little girl on Alderaan. While one of the many broken and dispirited slaves on Metalorn, Horada’s knowledge of history is something Leia hopes to put to use in recruiting members for the Rebellion. She hopes to convince the professor to instruct his fellow slaves and plant seeds of rebellion in their minds to eventually instigate a revolt.
The princess disguises herself as a local worker and once inside the check-in point she attacks a stormtrooper and takes his blaster. Things go south almost immediately since all blasters on Metalorn have homing devices installed to prevent them from going places they are not supposed to. Governor Corwyth who is in charge of operations on the planet sends a detachment of stormtroopers after her as she flees into the ore shipping factory. Leia jumps into a pile of ore on a conveyer and escapes; while unseen leaves the tracked blaster behind. Corwyth and his men discover this too late when they find the blaster sans princess after they track it to the conveyer.
Tagge, however, is not to be fooled. Shortly after replaying the attack of the check-in guard on the data recorder he uses a voice-print analysis to identify the princess. He quickly performs a background check to see if any current prisoners on Metalorn had any previous connection with Leia. This, of course, leads him to Arn Horada and Tagge doesn’t hesitate in heading to the mess hall where Horada is located while Corwyth and his men waste time in the factory.
Leia makes contact with the professor but before they can discuss her plan Tagge attacks. Leia with her typical aggression defends herself by throwing some of the food paste that was being fed the prisoners into his cybervision goggles. Temporarily blinded, Tagge struggles to remove the paste while Leia binds him to a table leg with a pair of energy shackles. With the help of a little girl named Tammi – a daughter of one of the other prisoners – the princess escapes to her ship.
The ship hurls into hyperspace and her pilot bemoans the fact that the mission was a failure. Seemingly no sabotage was done and no rebel was recruited. Princess Leia, however, thinks otherwise. She believes that while she did not manage to recruit Horada she did manage inspire that little girl and other prisoners who may now this very moment be seeding the eventual rebellion that will overthrow the Imperial operations on Metalorn.

Here is another good one. Issue 30 is another example of a classic Marvel Star Wars comic that had something to say rather than just mindlessly entertain the reader with camp. The story is neither explosive nor extremely action-packed. It’s slower paced and more thoughtful. It doesn’t depict rebellion so much as it depicts how it is seeded and grown. It is delightful to see this sort of subtlety in Star Wars.
Before I began reading the classic Marvel run I had preconceptions about it that its reputation unfortunately instilled in my mind. I was figuring that it was all going to be like the stories with Jaxxon and the pirates on Drexel. It was my impression that the good Star Wars comics would not start until I reached the Dark Horse era. I am glad to see I was wrong. Stories like this one, the Valance trilogy, and The Wheel arc make reading these vintage comics much more fun and enjoyable than I had hoped.

Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel Star Wars Annual #1