R2-D2 and C3PO are popular Star Wars characters and there is no shortage of adventures featuring them. In 1985 a Saturday morning cartoon series called Star Wars: Droids aired for one season. This was followed by a spinoff comic series and even Dark Horse had a Droids series of comics for awhile. And according to George Lucas himself the Original Trilogy is supposed to be told from their perspective. However fans may feel about them these two Droids are important to the Saga.
About four years before the cartoon series aired on Television issue 47 of the ongoing Marvel Star Wars comics was released making it arguably the very first story to focus entirely on these two characters. But is it any good? Here are my thoughts on it.
The story takes place shortly after Luke Skywalker’s rendezvous with the Rebel Alliance. They tell him they captured an Imperial Warbot and would like to have a schematic on it as soon as possible. As we all know the Rebels enjoy having the plans to Imperial weapons and Artoo and Threepio are soon assigned to study the damaged and inoperable war machine. This goes poorly when Artoo misunderstands an order from Threepio and ends up burning the robot’s insides to an unrecognisable mess. This upsets Luke and the Rebels greatly since the schematics (which are impossible to get now) would have been helpful in the war effort. Threepio, presumably speaking for Artoo as well, apologises and offers to make amends in any way he can. The Rebels see a final chance to retrieve the needed schematics and allow the two droids to redeem themselves by sending them with the damaged Warbot to an artificial satellite called Kligson’s Moon more popularly known as Droid World.
Kligson was a soldier from the Clone Wars who was badly injured and exists with over 90% of his body composed of cyborg parts. His injuries have left him embittered and reclusive and lives on Droid World with hundreds of droids he collected over the years as companions. He has issued a ban on all organic life to land on his moon so only Artoo, Threepio, and the damaged Warbot are allowed to meet him. It is the Rebel Alliance’s hope that Kligson will agree to repair the robot so Threepio and Artoo can download the schematic for the Rebels to use.
On the moon’s surface the two droids are introduced to Z-X3 (called Zee Exthree throughout the comic), an Imperial prototype of a droid that would be able to conduct missions in environments that Stormtroopers could not. Unfortunately for Z-X3 the project was met with unsatisfactory results and he was rejected. On Droid World Kligson took Z-X3 in and allowed him to live in harmony with his fellow mechanicals.
After agreeing to repair the Warbot Kligson suddenly orders Z-X3 to remove Artoo and Threepio’s restraining bolts so they no longer have to serve Luke and instead live with him on Droid World. This is not to Threepio’s liking and he defends his master claiming to prefer his servitude. This intrigues Kligson enough to order Artoo and Threepio to his chambers where he wants to try to talk the droids out of their loyalty to the Rebellion which he views as no better than the Empire.
While being led to Kligson Artoo sneaks off to follow Z-X3 who is taking the Warbot to a large maintenance hall. There Artoo discovers that Droid World already has another Imperial Warbot of their own which is missing only one part. The Weapon Head on the Warbot the Rebels brought is just what is needed to fix the one on Droid World. With the newly functioning Warbot Z-X3 intends to take over Droid World and kill Kligson all in service of the Empire which his programming still compels him to serve despite his previous rejection.
Artoo flees to warn Kligson, but fails to stop Z-X3 from shooting Kligson and destroying him. The traitorous droid, with an army of robots and the Warbot at his command, begin to chase Artoo and Threepio whom they perceive as a threat to the Empire. The two droids are backed into a doorway that leads only to a fire pit. Feeling like his doom is upon him Threepio begins to despair, however Artoo jumps in and Threepio falls after him only to get attached to powerful magnetic grapples which pull them up to safety to another section of the moon. There they meet Kligson alive and well. Apparently what Z-X3 destroyed was a duplicate that Kligson had made in advance when he began to suspect the droid’s treachery. Kligson hoped to use Artoo and Threepio as bait to draw Z-X3 out. Using another Warbot that Kligson happened to have on him (just go with it, OK) he extinguishes all of the rebelling robots and returns the two droids to Luke along with the needed schematics. Kligson’s last act is to operate Droid World’s built-in engines and send himself and the moon away from the Galactic war that he wants desperately to escape.
This story is entertaining enough, but I seriously question the efficacy of Kligson’s plan. So many things could have gone wrong. For one thing Artoo and Threepio were put at great risk and there is no way you can tell me that he was 100% sure they would not have been destroyed by either the angry robot mob or the molten core they almost fell into. Also with the large amount of special duties that Z-X3 was assigned to is it not conceivable that he would gather enough intelligence to reveal that Kligson was suspicious of him, had built a duplicate, and had another Warbot of his own?
Plot holes aside this story is a lot of fun to read and it has that special place as the first Star Wars: Droids story. One last comment I wish to make in light of the fire pit is that perhaps the Galaxy should start investing in hand rails.
Thank you for reading and check next week for my review of Classic Marvel Star Wars #48: The Third Law and may the Force be with you.
I am not a particular fan of the issue I am about to review, but I am forcing myself to go through with it. There a few reasons why I dislike this story and one of the more notable ones is that I find Lando Calrissian to be completely out of character here. Compound that with poor writing and really bizarre, nonsensical ideas and we get a real distasteful mess. On a positive note the artwork is decent and I have read worse stories before and after this one so I reserve many of my complaints with that in mind.
This issue is all about Lando and Chewbacca who are on a quest to find Han Solo who was taken by Boba Fett. While flying aboard the Millennium Falcon the hyperdrive suffers a serious malfunction which apparently opens a rift in the fabric of space which our two heroes plunge into. They find themselves in a parallel universe which, like in all cheesy sci-fi plots, is described as “another dimension.” I always found that description annoying. A dimension is a mathematical space that specifies points within it like in a line, square, or a cube. It’s not a location or alternate reality. “Another dimension” is technically inaccurate when describing a parallel universe. But since I am forwarding this complaint to a world where parsecs are a unit of time I guess I should be more lenient.
In this “other dimension” Lando and Chewie discover an island floating in space with a city in its centre. They land on the island to make repairs when they are attacked by a strange batlike humanoid who looks like a mix between Gollum and Nosferatu. They are rescued by an alien on the island who absorbs the attacking creature into himself. This person is Cody Sunn-Childe and the strange creature he absorbed was a psychic demon created by the darker nature of his soul. Cue eye-rolling.
Cody Sunn-Childe was a former warrior who fought the Empire and disappeared ten years ago. Lando is ecstatic to meet him since Cody was one of his heroes growing up.
Cody takes the pair to the city which is known as the City of Dreams. Cue additional eye-rolling. Here we see a society of men and women of all races and species who have eschewed all violence in favour of a completely pacifistic philosophy who are hiding in this “dimension” to avoid the horrors of the war-torn Galaxy.
A decade ago Cody Sunn-Childe was struck by a laser blast during a battle with the Empire and he fell into a pit of fire. The fire was a Flame-God worshipped by a species known as the M’usts who were astonished that Cody survived the flames. They took him to be a messiah and he adopted and converted himself to their peace-loving views. Evidently, Cody’s species’s biochemistry formed a unique combination with the Flame-God which gave Cody the unique ability to psychically separate himself from the darker parts of his self. The separation created psychic demons who vent their rage on the island outside of his city. Cody and his followers live in peace in this parallel world with only the monsters outside as a reminder of what they fled from.
This backstory enrages Lando (and me too for that matter) who condemns Cody as a coward for abandoning the fight against the Empire. In the midst of their debate a group of Imperial Star Destroyers suddenly appear outside the island ready to bombard and kill all of them. The ships, led by a Captain Plikk and Lieutenant Nizzon, detected the spacetime rip the Millennium Falcon created when its hyperdrive failed and followed them through it. Because why not?
Lando and Chewie head to the Falcon to take on the new enemy while Cody is left below questioning his beliefs in the face of the potential death of his friends. He, for a brief moment, gives in and unleashes the psychic demons outside at full strength upon the Imperial Star Destroyers. Although Cody eventually calms down and reverts to his pacifism the damage ensued by the monsters is enough to cost the Imperials significant hyperdrive power. Making a last ditch effort to gain glory for the Empire they divert power from the already damaged hyperdrive to their weapons and fire upon the City of Dreams destroying it and rendering themselves completely immobile and adrift in the process.
Lando looks on with tears in his eyes at the sacrifice Cody made to save them. He decides, in honour of Cody’s memory, to not engage the Star Destroyers in battle, but to leave them trapped in the “other dimension” eternally instead. Cue eye-rolling one more time.
My major complaint with this story is how Lando is depicted in it. We all know him to be a con man, mercenary, and scoundrel. He is the sort of person who up until this time held no allegiance to any group except that which would profit him the most at the time being. So for Lando to have hero worshipped a Rebel warrior in his past is absurd. And as much moral progress he might have made since then I find it unlikely he would leave Imperial Star Destroyers alone and unattacked for any reason. I prefer Lando as a charming rascal. Not moved to tears by nobility and idealism.
Also the whole story about psychic demons excised from a person’s soul is just stupid to me. Even in the Star Wars universe I don’t see how such a thing could work and even if it did I question what this would mean for our understanding of the Dark Side/Light Side philosophy we have been taught all this time. I would think separating the dual natures of sentient morality would create an imbalance in the Force or something. But, hey, I am no philosopher. I’m just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe.
Check next week for my review of Classic Marvel #47: Droid World and may the Force be with you.
After three weeks devoted to The Empire Strikes Back I am pleased to return to the rest of the Classic Marvel run like normal.
Today’s story stars Luke and Artoo some time after the young hero’s fateful encounter with Darth Vader who revealed himself to be Luke’s father. Although in this story the narration does not explicitly say that Vader was his father in truth. Instead the issue plays the skeptic says “He learned that this man he most hated in all the Galaxy might well be his father!” That’s a very cautious “might” we are being given there. I am guessing that the writers at Marvel at the time were as uncertain about the truthfulness of the Dark Lord’s claims as Luke himself was.
The story opens with a Rebel blockade runner being attacked by a modified Imperial probe droid which kills the entire crew and takes over the ship. The droid taps itself into all of the ship’s computer systems merging itself with the ship according to the plan of one Admiral Damon Krell who hopes his new probe droid will earn him favour with the Emperor. The droid is programmed to lead the vessel to the Rebel fleet and to self-destruct the blockade runner in their midst destroying them along with it.
On its way to the fleet the commandeered blockade runner meets Luke’s X-Wing who comes closer to see if the runner needs assistance. The probe droid responds by firing the ship’s laser cannons at the X-Wing which gets disintegrated in the blast. Luke and Artoo fortunately eject just in time from their ship and Luke grabs onto Artoo who magnetises himself to the blockade runner. Luke uses his lightsaber (which miraculously is still with him despite the events in Cloud City) to breach the ship’s hull and go aboard.
After a few brushes with the probe droid’s attempts to get the intruder killed Luke reveals himself to be Luke Skywalker the destroyer of the Death Star which prompts the Imperial droid to cease all attempts to slay him. Prior programming from Lord Vader himself takes precedent over its programming to destroy the Rebel fleet and the blockade runner changes course to find Vader and deliver Luke to him. The erratic behaviour of the ship alerts Rebel scout patrols which ruins all chances of Damon Krell’s plan being successful.
Luke causes more structural damage to various systems on board with his lightsaber forcing the probe droid to use emergency power to conduct repairs. This power shift causes a section of the blockade runner which happens to have escape pods to weaken its security allowing Luke and Artoo to escape.
As they flee the blockade runner comes in range of Admiral Krell’s Star Destroyer and blows itself up resulting in the destruction of both ships.
Death Probe was an entertaining “killer robot” story with plenty of action and excitement to go around. Unfortunately, Luke having a lightsaber is extremely jarring since he had lost it on Bespin. No explanation is given for where this lightsaber came from and he continues to use it in the issues between now and Return of the Jedi. My only guess is that the writers figured the issues would drop in sales if readers had to contend with both Han Solo being missing AND Luke Skywalker without his signature weapon. But, oh well. At least the lightsaber is blue this time instead of being inexplicably red like it was in previous issues. But, nevertheless it’s a gaping imperfection in an otherwise very entertaining story.
Thank you for reading. Check in next time for my review of Star Wars Classic Marvel #46: The Dreams of Cody Sunn-Childe and may the Force be with you.
For the impatient readers who want me to get back to reviewing the rest of the Marvel comics I promise that this will be my last The Empire Strikes Back review for awhile.
There isn’t a whole lot to say here since this game doesn’t adapt the entire story, but rather just one scene of it. The Atari 2600 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back video game cartridge is a very simplistic side-scrolling action game in which you play a snowspeeder taking on the Imperial Walkers during the Battle of Hoth.
However, instead of using harpoons and tow cables all it takes to take down these monstrosities is to shoot them multiple times while avoiding getting hit yourself. The Walkers change colours as they take damage starting off as a dark grey until they reach the critical stage of being yellow in which only a few more shots will do them in.
Hitting them isn’t too hard and the chances of your missing is practically null. The real difficulty lies in not getting hit yourself. Unlike your own laser blasts the Imperial Walkers’ guns shoot blasts that gradually elevate or descend diagonally which means avoiding them is tricky and they often wait to shoot until you are very close making getting out of the way all the more difficult. They also have rear guns which means trying to avoid damage by hitting them from behind isn’t going to help you. The tactic that works best for me was simply going back and forth from front to behind the walkers firing on both sides. This decreases the amount of damage I took from their blasters as I am constantly moving out of their line of fire.
As far as analysing the story goes there is not much to analyse. You’re in a snowspeeder destroying Imperial Walkers on Hoth ad infinitum until you lose all of your lives. That’s the plot. There is no way to ascertain from the gameplay who is in the snowspeeder. It could be anyone from Wedge to Luke to the Force Ghost of Jek Porkins for all I know. Perhaps the original manual identified the pilot; however since I don’t own the manual and I played the game on an emulator on my laptop there is no way of knowing barring a tedious visit to Wookiepedia.
The graphics are no visual feast, but nothing during the Atari 2600 era ever was so to offer criticism on that end seems foolish. I will point out, though, that the Hoth skies in this game are a deep purple which makes me think this battle is taking place at either dawn or dusk. However, since the Battle of Hoth took place in broad daylight this would be noncanonical. In the emulator I was able to change the visual setting to the European Pal version of the game which alters the colours a bit, but who really cares that much?
It’s a fun little arcade piece to play for maybe half an hour and boast about the points you earned, but there is not much more to it than that. If you want to play the game out of curiosity, the emulator would be your best bet as it is cheaper than purchasing an Atari 2600 and game cartridge.
For those curious to see the game in action here is a short video. I did not make the video and I don’t own the rights to it. The Youtube user’s original channel is Highretrogamelord. He gives the game two thumbs up at the end of the video, but I am not so generous myself. Enjoy.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600
Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel Star Wars #45: Death Probe and may the Force be with you.