Thursday, November 19, 2015

Retro Marvel: Star Wars #50

Within months of finishing the adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back, Marvel Comics found a way to feature Han Solo in the 50th issue despite him being frozen in carbonite and in the possession of Boba Fett.  Star Wars #50 has a story that is constructed to include Han Solo in a flashback tale that is relevant to a virus that Luke Skywalker contracts.  Marvel would use this same technique, a flashback, to feature Han again in a story 20 issues later in Star Wars #70.  He would appear once more on the cover to Star Wars #79, but does not return as a regular character in the comic again until Star Wars #81, the first story post-Return of the Jedi which is published over 6 months after the movie was released.  Despite only appearing on the cover three times between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (four times if you count Star Wars #71 which is suppose to make you believe it is Han Solo, but is actually another character), Han Solo's presence is omnipresent during that long absence while the other heroes search for him.

Star Wars #50 lives up to its distinction as a extra-sized 50th anniversary issue with a particularly strong story that not only includes Han Solo, but also includes: 1) Ben Kenobi, Yoda, and Darth Vader in a dream sequence; 2) a panel with Chewbacca attacking Boba Fett; 3) extensive use of Bossk, IG-88, 4-LOM (Zuckuss at the time) and Dengar; 4) art contributions by both Al Williamson and Walt Simonson; and 5) a conclusion to Domina Tagge's arc that was started pre-The Empire Strikes Back.  The cover does a good job of features the principal heroes from the first movie; Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Ben Kenobi are present.  They are joined by newcomers Lando Calrissian and Yoda.  Darth Vader is also depicted, although his portrait is not particular strong on the cover.  Everything about this issue screams special including the cover blurb: A Super-Sized Star Wars Saga! Giant 50th Collectors Issue!

Star Wars #50a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1981)
Star Wars #50b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1981)
The story, titled The Crimson Forever, starts with Lando and Chewbacca aboard the Millennium Falcon being recalled to the new Rebel base on Golrath by Princess Leia.  There, we learn Luke's X-Wing squadron boarded a derelict Star Destroyer whose crew were dead with crimson colored skin.  Luke and his squadron contract a virus from a mysterious red jewel they recover from the ship.  All the pilots except Luke die with crimson colored skin from the virus which is dubbed The Crimson Forever.  Luke is using the force to fight the effects of the virus but even he will succumb to it unless a cure is found.  Leia prompts Chewbacca to recount a tale of his and Han Solo's adventure to the Red Nebula.

In the tale, Han is forced to pilot a ship into the Red Nebula along with other mercenaries to a planet orbiting a red sun with a temple containing a pair of red jewels.  The ship's crew, led by Klysk, are exiles from the planet who wants the red jewels and will reward the mercenaries who retrieve them, but he warns the mercenaries to not separate the pair.  After a struggle with other mercenaries and the temple's guardian, Han is successful in retrieving the jewels.  Klysk, his crew, and some of the mercenaries take the sack Han is carrying and take off in the ship leaving Han and Chewbacca behind.  The temple's priest shows Han that the ship is heading for the red sun and is destroyed.  The priest is expecting a catastrophe that does not occur and Han reveals that he hid the gems and they were not on the doomed ship.  Han and the priest retrieve the jewels which were separated by mercenaries who oversaw Han hiding them.  The mercenaries had separated the jewels and died with crimson colored skin.  The priest reunites the jewels and Han and Chewbacca leave the planet.

Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca, aboard the Millennium Falcon, are heading to the Red Nebula.  On the way, they come across a derelict House of Tagge Mining Explorer.  They board the ship and see this crew is also dead with crimson colored skin like the crew aboard the Star Destroyer.  Also aboard are Domina Tagge and a band of bounty hunters.  She tells about learning about the two jewels and hiring the bounty hunters to retrieve them and the priest.  A Star Destroyer was dispatched to intercept Domina Tagge's ship and was in the process of taking the jewels when a firefight broke out between the Imperial boarding party and the bounty hunters.  The jewels were separated with one aboard the Star Destroyer and another left behind on the Mining Explorer.  The canister containing the jewel on the Star Destroyer was rigged to explode, freeing the jewel.  The priest dies freeing the jewel on the Mining Explorer as Domina and her bounty hunters are able to secure a portion of the ship.  After Domina's story, a fight between our heroes and the bounty hunters ensues and eventually Domina reveals she can save Luke Skywalker.  Later, aboard the Star Destroyer, the two jewels are reunited once again and Luke is cured.  The Star Destroyer is launched into the void at the end of the galaxy with the pair of jewels aboard.  Domina and the bounty hunters are released, but not after Lando tells the bounty hunters the Imperials will offer a reward for her recent duplicity against the Empire.

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