Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Retro Marvel: Star Wars #30

"What good is all your uncle’s work if its taken over by the Empire?  You know they’re starting to nationalize commerce in the central systems.  It won’t be long before your uncle is merely a tenant, slaving for the greater glory of the Empire."

I like to think these lines, from a deleted scene between Luke and Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine, were the inspiration behind the story in Star Wars #30.  In this issue, we see what it really means to be "slaving for the greater glory of the Empire."

Star Wars #30a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 1979)
Star Wars #30b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (December 1979)
The story, titled A Princess Alone!, starts with Princess Leia being delivered to Metalorn aboard a cargo freighter.  Coincidentally, at the same time, we learn that Baron Tagge is also visiting the planet, to check on an automated weapon detection system installed by one of the many Tagge family businesses.  Metalorn is one of a hundred Imperial Factory planets and the labor force works below the harsh, inhospitable surface.  The Imperials, led by Governor Corwyth, run an extremely regimented society; workers are told when to work, eat, and sleep.  Children also exist in this environment and free time is earned by the workers.  The environment is reminiscent of George Orwell's dystopian future in the book 1984 including their strict control over the "news".  It is mentioned in the story that there are agri-planets (agriculture planets) that undoubtedly are operated with the same efficiency the Imperial tyrants use on the factory planets.  Most of this information is conveyed in a sequence where a little girl, named Tammi, is planting seeds in a pile of dirt in this predominately metallic stronghold.  As the girl's mom races to her side, an Imperial Stormtrooper threatens to report the incident if the mom does not return to her work detail and the girl to her instruction unit.

The story is simplistic but effective in conveying the Empire's over reliance on technology as Leia is able to evade detection as she seeks out a former teacher, Professor Horada, in a food concourse.  Baron Tagge, unlike his Imperial colleague Corwyth, clearly understands the limits of technology and is able to ascertain it is Leia who has infiltrated the society.  Baron Tagge confronts Leia just as she is telling her old professor the truth about Alderaan.  Leia escapes with the help of Tammi.  As Leia departs Metalorn, again aboard the cargo ship, she tells the captain her mission was a success because she has helped sow the seeds of rebellion.  Poetically, the story ends with Tammi sneaking away from her instruction unit to plant more seeds in the dirt.

On many of the Star Wars planets we've encountered in the movies, animated series, books, and comics, most citizens of the Empire lead a normal life, free from the atrocities committed by their tyrannical overlords.  It is easy to forget why there is a rebellion, because on the surface, the Imperial presence on most planets seems more like benevolent law enforcement than military dictatorship.  It is stories like the one found in Star Wars #30 that drives home the reason and need for a Rebellion against the Galactic Empire.

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