Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Retro Foreign: British The Empire Strikes Back Monthly #157

The Alan Moore issues of the British The Empire Strikes Back Monthly are well known due to the popularity of the writer.  They were not published in the U.S. until 1996 when Dark Horse included them in a 2-part mini-series titled Classic Star Wars: Devilworlds.  Alan Moore's stories are unconventional Star Wars stories but they are not the only unusual original stories published in the British comics.  A story included in the Devilworlds mini-series called The Flight of the Falcon is written by Steve Parkhouse and does not have the same notoriety as the Alan Moore written stories, but it is strange nonetheless.  It was originally printed in The Empire Strikes Back Monthly #157.

The story begins with a history of the Empire's border regions where pirates and smuggler operate with impunity as another smuggler eludes an Imperial patrol.  One of the pilots from the patrol is reprimanded by an Imperial officer Tarkin.  Tarkin is not named nor is his rank revealed, but the likeness is clear.  The pilot explains their space craft cannot keep up with the spaceships used by the smugglers, so an Imperial delegation led by Tarkin makes a trip to the planet Tharkos to visit a Millennium Astro-Engineering plant.  There they negotiate a deal to buy the Millennium Falcon prototype from the plant's director, Zoltan Starbuck.  Interestingly, the character is called Starkid the rest of the story.  Starbuck's secretary overhears the conversation and travels to the nearby town of Leviticus to inform Han Solo of the prototype.  Han Solo is in shadows and his face is not seen but it is clear he is the one receiving the tip.  The day the Millennium Astro-Engineering corporation is to deliver the craft, the Imperial pilot and his entourage are attacked on the way to the plant.  The three attackers pretend to be the Imperials to take possession of the Millennium Falcon.  Once in space, two of the three imposters turn out to be Lando Calrissian and Han Solo.  Solo tells the Rebellion about the deal between Millennium Astro-Engineering and the Empire, so the Rebels send X-Wing Fighters to destroy the plant on Tharkos, killing Zoltan Starbuck.  Needless to say, this story is not considered part of the continuity of the Expanded Universe.

Also in The Empire Strikes Back Monthly #157 is the second half of Star Wars #57.

The Empire Strikes Back Monthly #157a - Marvel Comics, England (June 1982)
original content and second 1/2 of Star Wars #57
The cover shows the Millennium Falcon being flown from Tharkos while X-Wing Fighters attack the plant.  In the foreground is Han Solo and the masked visage is the disguise Han Solo used to trick Starbuck into releasing the Falcon to Han and his group.  The cover story used is Han, the pilot, was injured years earlier and those injuries necessitated the use of the mask.

To say this story is weird is an understatement.  From the Empire dealing with the Millennium Astro-Engineering corporation, to Han Solo notify the Rebellion of the deal, this story is full of ideas that are outlandish.  There are also several times in the story where the thought balloons are directed at the wrong character which adds to this story's bizarreness.

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