Saturday, May 6, 2017

Retro Marvel: Star Wars #45

The original Star Wars title has distinct eras delineated by the movie adaptations.  The title after The Empire Strikes Back would see a change in writers as well as artists that substantially alters the tone and stories told, but this did not occur immediately.  Archie Goodwin, the writer for most of the Star Wars issues after Roy Thomas' final issue #10, contributed three more stories immediately after the movie adaptation, issues #45, 47, and 50, and also wrote issue #98.  Carmine Infantino provided the artwork for the four issues immediately after the adaptation, issues #45 - 48, as well as issues #53 and 54.  Archie Goodwin had wrapped up the various story arcs he was telling before The Empire Strikes Back and only issue #50 references a character he introduced in that run, Domino Tagge.  Issues #45, 47, and 50 offer a glimpse of what a post-The Empire Strikes Back title might have looked like if Goodwin had remained on the title.

Star Wars #45 tells a story that utilizes a concept introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, the idea that the Empire has "thousands of probe droids searching the galaxy" for the hidden Rebel base.  Additional nods to The Empire Strikes Back include a one page recap of Luke Skywalker's activities in the movie and several times his dialogue makes references to the same movie.  For example, at one point, Luke is questioning the revelation he learned during his battle with Darth Vader:

Luke Skywalker: "It felt like Vader told me the truth... but wouldn't that mean Ben Kenobi misled me?  Either seems unthinkable - makes it so hard to decide what I should do next and --"

Later in the story Luke thinks back to a lesson taught by Yoda:

Luke Skywalker: "Yoda said it, Artoo, there is no try...!  Only do... or do not!  And I mean to do!"

The entire story concerns Luke's battle with a specially augmented Imperial Probe Droid, designated 13-K, that takes over a Rebel Blockade Runner and kills all aboard.  Luke is flying his X-Wing on patrol when he is fired upon by the Blockade Runner under the control of the droid.  His X-Wing is destroyed, but not before he and R2-D2 eject from the craft.  He boards the Blockade Runner and soon learns the Probe Droid has taken over.  Luke also learns the droid is set to blow up the ship when it rejoins the Rebel fleet.  The Probe Droid is in communication with an Imperial Navy Admiral, Damon Krell, who commands a Star Destroyer.  Krell is your stereotypical arrogant Imperial officer who oversaw the enhancements to the Probe Droid.  The Rebel fleet becomes aware of a problem with the Runner and attack the ship.  Luke manages to sever the communications between the Probe Droid and the Imperial Star Destroyer and he and Artoo eject from the Runner in an escape pod.  The Probe Droid takes the ship into hyperspace, intent on returning to its base, the Star Destroyer led by Admiral Krell.  Exiting hyperspace, the Blockade Runner nears the Imperials and the ship explodes, taking the Destroyer with it.

Star Wars #45a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (March 1981)
Star Wars #45b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (March 1981)
The cover is not done by Carmine Infantino, which is a shame.  The Imperial Probe Droid inside the story has a bulkier body and a smaller head making it more ominous where the droid on the cover looks more movie accurate.  Another problem with the cover is Luke is wearing a white flight suit, but inside the story he is wearing the familiar orange jumpsuit.  The cover is decent, but it would have been nice to see an Infantino designed layout.

In the story, Luke uses a lightsaber.  In fact, Luke continues to use a lightsaber in subsequent issues and it is never explained how he has the saber, since his was lost along with his hand, during his confrontation with Vader in Cloud City.  Nothing in the Star Wars #45 requires Luke to use a lightsaber since Luke is equally adept at using a blaster.

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