Saturday, May 12, 2018

Retro Marvel: Star Wars Annual #2

Han Solo is encased in carbonite between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  The stories that take place between these two movies are published in issues #45 through #80.  When you consider the original run was only 107 issues, these 35 issues represent almost a third of that run, which is a lot of issues to not include a major character from the franchise.  Despite his absence during the period, Marvel found ways to include Han Solo by utilizing flashback stories.  Han had a significant role to play in Star Wars #50 in 1981 and in the summer of 1982 he was the featured character of Star Wars Annual #2.  His next major appearance was in another flashback story told in Star Wars #70 which was on newsstands in January 1983.  Interestingly, Marvel did not wrap up their pre-Return of the Jedi stories until issue #80 and Han made his return in Star Wars #81 which was sold in December 1983, six months after fans knew Han had survived the capture by Boba Fett.  (Ironically, Boba Fett would return with Han in issue #81, but, by the end of the story, the status quo was maintained when he fell back into the Sarlacc.)

Despite featuring Han Solo, Shadeshine! told in Star Wars Annual #2 is not an interesting tale.  It is the last Star Wars story drawn by Carmine Infantino, whose artwork was seen on the title the previous year in Star Wars #53 and 54.  By the time Star Wars Annual #2 was published, Walter Simonson had finished up his run as the main artist that began in issue #49 and Tom Palmer was filling in just prior to Ron Frenz taking over the art chores.  After a year of more realistic artwork on the title, a return to the Infantino style should have been nostalgic.  Infantino is the main artist on the title from issue #11 to #48, but a new era began when Simonson took over the title.  Infantino's artwork is not the problem with Annual #2, it is the story.  The Han tale is framed by a sequence where Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, and C-3PO are evading Stormtroopers on Ventooine.  To escape, the trio enter a temple ruin to find a statue of Han Solo.  The caretaker of the shrine tells them a tale about Han's visit to the planet and his role in ending the rule of leaders known as Satabs.  A Satab is exposed to a stone called the shadeshine which gives them superhuman abilities.  The ramifications of using the abilities is a shortened lifespan, so after a year as ruler of the planet, the Satab is placed in suspended animation upon entering the Hall of Satabs.  Luke uses the information relayed in the tale to lure the Stormtroopers into the room and our heroes leave the planet aboard the Millennium Falcon.

Star Wars Annual #2a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1982)
Star Wars Annual #2b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (August 1982)
I love Carmine Infantino's artwork on the title, so it is a shame the story in his final outing is a disappointment.  The cover shows Han and Chrysalla, another character instrumental in the downfall of the Satabs, in the doorway to the Hall of Satabs.

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