This is a continuation of my review/thoughts on Volume 3 of the Marvel Comics Star Wars Omnibus series: A long Time Ago... There will likely be several more updates as I delve into each storyline in a bit more depth.
This is a stand-alone story arc, but one that forms the basis for quite a few stories to follow. It begins by showing a rebel scouting party (led by Princess Leia and Chewbacca), scouting the forest world of Arbra as a possible site to set up a new base (since they lost their last base on Hoth). The team very quickly discovers that the planet is already inhabited—in this case by tiny rabbit-like aliens (Hoojibs) who feed on energy and also happen to communicate via telepathy. Unfortunately for the rebels, the “introduction” comes when the Hoojibs raid their camp, draining nearly every weapon and piece of equipment of power. It seems these otherwise gentle folk have been starving since they were forced out of their cavern home by a gigantic, flying monstrosity (dubbed “The Slivilith”). When both rebels and Hoojibs come under attack by said beast, they join forces to do battle. Through use of teamwork and clever tactics, the monster is slain. It is shown that the caverns in which the Hoojibs live are home to an odd-but-powerful crystal power source. This serves as the Hoojibs ‘food’- but could also be put to use to help power a rebel base. Some of the desperate rebels seem about to turn on the Hoojibs and TAKE their home. But Leia quickly nixes this. Thankfully, the Hoojibs, impressed by Leia’s integrity, invite the Rebels to share their home with them. The Alliance seems to have found a new base.
This was actually a very solid story. My only real criticism is the hoojibs themselves, who are…well, just too darn cute. They’re like the Nibblonians from Futurama. But even that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story. And again it is nice to see Leia as the main protagonist in the story- flexing her skills both as a soldier and a diplomat. I especially liked the way the rebels had to figure out a way to fight the big bad monster WITHOUT most of their high-tech gadgets. Great stuff.
Return to Bespin
This story arc spans two issues of the comic and details Lando Calrissian’s return to Cloud city to to check up on what happened to it since the Empire’s takeover (during the Empire Strikes Back). He finds the metropolis seemingly deserted- save for Lobot, who seems to have malfunctioned/gone berserk. While fleeing from the cyborg, Lando discovers a team of Imperials. After several shootouts, Lando finally comes face to face with the Imperial leader (Governor Treece) and finds out what’s really going on. Evidently, Cloud City’s Ugnaught workers (in protest against harsh Imperial rule) set explosives designed to topple the city- which was subsequently evacuated. The Ugnaughts were also responsible for disabling Lobot, the only person capable of thwarting their plans. Forced into an alliance of convenience with Teece, Lando manages to capture and repair Lobot. The Cyborg manages to defuse the bombs, just in time for Teece to betray Lando and kick him (literally) off cloud city.
The next book picks up with Lando plummeting to his death. Lobot, now fully restored, manages to save his former boss with a Jet Pack- just barely slowing his crash landing into the swampy surface of Bespin. There, the two fall in with a clan of Ugnaughts. After escaping Imperial pursuit, Lando meets with the Ugnaught King and discovers that the Imperials had increased tibanna gas production to a point where it was damaging the ecosystem (mostly so Governor Treece could skim profit off the top without anyone noticing).
Meanwhile, back on Cloud City, Luke and his new wingman (a woman named Shira Brie) have come to Bespin to check up on Lando (since he had missed his scheduled check-in). The two quickly get into trouble with the Governor’s stormtroopers who are now “clearing” the city in preparation for a return to operation. It is during this firefight that Lando arrives, flying up to the city on an Ugnaught airship (lifted by huge gas-balloons). Accompanying him are Lobot and (of all things) an ugnaught news crew. The latter quickly set about ‘covering the story’ going on- remarking on the plight of the outnumbered rebels. Lando attempts to bully Treece into surrender by threatening to have Lobot re-arm the explosive charges. The Governor responds by shooting Lobot. It is at this point that Luke rejoins the fray. Using the Force, he apparently re-activates the charges. The Imperials flee as the explosives detonate and the city begins to drop. All seems lost when the city slowly halts its fall and Luke explains that he didn’t re arm the MAIN explosives, only the arming charges. Thus, it was lots of flash and bang, but without any real damage to the city.
The story ends with the city being repopulated, both by the ugnaughts and the returning evacuees. Lando and the Rebels are hailed as heroes and it is explained that Bespin will, once again, become a ‘free port’, since the Empire thinks it was destroyed.
Right. Yeah. So, I have quite a few problems with the above story, which is really a shame, because as far as characterization goes, it was actually pretty well done. The characters had great interactions and we get to really see Lando in action. He is definitely presented as a brains over brawn guy who plays the odds. Which nicely sets him apart from the more haphazard Han Solo.
The Ugnaught news crew was actually rather amusing- and a nice little touch to both the story and the race as a whole- giving them more character. There was even an amusing little scene with the Imperial Bomb squad discovering a ‘talking bomb’ (droid brain built into a bomb) that convinces them that it wants to help them disarm it. Yeah, turns out it really didn’t. Suckers.
Unfortunately, so much of the rest of the story just…ugh. First of all, there was the huge mistake of making Bespin a planet with a surface instead of a gas giant. I mean, it’s an honest enough mistake, since Bespin’s exact composition wasn’t ever explicitly stated in the movie itself. I could even forgive this and ‘gloss it over’ if it weren’t for the horrible ending to the story. Seriously. Luke suddenly develops the ability to sense and re-wire a dozen bombs which are likely several kilometers away from him. Yeah. Right. Not buying that. And then the whole Idea that Luke knew that the re-wired bombs would only cause the city to drop for a few minutes. Not buying that, either. And then the idea that the Empire would just assume the city had fallen and would never send anyone to check on it ever again. Riiiight. Sigh. This kind of ending just ticks me off, especially since it was an otherwise good story.
As a final note, this story-arc marks the first introduction of Shira Brie- a red-headed rebel pilot destined to become something of a love interest for Luke Skywalker. Though she plays only a small part here, she is involved in a few key moments- her introduction quickly sets her at odds with Leia (who is seemingly a bit jealous of Shira’s budding relationship with Luke). Shira also has some fun banter with Luke during the firefight and its aftermath. She will become an increasingly important character in future story arcs.
This single-issue story details the Rebel Alliance’s attempt to find a hiding place for it’s fleet even as they set up their new headquarters on the planet Arbra. The plan is to utilize a gigantic ‘energy pyramid’ to surround their fleet and then fly the whole thing into the chromosphere of the system’s star. They’re going to hide in the fires of the sun itself- the last place ANYone would look. Yeah. You can say that again. Of course, all of this seems to be worth it when an Imperial TIE patrol passes through the system, looking for Rebels- and find none.
Unfortunately (but perhaps not surprisingly), things go wrong. One of the ‘points’ of the pyramid (responsible for generating and maintaining the energy field) experiences some ‘technical difficulties’- and it seems as though the whole thing is going to collapse and fall into the sun’s corona- destroying the fleet entirely. Only through the timely intervention of Artoo and Threepio is disaster averted and the fleet saved.
So. Yeah. I dislike this entire story and call BS on both the concept of the ‘energy pyramid’ and the necessity of hiding a fleet inside a sun. I mean, seriously- how big is space? Why not just hide in deep space, outside of any solar system. The odds of being found there would be very, very (very) low. Why risk having an entire FLEET destroyed by hiding in a sun. There is no reason. It’s just stupid. It reminds me of that scene from Family Guy’s version of the Empire Strikes back:
Leia’s Plan: “We’re going to hide our ships inside the sun! What could possibly go wrong!”
Rebel soldier: “Ummm yeah. Could we talk to someone else? Maybe in the military? Preferably a man?”
This is mostly a single-issue story-arc, though some of the set up actually occurred in the previous issue. Here we have Lando and Luke traveling to the gigantic spaceship/spacestation known as “Bazarre”- a less-than-reputable trading post run by a less-than-reputable criminal named Orion Ferret. Yes, that’s really his name. Subtle, huh? I guess “Weasley McBackstabber” was taken. In any case, the two heroes are here to purchase four TIE fighters for an as-yet-unknown reason. Ferret, of course, intends to betray them, but is (for the moment) thwarted in this by Chewbacca, whom Lando leaves behind with the crime boss to ensure nothing bad happens.
Luke and Lando, meanwhile, travel in Ferret’s shuttle to the junk world of “Patch 4” to pick up their TIE fighters. There they find (not surprisingly) a trap in the form of a gigantic worm-like watchbeast that tries to kill them. The two escape to link up with some friendly local folk who reside amongst the junk. The junk-folk tell Luke and Lando that Ferret keeps a ‘sonic pacifier’ in his shuttle and the two concoct a plan to get it an escape. They wind up battling the worm beast, with Lando moving to distract it as Luke races for the pacifier. In the end, they manage to down the critter just in the nick of time- and turn the pacifier over to the junk-folk.
Meanwhile, back on Bazarre, the scheming Ferret manages to utilize a hidden ‘freeze ray’ to immobilize Chewbacca. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work and Chewie escapes. Needless to say, the Wookiee is a bit irate, but before he can twist Ferret’s head off, Luke and Lando return— with their promised cargo of TIE Fighters— and all is well.
All in all, this was a great little story- especially when compared to the shortcomings of the previous tales. Again, we get to see a lot of insight into Lando’s character. There is also quite a bit of genuinely amusing banter- something that is, to me, a MUST in any Star Wars story. Other things I enjoyed were the fact that they FINALLY allowed Lando to get out of the costume he’d been wearing since bespin- you know, the blue shirt with red-cape combo? Yeesh. I also enjoyed (despite his less-than-subtle name) the character of Ferret and his amusing little octopus-parrot thing that sat on his shoulder. He was a unique and memorable character who I could easily see being used in any game campaign. But most of all, I liked the rather solid plot, with no deus ex machina ending. At one point, Luke uses his force powers to topple a pile of junk onto the worm beast- only to have it simply burrow its way out. So yeah, the Force isn’t infallible, no does it always produce a miraculous rescue. Yay!