Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Not So Long Ago 2: Star Wars #7

Now we begin my look at #7-10 proper:

The cover of #7 states in blurbs both "At last! Beyond the movie! Beyond the galaxy!" and "All new!" to get across the notion that this would serve as the first post-film Star Wars story. The cover (drawn by Chaykin's mentor Gil Kane) features a dynamic view of Han Solo & Chewbacca under fire with a wanted poster visible in the background, which establishes their statuses pretty nicely. Han's gun doesn't look like anything from the films but they were still getting a handle on these details at the time.

The story is titled "New Planet, New Perils!" and Thomas & Chaykin were joined by Frank Springer as embellisher; Chaykin had only been able to draw the first issue of the series on his own and from then on had relied on a series of embellishers and - eventually - ghost artists to get through the series, some of this because of his own dwindling interest in the property. Notably, Archie Goodwin was at this time "consulting editor," but would soon replace Thomas as the series' scribe.

The story opens with the film's main cast (Han, Chewbacca, Luke, Leia, C-3PO & R2-D2) together on Yavin as Han & Chewie prepare to depart in the Millennium Falcon. Han is quick to promise he'll return, noting he's simply off to pay his debt to Jabba the Hutt (called "Hut" here) using the money the Rebels paid him. Enjoy that fleeting glimpse of all the characters together, because after page 1 it's only Han & Chewie and it will be several issues before all of them share another scene.

Han & Chewie don't get very far from Yavin before running across a band of space pirates, led by one Crimson Jack. Jack has a small fleet made up of TIE Fighters and X-Wings and commanded from his own Star Destroyer, all of them vehicles he'd commandeered. Jack's crew even includes a someone wearing Stormtrooper armour (having apparently appropriated it as well). Jack's right-hand woman by the name of Jolli wants to kill Han, but Jack and Han proved to have had previous dealings. Rather than kill him, Jack simply takes all of Han's money then lets him go, figuring one day he'll able to rob Han again. In all, Crimson Jack looked like a Flash Gordon character, not a Star Wars creation, but the use of TIE Fighter, Stormtrooper & Star Destroyer visuals were a clever way of keeping familiar elements from the films without repeating what had already been done or introducing something against the grain of Lucas' unrevealed plans.

Now desperate to make some money, Han decides to visit a secluded "outer rim" planet called Aduba-3 (which shall be the primary setting for this tale) and find work there. As I noted in the preamble, this tale was inspired by The Magnificent Seven and the next scene is the first direct reference. Just like the scene in the film where two cowboys face the wrath of townspeople for helping to bury a dead Indian in a supposed "white" town's cemetery, Han & Chewie discover an insectoid priest trying to bury a cyborg, much to the townsfolk's disgust (instead of a horse-drawn wagon, this version has the coffin borne by a Bantha). Thus, Han & Chewie take over the Yul Brynner & Steve McQueen roles from the film as they agree to help the priest bury the cyborg, even if it means fighting off the entire town!

Naturally, Han & Chewie are almost as cool as Brynner & McQueen so they win a lengthy gun battle against the citizens. The Bantha is slain by errant gunfire, but Chewie carries the coffin the rest of the way on his back. The cyborg is buried on "Spacers' Hill" and the priest pays off Han & Chewie. The duo quickly head to the local cantina to enjoy some drinks and pick up women (Chewie attracts two women! I never took Chewbacca to be a philanderer). However, they're soon approached by a trio of men with another offer of work. Interestingly, these men look much more Japanese than Mexican, suggesting that Thomas was indeed thinking of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai when he came up with this tale (or perhaps Chaykin was?).

So far this story is a pretty good translation of The Magnificent Seven into Star Wars' trappings; of course, tomorrow we'll reach the material people complained about!

TOMORROW: Star Wars #8 and the introduction of Jaxxon! See you then everybunny!

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