Yeah decades before Disney acquired both companies, this happened. From 1977 to 1986 for 107 issues and three annuals Marvel Comics published Star Wars the licensed and official comic. As a kid I read some of these issues and I still have some in my personal collection. But with Disney now filming Star Wars Episode VII I really wanted to reconnect with these stories. This was reinforced by the fact that I have been enjoying Brian Wood’s Star Wars published by Dark Horse. And in 2015 Marvel will get this title back as it all comes back into the family. In talking with friends I decided the way to jump back in was through collections which led to me picking up Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago…Volume 1 reprinting issues one through 27.
The first six issues written by Marvel legend Roy Thomas and drawn by Howard Chaykin adapts Star Wars or what we now call Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope. With issue seven stories begin to follow our heroes after the Battle of Yavin. The volume includes creative staff changes with most prominently Archie Goodwin taking on much of the writing duties and Carmine Infantino providing art. These stories separate Luke, Han and Leia into their own adventures. Han takes on a space pirate named Crimson Jack, becomes a hired gun for farmers with a posse including the talking giant Rabbit named Jaxx, and eventually works his way back to the rebellion. Meanwhile, Luke searches for a post-Yavin home for the rebels, is hunted by a self-hating cyborg and fights water dragons. And Leia seeks out the lost Luke who has lost contact with the alliance. The heroes all reunite on a water world which features the water dragons, giant floating wood cities, and a society divided. And throughout the stories the shadow of Darth Vader hangs over our heroes.
These issues are a fantastic adventure for the Star Wars fan. The fun all starts in the first six issues and their very different take on the original Star Wars film. The reader knows something is different as the art on page 14 shows Darth Vader using the Force to levitate a cup of what we assume is coffee over to his gloved hand. And then he begins to drink his beverage, as the reader struggles with the question of how the liquid is getting through the mask. Hardcore Star Wars fans would likely complain that Darth Vader would never use the Force for something so minor. But everyone else will still be stuck with the question of how is Vader drinking without a straw? Another change is Luke flies against the Death Star with Blue Squadron, not Red. And while we are at it Wedge is in a Y-Wing not a X-Wing. There are also concepts brought forward that we would not question until other movies were developed. For example, Blue Leader makes it appear that he knew Luke Skywalker’s father as a good pilot from the Outer Rim, a place we now know Anakin Skywalker never flew through or lived in as an adult. So yes there is plenty in this story that does not add up with what we know today as canon. For me, my favorite new moment is Chewbacca getting his medal after the Battle of Yavin. But of course he has to put it on himself as Princess Leia is not tall enough to present it properly.
Speaking of Chewbacca the Wookie, Carmine Infantino is a comics legend. But he really had no idea how to draw a Wookie. There is way way to much skin in Chewy’s face!
With the movie in the rearview mirror, Marvel’s staff was able to expand on the Star Wars universe. We find out, for now, why Han Solo did not pay off Jabba the Hutt. And I had heard about Jaxx, but I was shocked how easily this rabbit fell into this universe. And I did search future volumes for more of the big-eared one. Valance the bounty hunter gives Marvel the opportunity to explore the complexity and illogical basis of racism as he hates all droids! And he despises the droid-loving Luke Skywalker. Marvel legend Chris Claremont gets an opportunity to craft a Luke Skywalker/Cinderella story! And we get to see fantastic environments, I really did enjoy the water world story that finishes the volume.
I can report it is awkward anytime Luke and Leia kiss! But let us be fair, they did not know!
Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago…Volume 1 is a fun trip. Star Wars fans really should pick-up this collection to explore Han, Luke and Leia’s past. And I am only looking forward to more adventures in future trips in a Comic Book Time Machine.