Or – “Recollections of a Rangy Rebel Rabbit!”
As a fan of comic books AND Doctor Who, I find myself quite familiar with arguments about continuity. But when I recall the discussions I’ve heard from Star Wars fans (especially regarding the Expanded Universe material), I inadvertantly find myself having a William Shatner SNL moment and crying, “Get a life!” However, I know that to be both inadvisable AND self-defeating , because geeking out over pop-culture minutiae is one of the signs of love for the stories that bring us together, and that the only difference between my love of the Legion of Super-Heroes and someone’s love for George Lucas’ grand opus is the fact that my rebellious guy wears a big green thunderbird instead of a cool pirate vest.
And then, I explain to all my Star-Wars-fan pals how, this one time? A big green Bugs Bunny was a Jedi!
STAR WARS #8-#10
Script: Roy Thomas/Don Glut
Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Alan Kupperberg
Inks: Tom Palmer
Cover Art: Gil Kane/Rick Hoberg
Colors: Tom Palmer/F. Mouly
Letters: John Costanza
Editor: Roy Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 35 Cents
(Current Near-Mint Price: $10.00 Each)
Previously, on Star Wars: It was a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, had won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia raced home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that could save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy. Of course, now that all that’s over, Han Solo is looking for work. If you’ve ever seen Han’s people skills, you’re probably not going to be surprised how this goes…
Say what you will about Howard Chaykin, the man draws Chewbacca on-model. I also like seeing that this story opens quite similarly to what we see of Han in the original Star Wars film: Hanging out in a less-than-savory place looking for a few credits to help pay his debts. A stranger enters, looking for a favor, and offers Han a job. The difference here is that the man isn’t looking for a ride, he’s looking for a champion, a good man to help fight off the bad men who have put his home under siege…
If this sounds a bit like ‘The Magnificent Seven’ with Han in the Yul Brynner role, then you’re both astute on your pop culture AND paying attention, and you can be my friend. Han agrees to help the man protect his home, and puts out the word that he’s looking for a few good… whatevers to help him and Chewie in their quest. His first recruits are a humanoid hedgehog (named Hedji, natch), a sexy space-pirate lady named Amaiza Foxtrain, and a seeming madman who may or may NOT be a Jedi Knight named… (Wait for it…)
…Don Wan Kihotay. God, I love Roy Thomas. Han’s next recruit is, to my mind, the single greatest character ever to appear anywhere in the Star Wars Universe, even better than that Hutt who became a Sith. (I might have dreamed that part.) I give you: Jaxxon.
Okay, so I may have exaggerated up above… Jaxxon is NOT a Jedi, but a freebooter like Han himself, stranded on the planet until he can raise funds to repair his ship, ‘The Rabbit’s Foot.’ Yes, they called it that. Their last hired gun is a boy who calls himself the Starkiller Kid (a reference to earlier drafts of Lucas’ script for the movie, wherein Luke was named Starkiller instead of Skywalker.) Before anybody can ask what the stars ever did to him, Han decides that he likes the Kid, as he reminds him of his rebel pal Luke, and adds him and his droid to their band of mercenaries. Using the Millennium Falcon as collateral, Han borrows a few Banthas to keep with the western theme and sets off for town. And, of course, a beautiful girl somehow gets involved…
Han’s Magnificent Seven has issues getting along, especially since our Corellian raider isn’t yet a skilled team player. Luckily, Jaxxon’s keen eye and lucky foot keep the group on their toes, just in time for the attack of the Cloud-Riders!
Jaxxon even manages to flirt a bit with the lovely Amaiza, who slowly seems to warm to his wabbity ways. Sergi-X (who, by the way, is a dead ringer for Spaghetti Western director Sergio Leone) and his men attack, but EVERYONE is surprised when one of the elders of the village scoffs off the help of Solo’s Raiders and uses ancient rituals to raise a terrible Leviathan-creature to drive away the bad men!
Starkiller’s droid falls in battle, and Serji-X is smashed by the behemoth. Unfortunately, the old man who raised the creature is also squot like a pun’kin, leaving the creature to rage uncontrollably. Once again, it’s Jaxxon who understands the full ramifications of the carnage…
Moving faster than the giant lizard can squish, Jaxxon makes a full-frontal assault on the creature, with only the pulchritudinous Amaiza (who, even 40 years ago, shows Howard Chaykin’s love of female characters wearing pretty-much-lingerie in battle) by his side, earning her respect as they go…
Don-Wan Kihotay confronts the creature, and Han recognizes that the beast is somehow confused by the energy of his light-sabre. Hedji leaps to assist the supposed Jedi Master, and gets blowed up for his troubles, leaving the entire group shocked. I truly enjoy the fact that Kihotay takes a cue from his namesake, and may not actually be a Jedi at all so much as a lunatic who somehow took possession of a Jedi weapon, but either way, he becomes key to Han’s plan to defeat the creature. (Rule #1 of the Expanded Universe: The A-Canon characters always get the best scenes.)
A few moments later, the creature is disintegrated by the sabre, and the Star-Hoppers of Aduba-3 are triumphant in their quest! Everyone gets in on the act as we wrap up all the plots, including the return of the hot girl from the previous issue…
It’s fun to see Han mistakenly expect that he’s going to get the girl, especially since in these days of rigid canon, there’s no way we’d be allowed to undermine the sacred Han/Leia pairing. These three issues are filled with awesome, from the use of the Magnificent Seven motif (drawn from Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’, a fun bit given Kurosawa’s influence on Lucas) to a young Howard Chaykin on art chores showing the building blocks of what would become his later iconic style, to the fact that one of our heroes is, essentially, a cartoon character. Jaxxon and Amaiza (as well as Starkiller and his new girlfriend) crop up again later in Marvel’s SW series, but this story is probably the Star Wars that I remember best from my youth (even more than the movie, honestly, because I didn’t get to watch it repeatedly until the late 80’s.) Moreover, Lucasfilm licensing signed off on all the issues of Marvel’s book, making this madness at LEAST secondary canon of the Star Wars universe. Rumors that George Lucas himself requested that Jaxxon be removed from the Star Wars universe swirl here and there, but frankly I can’t imagine why. He’s certainly no more or less embarrassing than Jar-Jar Binks, and was pretty heroically spiffy to boot. Star Wars #8-10 is a fascinating flashback to the days when you could still have fun with storytelling, and is more interested in doing an entertaining homage than with the building of brands, earning an impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. It may not hold up as well as I’d hoped, but it’s a fine read anyway (and a good way to irritate your friends who love the galaxy far, far away. For instance, somewhere, D&D Rob’s head just exploded.)
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: What parts of YOUR favorite things do you wish weren’t canonical anymore?