Star Wars Kids: The Magazine for Young Jedi Knights #1-5
"The Rebel Thief"
Story: Ryder Windham
Art: Gary Erskine
Coloring: Cary Porter
Lettering: Annie Parkhouse
Released: 07/1997 to 11/1997
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (02/21/2010)
Shortly after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebel Alliance on Yavin 4 is in bad need of funds to repair ships. When Han Solo overhears Q-7N saying that he was guarding a 2,000 year old treasure, the smuggler and his co-pilot Chewbacca leave the base and go to the ancient fortress where the droid was found. They fill two crates with valuable relics and bring them to Sprool the trader at Zio Snaffkin spaceport on Dennogra where they sell one for 500,000 credits and give the other one to Jabba the Hutt. Meanwhile, Princess Leia Organa believed Solo to steal the treasure of himself and is surprised to see him announce on his return that he is donating the money he made to the Alliance.
First of all, I have to explain where this rare story was published. In September 1997, Scholastic started distibuting a program of game books available on through the school market. Each package included a new game book, game cards, a poster, and an issue of Star Wars Kids Magazine. The first package also included a Star Wars Missions kit consisting of a mission guide, a mission log, a scoring pad, a D12 and d6, and a Darth Vader plastic case to contain everything. There were 20 packages in all, so 20 issues of the mag and 20 books. The books were divided into 5 four-book long story arcs, and the magazines included 4 five-issue comic stories.
"The Rebel Thief" was the first story, published in issue #1-5 of the mag. Because of Q-7N's presence, it takes place in the weeks between the first Star Wars Missions book arc (books 1-4 where the droid is discovered the day after the Battle of Yavin) and precedes the last arc (books 17-20 where the droid is destroyed). In fact this story mostly refers to the first book Assault on Yavin Four since Han goes back to the same place where Q-7N was found. This is also the best story of the four, mostly because it is written by the same author who wrote those books, and doesn't contradict the continuity.
After finding the ancient floating droid Q-7N in an ancient fortress about 8 km east of the Massassi Temple, the Rebels had some adventures trying to defeat an Imperial plot that was hatched by Grand Moff Tarkin to attack the people of Delrakkin with stolen X-wings to make it look like a Rebel attack. The Rebels also learned that the Death Star was carrying vats of contaminated bacta that would be used to poison Delrakkin, and ended up destroying Admiral Termo's Star Destroyer the Liquidator.
Now back on Yavin 4, Han overhears Leia complaining about the lack of supplies and replacement parts for the Rebellion in the wake of the Battle of Yavin. He also hears a conversation between Q-7N tell Threepio that he was placed in the fortress by pirates 2,000 years earlier to guard their stolen treasure. So that gives Han an idea; he goes back, along with Chewie, to the fortress where Q-7N was found (obviously by someone else, the book is not specific about who took on the mission) and fight one last anclent guardian droid that wasn't destroyed in the book. Then he and Chewie pack up two crates full of ancient artifacts and relics, and they promptly leave Yavin 4 to go sell their loot.
I don't know how Han can trust Sprool the trader, an Ithorian on Dennogran, with delivering one of the crates to Jabba the Hutt, but he does in the end. The other crate, Han sells for half-a-million credits and Sprool accepts right away. By the time Han comes back to the Rebel base, Leia is ready to arrest him for stealing the treasure. But Han surprises everyone by saying he sold the unclaimed treasure to help the Alliance buy new ships like X-X-Wings, which of course surprises them (also surprising is that Han reveals in the beginning that he gave back the reward money he received for rescuing the Princess!) The last scene involves Sprool delivering the crate to Jabba (Sprool is really one honest trader!) saying that Han wants to repay his debt. Jabba accepts the treasure, but doesn't call off the bounty on Han's head. Poor guy!
Obviously, this is a pretty simple story and seems to present Han a bit out of character. In that time period, why would he suddenly become so selfless and give away all his money to the Alliance? Seems like in the old Marvel days, Han left the Alliance for a while and tried to deliver his reward money to Jabba only to get it stolen by pirates (which was more logical for Han). But still, this story can fit in the timeline (if you ignore the West End Games solitaire adventure Scoundrel's Luck). There are references to "the lead pilot in that prototype TIE fighter" who survived the destruction of the Death Star and the imminence Imperial reprisal once that pilot reports what happened (which he does in Missions book #17 Darth Vader's Return). But they don't know that Admiral Termo survived the destruction of the Liquidator and also can report the base's location once his escape pod reaches an Imperial outpost.
Note: this is the only comic strip from Star Wars Kids that was never reprinted, which makes it even more rare.
Erskine was the artist on X-Wing Rogue Squadron #17-20 "Requiem for a Rogue", and also the #? Wizard Special. As expected of this young reader series, the artwork is relatively simplistic, with Erskine's style definitely European and creating simple lines with not much detail. The coloring is also very unicolor and doesn't offer much variations and shading. The starships, main characters, droids and aliens (including Jabba) are pretty close semblance and recognizable but a bit off.
These issues are worth tracking down, if only for their rarity but also for the cool story and amazing artwork.
Rating: 8 / 10 Recommended