Star Wars Tales #6
[Also available in photo cover.]
Art Cover: Kilian Plunkett, Jason Hvam
Editor: Dave Land, Scott Allie ("The Hovel on Terk Street," "Junkheap Hero"), Phil Amara ("A Hot Time in the Cold Town Tonite!," "Fortune, Fate, and the Natural History of the Sarlacc")
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (12/26/2006)
In his one-page editorial cartoon, Dave Land interviews Allan Kausch, the continuity editor at Lucas Licensing. They address the issue of how Star Wars Tales fits into the continuity, to which Mr. Kausch informs us that "none of the stories necessarily fall into official Star Wars canon" and that they "never happened". I can understand that most stories do not fall into continuity, the ones that are parodies or comedies or "what ifs", but I disagree that all of them fit in that category. Some stories were written with full knowledge of the continuity by writers who know a lot about Star Wars and probably wrote others comics or novels. They put a lot of time and care into their stories, more than let's say a "Skippy the Jedi Droid" where, as enjoyable as it is, the emphasis is placed on the comedy. Some of these stories are or will be referenced in official sources, thus making them official as well. I think that saying all the stories never happened is a slap in the face to those writers, as well as reader who put up their $5.99 every three months to buy this publication. For one, I refuse to accepts that and I will definitely identify the ones that are official canon in this and future reviews, and explain why they are such.
In previous issues, some stories can certainly be included in the continuity. Issue #1 had the Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan story which doesn't contradict anything. The same can be said of "Incident at Horn Station" and "Routine" from issue #2, and "Three Against the Galaxy" from issue #3. #1 also had a Mara Jade story written by her creator, Tim Zahn, and the three other stories from issue #3 can be considered official as well: Windham's Jar Jar story written to fit with his Episode I Adventures books, Ostrander and Duursema's Villie story and Handley's Lando story, which I know has been researched extensively using references from many sources in order to make it fit in the continuity. Plunkett's "Sandblasted" from issue #4 certainly can fit with his other story The Jabba Tape which is official, and "Yaddle's Tale" in issue #5 is actually referenced in a novel. Of course, I know that Mr. Kausch's point is that they rather would have writers write entertaining stories without being bound by knowing every single story or source that came before, but it doesn't mean that those who do should be discounted. There is plenty of place for both types of stories, and both can be just as entertaining.
"The Hovel on Terk Street"
Story: Tom Fassbender, Jim Pascoe
Pencils: Eric Powell
Inks: Drew Geraci, Keith Barnett
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Dragon Monkey
In Mos Eisley, Greedo is hired by a woman named Nima Maas to find Temo Dionisio, a politician and Rebel sympathizer who's gone missing. Using his contacts, Greedo tracks him down to a hovel on Terk street where Nok Derrick, who was last seen with Dionisio, is holed up. Greedo manages to find the politician and when Nima arrives she reveals that she is an Imperial sent to capture him. But she also has to eliminate any witnesses, and that includes Greedo.
Fassbender and Pascoe wrote a nice little action story starring our favorite Rodian, and they make him look just as good as Boba Fett. This is funny in light of the short story by Tom Veitch in Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina in which he is exactly the opposite. I must admit I prefer this version of Greedo over the bumbling rookie idiot he usually is portrayed as. It's amazing to see him snap a Gamorrean's neck (!?!), knock someone out with a thermal detonator (?!?) and use a spring-loaded knife hidden in his sleeve. Let's just say that this might be how Greedo sees himself. Nice use also of local characters such as Kabe, Wuher and some Jawas.
Just a note for continuity that Nima was given a background and stats in an article in Star Wars Gamer #6.
Powell is of course the creator of the popular series The Goon, and his art is very stylish, harking back to old-time comic strips such as The Shadow and The Phantom. The coloring is pretty dark, the story taking place at night in dark back alleys, and makes good use of different shades of green.
"A Hot Time in the Cold Town Tonite!"
Story: Ian Edginton
Art: Mark Martin, Rick Neilsen
The Max Rebo Band are sent to Hoth by Jabba to play for former rival crime lord Bingo Mehndra's spawnday. But when they find thermite explosives set on timers inside their speakers, the band must find a way to escape without anyone noticing before the big explosion.
This story (as well as the art, see below) is done in the style of Dave Cooper's "Stop That Jawa!" from issue #2. In fact, it could be considered a kind of sequel. It's really fun to see all the interaction within the three band members Max, Sy Snootles and Droopy McCool. It's really a story about being stuck with a job and having to use teamwork to get out of situations thrown at them by an ungrateful employer. A tale of hardship... no wait it's actually a very funny comedy. Reading this I can really see how this could make a good kids' cartoon on Saturday mornings.
Martin and Neilsen duplicate almost exactly the style that Dave Cooper started. In fact, if not for the coloring and the different font for the lettering, it would be hard to make the distinction. Even if they are copying someone else, this is the whole point and it makes you appreciate the effort. In fact, this can easily be called a homage.
"Fortune, Fate, and the Natural History of the Sarlacc"
Story: Mark Scultz
Art: Kellie Str°m
Grubbat Fhilch gets thrown into the Sarlacc for stealing money from Jabba the Hutt. Before being eaten, he swaers that he wil have revenge on Boba Fett, the hunter who tracked him down. A spore ejects from the Sarlacc a through a sequence of events finds a niche in the desert. This new Sarlacc is the same one where Jabba later brings Han Solo and the Jedi Skywalker to be executed. So maybe in the end Grubbat will get his revenge.
This story is about a flying "spore" that ejects from the mouth of a Sarlacc and attaches itself to a passing dewback. It starts feeding but then is removed by a Jawa who is cleaning the dewback. The Jawa uses the spore as a sponge to clean a droid, but gets distracted and it falls on the ground. A bony vulture touches it and it attaches itself to it, being transported across the desert until the vulture dies. The spore now has tentacles and can move by itself. It gets eaten by a disgusting three-headed spider, only to eject out of it in a very gory way. At this stage it is fully formed and digs a hole in the sand to take root.
This is one of the weirdest stories I've read so far. But it's also very original, probably the only story about the reproduction of a Sarlacc. It has some cool moments, like the stormtrooper who pays a pair of Jawas to take care of his dewback. The story is also very visual, without no narration and very little dialogue. So it relies solely on...
Str°m's art is very original for a Star Wars comic. Each page looks like a complete painting. As mentioned before, the story relies on the artist's storytelling, and here it works wonderfully. Never are we confused on what's going on, everything is explained in the pictures. But sometimes Str°m's style can be very creepy and digusting. As much as the Jawas and other characters are very recognizable, the artist's own creations like the vultures and the three-headed spider are nightmarish. At times, it reminded me of John Carpenter's The Thing set in a desert. Even the rabbit-like alien Grubbat (who could be a Gerb from Yavin 13) looks menacing with his carnivorous teeth. Not for the squeamish.
For those interested, you can still buy eight of the ten orignal art pages for $1,000 to $1,200 each from Steve Krupp's Curio Shoppe. (Click on the links to see them: page 1, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, page 9.)
Story: Mark Evanier
Art: Sergio AragonÚs
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Jason Hvam
On Tatooine, there is a big demand on the black market for droid parts. See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo try to keep a low profile since they are without their master, Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is in town and wants to capture Artoo and reprogram him to spy on the Rebels. Members of the Trade Federation capture the little droid, but Luke goes to his rescue after being informed by Threepio. Luke manages to swithes the droid with one made out of junk parts and manages to fool the Trade Federation, who now have to face the wrath of Darth Vader. Luke and Artoo leave on a mission, leaving poor Threepio thinking that his droid companion's parts are somewhere in a big junkheap.
Another sequel to a previous story, but this one by the same team. And much like "Space Parts" in issue #4 this one takes place of Tatooine, stars Threepio and Artoo, and is about droid parts. Unlike the previous story Luke takes an active part in this one, and Darth Vader makes an appearance. I find this one much funnier than the first one, although I feel like the Trade Federation reference should have been left out. For the sake of the plot, the guys that Vader orders around could have easily been the Imperial prefect and his cronies. But nevertheless, it's a fun little comedy with a few simple twists and a sad ending. One wonders why Luke would leave Threepio alone for months on Tatooine, but it's funny to imagine the droid trying to rebuild Artoo from spare parts without knowing the real one is still "alive".
I also seem to enjoy the art on this one better than the previous story. It's easy to follow and there are nice little background references thrown in like Boushhh and some Bith musicians. Not to mention the last page where AragonÚs outdid himself. Among all the little droid parts in that big junkheap, which must have taken a lot of hours to draw, we can see Bender from Futurama and one that looks like Crow T. Robot.
Story: Sean Konot, Scott Morse
Art: Scott Morse
Letters: Sean Konot
A probe droid launched from a Star Destroyer land on Dagobah, looking for a Rebel base. It finds Yoda, who dispatches the droid remotely with his lightsaber. Meanwhile, the destruction of the droid is blamed on weather and the failure is ordered to be erased from the Imperial databanks.
It is not unlikely that a probe droid might have landed on Dagobah, but as mentioned in Land's editiorial this story is not official because Yoda's lightsaber is purple (!) This was before Episode II: Attack of the Clones and nobody knew what color it would turn out to be. The story is very short at 8 pages, and not much happens. It's just a cool "what if" that is easily forgettable. By the way, this same set-up was used to better effect in the fan film Desert Duel.
Morse uses watercolor to good effect. The brush strokes make the art look very traditional, although he uses shades of color very effectively. It's a style not used much in comic books so it adds some novelty.
"Thank the Maker"
Story: Ryder Windham
Art: Kilian Plunkett
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Steve Dutro
On Bespin's Cloud City, Darth Vader is planning to use Captain Solo and Princess Leia as bait to capture Luke Skywalker. But something unexpected happens, and when Lt. Sheckil brings in the Princess' protocol droid, images from Vader's past come back to him. He recognizes this droid as the one a young Anakin Skywalker found in a junkheap on Tatooine and kept for himself to rebuilt, thus becomeing its maker. He decides to have the droid smelted but when it turns up again in the Princess' chambers, the Dark Lord changes his mind and gives the droid parts to the Wookiee prisoner, Chewbacca, for sentimental reasons.
Let me start by saying that this is probably the best story published so far in Star Wars Tales, and is a perfect example of why some stories should be considered official. How ironic is it that it is found in the same issue as Allan Kausch's comment about this series not being considered canon.
The story starts right after the Falcon lands on Cloud City and Threepio gets blasted by a stormtrooper, and lasts to the next day after the "meeting" of Han Solo and Vader. Windham really crafted a great tale here: not only does he explain why Chewbacca still had Threepio with him in his prison cell, he also manages to blend in flashbacks of Anakin's youth perfectly with the story. This is a great example of fitting the prequels with the original trilogy. And on top of that, Windham used Lt. Sheckil, the Imperial officer briefly seen in The Empire Strikes Back played by Jeremy "Boba Fett" Bulloch.
It seems in fact that "there is still good in him", since Vader decides to spare the dismantled droid. But he doesn't at first; after the first flashback where Anakin find an old Cybot Galactica protocol droid while rummaging in a junkyard with his friend Kitster, Vader decides to junk the droid despite Sheckil's insistance that it might contain some valuable information about the Rebels. That's how it ends up in the junk room where Chewbacca takes it back from in the movie. Now Sheckil is convinced that it has some important data, but then Vader remembers his mother Shmi and how she told Anakin that the droid is his responsability, that he is its Maker, so after a moment's hesitation he tells Sheckil to give it back to the Wookiee. Like I said, a very-well written short story, one that shows Darth Vader's humanity while adding a bit of behind-the-scenes action for one of the classic movies.
As usual, fan-favorite Plunkett's art is great, as is McCaig's coloring. They get the rare task of showing Anakin Skywalker both as a young kid and as Darth Vader, and it is done with style. Plunkett created a lasting image, not only on the cover itself, but on the one panel where Vader touches his forehead to Threepio's in a moment of deep reflection. We can really feel the regret and the sense of loss Anakin must remember about his life. Truly inspiring work from all involved.
Unquestionably get this issue for the last story. This one will be long remembered, an insant classic.
Rating: 8.5 / 10 Highly Recommended