What better way to enjoy Marvel’s Star Wars line of comics than to go back to the original comics published in the early ’80s? Out now in comic book shops, Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Original Marvel Years marks an interesting time for Star Wars comics as it was a period when the comics fleshed out the galaxy before the events of Return of the Jedi, adapted the very same film, and then carried the story forward after. It’s particularly interesting since War of the Bounty Hunters is currently telling a new tale that’s post-Empire Strike’s Back. But how does this nearly 30-year-old collection of stories hold up? More or less, not so great.
Collected here are Star Wars (1977) #74-88, Star Wars Annual (1979) #3, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) #1-4. This book opens with Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, and the droids on the hunt to find Han Solo. Boba Fett has captured him and now it’s up to them to find Han with no idea where he could be. The adventure takes them to a water planet with humanoid fish people with their own problems and plenty of side adventures along the way. This book is dated for how verbose it is and how slow the pacing can be.
Each issue ends up feeling like simply hanging out with these characters, and that was the main selling point. Interesting plot twists and character work were a second priority. Speaking of, Leia tends to be underwritten and overly emotional. In fact, most of the dialogue is similar to a soap opera and it can grow tiresome. Surprisingly, lightsaber duels are few and far between.
If you can weather the melodrama of the dialogue, there are some winning stories here. Star Wars #79 features Lando and Chewbacca dressing up as bounty hunters. You gotta love Lando’s purple costume and shock-white long hair. It’s a fun side adventure. There are also some colorful characters in other stories like Ellie, a droid who inventories as their main function.
About 207 pages into this 496 page Epic Collection is the Return of the Jedi adaptation. Adapted by Archie Goodwin with art by Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon, this is a fabulous four-issue adaptation. Fans should flip to the back of this collection for the Warwick Davis introduction originally published in the hardcover edition. Captions give the story a new flavor with narration that was obviously not in the film. The visuals are also stunning and capture the likenesses very well. It’s a great way to experience the film in a slightly different way.
Closing out the book is Star Wars #81-88, which takes the story past the original trilogy. It’s neat to see the direction Mary Joe Duffy and Ron Frenz take the story. Aside from the adaptation in this book, these stories are not in canon, but one can sometimes see how these comics may have inspired Episodes VII through IX. We get to see Boba Fett escape the Sarlacc Pit, for instance, and how Han and Leia didn’t necessarily get along.
Back matter includes an interesting interview with Duffy and Star Wars editor Louise Jones about taking the story forward post-Return of the Jedi. You also get a few pages of covers that graced the collections of reprints for these books, some original line art, and the Davis introduction. All told it’s only a few pages, but it’s nice to have.
This is an interesting read for historical reasons, but also to see how writers and artists carried Star Wars forward decades before J.J. Abrams and nearly a decade before Dark Horse Comics took over in 1991. Being from the early ’80s, the writing style is far different and the pace far slower than modern comics, but it’s a testament to the creators that they took something so popular and put their own spin on the series. That goes for the Return of the Jedi adaptation as well, which in itself is its own thing in many ways.
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