Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Sometimes, if you're feeling down on comics, the answer is to go to an old favorite. So, today we're checking out Star Wars #15, "Star Duel!" Written by Archie Goodwin, pencils by Carmine Infantino, inks and finishes by Terry Austin.

Although Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of our heroes have been reunited; they now have to deal with the pirate captain Crimson Jack. Jack had been a recurring villain in the original Marvel stories; rather impressively, he and his crew commandeered a damaged Star Destroyer for themselves. (Whether this was a full-on Star Destroyer, or a similiar but smaller cruiser, is open to debate. But a Star Destroyer's crew complement was upwards of 35,000; not counting infantry and gunners...) Jack had captured and robbed Han and Chewie earlier, then released and recaptured them to do it again. Han and Leia trick Jack into a raid on the imaginary Rebel treasury on Drexel; in reality, they were following up on a distress call from Luke. (We took a look at a panel of #14 way back when.)

Three fighters pursue the Millenium Falcon off of Drexel; one piloted by Jolli, Jack's first mate, and "a Man-hater and a space-pirate." Although she admits to being confused by her feelings for Han, she remembers being abandoned by her father as a child, which drove her to be the toughest of the tough. When the fighters fail to herd the Falcon into Jack's tractor beam; Jolli collides with them, disabling them both. Although the "gyro control module" is shot and they're sitting ducks, Han isn't worried: when they were prisoners on Jack's ship, Jack needed access to the Falcon's navigation charts to find Drexel. Since no one suspects Chewbacca of being the sneaky one, he was able to wipe Jack's computer, so they can't use their hyperdrive without risking flying into a star or worse. (Actually, I think more than once in Goodwin's run Chewbacca was the sneaky one! Everyone always watches Han...)

Han had planned on extorting his treasure back from Jack, but now has to trade "chart tapes" for a new control module. Han and Jack agree to make the trade in space, using only "breath masks" and protected by their ships' magnetic fields. (Um...) Meanwhile, Jolli calls Jack for help, since her damaged Y-wing is breaking up; but Jack coldly tells her she'll have to make it on her own, "if she's good enough." In space, the handoff goes south for Han when Jack tightens his ship's magnetic field, cutting Han off from the Falcon: he'd be killed by vacuum if he tried for it. And now Jack's crew is taking to space to kill Han...

Before Han can be shot to pieces, though, Jolli returns, blasting her erstwhile crewmates and plowing her fighter into the destroyer's munitions deck. With Jack's crew and ship gone, he's no match for Han, who outdraws and ends him. In the wreckage, Han gives Jolli's body her only kiss.

This might not be part of your personal Star Wars canon, but it sure as hell is part of mine. I don't usually go nuts with the scans like today, but what the heck. It's a short issue--only 17 pages!--tying up plotlines from the last eight issues or so, but I love it.

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