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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #25

"Siege at Yavin!"
July 1979

In a Nutshell
Baron Tagge lays siege to the Rebel base on Yavin Four. 

Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin
Artists: Carmine Infantino & Gene Day
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Ben Sean
Consulting Editor: Jim Shooter

Plot
Another wave of Imperial TIE fighters attack the Rebel base on Yavin Four, and though the Rebels are able to once more repel the attack, they are no closer to finding the source of the fighters and ending the siege. Meanwhile, Luke and Leia trade in Senator Greyshade's yacht for a less conspicuous ship, in the process overhearing word of the siege and the likely involvement of the wealthy House of Tagge. Determined to get back to Yavin, Luke and Leia follow in the wake of a Tagge family mining ship heading towards the system. Aboard that ship, Baron Tagge receives word of being followed, and orders mines deployed as soon as the ship drops out of hyperspace, prompting some fancy flying from Luke to trigger the mines without destroying his himself and his friends.


Afterwards, Luke and Leia spot the Tagge family ship in orbit around Yavin, its atmospheric storms effectively cloaking the vehicle from long range detection. Hiding behind one of the planet's smaller moons, they observe as a group of TIE fighters depart the Tagge ship, heading for Yavin Four and protected from the planet's storms in a way that suggests some kind of Imperial base inside the planet. With their long range communication jammed by the planet, Luke & Leia leave to warn the Rebel base, but are detected by a pair of TIE fighters, one of whom damages their engines, leaving them unlikely to survive the attack. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Baron (Orman) Tagge makes his first appearance this issue. The eldest son of the powerful Tagge family (referenced in the previous story arc), he is the brother of the General Tagge seen aboard the Death Star in A New Hope (though only General Tagge remains canonical), and will serve as a recurring villain in this series until just prior to the Empire Strikes Back adaptation.


Tagge, an ambitious man, believes he would be a more worthy right-hand-man to the Emperor than Darth Vader. When Vader learned of this, he attacked Tagge, blinding him and strengthening Tagge's animosity towards Vader, which led Tagge to use a set of cybernetic eyes for vision and begin training in lightsaber combat, so that he can one day challenge and defeat Vader in a duel.

General Dodonna, the older individual with the long beard who organized the Rebel attack on the Death Star, pops up in this issue, still in command of the Rebel forces remaining on Yavin 4.


The structure used by the Rebels for their base in A New Hope is here referred to as a Massasi Temple, a name that must have come from either the script for the novelization (as it isn't mentioned in the film, but remains canonical). 

The issue opens with a pretty nice shot of a TIE fighter blowing up one of those recon towers that peppered the Yavin Four establishing shots in A New Hope.


A Work in Progress
 Luke and Leia have split up from Han and Chewbacca, to make it more difficult for Vader to track them, prompting Luke to say that he's come to think of Han almost like a big brother. 


In wondering why the Empire hasn't returned to attack the rebels on Yavin 4 in full force yet, Leia speculates that the Empire might be covering up the Rebel's victory, and not want to draw attention to it via a large scale battle.


Um, Actually
Ships traveling faster than later are once again referred to as going to "warp". 

Later stories will suggest the aftermath of the first Death Star's destruction went down differently than this story does, with the Imperials in fact responding rather swiftly and driving the Rebels off Yavin Four much faster than in this narrative, and with General Dodonna being captured during the evacuation (presumably to explain his absence from the Rebel command hierarchy seen in the later films).

Of course, those stories are now as non-canonical as these, and General Dodonna has popped up a few times in the new canonical comics.

You Kiss Your Sister With That Mouth?
Luke is jealous of the notion of Leia being attracted to Han.


Later, Luke and Leia share another sweepingly-romantic kiss. 

 
It's in the Mail
At some point prior to the release of this issue, the title of the Star Wars sequel was announced, as a letter references it by name in this issue. 

Teebore's Take
Whereas the previous original stories in this series certainly felt like they took place in a pretty fair approximation of the Star Wars universe (especially one in which there was only one movie as a point of reference) and featured the main characters from the movie, this is the first issue which reads like it is an actual sequel to the film, featuring ancillary characters from the movie and picking up plot-wise right where the movie left off, with the victorious Rebels at their base on Yavin Four. Seeing the Imperial reaction to the destruction of their Death Star and the Rebels reaction to their victory, far more than Luke running afoul of sea monsters and tech-coveting pirates or the whole gang getting caught up in a space casino conspiracy, seem like the kind of thing a comic book series licensed to tell additional stories set after the events of the film should have gotten to sooner, rather than later.

All that aside, while the continued splintering of the cast continues to be disappointing (especially when all the characters spent so much of the previous story scattered apart from one another), the beginning of "The Siege of Yavin" gets off to strong start thanks once again to its central antagonist. Like Senator Greyshade and Commander Strom in the last story, Baron Tagge succeeds by being more than just a token Imperial foe: he has strong ties to the Empire but also his own agenda, including a personal beef with Darth Vader. Immediately, he's setup on multiple levels of conflict: his dislike of Vader makes him a potential "enemy of my enemy is my friend" ally for Luke and company, yet he remains loyal to the Empire and arrayed against the Rebellion, yet at the same time is also interested in personal profit and glory beyond the esteem of the Empire. Combine that potential with a storyline that seems more essential to the overall Star Wars narrative than any yet, and "Siege of Yavin" is off to a strong start.  

Next Issue
The siege of Yavin Four concludes!

Collected Editions 

6 comments:

  1. Excellent review of my favorite old school Marvel SW story arc. Baron Tagge is OTP and wonderfully so. Luke/Leia are quintessentially discomforting for an early EU story. The Empire is back doing evil deeds. Plus vintage Infantino art!

    Good to see a new review in 2016. Welcome back!

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  2. I get the sense from how dismissive Tagge is of Vader’s “wizard’s ways” that he’d be surprised to learn the Emperor whose right-hand man he wants to become is himself a Sith Lord / Dark Jedi with Force powers — something, I grant, that wasn’t known to viewers either at this point unless I misremember.

    You’re entirely right about this feeling like really picking up where the movie left off. I like it. The Empire shutting down word of the Rebels’ victory is an eminently sensible tack for Goodwin to take and, lo, these decades later, it even retrospectively reinforces parallels between the aftermath of the first movie and the aftermath of the entire original trilogy as reflected in our present era.

    I can forgive Han and Chewie splitting off from Leia, Luke, and the droids, from both a dramatic perspective and the story point of the duo not necessarily having actually joined the Rebellion — again, events of the next movie still to be revealed.

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  3. @Blam: something, I grant, that wasn’t known to viewers either at this point unless I misremember.

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure the idea of the Emperor being a Force user isn't something that got teased at all until ESB (and even there it's vague and not outright declared).

    it even retrospectively reinforces parallels between the aftermath of the first movie and the aftermath of the entire original trilogy as reflected in our present era.

    Leia's reasoning behind the cover-up did indeed make me think of what we've come to learn about the Empire's handling of the events of ROTJ after the fact - she pretty much outlines what we've learned the Empire did after the second Death Star was destroyed.

    ...and the story point of the duo not necessarily having actually joined the Rebellion — again, events of the next movie still to be revealed.

    Reading this issue and skimming ahead at some of the upcoming ones, that's another thing that surprised me about this era - Han & Chewie are pretty much off on their own until the series sets up the ESB adaptation, the idea being that their presence with the Rebels in the movie being a relatively occurrence born of their not having anywhere else to go.

    Whereas in later stories as well as, for the most, the current canon, Han & Chewie are more or less members of the Rebellion (de facto, if not officially) pretty much immediately after the events of ANH and thereon through to EMPIRE.

    Not even saying one approach is better or worse than the other, I just surprised myself in realizing that I've always taken it as a given that Han and Chewie would be hanging out with the Rebels between films, when in fact it makes just as much sense for them to still remain mostly independent operatives, friends with Luke and Leia but not really full-fledged Rebels, until closer to ESB.

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    1. I believe the emperor was explicitly not a Force user at this point. The original movie's novelization by "George Lucas" (Alan Dean Foster) describes him as a spineless bureaucrat controlled by sinister politicians.

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  4. Interestingly, Goodwin would revisit this story concept again for the STAR WARS newspaper strip a few years later. The strip started shortly after EMPIRE hit theaters, but was set between STAR WARS and EMPIRE, allowing Goodwin to retroactively use elements of the sequel. So he gave this Yavin business another shot.

    In that continuity, the Empire blockades Yavin 4 immediately after the Death Star battle (though the Falcon and other ships somehow seem to come and go at will anyway). It's only after the completion of the Super Star Destroyer Executor that the Empire launches their assault on the Rebel headquarters, which is the culmination of about three years' worth of strips which involved, among many other things, Luke discovering Hoth and recommending it as the new base. The final escape from Yavin was published after RETURN OF THE JEDI's theatrical debut, even, and saw the Rebels escaping the Imperial attack with the aid of their new allies, the Mon Calamari (previously introduced in the strip as a "sneak preview" prior to JEDI's release), while Dodonna remained behind to sacrifice his life by holding the Empire at bay (later ret-conned officially, as you note, to his being captured instead).

    I like Goodwin's work on the comic series, but I think he executed this better (no pun intended) in the strip. It should come as no surprise that I strongly recommend those strips, especially the Dark Horse CLASSIC STAR WARS versions, which beautifully colored them and reformatted them to comic book dimensions with the assistance of the original artist, Al Williamson. I'd love to see Marvel release the CLASSIC versions as an Omnibus. Though I'd also love to see someone, probably IDW's Library of American Comics imprint, release the original strips as well, for posterity. I'm honestly not sure which I'd prefer.

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