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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Force in Focus: Star Wars #38

"Riders in the Void!"
August 1980

In a Nutshell
Luke & Leia encounter an extragalactic ship and its strange captain.

Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin
Plotter/Penciler: Michael Golden
Inker: Terry Austin
Colorist: Michael Golden
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Assistant Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Attacked by Imperial ships in the middle of a supply run, Luke & Leia jump to Hyperspace to escape, but damage to their ship causes them to end up in the starless void beyond the galaxy. Suddenly, a massive, glowing organic ship appears, and swallows their craft whole. Exploring the ship, the pair separates, and Luke duels with some kind of training robot before the ship opens a hole into space, nearly sending Luke & Leia to their deaths. But their love for another speaks to the captain of the ship, the last survivor of a massive war, who has become fused to the ship and its computer. The captain brings them back to their galaxy, appearing before the Star Destroyer that attacked them. The Imperials attack the strange ship, but the captain fights back, easily defeating them. With the area safe, Luke & Leia reboard their vessel, and the captain, who finds this galaxy too reminiscent of what happened in his own past, returns to riding in the void.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is an inventory/fill-in story, slotted in when circumstances dictated pushing back the start of the Empire Strikes Back adaptation by a month. It is drawn by Michael Golden, who is best known for runs on the similarly-licensed Micronauts series and The 'Nam, as well as drawing the first appearance of Rogue in Avengers Annual #10. Golden also gets a plotting credit for this issue, and colored it as well.

As an editorial box on this issue's letters page explains, this story was necessitated by an upcoming line-wide format change and a distribution policy that required Marvel to submit all issues in story in the same format. As a result, they had to push back the start of the Empire adaptation to accommodate the change.


This issue finds Luke and Leia thrust into the "void" a starless location on the outside of the known galaxy, where they encounter a ship composed of organic technology, which is eerily similar to the later plotline from the New Jedi Order series of novels, involving the Yuuzhan Vong (an extragalactic species which used organic technology and spent millenia crossing a massive spatial void to journey from their galaxy to "main" galaxy). However, no attempt was ever made to link this issue to that storyline, and now "New Jedi Order" has been rendered by non-canonical as well.


A Work in Progress
Being a fill-in story, Luke is back in his familiar white farmboy attire.

Young Love
Fearing death, Luke expresses his love for Leia.


Austin's Analysis
I say this as someone who has come to really like and appreciate Infantino's art in this series, but this issue features hands down the best art to appear in the book yet. It's simply bolder and more modern looking than anything before it, and it's no wonder this issue remains highly regarded despite being an inconsequential fill-in. The story is fine, the kind of Twilight Zone-esque tale on the human condition that short science fiction does so well, and the idea of organic spacefarers from outside the known galaxy takes on interesting meaning in light of later (but now equally non-canonical) developments in the Star Wars universe, but the main hook here is the art, which rises so far above the level of typical fill-in art, it's enough the excuse the series waiting an extra month get to the Empire adaptation.

Next Issue
The Empire strikes back!

Collected Editions 

8 comments:


  1. Hmm… I don’t know what “distribution” changes occurred other than Marvel upping its cover price from 40¢ to 50¢ that next month, June 1980, but for the same 17 pages of story*. [*Until year’s end, November 1980, when story pages went up to 22 out of 32 printed pages with no additional price increase. DC had been offering 25 story pages, usually split between a main story and a backup, since going from 40¢ to 50¢ the same month as Marvel. — Budget-Minded Blam]

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    1. Maybe that price increase is the change? Like, for whatever reason, if they were going to release 5/6 of the EMPIRE adaptation at the higher price point, they had to release all of it that way, and since the increase wasn't going into effect until a month later, they slotted in this issue to push the entire adaptation into the fifty cent price range?

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    2. The price increase is presumably the issue, yeah, but I’m curious how the “format change” referenced by Goodwin translates to “distribution reasons” unless that’s just smokescreen or really inexact shorthand. I can see how having one chapter be at a different price could make calculating Fox’s or Lucas’s cut a hassle, if there were royalties on sales involved vs. just a flat licensing fee, maybe even compounded once it came to reprints and such. Price increases have almost always been couched in references to the increasing costs of material, however, rather than stiffer wholesale terms from distributors, although by chance I just had a conversation today about how pressure from distributors led to publishers offering new formats at higher price points (like tabloid editions) to justify their shelf space amongst more expensive periodicals, and maybe the 40¢ to 50¢ increase in 1980 had more to do with that.

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  2. Michael Golden... drew a fill-in issue? A fill-in by Michael Golden? Who hires Michael Golden to draw a comic that will sit unpublished in a drawer for years???

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    1. I kind of muddled my own joke. Obviously where I said "fill-in" two times, that was supposed to say "inventory". Ugh.

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    2. Heh. Yeah, seems like a strange decision, though I think this is fairly early in his career; maybe it was commissioned without anyone knowing exactly what to expect from him?

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    3. We all know how Golden believes that patience is a virtue. 8^)

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  3. Hands down my favorite art of the entire series. Mantlo and Golden's run on Micronauts is as near and dear to me as the first Star Wars, so the thought of either of those guys handling SW was the Holy Grail in my mind.

    It's a shame Golden didn't do any more work on the series. Thanks to the storyline we only saw Luke and Leia. I so wanted to see his interpretations of Han, Chewie, the droids, Vader and on and on.

    Hey, at least we got one issue.

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