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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Force in Focus: Star Wars #20

"Death Game"
February 1979

In a Nutshell
Han faces his first opponent in the Wheel's arena. 

Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin
Artists: Carmine Infantino & Bob Wiacek
Colorist: George Roussos
Letterer: John Costanza
Consulting Editor: Jim Shooter

The patrons of the Wheel watch in outrage as an X-wing fighter attacks a pleasure ship departing the station, after which the fighter is quickly destroyed by nearby Imperial forces. Senator Greyshade then departs for a meeting with Commander Strom, leaving behind the captive Leia, who is outraged that Greyshade is going along with the Imperial scheme to frame the Rebels and gain control of the station. Greyshade assures Strom that aside from Leia, the rest of the Rebels aboard the Wheel will soon die, and they watch Han's scheduled arena fight begin. Intentionally slated into the wrong class, Han is forced to fight a massive being with four arms, who quickly overpowers him.

Meanwhile, Artoo & Threepio are saved from having their memories wiped by Master-Com, the droid personification of the station's master computer, who is fascinated by their devotion to Luke. He takes them to the hospital, where they discover that Luke is missing, just as Leia manages to escape from her quarters in the station's executive tower. Master-Com suggests the droids try searching for Luke in the casino areas, where they will more easily blend in amongst the other droids. They arrive on the upper level just in time to see Han at the mercy of his foe, but as his attacker charges, Han manages to trip him, and the creature falls on his own weapon, killing himself. Strom is outraged that Han survived, but Greyshade assures him this was only a preliminary match, and that Han must still endure the main event.

Firsts and Other Notables
The letter column in this issue features a letter from former series writer Roy Thomas praising the work of Goodwin & Infantino, and specifically complimenting Goodwin on his use of Jaxxon in issue #16.

Um, Actually
The X-Wing which attacks the Wheel's merchant ship on the opening splash page is off model.

Young Love
Strom gets in a nice dig on Greyshade when they're discussing Greyshade's efforts to win over Leia.

For Sale
There's a one page ad for Marvel's Micronauts series in this issue, a series which shares some elements with Star Wars.

Teebore's Take
Though a lot seems to happen in this issue, it's ultimately more of a treading water chapter. Leia escapes from Greyshade, but it's suggested she'll be easily recaptured (and it's not like she currently has a way off the Wheel anyways). Luke wakes up (or at least disappears from the hospital) but his current condition and the answer to what caused his coma-like state is held for the next issue. And even Han's battle with a massive alien in the Wheel arena, the action centerpiece of the issue, is a holding action, a preliminary match before the real event (presumably battling Chewbacca). This story has thus far hummed along steadily enough (and with all the characters at least in the same place, no one can move too far afield of one another) that having a treading water chapter doesn't completely kill its momentum, and it does an effective enough job of masking that stall with the illusion of plot development. 

Next Issue
The return of Darth Vader!

Collected Editions 


  1. I don't think I have ever seen a letter like that from Thomas. It seems sincere too - rather than a variation of the usual in-house Marvel back-slapping.

  2. I like the letter from Thomas too, though the way he cites his credentials ("...since I joined the Bullpen more than thirteen years ago as staff writer, assistant editor, and gofer...") seems odd to me. I don't know what the job titles add to it.

    At any rate, this is the sort of thing that makes me wish Marvel collected letters pages in all their collected editions rather than just the Silver Age Omnibuses.


  3. I think Luke being absent from the issue pretty clearly indicates that he’ll turn out to be the villain. 8^)

    The neat stuff to be found on letters pages is among the most interesting parts of — was, in fact, a key inspiration behind — my own long-in-planning reread project. So thanks for documenting/sharing that kind of thing when notable, Teebore.

    As for Roy’s parenthetical credentials, Matt, I think it’s just his natural level of detail. He’s a stickler for credit where it’s due and indulges a tendency towards specificity of debatable necessity when writing for the historical record. Note that I fully cop to resembling that remark.


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