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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Force in Focus: Star Wars #95

"No Zeltrons"
May 1985

In a Nutshell
Han & Leia run afoul of Knife while Luke confronts Lumiya.

Plot & Script: Jo Duffy
Pencils: Cynthia Martin
Inks: Steve Leialoha
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Letters: Rick Parker
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Lumiya interrogates a captured Alliance solider, learning he was sent to the world they're on by Luke Skywalker. Later, on Endor, Leia is appalled when a group of four Zeltron males arrive in order to accompany her and Han to a diplomatic meeting of Alliance leaders on Kabray. They leave at the same time as Luke, who, along with Dani & Kiro, are checking out a scouting party on Kinooine that have failed to check-in. Threepio assures everyone he and Artoo have packed the appropriate gear for each party, but when Leia, Han and the Zeltrons arrive on Kabray, they learn Threepio mistakenly gave them Luke's gear. On Kinooine, Luke sends Dani & Kiro to scout, while the Zeltrons cobble together a dress for Leia. As Dani & Kiro are attacked by an unseen assailant, Leia & Han discover the Alliance delegation is being held hostage by a group of aliens led by Knife. On Kinooine, a badly injured Kiro stumbles back to camp, prompting Luke to set out in search of his attacker, while the Zeltrons help Leia & Han plot their escape from the holding cell in which they've been placed. Luke eventually finds Lumiya, and as they duel, the Zeltrons overpower Knife, allowing Han & Leia to escape and free the Alliance delegation. But as Han & Leia celebrate their victory, Lumiya stands over the unconscious body of Luke.

Firsts and Other Notables
Lumiya, last seen in issue #88, returns in this issue, brandishing something a new look courtesy of Cynthia Martin (notably, she's replaced the Vader mask with a more simple face wrap that allows us to see her eyes), as well as a new weapon that will come to be called a lightwhip (in that it's a whip version of the lightsaber's sword). 

Knife also returns in this issue, last seen in issue #91 running a Wookiee slave ring on Kashyyyk.

He gets connected to Lumiya through a new character, Den, who is the same species as Knife and appears alongside Lumiya in the issue's opening pages.

Kent Williams paints the cover to this issue.

A Work in Progress
The initial premise of this issue is predicated on Leia’s continued racism towards the Zeltrons.

Han is, for a time, warmer to the Zeltrons, until he realizes they’re really into Lando, not him.

Leia is forced to work with the Zeltrons due to a conference being held by a subset of Alliance members who feel the worlds who brought about the fall of the Empire may be too aggressive to govern; Ackbar hopes Leia can show them otherwise.

PS remember when it was a plot point that all the main characters were going to be left out of official Alliance business because they were late to a meeting?

In a nice bit of world building, the conference is being held on the space station orbiting Kabray, the setting of the events of issue #77.

Han & Leia wonder if there’s any connection between the Wookie slave trade run by Knife, the slave operation Leia & Mon Mothma busted up, and their captors, piecing together the different bits of setup Duffy has been laying down.

The Alliance members all refer to the members of Knifes’ species as “Knives”.

Artistic Achievement 
There’s a few coloring errors in this issue (that are more pronounced in the Marvel Unlimited versions): the soldier captured by Lumiya suddenly has dark skin in one panel (almost looking like Lando), and later, Threppio’s dialogue loses its yellow coloring between panels.

The first encounter, rendered wordlessly, between Luke & Lumiya is pretty great (especially when you know Lumiya’s identity).

Um, Actually
Cynthia Martin draws Ackbar with an exceptionally large head.

I Love the 80s
The 80s threw up all over the Zeltron delegation.

Young Love
Dani has transferred her affections for Luke to Kiro.

Austin's Analysis
Duffy pulls off a remarkable bit of tone balancing in this issue, shifting from a more farcical tone (carried over from the previous issue) early in the story, as Leia reacts to having to work with a coterie of Zeltron hunks and Threepio pulls a sitcom-esque mixup with her diplomatic luggage and Luke's adventurer luggage, to one which becomes much more series as Leia & Han's diplomatic mission comes under fire while Kiro is severely injured, after which Luke confronts (and is ultimately beaten by) a returning Lumiya. Even as Duffy continues to write a dodgy Leia (her well-established but out-of-character disdain for the Zeltrons is on full display here; Leia also seems like the kind of character who would do diplomacy naked if she had to, so her kibitzing over the lack of a proper dress rings false), she manages to deftly balance the two tones, helped along in large part by some fantastic art from Martin, who eschews the sort of "80s house style" the series has featured since at least the departure of Walt Simonson for something far more stylized & impactful, showing that the animation-inspired energy she brought to the previous issue works just as well in more serious stories. The end result is an energetic issue that looks great, where the art works just as well for the lighter, more comedic material as it does the more ominous and action-orientated stuff. All in all, this not only continues the series' recent hot streak, it kicks the slowly building Tof-Nagai-Lumiya plotline into a higher gear.

Next Issue
Luke vs. Lumiya!

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  1. I know the series won’t last longer. Why was it cancelled? Did readers lose interest in Star Wars so fast? Or was Lucasfilm that got rid of the license? Because I know that it will take a few more years for Star Wars to return under Darkhorse.

    1. A common explanation I've seen through the years is that, despite strong sales, the book was cancelled to make room on the schedule for Jim Shooter's New Universe books (other titles, like POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, were cancelled around the same time for that reason).

      But Jo Duffy has this to say on the matter:

      “StarWars was still selling over 100,000 copies a month,
      better than most of the mid-range super-hero books, up until the end. The restrictions from Lucasfilm are what effectively canceled the book. It got to the point where they said that I couldn’t do this and that with the characters I created. I was at my wit’s end. We got
      the feeling that whoever was in charge of approving all this at Lucasfilm didn’t want there to be a comic book at all anymore. Lucasfilm’s focus was elsewhere at that point, Star Wars was not a primary concern. Marvel pulled the plug because we got the impression that they didn’t want us to do the comic anymore.”


  2. I think you hit every last bit that stood out to me, from the use of “Knives” to Ackbar’s giant head.

    The screw-up on that word balloon of C-3PO’s appears to be a lettering error to start, as it has a normal shape rather than the distinctive one used for his dialogue, although the coloring error definitely compounds it.

    I’d credit Leialoha’s inks along with Martin’s pencils, especially given how simpatico their styles are.

    1. Interesting thing about the use of "Knives" as a species, I recently saw a blurb from an old AMAZING HEROES in which Duffy teases this plotline, and she she refers to the species colloquially the same way, saying they have a sharp, knife-like look to them, and then citing one of them specifically as being named "Knife".

      I’d credit Leialoha’s inks along with Martin’s pencils, especially given how simpatico their styles are.

      Yeah. I was bummed to see Leialoha didn't stick around, as their two styles meld together really well.


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