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Don’t trust him, Leia! – Star Wars #86

June 9, 2010

A long time ago, in a comic book series far, far away, there were some wonderful little stories that were unbounded by corporate overlords.  Back then there wasn’t the gigantic mutant Lucasfilm licensing machine keeping a watchful eye on what was being done with valuable intellectual properties.  Creativity was unfettered.

Really, back in the 80’s, Star Wars fandom was relegated to the toys and the comics.  Anything else was tangential at best.  And I can remember when the comic series came to an end with issue #107, Star Wars came to an end in a lot of ways.  There was nothing left.  Not until books started to be published in the early 90’s did the franchise revive and eventually bless us with a horribly turgid new trilogy of films.

But back in the halcyon early days, we were gifted with some deft out-there tales.  Now relegated to the dustbin of “not-in-continuity,” these comics often included concepts that were later overwritten by the movies.  These stories were coming out as the original trilogy films were released, and stuff like “I am your father” often threw things for a loop, but the creative teams always regrouped and offered up more helpings of satisfying material.  The old Carmine Infantino run was a wacky treat, but I came along later in the game, so a lot of the stories I read came out after The Return of the Jedi put a bow on the cinematic offerings.  I always thought of these stories as “real,” that is, that they were what truly happened to Luke, Leia, Han and the gang after that whiz-bang shindig on Endor. 

Then those dreadful prequels came along and crapped all over certain concepts.  Thanks, George.

Issue #86 is an exception to that — there’s nothing in it that later fiction (to my knowledge) supersedes.  It’s a nice done-in-one story.  Published after RotJ was released, “The Alderaan Factor,” written by Randy Stradley and pencilled by Bob McLeod, takes place between the events of that film and The Empire Strikes Back.  A shuttle that Leia is travelling in is shot down on a desert planet that’s occupied by the Empire.  A Stormtrooper pilot of a Tie Fighter that also crashed “rescues” the Princess from the wreckage.  He takes off his helmet and reveals that he was once a lowly servant in Leia’s home on Alderaan.  They bicker and argue — he betrayed his people, she’s a haughty rich bitch, you get the picture — but are forced to team up Defiant Ones-style to survive in the harsh environment:

Along the way they start to understand each other a little better, bonding over a small chunk of rock from Alderaan that the Stormtrooper wears on a necklace, but the nameless soldier nevertheless turns her over to his Empire superiors.  When Luke and Lando show up in the Millenium Falcon to rescue her, he has a change of heart (reminiscent of Darth Vader at the end of RotJ) and helps her get to the ship.  He’s shot in the back and falls to his death as the Falcon makes its escape in a reversal of the above-pictured rescue:

I liked this story a lot as a kid and it still has a good deal of resonance.  The redemption of the Stormtrooper (an “uknown soldier” in some ways) echoes the redemption theme that was at the heart of the original trilogy.  It’s the best of Star Wars, the type of stuff that makes you proud to be a fan of those old adventures.

I suppose all those new books and cartoons and comics have rendered moot a lot of the post-Jedi Marvel run, but I like to think that this one st0ry remains untouched.

In my mind, it’s “real.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Blaze Morgan permalink
    June 10, 2010 9:22 am

    And that’s all that matters. Who cares that Lucas started (or stopped) taking potent medication and ruined his own creation? It only becomes germane if you find yourself in a big prize Star Wars trivia contest. Otherwise, enjoy what REALLY happened a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away.

  2. November 28, 2014 4:53 pm

    Thank you for this review. The new teaser trailer that was released today reminds me of this story. The redemption of a Stormtrooper can explain the conflict in a new way.

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