This collection takes Star Wars fans to an even farther away version of the galaxy far, far away! It collects issues 16, 27, 29, and 50 of the classic Marvel Star Wars ongoing series, as well as 2019’s special #108 one-shot. These are collectively known as the “Valance the Hunter arc,” following a ruthless bounty hunter as he scours the galaxy for Luke Skywalker and his friends. The former issues are written by Archie Goodwin and illustrated by a rotating roster of all-star talent, including Walt Simonson and Carmine Infantino. They’re all also notably set in a pre-Disney version of the Star Wars continuity, which is a treat.
For fans who haven’t taken the dive into this realm of Star Wars, this collection is a heck of a place to start. It’s a reminder of when the very idea of Star Wars canon was a virtual Wild West, where anything could happen and quite often did.
This is a version of the galaxy that has such wacky characters as Jaxxon, the giant green space rabbit. It’s a continuity that does so much legwork to establish itself in the comics that each page is full of editor’s notes to remind readers of past adventures. But it’s also being written in a time when the “rules” of Star Wars were far from being set in stone.
Take for instance a sequence during which Luke is knocked down by Valance the Hunter. The narration makes a point to let us know that Luke can’t reach his lightsaber. Now think of all of the times when that hasn’t been an issue for Force-sensitives who can simply call their weapon to them. You can tell that the folks at Marvel were discovering this universe along with the rest of the film-going public, which makes it kind of a rush to see what they come up with.
Another place where this creativity shines is in the creation of a wider supporting cast of characters. There’s the previously-mentioned Jaxxon, who is essentially the star of the first issue in this collection. Archie Goodwin populated this corner of the galaxy with all manner of outlandish heroes and crooks, making Star Wars feel more lived-in than the single(!) film released up to that point had managed.
It’s a place where Jaxxon has to outwit his captors, the cheekily-named Dafy and Fud (get it?). Okay, not all of the new characters are winners. There’s literally a dude named Polyp. Just go with it, though.
It’s also host to numerous concepts that have either been barely touched on or ignored by future iterations in the franchise, including discrimination against non-organic lifeforms and the interpersonal struggles that come with realizing just how ragtag the rebels really are. Words of their deeds haven’t even reached some parts of the galaxy, and these are the kids who blew up the Death Star! In other words, it’s world where Luke Skywalker isn’t quite the legend that he would come to be with the release of further movies and ephemera.
It’s not often that a creator gets to revisit a story from four decades ago, let alone add to it in significant and poignant ways. And yet, Matthew Rosenberg and a host of Star Wars talent including Andrea Broccardo and Luke Ross manage to accomplish it with issue #108. For that feat alone, this collection is worth your time.
You can read more about that particular anniversary issue in my review from last year. It’s worth mentioning, however, that the amount of care put into #108 is so precise that it doesn’t feel at all like there’s been a jarring shift in time or creative teams, even when it’s collected with the previous stories. (Even though Luke refers to Jaxxon as “awful” in dialogue, which is a bummer when you see what Jaxxon’s put himself through for his buds in previous chapters).
On the downside, the fact that these issues were originally so spread out means that there are occasional jarring changes in art. Actors’ likenesses weren’t really a concern with these books, but it’s pretty off-putting to see how different a recognizable character like Luke Skywalker can appear when changing between artists. The final chapter in particular swaps out artists every few pages — though its status as something of a celebratory issue can somewhat excuse this practice.
Aside from that small caveat, this is worth picking up for fans of Star Wars who want a sprawling story that literally follows our characters in the background of the original trilogy. Marvel’s current Star Wars output is fantastic, but this is a great reminder of the kind of wild stuff they got up to before there were any “rules” for the franchise.