George vs. the Anonymous Reviewer: Star Wars Tales Volume 2

One of the most different things that Dark Horse Comics while they had the Star Wars license was Star Wars Tales, a series of comics that had 24 issues published between the end of 1999 and 2005.  As opposed to having each issue tell a unified story, Dark Horse would bring in a wide variety of creators, with each issue having several stories from several authors and artists.  The issues were an oversized 64 pages, and weren’t held to the same continuity standard as other comics, giving the creators more freedom to do as they pleased.  Many stories later had elements canonized, or were canonized completely, while others remained staunchly non-canon (Of course, now none of them are canon, but that’s besides the point).  The wide variety of art styles and stories told make for an incredibly distinctive comic.

I’ve owned a copy of the first volume of Tales for years now, and I’ve read several others, but recently I had the chance to purchase used copies of volumes two, three, five, and six at a somewhat significant discount.  I jumped at the opportunity, of course.  I sat down to read my new copy of Volume 2, when I realized that a previous owner, whom I assume to be a child due to the use of crayon, created a color coded system to rate the quality of each of the stories included in the book.

Color Guide

Contents
I’d have judged their handwriting, too, but it’s actually on par with mine.

After going through the rest of the book and seeing no further marks, I realized that this would be an excellent post for Galactic Academy.  I’ll be going story by story and comparing my views on them to the previous owner’s.  Will their assumed youth lead to different taste, or will I have more in common with the crayon user than I expect?  Let’s find out.

Yaddles_Tale

“Yaddle’s Tale: The One Below”

Original Grade: OK

Introduced in The Phantom Menace, Yaddle is a character who hasn’t gotten all that much use.  As essentially a genderswapped version of Yoda, she has the potential to be a fairly gimmicky character, but “The One Below” does a good job differentiating her.  Using Even Piell’s narration as a framing device, it shows her struggle and centuries long imprisonment by an Advozse warlord before her eventual escape.  This is a story that can only be told about a character with the longevity of life of someone like Yaddle, so it’s a smart choice.  It’s a fun story, giving welcome background to one of the more ancillary Jedi from the prequels (background which, for the record, was later made canon), but it doesn’t make Yaddle all that compelling a character: she remains, despite her long captivity, a paragon of Jedi virtue.  OK strikes me as a little harsh, but I’m hesitant to call it “good,” if we’re trying to stick to the original grading scale.  I’m gonna give it an OK.5, a completely made up grade that you’re gonna have to deal with.

What They Called Me

“What They Called Me”

Original Grade: BAD

This is a pretty quick story, but I thought it was a lot of fun.  That fellow you see up there is an idiotic, pompous braggart and galactic tourist, who winds up getting his comeuppance by a group of Ewoks.  It’s a low-key story, but I thought his misguided braggadocio and complete obliviousness were quite funny.  It’s also got images of both shaved Ewoks and Ewoks in tighty-whities, and if a story that features those can be considered bad, I don’t know what good is anymore.  My grade?  GOOD

A Summer's Dream Padme_Ian

“A Summer’s Dream”

Original Grade: BAD

Alright, this grade is definitely making me think that the previous owner of this book was, in fact, a child.  The story is straight-up romance, between the star crossed Ian Lago and the Prequels’ own Padme Amidala, and I know that when I was younger this wouldn’t have been my kinda story either.  Now, I can appreciate Ian’s infatuation with Padme, and his heartbreak when it all comes crashing down.  On top of that, it provides some pretty nifty background on Amidala’s rise to power, that has been canonized by later works.  I can see why a younger read wouldn’t like it, but to me, this is definitely GOOD.

Hoth Canon

“Hoth”

Original Grade: OK

This is only two pages long: Wampa attacks Tauntauns, Tauntauns run, Wampa attacks Probe Droid, Probe Droid ends up like Luke in TESB.  There’s not much to it, though I do enjoy that final image.   It’s hard for me to argue with the original grade though, because there’s just not much there at all.  I’ll go OK on it as well.

Lando's Commandos

“Lando’s Commandos: On Eagles Wings”

Original Grade: EXCELLENT

“Lando’s Commandos” was the marquee story for the fifth issue of Tales, and it’s easy to see why.  It features action, excitement, and is the longest story from the bunch.  Due to his past as a scoundrel, Lando is recruited to put a team together to track down a group of pirates raiding New Republic convoys.  The story sort of plays like The Dirty Dozen, with a group of misfits assembled to take out an unconventional target.  The story has some great moments, many including Von Asch, the former Imperial Air Marshall who trained the pirates, now working with Lando.  Despite all that, it never becomes much more than the sum of its admittedly fun parts, so I hesitate to call it more than GOOD.

Hovel on Terk Street Canon

“The Hovel on Terk Street”

Original Grade: GOOD

“The Hovel on Terk Street” stars the ill-fated Greedo, and it is straight-up film noir: down on their luck protagonist, femme fatale, and even the classic hard-boiled narration.  Greedo is actually a pretty inspired choice for the star of this one: film noirs have a sense of hopelessness and inevitability, both of which a sadsack like Greedo helps attain better than a more successful bounty hunter such as Boba Fett.  The story is effective enough on its own: Greedo is approached by a woman to find her missing boss, with twists and turns along the way.  I thought it really landed all of its film noir sensibilities.  It has at least the superficial elements of the movement down pat, while taking a pretty good stab at the themes permeating it.  I love myself a good film noir, so I’m actually gonna bump this one up to EXCELLENT.

Hot Time in the Cold Town Tonight

“A Hot Time in the Cold Town Tonite!”

Original Grade: OK

The Max Rebo Band, seen in Return of the Jedi, is set up by Jabba to play a gig for one of his rivals, with explosives loaded in their gear to take out both the band and his competition.  There’s not too much going on, and it’s ultimately a pretty forgettable story.  OK it is.

History of Sarlacc Part Canon

“Fortune, Fate, and the Natural History of the Sarlacc”

Original Grade: EXCELLENT

This is one of the stories that is Tales at its finest.  The story follows a “baby” Sarlacc, tracing it from its infancy to adulthood, something that really couldn’t or wouldn’t be done in a conventional comic.  The art is absolutely beautiful, in my opinion.  There’s not much story, but it is interesting to see the Sarlacc’s life cycle (with its many stages it’s somewhat reminiscent of Alien‘s Xenomorph), which was at one point canonized by another source.  For the art alone, I think this is worthy of the EXCELLENT the previous owner gave it.

JunkheapHero

“Junkheap Hero”

Original Grade: OK

This is a pretty lighthearted story about R2-D2 getting kidnapped and Luke rescuing him.  C-3PO, busybody that he is, arrives at the Imperial base just in time to see Luke’s dummy Artoo get tossed into a junk pile, where he then vows to repair Artoo even if it takes months.  Luke, of course, has taken Artoo on a mission that will last several months without telling Threepio, reasoning the droid will be smart enough to put two and two together.  I don’t think it’s quite as funny as it wants to be, but it does nail C-3PO’s characterization.  I’d stick with the OK.

The Hidden

“The Hidden”

Original Grade: GOOD

Another tale of a doomed Probe Droid, this one is destroyed by Yoda on Dagobah.  The art, while stylized, is quite pretty, and the presence of some Imperial officers who make the call to not report the destroyed probe to Darth Vader, lest they face his wrath, make for a nice inclusion.  It’s GOOD.

Thank the Maker

“Thank the Maker”

Original Grade: GOOD

This is one of Tales‘s most iconic stories; it at one point got an individual reprint, and collectibles have been produced based on the above image.  The revelation that Anakin built Threepio made a story like this, with Vader seeing his old creation and reminiscing, almost an eventuality, and author Ryder Windham does a good job, linking Anakin’s memories of Threepio to memories of his mother.  Vader’s last shreds of humanity were tied to his family, so it makes sense that it would be recollections of his mother that make him decide to give Threepio back to Chewbacca.  It’s a smart concept executed very well, so for that I think it’s deserving of EXCELLENT.

Single_Cell

“Single Cell”

Original Grade: GOOD

This story stars Nym, a Feeorin pilot playable in several Star Wars video games.  I believe this story served as a prequel to “Starfighter,” which took place during The Phantom Menace.  It’s a fun enough story, but having never played “Starfighter” I don’t think I connected with Nym as much as I should have, or enjoyed the story to the fullest extent possible.  I think I’ll bring back the OK.5 for this one.

NerfHerder

“Nerf Herder”

Original Grade: OK

We’ve heard “Nerf herder” be tossed around as an insult in the movies, but here we actually get to see one in action.  Domo Jones is the titular Nerf herder, and it’s easy to see him as what might have become of Luke if he was never able to leave Tatooine.  Stuck in a dead-end job, Domo gets his shot at adventure when he triggers a Nerf stampede to stop an Imperial arms deal.  It’s a relatively low stakes story, and there’s no implication that Domo’s life is going to take an all that drastic turn for the better, but it’s nice to see the little guy get a win every once in a while.  I’d probably bump it up to GOOD.

Jedi Chef

“Jedi Chef”

Original Grade: OK

Starring Jedi Micah Giiett and Plo Koon, this is a send-up of Iron Chef that I quite enjoyed.  Facing cooking droid Moreemohtwo (in reference to Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, as I later discovered), Giiett engages in a cook-off for the freedom of his friend, chef Slabba Drewl.  Giiett is drawn on the pudgier side, which definitely makes his presence in the cook-off and knowledge of celebrity chefs a bit more believable.  It’s a fun, lighthearted story, which I’ve gained a new appreciation for due to the references it makes not just to other Star Wars works, but the real world as well.  Knowing those references is enough for me to bump it to GOOD.

Outbid but Never Outgunned

“Outbid but Never Outgunned”

Original Grade: EXCELLENT

This story marks one of the largest contributions made by Tales to the canon.  As you can see, it reveals that Boba Fett once had a love in his life, and even fathered a baby girl.  Neither of them made too many other appearances in the old canon, but it is some much appreciated backstory for Boba, and his granddaughter winds up being a fairly major player in some of the later novels.  The story itself is a fun one, featuring Boba and his ex, Sintas Vel, separately tracking down the above hologram.  The story culminates in an explosive climax, but it still has some time for a few humorous moments.  All in all, I’m inclined to agree with the EXCELLENT grade that the previous owner gave.

Force Fiction

“Force Fiction”

Original Grade: GOOD

It’s Yoda and Mace Windu playing the parts of Vincent and Jules from Pulp Fiction.  It’s chock full of references to the film, and filled cameos from people ranging from the Beatles to Buzz Lightyear.  Mace and Yoda have their roles from the films reversed, with Yoda being the more skeptical about Anakin, in what I assume to be an effort to keep Samuel L. Jackson’s characters lined up.  It’s a lot of fun, and it has some genuinely amusing moments, but ultimately it feels like there could be more to it.  As much as I would like to call this one excellent, I’m going to stick with GOOD.

Captain_Threepio

“Captain Threepio”

Original Grade: OK

Threepio and Artoo are on a ship full of droids being attacked by pirates, so Artoo attaches a data module with the combat knowledge of Captain Antilles to rouse Threepio to action.  It’s an amusing concept, but when all was said and done I really didn’t care for it much at all.  I’ll stick with OK, just because there’s nothing egregious enough to make it worth calling bad.

The One that Got Away

“The One That Got Away”

Original Grade: OK

This is the story of a Twi’lek student who got sold into slavery to Jabba the Hutt.  While that has the potential to be pretty downbeat, her narration helps give the story a pretty breezy tone, and it does end up happily in the end.  I’ll give this one another OK.5, mostly because I enjoyed her narration and the art style.

The Secret Tales of Luke's Hand

“The Secret Tales of Luke’s Hand!”

Original Grade: GOOD

Presented as a bedtime story told to Anakin Solo, this follows Luke’s hand after it was cut off by Darth Vader, as it supposedly takes Han’s ship the Millennium Fist to Hoth and Tatooine, before having run ins with Vader’s hand and Palpatine’s foot.  There are some funny visuals, but I’m not seeing enough to call this one good instead of OK.

Death Star Pirates

“Death Star Pirates”

Original Grade: EXCELLENT

This has the heroes of the Rebellion all together, facing off against a group of pirates among the wreckage of, you guessed it, the Death Star.  The art style is unique, sometimes fantastic in its minimalism, and on top of that it is a pretty fun adventure.   That being said, I don’t think I got the same enjoyment out of it as the previous owner.  It’s definitely GOOD, but not great.

Bad Business

“Bad Business”

Original Grade: BAD

“Bad Business” stars Vilmarh “Villie” Grahrk as he deals with a group of malfunctioning pit droids and an alien princess who transforms into a bestial cat-creature when stressed.  It’s written by John Ostrander, the writer who created Villie, who happens to be one of my favorite characters from the comics.  Casually amoral, and not all that bright at times, I always enjoy seeing him in action.  I really don’t understand this low grade.  I’m certainly biased due to my love of the character, one who the previous owner might not have known, but the only reason I can see is that maybe they didn’t like the sort of “werewolf” route they go with the princess.  It’s not a great story, but it is fun.  I’d give it a GOOD, mostly because of Villie’s presence.  Anyone else and the grade probably drops.

In the end, it looks like I was a little more forgiving than my counterpart.  I didn’t think any of the stories were outright bad like they did, and that’s something.  They did seem a bit skewed towards the action-heavy stories, but if the previous owner is as young as I suspect, that’s understandable.  All in all, I’m for the most part impressed with their taste.

Tidbits

– I bought three other volumes of Tales when I bought this one, but none of the others have the same grading system this does.  I still might run through and do write-ups on the other stories.  We’ll see.

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4 thoughts on “George vs. the Anonymous Reviewer: Star Wars Tales Volume 2

  1. What a find! I used to have this volume and for the most part agree with your grades. Glad the Sarlacc story gets universal acclaim, I’m a big fan of that one.

    Like

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