STAR WARS TALES VOL. 6 Is A Terrific Return To Form
May 21, 2012
At some point in its storied history, STAR WARS TALES became a bit of a puzzle: it ceased telling genuinely interesting “tales” and, instead, focused on incidents or even vignettes. Some of them seemed at home in the vast worlds sharing star space with worlds like Hoth, Dagobah, and Tatooine, but many of them were little more than quirky diversions of established characters appearing very cartoonish if not downright buffoonish. Perhaps the slate of writers had tired of Luke, Leia, Han, R2, and Chewie, and longed for the days of a return to the ‘comic strip’ instead of the ‘comic book’ – of a quick comeuppance in favor of a longer tale of adventure and relevance. Thankfully, it would appear that those days finally ended with STAR WARS TALES: VOLUME 6, a 2006 printing from Dark Horse..
Finally, strong narratives and an emphasis on character and plot returned to the pages of STAR WARS TALES as the writers and editors earned their stripes with longer stories a bit more episodic in nature. The goofy, loopy tone is gone – for the most part – and in its place are people, places, and events that harken back to the films, cartoons, and books throughout the various timelines in the Star Wars universe. Some of the silliness remains, though thankfully is in sparing doses.
As for the stories?
“Shadows and Light” takes place during my least favorite era – the Old Republic Era, long before the days of any characters associated with the films – and it details one quest to root out the forces of Sith influence from key planets. “Unseen, Unheard” is another Old Republic Era story. Thankfully, it’s brief, and it deals with a Dark Jedi seizing a blind apprentice who hopes to again experience sight.
The Rise of the Empire Era finally delves into characters and situations relevant to the Star Wars films. “Marked” is a kinda/sorta ‘coming of age’ story for Darth Maul, of all people. “Nomad” is a tidy little epic by itself as a warrior goes about extracting revenge on the Dark Jedi who destroyed his family. “Honor Bound” investigates what truly happened when a Republic gunship went down under curious circumstances: was it a victim of war … or foul play by the Senate?
The Infinites imprint allows writers and artists to craft stories that utilize established characters and situations within Star Wars various worlds but never truly having taken place. It’s a clever creative idea that I’ve seen fail more than succeed in Dark Horse’s pages, but “Fett Club” is a fun excursion, parodying the rules of the film FIGHT CLUB if they were, in fact, devised by Boba Fett and applied to his unique career as a bounty hunter. It’s more comic strip than comic book, but, for what it’s worth, it works here.
The Rebellion Era – that of the original trilogy set by the films STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and RETURN OF THE JEDI – brings a few excellent outings. “Lucky” stars an older Wedge Antilles – yes, THAT Wedge Antilles – reflecting back upon the events that put him on path to joining the Rebel Alliance … one of tragedy and lost loves. “Walking the Path That’s Given” feels like a vignette; Darth Vader appears in cameo as he recruits a wanted criminal to serve as a star pilot in his elite fightercraft strike force. “Marooned” is a wryly comic look at two soldiers – one Republic, one Empire – left behind after the Battle of Endor and what they do when they find out the war ended long ago.
The New Jedi Order Era takes place long after the official events of the films – it’s the original ‘Expanded Universe’ line – and “Equals and Opposites” explores a brief adventure Jedi Knight Kyle Katarn facing off against the invading Yuuzhan Vong on an enslaved world.
Granted, no collection is ever perfect. Some of that is just the nature of storytelling. With the STAR WARS TALES line, various authors and artists come and go, so one can expect the highs and lows that come from reading any true anthology. But – for the most part – the art is solid, and the storytelling rises back to a cause for celebration – a vast improvement over Volumes 4 and 5, in my opinion, making this one definitely one to own for any Star Wars fan worth his or her weight in galactic credits. May the Force be with you … always.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Despite a few casual missteps into creative narrative territory explored to tired effect in previous volumes, STAR WARS TALES VOLUME 6 is a solid collection of adventures that fit comfortably into George Lucas’s world in a galaxy far, far away. Fans who have yet to discover these tales would be well to serve as my padawans before applying for their trials as Jedis as there are many lessons yet left to learn.