STAR WARS #9 was the third issue contained in that specialty 3-Bag of plastic-wrapped comics that was bought for my brother, who had become a big fan of the film and its characters. We’ve spoken already about how voracious demand was for these early STAR WARS books in a time when there really wasn’t any other way to relive the events of the film or to experience additional adventures beyond it apart from imagining them. Thus, many of the early issues were reprinted and sold in 3-Bags such as this one, in supermarkets and department stores and the like. You could find them for several years, and pretty much every kid of a certain age had at least one lying around. They were by far the best-selling comic books of the decade.
This issue represented the second chapter in the first storyline to be crafted taking place after the events of the film. Writer Roy Thomas has decided to do a riff on the Magnificent Seven/The Seven Samurai by having Han Solo and Chewbacca hired to protect a town besieged by bandits. In order to do the job, the pair needed to hire additional mercenaries, a motley crew of oddballs that included the Starkiller Kid and his droid Effie, Hedji the porcupine creature, the femme fatale Amazia, Don-Wan Kioti who thinks he’s a jedi, and most memorably, Jaxxon, the humanoid green rabbit whom Thomas had loosely based on Bugs Bunny. It was a weird mix of players, but I have to confess that I kind of liked them as a kid.
The overall look of the series had taken a step up as well, with Tom Palmer signing on board to finish Howard Chaykin’s breakdowns and to provide the coloring as well. Consequently, the main characters immediately started to look much more like their celluloid counterparts, and the color work did more to enhance storytelling and mood. As solo and his mercenary crew approach the town they’re meant to protect, they see that it’s under attack by High-Hounds, bloodthirsty scavengers who swoop down and raid the farmers’ crops. The crew immediately moves to defend, giving the story a bit of action right up front and demonstrating the individual combat skills of each of the newcomer characters.
Elsewhere in the galaxy, Luke Skywalker had embarked on a quest to locate a new safeworld for the rebel forces last issue. At the time, it seemed as though writer Thomas didn’t exactly know where he was going to go with that plotline, but by this issue he appears to have figured it out. When we cut away to Luke, he and his droids think that they’ve located the perfect new hiding spot, and so he sends a coded communication back to Princess Leia to notify her. But midway, the transmission cuts out, and Leia is left to wonder what has happened to Luke on Drexel, the world he had scouted. But wondering isn’t the Princess’s strong suit, and so she decides that the best course of action is for her to head out to Drexel as well to find and rescue Luke. This all sets up the next storyline the series would feature, of course.
Back at the town, Solo and his crew are thanked for their assistance in driving off the High-Hounds. But an elder, the grandfather of a girl Solo saved during teh attack, tells them that they should not have been hired and are not needed, that the town already possesses all of teh defense it requires. Solo is skeptical, and also still wants his share of the money they were promised for the job, so he’s not ready to go anywhere. But the point is moot when Serji-X Arrogantus and his Cloud-Hoppers come screaming out of the sky on flying bikes, ready to raze the town if they don’t receive their yearly tribute. So another fight is in the cards, like it or not, hired or not.
But these attackers are trained sky pirates, not simple High-Hounds, and Solo and his crew are on the back foot almost from the jump, outnumbered and outgunned. So much so that they suffer two fatalities in short order. First, Effie sacrifices itself to protect the Starkiller Kid from a shot from an enemy shooter that would have killed him. Effie was only a droid, maybe, but that still counts in this context. The second fighter to fall is Don-Wan Kioti, who is shot down from behind while providing aid and assistance to Amaiza. It’s at this point that the old elder begins to shriek and chant above a particular crevasse in the ground.
And wouldn’t you know it? The elder summons up a massive creature, one which he believes is a protector of the village, and which will drive off their oppressors. But it seems to be equally interested in Solo and his bunch as it is Serji-X and his crew, so this isn’t great news for Han and Chewie. And that’s where events are To Be Continued–at least until the next STAR WARS 3-Bag came out.
Rather than a letters page, this issue runs the pin-up page above by Howard Chaykin. It looks to my eye like a pencil sketch that Howard did that was repurposed for publication, and I’d guess it was inked haphazardly, if at all. It’s a bit fragmented, but it gives a good idea of what sort of pencil work Palmer might have been working from on some of the story pages, and how much he filled in himself in teh embellishing process.