It's a two-issue series from Dark Horse Comics, collecting a handful of old Marvel UK Star Wars strips from the early 1980s. What makes them historically important is that they include all the Star Wars strips written by Alan Moore, not to mention the small matter of some additional Steve Moore and Steve Parkhouse.
Unfortunately they're disappointing. Alan Moore sometimes manages to be haunting, but these strips aren't very good either as Star Wars or as the work of creators I admire enormously. They're certainly not a patch on the same writers' Doctor Who stories.
A big problem, I think, is the regulars. Han, Luke and Leia in here are rubbish. Admittedly the movie originals are also stock characters, mostly brought alive by the actors, but even so they shouldn't have been this one-dimensional. The rogue, the farm boy and the princess. You could have fun with that. Unfortunately no one here's really trying, with one token mention of Han's smuggling. At their worst, they turn these stories into generic runarounds and at their best, they're bland everyman figures in stories that doesn't feel anything like Star Wars in the slightest. Some highly variable likenesses also don't help, with the first of Alan Davis's two stories being barely of a professional standard. They're almost potato-faced. Obviously today he's a hugely respected figure in the industry, but it's amazing to see his growth as an artist even between his two stories in this collection.
There's also a difference in tone. Star Wars is a fantasy pulp action series, yet these comic strips are often philosophical or even mystical. They have a sense of wonder. "Out there in airless space, there was no way of knowing how long it had been abandoned. A hundred... a thousand... a hundred thousand years?"
There are seven of them:
- 1. Dark Lord's Conscience ... 6 pages, Alan Moore + John Stokes
- 2. Dark Knight's Devilry ... 15 pages, Steve Moore + Alan Davis
- 3. The Flight of the Falcon ... 5 pages, Steve Parkhouse + John Stokes
- 4. Blind Fury ... 5 pages, Alan Moore + John Stokes
- 5. Rust Never Sleeps ... 5 pages, Alan Moore + Alan Davis
- 6. The Pandora Effect ... 15 pages, Alan Moore + Adolfo Buylla
- 7. Tilotny Throws a Shape ... 5 pages, Alan Moore + John Stokes
1. Dark Lord's Conscience is the one where Dark Horse had to get John Stokes to draw a sixth page because Marvel UK hadn't sent him the full script all those years ago and hence published an incomplete story. I almost prefer the five-page version. It's trivial, not really of interest. Clat the Shamer is oddly uninteresting, while Darth Vader has become a James Bond villain.
2. Dark Knight's Devilry is formulaic adventure, but it's got 15 pages to play with and Steve Moore manages a few nice touches. I like the MacGuffin, while I appreciated the brutality of the Empire's trap at the end. That's not the usual kind of deathtrap, but instead a "yup, that's what I'd do" one. Admittedly there's a bit of a goof in Darth Vader not sensing the presence of Luke and Leia even when they're right behind him, but even so he's still the best-portrayed of the movie regulars here. Overall it's a passable story with some nice touches... that's being made to look amateurish by Alan Davis. I didn't realise the story's heroes were Leia and Luke until page 3, despite them calling each other "Leia" and "Luke" on page 2! Suddenly I'm quite pleased that Davis was never given Doctor Who.
3. The Flight of the Falcon is an origin story for the Millennium Falcon and guest-stars an Imperial officer who in one panel looks the living spit of Peter Cushing. It also has a hot nerd girl in glasses.
4. Blind Fury has Luke doing some seriously spooky Jedi training, with imagery that reminded me of Arcane in Hell from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. It's a mood piece rather than action, which is good, but its villain has a silly downfall. "Thousands of years? All the Jedi gone? But my revenge... my sweet revenge..." BOOM.
5. Rust Never Sleeps is my favourite of the collection. Droids = slaves. No muscles, no hearts, no souls, no rights. In other words, Alan Moore's saying something with this one. It's droid theology in a droid scrapyard (or graveyard) that's at once both hard SF and a religious fable. "And as our bodies fuse together, so do our souls bond, one unto another, until they form the one great spirit which is Ronyards." Alan Davis's art works much better this time too. One thing I particularly liked is that there's an obvious SF rationale for the story's mystical events and I was waiting for it, but Alan Moore carefully avoids doing any such thing. Overall it's like another take on Roger Langridge's The Autonomy Bug for DWM, but with stronger messiah parallels in place of some of the whimsy.
The only disappointment is the droids. C3P0 is being faithfully characterised, which means he's a twittering windbag. Meanwhile R2D2 is saying things like "Zorp bipple vwort! Droot?" It's not even in a different font. Couldn't he have talked in dingbats or mathematical symbols or something?
6. The Pandora Effect is another 15-pager, with Lovecraftian sense of wonder alongside characters who look like Friar Tuck. It's the adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men! The bad guys in this one all look middle-aged and nerdy. There's some startlingly evocative prose about the planet of Attahox at the beginning, but we're only there for two pages. I quite liked this one. Wutzek gets an impressively cosmic revenge and I like the way Moore gratuitously breaks Han. The likenesses are again rubbish, but Buylla's a good enough artist that he gets away with it and at the very least they're amusing. Chewbacca looks like Bigfoot and the Hendersons.
7. Tilotny Throws a Shape is the weirdest of the bunch. Tilotny's a goddess and the most interesting character in any of these stories, just in the way she talks. There's a playfulness in how Alan Moore writes her voice and her vocabulary, while their extra-dimensional powers make this easily the freakiest corner of the Star Wars that I've seen to date. Yet again there's a sense of scale to it, with the stormtrooper's helmet that's been lying there for thousands of years, and I'd never expected to see what Tilotny does to Leia. Mad, strange and fascinating.
Overall, these stories are all at least okay. Even the pointless runarounds are competent, if you can forgive the one-dimensional heroes. Broadly speaking, I'd say the second volume (5-7) is a keeper and the first one (1-4) is probably worth reading once, if only for historical value. Alan Moore writes two striking stories and three more acceptable ones, with Rust Never Sleeps and Tilotny Throws a Shape being mind-expanding enough that they'd have stood out as landmarks even in DWM. I'm glad to have broadened my knowledge of the master's work, but equally I can't say I've been driven to seek out more Marvel UK Star Wars comics. They're clearly not as good as their sister Doctor Who strips from the same period and I should think even a Star Wars geek would admit that.
John Stokes is good, by the way.