There have been myriad one-shot and mini-series format <i>Star Wars</i> comics published. Basically, with the exception of the popular <i>X-Wing</i> comics series, there were no ongoing monthly series published between the end of <i>Marvel</i>'s run in 1986 and the various ongoing series started by <i>Dark Horse Comics</i> around the turn of the century.
Some of the popular one-shot and mini-series that were published in the 1990's – yet have no overarching theme of their own – were compiled and published in an omnibus format by DH called <i>Star Wars Omnibus: Early Victories</i>. This collection was perhaps the most interesting in that it is comprised of various stories from all over the galaxy, both Canon and non-Canon. As with the review of <i>Star Wars Omnibus: The Golden Age of the Sith</i>, this review will be as follows. There will be brief reviews of each story within this massive comic, with a rating for each one, and a brief concluding review of the graphic novel as a whole, with a rating for the work as a whole as well.
<b><i>Star Wars: Vader's Quest</i></b>
This story <i>should</i> have been stronger, but it wasn't. It was basically the tale of how Darth Vader tries to capture his son once he learns that he is alive. This knowledge was obtained by interrogating a rebel pilot for the name of the fellow-rebel who blew up the Death Star. It is a re-hashing of a similar story in the original <i>Marvel Comics Star Wars</i> run (minus the part with Luke as Vader's son, which wasn't known then by the writing team). At least, that is my opinion that it is an adaptation of said earlier <i>Marvel</i> tale. It never outright says that it is adapting that story, but the similarities are there, so I can conclude that's where the idea came from. And no, I don't remember the name of the relevant story, or the issue(s), in the <i>Marvel</i> run.
Anyways, it should have been a great story, but it just.... wasn't. It was very clumsily done. The device of flashing backward and forward to tell different pieces of the story, and then interconnecting them, is useful, but it just doesn't seem to work as well here. It's kinda confusing how they do it, and in fact it is so confusing that only right now as I write this did I figure out something that I missed before.
That said, the overall plot that hearkened back to a <i>Marvel</i> story, combined with the really quite beautiful art, saved the tale from being a bomb. Not the best story to read, but not so bad either. I would give this comic 2/12 to 3 stars for a rating.
<b><i>Star Wars: River of Chaos</i></b>
This tale was definitely a good one. It had some of the “swashbuckling” adventure and intrigue that the <i>Classic Star Wars Trilogy</i> invoked. The story is about a beautiful and talented young mechanic named Mora, the man who adopted her, and an Imperial agent with clashing loyalties. And no, despite the romantic undertones, there is no goofy “I choose the Rebellion because I love you” plot. It is the agent's (Ranulf Trommer) morality that makes him a Rebel. It's just Mora and her father who make him see the evils of the Empire.
The story begins on the planet of M'haeli, where a kindly H'drachi named Ch'no finds a starving and filthy human infant girl. Instead of abandoning the child to her death as many of his fellow H'drachi urged him to do, he adopts her. As the child grows older, some of the simmering bigotries between humans and H'drachi grow worse, and this is often taken out on the adoptive father and daughter family. Both sides hate and are unwilling to accept them, as they are somehow tainted by being near each other. This situation is made worse by the fact that Ch'no is better at using the psychic abilities of the his people than anyone else among the H'drachi, so their jealousy mixes with prejudice for a really difficult situation.
Then things take a turn when Mora, Ch'no, and Ranulf (who is working undercover for the Empire at the time) find themselves in with the Rebels. Suddenly they must chooses sides as former neighbors and allies turn on them. What choices they make, along with an explosive secret from Mora's past, could decide the fate of their world.
This was really a good story. While the art wasn't all that great, in fact is was merely serviceable, the plot itself more than made up for this. While reading it, I was reminded of the older <i>Marvel</i> comics stories, the ones that really did capture the feel of the original trilogy for me. I would give <i>River of Chaos</i> 5 stars for a rating.
<i>Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind's Eye</i>
This is the comic adaptation of the novel written by Alan Dean Foster during the three years between the release of <i>A New Hope</i> and that of <i>The Empire Strikes Back</i>. Foster is also the one who ghost-wrote the novelization of <i>Hope</i> for George Lucas.
The tale is a simple one. Luke Skywalker is escorting Princess Leia Organa to the planet of Circarpous IV for a meeting with members of the planet's underworld and rebel factions. Her mission is to gain the support of such groups for the Rebel Alliance, in their bid to dissolve the Empire. Luke, Leia, and the droids end up, through a confluence of events better explained in the story, crash-landing on a nearby planet. Once there, they find themselves on the hunt for an artifact called the Kaibur Crystal, which amplifies a Force-user's abilities many times above their natural talents. Worse yet, Darth Vader, who comes hunting them now has found out about the Kaibur Crystal....
Like with the first story, this one had so much possibility to be a great read, but it wasn't. They cut out entirely too much material from the novel, and thus certain story elements are not explained. The book, for all of it's faults, makes clear how some of the plot details that contradict the later (chronologically as well as released) <i>Empire</i> could be reconciled. Not <i>all</i> such details, mind you, but many of them.
I won't say much for the art, because it was touch and go. Some of the panels and pages were quite well-rendered, while others just were not all that good. A disappointment that fell far short of what it could have been. I would give this a rating of 3 stars.
<b><i>Star Wars: Shadow Stalker</i></b>
This was a different story than most you come across for <i>Star Wars</i>. It entirely concerned the Imperials. In it, a former Imperial turned mercenary named Jixton is sent by Darth Vader to assassinate an Imperial Governor turned Rebel traitor, and blame the killing on the Rebel Alliance. Jixton is the perfect one for the job. Think of him as a <i>Star Wars</i> version of Batman, and you have the general idea of how good he is.
It's a really fortuitous turn of events that Vader sent Jixton to handle this case, as the truth of the matter is quite a bit different, and more complicated, than Vader (and now Jixton) thinks. Vader has been duped, and only Jixton can solve this case and take down the bad guys.
This was unique in not just being entirely about the Empire, but in showing a “good” Imperial (if only unofficially at this point of the story) who doesn't join the Rebellion. Granted that the story reveals he <i>can't</i> do so at this time, but he probably wouldn’t have done so anyway. I prefer stories like this and Tim Zahn's, that show that there are good and bad Imperials. Add to this a really fun story and an interesting plot, and you have a winner. The artwork was nothing to write home about, but it was pretty good overall. At least it was consistent, which is something. I would give this tale 4 stars for a rating.
<b><i>Star Wars: Tales from Mos Eisley</i></b>
This was a one-shot comic that had three stories told by those passing through the “wretched hive of scum and villainy” as Obi-Wan Kenobi called it in the original <i>Star Wars</i> film. The comic was divided up into short vignettes that told the unusual and fantastical (even for the <i>Star Wars</i> universe) stories of three individuals. This comic came across more like <i>Star Wars</i> meets <i>The Twilight Zone</i>, but somehow it WORKED.
The art was just right. I say that specifically because while it was just average, it wasn't supposed to be terrific. It was supposed to convey that sense of folks surviving and triumphing against the odds and telling their stories in this harsh, grainy, sandy, nowhere spaceport. Some of the fantastical elements were what made the stories worth reading. They were really fun short stories in comic form, and quite entertaining. I admit that I might be biased towards this one, though, since I read and enjoyed it back in high school. Nostagia was a nice little added bonus, to be sure. I would give this one-shot a rating of 5 stars.
There isn't really a lot to say here as the disparate, disconnected nature of the tales makes for no unifying story or theme. While two of the tales were not great, the others three were, and even those two “not so good” stories were worth reading for a dedicated SW fan.