For my birthday I got the three volumes of the collection of the old Star Wars newspaper comic strips. I've never read these and I have thoughts to share, so I had the bright idea to make a thread about it. So...yeah. XD (Obviously, spoiler warning for these 40 year old comics, if anyone cares.) I read Gambler's World which is the first story in the collection. It's...interesting. The story begins with Darth Vader's fleet of Star Destroyers* chasing down a rebel fleet, though Darth Vader is being unusually cautious in doing so. Something about the rebels movement strikes him as odd, no doubt this is due to his experience as a battle commander from back in the Clone Wars. Anyways, Vader gets a call and tells a hapless General to take over while he answers said call. It's here that we arrive at the first surprise of this story, and what prompted me to make this thread. The person trying to call him is none other than Blackhole! I had no idea that he was from this! I admit, I don't know too much about his character, other than he did some supremely evil stuff in "Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor" so it was really interesting to see him here being a massive drama-queen. To give an example of him being a complete petty goof: Vader comes into the room to receive Blackhole's (I'm just gonna call him Blackhole, I know he has other names) hologram** and this is how the scene plays out: Darth Vader: ...Well? *Silence* Darth Vader: ...Well? Blackhole: *slowly materializes* Hail, Lord Vader! This guy. So, Blackhole tells him that the Rebels that his fleet is chasing is a decoy to mislead the Empire from their true plan: to go on a massive recruiting spree, starting on the planet Vorzyd 5. First of all, I'm not sure how a rebel fleet is a decoy but whatever. It's fine. The main thing is that Vorzyd 5 (the titular Gambler's World) is basically a proto Canto Bight and a source of the Empire's income. So the rebels (and Blackhole specifically identifies Luke and Leia) disrupting the business down there is bad news bears for the Imperials. Vader tells Blackhole to take care of it and he's like "Yeah, I'll take care of it" as he fades away mid-sentence like a massive prima-donna. Cut to Luke, Leia and the droids (Han and Chewie aren't in this story, for some reason. I guess they were busy). They are arriving at Vorzyd 5 and they pass by some giant space beacons leading the way to the planet. They are shaped like clovers and money-signs and whatnot and are really goofy and I love them. So they give some exposition on the planet as they land and we see the Gambler's World in all it's space-age Vegas glory! Also, in the same panel is a guy being mugged. Not the most subtle but I suppose it gets the message across. Our heroes arrive at the "biggest, most famous casino" and are told by the doorman that droids are not allowed inside for fear of people using them to cheat. So R2 and 3PO wait outside and I want to take a moment to talk about the doorman cause he's awesome. Something I have always loved about Star Wars is all the crazy aliens and this guy...is basically a parrot. Like a giant, humanoid parrot. According to the wiki he is a Kilmaulsi, a species that was named in 2004. I'll spare you the math: that's 25 years after this comic was published. That's insane. There's actually a lot of really cool alien designs in the background but none of them have Wookieepedia articles, much less names. That saddens me, cause we will probably never get information on them. Well, who knows what the future holds? Anyways, Luke and Leia enter the casino and are greeted by the sight of a bunch of floating platforms housing gambling tables. Luke remarks that "The anti-gravity alone must have cost a couple of planets!" which seems really off to me but whatever. He's a dumb farmer boy, he doesn't know money. As they discuss their top-secret mission in this highly public area, a shadowy Kubaz spies on them. Didn't realize it was a Kubaz at first, not gonna lie. His snout is almost like a trunk, super-long. Luke immediately gets sidetracked by a game known as "Cosmic Chance" which is...hard to explain. I actually had to re-read this part cause it's super weird. It's a giant black sphere with symbols on it. Luke explains to Leia that the streaks of light on the sphere are "cosmic rays...flashing across the universe...responding only to luck! If you're really lucky, you can control the rays...and bend them into the targets!" I have no idea how that works. But Luke seems to cause he tries it out, despite Leia's insistence that they have an important job to do and that they shouldn't be drawing attention to themselves. Luke is kinda dumb in this scene. Nearby, some casino goers take note of the two and laugh to themselves. Apparently it has been "3 siderals" since someone had scored on Cosmic Chance. A sideral is a measurement of time, obviously, but the wiki doesn't seem to know that it first came from this so...someone may want to mark that down. XD Anyways, Luke scores. The onlookers are shocked and more people start to take notice. He tries again and scores again*** and now people are making bets on him and it's a whole fiasco. Leia is understandably upset cause this is the opposite of having a low-profile. So, we have a situation where Leia is trying to drag Luke away from the Cosmic Chance game, the crowd is trying to stop Leia cause they have money tied into this now, and Luke is a confused idiot. It's actually hilarious. As they make a speedy exit (with Luke having an arm-full of cash), the Kubaz from earlier mutters to a shady-looking individual. "No doubt about it! That's Princess Leia of Alderaan...and Luke Skywalker! Inform Blackhole quickly!" Luke and Leia go back to the droids, tell them that this casino is a wash and that they need to try another. It's here we learn that they have a contact that will meet them in a casino. The problem is, and get this, they don't know which one! That seems like a pretty massive oversight to me! Luke gives his winnings to R2 as they go on a large conveyor...tunnel...thing to the next casino. Suddenly, the lights go out and they are confronted with stormtroopers. But these are no ordinary stormtroopers, no sir! These stormtroopers have black armor, which is super cool looking. A fight breaks out, Luke brandishing his lightsaber but alas both Luke and Leia are stunned and taken. For some reason, the troopers ignore the droids. I guess they underestimated them? I dunno. Regardless, the droids follow after them and witness the troopers reporting to Blackhole's hologram, who mentions that they now have all four rebels on Vorzyd 5. This is interesting, as it means there are two other rebel characters we haven't met yet. He finishes his orders by telling them to take the captives to the ship, no doubt to later interrogate. They get in a speeder, drive off and the droids can't follow them anymore. C-3PO starts to yell for the police, due to the kidnaping that has just taken place. An awesome-looking police droid shows up (the art makes it look like he leans into frame, which is very funny to me) and R2 has to pull some fast ones to get him to leave, reminding C-3PO that they are on a secret mission and that they can't just be telling the authorities stuff. So they are on their own, basically. The droids are then confronted with the Freelies, which are a delinquent gang who try to steal them, only to be stopped by a police droid. This seems like a random scene when your reading it but the Freelies show up again later so...yeah. R2-D2 (who really pulls his weight this story) reminds C-3PO that the stormtroopers had Hrakian accents, so they just need to find the Hrakian ship. There's this whole subplot with them trying to get a drunken Hrakian to escort them onboard so they won't be stopped but my main question is: does this mean the shadow stormtroopers were non-human? I think that's interesting. Meanwhile, the four rebels (one of which is a Selonian) are being interrogated by Blackhole. He has them in paralysis beams and is trying to get Leia to tell him who their contact is. Apparently it's someone quite noteworthy. Leia doesn't know. And even if she did know she wouldn't tell him. Blackhole threatens her with a mind-probe via an IT-O Interrogation droid. Luckily, the droids come to their rescue. Having infiltrated the ship, they turn off the paralysis beams and the rebels fight off the stormtroopers who are briefly colored white instead of black, I think that's an art issue don't worry about it. Blackhole disappears and...here's a thing. The comic doesn't seem to realize that the characters know what holograms are, cause they are kinda baffled by it. That aside, they make their daring escape. During the resulting shoot-out, Falud (the Selonian rebel) is killed. They manage to escape and the scene shifts to sometime later, where C-3PO is recounting this adventure to a supercomputer named Mistress Mnemos. I actually already knew about this character from Supernatural Encounters, but...it comes out of nowhere in the story. And we soon return to the main storyline so I don't know what's up with that. R2-D2 convinces C-3PO that they need to be better prepared so he leads him on a side-quest while Luke and Leia track down their contact. To that end the droids end up in a weapons shop, run by an alien whose design I instantly fell in love with. So the droids get outfitted with all manner of crazy dangerous weapons, when who should show up but the Freelies. Their presence causes the automatic weapons to go haywire and 3PO returns said weapons. However, he keeps a tracker for him and R2, just in case. While this silliness is going on, Luke and Leia finally get some useful information, and Luke begins following instructions to meet the contact. There's a bit with some tiny spy droids following him but he loses them and, after a pretty convoluted route (which includes using a parade to lose some followers) he ends up meeting the contract who turns out to be the President of Vorzyd 5. She tells him her plan to help cut off the Empire's money flow on the planet and give it back to the people, but they are attacked and Luke has to make a quick escape. Returning to their ship, he finds out from C-3PO that the Freelies had kidnapped Leia and R2-D2 for ransom. Luckily, 3PO can find them due to the tracker established earlier. Blackhole also finds out about this development from his Kubaz spy. So now we have this honestly kinda cool climax where all three factions are fighting. Leia finds out that one of the Freelies is the son of Falud, and he proves himself to be a real piece of work. "My sire asked for it when he joined the rebels!" What a punk. So, Luke saves one of the Freelies who ends up helping them escape by showing them the way out, though at the cost of his own life. And they escape. And the story just kinda ends. I think there is a lot of cool stuff that come from this story, though the pacing is weird (that's probably more due to the medium than anything). It's a pretty fun adventure and the climax is cool, I couldn't really do it justice in my recap cause I am tired and it's hard without just going the whole thing beat-by-beat and I didn't want to do that. I think there is something to be said about these early stories, when so much of the lore was just not there yet. It really makes me wonder what it was like to be a fan in 1979. I feel like things were a lot more simple then, in terms of Star Wars. How many people read this comic when it came out? What was the reaction to it? I don't know, but it's fun to think about. After I read The Constancia Affair, the next one in the collection, I'll write up a recap with my thoughts on it. Hope this was as interesting to you as it was to me. XD *They don't say if it's Death Squadron or not, because this is a super-early story and I don't think they had that name yet. Regardless, probably Death Squadron. **Blackhole's hologram looks awesome, by the way. ***Luke's luck in this story is never really explained, I'm assuming it's the Force.