With STAR WARS OMNIBUS: A LONG TIME AGO... VOLUME 4, Dark Horse continues to collect the entire Marvel Comics Star Wars series in affordable digests. Containing issues 68 through 85, Annual #3, and the four-issue adaptation of Return of The Jedi, Volume 4 is a whopping 576 pages (the thickest one yet), yet retains the price of the previous releases - a heck of a deal. By using the subtitle "A Long Time Ago..." on this series of omnibuses, Dark Horse is unintentionally reminding me of just how ancient I am, as the original comics were an essential part of my childhood collection; however, unlike many other series of that time, I really enjoyed getting into them again. The first half of this volume features two parallel storylines that lead the series into the adaptation of Return of The Jedi. First, you have the Rebel Alliance trying to locate Han Solo, who was frozen in carbonite and handed over to Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back. At the same time, they're searching for two missing Rebel spies who have information on a certain new Imperial superweapon with which we're all familiar. One has to wonder how the Alliance could let several of their key members roam all over the galaxy like this, but Luke, Leia, Chewie, Lando, Threepio, and Artoo certainly get the job done. There are many events in these stories that are regarded as non-canon in the modern Star Wars Expanded Universe, yet in doing some research, I was amazed at the lengths to which some people have gone to make them fit. The best approach is to realize that these stories were written long before the Expanded Universe really took off, so anything that is outside of "official" continuity should simply be accepted as an oddity, and nothing more.
Writers David Michelinie and Mary Jo Duffy do a good job of marking time yet maintaining the suspense up to ROTJ, which is adapted by Archie Goodwin. The rebels' adventures take them to exotic worlds such as Stenos, Lahsbane, and Iskalon, where they encounter all sorts of strange alien races, and they even pay a visit to Boba's homeworld of Mandalore and fall in with one of his old contacts. Dengar, Bossk, and IG-88 make appearances, Lando dresses up like Captain Harlock, and there's a funny nod to Daffy Duck. We even learn what happened to Wedge Antilles after the battle of Hoth - one of my favorite stories in the book. After ROTJ, it seems like Marvel wasn't sure where to take the series, other than tying up a few plotlines from earlier issues. I believe that we're seeing the beginning of the decline that resulted in the title's cancellation a couple of years later. Art-wise, Ron Frenz and Tom Palmer make a great team on these stories, with a style strongly resembling that of Al Williamson. Mr. Williamson himself provides his standard beautiful pencils for the movie adaptation, and Klaus Janson illustrates the annual.
There's one more volume to go with the Marvel reprints, and I'm hoping Dark Horse will continue with the comic strips and UK stories. There's so much more to see!