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A novel by graphic novel by Mike Kennedy & Carlos Meglia (2001, Dark Horse Comics)
Immediately before Star Wars: A New Hope

Several parties search for a fabled crystal, at the behest of a group of rival Hutts and an unknown benefactor.



2 stars+

Read September 26th to 27th, 2011  
    I think I enjoyed this story a little more the second time around. It really was fun to see everybody following Han and Lando from place to place. I really would have liked to see how Zuckus got the location of the Vassilika in the outer rim, though. He just shows up, and ahead of the Falcon. I guess that's why Han decided to make a bunch of improvements to the hyperdrive. The artwork didn't bother me too much, though I didn't really enjoy it much. My favorite parts of the art were the waves on Mon Calamari and a bunch of other backgrounds. I do agree with most of what I wrote below, especially about keys -what kind of key do the Rebels need to open the Masassassi temple on Yavin IV?  


2 stars

Read on March 3rd, 2002  
    I actually quite enjoyed the chase this story presented.  The dialog was crisp, the turnarounds were fun, and there were several unexpected twists.  However, the artwork was atrocious, and I'm not sure if this fits in with the known continuity.

The comic obviously takes place within the last few chapters of Rebel Dawn.  Bria has betrayed Han and the other smugglers, taking all the spice from Ylesia to the Rebel Alliance and leaving the smugglers in the cold, hating the Rebellion.  Han is back on Tatooine, but Jabba has obviously not called upon him to deliver spice through the Kessel run yet.  In other words, Han is still in good favor with Jabba.  Bria is still alive, and is searching with other rebels to find a new base.  And Greedo has not yet begun to hunt Solo.

The plot is extremely simple: in order to figure out who has the best strategy when dealing with non-Hutts, a trio of Hutts, Jabba, Malta, and Embra, hire hunters to seek the valued Yavin Vassilika.  Jabba employs people who are interested in money only, like Han, Lando and Greedo (although the latter is not really hired).  Malta contracts out with IG-88, Dengar and Bossk, whom he plans to double-cross.  Embra contracts out a legal document with all the documentation to support his part of the hunt, with Zuckuss, 4-LOM and a Tuskin Raider (!) named Sardu. 

Han gains the upper hand, getting to the place where the raving lunatic who first found the Vassilika was last known to be.  Lando arrives shortly after him, and the others follow.  They all meet up in a brawl after Han questions the people who saw the man last.  Luckily, the bounty hunters all hate each other.  They are always at each others throats, even when they are on the same side. 

And then Boba Fett comes into the picture.  It appears at first that he was hired by Jabba to hunt for the Vassilika as well, and he holds no grudges against either Han or Lando for the stunts they pulled in The Hutt Gambit or Rebel Dawn.  Nobody stops to ask, as Fett is buried under a rockslide before he can even point his weapon.  Unlikely?  Yes.  But fine if he was being paid to keep Han Solo safe on the hunt, as it turns out he his supposed to do.  But why Solo and not Calrissian? 

Everybody follows Han to Mon Calamari, where they find the dead body of the lunatic, Webble, under the sea.  Underwater, they also hear voices, as it appears that the rocks and other underwater area in that location collects thoughts like echoes, and Webble's last thoughts seemed to be the coordinates of the planet where he saw the Vassilika. 

Han, Lando and Greedo (who had tagged along since Tatooine) are ambushed by Bossk and his gang, but Chewie destroys their water skimmer and Boba Fett provides another distraction.  They make their way to the next planet.  But Zuckuss has beat them to it. 

I liked the way Sardu's Jawas were everywhere.  They eavesdropped on all the other competitors, they sabotaged Han's skimmer on Mon Calamari.  Han even remarks that he has never seen so many Jawas off of Tatooine before!  Of course, they are the same ones.  And although we don't get to see it, apparently they led Zuckuss to the underwater grotto where Webble's memories were floating around. 

Also along for the ride is Malta the Hutt's majordomo, Jozzel.  She is the mastermind behind the whole thing.  She was offered a huge reward for the Vassilika by some shadow agent, and convinced the Hutts to play for its retrieval.  She tagged along with Malta's group, but when they started fighting among themselves, she jumped into Han and Lando's camp. 

When everybody finds the Vassilika, worshiped by a bunch of savage-looking natives, they can't even get close to it.  Each group tires in its own turn.  4-LOM is damaged in the attempt.  Han, Lando and Greedo are injured and tied up.  Only the arrival of Boba Fett frees them.  At first, nobody knows anything about these natives.  But when they get up close, they start spouting knowledge as if from an encyclopedia.  I don't understand...

As Dengar and Bossk attack the village, Han and Lando go after the Vassilika, but one of the Jawas makes off with it first.  It ends up in the hands of Jozzel, who steals the Falcon and takes it to Yavin IV.  She meets with the rebels, including Bria, and is given her reward, as well as a fake Vassilika to bring to her master.  She hopes to buy her freedom with the money.  However, she was tracked not only by the other bounty hunters, but also by Embra the Hutt's majordomo!  The Bith kills her and ends up with the money, while Zuckuss ends up with the fake Vassilika. 

The real Vassilika contains a key that unlocks the largest of the Massassi temples on Yavin IV, where the rebels obviously want to make their new hidden base.  I don't understand what all this talk about keys is.  The bounty hunters wonder where the keys to their spaceship are.  Han loses his keys to the Falcon to Jozzel, which allows her to steal the ship.  Since when do spacecraft use keys?  And now they need a key to enter the temple?  There is no hint of any of this in any of the other stories that deal with the Massassi.  I seriously doubt the Rebels would meet on the world they are planning to use as a hidden base.  Even less would they tell Han and Lando about the key.  No wonder Bria ended up dead at the end of Rebel Dawn!

The last page deals a humorous blow to Embra the Hutt's majordomo.  She had stolen away with 4 million credits, and called Embra to quit.  Just as she hangs up, though, Boba Fett enters the picture, and demands that the money go back to Jabba (presumably because the money was originally from the sale of the spice the rebels stole in their raid on Ylesia).

I wish we had been given an aftermath to the bet, though.  Embra obviously won, but I wonder what that proves, and what the losers did because of that.  The story ends far too early, I fear.  We don't even know if Han demanded to be paid for his work. 

I did like the way Han and Lando were constantly at each other's throats, because of the betrayal at Ylesia.  It sort of makes the betrayal more real, instead of diminishing it.  At the end of the sequence in Rebel Dawn, we are led to believe Han and Lando didn't see each other again until The Empire Strikes Back.  But because of the bickering, and because Han left Lando's very expensive and rare spaceship behind at one of the ports, the animosity looks even better.

The artwork, however, was nothing to be proud of.  The characters are all cartoons -caricatures, really.  Sometimes I didn't even know who I was looking at.  Strangely enough, I liked the backgrounds in this book much better.  The colors were impressive, but I could have done without the foreground characters!  And the action sequences were drawn even worse.  They barely represented action at all.  I think poor Chewbacca fared the worst of all of them!

After flipping through this book earlier, I was not expecting to enjoy it at all, mainly because of the artwork.  But I was surprised, and maybe that's why I actually ended up enjoying it somewhat.  But it was fluff, and even with great artwork, I doubt it would have jumped too much in ratings.  Still, it was kind of fun, and that's what Star Wars is all about, right?


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