Star Wars: Tales from the Rancor Pit | Review
Star Wars: Tales From The Rancor Pit
Writer: Cavan Scott
Artists: Nick Brokenshire, Juan Samu, Andy Duggan, Rafael Perez and others
Dark Horse Books; $19.99
For the past several years, Cavan Scott has written scary Star Wars stories for anthology comics set in and around Vader’s Castle for publisher IDW, which had held the license for the kid-friendly Star Wars Adventures suite of books. With the recent change in licensing, so that Dark Horse is once again in the Star Wars business, Scott seems to have had to decide on a new scary location to set some scary stories (that, or the Vader’s Castle setting simply exhausted itself after five outings). He settled on the scariest setting from any of the films: The edge of the Rancor Pit in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. (At least, it’s the scariest one in my experience; I was only six at the time I originally saw it, but I closed my eyes tight when Luke Skywalker was plunged into it and had to fight the Rancor monster, and I didn’t open them again until it was all over).
The premise is much simpler than that of the Vader’s Castle stories, most of which had rather extensive framing scenes with their own plots and conflicts. Here, Jabba the Hutt has captured the traitorous villain Captain Vaclav and, at story’s opening, has Vaclav suspended upside down over the trapdoor leading to the titular pit.
As Jabba’s hand hovers over a big, particularly pushable-looking button, Vaclav begs for mercy. Saying he’s a collector of stories, he offers to entertain Jabba with scary stories in exchange for his life. The average reader can guess exactly how merciful Jabba will be in the long run, but the tactic at least forestalls the button pushing long enough for three scary stories, each drawn in a slightly different style by a different art team: Juan Samu, Andy Duggan and Roman Stevens, and Rafael Perez and DJ Chavis. The framing sequences are drawn by Nick Brokenshire who, like Scott, is no stranger to all-ages Star Wars comics. The cover, meanwhile, is by famed Batman and horror comic artist Kelley Jones.
The first story, set during the Clone Wars, features a callous general who spends his droid forces carelessly, only to be confronted by the ghosts of his fallen robot soldiers, something that should be, as he screams to them, impossible.
The second is set during the franchise’s new High Republic era and finds a freelance Jedi hired to tackle a monster with infectious abilities that turns those it wounds into versions of itself, not unlike a vampire or werewolf.
And the third is set during the events of The Empire Strikes Back and has Leia, Han and Chewbacca caught in the middle of a fight between monsters, with a classic twist ending of the sort that used to punctuate so many horror comics, back when horror was a burgeoning field of mainstream comics.
The precariousness of the narrator’s situation means we likely won’t be seeing the same series of sequels to this book as we did with the various Vader’s Castle comics, but it’s a rock-solid entry in the Star Wars franchise, with highly accessible stories that should entertain readers regardless of their entry point or level of experience with the saga from the galaxy far, far away.
As far as quality of comics goes, the only thing that seems to have changed with the license is the name of the publisher on the book.
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About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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