Dark Horse collects a bevy of bizarre, hilarious, and possibly largely unread, or read long ago, stories from its storied Star Wars publishing history into an exciting Omnibus entitled Wild Space Volume 2. This does mean that an introductory Wild Space omnibus exists, and I am sure it contains just as many colorful and varied stories and adventures as I found in this over 400-page second volume, and I am sure there is enough unique Dark Horse Star Wars content to fill many more omnibuses, and maybe a few omnivans, too. Yes, that’s a bit of a bad pun, but it is completely in line with the style of much of the Wild Space slice of the Star Wars universal pie.
The tales of adventure, mishap, derring-do, coincidence, and cunning found within the pages of Wild Space Volume 2 spans a few ages, the earliest stories from 1995, and the latest from 2006, and relay the hitherto unknown exploits of a very shrewd and resourceful Jabba the Hut, two rebel underachievers (or are they?) named Tag and Bink who find themselves on the fringes of, or unknowingly responsible for, numerous pivotal Star Wars moments, writer and artist Sergio Aragonés’ comedic foray into (literally) the world of Star Wars, and Lando Calrissian as he runs for his life, all the while trying to talk, or gamble, his way out of trouble. Also included are the family-friendly pod-racing adventures of young Anakin Skywalker, the origin story of Jabba’s strange jester, Salacious Crumb, and short stories and art of grandeur and eloquence from the concept artists of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. And, that’s the book in a Tauntaun body.
If any of those individual elements pique your interest, as they did mine, then you are in for a timeless time-capsule treat. This may sound incongruous, but think about it: the world of Star Wars exists outside of real time, but Star Wars properties, projects, and fandom exist in our real-world timeline. Make sense? That’s okay if it doesn’t, just know that these stories take place all over and in-between and throughout the Star Wars universe, all the way from the original trilogy to the end of the prequelogy (not a real word, I know). One of the highlights for me included the multiple Jabba the Hut stories. These stories, all written by Jim Woodring, except for The Jabba Tape, written by John Wagner, posit Jabba as the main character in a plethora of hilarious and, at times, disgusting double-crosses, cons, and betrayals as the crime lord slithers across the galaxy, amassing a fortune and hurling insults at his long-suffering servant Bib Fortuna.
Jabba’s adventures are a comedy of errors with an added element of violence, be it from blaster, bomb, or being eaten, and he handles them all with slimy aplomb, indifference, mild annoyance, and arrogant self-assurance. The tales have a great artistic flair to them and, except for The Jabba Tape, which has its own unique style, everything appears in bright, pastel late eighties/early nineties colors, which offset the often gruesome activities at play on the page. The colors also lend a wonderful cosmic feel to it all, as the aliens are of varying shades and hues, and Woodring’s scripts are well-paced and full of sly jokes and verbal jabs. This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a Jabba the Hut sitcom, but the writer and artist teams deliver enough gross and clever belly laughs that we at least get a glimpse of what that would look like, and I believe are better for it.
The other highlight for me were the four Tag and Bink adventures, cram packed with parody and jokes both paying homage to and poking fun at the world of Star Wars and Dark Horse. Written by Kevin Rubio and with pencils by Lucas Marangon, Tag and Bink trip, run, and hide their way through the Star Wars canon, all with a knowing wink at fandom, though Tag and Bink are in the dark for most of the jokes, which makes it all the better. They encounter revenge-driven Boba Fett, womanizing Lando Calrissian, talkative C-3PO, and a host of other notable characters, all with a humorous spin. This is situational comedy at its best, a kind of Fawlty Towers in Outer Space that offers up joke after joke and plays so well with its source material that it is obvious that Rubio and Marangon are true fans and take their jobs very seriously, hilariously so.
One of my favorite bits, and the Tag and Bink comic have many, many comedic bits, is their first visit to the Death Star, which includes a discussion on the life of a Stormtrooper and the inadequacies of their helmets. Another is when Tag and Bink arrive on Yavin, after the celebration at the end of A New Hope, and encounter Boba Fett. The anachronisms that Rubio peppers throughout their journeys are side-splittingly funny and incredibly clever, and sometimes I couldn’t believe how perfectly a plot point or situation connected to a pertinent Star Wars event. Rubio plays wonderfully with time, mining some great comedy simply out of its passing, and also with his timing of jokes, reveals, and situations. If you are not rolling in the aisles laughing, or if you happen to be reading the book somewhere without aisles, which could be lots of places, on the floor laughing, then either Star Wars or comedy may not be for you.
Wild Space Volume 2 made me grin, grimace, and laugh, and pleased and amazed me all around. Even if you’re not big on concept art or pod-racing, there is so much great stuff stuffed into this book that you have probably never read, that you’ll enjoy it nonetheless. And, in my opinion, just getting the chance to hang out with Jabba the Hut and to explore the Star Wars universe with Tag and Bink was well worth the omnibus trip, even without the jump to hyperspace. Yes, I’m playing off of that joke again, but recall is one of the great forms of comedy. Just ask Kevin Rubio, Jim Woodring, Sergio Aragons, Mark Evanier, or even the people at Dark Horse, because while they all know Star Wars inside and out, and how to tell a rip-roaring space yarn at that, they also all know comedy, and in a galaxy not so far away, that is more valuable than being able to do the Kessel Run in ridiculously few parsecs.