Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two by Gary Gerani
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Picking up where George Lucas’ original sci-fi adventure left off, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two continues the pocket-sized thrills set forth by the original 1977 feature. Once again introduced and guided by original series editor Gary Gerani, the second installment traces the full three series run of its 352 collectible cards and 30 large-sized photocards in beautiful, glossy detail with four bonus cards included for readers.
As risky and ambitious as the sequel’s making, Topps Company intended to up their ante on its followup series to the wildly popular Star Wars line. With many of the film’s elements shrouded in expected secrecy, Topps’ limitations to deliver several new series of cards that exceeded fan expectation was surely tested. Confident in their abilities, Topps increased their card count for the new line to a massive 132 cards per series, debuting with picture cards of its main cast featuring stats for each character on their reverse side. In addition, the “Story Digest” inclusions tell Empire’s narrative through stunning still photographs from the film. With various stickers (featuring incomplete letters of the alphabet) included in each line, series two kicks off with the “Starcraft” group, spotlighting the film’s many unique spaceships. Continuing to showcase more still photography from the anticipated sequel, Star Quizzes were included on the backside of many cards with a Star Wars related trivia question. As photographs ran the risk of redundancy, behind-the-scenes stills were included as a refreshing change of pace with interesting movie facts on their flip side. Making stylistic color changes for their third and final series, its card count was trimmed down to 88 to avoid continued risk of covering similar territories. Commissioned by Lucasfilm, comic style character renderings of the main cast gave the final installment a breath of fresh air while, “Star Quotes” cards and “Star Paintings” featuring incredible concept art by Ralph McQuarrie also added a welcome mix. Lastly, one final hurrah for The Empire Strikes Back line came in a series of 30 photocards, excellently reproduced in the final pages of this massive 500+ page volume.
Chronicling what is arguably the most beloved installment of Lucas’ saga, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two surpasses its predecessor in not only size but, also detail and variety. Furthermore, Gerani’s invaluable insight into the creative process of these nostalgic goodies continues to enhance fans’ appreciation of the Force during a time when the fate of the Resistance was very much in question. As the filmmakers strived to capture lightning twice, the creative artists at Topps struggled equally to give fans something worthy of their previous achievements. With the Force on both their respective sides, The Empire Strikes Back would become a universal hit while, the fruit of Topps' labor would be met with equal praise. Excellently collected in their entirety, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two shifts into hyperspace and sends readers on a fun, youthful journey back to 1980.
Available April 19th from Abrams ComicArts, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two can be purchased via Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and other fine retailers.