Like the movie it chronicled, The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume Two ended on a cliffhanger. Instead of the movie’s lingering questions of parentage, the books’ cliffhanger was “Will Volume Three suffer from the same issues as Volume Two?” The problem with Abrams Books’ second volume in its compilations of classic Star Wars trading cards is that it shrank the images down way too much, reducing its reproductions of Topps’ Empire Strikes Back cards to a size smaller than that of the actual cards. Pages were overwhelmed with wasted white space while you needed a magnifying glass to see those images of the most visually arresting Star Wars movie.
Well, the cliffhanger has now been resolved, and the news is much better than Luke’s discovery that Darth Vader really is his dad. The images are once again back to the oversized dimensions of those in Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume One. That’s great news because although Return of the Jedi does not have the artful visual style of its predecessor, it does have the most interesting looking menagerie of aliens of any Star Wars picture, and you get to ogle the likes of Jabba the Hutt, Bib Fortuna, the Gamorrean Guards, Nien Nunb, Admiral Ackbar, Sy Snootles, and the rest in all their weird glory in Volume Three.
The fact that Return of the Jedi provided many of the trilogy’s most interesting stills—stills that are arguably more interesting than the film, itself—helps to mitigate the fact that the overall presentation is a bit less interesting this time around. There are none of the outtake, behind-the-scenes, or production art images used in the Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back series. Gary Gerani, who wrote the cards’ original captions, seems less enthusiastic this time too, providing far fewer of his witty and colorful comments than he did in the first volume. In the plus column for Topps, the image quality is vastly improved for Return of the Jedi (images on Star Wars and Empire cards tended to be extremely grainy and often blurry) and the card backs feature neat character illustrations. In the plus column for Abrams is the fact that the pictures are no longer being presented at microscopic size. It makes one wish for a fourth volume in Abrams’ series called The Empire Strikes Back: The Non-Tiny Original Topps Trading Cards.