Year Three (Part Two)

Spoilers, natch

 

Hello again!

As I mentioned last week, I felt that my post was getting a bit long-winded. I made the decision to cut this topic in half and save the second part for today. Don’t want my readers getting overwhelmed, right?

In the previous session, I discussed the aspects of the new canon (established April 2014) that I liked best. Today, I’d like to discuss brand new characters that have caught my fancy.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the list.


Rae Sloane 

Appearances: A New Dawn (first appearance), Aftermath, various Insider short stories


“I’m Admiral Rae Sloane. You are under arrest for conspiring against the Galactic Empire, long may it reign.”

I never liked the idea that the Empire didn’t employ women in its ranks. I know the Legends EU solidified this fact by stating the Empire was misogynistic as well as xenophobic, but honestly it struck me as being more along the lines “for the evulz” than anything else. When a woman did appear in the old Legends Empire, it was probably because she slept her way up to that position—as was the case with the erratically-written character Natasi Daala.

Thankfully, the reboot has done us all a favor by introducing female stormtroopers and Imperial officers. Sure, the racism and genocide against non-humans is still there (yay?), but it’s nice to see a bit of diversity with our antagonists.

Anyway, on to the character herself. Sloane was first introduced in A New Dawn as the temporary captain of the Star Destroyer Ultimatum. Her mission was to escort Count Denetrius Vidian to the planet Gorse for his thorilide mining assignment. Captain Sloane made enough of an impression to be put in permanent command of the vessel by the end of the story. Come The Battle of  Endor, she’d been promoted to the rank of Admiral and commanded the Star Destroyer Vigilance. Finally, in Aftermath, she was one of the individuals in the secret Imperial meeting on Akiva following the Empire’s defeat at Endor. Here, she was revealed to be in league with a mysterious Fleet Admiral in the Unknown Regions (probably signifying the beginning of the First Order).

Why I like her:

In a sea of cliché, mustache-twirling male Moffs and Imperial officers, Rae stands out because of her personality and code of honor. She serves a Sith-created, corrupt regime, but that doesn’t automatically make her an evil person.

While Sloane is very much a professional, no-nonsense individual, she is shown to care for the officers under her command. However, she doesn’t let her feelings get in the way of her service. Even if she is occasionally horrified by the unsavory acts her compatriots  commit, her duty to the Empire always comes first.

Kanan Jarrus (Caleb Dume) 

Appearances: A New Dawn (first appearance), Star Wars Rebels, Kanan: The Last Padawan (comic)

 

“… It’s true. I’m not sure of my decision to train Ezra. Not because of him or his abilities… because of me, because of who I am.”

During the last days of the Republic, Caleb Dume was just your average Jedi youngster pining for a Master to choose them as their padawan. Eventually he was paired with the enigmatic, coma-awakened Depa Billaba (they made a Force connection while she was in her bacta tank.)

Everything was going great for our young padawan. He had a Master to teach him, he finally got to fight in the Clone Wars like he wanted, and he had a little-brother-style friendship going on with the clones in his unit. What could possibly go wrong?

Well… those nasty clone brain chips activated at the worst possible moment (thanks, Sheev.) Billaba gave her life defending Caleb from their clone unit and he was forced to learn how to survive on his own as a 14-year-old fugitive bereft of the Order he grew up in.

Taking the name Kanan Jarrus to hide his Jedi past, he took on many unsavory jobs in an effort to keep himself out of the eyes of the Empire. Little did he know, a chance meeting with a certain twi’lek pilot named Hera would change his life forever.

Why I like him:

I’ll be honest; when I was first introduced to Kanan in A New Dawn, I thought he was kind of a jerk. He was constantly punching people who annoyed him and he only seemed to care about getting paid. However, having been introduced to his backstory in the comics, I now see why he was the way he was in the novel. Watching your beloved parental figure get gunned down in front of you will leave some nasty psychological scars.

Since Kanan has embraced his Jedi heritage once again and aligned himself with a rebel cell, he’s certainly begun to show his more caring side. Despite his feelings of inadequacy while training Ezra, he is very much Team Dad to Hera’s Team Mom — the glue that keeps the Ghost crew together. Freddie Prinze Jr has done a great job voicing him in Rebels and Kanan’s snarky humor is a welcome addition to the show.

Oh, bonus points for looking like a samurai.
Ezra Bridger
Appearances: Ezra’s Gamble (first appearance), Star Wars Rebels, various YA novels.

 

 “I was just doing the same thing you were, stealing to survive.”

A young orphan on the Outer Rim world Lothal, Ezra perhaps shares a few parallels with another Disney street rat. Ezra is initially depicted as a young thief who steals from the Empire to ensure his own survival. Kanan takes note of Ezra’s uncanny agility and informs the boy of his latent Force-sensitivity.

Why I like him:

When Ezra was first announced, his character and design got a lot of flak from the fandom. His blue hair, his energy slingshot, and the soreness over the cancellation of The Clone Wars TV show made for a bad combination. There was also the possibility that this “Aladdin-clone” would be a bratty kid and ruin any chance of the show being serious when it needed to be.

Thankfully, like a real person, Ezra has continued to mature. Ezra has gone from a self-centered survivor to a vital member of the Ghost crew. He is compassionate and brave, but he is not without his flaws. Like any teenager, he is often stubborn and takes unnecessary risks (much to Kanan’s chagrin.)

Intriguingly, it’s been hinted that Ezra’s Force potential may be eclipsing Kanan’s. He had his first brush with the dark side in season 1 and the new trailer hints at further danger for the character. Very excited to see what happens!

Doctor Aphra

Appearances: Star Wars: Darth Vader (comic)


“Thank you, Mr. Lord Vader. Sir? Your majesty? Your illustriousness? Honestly, no idea. I’m a rogue archaeologist, not a protocol droid.”

Archaeologist and droid expert Doctor Aphra is one of Vader’s personal agents during the Galactic Civil War. One of the Marvel comics’ more quirky characters, she quickly proved herself to be one of the Sith Lord’s most useful and loyal assets.

Why I like her:

Remember I said she was quirky? I don’t think that even begins to describe her. Aphra is a perky, upbeat woman who idolizes Vader and likes to reactive homicidal droids. She’s well aware of the fact that Vader will put her down when he has no further use for her (“If I get a choice, the lightsaber right through the neck.”) but she does her job anyway.

Oh and props for owning Triple-zero, the most polite and sadistic protocol droid to ever exist.

“I’m 0-0-0 or Triple-Zero, if you prefer. I’m a protocol droid, specialized in etiquette, customs, translation and torture, ma’am.”

 


Ciena Ree/Thane Kyrell

Appearances: Lost Stars

 

(Note: these are not the official character portraits. However, author Claudia Gray mentioned she had Gugu Mbatha-raw and Sam Reid in mind when she wrote them.)

Thane and Ciena were two kids that hailed from the Outer Rim world Jelucan. Thane was from an upper-class family and Ciena came from more homely origins. Their world was never of any significance to galactic events during the Republic until the fateful day the Empire came.

Long story short, the two youngsters enroll as imperial cadets and experience the Imperial military firsthand. Of course, knowing how corrupt the Empire is, these experiences change the two dramatically.

Ciena stays out of a strong sense of honor and Thane defects to the Alliance to Restore the Republic (Rebellion). Problem is, they’re both still very much in love with each other and on opposite sides of the war.

Why I liked them:

Because of its YA label, I wouldn’t blame someone for assuming Lost Stars is Twilight in a galaxy far, far away. It is very much not. Thane and Ciena are believable characters with a lot to like.

I think my favorite part of the novel was seeing how the two justify or condemn the actions of the Empire they served. Alderaan is an especially polarizing point for the two.

I won’t spoil the events of the novel because it really is a lot of fun. Check this one out! Oh, and fun tidbit: the derelict Star Destroyer (the Inflictor) on Jakku in TFA belonged to Ciena at one point.
That’s it for today. Turns out I still went on a bit longer than I thought I would. Wanted to mention a few extra characters I liked, but I’ll give them honorable mention below instead.
Hera and Sabine (Rebels), Mister Bones (Aftermath), Evaan Verlaine (Princess Leia)

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Year Three (Part One)

Warning: possible spoilers

“And this is just the beginning of a creatively aligned program of Star Wars storytelling created by the collaboration of incredibly talented people united by their love of that galaxy far, far away…”

– April 2014 announcement, StarWars.com

(Big thank you to Comics Alliance for that canon timeline.)

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope all is well. I apologize for the scarcity of my posts. Life gets busy and sometimes I *gasp* run out of Star Wars topics to write about.

Today, I’d like to share my thoughts on the new canon since we’re almost three years in. I’ll touch on the parts I like best. Since this topic will be broad and because my older posts tended to go on and on without reprieve, I’ll split this post in twain and cover the second half another day.

Cohesion 

As much as I adored the Legends stories I read as a kid/young adult and as much as I respected Leland Chee for keeping the old continuity in order as much as he did,  there is no denying that certain authors may have taken a bit too much liberty with their stories.

For example, Karen Traviss randomly gave mandalorians a godlike superiority over Jedi and Sith. Additionally, she killed off Mara Jade (in a very anticlimactic manner) without informing Zahn which never sat well with me. We also had some early installment weirdness like the interdimensional creature Waru or Jedi being able to pass their spirits into computers. Yeah…

As I said in my earlier Legends post, I’ve seen people say the new canon plays it too much on the safe side. That’s a fair criticism, I suppose. I see it more as a boon, though. I think that the Lucasfilm Story Group exercising more creative control will be beneficial for the universe in terms of consistency.

Will there be occasional continuity errors in the new canon? Of course. The SG and authors are only human. But hopefully we won’t get into a situations like Legends where the first Death Star plans are stolen by a number of different characters in different stories  by different authors. (That plot point will be addressed in current canon by Rogue One later this year.)

Interestingly, I feel that the “safe” approach has also added a bit of mysticism back to the Force. Many of the new stories do not focus on the original power trio and instead put normal, non-Force-sensitive people into the spotlight. So, when Luke, Jedi lore, or the Force do appear, they’re much more special occurrences. This is a stark contrast to Legends stories starting with NJO where Jedi and Force powers were found on nearly every page.

The reboot also had the added benefit of eliminating the convoluted canon tier system (G,T,C,S,N). Everything released now is just as gospel as the films according to Lucasfilm.

Rebels 

 

“Stand up together, because that’s when we’re strongest. As one.” 

Ezra Bridger

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Clone Wars fan. When it was first announced that TCW was being cancelled and a new animated series was taking its place, I was a little skeptical that it could match its predecessor. I was wrong.

Despite Rebels having a smaller budget, it still has Dave Filoni at the helm and it is a true spiritual successor to The Clone Wars. The art style may seem simplistic, but it’s inspired by the designs of the legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie. While the show is aimed at a general audience, it is not afraid to delve into darker territory when it needs to. It also has a habit of recanonizing Legends content which is awesome.

Interdictor ships say hello.


All your hyperspace are belong to us.

Marvel

 

Marvel (now a property of Disney) used to publish comics for Star Wars way back in the 70’s. When they reacquired the license from Dark Horse to begin publishing Star Wars comics, there was some, shall we say, unhappiness within the fandom. DH had been publishing comics for the franchise since the early 90s and as with all changes, some people are bound to be upset.

That being said Marvel has (imho) been absolutely slaying it. Since January 2015, they’ve started eight different comic series (most of them limited runs, some ongoing) with more on the way.

Now, I can’t say that every single issue released has been stellar. However, the artwork and writing have been almost consistently top-notch, unlike many of the Legends DH comics which varied wildly in quality. These Marvel comics feel like genuine Star Wars stories and it’s clear that they understand how special this universe is.

The Star Wars 2015 and Darth Vader comics in particular are notable for finally giving us this piece of information.


That’s right, they were allowed to depict the moment where Vader discovers he has a son. The following flashback scenes are especially awesome but I won’t spoil them for you.

My personal favorites are Shattered Empire, Obi-wan and Anakin, Lando, Darth Vader, and Star Wars 2015-. These stories have been an absolute joy to read and I’m excited to see what 2016 brings for the GFFA.


Novels

 

Unlike the comic universe which changed publishers, Del Rey continues to publish Star Wars novels like it did with the old EU. However, DR is joined by Disney-Lucasfilm Press which also publishes books like Lost Stars. 

So far, I’ve enjoyed the new books. While they haven’t been quite as fun as the TV series or the comics, the majority of them have been entertaining enough (remember what I said about playing it safe?) Fortunately, even the weakest novels in the new canon like Heir to the Jedi are nowhere near as miserable as, say, Crucible. (I’m sorry. I know I pick on that one a lot, but it was just so bad.)

My favorite book so far is the aforementioned Lost Stars, which might seem odd considering it’s classified as YA romance. Don’t let that fool you. Claudia Gray is an excellent writer and her first entry into the SW universe is absolutely worth reading.

Coming in second is the ever-controversial Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. Even if you’re initially put off by the writing style (third person, present tense), I urge you to give it a fair chance. I particularly enjoyed the references to TCW and Rebels. 

Dark Disciple takes its place as my third favorite novel. Adapted from several unfinished Clone Wars episodes, Christie Golden managed to make me feel like I was actually watching the show itself. Plus, it stars Asajj Ventress who became one of my favorite characters throughout the show’s run.

A New Dawn is another favorite of mine. Not only is its name fitting (first books in the new continuity), it offers a look at Kanan and Hera’s early years. It’s a good starting point for the Rebels series.

I’ve also heard that Twilight Company is good and it’s been sitting on my shelf since Christmas, but I haven’t had time to start it. I’ll let you know what I think when I get to reading it.

Finally, the reference books such as Ultimate Star Wars and TFA: Visual Guide are still as top-notch as they’ve ever been. A lot of Legends stuff gets recanonized there.



That’s it for today. I apologize if this entry was a little more vague and unfocused than usual. In part two, I’ll focus on the characters in the new canon that have really resonated with me.

There’s always a bit of truth in legends.” –Ahsoka Tano