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


Post-TFA

Warning: Spoilers for The Force Awakens ahead. You have been warned. 

 

“Hope is not lost today… It is found.” -Maz Kanata 

I got to see the new Star Wars film while on vacation with my wife in NC. It was a good trip and now that I’m home and I’ve gotten some time to mull over the finer details of the movie, I’m ready to talk about it.

So what did I think of the newest chapter in the saga? I adored it. It was a return to form for the franchise and the critics and (most) fans seem to agree with this sentiment (94% Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad).

This post won’t be going into too much detail on specific points. Instead, I’d like to quickly go over the aspects I really enjoyed or that I thought were important.

Practical Effects

 

I didn’t realize how much I missed the aliens of the Original Trilogy until I saw this film. In fact, this entire gorgeous film just has a tangibility to it that was sorely lacking in the PT.

That’s not to say there wasn’t CGI (it’s a 2015 film, no way they wouldn’t have used some), but when computer animation was used, it complemented the look of the film instead of dominating it.

Bittersweet Tone

There’s no getting around it, The Force Awakens personifies the trope Happy Ending Override more than Legends ever could. Sure, the Empire finally fell at Endor followed by Jakku, and a New Republic was established to bring democracy to the galaxy, but the film portrays anything but a post-VI happy ending. Let’s count the ways the film tramples on our hearts.

1. A fanatical offshoot of the Empire (First Order) remains a credible threat despite being dismissed by the New Republic. The FO proceeds to cause the…

2. Destruction of the (current) New Republic capital world Hosnian Prime. Nice job dismissing Leia’s warnings, NR senate.

(Remember what I said about spoilers? I’m warning you again, because this one is a doozy)

3. Han and Leia’s son, Ben, is seduced to the dark side by Snoke and the legacy of Ben’s grandfather, Vader.  Their marriage goes sour. They reunite briefly only for Ben (now called Kylo Ren) to skewer his father through the chest. If you didn’t feel Chewie and Rey’s anguish in that moment, perhaps you need a heart check.

4. Luke Skywalker. I’ve never been shy about the fact that Luke is my favorite character and a fictional hero of mine. Although his appearance was brief and wordless, his face spoke volumes about the heartbreak and failure he had experienced.

I think I came to realize that I had held on to fragments of his post-ROTJ Legends counterpart. In my pre-TFA mind, Luke successfully reestablished the Jedi Order in order to combat the First Order’s Knights of Ren and the new dark side threat.

Well, I was half right. Luke did start a Jedi Academy, but I never predicted that he would be betrayed by his nephew and that he would see his apprentices slaughtered. Having another Jedi purge just decades after Order 66 is horrific.

That being said, tragedy often makes for good storytelling. My naive, idealistic desire to see a New Jedi Order in the film is fanfic material. What I actually got lends itself well to character development. As much as I hate to admit it, a downtrodden Luke is more believable than the one who essentially became a human god in Legends. (Please note that I guarantee Luke is still absurdly powerful, but the film only gives us a brief glimpse of his physical and emotional state and not his Force prowess).

Rey

 

I’m sure this comes as a surprise to no one, but of all the characters I was most excited to see in The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley’s Rey was number one. Boy, was I not disappointed. This girl is clearly the star of the show, and the movie shines all the more for it.

Rey averts the tired damsel in distress trope in a huge way. She is a self-sufficient, intelligent, and likable. As Luke was the hero I wanted to be as a kid, she will be to a new generation of female Star Wars fans.

I strongly disagree with the Mary Sue criticisms, by the way. If any male character (like Luke) showed aptitude for any of the things she does, he’d merely be seen as a standard superhero. She’s been shown to be incredibly Force-sensitive and perhaps has some (suppressed) former training. Plus, if the most obvious parentage theory is correct, she’s got the Chosen One’s blood in her veins. (Why else would the Skywalker family lightsaber call out to her?)

Kylo Ren

 

You’d think that after all the atrocities this character has committed both on-screen and off, I’d hate this character. Truth is, I really like this character a lot. He’s genuinely angsty and brooding in a way Hayden’s Anakin failed to be on every level.

Ben’s conflict between light and dark lends itself well to his character’s persona and his psychotic fits of rage show just how undisciplined he is. Plus, the guy takes a bowcaster bolt and is still able to fight. That says a lot about him.

Lightsaber Duel

I’ve seen the final duel between Finn/Rey and Kylo Ren criticized as “boring” and “unflashy.” I disagree. None of these characters were masters with the lightsaber and their incessant hammering on each other carried far more emotional weight than the sterile, overly-choreographed fights of the prequels. Watching Rey smash through Kylo’s defenses was extremely cathartic considering who he had just murdered minutes before.

Oh! And I really liked how lightsabers now cast a glow on their wielders and surroundings like they should. It makes for a really cool effect.

That’s about it. I’ll save some content for next time. It wasn’t a perfect film by any means and it did borrow quite a few things from a New Hope (like a plot coupon hidden in a droid) and yet another (sort of) Death Star. But all in all, Abrams and Kasdan nailed it. It is a Star Wars film through and through. I can’t wait to see more of Luke and Rey in VIII and the inevitable clash between light and dark.



“That’s not how the Force works!”

 

Prelude to Awakening

Warning: spoilers for nearly every canon post-RotJ story ahead. 

“Be patient. Be strong. Fight back where you can. The Imperial war machine falls apart one gear, one gun, one stormtrooper at a time. The New Republic is coming. And we want your help to finish the fight.” –Leia Organa

Less than one week before Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts in theaters. Can you believe it? This year has certainly gone by quickly.

The purpose of this post is to get others up to speed on galactic events after Return of the Jedi. Remember, even though the old Legends expanded universe covered this time period, we are operating on a blank slate with the April 2014 canon reset.

The following segments are meant to offer a quick glimpse of what happened after Sidious and Vader perished during the Battle of Endor.

 

No Rest for the Rebellion

“Today is a day of celebration. We have triumphed over villainy and oppression and have given our Alliance—and the galaxy beyond it—a chance to breathe and cheer for the progress in reclaiming our freedom from an Empire that robbed us of it. We have reports from Commander Skywalker that Emperor Palpatine is dead, and his enforcer, Darth Vader, with him.

But though we may celebrate, we should not consider this our time to rest. We struck a major blow against the Empire, and now will be the time to seize on the opening we have created. The Empire’s weapon may be destroyed, but the Empire itself lives on. Its oppressive hand closes around the throats of good, free-thinking people across the galaxy, from the Coruscant Core to the farthest systems in the Outer Rim. We must remember that our fight continues. Our rebellion is over. But the war… the war is just beginning.”

–Admiral Gial Ackbar

While Lucas originally intended the ending of Return of the Jedi to depict everyone living happily ever after, the truth is the Galactic Empire did not fall immediately after the loss of the second Death Star. The Empire still controlled countless systems and maintained its iron grip on the galaxy.

Heck, even the victory celebrations seen at the end of VI suffer from a happy ending override. On planets like Coruscant, Imperial police were quick to put down any signs of protest (including firing upon its own citizens in Monument Plaza).

Following the destruction of the Death Star II, the remaining Imperials quickly tried to stop the spread of news relating to the death of the Emperor; they labeled it Rebel propaganda. To counter this, Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar recorded their own victory speeches and distributed them throughout the galaxy.

In the Anoat system, Governor Adelhard locked down the entire sector and began to use lethal force against those who would dare claim the Empire had fallen. Also, on the remote planet of Akiva, several of the remaining Moffs and Imperial officers held a secret meeting to discuss the future of the Empire after their defeat on Endor.

 

Rise of the New Republic

This is democracy. […] We will not always get it right. We will never have it perfect. But we will listen. To the countless voices crying out across the galaxy, we have opened our ears, and we will always listen. That is how democracy survives. That is how it thrives. […] That is democracy. That is the New Republic. And if you’ll excuse me, we have a great deal of work to do.

–Olia Choko, public relations representative

 

Once the Alliance to Restore the Republic (Rebellion) had liberated Mon Mothma’s home planet of Chandrila, they quickly reformed themselves into the New Republic (a nice nod to the old Legends continuity.) Mothma was made the Chancellor and inherited many of the emergency powers that Palpatine had been granted during the Clone Wars.

The NR senate was also established. However, unlike its predecessor the Old Republic, senators were selected democratically, instead of via delegation. This new senate’s first meeting had over one hundred senators from various liberated and Imperial-controlled planets alike.

Even though the war between the New Republic and the Empire’s remnant was still technically active, Mon Mothma desired the demilitarization of the Republic as soon as possible. She quickly stripped herself of many of the authorities she deemed unnecessary, and stated her intent to remove approximately 90% of the New Republic’s military forces.

While her advisor objected to her demilitarization strategy, her intent was to bolster planetary defenses and recruit peacekeepers that would be trained in Chandrila’s academy.

 

Empire’s final days

 

As the New Republic began to establish itself, the Empire continued to lose battle after battle. Moffs fought amongst themselves and constantly attempted to declare a new Emperor; each occurrence failing. In addition, the Empire continued to lose its members to defection and those who did turn themselves over often handed over their Star Destroyers and other technological treasures.

Palpatine’s death triggered a posthumous command to raze several planets in an act of revenge. Naboo was the most prominent example of this attempted destruction. It was narrowly averted by key Republic figures such as Leia and Shara Bey (mother of Resistance pilot Poe Dameron in TFA)


Luke Skywalker had his own mission during this time. In one of my absolute favorite displays of his power and skill, Luke (accompanied by Shara) infiltrates an Imperial installation to retrieve the last fragments of the Force-sensitive tree that grew in the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant (as seen on the recent animated Clone Wars series.)

Luke gives the extra sprout to Shara and her husband Kes Dameron on Yavin IV (red herring? Foreshadowing for Poe?) and they plant it at their homestead. What about Luke’s sprout? Personally I believe he’ll plant it wherever he reestablishes the Jedi Order (bets on the old temple on Devaron for me; as seen in The Weapon of a Jedi.)

 

The end of a regime

 

“We’re headed toward a large standoff with the rebels. We’re committing a fair portion of the fleet, and if the damned Rebellion wants to stand a chance of keeping that sector, they’ll have to do the same. This promises to be the largest battle since Endor.” –Grand Moff Randd

With its power and numbers dwindling, the Empire tried one last offensive over the desert planet of Jakku. Grand Moff Randd thought that one last show of strength against the New Republic would convince the galaxy that the Empire was still a force to be reckoned with. He was wrong.


The Battle of Jakku was the final death of the Empire. The Empire was in such bad shape that its forces were comprised of barely trained cadets and the sick and injured who could barely fight. Captain Ciena Ree (deuteragonist of Lost Stars) chooses to smash her Star Destroyer Inflictor into the sands of Jakku rather than allow her ship to be taken by a New Republic strike team. Its ruins can be seen in one of the teasers for the new film.

 

End of an era

The Empire never recovered from their second major defeat. After their loss at Jakku, the Galactic Civil War was brought to a final, decisive end. The Imperial remnants signed a peace treaty with the New Republic and the galaxy saw true peace for a time.

The leaders of the NR were not fools, however. They kept their fleets on standby in the event of another Imperial attack. Leia became a general to lead the military forces alongside Ackbar. Han and Chewbacca (as per Aftermath) took on a non-authorized mission to liberate Kashyyyk’s Wookiees from remaining Imperial forces.

As for Luke? I imagine he went on to attempt to recreate the Jedi Order, but Lucasfilm has wisely kept silent on his whereabouts after Shattered Empire.

 

Resurgence of the dark side


In Aftermath, we are introduced to a group called the Acolytes of the Beyond who are collecting dark side artifacts like Vader’s lightsaber. In addition, we are introduced to Tashu, a former advisor to Palpatine who claims that the remaining Imperial forces should seek out a dark side source on the edges of the galaxy.

Are these individuals linked to The Force Awakens’ Knights of Ren? And I wonder if this dark side wellspring is linked to Starkiller Base–a planetary superweapon (capable of destroying entire star systems) under the control of the new villains of TFA. 

What we do know is that a fanatical remnant of the Empire called the First Order hid away in a nebula and they are eager to avenge their predecessors.

That’s it for now! Probably my last entry before The Force Awakens releases. I can’t wait to see it! I’ll share my thoughts on the film later this month.

Happy holidays to everyone and may the Force be with you!

 

 

“Hope is not lost today. It is found.”

The Power of Legends

Warning: Major spoilers for several Legends stories ahead.  
“… there’s nothing inherently demeaning in the term Legends.”  – Timothy Zahn

Ask most people what they think Star Wars is and they’ll likely respond with something along the lines of “movie franchise.” This statement is absolutely true and for most fans, the films will be the only stories they need to concern themselves with. Star Wars is, first and foremost, a set of films. That will never change.

However, for a kid like me who needed to absorb absolutely every little detail, the Expanded Universe was there to fill in the gaps. For those interested in exploring it, I have to warn you, the old EU is huge. There are literally hundreds of stories spanning multiple media formats (games, comics, books, etc.) Even though Lucasfilm declared the pre-2014 Expanded Universe non-canon, I still think it’s worth a look back on what made it so special.

The Beginning

“After Star Wars was released, it became apparent that my story—however many films it took to tell—was only one of thousands that could be told about the characters who inhabit its galaxy. But these were not stories that I was destined to tell. Instead, they would spring from the imagination of other writers, inspired by the glimpse of a galaxy that Star Wars provided.” –George Lucas


It could be argued that the old EU began with the novel pictured above. Splinter came out in 1978 before Empire was even conceived. As such, it is a bizarre read filled with Luke/Leia sexual tension (ick) and other oddities like Obi-wan possessing/controlling Luke during a duel with Vader. However, Foster had very little content to work with so I do not fault him for it.


Marvel Comics also had a hand in establishing the early expanded universe. Like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the authors of this series had little to work with, but they still managed to create enjoyable stories.

Resurgence 

 

Contrary to what many movie-goers might assume, The Force Awakens is not the first story to explore what happened after Return of the Jedi. The Clone Wars era might have been off-limits to authors, but Lucas permitted the EU to continue the adventures of Han, Luke, and Leia after Episode VI. 

In the early 90’s, interest in Star Wars was not quite what it was in previous decades. Thankfully, three books were released that renewed interest in the franchise once again. These novels are Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. Collectively, these stories are known as the Thrawn Trilogy. 

Many consider these books to be the absolute best stories in the old EU and I can see why. These books feel like an official continuation of the saga and many fans considered them the unofficial VII, VIII, and IX of the series. It’s rumored that the fan interest in these books inspired Lucas to continue the film franchise. In fact, Coruscant (capital planet) got its name from Timothy Zahn so it’s clear that Lucas got some inspiration from this trilogy.

The EU only continued to build from there. In addition to the numerous stories after Jedi, there were plenty of other time periods to be explored. The prequels spawned countless games, books, and comics. We also had stories set thousands of years before the films – documenting the origins of the Republic, Jedi, and Sith.

Of course, no one could predict the figurative “Death Star” lurking in the shadows. This leads us to our next point.

Reset Button

 

When Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise in 2012 and announced there would be a new set of  films set after Episode VI, many EU fans (including myself) wondered what the fate of our beloved stories would be. Would Disney adapt a book series like the Thrawn Trilogy? Would these films be new stories but still respect the stories that had come before?

We wouldn’t find out until April 2014 when it was announced that all old Expanded Universe content (sans the television show The Clone Wars) would be relabeled Legends – a.k.a non-canon.

I’m not going to lie, this announcement felt like a punch in the gut. The Expanded Universe was just as much Star Wars to me as the films were. The loss of beloved characters and stories was saddening and difficult for me to process. That being said, I came to terms with it quickly and I’ll explain why.

1. There was absolutely no way Lucasfilm could have created an original story in that cluttered timeline. Additionally, adapting an existing book would have been boring and expecting film-goers to follow story details from dozens of novels would have been unrealistic. A blank slate was the best approach.

2. The EU was always third-tier “C” canon (two steps below “G” film canon) that could be overridden by the films or tv shows. The Clone Wars rewrote EU details all the time. The Legends reset had the silver lining of eliminating the concept of canon tiers. All content post-April 2014 is considered as official as the films by Lucasfilm.

3. I kept trying to justify my continued reading of the old EU, but in truth I had long grown disillusioned with it. I felt that the post-ROTJ EU had lost its way. Too many authors with very little supervision led to a very messy universe with inconsistent quality.

4. This book:

I know, I know. It seems a bit ridiculous to say that one novel among hundreds could kill my interest in seeing more Legends stories, but this book left such a bad taste in my mouth (it was billed as the last big adventure for the elderly power trio). It was the culmination of all of the worst the EU embodied and it’s not how I wanted the Legends universe to end.

5. We’re getting official film continuations of the Star Wars Trilogy. No, seriously. New. Films. My inner child can’t wait for December. That made coping so much easier.

Anyway, the point of this blog entry wasn’t to rag on the old EU’s failings, so the reasons above are all I’ll say about what disappointed me.

I know this post is getting rather lengthy, so I’ll keep the next segment brief. I’d like to cover the concepts and characters I really liked in the old EU.

Mara Jade (Skywalker) 

 

Anyone even remotely familiar with the Expanded Universe knows about Mara. She’s easily one of the most popular characters. This fiery redhead debuted in aforementioned Thrawn Trilogy. 

Mara was the Emperor’s Hand, an elite assassin usually reserved for high-profile targets that Palpatine wanted dead. She was trained in the Force and deadly with her lightsaber, blaster, or really any weapon she got her hands on.

When Palpatine was betrayed by Vader, he mentally commanded her to eliminate Luke Skywalker. Although she tried to kill him several times, their relationship eventually turned friendly, then romantic. Luke and Mara had a happy marriage that resulted in a son, Ben Skywalker.

Grand Admiral Thrawn (Mitth’raw’nuruodo)

 

Like Mara, Thrawn was introduced in Zahn’s trilogy (named after the character, of course.) A member of the enigmatic Chiss species, Thrawn impressed Darth Sidious enough to be permitted to rise through the ranks of the xenophobic, human-centric Imperial Military.

Although the idea seems a little silly now, Thrawn was brilliant enough to be able to deduce a species’ military weaknesses by studying their art. Thrawn gave the fledgling New Republic a run for their money when he reappeared to command the Imperial Remnant.

Unlike Vader or Palpatine, Thrawn would not execute an underling for failure if they demonstrated true creative thinking and learned from their mistakes. Because of this, the morale in his fleet was very strong.

In the end, this fearsome mastermind only lost because he was stabbed by his bodyguard, Rukh.

The Old Republic Era

 

One of my absolute favorite eras in the EU, the Old Republic timeline occurred thousands of years before the films. While the Tales of the Jedi comics were the earliest ventures into this time period, it didn’t gain true widespread recognition until the much-beloved Knights of the Old Republic game released.

This era is famous for its vast Sith Empires, armored Jedi Knights, ancient Force mysteries, and precursor races like the Rakata. It also introduced characters like Exar Kun, Nomi Sunrider, Revan, Malak, Bastila Shan, and countless other legendary figures.

Jedi Apprentice Books

 

Published by Scholastic, these youth-oriented novels have given me some of my fondest Star Wars memories. These books explored the budding relationship between a very young Obi-Wan Kenobi and his new master Qui-Gon Jinn.

Despite being targeted at kids, these stories dealt with some very adult topics like loss of identity, war’s effects on children, and the death of loved ones. Of all the Legends stories concerning Kenobi and Jinn, I would love to see at least some of the details in these books recanonized.

Bizarre and Unique Force Abilities

This is a very huge topic, so I won’t go crazy. The old EU had a lot of cool light and dark Force powers that we never saw in the films. One of my favorites was tutaminis – the ability to absorb energy (including lightsaber blades) with a bare hand.


Going Forward
“More important, the old concept of what is canon and what isn’t is gone, and from this point forward our stories and characters all exist in the same universe.” –Dave Filoni

The decision to declare all of Legends non-canon ruffled a lot of feathers. Many fans were upset that the stories they’d grown up with were no longer being continued. (It also spawned a lot of Fan Dumb, but I’d really rather not go into that).

I’ve really enjoyed the new canon so far. I’ve seen a lot of Legends fans accuse these new novels of “playing it safe” and that’s a fair assessment. But I think that’s also a good thing. We’ve seen what happens when you let multiple authors go off on their own within an established universe. So far the Story Group has done a good job of keeping things fairly consistent.

It’s important to note that Lucasfilm stated Legends material would remain a resource for authors and directors to draw from. We’ve already seen character names, species, technology, and entire planets make their way into the new canon. It’s thrilling for me because I recognize these elements immediately.

So there it is. We’ve got a clean slate and a new film this December and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s important to remember what Zahn said. A good Star Wars story is a good Star Wars story regardless of canonicity. Lucasfilm didn’t come to our homes and burn our copies of old Legends stories. They’ll remain as long as we continue to remember and admire them.

Thanks for reading!


“But… It was so artistically done.” 

Enigmatic Energy Field

Caution: Minor spoilers for TCW, Aftermath, and The Force Awakens. 

“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” –Obi-wan Kenobi

The Force is one of the most iconic parts of the Star Wars franchise. It’s the driving force (heh heh) behind nearly all of the major events in the galaxy. The films give us a small taste of its true nature, but in order to understand this mysterious power, you have to delve deeper into other supporting media.

Most people know there’s a dark and a light side and that it allows its users to perform extraordinary feats like telekinesis, but the Force is a bit more multifaceted than that. So without further delay, let’s explore its nature and the various concepts associated with it.

I’ll start with the obvious aspects.

The Light Side:

“Do not hate him, Father. It is his nature.”  –Daughter

The light side is the part of the Force usually associated with the Jedi Order. It is associated with life, compassion, self-sacrifice, honesty, etc. Those who adhere to its principles are highly altruistic and will only fight in self-defense or in defense of the innocent.

In the Mortis arc of TCW we met a woman who was essentially an anthropomorphic personification (see above: green haired humanoid/gryphon) of the light side. She and her brother (I’ll touch on him below) lived with their father in isolation until Obi-wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka were lured to their “planet” as part of a test.

True to her nature, she sacrificed her own life to prevent the death of another, much like a certain Chosen One would do for his son decades later.

Interestingly, she told her father not to be angry toward her brother, despite the dark-sider’s role in her death.

The Dark Side: 

 

“Sith? Yes. And no.” –Son

The dark side is another facet we are all familiar with. It is associated with selfishness, deceit, death, and aggression. It is most attributed to the Sith, but there are other practitioners like the Nightsister witches of Dathomir or Imperial Inquisitors under Vader.

As mentioned above, TCW introduced us to a family of powerful Force-wielders. The Son was the physical embodiment of the dark side. Like his sister, he had a humanoid and animal form (batlike creature.)

Enamored by Anakin’s status as the Chosen One, the Son attempted to lure him to his side in order to escape his imprisonment and overthrow the Sith, promising Anakin there would be peace in the galaxy afterward. Here’s a short video of the vision the Son shared with Anakin. Note the brief musical note from Revenge of the Sith in the beginning. (Still gives me chills!)

Anakin’s Vision of the Future

Of course, status quo is God, and Anakin had his memory of this vision erased. Still, it’s interesting to wonder what would have happened if he had turned to the dark side this way in order to prevent his true future.

Despite being selfish by nature, the Son did express genuine grief over his sister’s death, stating she was the only one he ever truly loved. Might seem like an unimportant story detail, but I think I don’t think it was an arbitrary statement. I believe that light and dark share a more dynamic relationship than most people assume. This leads to my next point.

Balance:

 

“You have a very simple view of the Universe. I am neither Sith nor Jedi. I am much more, and so are you.” –Father 

This aspect of the Force is a lot harder to flesh out because it’s been left slightly ambiguous as to what Balance actually entails.

Here’s what we know: light and dark are both aspects of the Force. No matter how hard the Jedi or Sith try to destroy their opposing alignment, they will always continue to exist. The light side survived the destruction of the Jedi Order to continue through Luke. Similarly, the dark side survived the fall of the Sith via cults like the Acolytes of the Beyond and the Knights of Ren.

The Force was severely imbalanced toward darkness during the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War because of the actions of Palpatine and his corrupt rule.

On Mortis, we met the personification of Balance – Father. He wanted to verify Anakin’s status as Chosen One; an individual who could bring both of his children into a state of submission.

Father set up a test in which Son and Daughter would kill his master and apprentice unless he brought both of them under his control simultaneously. Anakin passed his first test of balance and would later go on to do the same by wiping out the Jedi and eventually the Sith.

Although he didn’t elaborate on it, Father also stated that the light side growing too strong would be just as disastrous. I’d love to see future clarification on this.

Now that we’ve covered the dichotomy of the Force’s aspects, let’s take a look at its “building blocks,” if you will.

The Cosmic, Living Force and its Messengers

“All energy from the Living Force, from all things that have ever lived, feeds into the Cosmic Force, binding everything and communicating to us through the midi-chlorians. Because of this, I can speak to you now.” – Qui-gon Jinn (spirit) 

What’s that sound? Oh it’s just all of my readers leaving.

…still here? Okay. Let’s cover the most controversial aspect first.

I get why people hate the idea of midi-chlorians. These microscopic life forms have the potential to seriously demystify the Force and reduce it to boring biology. However, you need to remember two things: first, I sort of see what Lucas was going for with his theme of symbiosis and second, despite what I have heard multiple times, these organisms are not the Force itself. They merely give living beings the ability to touch the Force.

Subsequent media has attempted to give the Force a more mystical angle, likely in response to the backlash. Even the Force priestesses Yoda visits to learn of immortality make an offhand comment something along the lines of “what your science calls midi-chlorians,” leading me to believe that not even Jedi scientists fully know what they’re dealing with.

The Force, as ever, is still very much unknowable to non-Force-sensitives and Force-users alike.

On to the next related topic: the Living Force. This is the aspect most influenced by life in the galaxy. As detailed in Qui-gon’s quote above, everything that has ever lived or died feeds its energy into the Force. This energy in turn sustains the more unifying aspect – the Cosmic Force which is responsible for binding everything together.

So basically the Living Force allows life to exist and the Cosmic Force connects the universe and is responsible for the more metaphysical aspects like Force visions.

(If this all seems a bit vague, I apologize. I don’t have a lot of canon material to work with other than the final story of The Clone Wars. I would love to get more information soon.)

Awakening:

“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? The dark side and the light.” –Supreme Leader Snoke

With today’s topic being the Force, I wanted to briefly touch on the new film that’s so (excruciatingly) close to release.

I don’t think they chose the title The Force Awakens without a good reason. I’m theorizing here, but I get the feeling that after finally going into a state of balance, the Force has gone into a dormant state. This could also be attributed to a lack of serious Force-users (sans Luke) in the galaxy.

I believe that with a resurgence of dark-siders (refreshingly, non-Sith if Abrams is to be believed) and perhaps a new generation of young Force-sensitives ready to train as Jedi, the Force is truly coming out of its “sleep.”

We’ll have to wait until December 18th to see if my theories are even remotely correct.

Thanks for reading!


“The Force will be with you. Always.”

Fading Light

Caution: spoilers for The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Tarkin ahead. 
“And my attack on the Temple was an attack on what the Jedi have become: an army fighting for the dark side, fallen from the Light that we once held so dear.” –Barriss Offee 

The Jedi Order. Peacekeepers and guardians of the Old Republic. For many generations, this monastic group stood as a bastion of hope for myriad sentients throughout the galaxy. However, this time of relative peace and justice was not to last.

In today’s entry, I’d like to discuss the fall of the Jedi Order and the various factors that led to its destruction by the Sith. I’ll try to go into as much depth as possible (hopefully) without scaring off or confusing newer fans.

Reason #1: Sheev Palpatine (Darth Sidious)


There’s no getting around this. Palpatine is pretty much the reason for (nearly) all of the following causes of the Order’s annihilation. Darth Sidious’s existence was the culmination of hundreds of years of Sith planning and it was because of his machinations that he was finally able to take revenge on the Jedi.

The Legends novel Darth Plagueis is no longer considered canon, but it is still an excellent read that shows how the Sith pulled the strings that led to the fall of the Republic and the Jedi. (Note: The canon novel Tarkin by the same author mentions some concepts from the Plagueis novel meaning that at least some of the story is still canon.)

Reason #2: War


Palpatine was smart. He knew the Jedi had been in power for centuries and that the Sith (because of Darth Bane’s Rule of Two) were outnumbered. They would lose badly in open confrontation against ten thousand Jedi. So he set up a Morton’s Fork for them in the shape of a galaxy-spanning war.

The Jedi were presented with two unfavorable choices: A: The Jedi do not get involved in the Clone Wars and let the Republic deal with it. Unfavorable outcome: Millions of innocents die and the public accuses them of not protecting the citizens of the Republic.  B: The Jedi join the war against the Separatists, trading their status as peacekeepers for the mantle of military leadership. Unfavorable outcome: The public grows tired of the extended war and loses faith in the Jedi. Some even accuse the Order of being warmongers.

Ultimately the Jedi chose option B, and sure enough, the public (as seen in TCW) began to distrust the Jedi. In choosing to involve themselves in warfare, the Jedi lost the support of the people who once adored them. Rumors of Jedi corruption began to spread. Palpatine fanned the flames of distrust and more Jedi continued to die in battle.

As death and political corruption began to seep into the fabric of the Republic, the dark side of the Force strengthened.

Reason #3: Jedi repression 


This point is a little more difficult to flesh out because I don’t want to stereotype an entire group made up of different individuals and species (who might have different ideas or beliefs.) Instead I think it’s wiser to turn to the Jedi Council and its teachings for this particular failing.

The Jedi Code forbade attachment. While I understand why they believed it was dangerous (love and passion can lead to other emotions like hatred or anger if not tempered by wisdom), forbidding Jedi from all emotional attachments seems like a very knee-jerk way to prevent your members from falling to the dark side.

One of my favorite quotes about Jedi relationships comes from the Legends video game Knights of the Old Republic: 

“Love doesn’t lead to the dark side. Passion can lead to rage and fear, and can be controlled… but passion is not the same thing as love. Controlling your passions while being in love… that’s what they should teach you to beware. But love itself will save you… not condemn you.” 

Jolee Bindo fell a bit more on the “grey” side of the Jedi moral spectrum, but he was absolutely right. You can’t make human (or any sentient) emotions disappear by endlessly reciting the mantra “there is no emotion. There is peace.”

We don’t have to look much further than Anakin’s example to see how this particular Jedi fallacy worked out.

Reason #4: Jedi arrogance



(I know I warned you about spoilers before, but if you have not seen the fifth season of The Clone Wars, do not read the following segment.)

Do you see those faces? The ones that punch me in the feels every time? The ones that spell “the Jedi Order failed us in a huge way?” This scene proved to me once and for all that an animated work could be just as powerful as a live-action work.

The final three episodes of TCW season five show Anakin’s Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, framed for a crime she did not commit (bombing the Jedi Temple.) The Council refused to believe her, stripped her of her title and military rank, and turned her over to the Republic courts to be tried. If not for Anakin discovering the identity of the one truly responsible (Ahsoka’s friend Barriss Offee) she would have been executed.

Despite committing terrorist acts, Barriss falls squarely into the trope “extremist was right” in her confession speech. Here’s the full quote:

“I did it. Because I’ve come to realize what many people in the Republic have come to realize. That the Jedi are the ones responsible for this War. That we’ve so lost our way that we have become villains in this conflict. That we are the ones that should be put on trial, all of us! And my attack on the Temple was an attack on what the Jedi have become. An army fighting for the Dark Side, fallen from the Light that we once held so dear. This Republic is failing! It’s only a matter of time.”

That speech still gives me chills when I hear it. It even touched a nerve with Palpatine judging by his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reaction. She did horrible things and turned to the dark side, but it didn’t change the fact that she was right! 

Afterward, the Council’s apologies to Ahsoka were hollow at best (e.g.”The Force works in mysterious ways. You passed your trials and can become a Knight.”) She rightly refused to return and left the Order, shattering her Master’s faith in the Council forever.

Ironically, this decision saved her life when Order 66 was initiated, but I can’t help but wonder if she’ll blame herself for Anakin’s fall during their inevitable Rebels reunion. Another topic for another post.

Reason #5: Jedi complacency 

The Jedi hadn’t fought a Sith Lord for approximately one thousand years. They wrongly believed their enemies to be extinct and as such, were not truly prepared for their resurgence.

Reason #6: Jedi Temple location 

Another short point. In Tarkin, it’s revealed that the Jedi Temple was erected over the site of an ancient Sith shrine. The Jedi (wrongly) assumed that they’d neutralized this location, but its dark energies continued to seep into the Order, weakening them further.

When the Emperor transformed the Temple into his own Imperial Palace, he often retreated to this shrine to meditate and ponder the nature of the dark side.

Conclusion: There’s absolutely no way I can cover every reason the Order fell, but it did and the repercussions for the galaxy were huge. The Empire expanded unchecked, crime lords exploited innocents, and it was a dangerous time to be born a Force-sensitive.

As we’ve seen in the trailer for Rebels S2, Imperial Inquisitors would descend upon anyone found to have this gift regardless of age. If these “children of the Force” could not be recruited, the Inquisitor’s job was to exterminate them before they could become a threat to the Emperor.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading.

If you ever have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!


“Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.” –The Wrong Jedi Episode moral