Top 10 Star Wars Comics!

Hey everybody!

I’ve been playing with movies again! At the weekend, I cobbled up a video running down my favourite 10 Star Wars comics from Dark Horse, since it’s a topic that’s been coming up a lot throughout this blog. So I thought you might like you see it!

First of all, this list was hard to put together. There are a lot of awesome comics from Dark Horse; trying to whittle the corpus down to just ten was super difficult.

10. Dark Lords of the Sith
I’ve talked about the Tales of the Jedi series here. Dark Lords of the Sith is, for me, such a good story because it’s the first in this series that feels comfortable in its surroundings. It introduces Exar Kun, who is a tremendously great character, but continues the tale of Ulic Qel-Droma begun in Knights of the Old Republic. It was very difficult to decide between this and The Sith War – or, y’know, to have a joint entry, especially seeing as how they’re very closely related, and could legitimately be grouped as such. But DLS has that special place for me simply because, as I said, it feels more natural, and not quite so bogged-down in scene-setting.

9. The Wrong Side of the War
The final story arc in the Empire run, I loved this tale when I first read it because it told a really awesome story. After building up Janek Sunbar in To the Last Man, which just felt like another Empire story (albeit a really enjoyable one), everything seems to coalesce in this story to make it one that feels like a real “timeline” story, like it has actual meaning for the characters. It also brings together a number of characters from the Empire run into something like a cohesive story, and links strongly to the Jabiim storyline from In the Shadows of their Fathers, an excellent story that sadly just missed out on making this list! In a sense, it also feels like it needs My Brother, My Enemy as a kind of coda for the story, but overall, I feel it’s worthy of standing on its own.

8. Claws of the Dragon
It was hard to decide which Legacy story to include, as I read these comics all in one go, thus it feels like one long story to me. However, Claws of the Dragon has a similar feel to DLS, where the scene has been set, and we’ve had all of the foreplay in a sense, so we’re now into the real meat of the series. All of the main characters we’ve seen so far have important roles, and of course, who can forget that shocking reveal! Exceptional storytelling.

7. Darklighter
One of the best, and indeed, if I was ranking these things purely on the storytelling and not on their sentimental/personal effect for me, it would have ended up much higher. Darklighter weaves the tale of Biggs prior to his death in the trench run, and he emerges as one of the most compelling characters of the entire saga. This comic uses a lot of the cut scenes from A New Hope that featured Biggs and Luke, so it’s pretty amazing to actually have that side of things too.

6. Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand
This was one of the first Star Wars comics I read, and I was tremendously impressed with it. We follow Mara Jade immediately following the fall of the Emperor, as she tries to put her life back together. It shows awesome development of the character, and while a lot of the Mara Jade stories tend to be almost irrelevant in terms of the overall timeline, this turns out to be really very enjoyable.

5. The Last Siege, the Final Truth
So #5 and #4 are examples of essentially a two-volume entry that really do deserve to stand on their own. I love the Quinlan Vos storyline, and used to regularly re-read it from Republic through the Clone Wars, and could quite happily have included almost every entry in this top ten. However, the Siege of Saleucami really deserves to be singled out for greatness itself. For long-time readers of the Republic and Clone Wars stories, this tale has a lot to offer, as we see a lot of the “stable” of characters from throughout that series come together, almost as one last hurrah. Particularly important here, however, is the inclusion of the two-part Trackdown story, where we learn about Tholme training with Anzati assassins very much in a samurai-esque fashion, which speaks highly to the meta-origins of the franchise. Stunning artwork abounds – including Oppo Rancisis unleashed! Whoa!

4. Light and Dark
This entry is really a place-holder for the entire Quinlan Vos storyline, which began in Twilight and ran all the way through the Republic series. It’s pretty much top-notch storytelling, and I’m planning to do a blog showcasing just why I love it so much at some point. However, Light and Dark features four standalone stories that come together into a beautiful tale of Quinlan’s career during the Clone Wars. As a big Count Dooku fan, I particularly like seeing the Sith Lord’s manipulations during his eponymous Jedi: Dooku story (as well as all those Ishi Tib!). If you only ever read one story from the Clone Wars run, however, it ought to be this one.

3. Betrayal
My top three were, in one sense, no-brainers, but as I said earlier, this was also a really tough decision to make, given the high quality of Dark Horse comics over the years. The highest-placed of the three Empire entries is Betrayal, the inaugural arc of that series. I can still remember the sense of unadulterated joy the announcement of this comic stirred for me, as we were promised a different look at the Empire, stories set within the corridors of power rather than purely from the rebels’ point of view. Betrayal introduced Grand Moff Trachta, and features a web of deceit and, indeed, betrayal so dense that it takes a couple of read-throughs to really see the beauty of it. Highly recommended to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen!

2. The Path to Nowhere
If you’ve read my recent ramblings about the Dark Times series, you’ll know how highly I rated this comic. It’s a really beautifully-told story, one that interweaves the lives of Vader and the Emperor with the rogue Jedi Dass Jennir and the rag-tag crew of the Uhumele. There’s a real sense of the quest as the good guys try to find Bomo Greenbark’s missing family, with truly horrible results, and while this comic is actually incredibly bleak and grim, it’s nevertheless so wonderfully constructed that you can enjoy it as a piece of art. Truly amazing work, this.

1. Crimson Empire
Should be no surprise about the top spot, if you read this blog from last year. This was the very first Star Wars comic I read, and introduced me to the medium along with a whole cast of awesome characters, headlined by Carnor Jax and Kir Kanos. Some amazing artwork, and a storyline that is utterly compelling, all the more so because it doesn’t feature any of the big movie characters, this tale should be on everybody’s shelf. It’s as simple as that!

***

So there you have it, guys, my top ten! I’m sure I could probably augment this, adding in some more around the Legacy and the Quinlan Vos stories, as I predominantly view these things as storylines and don’t break them down into individual arcs. I enjoyed this look through the comics, anyway, and I think I might soon do something for the novels, as well!

What are your thoughts? Do you approve? Are you surprised there were no X-Wing/Knights of the Old Republic/Original Marvel stories in there? Are you scandalised I didn’t pick Dark Empire for my #1 slot? Let me know what you think!

Buy them from amazon:
Dark Lords of the Sith
The Wrong Side of the War
Claws of the Dragon
Darklighter
Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand
The Last Siege, the FInal Truth
Light and Dark
Betrayal
The Path to Nowhere
Crimson Empire

All About Vader

Hey everybody!
I’ve recently been reading the Darth Vader comics published by Dark Horse between 2011 and 2014, four arcs written by Haden Blackman and Tim Siedell. Bit of a mixed bag, if I’m honest, and pretty much all of them suffering from just-another-story-syndrome. Back in the day, we used to get Star Wars stories that formed a cohesive narrative, predominantly in the novels of course, but series like Star Wars: Republic and Star Wars: Legacy showed that the comics could do that just as well. Following the release of Revenge of the Sith, however, both Dark Horse and Del Rey seemed to make a conscious effort to move away from providing an actual timeline, and instead opted to “tell a Boba Fett story” or, as is the case here, “a Darth Vader story”. The result tends to be a story that exists in a vacuum and, by the end of it, leaves you wondering just what the point of that was, in the grand scheme of things.

So let’s take a look!

Darth Vader and the Lost Command

Darth Vader and the Lost Command kicks things off with Vader leading a search for the son of Grand Moff Tarkin (who knew?) into the Ghost Nebula. There, they uncover a conspiracy for the Atoans to secede from the nascent Empire, under the leadership of Admiral Garoche Tarkin. It’s a pretty good story, actually, with some awesome fight scenes and a small cast of compelling characters.

We see an interesting side to Vader here, where he is still stricken by the concluding events of Episode III. It’s a device that we see used first in Empire: Betrayal, which was published as the prequels were still being made, and seemed at the time to be a cheesy way to tie-in, but in retrospect seems entirely appropriate. That Vader’s memories here are being affected by the Atoan Shaman, Saro, is just more interesting, as we see what Vader had hoped his future would be. Very interesting, anyway!

This miniseries was the only Star Wars story I read in 2013, and the first that I read following my moving house that year, so has some fond memories for me in that respect, as well. However, it is still well worth picking up. Unfortunately, Dark Horse only collected it, and the other Vader series, in hardback, which just messes with my shelf-edge presentation too much, so I have kept the original comics individually instead. I’m strange like that…

Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison

Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison is a more curious beast. Published in 2012, it tells the story of another insurgency against the nascent Empire, led by an instructor in the Imperial Academy on Raithal, a general named Gentis. His motivation is actually very compelling, that he is driven to despair over seeing so many of his sons killed in Palpatine’s name. However, as the story moves along, I found myself asking “so what, you’ll kill the Emperor, set yourself up in his place, and start having other peoples’ children die in your name? Jackass.” But maybe that’s just me.

The story is told from the point of view of one of the Raithal cadets, Laurita Tohm. Disfigured in a terrorist attack on his family’s gas mining station, Laurita emerges as an ambitious lieutenant who I was worried would turn out to be one of these “I’m a good Imperial” types, but actually proved to be quite ruthless as the story got going. Gooooooooooooooooooooooood. The ending was really quite unexpected, but so very, very appropriate that I actually laughed aloud! Does that make me a terrible person? Well, possibly, but it was a good ending.

Something I was very excited about, seeing the cover of issue 4, was the appearance of Grand Moff Trachta. First introduced in the aforementioned Betrayal storyline, he has become one of my favourite Imperials, something that has really been heightened by the fact that, for years, he had only made one appearance in the literature. I’m going to be writing about the Empire storylines when I get to them, but for now, suffice it to say that he’s always struck me as a real Imperial’s Imperial, and I’ve longed to see more of him. However, his appearance in Ghost Prison, while entirely justified, fell much flatter than I’d hoped. In the end, he’s the one who turned out to be the Imperial-with-a-conscience, and the character felt cheapened for it. It felt like Blackman was trying to foreshadow the events of Betrayal by showing his disapproval of Vader and his methods, but I don’t think Trachta is the type to confide his feelings about the Emperor’s Enforcer to a cadet he barely knows. Hm.

Of the two Blackman stories in this series, Ghost Prison definitely feels like “just a Vader story”. The whole point of it seems to show the Dark Lord to be a ruthless leader, but we already knew that. So, hm.

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin was published in 2013, and has always struck me as a wonderful title for a comic book series. As I’m sure you all know, Star Wars was heavily influenced by Oriental culture, and the title of this arc sounds like a samurai movie or something. To me, it does, anyway.

This story was pretty good, too. I’m always a bit wary of such things – a wealthy industrialist’s son is killed by Vader, so he goes after revenge by hiring assassins to kill Vader, it seems so ridiculous a plotline! But then, we the audience have seen what Vader is like – in-universe (at least, in-Legends-universe), Vader is a shadowy figure sent by the Emperor to make things happen. Outside of the inner circle, very little is supposed to be known about him. As such, these kinds of plotlines are kinda forgivable.

Something I really enjoyed about this story was the headless serpent thing. The Star Wars universe is supposed to be vast, where all manner of strange things take place. Seeing weird cults like this reminds us (reminds me, at least) that it really is full of all manner of stuff. I thought it was done really well, and the focusing-crystal thing that Vader finds on that moon didn’t actually feel cheesy at all (read it – you’ll know what I mean then!)

The conclusion was also really effective, with the Emperor proclaiming his dominion over Vader. Completely in-character, and quite creepy for it. All in all, this was a cracking tale, and ushered Tim Siedell into the expanded universe oh-so-late! Well worth picking up, even if you can only find it in hardcover.

Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows

Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows is the fourth in this quartet, and like Ghost Prison before it, is told entirely from the point of view of someone other than Vader. It’s actually an old Clone Trooper who’s doing the talking – an embittered clone who has come to hate the Jedi since they abandoned him to die, and sees in Vader something of a kindred spirit. However, things aren’t as rosy as he first thought in the New Order, and he eventually escapes for a more humble life.

Clone Troopers with minds of their own have become a disconcerting theme in the wake of the Clone Wars cartoon series, one that must surely make the old clonemasters of Kamino pull their metaphorical hair out in the face of such failure. However, this comic shows that in a different light, and it actually becomes pretty compelling as a result! Despite the fairly grim narrator, there are some moments that made me chuckle.

A lot of this one, however, felt a bit like some of the old Empire issues – particularly, To the Last Man. I suppose people want to see the Empire having crushing defeats as well as unbridled victories, but there were a lot of panels that put me back on Maridun with Lt Sunbar. That’s not to say it was a bad thing, of course, it just didn’t feel particularly fresh or anything. Coming towards the end of Dark Horse’s run in 2014, it’s almost tempting to think they shifted resource away from the Star Wars line to bulk out their other titles and ensure a continued readership into 2015, and certainly these issues are quite full of full-page adverts for their other titles. Maybe I’m just being cynical, however.

At any rate, the main point of this story seems to be that, once again, Vader is a ruthless leader. In fact, there were a couple of points where Vader felt like an incompetent leader – while these stories are all set in the early days of the suit, Anakin was never supposed to be that bad in the Clone Wars. As someone who always led from the front, it surprised me that he would stay back here. Anyway. For me, this was a disappointing finish to the series, but the strength of Lost Command and Ninth Assassin tends to overshadow anything overly negative.

So there you have it! A bit of a mixed bag, and all of them unfortunately fall into the “just another Vader story” category. With Marvel’s ongoing Vader series starting imminently, I’m intrigued as to what they’re going to do about these things. The Marvel series is to be set between IV and V, of course, whereas all of these stories take place immediately after III, but given that Kieron Gillen basically has only the slightly nuanced movie villain to work with, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the character this time around.

There are nevertheless some really good books to be found in this series – don’t let the Legends banner put you off!

Buy it from amazon:
Darth Vader and the Lost Command
Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison
Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin
Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows

Dawn of the Jedi (3)

Hey everyone!
Well, after my look through the first two story arcs of the Dawn of the Jedi series from Dark Horse, I suppose it’s only right that I take a look at the final part of the trilogy…

Dawn of the Jedi

As you may recall, I have some fairly mixed views on both the previous issues – which you can read about here:

Force Storm                                          Prisoner of Bogan

The third story picks up where the last left off, though a year has lapsed since that last book. Now this, I like: there appears to be no such thing as hyperspace travel in this period (“Good!” I hear you cry!), so everybody moves around at sublight speeds. It therefore takes the Rakatan force a year to penetrate the system – a really nice point, though one at odds with the fact that they appear to have crossed the galaxy, from Tatooine to the Deep Core, over the course of the three books. Hm. Anyway!

here be spoilers!

Daegen Lok is now leading the Je’daii, and in an alarming number of panels he looks very similar to Quinlan Vos during some of the latter’s Clone Wars escapades… That aside, the book deals with the invasion in a really great manner. It’s action for almost the entire book, and I for one was really actually very impressed! We also get to spend a little more time with the Rakata, and get to understand a little more of their motives and so forth.

Something that really bugged me, however, was the love story between Shae Koda and Xesh. I hadn’t mentioned it in the second blog as I’d been hoping I’d been reading too much into things, and it wouldn’t happen, but alas, it does. I can’t decide whether this was a good move or not – that it felt inevitable might be good, because Star Wars is almost meant to be one long trope after another, but there’s that nagging sense that nobody is doing anything differently anymore, and it’s almost like the love story was put in “because there needs to be a love story”. It felt like it should have been a big moment, but I found myself bored by it, sadly. (Also, as a side note, Xesh reveals his “real name” as Tau – that just made me think of the Warhammer 40,000 race…)

Once the love story is out in the open, we see Xesh’s big betrayal of the Je’daii, which I supposed served to heighten my distaste for the romance. To me, the betrayal didn’t need any more layering, but again, it felt like the whole love story was added in to add to the sense of personal betrayal. But anyway. I admit to being a bit confused by the proceedings here, as at one point it felt a bit like we were leading up to a “it was all a dream” scenario – was it really Xesh on the planet, or merely his shadow?

The denouement comes when everybody meets down at the bottom of the Chasm, which has been with us since the first issue of course, and turns out to be the Infinity Gate to end all Infinity Gates, which the Rataka want to control. After a crazy duel between Daegen and the chief Rakata, Skal’nas, and one between Xesh and Shae, the Rakata are defeated with the death of their leader. Felt a bit too easy, that – the Rakata apparently felt Skal’nas’ death through the Force, and headed off to vie with each other for supremacy. However, with the Infinity Gate destroyed, there was no longer a point to fighting for control of Tython anyway. While the rest of the Je’daii lick their wounds, Xesh and Shae head off into the Tython wilderness to start a life together.

Ah, schmaltz!

I said above that I liked this one, and I did, but there were a few things I wish we had more of, and a few that I wish had been left out. I said we saw more of the Rakata, but we’ve really only scratched the surface here, so it’s a sad thing that we won’t be getting any further issues in the series.

Something else that I thought really salient, but have kept it until now to discuss, is the whole issue of how the Je’daii became the Jedi and Sith Lords of later eras. In this harmonious pre-Republic age, we have the light and dark sides, but we have pureblood Sith as Je’daii warriors, and it all seems a little screwy. There is a Council, though we don’t really get much info on that. It’s quite difficult to reconcile what we’re reading about here with what we know comes later, so in a sense it would be very useful to see where we’re headed, somehow. All that said, however, there is still the issue of it being bad for Je’daii to be forming attachments, while at the same time we see Je’daii who have married and had kids, etc. There’s a lot to wrap your head around, and I for one am really sad that we haven’t had the opportunity to see more around the Je’daii tenets in this era, to compare and contrast with those of the later Jedi. It’s something that I suppose you’d take for granted in a novel, say, but a comic has other priorities. (There is, of course, the novel Into the Void, set before the comic series, which I plan to move onto next). Anyway, it would have been nice to have seen more of the principles of the order, aside from that very brief scene with the rancor dragon.

Oh yeah, there’s a rancor dragon. She’s called “Butch”.

Dawn of the Jedi

The rancor dragon actually brings up another point. We see a lot of facets of both the later Jedi and Sith cultures, here for instance we’re almost telegraphing the Sith Alchemy of Ludo Kressh and his ilk, for instance. It’s an interesting blend of the two, but an odd mix all the same. I suppose this oddity fails to convince me that this really is how the Jedi Order began, which sounds pretty damning really, but there you have it. There are some very potent whiffs of a suitably epic origin, but when it’s all over, I just didn’t feel like this did the idea justice.

So in short, it’s an interesting little series, though one that I feel could have been so much better than it was. That’s not to say it’s awful, it just could have been better, principally in its distance from the core timeline.

Dawn of the Jedi (2)

Hey everybody!

Following on from last week’s post about the inaugural arc of the Dawn of the Jedi series, I’m back with a quick look at the second arc, Prisoner of Bogan, which I read last night!

Dawn of the Jedi

here be spoilers!

A lot of my criticisms of the first book hold strong here, also. For an ancient timeframe, we’re sure seeing some standard tech – at one point, we see jet packs that are virtually the same as that of Jango Fett, for instance. There’s next to no sense of temporal space in this story, which is a shame, as one of the main selling points, it seems, was the fact that this story takes place in the ancient past of the Jedi.

A small point, too, is the Noghri battle-master character, Tave. I must admit, whenever I see a Noghri prior to Heir to the Empire (that isn’t a member of the Imperial death clans), I just cringe. One issue of the Republic storyline (#68: Armor) in particular really grates on me. The reason being, Noghri are supposed to be something of a backwater race before the Clone Wars, unheard of in galactic society. So I was unimpressed there. I was also unimpressed at how he’s shown as being the same height as the others, when Noghri are supposedly much smaller. Hm.

But, you know, if you put these things aside, this is actually a pretty good story. While it seems to labour under exposition at times, it nevertheless feels much more action-packed than the last book, which really suffered from its own exposition.

The story contains the meeting of the mad Je’daii Daegan Lok – the prisoner seen in the first arc – with Xesh, the imprisoned Force Hound who was sent to Bogan in the previous book. Daegan Lok had a vision of an invasion of people wielding laser swords, and when Xesh appears and recognises them as Forcesabers, Lok is determined to forge his own and lead the Je’daii to victory. There are some really interesting themes coming out of this, and I particularly liked the way the story plays around with the perception of Lok as mad.

As it turns out, another Je’daii Ranger, Hawk Ryo, shared that vision with Daegan Lok, but he renounced it and returned to the Je’daii fold. We get to explore the system a bit more, as Hawk leads a band of Je’daii in an attempt to recover the fugitive prisoners. On Tython, however, there is discord as the Masters begin to consider the possibility that Daegan Lok may have been right, after all. By the end of the story, they’re forced to admit they were wrong, and begin to muster for war!

Dawn of the Jedi

We also see more of the Force Hound Trill, above. The Force Hounds were an interesting idea from the last story, and while I’m not sure I really wanted to know more about them, we get it here anyway, and it is pretty interesting. Turns out to be a lot of subterfuge and intrigue going on in the Rakata camp, which I actually got a bit confused by at first, I think because we haven’t really seen all that much of the Rakata so far.

Above all, however, I suppose I most appreciated the way this story ties in quite wonderfully with previous Star Wars comics. The biggest, for me, was the return of the Kwa and the Infinity Gates. Remember Infinity’s End, from 2000? Quinlan Vos, still recovering from his flirtation with the Dark Side in Twilight is sent to Dathomir and all sorts of nonsense starts happening around the Star Chambers and such? Well, the story is taken up again here, and merged into the birth of the Rataka and the Infinite Empire. While I didn’t really care for that story, it was nonetheless nice to see these odd bits of information taken up every so often, helping to keep it all one big story!

So yeah, a better story than the first, though still not without problems. It serves as a nice segue into the third arc, however, with the promise of war coming to the Tython system…

Dawn of the Jedi

Hey folks!
After a couple of weeks with various Warhammer novels, I’ve returned to Star Wars, and the dim and distant past of that universe – Dawn of the Jedi!

Dawn of the Jedi

Set over 25,000 years before the events of A New Hope, the comic series tells of the mythic origins of the Jedi Order, as Je’daii on the Inner Core world of Tython.

I’d been looking forward to these books since publication began in February 2012, though have only now got round to reading them – shocking, I know. From the Dark Horse dream-team of John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, who are responsible for some of the most awesome comics in the entire history of Star Wars publishing, I had high hopes, but I must admit, having read the first arc, Force Storm, I was left feeling a little disappointed. Let me explain.

Star Wars is, of course, science fiction, and so requires a reasonably high level of tech in any story being told. The danger of doing prequels in these circumstances is always to make the tech side of things not as advanced as the original, and yet still sufficiently advanced from our own society. The prequels famously got this kinda screwy with a whole host of aspects, and only vaguely tried to write it off as comparable to art deco before the cheap mechanical era of the 40s and 50s. The original Tales of the Jedi series managed to pull this off to an extent, with having its powerpack-fueled lightsabers, but the later Knights of the Old Republic still managed to incorporate some technology that, undoubtedly, looks really cool on the page, but looks much more advanced than the stuff we see 3000+ years later in-universe.

From the off, Dawn of the Jedi features some ships and droids that don’t look all that different from prequel-era and classic-era ships and tech, which instantly destroys the conceit that this story is taking place over 25,000 years before those eras. Even accepting that the Rakatan Infinite Empire was a race apart in the tech stakes, the Je’daii still have some nifty stuff that Luke, or Han, would be familiar with. To me, this either assumes that (a) there was little-to-no technological development over the subsequent 25,000+ years, or (b) this is a badly-designed comic, which has sacrificed any historical aesthetic for the sake of “being Star Wars”. Personally, I would have assumed something set 25,000 years before A New Hope would be like a Stone Age society.

Anyway!

My historical gripes aside, the story isn’t too bad. The execution suffers quite a lot from being overly expositional, but you really can’t hold that against it, given the trail we’re blazing here (just a shame the visuals didn’t match up – okay, okay, I’ll stop griping now).

here be spoilers!

We have a really compelling tale of Eye of Palpatine-like constructions floating throughout the galaxy herding up Force-sensitives to take them to Tython. Concentration Camp analogies aside, we don’t hear anything about how this worked – were the Tho Yor spaceships sentient? How did they find the Force sensitives? Just what was going on? At any rate, the ships deposited the Force sensitives on Tython, where they formed a society that, over the centuries, developed into a whole solar system of peoples. I was a bit baffled by this – my physics is rudimentary at best, but I thought there was an optimum distance from a solar body for life to exist comfortably. We have at least three planets in this system that support life with no mention of specific habitats being developed to facilitate this, so I was a bit confused by all this.

I realise I’m being really down on this book – so I shall move on to the good stuff!

The main story is actually really interesting. The Rakata, who you may remember from the Knights of the Old Republic video games, trawl the galaxy searching for Force sensitives to “reap”, and following their harvest of the lush world of Tatooine (clearly a shout-out, and quite cheesy at that), their attention is turned to Tython and the Je’daii community there. The Force Hound, Xesh, is sent to Tython, very much in the manner of the Silver Surfer, but ends up in a confrontation with three Je’daii Journeyers, who I assume are being set up for a starring role later in the series. These three – a Dathomiri, a Twi’lek, and a pureblood Sith – follow the pattern of almost every major Star Wars series, of having a leading trio. Something that really grated on me was all that “princess” nonsense from the Dathomiri, Shae Koda, which I feel was obviously meant to be a throw-back to the by-play of Han and Leia – but, what the hell?! Anyway. It’ll be interesting to see if and how the dynamic of these three is developed.

The planet of Tython has several distinct areas, and feels quite nicely developed as a world. The Je’daii community has built a series of temples on the planet, which serve as something of a training ground in different disciplines. This aspect of the story is part of something that I really caught onto in this tale. The Je’daii community has almost the feel of an eastern culture to it – I hesitate to say samurai, of course, but there is a definite feel of that kind of thing to it, which is precisely what the ancient origins of the Jedi Order should have, in my opinion! I really hope we get some more of that in later issues.

There are also ties to the meta history of the Jedi here. Fans may know that George Lucas originally had ideas for the light and dark side to be called the ashla and the bogan, which here are the names of the two moons. The core tenet of the Je’daii philosophy is to achieve and maintain balance, not to be too dark, nor too light. If a Je’daii goes too far into the light, he is sent to Ashla (the moon) “to meditate on Bogan”, and vice-versa. An interesting concept, and already there is some conflict being set up, as we see an exile on Bogan with a strangely scarred face.

Xesh, the Force Hound, is captured at the end of the book, and is sent to Bogan to meditate on the darkness of his soul – something that the scarred prisoner already there seems to welcome…

In spite of all my griping (and my spoilers!), I can still recommend you read this book, as it is an interesting story if you can get past the tech stuff. I’m certainly glad I read it, and am really intrigued for the second arc, the Prisoner of Bogan…

Dawn of the Jedi

The Star Wars

May the Force of Others be with you…

Think I’ve got that wrong? You obviously don’t know your Star Wars lore, my friend!

Welcome to The Star Wars!

The iconic movie that launched the franchise, A New Hope is a true classic of the genre, and an increasing pool of material is available that shows the genesis of that film, from the Annotated Screenplays through to JW Rinzler’s epic The Making of Star Wars. However, all of these books tell us about the near-mythical procession of drafts that George Lucas wrote for the first movie, four tales that see most of the ideas and concepts that surface throughout the six films Lucas eventually made, but we have to turn to the internet for the actual screenplays if we want to read them for ourselves.

But no longer!

The Star Wars

Dark Horse Comics adapted the Rough Draft as an eight-part comic series between September 2013 and May 2014. I won’t get into a massive discussion of this here, but the timeline of the various drafts was as follows:

Spring 1973: Lucas produces the Story Synopsis, eventually picked up by Fox.
May 1974: Lucas finishes the Rough Draft, which proved too long to film.
July 1974: Lucas writes the First Draft, largely changing names.
Early 1975: Lucas finishes the Second Draft, The Adventures of the Starkiller
April 1975: Lucas revises this into The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, which would become the film A New Hope.

The Rough Draft is a massive tale that effectively tells the story of the three films, episodes 4-6. Something that is particularly fun when reading this story is seeing how the kernels of the ideas – indeed, sometimes the entire sequence – develop into the finished movie. Sometimes it’s only a name that changes, sometimes it’s more.

Until the recent GREAT REBELLION, the JEDI BENDU were the most feared warriors in the universe. For one hundred thousand years, generations of JEDI perfected their art as the personal bodyguards of the emperor. They were the chief architects of the invincible IMPERIAL SPACE FORCE which expanded the EMPIRE across the galaxy, from the celestial equator to the farthest reaches of the GREAT RIFT.

Now these legendary warriors are all but extinct. One by one they have been hunted down and destroyed as enemies of the NEW EMPIRE by a ferocious and sinister rival warrior sect, THE KNIGHTS OF SITH.

The story starts with the opening crawl, of course. It’s interesting to see how certain characters sometimes perform entirely different roles than we’re used to, such as Darth Vader being a general in the Imperial army, with Prince Valorum the actual Sith Lord. (Yes, that’s right – Valorum). It’s also interesting seeing a lot of names that crop up “officially” on vastly different characters – not just Valorum of course, but also Biggs, Whitsun and Tarkin. Famously, Alderaan is the Imperial Homeworld, while Leia and her family live on Aquilae, a prototype Tatooine.

The Star Wars is a faithful adaptation of the Rough Draft by Rinzler, anyway, with the art of Mike Mayhew taking its cues from the original Ralph McQuarrie paintings (that were, in fact, done for the Second Draft, but anyway) and so leading to an often very close semblance to the finished film.

The Star Wars

Something that immediately struck me was just how much Luke Skywalker, the grizzled old Jedi Bendu, looks like George Lucas. But, y’know, leaner. Other visual elements help to pull the comic in line with the film, such as Governor Hoedaack looking a lot like Grand Moff Tarkin, and Darth Vader, while shorn of his iconic helmet (though that does appear from the back in one panel), he retains his silver pectoral armour. Something that I thought startling was just how much Leia can look like Natalie Portman, and similarly, how the Jedi Bendu Clieg Whitsun looks like the young Ewan McGregor.

The Star Wars

The story also has a lot more sci-fi in it that the eventual space opera we all know and love, I suppose partly because the Force hasn’t yet been developed into the mystical energy field that the Jedi (Bendu or otherwise) can manipulate. There is a lot of… well, not jargon per se, but the story has a very distinct feel to its language. The movie starts in media res, of course, and we have to assume quite a lot until we get to the central exposition, but this Rough Draft treatment just plunges us directly into a foreign galaxy, and we’re left more as observers than getting all that involved in the plot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, as the story has such an epic sweep that it succeeds in gathering us up regardless.

The Star Wars

It’s got pretty much everything; from the fourth moon of Utapau to the thrown room of Aquilae, we’re taken on a wonderful ride. Long time Star Wars fans will no doubt delight in seeing a classic of the meta mythos being realised, while newcomers have a whole new take on the classic film.

At eight comics, though, we’re getting just over 180 pages of book here. On the one hand, we’re also getting a nice look at the original plan for the story, which eventually became a trilogy of films, but on the other, this is quite a bit longer than your average graphic novel. While I usually have no problem in spending my time reading through book after book in an afternoon, I did have to split this into two nights’ reading, as it can be a little too different at times – when it veers into the realms of hard sci-fi and I just need to take a break from it all! Might be worth bearing in mind, anyway.

But don’t let that put you off – grab a copy today!

The Star Wars

Empire Lost

Hey everybody!
As discussed previously, I’m back with the Star Wars comics for a short while, and have been reading through the Crimson Empire saga. The first arc in this series really helped to define the entire medium of Star Wars comics for me back in the day, and will forever remain one of the best examples in the entire genre. The second, Council of Blood, is a good story that could have benefited from some extra pages to help with the flow. The third, Empire Lost, is a fairly recent release that I have finally gotten round to reading this week, and is the subject of today’s blog!

Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost

Empire Lost has had something of a troubled genesis. Released in 2011-12, the original storyline was intended for a 2001 release, set within the time period of the New Jedi Order and featuring a climactic duel between Luke Skywalker and Kir Kanos, which had been Randy Stradley’s original story kernel back when he was writing for Marvel comics. Following the release of Vector Prime in 1999, and the direction Del Rey took the Star Wars universe – and, perhaps crucially, the direction they took Nom Anor – any further Crimson Empire story was shelved, though the 2000 short comic Hard Currency was published, more as a postlude to CE2 than anything else. Despite rumours in 2008 that the story was again in development, it wasn’t officially announced until 2010, with the first issue appearing in October the following year.

A short, eight-page prequel was released in April 2011 called The Third Time Pays for All, and serves to help us catch up with where the characters will be in the story. Mirith Sinn is back with the New Republic, serving as now-Chief of State Leia’s head of security, while Kir Kanos is still grubbing around as the bounty hunter Kenix Kil in an effort to raise the money he will need to finance his vendetta against Skywalker.

The actual story of CE3 is really very good. The character progression of Kir Kanos over the entire saga is something that I have really enjoyed, and this story certainly doesn’t disappoint. There is a lot going on, and more than either of its predecessors, Empire Lost ties itself firmly into the EU, with appearances by Leia, Han, Luke, even Admiral Pellaeon makes his comics debut! (Not counting the Thrawn trilogy adaptations, naturally).

300px-Sodietraitors

The story feels almost James Bond-like, with Kanos abducted by a renegade Imperial group intent on restoring the glory of Palpatine’s Empire. Their leader, Ennix Devian, definitely feels like a Bond villain, and his audacious plan to attack both the heart of the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant feels like something such a chap would concoct. Kanos escapes to warn the New Republic, specifically Mirith Sinn, before the two head off to begin negotiations with Pellaeon and Feena D’Asta for a peace accord between the Empire and the Republic. The meeting is sabotaged by Devian, and D’Asta is killed. Sinn and Kanos head for the D’Astan Sector with Feena’s body, and enter an alliance with her aged father against Devian. As Devian attempts to kidnap Pellaeon, Sinn and Kanos intervene with Baron D’Asta’s help, and Kanos and Devian duel to the death – Kanos defeats the “thug” Devian, though is wounded in the shoulder. Sinn resigns from the New Republic, while unbeknownst to her, Kanos survived the duel and is helped by Baron D’Asta to move on from the Empire.

Gratuitous Boba Fett appearance aside, this story is a solid one, and a worthy conclusion to the series. Perhaps more than CE2 was to CE1, this one feels very much like a continuation of the tale, with a lot of references to the second book. I greatly appreciated the way the comic integrates itself with the larger EU, as well – it is set following the novel Planet of Twilight, and for me, it is a much more interesting and enjoyable story than the novel that follows it up, The Crystal Star.

I was quite surprised at how much this story feels like a New Republic story, as well. Long-time Star Wars readers will hopefully know what I’m talking about here, but there is a very definite ‘feel’ to the Star Wars stories of the 1990s, the constant battles with the Empire, the eternal kidnapping attempts on Leia’s children, etc etc. There is a sequence early in this story where yet another kidnap attempt is made, and rather than rolling my eyes at the thousandth iteration of this trope, instead I felt like I was once again reading these pre-Prequels stories with that sense of swashbuckling heroism that the Bantam era managed to put across so well. Despite being a “new” story, CE3 feels like a synthesis of the old in a true throwback style. Excellent stuff!

I really enjoyed the idea of the Restored Empire, which has a long history that feels entirely natural and not at all contrived. While the novel Darksaber shows a sort of unification of the Imperial remnants under Daala (who passes on the leadership to Pellaeon at the end of that novel), it feels entirely plausible that not absolutely every remnant would have been gathered up in that way. Ennix Devian is quite the interesting character, as well – if circumstances had been different, I would have liked to have seen more of him in the Empire era. It strikes me that CE2 was missing a strong central villain – by having Nom Anor too shadowy, while the Ruling Council being too distilled to actually be the nemesis of the story, it seemed to fall short, while CE1 had the excellent Carnor Jax, and CE3 provides the intriguing ‘Kaarenth Impaler’, Devian. Hopefully Marvel and the ‘new continuity’ won’t overlook him in the future!

Something that initially troubled me was the idea of Pellaeon’s peace accord with the New Republic, which he doesn’t reveal in the novels until Specter of the Past, which is set six years after CE3. Initially I was left wondering why it would take so long for the Imperial Remnant to broach the subject of peace again, but then, Pellaeon and the Imperial Remnant don’t actually appear in any of the intervening stories. That itself, however, then raised the issue for me – just what are they doing while the New Republic deals with the Yevetha, Kueller, and the Sacorrian Triad? Again, had circumstances been different, that would have been an interesting time to explore.

All in all, it’s a really good book, and I can highly recommend it to any fan of Star Wars. The entire Crimson Empire saga is definitely one of the high points of Star Wars comics, and despite the slight dip in the middle, this third installment is a really great conclusion.