The Great Prequel Re-Read, part one

Hey everybody,
It’s time to return to the Great Prequel Re-Read, this time making a start on some of the many, many graphic novels that are on the list!

Jedi: The Dark Side
I remember this coming out, and being really excited for the possibility of a Jedi ongoing series that had the potential to be in the vein of the Jedi one-shots that we had during the Clone Wars publishing programme. The fact that it was set 31 years before the events of The Phantom Menace was almost irrelevant – I think, in my mind, I was picturing a series that wouldn’t necessarily be tied down to a specific time, but could jump around at the whims of the stories being told. In the end, this is the only book that we got and, if I’m being completely honest, I was pretty disappointed.

The story involves Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan Xanatos, the guy he trained prior to Obi-Wan Kenobi, as they go on a mission to Telos IV, Xanatos’ homeworld. It serves as something of a prequel to the Jedi Apprentice series of YA novels from Jude Watson, as we get to meet a lot of the characters from that series. Having never read those books back in the day (maybe that’s something to look into?) I must admit, I didn’t get a great deal out of this. What might have been enjoyable background for some was just a bit dull, to me. Xanatos as the dark and moody padawan is a bit annoying, at the best of times, and I feel a bit like this is a trope that we see a lot with the pre-prequel stuff, as though giving us a story about a regular serene Jedi is just not interesting. The fact that they’re meant to be serene and stuff makes me wonder, sometimes. I guess it does explain why the Jedi Council didn’t particularly think there was anything wrong with Anakin being churlish though, as it seems to be the case that every Jedi padawan is a moody brat. Maybe we can also put this down to Sidious and Plagueis dampening the Force or something.

At any rate, Qui-Gon and co go off to Telos to mediate the unrest there, and fail to reach any kind of accord. When Lord Crion himself is killed, Xanatos abandons the Jedi, and Qui-Gon goes off to be alone for a while. It’s not exactly something I would consider reading again, but maybe if I were to read the Jedi Apprentice series, I might get something more from it…

Jedi Council: Acts of War
This is something of a classic, for me, going back to those days when I would devour the prequel literature like there was no tomorrow. While the art does seem a little bit silly (Davide Fabbri and Christian della Vecchia, a respected duo, have done quite a bit of work for Dark Horse, and while it does always look a bit cartoon-y, there’s a level of nostalgia to it now, I suppose), the story is perhaps a little bit under-developed (you really need to read Darth Plagueis for the back story on the Yinchorri conflict), it’s perfectly fine as a bit of a throwaway story. I mean, I seem to remember reading the idea was to explain why Ki-Adi-Mundi came to be on the Jedi Council, so we have the character of Micah Giiett, a close friend of Plo Koon and respected member of the Council.

We get to meet a fairly large cast of Jedi in this book, with most of the Jedi Council from The Phantom Menace getting speaking parts. We also get the first appearances of Tsui Choi and K’Kruhk, both of whom would go on to recur throughout the Republic comics and, in the case of K’Kruhk, well beyond!

The storyline tells the fairly straightforward story of Mace Windu assembling a Jedi task force to repel the Yinchorri threats by taking the fight to the reptilians, locating their command base and overwhelming them with a show of force (as the Yinchorri are said to back down when faced with a superior threat). The task force splits in three, and includes Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan because these two seemingly need to be in everything we get from this timeframe. They locate the command centre on a fourth world in the system, and in a fairly rushed ending, the Yinchorri almost immediately surrender when the Jedi arrive.

It’s a bit of a throwaway story, to be sure, coming along the lines of ‘generic border dispute’ that seems to try and instil a sense of drama in the period that is otherwise said to be a time of peace for the Republic. We get some decent Jedi action, both in the Yinchorr system and also back on Coruscant, so it’s always fun to read these sorts of tales. After reading it now, it strikes me as interesting that Darth Plagueis uses so much of this as a backdrop, but I suppose it’s better to use a pre-existing piece of the jigsaw than creating another border dispute for the novel.

Darth Maul
Another classic from the prequel era, this book collects the four issue miniseries that sees Darth Maul go up against the Black Sun criminal organization, in case they foul up Darth Sidious’ plans. We aren’t given any indication as to how that might come about, but the book doesn’t really need that, as it becomes something of an orgy of Darth Maul killing his way through the syndicate. There’s no real need for this as a storyline, other than the fact that it shows Darth Maul in action. The fact that it exists means that it has been referenced by other stuff that is set around this time, and in fact one of the main plot points early on in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter is concerned with the aftermath of this series.

It’s good fun, and it’s drawn by one of my favourite comics artists, Jan Duursema, so I can recommend it for the art alone!

Prelude to Rebellion
To close, I’ve got the six-part series that launched the Republic ongoing series all the way back in 1999, very shortly before The Phantom Menace hit the screens. We are on the planet Cerea, home to the Jedi Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi. The planet is very well fleshed-out as a peaceful agrarian world, where the eternal struggle of preserving the past wars with the need for the young to progress with technology. It’s a bit bizarre to think of, now, but apparently Cereans just want to live life with wheel-level technology. In steps the Republic, cast in an evil light as they tempt the young with technology from off-world. Ki kinda straddles both worlds, as he is a Jedi from the wider galaxy, but he is also given special dispensation to marry and have kids due to the weird issue of girls outnumbering boys by 20:1 or something, so he kinda lives on-world.

That is, until the tensions boil over at a pro-tech rally and Ki’s lightsaber is used to kill a bystander. The miscreant, who also happens to be dating Ki’s wayward daughter Sylvn, is “saved” by Ephant Mon, who takes all the kids to Tatooine where his buddy Jabba holds sway. Jabba is trying to get a shipment off world, however, so uses Sylvn as a distraction for Ki so that he could do so. Seems there are links to the Trade Federation afoot, and while rescuing his daughter Ki is able to gather some intel for the Jedi Council, prompting them to consider him for the position that opened up following the death of Micah Giiett.

The story is daft, especially when you compare it with the stuff that came out later. But there’s a part of me that has a faint kind of nostalgia for it, nevertheless. I think it definitely strikes me as being the sort of thing where Dark Horse desperately wanted to put out a new title, but couldn’t spoil anything to do with the movie coming out, and so they took a Jedi with about three lines in the film, and made a huge thing out of him. Throw in Yoda in flashbacks, and the obligatory trip to Tatooine, and we have a winning formula. I mean, I really don’t think it’s one of the greatest comics, but I couldn’t resist re-reading it this time around simply because it’s been a while!

Next up, it’s back to novels as I embark upon Cloak of Deception, a book that I love so much, it’s just untrue! So prepare for the bias…

The Conqueror Worm

For whatever reason, back when my blog was 5 and I featured Hellboy during Birthday Week, I neglected to get to the fifth trade paperback in the series, The Conqueror Worm. Which is weird, because my goodreads profile tells me that I did read it back then! When I had first got into Hellboy, this was as far as the series went, and I had wanted to relive the early 2000s with my birthday feature, but never mind – let’s correct this oversight now, in fact let’s do so twice!

Firstly, let’s talk about the comic. Back at the start of 1939, the Nazis had attempted to commune with the elder beings floating around in space, sending up a dead body for one of these monstrosities to inhabit, but the plan failed before they could recall the rocket. Well, the rocket has been spotted in 2000 and the BPRD are dispatched to investigate! Hellboy and Roger are led to Hunte Castle in Austria by a local police officer, who later turns out to be Inger von Klempt, granddaughter of Hermann von Klempt, the Nazi scientist who led the experiment in 1939. Lobster Johnson, something of a Captain America figure from the WW2-era, and believed dead when the original Nazi plot was disrupted, reappears and teams up with Roger to destroy the castle’s power generators, while Hellboy is initially tortured by von Klempt and his cybernetic Kriegaffe (war ape).

The rocket lands and a gas comes out, transforming everybody present into frog creatures. Inger has been protected against it to some extent, but when the Conqueror Worm itself emerges from the capsule and begins to devour the transformed mutants, she asks her grandfather how he could possibly hope to control the beast. Hermann tells her, after the failure of so many projects to bring about Nazi domination, he just wants to watch the death of the world as the Conqueror Worm will awaken the Ogdru Jahad. Roger is able to kill Hermann, and Lobster Johnson then uses a lightning rod to attract a massive jolt of electricity to kill the Worm. After his experiences with the BPRD, Hellboy decides to quit, and travel to Africa.

In an epilogue, Rasputin’s ghost is taunted by Hecate, who herself is inhabiting the body of Ilsa Haupstein still contained within the iron maiden. Rasputin’s plans to release the Ogdru Jahad will forever come to nothing, as the only force capable of releasing them is Hellboy’s stone right hand. Rasputin screams in defiance, to the point where his spirit shatters; Baba Yaga collects a fragment to wear in an acorn around her neck.

The book is quite glorious, I have to say. Some of the panels have such a gothic imagery that it really speaks to the search through the lower depths of Hunte Castle, and the sense of foreboding and dread as if the gargoyles are watching Hellboy’s progress. There’s something of a 90s feel to some of the panels, as the Conqueror Worm goes about his business – a lot of the colours and shading brings to mind the Dark Empire series, for me. The story is just exactly what I think of when I think of Hellboy – crazy Nazi scientists with their doomsday plots, it’s all delightfully over the top. The epilogue though, is really quite eerie – there’s a sense of the evil puppet masters, behind the scenes going over their plots, and so on. I especially liked the addition of Baba Yaga at the end, as well.

All in all, very creepy, and exactly what I like in a Hellboy story!

Secondly, I played with the Conqueror Worm expansion for the first time not too long ago, and I was really quite impressed! For years, despite having the graphic novels, Hellboy to me was Big Red going up against the Nazis and their Project Ragna Rok, thanks to the movie portrayal. While the frog monsters make sense within the board game universe, it’s still really quite special when you get more into this side of the Hellboy universe. The expansion features five types of Nazis, plus the eponymous Worm himself, as well as new scenery and rooms, and the associated card decks, along with two new playable agents: Lobster Johnson and Roger.

I’ve played The Cold Shoulder scenario, and I found it to be really thematic for this particular storyline. I’ve talked about it before, but there are very few “big” stories within the Hellboy comics – for the most part, two parters are as long as things get. So it’s nice to see a big story like Conqueror Worm get the big expansion treatment here. The game starts out with the agents exploring the hallways of the castle until they come across a point of interest, which (spoiler alert) reveals the laboratory where the Nazis are containing the Worm itself. With this tile placed, the Confrontation begins, and in order to win you’ll need to place charges in specific rooms and blow the castle up. While the Worm only has a move characteristic of 1, that miniature is huge, and it’s really quite frightening to see it coming across the board at you! As it happens, I somehow managed to block it in a chokepoint with a piece of terrain, not sure if that was played correctly, but it did slow it down enough that I was then able to move through and place the remaining charges to rig the castle, and get out before it all went boom. Poor Lobster Johnson did actually almost give his life for the cause, though I was able to heal him enough before the final showdown so that we all made it through!

This was my first game with three agents, and I think it definitely helped, as I was able to do a lot on my turns, and the game overall felt like it went much faster for having those increased options. Of course, I’m not sure if I’d always want to do that because the game does scale up for more agents being on the board, but still, it was a lot of fun, and I thought this was perhaps the first time when I felt like the game was a real co-op experience.

The Hellboy board game is truly shaping up to be one of my favourites here, and in recent weeks I think I’ve now doubled the number of plays with it. I think it helps that we’re in that season when it’s good to hunker down with a game, and despite all of my rantings and ravings about Kickstarter games here on the blog, there is something quite exciting about opening up a massive box that is choc-full of trays and trays of miniatures. The Hellboy theme is just the icing on the cake, really!

I do have Hellboy volume 6, and I think I may have investigated one of the stories in there, but I’m soon going to be in uncharted territories with the comic book series. I’m hoping to increase the library there soon, branching out into the BPRD series as well, to see what that’s all about. As for the board game, I definitely want to see more of the BPRD Archives expansion, and start putting together my own case files, as well as trying out more from the core set. The only thing that kinda gives me pause on that is just the sheer amount of frogs… Having all of the Kickstarter goodness does make me feel like mixing things up with some of those other miniatures for some variety, you know? There are suggested rules for that, as well, so I’ll have to take a look into the wider game and see just how I can bring that about. I have clearly been spoiled…!

Star Wars: Legacy

Hey everybody,
Well, here we are, at the end of the Legacy run! After the initial 50-issue ongoing series came to an end in August 2010, there was a short gap before the six-issue miniseries War picked up the tale to draw things to a close. Interestingly, the same thing happened to the Knights of the Old Republic ongoing series, which ran pretty much concurrently with Legacy throughout, and was wrapped up by its own War miniseries. But that will be a subject for another blog!

Volume Eleven: War

Darth Krayt has returned! He travels to Coruscant to confront Darth Wyyrlock, and kills him in single combat, taking back control of the Empire to lead a new crusade against the galaxy. Antares Draco, held captive on Korriban, has eventually broken under the torture of Darth Havok, and divulged the location of the hidden Jedi temple on Taivas.

The Sith plot to destroy the Jedi once and for all, and send a combined task force under Darth Stryfe, while also dispatching Darth Nihl at the head of his secret Sith Dragon ships. However, the Jedi launched a defense alongside Gar Stazi and the Fel Empire. Just when the Alliance seemed to come through victorious, the Dragon ships appear and turn the tide, but the tide turns again when several Sith Imperial ships, including Moff Yage, defect back to Roan Fel’s side.

Fearing an assault on Bastion, Fel decides to lead an assault directly on Coruscant. It turns out that Darth Maladi had been captured, and was working with Fel to create a biological weapon designed to attack the Sith. A strike team, led by Cade Skywalker, sabotage the orbital defense network to allow the fleet to arrive in-system. Cade then infiltrated the Sith temple to confront Krayt. During the duel, Cade witnessed Krayt’s vision for the future: Darth Maladi’s toxin is actually designed to kill everyone except the Sith. Seeing this vision, Cade finally knows his place in the galaxy and kills Krayt, declaring himself to be a Jedi.

However, feeling Krayt’s spirit in the back of his mind, Cade knew that the Sith Lord would be able to heal himself once more, and so determines to fly a ship into Coruscant’s sun, destroying them both. However, the spirit of Luke appears to him once more, and urges him to trust in his friends. He ejects, and Jariah Syn picks him up while Krayt’s body is incinerated in the sun.

And with that, the Legacy series comes to an end!

This was a pretty action-packed ending to the series, bringing everything together into a nice (too nice?) package. I’ve glossed over a lot of details here, of course, but there is a lot going on in this book, although I think it succeeds in not feeling too rushed. The book covers a lot of space battle over the hidden temple, living up to the title at least! It’s pretty epic, and I think we could perhaps have seen more of these types of all-out battles throughout the main series.

Cade goes through a bit of a metamorphosis in this one, as well. His creepy leer still pops up of course, but he does become more noble, somehow – I think the death of Bantha Rawk during the assault on the hidden temple has a lot to do with that, but he does give up with his “I don’t want anyone to die for me” to some extent. I talked about the whole Grey Jedi thing in my previous blog, and this miniseries does go some way to mitigate that, by making him follow the Jedi path more consciously, and walking in the Light, etc. I do appreciate the fact that his character has “resolved”, therefore!

Darth Krayt is something of a problematic character for me, though, although I suppose it has been explained to some degree why he has done what he has done. Some of his outbursts, about making the galaxy suffer, and so on, do seem to be a bit inconsistent with the Jedi Master who fought during the Clone Wars, but we learnt that a lot of his world view was shaped by Vergere in the embrace of pain. I guess I compare it a bit with Jacen Solo in the Legacy of the Force novels, and while Jacen’s descent into Darth Caedus was maybe unexpected, it was handled so well by the authors of that series that he never felt like the pantomime villain that Krayt sometimes is.

I should probably re-read the LotF novels at some point – maybe next year!

I’m glad I’ve re-read the series, and have actually read it through to conclusion, because some of the later arcs I don’t think I read back in the day! While some of my affection for this series was probably borne from nostalgia, along with a fair dose of it being so novel when it was first published. Now, though, even given the fact that it’s a Legends series so these things don’t really matter, I do feel that it falls short of the mark, in the main due to the fact I hate the main protagonist!!

But let’s end this on a high – seeing the fallout of the Yuuzhan Vong war was cool, and some aspects of the series, such as the Hidden Temple of the Jedi, were great!

Star Wars: Legacy

Hey everybody,
We’re on the home strait with the Legacy series now! There has been a lot of nostalgia for me in re-reading these comics, but at the same time, it has felt like a bit of a slog, as I’ve not really enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. But we’re getting there, so let’s crack on!

Volume Nine: Monster

This is a very intriguing storyline. Rav shows up again, and offers his erstwhile pirates an offer they can’t refuse. They head to Wayland, one of the first sites of the Ossus Project, and the site where that project first showed signs of failure, but it turns into a trap. We learn (finally!) that the Ossus Project was sabotaged by Zenoc Quah, a Yuuzhan Vong Shaper who believed surrender to be a betrayal. He collaborated with Darth Maladi to sabotage the Project, which led to the Sith-Imperial War that saw the end of the Jedi all the way back in volume one.

Quah captures Deliah Blue and puts her in the embrace of pain, and together with Maladi, they attempt to lure Cade into a trap. Maladi does not trust Wyyrlok, and has sent Darth Nihl to Korriban to see if Darth Krayt is still alive; meanwhile, she is developing a bio-weapon that will keep the rest of the Sith in check, but needs to test it on a Dark Side user, and Cade is a perfect test subject. However, Cade is able to fight his way through, and Jariah Syn kills Zenoc Quah with an amphistaff that he has mastered. Maladi escapes in the chaos, detonating her laboratory, while Cade is able to free Deliah and, using the Light Side for the first time to do so, heals her in the Force.

Meanwhile, the Jedi and the Fel Empire attempt to broker a treaty on Agamar, but word is leaked to the Sith and they attack en masse, capturing Princess Marasiah and taking her to Korriban.

Star Wars Legacy

The storyline for this one was really good, I thought, as it delved a lot into the post-war landscape. We learn much more about the Ossus Project, too, which is something that I’d been wanting for most of the series up to this point! I think the blending of Yuuzhan Vong with the rest of the galaxy works well to provide that sense of distance that makes the Legacy comics feel apart from the New Republic era stories. There is that patois the Mynock crew (and others) use, which feels at times like the attempts to blend in Chinese with English in the Firefly series, but there is very little to otherwise distinguish the era from that of the height of the Empire. Seeing the devastation wrought by the Yuuzhan Vong, who apparently conquered and terraformed millions of worlds, is a nice attempt to give that distance.

Volume Ten: Extremes

The series comes to an end with the three-part Extremes arc! All hell breaks loose here, as the storyline attempts to live up to its name. Cade and his crew are on the trail of the Sith scientist Vul Isen, as they try to track down “the Butcher of Dac” and hold him accountable for his crimes. They travel to Daluuj, but are ambushed by a group of Sith who are clearly waiting for them – but Cade is able to easily escape the trap. Isen had maintained a laboratory there, which they destroy, but the trail goes cold until the Hutts – mainly fan-favourite Queen Jool – inform Cade they have lured Isen to Utapau.

It’s nice to see movie locations revisited like this, though sometimes they appear to be carbon-copied from the movies, as if time has stood still. That feels like the case here, sadly, and even the port administrator of Pau City recalls the previous holder of that title from Revenge of the Sith!

So Vul Isen is attempting to poison the world and kill Gar Stazi, who is currently based on the planet, but Cade thwarts the scientist’s plan with the help of his old master, Wolf Sazen. Additionally, Antares Draco leads a strike force to Korriban in an effort to rescue Marasiah from the hands of Darth Havok, and he learns that Havok is none other than Eshkar Niin, a former Imperial Knight who killed the wife of Roan Fel as part of his fall to the Dark Side. Part of me feels that this would have had more impact if the Fel Empire had had more exposure than it had, but I feel that throughout the series, it has always been in the background, with little development overall. Meanwhile, still on Korriban, Darth Nihl arrives to discover that Darth Talon is guarding an empty stasis chamber – Darth Krayt has disappeared! Nihl pursues Talon into the Valley of the Sith, where they both discover the resurrected Krayt, who sends out a psychic message to all Sith to inform them that he has returned…

The arc ends with Cade having a disturbing vision of the future: Darth Krayt reborn, then nothing.

Star Wars Legacy

Phew!

It’s a series that I remember enjoying a lot, back in 2008-2009 when I was initially reading them, but one that has now somehow felt much less so. I think I’ve possibly come to expect more from my Star Wars, of course, but a lot of the core storyline that follows Cade just feels really bad, like Ostrander and Duursema wanted to write about pirates and bounty hunters, but also wanted to involve the Jedi. I think if this had been a series about Cade purely as a bounty hunter, it could have worked much better. Maybe he’s angry and bitter because the Force has passed him over, despite being the heir to such a strong Skywalker tradition, and so on?

Grey Jedi are of course a thing at this time in Star Wars publishing, and I suppose that was the thing they were going for. It’s an interesting spin, but the execution tends far too much towards the frat boy jerk that I find myself cringing so much throughout.

The Imperial intrigue, around Nyna Calixte and Morlish Veed, was quite interesting for a time, and seeing the completely different take on the Empire under Roan Fel was quite refreshing. The Imperial Knights are an interesting blend of the Royal Guard and the Jedi, with a martial tradition of their own, and I think it could have been developed more if we weren’t always being treated to the soap opera of Antares Draco and Marasiah Fel!

The wider galaxy did seem to go unexplored, however, and I am quite sad about that fact. We visit plenty of worlds, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the story is told from the galactic fringe, and part of me would have liked to have seen more of what the galaxy was like prior to the Sith-Imperial War. Of course, I guess a lot of this is left unexplored simply to allow room for further storytelling, as no doubt the writers couldn’t show something to be true, only to paint other authors into a corner if they chose to follow up the Legacy of the Force series, for instance. Instead, we get the vague “Galactic Alliance” that was almost entirely wiped out at the start of the war, leaving Gar Stazi as the sole representative of the former New Republic. The main interest seems to come from the split Sith Empire and the Fel Empire, and Cade’s group, with occasional help from the Jedi remnant. It feels somewhat lacking – much like The Force Awakens, we take a leap forward in time and have very little context to hang the story on.

So there we have it, ten trade paperbacks later, the Legacy series is at an end! For now, at least. Following the initial 50-issue run, there was a four month break before the six-part Legacy: War miniseries capped things off from December 2010. But that’s for another blog!

Star Wars: Legacy

Hey everybody,
I’m getting close to the end of the Legacy series now! I’ve made it into the final third now, which to me form something of the nadir of the series. Let me explain…

Star Wars Legacy

Volume Seven: Storms

The seventh volume is comprised of a couple of two-parters, which takes us back into the wider galaxy with Fight Another Day, where we follow the Sith extermination of the Mon Calamari people. Fighting alongside the Mon Calamari Rangers is the Imperial Knight, Treis Sinde, who is recalled by Roan Fel but decides to go against his orders and help the Mon Cal people, especially when it is discovered that the Sith have unleashed a creature of legend, the Sith Leviathan, upon the world. I’m not a big fan of the artwork in these issues, although it does take me back to some of the Republic / Clone Wars era comics, which I seem to remember were enjoyable back in the day!

Of course, I thought the same about the Legacy series, and so far I’ve not been all that favourable this time around!!

The next two-parter is the eponymous Storms storyline, where Cade and co travel to Kiffu, where he hopes his uncle Bantha Rawk can help with healing Azlyn. Cade goes off the rails in this one, and the whole storyline is a bit bonkers if I’m honest. He tells Bantha and Droo that Azlyn wants to survive, despite the fact she has made her peace with death, and alienates Droo by putting his desire above that of the patient. He and Jariah Syn then go into town and get into a drunken brawl, and he comes very close to killing his own cousin, who is working for the local law enforcement.

Meanwhile, Darth Wyyrlock assumes control of the Empire as the mouthpiece of Darth Krayt, and bestows the title of regent on Morlish Veed, although Nyna Calixte is suspicious of the Sith’s motives, fearing that Veed will become the face of the Sith atrocities throughout the galaxy.

If ever there was a storyline to make me hate Cade, this is it. He drifts so far from the path of the Jedi it’s unreal, and he becomes such a reprehensible human being that it’s now hard to feel anything except distaste. He’s always had the look of the douchebag about him, but his scumbag leers are really just too much this time, when coupled with what he actually gets up to. I thought the Ossus storyline was supposed to see him hit rock bottom, then pick himself up again, but here he’s just an absolute dick.

Volume Eight: Tatooine

Cade & Co have started pirating Black Sun, who are themselves pirating the Empire’s supply lines. You know, as you do. Realising that he’s still public enemy number one, Cade goes to ground on Tatooine, though he is pursued by Anzati bounty hunters working for Black Sun. Nyna Calixte sends her daughter Gunner Yage to bring Skywalker in, going herself as Morrigan Corde once more. Turns out the Imperial Moff on planet is as corrupt as any Moff based on Tatooine, and was working with Black Sun to profit from letting Imperial shipments fall into criminal hands.

This one should have been a much more enjoyable storyline, as we get to visit a classic movie location – Cade even holes up from a sandstorm at the Lars Homestead – but it is once more a bit of a let-down, as Cade continues to prove that he’s the galaxy’s cheapest skank. The scumbag leers abound, and his seeming efforts to flirt with his half-sister are just cringeworthy.

Star Wars Legacy

Somewhere in here, though, there is a storyline that was fairly decent. The war profiteering by Moff Nieve Gromia was a nice mirror to the old days with Prefect Talmont. I can’t recall if I mentioned this in previous books, but I find it quite interesting that Black Sun is still a going concern in the Legacy era – criminal empires that long-lived would strike me as being a rarity?

At any rate, we’re approaching the end now, and hopefully we’ll see things pick up as we reach the finale! I’m pretty sure, when I first read this series, I didn’t get further than the Tatooine arc, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all ends!

Star Wars: Legacy

Hey everybody,
We’re back with the great re-read of the Star Wars Legacy series!

Star Wars Legacy

Volume Six: Vector

The Vector storyline was a year-long event in Star Wars comics publishing, back in 2008, where each of the four ongoing storylines – Knights of the Old Republic, Dark Times, Rebellion, and Legacy – would be touched by an ongoing crossover event. Given that more than 4000 years separates these lines, in-universe, that was quite the prospect at the start! However, it was effected really well, with the Jedi Celeste Morne being kept in stasis following the initial four-part storyline in KotOR, and being awoken by Darth Vader thousands of years later.

By the time we get to the Legacy part of the story, Morne has a star destroyer full of rakghouls floating in deep space, where Cade and his crew come across her and hatch a plan to use the rakghouls and the Muur talisman to destroy Darth Krayt and the One Sith. They travel to Had Abbadon, where Krayt and his inner circle find them and do battle. Roan Fel, hearing of the talisman, sends his Imperial Knights to collect it, thinking he can use an army of rakghouls to defeat the Sith and reclaim his throne.

Azlyn Rae manages to land the killing blow on Krayt, and his body is Force-pushed off a cliff, however she herself is mortally wounded. Karness Muur is disappointed that Krayt has been taken out of the picture, but he senses the darkness within Cade and attempts to bond his spirit with Skywalker’s. Cade, however, uses his Force power to shatter the talisman, destroying Muur for good.

The storyline concludes with Darth Wyyrlock collecting the body of Darth Krayt, only to discover that he is clinging to life – and so he uses Force-lightning to finish him off.

Dun dun dun!

Star Wars Legacy

It’s a strange one, this, because it forms something of an end-of-act storyline for the Legacy series, as well as the finale to the Vector storyline, but it does so quite well, if I’m honest. Putting aside the strangeness that we see from having a Jedi from the Old Republic era surviving for so long, and the whole thing with Roan Fel thinking it would be okay to unleash the power of the Dark Side on the galaxy if it gets his throne back (to say nothing of Antares Draco’s thoughts on getting the talisman as a way to get Marasiah into bed), the story was interesting in bringing together a lot of the major players once again. Definitely felt like an “event” storyline!

I still find myself bored by Cade forever coming across as a bad-boy type while also having these noble ideas of killing off Krayt and removing the threat of the Sith from the galaxy. It almost cheapens that threat, really, if they can be taken out by a Jedi drop-out like Cade. Remember, this is the Sith that removed the entire Jedi Order that had been rebuilt by this point. It just doesn’t ring true and I find myself having to really suspend that sense of disbelief that is normally pretty strung out with Star Wars, anyway!

Star Wars: Legacy

Hey everybody,
The great Legacy read-through continues!

Star Wars Legacy

Volume Four: Alliance
After the dramatic events of the previous book, we have a swift change of pace now as we look to the wider galaxy, and catch up with what’s happening with Admiral Gar Stazi of the Galactic Alliance. The Empire attempts to trap Stazi by presenting him with an irresistible target, a new Star Destroyer being built at the Mon Calamari shipyards, the Indomitable. Stazi doesn’t disappoint, and the Empire think they have him in their clutches only to have the tide turned on them, and the Alliance makes off with the ship. In retribution, Darth Krayt personally initiates the mass-genocide of the Mon Calamari people. Stazi decides it might be time to once again pursue an alliance with Roan Fel.

There is also a one-shot issue that follows Darth Wyrlock as he attempts to find answers from the holocron of Darth Andeddu to help him deal with his master Darth Krayt’s impending doom.

To begin, I just want to say that the artwork in this volume is not my cup of tea. At times it was far too cartoon-y and stuff, and I really didn’t appreciate it overall. In addition, I wasn’t a huge fan of the storyline – I can remember reading this one back in the day and enjoying the fact that we were getting to see what was happening in the wider galaxy. I found there to be several missing links in the history that I wanted to see resolved, but now I found that I was just getting confused by things. There are a lot of flashbacks to the earlier war between the Galactic Alliance and the Empire, but nothing seemed to be really explained, which left me with a sense that the war was simply there as a device to have the galaxy in the state that it currently is. I can’t remember if there is any more detail to come, but I am a little deflated at this point in the timeline, trying to work out what on earth the backdrop to these events was supposed to be!

Volume Five: The Hidden Temple
We’re back to Cade and Co for the fifth volume in the series, as we catch up with the crew of the Mynock after their escape from the Sith Temple on Coruscant. Deciding to lie low for a while, they head to the moons of Iego and Cade’s uncle, Bantha Rawk, formerly Jedi Master Nat Skywalker. Bantha has left the order following the Ossus Massacre, and has established a life for himself with his family. When they arrive, however, Black Sun have been attacking the retreat and the Mynock is instrumental in fighting them off. It turns out that there is a bounty on Cade’s head and a lot of people have been looking for his known haunts to see if they can get ahead of him. Unbeknownst to everyone, however, someone else has arrived at Rawk’s Nest, Cade’s former fellow Jedi apprentice, Azlyn Rae. When the Empire turns up looking for Cade, the crew of the Mynock realises that this isn’t safe, so Bantha agrees to lead them to the Hidden Temple of the Jedi to see if they can help.

However, Azlyn is serving new masters these days, and helps to lead the Imperial Knights to the Temple in an attempt to broker an alliance between the Jedi and Roan Fel. Cade further expounds his plan to assassinate Darth Krayt, in the hope that the One Sith will fall in on themselves and eliminate that threat. The Imperial Knights feel this could well work in their favour, also, as it would allow Fel to reclaim the throne. Princess Marasiah stays behind at the Jedi Temple while Antares Draco and Azlyn Rae accompany Cade and his crew to the deep core, with Shado Vao also coming along to keep an eye on Cade.

After the previous volume, it felt good to be back to what seems to be the main storyline, seeing Cade, Jariah and Deliah going off on their adventures. We also get further backstory on Rav and his pirates, learning more about Jariah Syn and his hatred of the Jedi along the way. More character development is always a good thing, of course, and as the story moves along we see Cade embracing a little more of the fact that he can use the Force.

Star Wars Legacy

Jedi-wise, Master K’Kruhk is back, and it’s also really nice to see T’ra Saa from the Republic series coming back here. Of course, it is somewhat arguable that bringing back so many Jedi from these previous stories makes one question how effective Order 66 really was, but also it serves to show how the Jedi were able to come back in such force so quickly after the fall of the Empire. So I guess there are multiple sides to that.

I can’t help feeling as though the story is feeling a little rushed at this point, though, with Cade having gone from being the fringer nobody to suddenly thinking he has to solve the galaxy’s problems. True, he’s doing it to stop the Sith hunting him, but it all feels just a little bit like there should have been more reconciliation between his character at the start of the series, and how he is now. But maybe I’m expecting too much?

That said, though, I think the story moves along much better when it has this focus on Cade & Co, as if Ostrander and Duursema are much more at home telling the tale of their team, rather than trying to hang that story in the wider galactic context.

Star Wars: Legacy

Hey everybody,
It’s time to get back to more Star Wars: Legacy, as I continue reading through the eleven-volume series, today getting to volume three: Claws of the Dragon!

Star Wars Legacy

Volume Three: Claws of the Dragon
This book forms a real turning point in the history of the Legacy era, as we get a lot of answers to a lot of the questions that may have been bubbling away up to this point, as well as seeing the storyline placed firmly on a new heading.

Cade, determined to make amends following his drug-induced vision on Ossus, and rescue Hossk Trey’lis from the Sith Temple on Coruscant. As it has been built upon the former Jedi Temple, he knows some secret ways in from the underworld, and makes contact with a Hutt information broker, Queen Jool. He finds his way into the chamber where Trey’lis is being held, but is set upon by Darth Talon, and captured. Darth Krayt then reveals that he wishes Cade to join the ranks of the One Sith, and we get a lot of exposition from him when he reveals his identity as none other than A’Sharad Hett.

The first time I read this book, my mind was utterly blown! Hett survived Order 66 and spent time on the galactic fringe, learning of the ways of the Sith before being taken prisoner by an advance party of Yuuzhan Vong, where he encountered Vergere. We learn that Vergere was trained in the Dark Side by Darth Sidious, and she attempts to further turn Hett to the Dark Side. However, Vergere is forced to move on when the priestess Elan is reassigned. Hett is experimented upon by the Yuuzhan Vong Shapers, and implanted with coral seeds that he has been attempting to resist the effects of since escaping from his captors. Hett formed the One Sith while the eyes of the New Republic were on Darth Caedus and Lumiya, and he needs Cade’s healing abilities to help rid him of the coral seeds. Jariah Syn and Deliah Blue are discussing options to rescue Cade when they are joined by Morrigan Corde, who comes up with the plan after explaining she is Cade’s mother. Cade refuses to heal Krayt, and duels both Darth Talon (wounding her) and Darth Nihl, before taking on the Sith Emperor himself. However, he is able to be rescued by Syn and Blue before Krayt is able to defeat him.

Star Wars Legacy

This is quite the pivotal issue, as I said, and covers a lot of ground with explaining what has happened to get us to this point. A good chunk of the trade paperback is taken up with Darth Krayt’s exposition of how he came to be at the head of the One Sith, of course, and it doesn’t feel too contrived somehow, given that Hett has basically been away from the main galactic events that we’ve seen covered by the novels following Order 66. It’s also useful to have a kind of bridge for readers to get the main beats of galactic history to show what’s been going on and help to provide some more context for the stories that we’ve had between the Prequels and this series. Of course, he is yet another Jedi who managed to escape the so-called Purge, which makes you wonder whether the Emperor could have done a better job.

Reading the series this time around, I feel really disappointed with Cade’s story arc. He’s forever being portrayed as the half-Jedi bad boy, and yet is able to go toe-to-toe with Darth Talon, who was previously built up as a deadly assassin, and survive. To say nothing of his later duel with Krayt, although that was on the back of his Sith training, so I suppose could be excused. I didn’t get the impression that he actually completed his training on Ossus, so not sure what to think of that. It’s almost like he’s being used as a tool to tell the story, and having all of these really interesting and cool scenes and interactions, but he is entirely the wrong sort of character to be in these scenes.

It also doesn’t help that he has a lot in common with Quinlan Vos from the Republic series, but Quinlan’s arc was much more in keeping with the character established for him!

I think I’ve found this re-read of the Legacy series a bit disappointing so far, as I have such fond memories of reading them the first time around! It’s actually in my top ten Star Wars comics, and I think that’s a reflection of the fact that it felt, at the time, like we were seeing the galaxy being brought together into a cohesive manner. Maybe I’m feeling like I want more from my Star Wars fiction, but I think Cade Skywalker just isn’t the right sort of character to be having this sort of adventure. There is still a lot to enjoy though, and there is a lot around the outskirts of the story that I did still like, such as the Coruscant underworld scenes, and a lot of the Imperial scheming is very engaging.

On to volume four!

Star Wars: Legacy

Hey everybody,
As promised last month, throughout December I’ll be re-reading the Star Wars: Legacy comics series from Dark Horse, published between 2006 and 2010, with an eleventh volume that ran into 2011. I first read these books about two years into the run, so had a decent number of issues to sink my teeth into.

The story was quite controversial at the time, being pushed so far into the future of the expanded universe – the first arc, Broken, starts in 130ABY (after the Battle of Yavin) and predominantly takes place in 137ABY, while up to this point the furthest into the future we’d been was to 29ABY with the end of the New Jedi Order. A lot of people were a bit disappointed with the fact that the galaxy doesn’t feel particularly different, with having the Empire still around (and still in olive fatigues), and so on. There’s definitely merit in that argument, but it’s also only just over 100 years following the end of the Yuuzhan Vong war, and I suppose we can’t expect things to have moved on to the point where things are so unrecognizable.

There are plenty of tie-ins to the NJO here as well, as pretty much the entire foundation for the series starts with a Yuuzhan Vong terraforming project gone wrong. Let’s take a look at the background now…

Background
The Ossus Project was an attempt to reconcile the Yuuzhan Vong with the wider galaxy by using their terraforming technology to repair the ecosystems damaged during the war. Seeing the results on Ossus, the galactic community was impressed and hundreds of worlds tried to secure the Yuuzhan Vong’s efforts. While initially things went smoothly, suddenly worlds like Wayland saw deformed plant growth, and native inhabitants began to grow spines such as had been seen during the mass slave-taking at the height of the war. While the Jedi suspected the project had been sabotaged, several hard-liners from the Empire, who had chafed under the terms of the peace brokered between Gavrisom and Pellaeon, and who wished for the Empire to once more become the main military superpower in the galaxy, declared war on the Alliance for defending the Yuuzhan Vong.

Star Wars Legacy

Volume One: Broken
The story begins with the attack on the Jedi Temple at Ossus. Several Sith lead the assault, killing many Jedi, including Kol Skywalker, leader of the Council and descendant of Luke Skywalker. Skywalker’s son Cade manages to escape with several apprentices, but the light of the Jedi appears to have gone out in the galaxy once more. In the Empire, it is revealed that the war was largely a success due to the intervention of the Sith, who allied with the hardcore of the Moff Council, against Emperor Fel’s wishes. The Director of Imperial Intelligence, Grand Moff Nyna Calixte, personally brought the Sith over to assist the Empire, in the hope of furthering her lover Grand Admiral Morlish Veed’s ascension to the throne. However, Darth Krayt, leader of the One Sith, murders Fel and assumes the throne, only to discover that he has in fact killed a body double. He orders Darth Talon to hunt down the real Fel, lest he form an alliance with the Jedi against him.

Seven years pass.

Cade is now working as a bounty hunter, having hidden himself from the galaxy and fallen in with his fellow hunters Jariah Syn and Deliah Blue. Collecting the bounty on a scavenger, they come across the Bothan Jedi Hossk Trey’lis, and capture him as well, taking him to Rav the pirate and go-between on the planet Socorro. Also on Socorro is Princess Marasiah Fel, whom Darth Talon has been tracking in an effort to locate her father, Roan Fel. Marasiah is able to escape the planet with a member of the Imperial Mission, Astraal Vao, on Cade’s ship the Mynock, whereupon she makes arrangements to meet with Vao’s brother on Vendaxa. There, it transpires that Vao’s brother is Shado Vao, Cade’s former Jedi classmate, who is there with Cade’s former Master, Wolf Sazen. When the Jedi’s transport is destroyed by Darth Talon, Cade ends up taking everybody to Bastion, where Roan Fel has re-established his base.

Star Wars Legacy

As an opening arc, this is fairly explosive, let’s be honest! I think this is probably going to be an ongoing issue with a lot of these blogs, but there is the element of all of this coming out of nowhere – we don’t get the background on the Ossus Project until well through the series, for instance.

Volume Two: Shards
The second book does begin to deepen the narrative, though, as we delve into the relationship between the Sith and the Empire, as we see the tension between Darth Maladi and Nyna Calixte. Learning that Cade is a Skywalker, the Sith have got a not insignificant interest in him. Calixte sends her own Intelligence operative to find out what is going on, and dispatches Morrigan Corde on Skywalker’s trail. However, we learn that she is none other than Cade’s mother and, working with the Sith spy Jor Torlin, they track him to Ossus but Corde kills Torlin rather than allow the Sith to discover his location.

Along the way, we meet Admiral Gar Stazi, the last surviving military leader of the Galactic Alliance. Attempts are being made to form an alliance between Stazi’s fleet and Emperor Fel, but these attempts are foiled by Corde and Torlin. We’ve not seen the end of Stazi though!

Having left Bastion without his crew, Cade has drifted to Ossus in an attempt to lose himself, and finds himself haunted by the Jedi of his past – specifically, Luke and Kol Skywalker. However, the Jedi of the present also catch up with him, Wolf Sazen and Shado Vao, and Cade realises that he must make amends for the mistakes of his past, and completes his training under his old master.

I remember the Ghosts two-parter being a real stand-out arc for me, back in the day, as it was the first time we had properly seen Yuuzhan Vong in a visual format. We start to explore the Ossus project, and the possibility that it had been sabotaged as a catalyst for war, which is good because it’s nice to get more of that depth for the story. As a bit of a blast from the past, we get to see Jedi Master K’Kruhk return from the Dark Times series – seems he’s pretty much indestructible at this point!


I have some very fond memories of reading the Legacy comics back in the day. I’d been collecting them for months, along with the Knights of the Old Republic series written by John Jackson Miller, and went away for Christmas to a small stone cottage in rural mid-Wales, where I would spend the evenings alternating my reading through the two series. I enjoyed the books when I read them at the time, but hadn’t come back to it since. Reading it now, though, I’m not sure it’s got the same appeal for me. I think, in part, it feels a bit like the comic set out wanting to tell a story about a bounty-hunting fringe type who becomes a Jedi and takes on a new army of Sith – and as a result, the setting is almost tacked on. I mean, it does tell an interesting story when it gets going, but taking such a big leap into the future of Star Wars, it needs a lot of world-building, and I don’t think it really takes enough time with this from the off.

But I’m going to go through the whole eleven-volume series, so stick with me! I should probably read more of the Legends stuff for the blog, to help all of this make sense…

Hellboy (2004)

It’s time for Birthday Week to go to the movies! Continuing my obsessive look at all things Hellboy this week, I thought it high time I took a look at the movie that, for me, started it all. Of course, the comics pre-date the movie by more than a decade, but I wasn’t familiar with them before seeing Big Red in action here…

Hellboy (2004)

The movie is basically the origin story of Hellboy, picking out a lot of the threads that we see in the comics, and building on the Seed of Destruction storyline to give a satisfying main story overall.

We start with the Tarmagant Island incident in 1944, with Rasputin opening a portal and bringing forth Hellboy from another dimension, then we fast-forward to the modern day and the BPRD, with a new recruit John T Myers joining the team to work as Hellboy’s liaison. Very quickly, the action moves to a museum break-in where an ancient daemon known as Sammael has been awakened by Rasputin and his disciples, Ilsa and Kroenen. Sammael goes on a rampage, and while the Bureau believe it to have been killed, in actual fact two more have been birthed from its carcass, thanks to Rasputin’s curse of multiplicity.

Myers works to bring Liz back to the team, as she had previously left due to mistrusting her own powers of pyrokinesis. The team are sent into the sewers to attempt to destroy the Sammael eggs, and while most of the agents that accompany them are killed, they also manage to capture Kroenen. In reality, Kroenen had given himself up by feigning death and, once inside the Bureau, manages to kill Professor Bruttenholm. The Bureau is taken over by FBI agent Tom Manning, who directs a mission to Moscow to end the Sammael threat and, hopefully, that of Rasputin and his followers.

In Moscow, the team tracks down the nest in Rasputin’s mausoleum, and while Liz manages to incinerate the eggs, they are captured. Rasputin sucks out Liz’s soul from her body, and uses it to cause Hellboy to use his stone right hand to awaken the Ogdru-Jahad and bring about the apocalypse. Myers manages to reach out to Hellboy, however, reminding him that Bruttenholm raised him to defy his destiny and choose his own path. Hellboy stabs Rasputin, whose death throes release a tentacled monster that Hellboy manages to defeat by detonating a belt of grenades inside the beast.

Hellboy (2004)

For me, this movie really encapsulates the feeling of Hellboy from the comics. We’ve got the half-demon wandering about in graveyards and reanimating corpses, we’ve got him hunting disgusting daemon creatures – it’s really fantastic. While Ron Perlman does steal the show as the titular character, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, and Selma Blair as Liz Sherman, also have their parts to play – though due to going through the backstory, I think Liz is definitely the more short-changed of the two. John Hurt’s Professor Bruttenholm lends a dignified presence to the movie, though I think it’s really the villains that provide so much of the enjoyment here.

Hellboy (2004)

Rasputin is quite the character, and Karel Roden’s performance is quite chilling at times, especially when he’s in his suit doing his puppet-master routine. Ladislav Beran as Kroenen is a whole different kettle of fish, though – creepy doesn’t even begin to cover it. Beran has a fluid grace that really sets your teeth on edge, and when he’s gliding down those stairs in Bruttenholm’s office… urgh, gives me chills to just think about it!

Hellboy (2004)

Kroenen is definitely the character that benefits the most from his movie incarnation. Everybody comes over from the page to the screen fairly similarly, but for Rasputin’s lieutenant, we have a sort of amalgamation of a couple of the comic book characters. He’s part Nazi scientist, with his surgical compulsion and all, and an expert assassin – a less-mad Red Skull, I suppose. He’s the embodiment of almost the entire Nazi scientist enclave that exists within the comics, and I love how del Toro has managed to distill so much down into the character. Truly wonderful.

Something should also be said for the way the story is handled. It is often said that this movie takes Seed of Destruction as its starting point, but the Sammael threat is so far removed from that of the frog monsters that I don’t really think we can talk about them together. The story is an original one that nevertheless takes the essence of the comic book story and makes it work.

Hellboy (2004)

I’ve not seen the new movie, but while this one exists, I don’t think there’s a need for it. I’ve read the film was a flop, which is a shame, as I think the Hellboy universe really would benefit from a big screen showing, branching off into the BPRD proper and all, but part of me wonders if this failure might then allow for del Toro and Perlman to come back for the Hellboy 3 that we’ve heard teased over the years?