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 new canon musings

Hey everybody!
It’s been a bit of a Star Wars week here at spalanz.com, and today I thought I’d talk about some various musings that I’ve been having about the franchise, with the new books and comics as well as thoughts on the new and up-coming movies… It’s going to be a ramble, but let’s begin!

Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
I’m really intrigued about what’s going to happen in this film. Something that I like the idea of is how VII mirrored IV so much, VIII might actually begin by imitating V before vectoring off really onto its own thing. There is a lot of footage in the trailer that shows the Resistance seemingly under attack, and I like the idea that this is an escape sequence much like the Battle of Hoth, where we may see a lot of similar story beats to the earlier movie.

We’ll also have a lot of Rey being trained by Luke and, if VII can be relied upon, Kylo Ren being trained by Snoke, which will somewhat follow the theme of Luke being trained by Yoda. But what else could we see? Some stories have been circulating that speculate the film starts with Leia meeting Snoke in a sort of meeting-of-minds, and she has to be rescued by the Resistance. I suppose the scenes that I thought of as an escape could equally be a rescue.

Leia is said to have an expanded role in VIII, which is excellent because she wasn’t in VII nearly as much as she should have been. But I guess we needed to see the next generation established. The idea that she meets with Snoke could be interesting as, like the rest of the world, I’m deeply intrigued as to who he is and how he fits into the world. I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll reiterate here: I don’t believe Snoke is somebody who we’ve met before, insofar as I don’t think he’s a clone of Palpatine/Anakin/Jar Jar, or whatever. I do think he’s a completely new creation, though he does seem to be known to Leia and Han, given their exchange before Han leaves for Starkiller Base in VII. I’m intrigued as to how he fits into the First Order hierarchy, as I would have expected to have seen him somewhere in Bloodline if he’s a major player. (Well, maybe I did!) Whoever he is, though, it needs to be fully explained in the movies, as the vast majority of moviegoers aren’t following the comics and novels and cartoons and everything else, and Disney knows this. The movies need to be able to stand on their own, and so I’m confident that we’ll be getting a full reveal in either VIII or IX.

Again sticking with the parallels with V, I think the climax will have an “I am your father” style explanation – though obviously, he won’t turn out to be Rey’s father or anything like that…

The mystery of Rey is, I think, perhaps the best thing to be coming out of the sequel trilogy so far. While I know plenty of people are rabidly chomping at the bit for anything, I think it’s being done really well in that I’m intrigued, but I find her interesting enough on her own terms that I don’t need to know who her parents were. Does that make sense? She’s great enough on her own terms, and I love that about her.

The new EU
This brings me on to something in general about the EU right now, though, which is a continuation of something I mentioned the other day. So far, we’ve only had two movies from Disney, but they’ve been movies that tell pretty decent stories, and which have succeeded in drawing me in to the universe they have created. Bear with me here…

The Force Awakens lands us slap-bang in the middle of the galaxy some 30-or-so years after Return of the Jedi, and while the interpersonal story of the main characters plays out pretty much okay, we’re left with so many questions about the state of the universe that we’re now in. Rogue One returned us to a more familiar time period, but has shown that there are so many questions that we thought we knew the answers to, but it turns out we barely scratched the surface there. While it can be irritating to a lore nerd such as myself to suddenly not know where we are in the universe, I’ve noticed that I’m actually starting to pore over all of the stuff that I can get my hands on once again, such as the Visual Dictionaries, and branching out into the YA books that I would usually avoid.

Basically, Disney has made me enthusiastic about Star Wars once again.

There is, however, a “but” coming…
Despite the fact that I’m now really intrigued by the new setting, including that for Rogue One, which has shown us a new way of looking at the time period of the original movie trilogy, I’m finding it difficult to stay enthusiastic about the new EU when I begin to devour the offerings we have that flesh out this landscape.

I’ve been particularly hard on the Aftermath trilogy (you can see exactly how harsh by checking out my blog reviews here, here and here!) However, I’ve been thinking again recently, and I’m fully prepared to completely re-evaluate those opinions in the light of anything we learn at the end of Episode IX. I think it’s very likely that there will be a number of things mentioned in passing during those books that will prove to be important later – not just the interludes, but a lot of the general story will likely make more sense when we’ve seen the whole trajectory of the sequel trilogy.

The rest of the novels that I’ve so far read from the new canon have been very much a mixed bag, with Heir to the Jedi being a particular favourite, but only Bloodline standing out for me as the absolute best and most important of them all so far. I don’t think I’ve read anything from the new canon that has managed to capture the feel of this new, Force-Awakened universe more than this book, and cannot recommend it enough to even the casual fans of the franchise. The others tend to fall into something of a “meh” category of general tie-in fiction that is really neither good nor bad, but overall you’re not missing anything by not reading it. This is in stark contrast to some of the Legends books, which often form important leads-in to films or provide important explanations of plot-points. Maybe the Disney films are too reliant on themselves to tell their story, leading to the novels not having a great deal to cover?

The comics from Marvel have, so far, been the single most consistent let-down in all of this, however. While a lot of my criticisms of the new canon can perhaps be explained away with “well, it’s still early days yet – Dark Horse and Del Rey had years to build up their lore!” (which is, incidentally, true), I feel that Marvel in particular has so far been playing so fast and loose with Star Wars in general, that it’s really wearing me down as a consumer. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve read probably half of the total content they’ve put out, and cannot think of a single issue or series that I can put my finger on and say, “that was great”. The Vader ongoing series was probably the closest we get to that, though I have only read half of it up to this point. The general ongoing series had a fantastic issue #1, and went downhill so quickly it was unbelievable. We’re now being treated to Han and Leia racing around a Star Destroyer as serious wartime adventure, and I just can’t believe they got rid of stuff like The Wrong Side of the War and replaced it with this!

First world problems, for sure, but I think we deserve better stories than this dumbed-down junk. The time period of the original trilogy was a period of civil war, according to the opening crawl of the movie that started it all – how about seeing some actual war stories, rather than this inane rubbish about three people hijacking a Star Destroyer, or the ongoing boredom of Han Solo’s not-wife.

For me, part of the problem with the ongoing series from Marvel is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a plan for the story these books are telling us. The time period between IV and V was always set at three years, in-universe, and was replete with “just another story” about Luke and the gang going up against the Empire, having a series of narrow scrapes, but always winning in the end. Sure, that’s the adventure serial type of story that inspired the movie in the first place. But when you just have endless one-shot storylines that have that “and they all lived to fight another day” ending, it’s kinda pointless. One of the main selling-points for removing the expanded universe as it was, was that they could start to tell more cohesive stories in the EU, but I’ve not yet seen any real evidence of that from Marvel. Yeah, the monthly books have had some nice interlocking connections, but nothing important has happened, and it’s all just much of the same junk that Marvel pumped out in the 80s.

I have been expecting a coherent narrative across the comics that ties in with the films, and any other novels that take place at the same time period. So far, the only consistencies seem to be that Dr Aphra has shown up as Darth Vader’s groupie, and Han Solo’s annoying not-wife seems to have grafted herself on as Leia’s informal attache. We don’t really have a stable of characters that Marvel has created, including villains for the rebels to go up against, so it all feels like so much diaphanous rubbish.

Are you familiar with the Republic ongoing series from Dark Horse, which ran for over 100 issues and spanned the period from Phantom Menace well beyond Revenge of the Sith? The series had a somewhat bumpy beginning as it followed Ki-Adi-Mundi on a variety of throwaway adventures that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, before it introduced the Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos and his erstwhile padawan Aayla Secura. While their adventures were interrupted with other issues, the series really picked up steam when John Ostrander and Jan Duursema were telling the story of these two, and a whole cast of recurring faces began to pepper the pages, to the point where now, if you read the whole lot, you get a wonderfully cohesive narrative arc that actually serves as a counterpoint to the prequel movies themselves.

My point is, Star Wars comics can be better than this! First of all, we don’t need big-name movie characters in Star Wars books in order to make them interesting, not least because those stories tend not to have any real sense of danger to them. We know Leia is always going to survive any and all stories set between A New Hope and The Last Jedi, because she is in those films. Showing Leia at death’s door in the Annual #2 had absolutely no sense of drama to it, because we know she’s fighting fit again in Empire. So why not focus on a larger cast than just the movie three, and put them in danger, instead?

It would take no imagination to come up with stories involving other rebel agents – agents in the mould of Cassian Andor, for instance – who might well serve alongside Luke on a dangerous mission to uncover a supply train that the rebels desperately need – medical supplies, whatever – and then put that rebel agent in the spotlight for the next arc where we follow a commando team on an undercover mission into an Imperial arms depot. Maybe that agent survives, to become a more regular fixture in the ongoing series, or maybe he dies heroically, and his protege makes it back to Yavin with the news, whereupon she can become a more regular character. I came up with that in the about-fifteen seconds it took to type. There are more people in this universe, and more stories to be told, than the adventure of Han and Leia’s race around a Star Destroyer to see who can be called captain of the bloody thing!

I’m beating on the comics quite badly now, and I’m very aware that there are still plenty of these books that I’ve not yet read. I think it would be hilarious if the next arc I pick up is the best thing I’ve read from the new canon since Bloodline

This blog is already getting pretty hefty here, and the tone has been somewhat whiny in parts, so I think it’s time to draw it to a close. In conclusion, then, I think the movies are doing a tremendous job of setting up a new world order, of sorts, and I’m incredibly intrigued by how they’re managing to change the Star Wars universe for the better. The novels have been hit and miss, though everyone should head out and read Bloodline if they haven’t already done so. And while I’ve yet to read a new comic that I like, I remain optimistic that there may be an arc out there that I can finally say, that’s fantastic!

Please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section below, I’d love to get other peoples’ opinions on this! We’ve been in the new EU for almost three years now, and I’m interested to see what you fine folks make of the state of things!

Easter 2016! part two

Hey everybody!
It’s part two of my Star Wars Easter! Always an exciting time, as I feel more of a connection to the original trilogy and stuff. Indeed, watching them again this year, more than any other time in recent memory, has almost felt like re-setting myself as regards Star Wars. Let me ramble for a bit…

I’ve made a few posts on this blog that have had some inchoate rambling about the state of Star Wars today, and the loss of the wonderfulness that is the expanded universe. I’ve been reflecting on this again recently, largely following my reading of A New Dawn I suppose, which is a tremendous book, and I think if I’d read it two years ago when it was first published, I would likely have had an entirely different feeling towards this. See, that book is a fantastic way to set up this new publishing era, and really lives up to its meta-intent of providing us book fans with a new dawn of Star Wars storytelling. I think I’m going to read Tarkin next, though have already read Heir to the Jedi of course, so at least two of the first three novels to come from the new story group have been absolute triumphs.

It’s not really tempting to think of myself as some kind of dispossessed fan, though I know I have bemoaned the loss of things like the Thrawn trilogy. I’ve always tried to be open-minded about these changes, though having grown up with so many of these books, I always found it a bit difficult to let it go, I suppose.

This Easter weekend, I read a couple of stories from the now-Legends continuity, and my quandary has begun to lessen as a result. I’ve already talked about The Force Unleashed, of course; well I followed those two up with the Agent of the Empire series from comics great John Ostrander!

Star Wars Agent of the Empire

The first book began in December 2011, the sequel following in October 2012. At five issues each, they tell the adventures of Jahan Cross, the Agent of the Empire, as he works in the shadows for Imperial Intelligence. The series was sold as the Star Wars version of James Bond, and the first book in particular really shows us this, as we see Cross meet with Armand Isard (M, in this instance) and Alessi Quon (Q, if you will). I’m something of a James Bond fan, so thought these aspects were pretty hilarious, but I can see that some folks might not appreciate them.

Iron Eclipse follows Cross to the Corporate Sector, where he foils an attempt by Iaco Stark to take over the galaxy’s droids and ultimately topple the Emperor. The story is actually hilarious, though I for one appreciated the throwback to the Republic comics series, most notably the Stark Hyperspace War series. Ostrander was a long-time writer for that series of course, and it was good to see the links made that show the universe to be more cohesive. The series also features Han and Chewie in what might look like a gratuitous cameo, though it ties in nicely with Brian Daley’s novels, and ultimately I can’t really fault their presence.

The second book, Hard Targets, is another interesting one, as we see Cross working almost in a diplomatic capacity when the current Count Dooku (not Christopher Lee’s character, his nephew) is assassinated and Serenno is trying to elect a regent. There are some truly awesome parts to this story, not least looking at the inner-workings of Serenno (Count Dooku is one of my favourite Star Wars characters ever), but also the beginning of the story, on Alderaan. These comics are set before the films, so Bail Organa is alive and well. It’s always been a huge bugbear for me, but there are barely any stories that take place on Alderaan, which I have always found so frustrating as a Star Wars fan!

Jahan Cross is “the Empire’s scalpel”, and while there are plenty of stories that involve agents of the Empire – heck, Mara Jade can be seen almost as the same character – there’s something really interesting about this series that made me really eager for more. There’s a tantalizing cameo from Ysanne Isard in the second book that got me thinking about the possibility of seeing the two paired up for a mission, for instance. There is so much you could do with a character like this, it’s a shame that we’re unlikely to see anything more from him. But I guess anything’s possible.

Bounty Hunters

In addition to these, I also read Dengar’s story from Tales of the Bounty Hunters. It’s an anthology I’ve mentioned before, of course, but while I consider the Zuckuss story pretty decent, and IG-88’s just hilarious, I don’t really remember that of Dengar. Well, what a surprise that was!

Dengar is the bandage-wrapped chap immediately to the right of Vader in the above picture, but because of the editing, you don’t really get to see all that much of him in the film. His backstory is that he’s a Corellian swoop bike rider who suffered a disfiguring accident during a race with Han Solo, and was “rescued” by the Empire, who turned him into an assassin without a conscience. It sounds pretty badass, and should be cool, but his story in the anthology turns into a love story as he rescues a dancing girl who turns out to be a techempath, who feels a connection with him and basically turns him human again. They wind up getting married – and Boba Fett is the best man. Seriously, I’m not making this up.

There is an annoying trend among the stories in the Tales of the Bounty Hunters to make too much of an effort to entangle Han Solo in each of the hunters’ pasts, and while Dengar is perhaps not the worst offender (Boba Fett has the most arduous story in here, and I’m not going to read it again in a hurry), it is so annoying how he’s portrayed to be out for revenge, and tries to imagine each target is Han whenever he kills them. Why can’t these bounty hunters be on the bridge with Vader because they want the money? I mean, that’s what I imagine most bounty hunters are in the profession to do, earn money. Surely the ruthless side of these hunters needs to be emphasized, and not trying to make it all tie into a neat little bow all the time?

For me, Dengar’s tale summarises a lot of how I feel about the wider expanded universe right now, I think. Sure, there are some truly stellar pieces of fiction in the Legends stable, but for the most part – particularly the Bantam era, actually – we see a lot of this sort of thing, where stories are a little weird (with the techempath stuff), have some awesome set-up (Dengar as a conscienceless assassin for the Empire) and take us to the epic locations of the original trilogy (Cloud City and Jabba’s Palace), but ultimately we get some weird little story that feels compelled to explain every nagging detail and make everything link up to everything else.

Which brings me back to what I was talking about at the beginning of this blog, really. When they’re good, the Star Wars stories I grew up with were really, really good. Increasingly, however, I find them for the most part to be fairly bland, a little too outlandish, or downright silly/annoying. Both the Jedi Academy trilogy and Darksaber spring to mind as being in this latter category, despite having been a big fan of them all those years ago. There are still a fair number of Prequel-era stories I’ve not talked about here, but love very dearly, but I think I’m getting to that point now where I can say, yeah, maybe it is time for a change. Maybe we should take what was good about the EU, remove the garbage, and make way for what could be a much more joined-up way of storytelling.

I’m definitely rambling now, so it’s probably time to finish up this blog. But suffice it to say, A New Dawn has really rocked my world, and made me think that perhaps, we could be in for an even more interesting Star Wars history than we’ve had throughout the 90s and 2000s…

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

Happy Easter!

Hey everybody!
It’s a four-day weekend, which is always more than welcome in my book, and whether you’re celebrating Easter or just relaxing with as much chocolate as you can bodily cope with, I hope you’re having a great time so far! As for me, well, this has been happening…

Easter has long had strong ties to the Star Wars franchise for me, and every year I re-watch the original trilogy, usually accompanied by a re-read of a lot of the fiction from that point in the timeline. I am, of course, a massive Star Wars fan, and it was many Easters ago that I discovered the expanded universe of novels and comics. So my big plans will be, as per, a re-watch of the trilogy, interspersed with a lot of comics. Aw, yeah!

I’ve mentioned it before, but A New Hope is my favourite of all the movies. For a long time it was Return of the Jedi, but the original movie supplanted that a few years back now, mainly because it’s such a truly wonderful story.

Continue reading “Happy Easter!”

Week off, day three

Well, my week off is going splendidly! Turns out it was precisely what was needed, I must say! Lost of gaming, lots of resting and living life in the slow lane. What life should be about, really!

I do like to get out and about and explore the local area, which has some pleasant hidden corners. I’m quite close to a village called Minera, which has a lot of lead mining bits and pieces – if you’d like to know more, I wrote a blog about three years ago as a culmination of my research into the whole history of the place. You can enjoy that here, anyway!

Adventures with Elves has continued, which has been very exciting, I must say!

I’d thought of playing some entirely new scenarios, but in the end I decided to go for some “iconic Middle-Earth location” scenarios instead. So I went Into Ithilien, which is something I’d not done before – Heirs of Númenor came out about a month before I was caught up in the circus of moving, and by the time I was settled, Against the Shadow had begun and it kinda fell by the wayside. As time wore on, and the reports had come out of how “impossible” this scenario is, I decided not to bother. So it was a lot of fun to play a scenario that is now, what, over two years old, not least to see what all the fuss is about!

I think I might let the elves rest up a bit now, as they’ve been run ragged over the past couple of days! I’ve got a new deck built, a more general-purpose deck that features a whole melange of characters in a true Fellowship, so we’ll see how that goes when I come to attack the Ringmaker!

Star Wars Dark Times

But the most exciting thing from the last couple of days has to be this!

I think I mentioned this before, but every Easter I re-watch the classic Star Wars trilogy, which is always made so much better when that’s combined with some of the classic literature. Last year I seemed to steam through novels and short stories, but was thinking the other day that I probably won’t be doing that again this year. Instead, I’m going to focus more on the comics, so I’ve started early with the Dark Times series!

Last month, I took a look at the Darth Vader series from Dark Horse, four story arcs that kind of intersect into this series, along with at least one novel – James Luceno’s Dark Lord – all taking place in the months following Revenge of the Sith. The events of the series are actually set up in the preceeding Star Wars ongoing series, Republic, and in fact the individual comics maintained the numbering, meaning the Republic series eventually ran to 115 issues, overtaking the original Marvel run that ran to 107. Bit of apocrypha for you there!

Republic #79 – 80 is a two-part story arc Into the Unknown, which follows the escapades of two Jedi in the direct aftermath of Order 66: Kai Hudorra and Dass Jennir. It’s a really nice story that shows some really intense scenes that the film didn’t really convey, I felt. I mean, there were some moments, but Into the Unknown really explores this more, as we see the choices those surviving Jedi made about their futures. It’s available in the ninth volume of the Clone Wars series, which should be on everyone’s shelf because it also collects the conclusion of the Quinlan Vos storyline!

Dark Times begins proper with The Path to Nowhere, as we follow Dass Jennir immediately following the charge down the hill that ends Into the Unknown now that he has teamed up with the Nosaurians. In order to escape the now-Imperial patrols, Jennir and his ally Bomo Greenbark escape with the help of a rag-tag band aboard the freighter Uhumele. They discover that Bomo’s family has been taken to Orvax IV to be sold into slavery, so head over, only to find out the tragic truth that his wife was killed trying to prevent their daughter being taken. Jennir discovers who bought Bomo’s daughter, but when her fate is revealed, he reveals himself as a Jedi to the rest of the crew, who are not too happy to have him aboard.

Path to Nowhere is a grim story, no bones about it, but it’s also a really amazing entry into the timeline (Legends notwithstanding!). Doug Wheatley has produced some absolutely incredible art in these pages – the series was actually delayed by almost a year all told, because of getting the series to this awesome standard. Some of the panels, such as the townscape scenes, are a true visual feast!

Orvax_IV

Parallels is a much smaller-scale story. The crew of the Uhumele is trying to offload some merchandise but the deal goes sour, and bad things start to happen! As a parallel story (chortle chortle), we see Master K’Kruhk in the aftermath of Order 66! This guy became something of an EU legend; after his appearance in Jedi Council: Acts of War, he became something of a series regular in the Republic line immediately following Attack of the Clones. With his iconic hat, he kept popping up time and again – most surprisingly in the Legacy series!!!!!

I have to say, Parallels was not as enjoyable a story for me as Path to Nowhere. The artwork sometimes looked a little sloppy, especially in comparison with the earlier series, but I kinda disliked the fact we didn’t get more Dass Jennir! When I first read this series when it came out, I kinda rushed through it, and the plot never really stuck with me as being that great. Now that I’ve read it the second time around, I have to say, it still wasn’t all that memorable.

Part of this, I suppose, is that the next storyline in the Dark Times series really overshadows it. Vector was a massive event in Star Wars comics back in 2008. It was a twelve-part crossover of all four of the ongoing series Dark Horse was publishing at the time – Knights of the Old Republic, Dark Times, Rebellion and Legacy – and follows the story of what happens when a Jedi comes across a Sith amulet. It’s actually a phenomenally well put-together story, and I was hugely impressed with the logistics of the storyline. The promise from the event was that it wasn’t just some sort of Marvel-like gimmick to make readers buy more series, but instead each story would be self-contained and propel its respective series forwards in new ways, but if you read all twelve issues, it also formed a really great story in and of itself. And boy, did it deliver!

The Dark Times segment of Vector runs to just two issues, and we once again see the crew of the Uhumele trying to offload their merchandise. That merchandise turns out to be the stasis canister Celeste Morne was placed into at the end of the KotOR arc! Worlds collide! Darth Vader shows up to try to take possession, things go haywire, and the Rakghoul plague is once again active within the galaxy. This merchandise has had a question mark over it since Path to Nowhere, and I really liked seeing how that turned out. Even now, seven years after I first read it, I still love how this tale plays out!

From there, we head to Blue Harvest. Fans of Star Wars lore will know that Dass JennirBlue Harvest was the fake film that masked the filming of Return of the Jedi back in the early 1980s, and while attempts have been made previously to reference this little bit of Lucasfilm lore, this is possibly the best of them all. We’re back to Dass Jennir, as he makes his lonely way in the universe. He’s now looking a lot like Obi-Wan will end up looking on Tatooine, which is a little distracting really. We follow his attempt to earn a living by dealing with a gang problem on Telerath, but finds the situation is a lot more complicated than it first seemed. It was a lot of fun seeing how he goes about dealing with the gangs – a group of Chagrians, and another of T’surri, making sense of the Blue Harvest of the title.

We also get some glimpses of the Uhumele crew, as they begin to miss Jennir. Another Jedi shows up, a Verpine of all species, who asks the crew to help him locate Jennir. I must admit, I was uneasy about this, as I felt it was some sort of trap cooked up by the Empire. Vader is still hot on the heels of any rogue Jedi survivors, and there are a few panels where we see the wider galaxy once more. It’s pretty awesome, though the story does feel oddly finished, as Jennir steps in to deal with the T’surri survivors.

The storyline continues almost directly in Out of the Wilderness, which pulls together a few plot strands into another really nice tale. Jennir left Telerath with his erstwhile employer, though they are shot down over the desert wilderness Prine. However, the arc begins with one of my all-time favourite sequences, as an assassin sneaks aboard an Imperial Space Station/Prison facility to conduct some intelligence theft, just as Darth Vader arrives. Very nicely executed, and totally makes up for the terrible name (ISO-L8 – because it’s a prison…)

Jennir eventually hooks back up with the Uhumele crew, who have been sadly depleted since they were last together, and there is something of a sense of coming-together after the intervening arcs. I suppose this is another reason why Parallels fell short for me, as it almost exists outside of what feels, to me, like the main storyline of the Dark Times series. Sure, the Uhumele oddballs are there, but even so, it just doesn’t really measure up to the rest of it.

Doug Wheatley is back for both of these arcs, and once again we have some really luscious panels of artistic awesomeness. Overall, Path to Nowhere, Blue Harvest and Out of the Wilderness make for some really compelling Star Wars reading – and Path to Nowhere especially is one of the all-time greatest EU stories I have ever read!

Volume six in the series, Fire Carrier, picks up from Parallels, and follows K’Kruhk and the padawans as they attempt to find sanctuary. It’s actually a really interesting story, although a lot of it does feel like it’s trying to set up the fact that some Jedi did survive Order 66, particularly K’Kruhk, who had by now already made his appearance in Legacy. So it’s more about the journey than the destination, but something very interesting (to me, anyway) takes place within these pages.

We have some exploration of Imperial loyalties here, as we’re introduced to Commander Teron and Captain Denimoor, veterans of the Clone Wars both. When K’Kruhk arrives on Arkinnea, Teron appears to take an interest in him, and while I was at first convinced he’d bring Vader down on them, it turns out Teron fought besides the Whiphid on Saleucami, and still remembers the honour of those times. Teron helps K’Kruhk establish himself on the planet in isolation, a new Jedi temple for the training of the padawans.

It’s a really interesting story, as it shows that some of those in the Imperial hierarchy didn’t necessarily go along with Order 66, and perhaps resent the clones for the possibility that they are operating with a hidden agenda. It’s something that Blue Harvest also touched upon, where Vader asks if Lieutenant Vill has a similar order to eliminate him if the Emperor saw fit. This idea of commanders in the army of the Republic suddenly switching loyalties is woefully under-explored, but definitely needs to be looked at again since the EU slate has been wiped clean. Sci-fi and Fantasy stories are often guilty of using a broad brush to draw the details, Star Wars sometimes more than most, but we really need to see stories like these in the future to provide that depth.

Well, I think so, anyway!

A Spark Remains, the final volume in the Dark Times run, is really quite a good story too, following a plot by Dass Jennir and the Uhumele guys to assassinate Vader. We actually get a lot of closure during this arc, and while it ended before the announcement that Marvel would take over the license, it is tempting to think there was some effort to wrap up the Dark Times run.

The best thing, for me, about this run was returning to a character who first appeared in the Into the Unknown arc mentioned previously, Kai Hudorra. Leaving the Order to become a gambler, it turns out Hudorra has done very well for himself indeed! The crew arrives to persuade him to help taking down Vader, along with the Verpine Jedi Beyghor Sahdett who showed up during Blue Harvest. There was always something a bit off about that guy, and now we finally get to find out what that is! I wasn’t entirely convinced at first by this, though the eventual payoff to this story was pretty good.

Kai Hudorra

Kai Hudorra is an interesting character to me, and I must admit, if I were a Jedi who survived Order 66, I’d probably head off to hide out in the galaxy and make my living as a gambler!

File:Republic Emblem.svg

Dark Times is a really great series. I’ve said it a lot up there, but Path to Nowhere is one of the best Star Wars stories ever written – in both comics and novels (and, even, films!) For longtime readers of the Republic ongoing series, it is almost a must-read, as it shows a lot of characters from that series.

Something that saddened me somewhat was how little time we spent with the Empire – we see Vader, we see the Emperor, but never for very long (outside of Path to Nowhere, of course). I suppose you could argue that the four Darth Vader standalone miniseries are a part of the Dark Times run, as they are quite heavily-intertwined. Spending time with the galactic fringe, and following the adventures of a Jedi in hiding at this time, is hugely enjoyable of course, and in many respects more than makes up for that.

I really don’t know how much more I can say this, but it’s really great – and if you only ever read one Star Wars comic produced by Dark Horse, it ought to be Path to Nowhere!

Buy it from amazon:
Path to Nowhere
Parallels
Vector vol 1
Blue Harvest
Out of the Wilderness
Fire Carrier
A Spark Remains

Dark Times Omnibus 1
Dark Times Omnibus 2