Monday, August 31, 2009

As The Critical Moment Approaches

Weekly Journal
August 31, 2009
2 years BBY

Zero Year comes ever so closer, and appears ever so ominously in almost every tale I've read in the past two weeks. It's as if I can see the Force hear faintly in the background, like a breath in the wind. All the strings are coming together and soon the instruments of rebellion will be strung. There is no stopping it, just as one cannot stop the suns from setting. It is the will of the Force.

I began last week with Han Solo's Revenge, which I found to be more or less mediocre. I then moved into a chapter of Rebel Dawn, which primarily featured Boba Fett and a cameo from Lando Calrissian. Though it goes without saying that Lando escapes Fett's clutches, it's by the skin of his neck. I then moved into Han Solo and the Lost Legacy. That's where all the pieces began to come into place.

At the end of Lost Legacy, Han Solo mentions his intention to head back to Hutt Space in order to secure some work with Jabba, daring the infamous Kessel Run. Next, an old 1979 UK Marvel Illustrated Adventure, "The Way of the Wookiee", chronicles this particular run, during which Han and Chewie "get boarded" by Imperials and have to jettison their cargo. Catch my drift? Well, don't get your Wookiee hair in a knot. This isn't that fateful mishap, landing Han in debt to Jabba, but an eerie prelude to it. Nonetheless, Jabba is not pleased, as is alluded to by his attempt to kill Solo in the Dark Horse short, "This Crumb For Hire".

Moving on to an out of the way desert planet, far away from any bright center of the galaxy, the prelude of Empire: Darklighter features the final days of Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine, before joining the Imperial Naval Academy. But Biggs' interest in the Alliance is no secret, nor is Luke's.

Skipping over to yet another soon-to-be-member of Red Squadron, "Lucky" (Star Wars Tales Volume 6) relays the series of tragic events that lead to a young pilot by the name of Wedge Antilles to join the Rebellion. I must say, this story adds a very morbid tone to the character of Wedge.

But disgruntled Rebels aren't the only one's fighting the Imperial iron fist at this time. Boba Fett: Enemy of the Empire pits the galaxies most notorious bounty hunter against the Dark Lord himself. But none of these attempts at insurrection have swayed the Empire's mighty reign. An excerpt from The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader underscores this unfortunate reality, describing the slaughter of over 250,000 sentients on Faleen.

But it won't be long. Not long at all.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Boba Fett: Enemy of the Empire

Boba Fett: Enemy of the Empire

2 or 3 years BBY

Whew! You mean not another Han Solo post? Well, don't get too excited, there's at least two more on the way. But for now, I'm glad for a change of pace, especially when that pace is good, old-fashioned bounty hunting.

Colonel Abal Karda has been declared an enemy of the Empire, and has disappeared with an invaluable item. While all others have failed to track down Karda, Darth Vader knows the one man who will get the job done: Boba Fett. But Fett was foolish to accept a commission from the Dark Lord, especially when the prize in question must be kept secret at all costs. Two of the most feared men in the galaxy will go head to head, and it won't be pretty.

There's so much to like about this graphic novel. How can you not love a duel between Darth Vader and Boba Fett? And trust me- it's not one-sided. The storyline, by John Wagner, is beautiful in its simplicity. It's everything you'd want out of a Boba Fett comic- a bounty hunt, dark characters, and action at every turn. Wagner's representation of the Boba Fett character is right on par as well. He's ruthless and cunning, yet retains an odd sense of Mandalorian honor throughout the story. For example, he doesn't kill anyone he doesn't have to and always completes the deal. He's the ultimate "killer with a code", which has always been one of my favorite aspects of him.

For the record, the kooky religion on Maryx Minor called the "Order of Pessimists" cracked me up every time. "Woe, woe, a thousand times woe!".

The artwork in this graphic novel is hit and miss. The cover is awesome, by far one of my favorites. But the Gibson, Nadeau, and Ezquerra team really lack luster with the rest of the artwork. My number one complaint would be that Boba Fett's armor looks way too grimy, with weird dots all over him. And is it my imagination, or does Darth Vader seem kind of punier than usual in some of the scenes? The artwork definitely didn't do him justice.

Either way, awesome and quick read! Don't miss this one!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Han Solo and The Lost Legacy

Han Solo and the Lost Legacy by Brian Daley

2 years BBY

So who's legacy's been lost? Xim the Despot's of course. The third installment of the Han Solo Adventures offers a crash course in early galactic history. Xim the Despot was the greatest warlord of his time, conquering the vital Tion Cluster shortly before the rise of the Old Republic. However, as the fledgling Republic became more and more of a threat, Xim sought to build a war machine. Commissioning the legendary craft, The Queen of Ranroon, Xim's legions hid the galaxy's greatest treasure on the unassuming mining planet of Dellalt. But Xim never returned to collect his deposit, and the Queen disappeared into infamy.
Hooking up with an old friend- and some new one's too- Han Solo and Chewbacca get a lead on the location of this treasure, the solution of all their financial woes. But between them and the treasure are a gamut of foes- including Xim's legion of war-robots and the gunslinger, Gallandro, who has a score to settle with Solo.

Per my previous post on Han Solo's Revenge, I had hoped to review both Lost Legacy and Revenge as a set. But, as it turns out, the third book has followed suit with the rest of the trilogy. More specifically, Lost Legacy is only loosely connected by characters to Revenge, and hardly at all to Han Solo At Stars' End. This doesn't particularly bother me, it just means my views on Revenge haven't changed- not bad, not good, all around uninspiring.

Lost Legacy, on the other hand, was way more exciting for me. I would even go so far as to say that it was better than Stars' End, though of course not as classic. The best thing about this story, for me, is the undertone of galactic history. It's not very often that you find a book that gives you an idea of just how long the GFFA has been around. I felt it really emphasizes the idea that the Old Republic wasn't as unyielding and dominant as seemed during it's long reign. It wasn't the first galactic order- the Xim Dictatorship and the Rakatan Infinite Empire are evidence of that. Need I say why it wasn't the last?

But that's not all. Throw in Gallandro- who, by the by, really shows you what he's made of- Xim's fearsome Guardian Corps, and a fight between Chewbacca and a massive Houk, Lost Legacy is one of the best Solo adventures I've read. I especially like one of Gallandro's quotes towards the end:

"You were never the amoralist you feigned to be, Solo, but I am."

So much in such a small sentence. Isn't that the essence of Han Solo? The reluctant hero?

Great finale, overall, by Brian Daley.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Han Solo's Revenge

Han Solo's Revenge by Brian Daley

2 years BBY

Unfortunately, the book is not as exciting as the title suggests. I was tempted to review this book and the next book, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy, as a pair. After finishing Revenge, it seems like the last two books of the Han Solo Adventures will form a larger two-part story.

Han Solo and Chewbacca are down to their last credits. Desperate for a big break, they carelessly take a "no-questions-asked" job smuggling a mysterious cargo for 10,000 credits. Well that cargo ends up being slaves- and Han Solo doesn't do slaves. The slavers soon find that out the hard way. But, the way Han and Chewie see it, someone still owes them that 10,000 creds. With nothing but a data-disk as a lead, Solo and his first-mate head off into the Corporate Sector. But the allies and enemies they meet along the way are more than they seem.

As a stand alone book, Revenge was mediocre, especially when compared to Stars' End. I wouldn't say anything turned me away from this book, it's just that nothing turned me on to it. But, alas, there are some very good qualities to this adventure. Firstly, there's something unavoidably intriguing and nostalgic about reading a Star Wars book written in 1979. Secondly, this book is an easy read. Not only is Daley's writing smooth, clear and engaging, but the book is only 200 pages long. This further leads me to believe Revenge was only Part 1 of a larger story with Lost Legacy, while Stars' End is more stand alone (though all three, obviously, share a story setting and character roster). Finally, I always dig kool baddies. This time around its an infamous gunslinger named Gallandro, with a draw so fast even Han thinks twice about challenging him:

Keeping all this in mind, I'm going to postpone my final judgement on this book until I finish Lost Legacy, hopefully later this week!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekly Journal - Update!

August 17th, 2009
2 years BBY

Had a slow week this time around. I'm about halfway through Han Solo's Revenge, the second book of the Han Solo Adventures. The book hasn't blown me away thus far, but it does have some value. Stay tuned for a blog this week. After that, will be another chapter of Rebel Dawn and then the last book of the Adventures trilogy, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy. Shortly followed by more Han Solo tales. Anyone detecting a theme in this particular stretch of the timeline?

Anyway, a list of upcoming releases by Del Rey was posted on Sue Rostoni's blog not too long ago. I thought I'd share what Del Rey books (as well as Scholastic and Dark Horse) I'll be picking up later this year. Expect reviews!

09/01- A New Hope: The Life of Luke Skywalker by Ryder Windham

Happy birthday to me! Why am I excited about a Scholastic book? Well, one, it comes out on my birthday, and, two, the first two books- The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader and The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi- were so helpful and fun. Each of these books chronicle the key moments in the lives of key characters in the Star Wars universe, often incorporating previous adventures found in other titles. I found the Obi-Wan book to be particularly interesting because not only does it recap on the Jude Watson young Obi-Wan series, but also reveals never-before heard of adventures of Obi-Wan on Tatooine. Did you know he fights a Jedi from the old Order during his exile? I'll only read a few parts of the Luke book when I first get it, but I can't wait!

10/27- Imperial Commando: 501st by Karen Traviss (*sniffles*)

My frequent readers will know I am juiced for this release. I think its selling point is that it will most likely enlighten us as to how clone troopers transitioned into stormtroopers. Some may already know that stormtroopers are a mixture of clones and enlisted humans, but I'm sure there is an interesting story there.

11/04 - Knights of the Old Republic, Vol. 7 - Dueling Ambitions

We left Zayne Carrick and the motley Gryph having at last defeated the Krynda Draay's Jedi Covenant. And Zayne officially renounced the Jedi Order. So what happens next? Well, for one, Zayne and Gryph have gone into business together! What adventures will they get into next? I'm sort of excited about his graphic novel, but it reeks "transition story" to me.

FYI: I don't pick up the individual comics, I prefer the neatness of graphic novels. So I have no idea what's going on currently in KOTOR.

11/18 - The Clone Wars Vol. 1- Slaves of the Republic

I've been waiting for this for a long time. I'm really hoping that Henry Gilroy, the creator, can add a bit more depth to the stories of the Clone Wars Animated Series, ultimately limited to 30 minute episodes. Just please, oh please, don't do any more damage to the original Dark Horse Clone Wars series. And is that Anakin dressed as a slaver on the cover? Awesome!

12/08 - Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn

Get geared up for the final fight between Bane and Zannah, or at least I hope! Having read the blurb online, it seems the final installment of the Bane trilogy will have Bane seeking the key to eternal life.... Darth Plagueis anyone? Possibly, but definitely not directly. Still a few Sith Lords to get through (i.e. Millennial is next, I believe) before Plagueis.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weekly Journal - Update!

August 10th, 2009
2 years BBY

Last week was a bit of everything. On one hand, it brings a joyful tear to my eye when stories that have been written over a span of 30 years come together so well. On the other, its saddening when continuity problems hit a disrespectful tone.

The week before last, I finished up Han Solo At Stars' End and, this week, The Force Unleashed. You can check out my reviews on my previous posts. However, what really made my day was a single chapter of Rebel Dawn, which brought all three stories together. Remember me saying Rebel Dawn is going to end up being my favorite Han Solo adventure? Well this is why.

I last left Rebel Dawn with Han and Chewie deciding to check out the Corporate Sector, a region of space still autonomous from the Empire. I then cracked into Stars' End, the first book of the Han Solo Adventures trilogy, which chronicles Han's exploits in that region. Once I finished Star's End, I finished The Force Unleashed, another exciting read. For those of you who recall, the Rebel Alliance is officially declared on Corellia (thus, the "Corellian Treaty") during TFU by the Senators Mon Mothma, Garm Bel Iblis, and both Bail and Leia Organa. Then, moving back to the next chapter of Rebel Dawn, there is a specific mention to the signing of the Corellia Treaty, Mothma "uniting three forces" (Chandrila, Corellia, and Alderaan) and the beginning of the Alliance. Finally, at the end of that chapter, there is an interlude that places Solo right where he left off after Stars' End- having a bit of a love affair with Jessa Vandangante, getting special upgrades done to the Falcon, and considering making tracks.

So what makes this all mind-blowing? This does: Han Solo at Stars' End was written in 1979. Rebel Dawn was written in 1998. And The Force Unleashed was written in 2008. That is an almost 30 year time-span. That kind of detailing, my friends, blows me away.

On a side note, I read the first two installments of Lost Tribe of the Sith, a free e-book by John Jackson Miller. While this story takes place 5,000 BBY, during the Great Hyperspace War, it can be expected to have some kind of tie in to Miller's Fate of the Jedi book, Omen. MIller is also the story-writer behind the Knights of the Old Republic comic-series. Even stand-alone, these short little novellas are a kick to read. Not only do they go way back, but they delve deeper into the Old Sith Empire culture deeper than I've ever seen. Fascinating, quick read! You can download PDF versions of these free e-books at:

However, I said this week was a little bit of both. I read recently that Karen Traviss, one of my favorite Star Wars authors, has decided to cease writing Star Wars once she finishes her Imperial Commando duology. The reason being, according to her blog post, was the 3-D animated Clone Wars. According to Traviss, the way that the Clone Wars team has planned out the story of their series directly interferes with the direction she was going. I can only assume that this may have something to do with the fate of the clones themselves, as well as the inclusion of Boba Fett in Season 2. I say this because Traviss is well known for her work with the clone-centered Republic Commando quadrilogy and that she was planning a new Boba Fett novel for the future.

Like I said before, its frustrating when new stories are disrespectful of the work done by those before them (those before being Del Rey authors). While I don't want to set the blame completely on any one person or group, I think we can surmise where some of the fingers are pointing. Traviss, her work, and what could have been will be sorely missed. May the Force Be With You, Karen Traviss.

See the article here:

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Force Unleashed

The Force Unleashed

3-2 years BBY

The Force Unleashed was groundbreaking for the GFFA when it was released in 2008. Vader had a Secret Apprentice? A plot to destroy the Emperor? It all seems to good to be true, but it is. And those of you who have played the game are aware that I left out one other especially important twist that shakes the very foundations of the Star Wars canon. Lest this blog become a giant spoiler. :D

You are "Starkiller", raised from youth as the secret apprentice of Darth Vader. Your entire life you have been trained for one purpose: to assist Vader in overthrowing the Emperor and to rule by Vader's side. Together with your crack pilot, Juno Eclipse, and your faithful (though programmed to be bent on killing you) droid, PROXY, you are tasked to hunt down Vader's Jedi enemies. Soon the day will come when your training is complete and your ultimate mission ready to be fulfilled.

There are three formats to this story: the game, the book, and the graphic novel. I will review all three somewhat separately in this blog. However, some general comments...

1. You cannot get the full effect of this story by reading/playing just one format.
2. Even for non-EU fans, this is something you don't want to miss, because it is critically important to the original trilogy.
3. My largest critique is that the different formats tell the story using different connecting plots, details, and events. This was a bit sloppy, but the essential plot points are still congruent
4. My favorite part about this story is that it does something very few stories of this era do- it tells you what the Jedi who survived Order 66 are doing. Trust me, you won't be disapointed.

First off, the story. Hayden Blackman, the visionary and the storywriter behind TFU, has created a story that never failed to blow me away at every turn. I was really excited for this game, and I wasn't let down story-wise. He managed to create a believable scenario that remained faithful to previous canon. he also tied it up nice and neat at the end, leaving very few holes that I can see thus far (stay tuned for my weekly blog to confirm this).

Perhaps my only critique of the story (and I'm not sure if this is Blackman's fault) is that both Leia and Bail Organa are identified as Senators from Alderaan. As I've read it in the EU, Bail should have stepped down by now and Leia should be the rightful senator. But as the TFU tells it, Bail is discovered as a dissident and pretty much relieved of duty, paving the way for Leia's rise. Either way, Leia is the senator of Alderaan by the end of this story.

On to the game. Put briefly- this is the best Star Wars game to date. Lucasarts really showed their merit on this one. The graphics are amazing. The scenery and levels are creative and original. This game was never boring or repetitive. However, I think the short play-through time might have something to do with that. I did leave the game wishing there was more. Also, the controls are really tough and frustrating. It's taken me 3 play-throughs to finally get the hang of it (though I do play on Sith Master difficulty). Ultimately, this game is about Starkiller's insane force powers, not his lightsaber skills.

The book adaption, written by Sean Williams, is another great read. I admit, I was originally a bit unimpressed by the first third of the book, feeling that it didn't really add much to the game. However, I was soon corrected. The middle and end of this book present the TFU story in a way that could never be matched visually. It really takes you into the mind of June Eclipse and Starkiller, and the nature of their relationship. Also, it expands on the role of Kota, who, when he joins the team, actually has no idea that Stakiller is the same person who blinded him. The book definitely offers some unique bonuses and plot points, including some extra fights with PROXY, taking on never before seen forms like Anakin Skywalker and Qui-Gon Jinn, and details such as who's lightsaber Starkiller is using and why he wears so many different outfits.

Finally, the graphic novel is a bit disappointing. The art, done by the Brian Ching team, is impressive none the less. This is the same team that does the KOTOR graphic novels, and I really like their art style. However, the graphic novel, told in a flashback fashion by a recovered PROXY, is very terse and skips a lot of important stuff (like the first Raxus Prime mission with Kazdan Paratus). Also, in this format, PROXY seems to know that Vader is Anakin, which doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

All in all, I recommend playing the game and reading the book. Skip the graphic novel unless you want to support Brian Ching and his team.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekly Journal - Update!

This is my weekly journal. This is where one will find a glimpse into the niceties of the Expanded Universe- the quirky, intriguing, yet easily missed twists and turns of my journey.

I will continue to update this particular blog post every week, sharing the progress of my exploits. Please check back regularly for updates.

August 3rd, 2009
2 years BBY

Had an interesting two weeks. Went to the Comicon last week. Quite the experience. Managed to have a conversation with one of the Del Rey staffers about the new
Clone Wars cartoon and the continuity hellhole it created. While there was no direct comment, it will suffice to say that Del Rey does not seem pleased.

Then I got an opportunity, during the Star Wars Day panels, to ask Dave Filoni himself (director of
Clone Wars) the same question. Basically, he said he doesn't feel "beholden to the continuity" and blamed George Lucas for forcing in his ideas. Far be it from me to tell Lucas what to do with his own creation.

Once I got back, I finished reading
Han Solo At Stars' End. Awesome book- check out the review:

Next up is the rest of
The Force Unleashed. Then I'll back track for a bit and read the firts two installments of the new free e-book Lost Tribes of the Sith by John Jackson Miller. I'm excited about that because this e-book is technically the third oldest piece of EU material, timeline-wise (7000-5,000 years BBY).

Han Solo At Stars' End

Han Solo At Stars' End by Brian Daley

2 years BBY

This is one of the originals. Written in 1979 (you'll recall, just before the release of Ep V in 1980), this is a truly classic Han Solo adventure.

Han Solo, hotshot smuggler and pilot of the Millennium Falcon, will do anything for a fast fortune. This time, the money brings Solo and his first mate, Chewbacca, to the far reaches of the Corporate Sector, one of the few parts of the galaxy not yet controlled by the ever-expanding Galactic Empire. However, in order to gain access to the untouched treasures of this vulnerable sector, Solo and Chewie must first complete a dangerous mission to unravel the mystery of the abrupt disappearance of several citizens by the hands of the Corporate Sector Authority.

The first thing I liked about this book was its date. Because it was written before the release of Episodes V and VI, the author had quite a bit (though not infinite) creative space with Han's character development. In this book we get to see the true nature of Han Solo- 90% rogue, 10% hero. However, as we know, that inner-hero takes charge when the people he cares about, or the ship he loves, are in need.

You have to be into Han Solo to dig this book. Like most of the stories during this particular stretch of time, you will get little to no lightsaber-swinging, Jedi action. That's one of the things I've come to cherish about reading this through in order. While the Prequel Trilogy and before were all about the Jedi order, its missions, and it's philosophies, the Dark Times (between Episodes III and IV) bring a totally different vibe. Han Solo At Stars' End is the epitome of this period- a time where everyone is out for themselves under the vice-like grip of the Empire. Those brave few with a shred of selflessness are considered fools.

While this is not my absolute favorite Solo book (Rebel Dawn quickly becoming that), I would definitely recommend this book to old school Star Wars enthusiasts.