Saturday Star Wars: Chaos Rising (Thrawn Ascendancy #1) by Timothy Zahn — Book Review and Lingering Questions

Hullo everyone, and welcome back to Saturday Star Wars!

It has been a while, hasn’t it? Rest assured, I’m riding high on a Star Wars wave which’ll keep me pumping out regular editions of this column for a few weeks, at least!

Today, I’ll share with you an excerpt of my Chaos Rising review, which you can read in full over at the Fantasy Hive:

I hold Thrawn in such esteem because few characters signify the sci-fi elements of the Star Wars DNA better than he does. The best Thrawn stories, I have always held, are strong enough that they would thrive in a setting different from the Star Wars one. If you were to crop all the important plot points and characters, and only have to do some fine-tuning to make of a franchise novel something unique and original, could you do it? When it comes to most Thrawn books, the answer is a resounding yes. (With the exception of Thrawn: Alliances, that is, which incidentally is the weakest of Zahn’s Chiss-centred works.) These novels are enhanced by being in the Star Wars universe, not dependent on it.

Chaos Rising is a return to form for Zahn. The first in three novels which chronicle Thrawn’s ascendance in his native Chiss Ascendancy (you didn’t think I would resist, did you?), this does exactly what you want a Star Wars novel to do after the horrible dog’s breakfast** that was the sequel trilogy. It expands the fricking universe in ways that are beyond engaging, while offering a whole new look at our title character. One character I was crazy about in the Thrawn: Treason novel makes her return here – Admiral Ar’alani, whose personal history with Senior Captain Thrawn goes far deeper than I dared hope. She’s one of the main PoV characters in this one, and the novel is all the better for every sentence spent through her perspective; Ar’alani is almost a foil to Thrawn in some ways. Though incapable of seeing what he sees (Thrawn is a tactical genius, capable of understanding both the strategy and tactics of other species by studying their art and philosophy), Ar’alani excels at seeing through the minefield that is Ascendancy politics, and her own insights into military matters are no small thing. Through an unlikely friendship with the more junior officer, Ar’Alani proves an invaluable ally in the political machinations taking place against Thrawn.

One of the consistent points of Thrawn’s characterization across thirty years of books, comics and even animation has been his inability to process the world of political intrigue. In Chaos Rising, there’s no end to the Chiss’ blunders. Add to that the complex hierarchical order of the Ascendancy, with its nine ruling families plotting and conniving against each other for greater power, and you will begin to see how great a blind spot Thrawn’s political ineptitude is.

To read the full piece, click on the link above!

Right, with all this wonderful praise in mind, I’ve a mind to ask several questions. Some spoilers below, read at your own peril! Here’s what I want to learn in the next book:

  • Who guided Yiv the Benevolent? The very last scene at the end of Chaos Rising offers us a name, but what’s behind that name? Is this an agent of the power that has the Chiss Ascendancy desperate enough to fake Thrawn’s exile?
  • Is that exile faked? Timothy Zahn confirmed as much in 2017’s Thrawn, but could it be that this might be retconned, or that it was a lie told by Thrawn to close the gap between him and his foe in that piece, Nightswan? With the political clime against the senior captain the way it is within the Ascendancy, that is a distinct possibility.
  • How far is Thalias going to enter into the politics of the Mitth family, to keep the politically inept Thrawn safe? One of the finest scenes in the book showcased her conversing with the ailing Patriarch of the Mitth, and his revelations about Thrawn will doubtless place her in the thick of family politics. This leads me to my next question…
  • What will be the repercussions for Thrawn? Though he has succeeded with flying colours, the Chiss are staunch isolationists, loath to strike against someone without provocation. Yes, Thrawn managed to skirt through the lines and succeeded in what was necessary — but he was told there would be consequences, and I don’t doubt they will cost him.
  • And my last but most important question: Did Ar’alani and Thrawn bone? When she made commodore, a rather suggestive few lines hinted towards the possibility.

Those are the leading questions — when I return to them a year from now, I do hope I’ll have answers to all of these. Until then…

Join me over the next three weekends as I review Volumes 5, 6, and 7 of the Doctor Aphra graphic novel! That sounds exciting – it’s exciting, isn’t it?

Sentence Structure # 04 Word Choice: The Sharper, The Better

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There is a difference between “Someone stole the priest’s thing!” and “The abbot’s lover absconded with his most prized Bible!” and that difference is owed to word choice. The more exact the words you make use of, the better. Words are the writer’s tools; you’ll want to avoid those with a blunted edge. Instead, you want your words to be sharp, to cut through the mind’s haze and shatter your reader’s pretty little heart!

Think of the last news article you clicked. Odds are, the headline was striking enough to catch your attention in-between the mountains of forgettable text the Internet is chock-full of. My last read? Pediatrician Seema Jilani’s first-person account of the Beirut catastrophe, titled: Broken Glass, Blood, and Anguish: Beirut After the Blast. See how evocative it is? The words immediately call to mind the recent tragedy, while at the same time providing ample space for the reader to add their own association with the first half of the title. These are concrete words, which forecast the very real and horrific experience the writer — and hundreds of thousands others — went through, an event that will continue to define many lives for months and years to come.

The opening of the article proper does not lose any steam:

As I emerged from the car, the air was still whirring with debris. Everything was eerily silent. But it wasn’t. I just couldn’t hear anything. My ears were ringing.

The street scene in front of me, almost two blocks from my apartment and walking distance from the epicenter of the blast, was a silent horror film. Stunned people stumbled out of cafés, dogs dripping with blood cowered in corners, cars crumpled under chunks of concrete. A young girl approached me, dust layered in her eyelashes and hair.

Broken Glass, Blood, and Anguish: Beirut After the Blast
Seema Jilani for the NYR Daily

I turned away from that article devastated, my understanding of the tragedy in Beirut now no longer merely the intellectual kind that a horrific tragedy happened which affected an entire city and its population; but the emotional understanding of and response to the plight of one family, and through that plight, the resonance that a thousand–ten thousand, a hundred thousand– families went through a visceral experience that has traumatised a society.

Hey, look at me breaking my own rule about sentence length. Back to the topic at hand…Such is the strength of concrete word choice; it is the most certain way of evoking the experience you want from your readers, and it’s among the most important building blocks in the writer’s toolbox.

Remove bland, general words from your writing unless they serve a very specific function in your sentence. June Casagrande puts it best:

I never want to read that your character heard a noise. I never want to read that the burglar stole some things. I never want to learn that your actions had an effect, that your CEO implemented a new procedure, or that your employees enjoyed a get-together.

I want loud thuds and Omega wristwatches. I want e-mail surveillance and sudden firings. Tell me that your CEO is cracking down on personal phone calls and that the accounting department held its annual drunken square dance and clambake in the warehouse.

Use specific words. Make it a habit to scrutinize your nouns and verbs to always aks yourself whether you’re missing an opportunity to create a more vivid experience for your Reader. This habit will open up a world of choices.

Chapter 6, Words Gone Mild

There isn’t much more to this topic, and the post can be distilled to the following advice from Yoda: Be mindful, young Padawan.

…Or was that a piece of advice from yoga?

Either way, vague words are the enemy. Cast them into the fire, and don’t look back.

Saturday Star Wars: Obi-Wan and Anakin by Charles Soule — Graphic Novel Review

Welcome back, dear Reader, to the most glorious feature of all – Saturday Star Wars! If you somehow missed the last entry in my series of love letters to Star Wars, worry not – here’s your link!

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Obi-Wan and Anakin by Charles Soule, Marco Checchetto and Andres Mossa

The ten years before the Clone Wars are a period only outlined by a throwaway line of dialogue or two in the movies — and as such, I expect they’ll make for plenty of one-shot stories such as this one, told in comics and novels – something I’m all for, as long as the stories themselves are entertaining.

Charles Soule is one of my three favourite authors working on Star Wars stories right now, along with Timothy Zahn and Claudia Grey. He has a love for the lore of the galaxy that runs deep, as deep as the knowledge he taps into in small pieces of dialogue that might fly by you without a second thought:

The Plo Koon line here, for example

The premise: Obi-Wan and Anakin have been sent to respond to a distress call on a planet ruined by internal strife, uninhabitable safe for the tallest mountain peaks. The twist? There’s a bit of a steampunk vibe to the two sides of this planet-endangering conflict.

I love how often our characters end up derelict on some backwards planet – didn’t the same thing happen to Maul in my last Sunday Star Wars column?

A pair of locals are introduced early on, signifying one side of the conflict — that I don’t remember their names might tell you something of the kind of impression they make, or it might tell you that I’m a forgetful old wamp rat.

Either way, I do remember the personalities of both, as well as that of their foe, a man by the name of…what’s his name, again?–a most lovely bald man with lovely face tattoos…

Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship is deconstructed in a way that will at once reveal the resentment of the Jedi Knight for having to take care of this boy:

The volume shows the depth of Obi-Wan’s commitment to his padawan, as well, in a short conversation with master Yoda in the very last few pages, which leaves no doubt as to the sacrifices Obi is willing to make to honour his oath to Qui-Gon, and to perform his duty to Anakin.

On the flipside of the coin is Anakin’s awe and downright idealization of Kenobi. Whatever resentment he might feel towards his master later on at the beginning and during the Clone Wars has not yet manifested itself; the young padawan recognizes that Obi-Wan is the very best exemplar of the Jedi Order, and for good reason — as the ending of this comic book will remind us.

As for the plot on Carnelion IV, I’ll not say too much other than…it was okay. The story is at its best when Anakin and Obi-Wan interact, and the adventure-of-the-week type story is more a backdrop than a breathtaking story that shifts my way of thinking. One action sequence in particular made me giggle:

Lightsabers are great with bullets, everyone!

Let’s spend a few moments to discuss the other key relationship in this graphic novel.

Surprising none but the newest readers of my scribbles, I enjoyed Chancellor Palpatine’s skillful manipulation of Anakin in a section that shows ol’ Palpy working to earn Anakin’s trust and admiration in ways fine tuned to take full advantage of the young Jedi padawn’s naive and limited experiences of the galaxy.

Here Palpatine is impressed.
Here Palpatine and Mace discuss the virtue of friendship, harmony and throwing people off windows.

Stepping away from geeky humour, my favourite sequences are on Coruscant, whether they’re between Yoda and Obi-Wan, a few short panels between Anakin and other padawans, or

Soule so well captures Palpatine’s sly, cunning nature. The Chancellor manipulates a young Anakin in just the right way, playing to his idealism, making of himself a champion of justice, while eroding his trust in a flawed, broken democratic apparatus. What’s best about it is, Palpatine doesn’t even have to lie; he shows Anakin the rot within the Republic, and his inability to do anything to remedy it on this occasion. By the end of this volume, Anakin is eating out of Palpatine’s hand, and the bond between the two has the strong foundation on which Palpatine’s plan hinges on.

The score for this one is 4 stars out of 5. I enjoyed this story, though the conflict between the factions of Carnelion IV was nothing new, the relationships between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and Anakin and Palpatine, were well-explored and offered a layered view of some of my favourite lightsaber-wielding characters.

And lest I forget, the art was quite excellent — though Obi-Wan looks somewhat older than I’d have liked.

I also loved this alternate cover by Skottie Young, which is as glorious as any Skottie Young alternate cover for Marvel I have seen.

Skottie Young being the Skottiest, Youngest, Coolest Artist Ever!

A few lingering questions:

This girl is flirting Annie up, and yet he doesn’t turn around and leave the Jedi Order to live happily ever after with her?!
How cool is this cover?!

Sunday Star Wars: Darth Maul by Cullen Bunn – Graphic Novel Review

I enjoy works set out as prequels to the prequel trilogy – Master and Apprentice is one of my most favourite reads. I didn’t always like Darth Maul, but catching up on the Clone Wars series has warmed me up to ol’ Red’n’Spiky! And if I needed another reason, just look at that cover. It would make for a great effin’ movie poster in its own right. To make things better, the internal art is no less impressive from the get-go:

What’s this graphic novel about?

Darth Maul grows restless as his master bides his time and weaves his web, awaiting for the opportunity to strike. So restless, in fact, that when Darth Sidious sends him on a task to aid the Sith’s allies in the Trade Federation, the dark apprentice jumps at the mention of a Jedi Padawan caught and held for sale to the highest bidder by a criminal, Xev Xrexus, on the planet of Nar Shaddaa. Maul’s help to the Trade Federation, for the record, is offered by way of executing dozens of aliens unhappy with the illegal operations the Federation deals in. Just in case you thought he was a good Samaritan or some such nonsense.

As you plainly see, Maul is all too happy to help his friends and allies at the Federation.

His first appearance on the very particular hive of scum and villainy that is Nar Shaddaa is stylish:

The Sith definitely have a stylistic edge over the Jedi. Might that have something to do with how Palpatine got one over that little green muppet?

Of course, criminals don’t like the kind of questions Maul asks, and before long, he’s fighting a good half dozen of them. Enter a few familiar faces from Season 2 of the Clone Wars!

I never was a fan of Cad Bane but plenty of folks out there are. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the appeal – he’s very much the kind of character that draws inspiration from the Western aspects of the Star Wars Saga – the kind of mercantile villain riding from one town to the next, caring precious little about the moral hue of his actions, long as his pockets line up. Something always bugged me where he was concerned. Aurra Sing is more my speed – she’s observant and has fine intuition.

There’s a tragedy to Maul, too. Stolen from his birth mother by Palpatine, fed the worst of his poison, taught only to hate and to destroy — there’s plenty appealing to the Zabrak warrior. As the result of the training he has received, his philosophy is very different to that of Sidious:

These panels, digging into Maul’s way of thinking and revealing aspects to him hitherto unseen are likely my most favourite element of this entire graphic novel. The parallels he draws to his Master, the differences he sees, make him an awful lot more interesting a character:

Eldra Kaitis, the Jedi Padawan captured, makes for an excellent foil to Maul. He wants her to fear him, yet she does not; he seeks vengeance for past wrongs but she has little interest in them; The conversations they have in issue four are only equaled by their excellent duel in the final issue in this volume. From her first appearance to her last moments, she encapsulates some of my favourite elements about the Jedi Order.

Also, she’s a very hot twi’lek, and y’all know I can’t say no to that.

Every page of the duel between Maul and Eldra showcases the finest in the art of Luke Ross. Listen to Duel of the Fates while you read Issue #5, I promise, you will not regret it.

I cannot heap enough praise on that last issue, in fact. It does so many things right – as does the entire volume. The consistent art, the excellent characterization, even the bounty hunters’ side adventure; these make for an excellent, self-contained story that I won’t soon forget.

And here’s one of my favourite quotes, on a panel that isn’t much to look at (one of those panels that set up location, I don’t mean that it’s drawn badly or anything of that sort):

My Master…
If he knew about my plans…
Would likely find this amusing.

Like the very best Star Wars comics in the neo-Marvel era, this easily fits to the Clone Wars animated format – it reads much like It’s solid work, and one of my favourite graphic novels in the Star Wars universe. I’m happy to give it a score of five out of five stars on Goodreads!

Join me again next week for another dose of Sunday Star Wars!

Sunday Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Vol. 04 Catastrophe Con by Simon Spurrier and Kev Walker

Some spoilers ahead.

This is the most conflicted I’ve been when it comes to poor, tortured Chelli Aphra. On one hand, some of the dialogue in the second and third issues of this volume make for a downright gag-inducing reaction. Some of the jokes are bad, owed to the kind of self-referential humour you’d get from someone who is all too-aware of the Star Wars franchise, rather than from someone who lives and breathes in the universe.

On the other hand…in the later issues, some ridiculous awesomeness transpires, courtesy of everyone’s favourite Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader!

What I expected to be little more than a cameo turned into a full-blown appearance which, as always, had lasting consequences for our favourite evil archeaologist. He’s such an enormous part of Aphra’s identity in the Star Wars universe and whether by his absence or his presence, Vader’s shadow defines Aphra’s status quo and shapes her actions.

Speaking of, Aphra’s voice remains consistent with what the ever-brilliant Kieron Gillen set out in the first edition of Darth Vader and again in the first two volumes of this run of Doctor Aphra. The moments when Aphra goes to absolute insane degrees of singular purpose just to enrich herself and satisfy her curiosity…these are when this volume and run both are at its finest.

‘Sir’ knows Aphra so well.

Despite my complaints, some of the issues click and come together exactly because of Aphra’s personality, as well as thanks to the drama some of her supporting characters (Magna, in the picture above) bring to the table. The conflict is solid and the emotional highs are quite high.

I saw one of the two final twists coming a mile away, and I really wish the author hadn’t gone with what he did — but I’ll admit to being morbidly curious as to how Aphra will get out of her latest gauntlet.

I find that I’ve gotten exhausted by evil C-3PO-alike, Triple Zero, as well as by his little astromech helper. Though that problem is somewhat addressed, I’d gladly see the once-amusing droid come to an unfortunate end in the next volume. He’s overstayed his welcome as is.

My score for this is a very tentative 3.5 out of 5 stars – I wanted to go higher, I wanted to go lower. I hope the next volume doesn’t suffer from some of the problems of this one. If you’ve stuck around for this long…Catastrophe Con still makes for an engaging Doctor Aphra story, despite some issues.

I read this through Comixology’s Unlimited Subscription – sweet!

Non-Sunday Star Wars: May the 4th Be With You!

I love Star Wars day, don’t you?

This clip accurately represents my feelings for Star Wars every May 4th

To mark the celebration, I viewed one of the few remaining arcs of the Clone Wars I hadn’t seen yet — The Shadow Collective, composed of the following episodes: ‘Revival’, 514 ‘Eminence’, 515 ‘Shades of Reason’, 516 ‘The Lawless’.

It’s an epic trio of episodes, which I know not everyone enjoys since they are all about Darth Maul’s return and grasp to power via the taking over of several crime syndicates, the most significant of which is the Black Sun. Most long-time Star Wars fans should be familiar with the name, at least — it has weight in multiple Expanded Universe sources.

The crux of the conflict is on Mandalore — Darth Maul and his brother, Savage Opress (I can’t help but snort any time I have to write the name down) have come to an uneasy alliance with the terrorist Death Watch, which has long attempted to undermine Mandalore’s rightful ruler, Duchess Satine. Betrayal aplenty as the Death Watch and Maul execute their plan and then come to blows. Maul comes out ahead, but his actions attract unwanted attention – that of the Dark Lord of the Sith himself. The result is one of my favourite battles in Star Wars history, with Sidious at last making one proper appearance in the series, showing mastery in a different lightsaber combat style and being an all-around cackling menace.

There’s more than a touch of the tragic to this arc, as well — enter Obi-Wan and Satine’s relationship, which up to this point had been hinted at but here got a truly heart-wrenching conclusion. Knowing what was coming for Obi-Wan was part of the reason I took some weeks off from my rewatch – Kenobi’s one of my favourite characters, and I had some trouble seeing the scene I knew was coming.

I was happy to see more of Mandalorian culture; these are a people torn between pacifism and the notion of honourable war as a way of life, and I enjoy seeing more about them. With the connection between Clone Wars/Rebels and The Mandalorian, I’m curious to see how the Death Watch connects with the Mandalorians we saw in the live-action series of last year,

I know I’m seven years too late, talking about an arc originally aired this far off in the past when Season Seven has yet to air, but watching the latest season of the Clone Wars without Disney+ is a pain!

What did you do to celebrate this nerdiest of holidays?

Sunday Star Wars: Kanan First Blood – Comic Book Review

Somehow I managed to miss out on talking about the final issue of the previous volume, The Last Padawan, reviewed last week here. All the more power to me, as it was very open-ended – I’m lucky to be able to read both volumes practically in bulk, I’d have chewed my leg off if I had to wait for months at an end for the resolution of the Rebels side-plot at play.

First Blood reads like two of my favourite types of Star Wars stories – a typical Clone Wars TV series adventure wrapped up in a shorter, Kanan-centric Rebels episode script. The Clone Wars portion of this one is a direct prequel to the events of The Last Padawan, and sees the young Caleb strike a connection with Jedi Master DEPA BILLABA after her recovery from severe injuries at the robotic hands of GENERAL GREVIOUS*.

If this Clone Wars-era story were animated, it would most likely be a two-parter, the first one taking place on the Jedi Temple at Coruscant, the second seeing Caleb and Billaba battle against Separatist forces in the Outer Rim. The culmination here is a battle between Billaba and Grevious happening at the same time as Caleb faces off a Kabe Warrior, one of a race of grey-skinned humanoids encountered over one of Asajj Ventress’ arcs in the Clone Wars series. The Kobe warriors are proficient in the martial arts, and this one makes for an acceptable secondary antagonist.

Looks a bit like a some kind of a fallen Jedi, I thought upon seeing him first.

I continued enjoying every panel that showed Master Billaba – she’s at once vulnerable and resolute, and her connection with Caleb was fun to explore. Caleb himself – the young padawan boy, as opposed to Kanan, wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as in The Last Padawan, but that’s understandable. He goes through such a fascinating transformation

As for the Rebels sections, I enjoyed those well enough – seeing Kanan come to terms with what he went through over that first volume made for several excellent character moments, and I never say no to time spent with that delightful group of rebellious kiddos that is the Rebels cast.

What more is there to say? If you enjoy Star Wars, if you like Rebels and Clone Wars, this is a fun story with characters you already love. If you don’t…this isn’t going to win you over in any way. My score is a hint lower than the previous volume’s, at 3.75/5 stars.

*I don’t know why I suddenly began to mimic the opening crawl of a Star Wars movie but by Jim I like it!

Saturday Star Wars: Kanan The Last Padawan – Graphic Novel Review

I read this on the recommendation of a dear friend.

The first volume of Kanan, The Last Padawan is another excellent, heartbreaking story of the Jedi Purge and its consequences on those few padawans that made it through the cracks after Palpatine’s Order 66.

The first issue presents a very classic Clone Wars era story, with Kanan – his real name Caleb – fighting alongside Jedi master, Depa Billaba. I found the character of Billaba captured some of the finest in Jedi philosophy – her questioning the way the Jedi were forced into the command structure of the Republic’s army spoke to me of the underlying tension many of the wisest Jedi felt about their role in the Clone Wars. It reminds me of an older conflict in the universe, the Mandalorian Wars as spoken about in the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.

The character of Caleb Dune earned my sympathies time and again, in his fight to survive and leave his old self behind, forced to change for survival’s sake. It’s difficult to lose everything the way he does, to suddenly have every belief and creed you’ve held your entire life a threat to your life.

But onto lighter aspects of this first volume – the smuggler Janus Kasmir, the separatist general, I loved everything about both these supporting characters. Especially Kasmir, he had that “rogue with a heart of gold” nailed! *Spoilers* It was painful, though, seeing Caleb break with both of them, feeling he had to keep them safe by breaking the bond between him and them. */Spoilers* Such a funny thing, bonds – we define ourselves by them, but we often seek to break with them when we feel the need for change. Kanan wanted a break away from who he was – he saw that as his only way to survival; and so he did. It’s a small tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless.

There’s an element that doesn’t quite make sense, now that I’ve thought on it – the two clones, former friends of Caleb and Billaba, doggedly chase the Jedi Padawan without any apparent oversight from Imperial authorities. I’ll chalk this up to the transition period between Republic and Empire but it’s still a crack in what is otherwise excellent storytelling.

I enjoyed Kanan – I loved the art by Pepe Larraz, and writer Greg Weisman does a very good job telling a fine Star Wars story, which offers plenty of context to one of Rebels‘ most likable cast members. My recommendation? If you’re looking for an action-packed story with plenty of fun elements, you can’t go wrong with this. My score for it is 4.25 stars. I will be reading Volume 02 soon!

Star Wars Sunday: Wot I’ve Got to Catch Up On! Comics and Books!

No matter how widely you read, there’s always new Star Wars titles to check out. I have no ambition of reading all of them; I don’t even have the desire to do so. Not all Star Wars releases are good – something the latest movie has reminded us all too well. But I refuse to dwell on the bad *glares in Mickey Mouse*; instead, I will look to works in the universe which might be worth looking at over the next few weeks!

Star Wars Kanan

I haven’t seen all of Rebels! If that’s not a reason for a black mark in my nerd resume, I don’t know what is. Maybe what I need is a shove…maybe what I need is to read more about one of the show’s main characters – Kanan.

Or maybe I’m going to read this because someone requested that I do, a unique new connection I’ve made, a young personage of unquestionable taste and one with whom I cannot wait to discuss every last page of this.

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Asajj Ventress is one of the most memorable characters of the Clone Wars era. Her evolution from Dooku’s apprentice and assassin to a suave bounty hunter should’ve seen its conclusion over an eight-episode arc in the last season arc of the

I was hoping that maybe Disney would animate part of this novel now that they brought back the Clone Wars for one last season but when I found out they would only be doing a 12 (13?) episode run, that hope was quickly dashed. Now that I’m finally catching up to the sixth season of the Clone Wars, the time is right to look to this novel, adapted into a proper story by franchise veteran writer Christie Golden.

Mace Windu: Jedi of the Republic

I’m not sure this title should be on the list.

The reason is, the art of this particular run is beyond bad. Look at Windu’s face in the third panel, in the last panel:

The droid’s fine, I guess…

I’m sorry, but this isn’t stylized, it’s just bad.

That said, I’ve heard the writing isn’t half bad, and I genuinely, unironically think old Mace is a badass – so I might bite the bullet and read through this. Plus, the cover art isn’t half bad:

A few Doctor Aphra Volumes

I love Aphra – even though she doesn’t carry a story as well on her own two feet as when she plays a second fiddle to Vader, this amoral archeologist is one of my favourite post-Disney additions to the universe, and her misadventures are a ceaseless source of entertainment. Last I read about Aphra, she had ended up in a well-guarded Imperial prison; I have to wonder, however will she get out?

This would be a great time to catch up with Aphra, as a brand new ongoing series is set to release anyday now! Or has it released already?

The New Darth Vader Run

Kieron Gillen’s Vader run is my favourite Star Wars comic book ever, closely followed by Soule’s take on the character post-Episode 3. Both were 25-issue runs, both had amazing art and fantastic character moments, and I can’t recommend them enough.

This new run has an intriguing concept – something-something, Vader is working with someone who looks like Padme Amidala – what, why, how?! No clue. I would like to find out, though. Yes, I very much would.

That said, I’m not sold on the interior art – compared with the two previous runs, this one leaves a little something to be desired. I’ve only seen a few pages, but this one will take me some persuadin’.

Which of these are any good? Which suck? Find out over the coming weeks and months, right here, on my Sunday (or Saturday!) Star Wars column!

Sunday Star Wars: Kreia, the One-Woman Critique of the Force

Concept art of Kreia.

At the heart of the best-written video game based on the Star Wars universe is Kreia, a complex character who serves to voice criticism against, and complicate, the way we perceive the Force.

Kreia, known also as Darth Traya, was a Jedi Master turned Sith after her exile at the hands of the Jedi Council. Her best-known apprentice is the Jedi Knight Revan who led many Knights to arms in opposition to the Mandalorians in the Mandalorian Wars, circa 5,000 years before the events of the Original Trilogy. Revan is one of dozens of characters who deserve their own posts but we’ll leave him alone for now. Keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks!

It wasn’t just he amongst Kreia’s apprentices to have left behind the Jedi’s role as peace-keepers in the Galaxy at large. All of her pupils followed, which contributed to the weakening of the Order and its eventual near-destruction, one of the closest times the Jedi have come near extinction. But let’s not open that can of worms either.

Kreia from the KOTORCG (Wookipedia tells me that’s the source)

At the core of Kreia is this: She hates the Force. The notion of it disgusts her. A power that runs through all living things, dictating and influencing their every choice in the search for balance in all things. The Force is destiny, with a will all its own. And isn’t destiny anathema to freedom?

Kreia is a humanist. I just realised this now, and considering the lives lost over her actions, I can see how you would doubt this – but she seeks the death of the Force, the end of its power over all living beings. She seeks to unchain the galaxy from a cyclical struggle between destiny, a fight that’s gone for untold millenia and, as we well know, shall continue to go on and on for millenia yet.

But for all that, this Grey Jedi – for I can think of no one who’d fit the title better than she – still made use of the Force. Was it because she sought to destroy it from within, or did it become a crutch? She herself is uncertain – though I like to think it was the former rather than the latter.

Kreia is the most deliciously complex character in Star Wars, and her role is Socrates-like in KotoR 2. No matter the choices you make she will question you, forcing you – as a character in the game and as a player outside it – to question, in turn, the preconceptions you’ve constructed about the way this universe operates.

Kreia is the reason I fell in love with Star Wars all the more as a teenager, and I bet that if I went back and played it now, I’ll find her even more endearing than before. Props to the amazing Chris Avellone, former lead writer for Obsidian Entertainment, for giving voice to such brilliant, engaging criticism of Star Wars all those years ago. I leave you with this, Kreia’s reason for hating the Force in her own words:

If you enjoyed this, please don’t forget to hit that like button, share the post on your socials and leave a comment to tell me what you think about Kreia! Come to think of it, Kreia wanted to prevent the Sequel Trilogy. #showerthoughts