“The boy is your last great hope, isn’t he, Obi-Wan? He is what you died to protect. He may be strong in the Force, but he is untrained, and who is there left to train him now? No one but me.” – Darth Vader
One of the first things that happened when Disney bought Lucasfilm was that the rights to Star Wars comics reverted back to Marvel, after being with Dark Horse Comics for many years. Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir was the last Star Wars comic released by Dark Horse. Marvel quickly started writing their own series, naming it, simply, Star Wars. The first six issues were compiled in a trade paperback released called Star Wars Vol.1: Skywalker Strikes, which is what I will be reviewing. I read it a couple years back and I thought it was pretty great. Reading it a second time, in preparation for this review, my opinion hasn’t changed: this comic is fantastic.
The first Marvel Star Wars comic series from the ’70s began with a six-issue adaptation of the original Star Wars film, before continuing into new original stories. The 2015 Star Wars series decided not to begin with a movie adaptation, which I believe was for the best, since there are so many comic book versions of A New Hope already. Instead, this series takes place after A New Hope. When I reviewed The Weapon of a Jedi long ago, I mentioned that this comic takes place after that story, but before The Empire Strikes Back.
The whole main cast of A New Hope is back (aside from Obi-Wan, obviously) and the story starts off with them infiltrating an Imperial weapons facility to destroy it. While there, Darth Vader arrives, and the group has to escape the planet without being caught or killed. My favorite thing about this is that we get to see Luke’s inexperience. This isn’t Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker, this is still A New Hope farmboy Luke who isn’t yet a Jedi. Luke is brave but he is in way over his head, getting himself into dangerous situations and watching the people around him suffer because he’s not strong enough to help them yet. His heart is in the right place, but he is not ready to be doing the kinds of things he’s trying to be doing.
Luke eventually meets Darth Vader, making this their first in-person interaction (remember, the two never actually met in A New Hope). Vader doesn’t yet know who Luke is, and he tries to get Luke to lead him to the boy who destroyed the Death Star. Luke takes out his lightsaber and Vader immediately takes it from him with the Force. He is about to strike Luke, when he suddenly realizes that the lightsaber is his. Then, from out of nowhere, an AT-AT–piloted by Han Solo–bursts through the walls. Luke escapes, and he’s able to recover the lightsaber before leaving the planet.
Vader eventually hires Boba Fett to hunt down the boy who destroyed the Death Star. The boy who was with Obi-Wan Kenobi. This leads Boba to Tatooine where he begins interrogating people. Boba Fett is brutal in these comics. In the films, Boba Fett doesn’t do much of anything, and then he “dies” in an embarrassingly clumsy way. He kinda sucks in the movies. But in the Expanded Universe, Boba Fett was a force to be reckoned with, which is also true in this story. Boba Fett is terrifying, essentially torturing people to learn who the boy was who came to Mos Eisley with Obi-Wan. He finds a boy who knows, and he immediately spills the beans, fearing for his life. “His name is Luke Skywalker! He’s the one you’re looking for! I swear!” Then, in a much-appreciated nod to the original Marvel comics, he goes on to say “We called him ‘wormie.'” Boba Fett then kills the boy.
These issues of this series are very entertaining. I’ve never been to big on comics before, almost always preferring novels instead. However, these comics are honestly some of my favorite stories in the canon so far, moreso than most of the novels. They’re just so fun to read, and they have some really great scenes. My favorite of which, is when Vader finally learns Luke’s name: “Skywalker.” (This scene also appears–and is expanded upon–in the Darth Vader comic series).
The artwork is great. I’ve seen people hate on the artwork in other reviews but I really like it. It’s a bit more realistic looking than your average comic book, without being too realistic, and it is very cinematic. I don’t know what there is not to like about it. Different tastes, I guess. I think it looks great.
I really can’t recommend this series enough so far. It is fantastic. If the first six issues are anything to go on, this is going to be a truly great series of comics. This series is something that I believe any Star Wars fan would enjoy, and it is one of the canon stories that I recommend the most, right up there with the best books. This is a must-read.
Before I get started with this review, I want to announce the launch of our social media channels! We’ve had a Twitter account for a while now, but with this review we are officially launching our Facebook and Instagram channels. Follow us on any of these channels for some extra Star Wars book news, and to connect and chat with fellow fans of Star Wars literature! Links to all three accounts can be found right here, but they are also now found on under the “Categories” section on our right-hand sidebar (on mobile view this is at the bottom of the page). We’d love to connect with all of you!
On an unrelated note, Chuck Wendig’s highly-anticipated conclusion to the Aftermath trilogy, Aftermath: Empire’s End, was released this week. I just wanted to remind those of you who have not read it yet to be careful online of unwanted Aftermath: Empire’s End spoilers! I’ve seen a few article headlines and YouTube video titles already that I wish I hadn’t. We promise that we will not spoil the story for you on this blog (our upcoming review will be spoiler-free!) or on any of our new social media channels!
With that out of the way, let’s get back to book reviews…
“You will never stop us. We will not be broken. However long it takes, we will never stop fighting.”—Caluan Ematt
Immediately after finishing Brian Daley’s trilogy of Han Solo novels, I decided I wanted to jump back in to the new Star Wars canon to catch up a little before The Force Awakens came out (yes, this was a long time ago now). I decided to do that by reading yet another Han Solo story. Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure is the first Star Wars book written by Greg Rucka. This book takes place immediately after the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It is a short story, and it is aimed at a younger audience than the adult novels I’ve been reviewing so far. However, it is still a lot of fun to read.
Part of me wanted to read this book immediately after reading Daley’s Han Solo trilogy so that I could compare and contrast them. Did Daley or Rucka write a better Han Solo? Who told the better story? I don’t feel it’s fair to compare this junior novel to full-fledged adult Star Wars novels, but I will say this about Rucka’s Solo story: I was not disappointed. Smuggler’s Run holds up quite well to the adult novels.
Like Daley, Rucka nails writing Han Solo. You can just see Harrison Ford speaking Han’s dialogue in this story, and that is a great thing. The way Han speaks and the way he acts feels perfect, and that has to be the most important thing when writing a Han Solo story.
Aside from the depiction of Han, my main point of praise for this book is the rest of the main cast in the story. I loved the characters this book introduced us to. In this story, Leia sends Han on a mission to rescue a man named Ematt, who was the leader of a small recon team for the Rebellion called the Shrikes. The Shrikes were ambushed by imperials, and Ematt was the only survivor. Ematt is the only person who knows some information that is vital to the success of the Rebellion, so rescuing him is urgent. We don’t get to see much of Ematt in this story, but he is a very interesting character that I would love to learn more about in future stories, especially since he’s already popped up in a few novels and he actually appeared in The Force Awakens!
Another character I loved was a woman named Alicia Beck. She is an officer of the Imperial Security Bureau. She is missing one eye, and has it replaced with a mechanical one that can see in multiple spectra. Commander Beck is very good at her job, and she will do whatever it takes to complete her assigned tasks, including shedding the blood of fellow Imperials. She is feared by those around her, and she leads a large squadron of Stormtroopers for a good portion of this story. When we are introduced to her, our narrator tells us that “she was a woman—and there were very few of those holding high ranks in the Empire.” That seemed kind of strange to me, because so far in the new canon there have been quite a few high ranking women in the Empire. Whatever. Beck was also mentioned (though not seen) in Rucka’s comic series, Shattered Empire. I always love it when these stories reference each other. I hope to see Beck make another significant appearance in a Star Wars story in the near future.
Like in Weapon of a Jedi, the prologue and epilogue of this story take place shortly before The Force Awakens. They’re mostly irrelevant to the story, but reading this book before the movie came out, it sure helped to get me excited to see an older Han Solo on screen! It wasn’t until after the movie came out that I realized how little these stories in the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” series actually have to do with The Force Awakens. I expected that all of these stories were going to be much more relevant to the movie, and after seeing The Force Awakens on opening night I felt confused as I left the theater and realized that nothing in the “Journey” series really had anything to do with the movie. Oh well! They’re all still good reads.
This adventure is short and sweet. In a way it feels like reading an episode of an ongoing TV series. This is the adventure of the week. A short but exciting story that leaves you wanting more. Since it’s so short, I can’t say much about it without giving away most of the story. But, it’s a great Han Solo adventure. It does hold up to Brian Daley’s Han Solo Adventures trilogy, even though it’s probably not fair to be comparing them. It’s written really well, like Rucka’s other works in the Star Wars canon. Personally I’d love to see Rucka tackle a full-length adult Star Wars novel.
If you’re just looking for a fun, quick read, and aren’t really too concerned about reading anything “important” when it comes to Star Wars lore, then definitely check this one out. If you’re more interested in “big” events in Star Wars canon, this book is extremely skippable, as nothing of note really happens. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
“The Rebel fleet has gathered all its forces into a single giant armada. The time is at hand when we can crush them, without mercy, in a single blow.” – Darth Vader
Two weeks before Return of the Jedi premiered in theaters, it was released as a novel written by James Kahn. Can you imagine having read the final chapter of the Star Wars trilogy before actually having seen the movie? I guess some people did that. What a strange thought. This novel is Kahn’s first and only contribution to the Star Wars universe.
Being a novelization of the movie, this book is pretty much what you’d expect. It’s the same story, and there isn’t much added to it. What little extra bits of information the book does give us are pretty great though, and they really made this novelization worth reading.
One thing I noticed right off the bat when I started reading was that I really liked Kahn’s writing style. I’m afraid I can’t really describe what exactly I liked about it. There’s just something about it that intrigued me and held my interest even though I already knew the entire story I was reading.
A few scenes that were deleted from the movie still appear in this book, to my delight. Most notably, we get to see Luke building his new lightsaber at the beginning of the story. It doesn’t flat-out say “Luke is building a lightsaber” but, he totally is. He assembles his lightsaber in a cave, and gives it to Artoo. Then, like in the movie, R2-D2 and C-3PO make their way off to Jabba the Hutt’s palace.
Speaking of Jabba, this book is, to my knowledge, the first time “Hutt” was ever spelled with two T’s instead of one. And, finally, he appears as we know him from the movies. He’s a big ol’ giant ol’ ugly ol’ slug. Not a human. Not a… yellow… guy… He’s normal Jabba the Hutt. However, when describing Jabba in the first chapter of the book, Kahn writes: “He had no hair–it had fallen out from a combination of diseases.” So, apparently, Jabba the Hutt had hair once. I can’t picture him looking anything but ridiculous with hair on his head, which is why I kind of love this random detail.
For me, the best parts of the book were parts where we got to get into the heads of the characters a little more. Through the narration we get to know and understand the characters better than we do in the film. For example, it is pretty obvious right away that Leia is in-tune with the Force (though she doesn’t know it), as there are many times throughout the entire story where she connects with the Force unknowingly. These are things that cannot be shown in a movie. We only learn about them through reading.
Another thing that this book did great that the film couldn’t do was describe to us Luke’s struggle with the dark side of the Force. The dark side is really starting to creep into Luke’s life here, and not just at the end of the book during his confrontation with Vader and the Emperor, but there are hints of darkness from the very beginning. Here’s an example:
“[Luke] found Jabba despicable–a leech of the galaxy, sucking the life from whatever he touched. Luke wanted to burn the villain, and so was actually rather glad Jabba had refused to bargain–for now Luke would get his wish precisely. Of course, his primary objective was to free his friends, whom he loved dearly; it was this concern that guided him now, above all else. But in the process, to free the universe from this gangster slug–this was a prospect that tinted Luke’s purpose with an ever-so-slightly dark satisfaction.”
And then, a few pages later:
“The deck gunners were lining up . . . their shots for the coup de grace, when Luke stepped in front of them, laughing like a pirate king. He lit his lightsaber before they could squeeze off a shot; a moment later they were smoking corpses.”
Though still the clear hero and protagonist of the story, darkness is beginning to overtake the light, and Luke is enjoying it. Towards the end of the story this becomes much worse, as we realize how close Luke almost came to actually turning to the dark side while in the Emperor’s presence, like his father did at the end of the Clone War. “In this bleak and livid moment, the dark side was much with him.”
In the Expanded Universe, in a comic series set a few years after Return of the Jedi called Dark Empire, Luke actually does fall to the dark side for a short time before turning back to the light. I guess his struggle wasn’t over after the Death Star blew up.
This novelization includes another deleted scene from the movie of when Luke, Han, Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO are all walking back from Jabba’s palace to their ships through a sandstorm (and in the words of nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker: “Sandstorms are very, very dangerous!”). It doesn’t add much to the story, and it’s easy to see why it was cut from the movie, but it did offer some great moments and good dialogue. It was a welcome addition to the book for sure.
Many moments are expanded upon and leave us with some great new insights about the story. Early on in the book we learn more about Darth Vader’s desire to kill Emperor Palpatine and rule the galaxy in his stead, with his son at his side.
We learn that Obi-wan never told Luke about his real father because Yoda forbade him from revealing the truth to him.
When Obi-wan appears to Luke, he says “If I was wrong in what I did, it certainly wouldn’t have been for the first time. You see, what happened to your father was my fault.” Obi-wan blames himself for Anakin’s fall to the dark side. Like in the movie, Obi-wan tells Luke that he believed he could train Anakin as well as Master Yoda. He then says “My pride had terrible consequences for the galaxy.”
He regrets training Anakin. He was told not to train Anakin in The Phantom Menace, but he still did, against his own better judgment, because he promised Qui-Gon that he would. He trained the boy anyway, taught him about the Force and how to be a Jedi knight, and then Anakin became a Sith Lord. Obi-wan thinks this is all his fault. Man, he’s being pretty hard on himself.
The scene goes on, and it is one of my favorite scenes in the novel, because Obi-wan tells Luke more about Anakin than what he told in the movie:
You should not think of that machine as your father. When I saw what had become of him, I tried to dissuade him, to draw him back from the dark side. We fought . . . your father fell into a molten pit. When your father clawed his way out of that fiery pool, the change had been burned into him forever–he was Darth Vader, without a trace of Anakin Skywalker. Irredeemably dark. Scarred. Kept alive by machinery and his own black will . . .
Sound familiar? Like how the novelization of A New Hope basically summarized the entire prequel trilogy in its prologue, this novelization of Return of the Jedi once again shows us just how much of the prequel trilogy George Lucas already had in mind when making the original trilogy. It’s pretty fascinating to me. And reading this really made the two trilogies feel more connected. Having old Ben Kenobi describe a scene to Luke from Revenge of the Sith is kind of awesome, especially since the book came out more than 20 years before Revenge of the Sith premiered in theaters.
One of my favorite things about reading these old novelizations of the original Star Wars trilogy is trying to pick out the differences between the films and the novels. Luke flew in Blue Squadron in the A New Hope novelization, Yoda was blue in The Empire Strikes Back novelization. Something had to be blue in this book that wasn’t blue in the movies, right?
But there were still a bunch of things that didn’t quite match up with what we see in the movie.
I’m gonna jump right to the biggest, most well-known difference: Obi-wan Kenobi and Owen Lars are brothers. Uncle Owen is Obi-wan’s brother, instead of Anakin’s stepbrother. There’s not much else to say about this. Obi-wan simply says “I took you to live with my brother Owen, on Tatooine.” That’s all that is said about it. Obi-wan and Owen are brothers in this version of the story.
Which leads into the next big difference that I noticed: not only does Leia remember her mother, but Luke does too. Luke and Leia both somehow remember Padmé even though she was only alive for like the first five minutes of their lives. Apparently Padmé lived for much longer in this version of the story. When Obi-wan appears to Luke on Dagobah, he tells Luke a little about his mother. He says “When your father left, he didn’t know your mother was pregnant. Your mother and I knew he would find out eventually, but we wanted to keep you both as safe as possible, for as long as possible. So I took you to live with my brother Owen, on Tatooine . . . and your mother took Leia to live as the daughter of Senator Organa, on Alderaan.” Leia has many memories of her real mother. In this book it makes more sense than it does in the movies, now that we’ve seen the prequels.
One thing I praised the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back for was how it depicted Vader’s relationship with the Emperor. In that book, Darth Vader was terrified of Emperor Palpatine. I loved that detail and hoped to see it expanded upon in this book. But, Vader doesn’t seem afraid of Palpatine in the slightest in this novelization. He respects him, but it doesn’t seem like he fears him. Though this is more true to the movies, I was hoping it would be different. I liked the idea that Darth Vader lived in constant fear of his Master.
During the confrontation between Luke and Vader on the Death Star, Luke tells Vader “You could not bring yourself to kill me before–and you won’t destroy me now.” This happens in the movie. It is a line most people would be familiar with. What is different, however, is that afterward the author goes to write “Twice before, in fact–to Luke’s recollection–Vader could have killed him, but didn’t. In the dogfight over the first Death Star, and later in the lightsaber duel on Bespin.” Seems accurate, right? Well, this one line shows that the Star Wars Expanded Universe was still not being acknowledged by official media at this point. If we take the Star Wars Expanded Universe into consideration, there was a third confrontation where Vader did not kill Luke in a duel on the planet Mimban, in the book Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
Another thing that stuck out to me while reading was that the name “Palpatine” was used many times in this book, both in the narration, and in character dialogue. Despite the name also appearing in the novelization of A New Hope, the Emperor’s name is never once uttered in any of the three movies in the original Star Wars trilogy. For this reason, little-kid-me who was young Ani Skywalker’s age when The Phantom Menace was released had no idea that Senator Palpatine was the man who would become the Emperor. I don’t think I knew this until the trailer for Revenge of the Sith made it clear. Now it seems so obvious, but I was a kid at the time and the name “Palpatine” meant nothing to me. I find it interesting how often his name was used in this book.
I could keep going on, and mention every little thing I liked about this book, and talk about every little detail that I found interesting. I think I’ve already done that enough. But, I do want to say that my favorite part of the entire book is at the end, after Vader threw the Emperor to his death, when he asks Luke to take his mask off. This scene was written so beautifully, and was really enhanced by allowing us to get inside Anakin Skywalker’s head as he looks at his son for the first time with his own eyes.
Tears fall down Luke’s face when he see’s his father’s real face for the first time. Anakin feels very self-conscious, and thinks Luke is crying in horror at the sight of his horribly scarred and sickly pale appearance. His mind starts to wander. He remembers what he used to look like: “striking, and grand, with a wry tilt to his brow that hinted of invincibility and took in all of life with a wink. Yes, that was how he looked once.” Ah, yes, just like Hayden Christensen!
These memories lead to more memories. Anakin thinks back to his time as a Jedi. He thinks about Padmé, and he thinks about Obi-wan. Then, he thinks about molten lava crawling up his back, and at that moment he stops, not allowing himself to think of such terrible things.
Anakin looks back up at Luke, and the scene is described like this:
“The boy was good, and the boy had come from him–so there must have been good in him, too. He smiled up again at his son, and for the first time, loved him. And for the first time in many long years, loved himself again, as well.”
Still believing that look is disgusted by his physical appearance, Anakin echos the words of Yoda, saying “Luminous beings are we, Luke–not this crude matter.”
The rest of the scene plays out like it does in the movie. But these extra details really made this scene so much more powerful. Knowing exactly what Anakin was thinking in these last moments of his life, knowing the memories that were coming to his mind and the emotions that he was feeling before he died made reading this small section of the novel a real treat. These are things we can’t be shown on film, and it is one of the rare moments where the novel really outshines the movie.
For whatever reason, I really enjoyed this novelization. I complained that the novelization of Empire Strikes Back didn’t really add anything new to the story, and this novel is guilty of the same thing in most instances, but there’s something about Kahn’s writing style that did a great job of pulling me in, even though I already knew the story. That, combined with the moments I’ve pointed out that let us get into the heads of the characters, which are the few moments that do provide us with extra details that the movies do not, makes for a genuinely entertaining read.
If you’re really just interested in getting “new” information, then this review is probably all you need to read, but if you’re just looking for a well-written novelization of a movie you like, then yes, definitely read this one. I certainly enjoyed it.
“If you’re not a Jedi, then what are you, Ahsoka Tano? Because to be honest, you still sound and act like a Jedi to me.” – Bail Organa
Ahsoka is the canon novel I have been the most excited about, ever since it was announced (well, until Timothy Zahn’s upcoming Thrawn novel was announced, at least. I’m dying to read that one). Though I did my fair share of complaining in my review of the 2008 Clone Wars movie, and even complained about not liking Ahsoka Tano in the movie, at the end of that review I wrote about how Ahsoka eventually became one of my favorite Star Wars characters of all time. She still is, so I couldn’t wait to read this book.
Ahsoka was written by E. K. Johnston, a newcomer to Star Wars literature. Part of me is always excited about reading Star Wars from a new author, though I won’t deny how much more excited I get when my favorite Star Wars authors of the past come back to write new stories. But, after having read this book, I’m glad to say that E. K. Johnston is a good fit in the Star Wars universe, and I would love to see more Star Wars stories from her in the future.
Ahsoka was released on October 11th, 2016. The novel takes place about one year after Revenge of the Sith, and gives us a glimpse into what life was like for Ahsoka Tano in the aftermath of Order 66. One thing I love about the new Star Wars canon is that it isn’t shying away from the time period in between the first two Star Wars trilogies. The Expanded Universe (now “Legends”) rarely told stories in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. In the new canon, we’re getting plenty of these stories (most notably with the upcoming movie Rogue One, and the ongoing TV series Star Wars Rebels), and the gaps are beginning to get filled in.
With this book, I did something that I have never done before; I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the physical novel. Usually, I hate audiobooks, but when I heard that this one was narrated by Ashley Eckstein, the voice actor for Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars, and Rebels, I couldn’t resist. I was traveling all week for Thanksgiving, and I thought this would be a good thing to listen to as I was driving. Usually, when I read a book that I’m going to review, I take notes as I’m reading. I couldn’t take notes while I was driving, so my thoughts are pretty scattered. I might not be able to go into as much detail as I would like because of it, but my opinion of the book should still be clear.
The prologue of the novel takes place just before Revenge of the Sith. Ahsoka is on a mission to capture Darth Maul, who has overtaken the planet Mandalore. Though she left the Jedi Order in The Clone Wars fifth season finale, she is still working alongside them for the good of the Republic. She recently said goodbye to Anakin Skywalker, who has been called away to Coruscant to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous, which is where Revenge of the Sith starts off. Ahsoka finds Maul, and the two briefly fight before Ahsoka springs her trap and captures the former Sith Lord. Though we don’t find out what happens next, because chapter one takes place a year later, this prologue was a treat to read because it continues Darth Maul’s story that was never finished in The Clone Wars or in the follow-up comic Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir, and provides us with some connecting tissue between that story and Darth Maul’s later appearance in Star Wars Rebels, where he mentions this encounter with Ahsoka.
In the first chapter of the book, the very first Empire Day celebration is about to occur. It is the one-year anniversary of the formation of the Galactic Empire, though Ahsoka remembers it as the anniversary of the Great Jedi Purge. She mourns the loss of the Jedi Order, of the Republic, and of her friends. She believes Anakin and Obi-wan to be dead. All of the Jedi are dead. She has gone into hiding, no longer using her Force abilities, in fear of being seen and hunted down by the Empire. She no longer goes by her real name, and instead goes by “Ashla” (which is a weird name for someone who is trying to hide her Jedi roots, since “Ashla” means “the Light Side of the Force” in the Star Wars universe). It reminds me a lot of Kanan Jarrus in the novel A New Dawn. In that story, Kanan, another survivor of Order 66, has also gone into hiding and is trying to blend in with “normal” people, no longer using his real name (“Caleb”), ignoring his Force abilities, hiding is lightsaber, and trying to cut all ties to his Jedi past so that the Empire doesn’t find him. Their situations are very similar.
Ahsoka eventually finds her way to a small farming moon in the Outer Rim called Raada (pronounced “rah-aida”), where she tries to start a new life as a mechanic. The moon is out of the way and relatively unknown, and is somewhere the Empire would never have a reason to look for her. She meets a girl named Kaeden who she quickly becomes friends with, even though she doesn’t want to get attached to anyone, and she doesn’t want anyone to get close to her as she tries to live life as inconspicuously as possible. The less connections she makes with others, the safer she (and they) will be.
The Empire eventually makes its way to Raada anyway, and instead of running, Ahsoka decides to try to help the people there–her new friends–and to do it while still hiding her Jedi abilities.
There are a few interludes scattered throughout the book. Most of them are flashbacks that deal with parts of Ahsoka’s past. We learn a little bit about her life before joining the Jedi Order, and we get some new insight into her time as a Jedi. Some of the interludes include some familiar faces from the movies or TV series. These interludes are very interesting, and help to flesh out Ahsoka and the other characters who appear in them. I feel like I can’t say too much about this story without giving a lot of it away, but I was very satisfied with the book as a whole. The first half of the novel was pretty good, not amazing, but it held my attention. It really picked up in the second half though, and I really loved all the connecting threads it made between The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and the first two Star Wars trilogies. In a way, both of the TV series have always felt sort of separate from the movies, but this book made them all feel very connected, which was something I loved about it.
There are many cool details in this book. We get to see how Ahsoka got her white lightsabers that we see in Star Wars Rebels, and we learn a bit more about lightsaber construction in general, and how Dark Side Force-users get their blades to turn red. We get to see what the galaxy is like during the first year of the reign of Emperor Palpatine. We get a look inside Ahsoka’s head, which gives us greater insight into who she is and how she thinks.
Even disregarding the character of Ahsoka Tano, this book really sets the stage for things to come in the Star Wars universe after the formation of the Empire. There is no Rebel Alliance yet, but we get to see some of the earliest stages of organized rebellion taking shape. If you read the other canon novels that take place in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, you can see how this rebellion slowly but surely starts becoming the Rebel Alliance that we see in the movies. This is very fun to see, especially with familiar faces like Bail Organa at the helm.
Along with seeing the Rebel Alliance take form, this book, and the other novels in the canon, do a fantastic job of showing the oppression of the Empire. We don’t see this in the movies. We hear about it, the characters in the movies know about it, but we as the audience never get to see what the Empire is really like, because most of the original Star Wars trilogy takes place on uninhabited or undeveloped worlds. In these stories, we get to see how brutal life under the Empire really is, and these stories actually strengthen the movies quite a bit because of it.
This book was very entertaining. Though I listened to the audiobook, I’d still love to go back and read the book on my own (hearing Ashley Eckstein voice Ahsoka Tano was great, but hearing her voice every other character in the entire novel–especially characters we’ve seen on-screen before–was a little bit silly. This is one of the main reasons I avoid audiobooks in general). Ahsoka truly is one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe, and getting a whole novel about her was a huge treat. Ever since seeing Ahsoka walk away from the Jedi Order in The Clone Wars, I’ve always wanted to know what she did next. Where did she go? How did she deal with Order 66? Did she continue living as a Jedi, or not? We get answers to those questions. Getting to see her character develop from what we saw in The Clone Wars, to what she was in Rebels (which takes place approximately 15 years later) is very cool, and leaves me hoping for more Ahsoka stories in the future.
As a huge fan of the character, and as a huge fan of little universe-building details and connecting tissue between the TV shows, movies, and other canon stories, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a short one, much shorter than your standard adult Star Wars novel, which makes it a great book to read if you don’t have much free time to commit to reading. E. K. Johnston did a very good job with this, and most importantly, did justice to the character of Ahsoka Tano. If a writer can’t write a character in a way that feels like what we’ve seen on-screen, that can ruin a story. Luckily, Ahsoka feels like Ahsoka in this book, and so do the other characters who we’ve seen before.
I have one minor gripe about the audiobook version of the novel, which doesn’t affect my opinion of the novel itself or alter the score I’m giving it, but it was something that bothered me. Star Wars audiobooks are cool because they generally have Star Wars music and sound effects playing in the background. This audiobook was no exception, but the thing that annoyed me is that even though we were getting familiar Star Wars themes from the movies playing in the background, in a book called “Ashoka” we never, ever hear Ahsoka’s theme music from The Clone Wars and Rebels, and instead we get themes that feel out of place, like Padmé’s theme, even though she’s not in this book, or even alive at this point in the Star Wars timeline. Having Ahsoka’s theme in the audiobook would have been a huge plus. Oh well.
If you’re a fan of The Clone Wars and Rebels, then I definitely recommend this book. If you don’t care much about either TV series, you probably won’t get the same level of enjoyment reading this, but you’ll still probably appreciate it for the way it builds the universe in between the movie trilogies and fills in some of the gaps in the story. Now that this book is out, and there’s no sign of Ahsoka reappearing in Rebels anytime soon, we might be done with Ahsoka Tano stories for a while. The book does leave room for a potential sequel, or continuation of the storyline in some form, so I hope we get more eventually, but this book definitely satisfies my want for more Ahsoka, for now.
“Ready he is, to teach an apprentice. To let go of his pupil, a greater challenge it will be. Master this, Skywalker must.” – Yoda
With the imminent release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story next month, I thought now would be a fun time to look back at the other Star Wars spin-off movies that came before.
The internet is going crazy making all kinds of incorrect assumptions about Rogue One, labeling it “the first Star wars spin-off” and writing articles with headlines like “Rogue One to be the First Star Wars Film Without an Opening Crawl” (not to mention the false assumption that many bothans are going to die in the movie. Wrong Death Star, guys). So let’s just set the record straight. Rogue One is not the first Star Wars spin-off movie. It is the fifth one. We’ve had two live-action Ewok movies, The Clone Wars animated movie, and of course everyone’s favorite; The Star Wars Holiday Special. None of these movies had opening crawls either, just in case the idea of a Star Wars movie without one seems sacrilegious to you. Sure, Rogue One is the first high-budget Disney-made Star Wars spin-off, but it’s far from the first spin-off movie. I’ve already written a long post about the Holiday Special, but I thought I’d take a look at the other three spin-off movies before we all go see Rogue One in a few short weeks.
As a huge fan of The Clone Wars TV series that came after this movie, I thought it would be interesting to go back to where it all started, with the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on August 15th, 2008. This was three years after Revenge of the Sith had come out, so this was a time when Star Wars was pretty much finished, as far as the main saga went. We still had our Expanded Universe novels, comics, and video games, but we were done getting new Star Wars movies for all we knew, so the fact that this movie even existed was exciting for some.
I remember seeing the trailer for this movie and being excited at the idea of being able to watch a Star Wars movie in the theater one more time, even though the movie didn’t look particularly good. But, the movie came and went, and I never saw it in the theater. I don’t remember there being much promotion for the movie, and even though I was a massive Star Wars fan, I somehow let the theatrical run of this movie slip by me (a mistake I certainly did not repeat when The Force Awakens came out, which I waited hours in line for on opening night, and then saw seven more times in the theater before the movie came out on Blu-ray). So, I didn’t see this movie until it was out on DVD. I had a friend come over who I had previously seen Revenge of the Sith with in the theater so we could watch the movie together. We didn’t really know what to expect. I’m going to give you two points of view in this review: My first impression of the movie after that first time I watched it, and how I feel about the movie today after repeat viewings.
Well, this movie left a terrible first impression on me. I couldn’t believe I had just seen a Star Wars movie that was so awful (keep in mind, I hadn’t yet watched The Holiday Special or the Ewok movies). I pretty much hated it. The story was bad, the acting (or voice acting, I guess) was bad, the dialogue was terrible, the attempts at comic-relief made Jar Jar Binks look like comedy gold, and I really hated Ahsoka Tano and couldn’t understand why they would give Anakin a padawan who was never mentioned in the main movies. I just didn’t like the movie it at all. Because of this movie I avoided watching The Clone Wars TV series for almost three years.
Here’s what I think of the movie now, after having grown to love the TV series and having watched the entire series twice: it’s still bad.
Okay, maybe it was pointless to give you both points of view when they’re basically the same. But, I don’t hate the movie as much after having watched the entire TV series. It’s kind of fun to go back and see how it all stared, even if it makes you cringe.
The Clone Wars introduces us to Anakin Skywalker’s padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano. What?? Anakin had a padawan in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith? Why did we never hear about her before? Well, eight years later, there’s still no good answer to that question. Ahsoka is an annoying young girl who is quite whiny and snippy. I hated her in this movie, and was not excited about her being a main character in the TV series that came after. Anakin is not happy about having to train a padawan, and the two don’t get along for a while.
Jabba the Hutt’s son (apparently he has one of those) is kidnapped by bounty hunters, and Jabba asks the Jedi to help find him. Anakin and Ahsoka are assigned by the Jedi Council to find and return Jabba’s son, in hopes that Jabba will allow the Clone army to pass through Hutt Space for doing so. Meanwhile, Count Dooku (with the help of Asajj Ventress) is doing what he can to prevent the safe return of Jabba’s son and to frame the Jedi for the abduction and murder of the little guy. It’s a pretty unexciting story that might have worked as a few episodes of a TV show, but definitely is not worthy of being a feature film.
The first big problem with this movie is the fact that it was never even supposed to be a movie. It was just supposed to be a few episodes of the TV series, but somewhere along the line they decided to mash a few of the episodes together and release it as a movie. The thing it, it feels like a bunch of TV show episodes mashed together. It doesn’t flow well as a feature film and it is pretty obvious that it was never meant to be one.
Weirdly, this movie actually takes place after a few of the epidoes of the TV show. For some reason, The Clone Wars TV series did not air in chronological order. After the series was finished, starwars.com put out a list of all Clone Wars episodes (including this movie) in the correct viewing order, which occasionally requires you to jump back and forth between seasons.
The attempts at comic relief really rubbed me the wrong way when I first saw this movie. The prime offenders are the battle droids. I hate the battle droids in this movie, and it’s not because they’re the bad guys. It’s because they’re constantly used for comedic purposes that just aren’t funny at all. I think the show writers realized this, because as the TV series goes on, the droids are used less and less as comic relief, thank goodness. There are other failed attempts at humor scattered throughout the movie, but none as bad as the battle droids.
I don’t remember what I thought about the animation when I first saw the movie, but watching it now is kind of painful. The TV series looked better and better with each passing season, until it eventually became what I consider the most beautifully-animated TV show I’ve ever seen. The later seasons look gorgeous. This movie, in comparison, looks pretty terrible. There are even some shots of the movie that are clearly unfinished, with very rough animation. Since this movie was their first try, and since the animation got so much better as the TV series progressed, I can give this a pass. But still, it looks bad. Animations are awkward and unnatural, the environments are extra bland, and the textures used on many of the characters just do not look good.
The music is also bad. Okay, Star Wars set the bar pretty high for great musical scores, so it’s no surprise that a lower-budget spin-off film doesn’t hit that standard. The problem isn’t that the music sounds like “less good” Star Wars music; the problem is that it doesn’t sound like Star Wars at all. I kept getting pulled out of the movie because the music felt so out of place. Bringing heavily-distorted electric guitars into the mix was probably the worst part, but even when the score stuck to more traditional instruments, it still sounded nothing like Star Wars. This is another thing that they must have realized was a mistake, because the TV series had music that sounded a lot more like Star Wars.
This movie introduces us to a few important new characters. Aside from Ahsoka, we get to meet Asajj Ventress, Captain Rex, and Ziro the Hutt. Ventress actually appeared in other Expanded Universe stories before making her appearance in this movie, and the movie seems to assume that you’re familiar with at least some of them, because the movie doesn’t bother explaining who she is or where she came from. Captain Rex is Anakin’s Clone Commander, the leader of the 501st Clone Battalion (the 501st Legion eventually becomes Darth Vader’s personal legion of stormtroopers), and he is probably the clone that we get to know best over the course of the TV series (and, eventually in Star Wars Rebels as well). We don’t see much of him in this movie though, and so we don’t really get a good feel for his character. And then, there’s Ziro the Hutt…
Ziro the Hutt is literally my least favorite Star Wars character of all time. I hate this guy. I would watch a trilogy of Jar Jar movies before having to sit through any more Ziro the Hutt stories. I’d rather watch a TV series about the guy who pours drinks into his volcano head from the Holiday Special. Ziro just annoys me to no end. The way he acts is annoying, but mostly, it’s his voice. His accent combined with the way the he talks drives me insane (by the way, he speaks English for some reason, unlike his nephew, Jabba). Whenever this guy pops up on-screen, I’m in misery. His character design isn’t bad though. He looks kind of cool for a Hutt. But I hate him.
One cool thing about this movie is that Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson reprised their roles of Count Dooku and Mace Windu. This is notable because they did not continue to voice the characters in the TV series. But at least we get them for this one movie.
Anakin isn’t my favorite in this movie, but this Clone Wars version of Anakin eventually becomes my favorite version of Anakin, bar none. He’s still kind of annoying in this movie, but over the course of the show this version of Anakin becomes so much more likable than the live-action version, and his fall to the dark side feels much more gradual and realistic.
Was there anything about this movie that I actually liked though? If you take this movie as a standalone–ignoring the TV series and other stories that came after it–then no. This movie is bad. Am I being a little harsh towards a movie that was clearly aimed at a younger audience than the main-series Star Wars films? Maybe, a little bit. But good kids’ movies are still enjoyable for adults too. While I can easily see young children enjoying this movie, I can’t really see anyone else having a fun time watching this.
But here’s the one huge positive that I can sort of take from this movie: Though I complained about her in this review, and I truly can’t stand her in this movie, Ahsoka Tano went on to become a great character in the TV show. I hated her when I first saw this movie, and it took me a long time to warm up to her in the show, but as she grew as a Jedi she became more mature, less annoying, and eventually ended up being a total badass. I’m being completely honest when I say that Ahsoka Tano is one of my favorite Star Wars characters of all time. And looking back, it’s kind of fun to see how an annoying teenage girl evolved over time into the character that I enjoy so much today. Her last appearance in The Clone Wars TV series is not only one of the best parts of the entire show, but one of my favorite moments in all of Star Wars. And I was thrilled when she came back years later in Star Wars Rebels. I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this movie, but I’m definitely glad that it introduced us to such a great character, even if I didn’t think she was so great at the time. The only reason I would recommend this movie to anyone is because it introduces us to Ahoska Tano.
“I saved him, at least that’s what he says, the big fuzzy fool, but really, he saved me. I was on a bad path, and Chewie, he put me straight. Saved my shakes more than once, too. He said it was part of some life debt . . . But that’s a hot cup of bantha spit, is what it is. He doesn’t owe me. I owe him. I got a debt to Chewie to get him his home back. So when this chance came up, I leapt at it.” – Han Solo
Well, here we are. The first review I ever published on this blog was my review for the first book in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series. For those of you who read that review, you know that I am not a fan of Aftermath. In fact, I disliked it so much that I finished the review saying “Aftermath was a huge letdown for me. Enough of a letdown to leave me questioning whether or not I even want to continue reading the new canon novels after Episode 7 comes out.”
I wrote: “I’m not sure I would even want to read the next book, whenever it comes out.”
Well. It’s out. And I did read it. And guess what?
I liked it.
Aftermath: Life Debt was released July 12th, 2016. Ten months after the first Aftermath novel was released. That’s pretty quick, I gotta say. Despite not liking the first book, somewhere in that ten-month gap I had a slight change of heart and began to feel a little more optimistic about Chuck Wendig’s sequel novel. I actually became excited to read it. So I picked it up at Barnes & Noble the day it was released (because the Barnes & Noble version came with a cool illustration of Temmin’s battle droid, Mister Bones. So why not buy that version?).
I could talk (again) about all the things I didn’t like about the first book to better explain why I liked the second book better. But here’s the one big improvement: Life Debt isn’t boring.
I thought the first book was kind of a scattered mess, and it took until the very end of the book for it actually begin to hold my interest. Life Debt grabbed my attention at the beginning and held it all the way through the story. So, that’s probably the biggest and best improvement this book could have ever had. It was entertaining the whole time.
I complained about the interludes in the first book, saying they felt irrelevant and it felt like they pulled you out of the main story far too often. I didn’t feel the same about the interludes in this book. For one, there were less of them in this second book. A lot less of them (at least I think there were. It didn’t feel like I was being pulled out of the story all the time when I was reading this one). The interludes we did get were, like in the first book, pretty interesting. The interludes this time around don’t feel like they distract from the novel, but rather add to it.
I mentioned that the first book wasn’t about Luke, Leia, or Han. That wasn’t really a complaint to be honest. I’m fine with that. However, Leia and Han actually have pretty big roles in Life Debt which I definitely enjoyed. Wedge Antilles also plays a big part in this story, and it’s always good to see him. It is fun to see what these characters are up to in the months following Return of the Jedi.
I loved how this book explored Han’s relationship with Chewbacca a little deeper. In my review of Han Solo at Stars’ End I said that one of my favorite things about the book was that Brian Daley expanded upon Han and Chewie’s relationship, delving deeper into their friendship and exploring the reasons why Han Solo will act completely reckless in order to help his friend. The second two books in Daley’s Han Solo trilogy didn’t do that as well as the first, but here, in Life Debt, we get to explore this partnership even more, and it’s great. Chewbacca really is Han Solo’s best friend in the entire galaxy, and seeing how far Han will go in order to help is best friend is something I really love.
A noticeable absence was Luke Skywalker, though. He was not in this book once. He doesn’t have to be in the book. But after just finishing Bloodline and then going on to this book, it feels pretty obvious that Lucasfilm is not allowing writers to write anything about Luke Skywalker in the time period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. We’re getting Han and Leia stories, but whatever Luke was up to in between the trilogies is top secret stuff.
The main cast from the first Aftermath returns for the second novel. I wasn’t a huge fan of the cast in the first book. I liked two characters in the first book: Sinjir Rath Velus, and Rae Sloane. These two characters are still my favorites in the second book. But, I actually enjoyed the rest of the cast this time around. Characters that I found boring before, like Norra and Temmin Wexley, Jas Emari, and Jom Barell, caught my interest this time, and I grew invested in them. Unlike the first book, this book had the benefit of coming out after The Force Awakens. So, now that I know what Temmin “Snap” Wexley looks like as a 45-year-old man, it was kind of funny to try to imagine the movie version of Temmin as a 15-year-old boy. What did Greg Grunberg look like as a teenager? Who knows.
Oh yeah, and remember how I hated Mister Bones? The annoying battle droid that sings and dances and hums and is just super not-funny? He was definitely toned down in Life Debt, which I really appreciated. He felt less like Jar Jar Binks in this one. I still don’t really like him, but I wasn’t constantly annoyed by him this time. Thank the maker!
Rae Sloane may be my favorite character in the off-screen Star Wars canon. This is now the third novel in which she has a starring role; the first being John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn, and the second being Aftermath. It’s been really fun to watch this character grow over the course of multiple novels (and a few short stories) and I can’t wait to see her future Star Wars stories. In Life Debt, she is now Grand Admiral and is essentially the new leader of what is left of the Empire. She has taken the place of Emperor Palpatine, and it is great to see how she does things differently than he did. Though she is working with (or working for) the mysterious Fleet Admiral that we met at the very end of the first novel. Gallius Rax. He is working behind-the-scenes, basically controlling the Empire on his own behind her back, and Grand-Admiral-basically-the-Emperor-Sloane is not happy about it. I found myself more interested in Rae Sloane than any of the other characters.
Speaking of Palpatine, this book is, to my knowledge, only the second book ever to use Palpatine’s first name. Sheev. Sheev Palpatine. After learning that his name was Sheev in James Luceno’s novel, Tarkin, and then never seeing that name in anything else ever again I sort of wondered if that was going to be the only reference to the man’s first name that we’d ever get. Nope. He is referred to by his first name on more than one occasion in this novel.
The new Star Wars canon is starting to feel a lot more cohesive as time goes on. There were plenty of references to other stories in here. There were probably many that I didn’t even notice. But off the top of my head I recall nods to Lost Stars, Bloodline, A New Dawn, and even the Star Wars Rebels tie-in series Servants of the Empire. Characters from The Force Awakens even show up. Everything feels very connected, which is great. It would be nice to see the movies (or even the TV shows) reference the books for once though, and not have it be such a one-way thing. After two seasons, Star Wars Rebels has never once called Kanan Jarrus by his real name, “Caleb Dume.” Why not? It still feels like on-screen canon and book canon aren’t totally at the same level. Which is annoying. But I digress…
The first book, despite being part of the “Journey to The Force Awakens” series of books, really had nothing at all to do with The Force Awakens. This book, however, starts to feel like it is setting up for the events of that movie, which is cool. The 30-year-gap between the original Star Wars trilogy and the new trilogy is slowly being bridged.
One thing I wish we could have seen in this book is Chewbacca’s family. Chewie goes to Kashyyyk to liberate the planet from the Empire (the events for this were set up in an interlude in the first Aftermath). Chewbacca’s family is there, and they are mentioned multiple times in the story. But we never see them. We never meet them. Mostly, I just want to know if his canon family is the same as his Legends family. Will we ever get to see these glorious characters from The Star Wars Holiday Special again? Will Chewbacca’s dad’s porn virtual reality chair ever be recanonized? Only time will tell.
I really, genuinely enjoyed this book. No, it’s not among my favorite Star Wars novels I’ve read. But it’s a good book, and definitely a massive improvement over the first book in the trilogy. Instead of finishing the book and thinking I don’t even want to read the books in the new canon anymore, I finished the book very excited about the direction the new canon is going, and I am now eagerly awaiting the release of the final chapter in the Aftermath trilogy, Empire’s End. Chuck Wendig is a good writer. Of all the criticisms I had about the first book, him being a poor writer is not one of them. I enjoy his writing style a lot. I would be very happy to see more Star Wars stories from Wendig once the Aftermath trilogy is finished.
“I see flashes–for just a moment… Places. Rocks…. A factory of droids… An arena, in the middle of a battle… My body not my own… A green world with hills… Underwater cities… A single city spread far as my optical sensors could see… A temple on fire… Smoky mountains of magma and fire. Suffereing. Yes… I have memories too… And yes. Sometimes I allow myself to wonder about them.” – C-3PO
C-3PO: The Phantom Limb is a single standalone comic book issue that tells the story of how C-3PO got his red arm that he has in The Force Awakens. Originally intended to be released as part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” series of stories, the comic got delayed over and over again until it was finally released on April 13, 2016, four months after The Force Awakens premiered in theaters.
The comic was written by James Robinson, with artwork by Tony Harris. Upon opening the book, the first thing that stuck out to my was Harris’ art. This is a very unique art style that I almost want to say feels like the middle ground between the art in Marvel’s original Star Wars comic series from the ’70s, and Marvel’s new Star Wars series from last year. It’s hard to describe, but I really like the art style. It’s dark, with lots of heavy black shadows. It’s definitely something different, at least in my limited experience with Star Wars comic books. I’m a fan.
Since this is only a single issue, it’s hard to get too into detail about the story without giving everything away. Basically, C-3PO and a group of other droids are on board a ship that crash lands on a strange planet, and the droids have to work together to find a way to contact the Resistance for help. Along the way, Threepio loses his arm, and by the end of the story he receives his red one. Very brief summary, but I can’t say much else. That’s basically already the entire story.
Having C-3PO in the lead role just feels like classic Star Wars to me. Threepio and Artoo were basically main characters in the original Star Wars movie. The movie opens with them, and they’re central to the plot and story for the entire movie, while in all other Star Wars movies since the droids have been reduced to secondary roles. Having Threepio take center stage again just feels right, and I like that.
Something the movies don’t let us do is get into the heads of these droids. In Star Wars literature, we realize that C-3PO is actually very thoughtful. Too much so, to the point of overthinking everything and driving himself into a state of panic all the time. In comics like this one, and in the novels, we have the chance to get inside C-3PO’s electronic brain and learn that he’s a lot more than just the worrisome, annoying gold droid we see on screen. There’s a lot going on inside this droid’s head, and it’s always fun to see what he’s thinking.
The one little thing I found fascinating about this story was that it is revealed that although Threepio’s mind was wiped at the end of Revenge of the Sith, his mind apparently wasn’t completely wiped. He still has flashbacks of his past life during prequel-era Star Wars. He remembers bits and pieces of Geonosis, of Coruscant, of Naboo, and of Mustafar. He doesn’t remember details, but this could prove to set up for some very interesting stories in the future, if C-3PO is somehow able to either regain his memories or make sense of the little bits of information he still has in his computer head.
For what it is, I like it. You can’t expect a whole lot from one-shot comics like this. They’re quick, short stories, and you can’t go into it hoping for something huge and immersive. The comic is written well. The art is great. It’s a fun, easy read and a neat little piece of backstory that explains why C-3PO looks different in The Force Awakens. I wish there was more to it, but honestly there doesn’t need to be. It tells the story it needs to tell, and I can’t think of anything else that could have been added to it.
Now, if we can just get an explanation as to why Threepio has his gold arm back at the end of The Force Awakens, that would be great. His arm suddenly being gold again at the end of the movie feels like a completely unnecessary continuity error that bugs me every time I see it.