Comics

Haikuesday: Ryloth

The Planet Ryloth,
home to the Twi’lek species;
head-tailed humanoids.


I can’t help but feel
calling Twi’leks “tail-heads” is
really offensive.


An Outer Rim world,
a jump past Dalchon on the
Corellian Run.

Haiku Addendum:
I hereby re-canonize
the planet Dalchon.


Death Wind Corridor,
lane through The Cloak of the Sith
from Ryloth to Roon.


Sith academy
run by a Dark Brotherhood,
training assassins.


Twi’lek New’arForrth
Nercathi Clan leader and
Ryloth’s Jedi Lord.


Floating Rock Gardens:
suspended stones and boulders
wind swept into air.


Kala’uun city,
subterranean metro
in Lonely Five Range.

The Lonely Five Range,
like other mountain ranges…
…but it’s on Ryloth.


Tulara Ravine.
It’s like all other ravines…
…but it’s on Ryloth.


Jixuan desert.
It’s like all other deserts…
…but it’s on Ryloth.


Dry, rocky planet.
Half sun-scorched, half dark and cold.
What a place to live!


Run from a heat storm?
Folly to even try says
Jedi Doneeta.

The Twi’lek Jedi
stands firm to battle the storm.
Scarred in victory.


Terrifying beast,
the fearsome lylek roams the
landscape of Ryloth.


Attention tourists!
Beware Ryloth’s pack hunters,
the deadly Gutkurrs.


Scarce in resources,
pillaged by Niktos and Hutts.
But Ryloth persists.


Like the world Kessel,
Ryloth is central to the
galactic spice trade.

Ryloth’s famed spice: ryll.
First discovered on the world.
Used in Krytos cure.


Sacred Twi’lek art.
The kalikori depicts
family and folklore.


Clone Wars battleground.
Invaded near wars outset
by the C.I.S.


Jedi Compassion
Master Di fights to the death
so Twi’leks can live.


Capital: Lessu
Captured by C.I.S. droids;
Wat Tambor in charge.


Storm over Ryloth.
Seppies blockade the planet
but Tano breaks through. 


She looked up and saw
Republic ships descending.
Hera Syndulla.


Over Tann Province
an intense battle rages,
a Y-Wing crashes.


In Nabat village
Clone brothers protect a young
Twi’lek girl: Numa.


Led by Kenobi,
212th Battalion
liberates Nabat.


Windu, with Lightning,
advances on Lessu, seeks
Cham Syndulla’s help.


Two-legged species,
Blurggs are used as mounts by the
Twi’lek Resistance.

Star Wars Trivia:
In The Battle for Endor
Blurggs did first appear.


Immortalized in
song – The Hammer of Ryloth.
Battle of Lessu.


Defeat at Ryloth!
The Grand Army suffers a
strategic setback.

Haiku Addendum:
Catalyst establishes 
this Clone Wars defeat.


Moff Delian Mors,
Imperial Govenor.
A ryll spice addict.


Inbound for Ryloth
the ISD Perilous
carries two Sith Lords.


In Lessu’s “Hole”
Isval goes on the hunt for
Imperial prey.


In Drua’s village
a Master and Apprentice
unleash their fury.


Numa, Gobi, Cham.
Twi’lek freedom fighters work
to free their homeworld.


Quasar fed Bombers
descend and reign terror on
Twi’lek innocents.


Yendor and others
come out of the caves and find
Ryloth is now theirs.

Haiku Addendum:
Yendor should be on Naboo,
not on his homeworld.


Fallen Empire.
A New Republic Rises.
Ryloth rules itself.


New Republic world
in Expanded Universe.
A Remnant world, too.


Noola Tarkana
Anti-human firebrand
seizes Ryloth control.


An Emissary
named Yendor speaks to a New
Republic Senate.


Leia, Senator.
The royal politician
travels to Ryloth.


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Star Wars Without End

I spend a lot of time pondering the internals of the Star Wars universe – the characters, events, factions, spaceships, philosophies, etc. – but I also spend quite a bit of time thinking about the Star Wars franchise in general. These days, it’s hard not to think about the trajectory of the franchise since Disney – which purchased the franchise from the original creator/owner George Lucas in 2012 – has been announcing and releasing new content left and right. Movies, TV shows, novels, comics, video games, and more are adding to the already rich trove of stories that populate the universe, while an endless line of new merchandise in every shape and form pops up on a seemingly daily basis. Plus, Disney is building two different Star Wars-themed lands where fans can enjoy “being in” the Star Wars universe.

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, the fact that the franchise is going strong definitely makes me happy, but this also comes with a catch – too much of a good thing isn’t always great. While I am excited there are new Star Wars stories being told and merchandise being sold, there is also a certain amount of burn out that also comes with all of this. Admittedly, it is a bit odd for me to say this since I maintain this site devoted to Star Wars, but it is also the truth – at times, being a Star Wars fan can be utterly exhausting.

Some of this Star Wars exhaustion is a natural symptom of over-indulgence, a symptom which necessitates moving away from the franchise for a while so I can enjoy it more fully another day. Having a site like this where I write about Star Wars certainly adds to this particular form of burn out, and at times, I have to step away from the computer or notebook, giving myself time and permission to not even think about Star Wars.

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I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration, the so-called “ultimate fan experience,” and have little desire to attend one. Perhaps someday I will if I’m feeling adventurous and want to put my crowd anxiety to the test.
Photo Credit : Lucasfilm/Disney

On the other hand, some of this burn out is just a general fatigue associated with having to maintain interest in such an expansive franchise, one that is not going to stop growing anytime soon. Just as I look up at the night sky and have difficulty processing the vastness of space, a similar feeling of being overwhelmed hits me when I think about the vastness of the Star Wars franchise, a vastness that encapsulates past, present, and future. While I can appreciate all that Star Wars has to offer, providing fans of every type with something they will love, on a personal level, the more Star Wars grows, the more exhausted I’ve become trying to keep up with it. 

And so, I have found myself trying to reconcile my lifelong exploration of the “galaxy far, far away” with the continued growth of the franchise and the gambit of ways it is making me feel: overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, and at times even uninspired and bored. In other words, I have found myself for some time now in the rather peculiar position of trying to decide how I will continue being a fan of the franchise (talk about first world problems). What do I mean by this? Well, it means I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with the franchise in general, and the content of the Star Wars universe in particular. It means that because I do not have an endless supply of time, energy, and money – especially money – to devote to a fictional universe that will probably still be growing when I am on my death bed that I have to decide which aspects of Star Wars I will continue to participate in/enjoy and which parts I am just uninterested in/do not feel are worth the effort.

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Most people know that I’m obsessed with Grand Admiral Thrawn, but I’m also a huge fan of Admiral Natasi Daala who first appeared in the Expanded Universe novel Jedi Search.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm/Del Rey

In truth, this isn’t an entirely new approach to the way I engage with Star Wars. We all have our personal preferences and gravitate towards certain things, and I have always been the type of person who likes parts of Star Wars more than others. Even before George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney I was selective about how I participated in the franchise, what merchandise I bought, and yes even which stories I gravitated towards. For example, I can honestly say that while I am well versed in the stories of the now Expanded Universe (EU; now officially called Legends…bleh), there are some Expanded Universe stories I have never touched and know almost nothing about. Case in point: The Old Republic online game. Perhaps one day I will get around to playing The Old Republic or checking out those EU stories I haven’t read, or maybe I won’t.

Like the Expanded Universe I am already treating the “new Expanded Universe,” the Disney Canon, the same way. While I have done my best to keep up with all of the stories being released, it became very apparent early on that it just wouldn’t be possible to do so. This hardly means I haven’t tried my best, but it does mean that I am well aware there are tales I have missed and probably will never experience. Since I have no interest in subscribing to Star Wars Insider magazine, I miss out on the short-stories that appear in each edition. I have certainly read a few here and there, but otherwise I’ve missed most of them and am not rushing out to read them. This is also true of the discontinued Star Wars Rebels magazine, each issue containing a story in the form of a comic. I’m sure those comics are quite fun, and perhaps I will check them out at some point, but for now I’m just not that interested in going out of my way to read them.

In turn, even of the new stories I have encountered in the Disney canon (and this goes for the EU as well), I’ve absolutely loved some, really disliked others, and have otherwise mixed emotions about a handful. I thought Kevin Hearne’s novel Heir to the Jedi was rather bland, have been underwhelmed by the novels in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, felt the Chewbacca comic series left a lot to be desired, and walked out of my first viewing of The Force Awakens asking myself what the hell I had just watched. On the flip side, I really enjoyed playing the now discontinued Star Wars: Uprising video game, absolutely love the Princess Leia and Lando comic series, was blown away by Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple and James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, and have really enjoyed the rich layers being added to the canon thanks to the animated show Star Wars Rebels.

Run2
The Grand Inquisitor, introduced in Star Wars Rebels, is now one of my absolute favorite characters. I am hoping he will get his own novel or comic series.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”

But just because I love one particular story or dislike another doesn’t mean I find perfection/imperfection in everything. I might not love Heir to the Jedi but there are some very good moments in the novel, The Force Awakens has grown on me over time, the Uprising game was fun but also incredibly tedious, and even though I am really loving Star Wars Rebels I’ve been a vocal critic of the overuse of the Jedi and the Force in the series. For me, being a fan of Star Wars is not a zero sum game, a matter of either love or hate. Rather, more often than not it boils down to shades of gray, the acknowledgment that stories that I feel are wonderful still have flaws, and those I believe fall short do have some redeeming qualities. 

None of this is to say that my particular reactions/thoughts on each Star Wars story, or my moments of exhaustion, boredom and dispassion with the franchise as a whole, must be globally accepted. My personal fandom is no more or less important than any other fan, and my subjective experiences of Star Wars need not dictate the experiences others have. Besides, I can think of nothing more absurd than being a fan of Star Wars and lording my fandom over others. No, I am far more interested in sharing aspects of my fandom with others, engaging people in rich conversation about Star Wars. By maintaining this site, my hope is to always do just that: share aspects of Star Wars that stand out to me – the good and the bad, inspirational and discouraging – and open the floor for conversation. 

And that being the case, I have to ask: what are your feelings and opinions on the current state of the Star Wars franchise? Am I the only one who has moments of Star Wars fatigue and boredom, or are there others like me who are out there? If you care to share your thoughts and feelings, leave a comment. 

Imperial Profile: Moff Ssaria

Making her only canonical appearance in the first issue of the Lando comic series, Moff Ssaria, Imperial Governor of the Castell sector, is nothing more than a minor character who helps (re)establish Lando Calrissian as the scoundrel we know him to be. When the issue begins, Calrissian is standing in Ssaria’s bedroom admiring a valuable piece of art. Intent on stealing the item from Ssaria, Calrissian instead uses his infamous smooth-talking flattery, admitting his intentions to the Moff and then talking his way out of being shot when she pulls a blaster on him. Showing his remorse, acknowledging that things got “complicated” with her and that he couldn’t just take the item and leave her, Calrissian appeals to Ssaria’s humanity to save his skin and, more importantly, convince her to give him the priceless art.

And the gamble pays off. Only a few short pages later, we find Lando explaining his actions to his close confidant Lobot, the art in hand to help payoff their debts. Pressed by Lobot about the risks he took to retrieve the art, that he could have taken it from Ssaria and left, Calrissian acknowledges the reason for his drawn-out relationship with the Moff: because of her reputation as the “Fiend of Castell.”

It is actually during his earlier exchange with Ssaria, as she lies half-naked in bed, when Calrissian uses the term “Fiend of Castell.” As he notes, it is a term “they” – the population she governs – use to describe her. He also states that she is called “The Burning Moff” and mentions that she is “brutal in your [her] response to even the slightest challenge to the Empire’s authority.” Given Ssaria’s penchant for swift, violent reprisal, it is little wonder Calrissian played a long-con, intent on securing the work of art by appealing to her humanity – stating that he knows the “real her” – to ensure that he would not have the so-called “Burning Moff” hunting him down. 

ssaria
Lando and Ssaria discuss her reputation as the “Fiend of Castell.”
Photo Credit – Star Wars: Lando, Part I

Fortunately, while we the reader are introduced to her reputation by Lando, we are also privy to a small inkling of the way Ssaria views herself. Or, more specifically, the way she views her authoritative position within the Imperial hierarchy. In response to what “they” say about her, Ssaria states that she is but “an extension of the Emperor’s will. My actions here simply execute his directives.”Indeed, as the Imperial Governor of the Castell sector, Moff Ssaria carries out the wishes and desires of the Emperor whom she serves, her orders and commands a reflection of the greater cause of Empire. In this regard, Ssaria is no different than Grand Moff Tarkin, Grand Admiral Thrawn, or Darth Vader, executing Imperial justice on behalf of the Emperor to whom they have sworn allegiance.

Continuing the theme of service to the Empire, Ssaria re-frames her violent reputation in a fascinating way, stating that “the Emperor is the mind. I am his tool. Is a tool responsible if it is used to kill someone?” With this play on words, Ssaria jettisons any moral culpability in the death of innocents, placing all the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Emperor. In turn, her “mind-tool” metaphor also implies that the population she governs – and by extension the entire population of the Empire – is to be shaped and molded by the Emperor’s tools in order to fully manifest his vision of Empire. Or, to be more blunt, in the cause of Empire there are never innocents, and the death (or enslavement, or oppression) of the people in the name of Empire is always justified. In this sense, the question Ssaria asks about her moral culpability is not only irrelevant but meaningless, the only morality that matters is the morality of the Emperor. 

This being the case, it is little surprise that Ssaria states that the answer to the question “doesn’t matter.” The question was always rhetorical. “I care little for my reputation in the streets,” the Moff pointedly admits, hardly a surprise or even a necessary statement. Obviously she doesn’t care about her reputation in the streets. Moff Ssaria doesn’t serve the people, and she certainly doesn’t answer to them. 

Lando Loiters in a Marketplace

In my last post – The Force Awakens Without Lando – I noted my disappointment that Lando Calrissian did not make an appearance in The Force Awakens while the other main characters from the Original Trilogy were included. I’m not going to rehash that entire post here, but I would encourage you to check it out if you haven’t done so. I will point out that in the post I acknowledged that The Force Awakens was a good movie even though Calrissian was missing from it. And besides, I am hopeful that he will be appearing in Episode VIII and/or IX.

So why, might one ask, am I discussing Lando once again? Is there more to be said about his absence from The Force Awakens? No, not really. Instead, I wanted to extend the conversation on Lando by turning to the 30-year period of time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. So far, only a handful of stories have taken shape (across various mediums) which have begun to populate this New Republic/Rise of the First Order era. And yet, of those stories that have begun popping up, two characters in particular have been noticeably absent from this era: Luke Skywalker and (you guessed it) Lando Calrissian.

A while back, a guest post from Michael Miller considered Luke’s absence from this era of stories, and I definitely think you should check out what Michael had to say. In the meantime, I’ll cut right to the chase: I find it incredibly odd and definitely confusing that Lando has been such an incredibly minor – and at times blatantly absent – character in the this particular era of the Star Wars timeline. Now, I say this with the full awareness that Lando has popped up in a few post-Endor stories (I’ll come back to these momentarily). Plus, it’s important to note that Lando has been given a great(er) deal of attention in stories that take place before Return of the Jedi. Notably, in the show Star Wars Rebels, Calrissian has made a couple of fun cameos and Lando was the main character in a five-part Marvel comic series aptly named Lando. In fact, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the Lando series was one of my favorite story-arcs added to the Disney canon, perfectly capturing Lando’s personality, vocabulary, demeanor, and overall style.

Yet, even though Lando is the star of his own comic series and has a spattering of appearances on Rebels, I am left to wonder why he is not a more noticeable and active presence in the stories unfolding in the weeks/months/years following the Battle of Endor. Like I said, he has shown up here and there, but these moments are few in number and relatively shallow.

For example, in Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline, set 24 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Lando sends a message of support to Leia as she deals with the fallout of the Galactic Senate learning that she is the daughter of Darth Vader. A kind gesture on Lando’s part, to be sure, but nothing he actually says in the message is detailed, nor does he factor into the novel in any other way. 

In the four-part Shattered Empire comic series, set in immediate aftermath of the Battle of Endor, Lando actually appears in Issue #001 and #003. In Issue #001, Lando participates in the battle (flying the Millennium Falcon) and is present for the celebration which immediately follows the Rebel victory, chatting it up with Han Solo and other soldiers. Nothing new or surprising there. On the other hand, in Issue #003, Calrissian leads a New Republic into the Battle over Naboo, stopping the Empire’s operation to destroy the planet. Pretty awesome, I have to admit. Besides, it makes perfect sense that in the days, weeks and months after the victory at Endor, Lando would continue to serve as General in the Rebellion-turned-New Republic. However, his very next chronological appearance on the Star Wars timeline makes a lot less sense…

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General Calrissian takes command of the Battle over Naboo.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: Shattered Empire, Part III

In July 2016, Lando was part of an update to the game Star Wars: Uprising. While I eagerly welcomed his addition to the game, hoping that his arrival would add a dynamic new layer to the game plot/story, my enthusiasm quickly turned to utter confusion and disappointment. Allow me to explain. When one initially meets with Lando in the Longstar Marketplace on the planet Burnin Konn, Lando lays out his profitable reasons for sneaking into the Anoat sector (which serves as the location for the game and is under Imperial blockade) and is willing to cut you in on the deal. In turn, Lando gives you a job to raid the Imperial base on Nar Hypa, a moon orbiting the planet Mataou, a mission which yields some basic materials, credits, and trophies (which can be used to purchase other goods). Excited to discover what would come after my first “Lando Job,” I quickly became discouraged when I realized Lando was not going to immediately send me on another run. Surely, I figured, if I waited a day a new mission would be ready for me…and I was right! Logging into the game a day later, I was greeted by an in-game message that “Lando has a job for you.” I eagerly scooted over to the Longstar Marketplace, sought out Lando, and was presented with the EXACT SAME MISSION! The same map, Imperial forces spread out in the same places, and a similar payout. Since Lando was introduced into Uprising, his “jobs” are always the same. And, to make things even more ridiculous, Lando just keeps standing around the Longstar Marketplace. One would presume that at some point he’d make his way to the Carbon Score Cantina… 

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The “Lando Mission” description.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: Uprising

Now, unless one counts some credits and a handful of in-game material as meaningful, Lando’s presence in Uprising is, to put it bluntly, entirely pointless. That is, it is pointless as of right now. While Lando’s inclusion in Uprising currently lacks any significant purpose, I am hoping that his role in the game will be expanded, especially considering the game is set in the days/weeks/months following the Battle of Endor. In short, since a (former?) Rebel/New Republic General was able to infiltrate the Imperial blockade of the Anoat sector, making his way to Burnin Konn, one would think (and hope!) that he would have plans to provide aid to the forces fighting Imperial oppression in the sector. Of course, Lando might also end up indefinitely loitering in Longstar Marketplace, his presence having no outward effect on the overall goal of breaking the Empire’s blockade and freeing the sector. Honestly, at this point, who knows what will happen with Lando in the Anoat sector.

Then again, who knows when or how Lando will show up again in a post-Endor story. I’ll be sure to update this post the next time he does.


Addition: On September 22, 2016, the game developers of Star Wars: Uprising announced that Uprising will permanently shut down in November 2016. As someone who consistently played the game since it came out, I am naturally disappointed although not surprised. The game failed to live up to a number of expectations, and while I enjoyed the lore which it added to the rich Star Wars canon, game play consistently fell short, particularly given its repetitive nature which I detailed (in part) with the “Lando Missions.” 

In light of this development, I am left wondering what this will mean for Lando Calrissian, Perhaps, even though Uprising is shutting down, a novel or comic will be written that completes the game’s primary story – the liberation of the Anoat sector – with Lando taking on a larger, more central role. Or, perhaps he will simply be stuck in limbo, continuing to stand around the Longstar Marketplace on Burnin Konn while the New Republic defeats the remnants of the Empire at Jakku. I suppose only time – and more stories – will tell what Lando’s role will end up being. 

Continuity Crisis on Kashyyyk

Having recently finished reading Chuck Wendig’s novel Life Debt, the latest addition in his Aftermath trilogy which chronicles events taking place after the Battle of Endor, I felt compelled to write a reaction to the novel. Or rather, I felt compelled to write a reaction to a particular element in the novel, namely, the way(s) in which Wendig masterfully describes the suffering of the Wookiees and their home-world of Kashyyyk. Momentarily, I will share some of these details with you, and in doing so, I hope I am able to paint an equally worthy picture of devastation and enslavement.

But before I begin, I want to note two things. First, if you have not yet read Life Debt and do not want it to be spoiled, I would encourage you to stop reading and check it out. While I do not intend to provide a great deal of spoilers, they will never-the-less be present in the post.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, what I am presenting about the imagery in Life Debt is also going to lead to a rather embarrassing continuity issue (hence the name of the post). While I recognize it is slightly annoying for me to say this and not tell you what that issue is right here and now, I promise that the reason I am making you wait is worthwhile. Read on and you will see what I mean.

A Vibrant World, Enslaved

To begin, it’s worth noting that Wendig goes to great lengths in Life Debt to provide an image of life on Kashyyyk before the Empire, often doing so in subtle ways to help the reader recognize that the world was once a lush and thriving place. As a reminder, we see the vibrant Mid-Rim world for ourselves in Revenge of the Sith when the Separatists invade and Master Yoda leads the Republic’s 41st Elite Corps in defense of the Wookiees. Wendig wonderfully captures the same imagery we see in the film, expanding and adding new dimensions to it. When, for example, Han Solo and his allies approach Kashyyyk, it is described as “a green, verdant planet” with “snowcapped mountains and snaking rivers leading to oceans of dark water.” Most notably though, the forests of Kashyyyk particularly  stand out to the characters in the book, “the clouds swirling above the atmosphere” having “to swirl around and through the [giant wroshyr] trees.”

Of course, the planet is not only described from a distance, but also when the characters arrive there and start working towards freeing prisoners and liberating the world. Added to the imagery, then, is a world that was once teeming with life, specifically Wookiee life Incredible Wookiee cities, such as the city of Awrathakka, are depicted as being built in and around the “skytower-like wroshyr trees – trees whose trunks are of an unimaginable circumference.” Further, the symbiotic relationship the Wookiees had with these trees is noted, a “sacred and biological” bond grounded in care. The trees provided nourishment and shelter, enabling the arboreal lifestyle of the Wookiees. In return, the creatures tended to the life of the trees, building their cities in a way that followed “the bends and turns of the trunk,” a clear sign of the respect the  Wookiees showed the magnificent lifeforms.

Sadly, Life Debt describes in even greater detail the devastation Kashyyyk and its Wookiee inhabitants have endured under Imperial rule. Under the protection of an Imperial blockade, Kashyyyk – classified G5-623 by the Empire – is “an occupied world,” “a prison planet.” The Wookiees, we learn, were corralled into labor camps and used as slaves, their impressive size and strength a valuable resource for the Imperial war machine. In fact, in the first Aftermath novel, we learn from Han Solo that the Wookiees were utilized in the construction of both Death Stars. A sad but unsurprising discovery. While Wookiees are shipped off-planet to work on military projects around the galaxy, the vast majority were kept in the camps on planet, forced to participate in the slow destruction of their native world.

One camp in particular is depicted in Life Debt, Camp Sardo. Home to 50,000 Wookiee slaves, the camp is built at the base of the wroshyr tree to which Awrathakka clings. There, like so many other camps that litter the planet, the prisoners toil under the harsh yoke of the Empire, digging into the roots of the tree for its wood and harvesting crystals from its fungal nodes. Additionally, Wookiees in this and other camps are also forced to grow food for the Empire, to fight for entertainment, are bred to keep up the labor population, and even subjected to chemical and medical experiments.

Moreover, we also discover that the Wookiees are kept in check with the use of inhibitor chips placed on the  back of their necks, devices which keep them docile. These chips give a powerful shock to any Wookiee attempting to escape a camp, a shock that could prove to be fatal. Plus, since the Wookiees are family-oriented, any disobedience may harm not just the individual, but members of their family as well. In these ways, the Empire keeps their slaves from revolting.

Still, we know that at least one Wookiee revolt took place about four years prior to events in A New Hope. This is not mentioned in the novel, but rather is an incident detailed in a short HoloNet News report. In it, the reporter explains that a Wookiee revolt was quelled by the 212th Attack Battalion, with tighter restrictions on travel to the planet being put into place by the Imperial overlords. Of course, the report is an obvious form of propaganda, making it difficult to say if the newscaster is telling the entire truth. Still, we can presume that whatever happened would have forced the Empire to use even harsher measures against their slaves (perhaps this is when the use of inhibitor chips began) and Life Debt makes it clear that eight years later, any chance of another Wookiee revolt has been ended.

A Crisis of Continuity

As I said at the outset, Wendig paints a fantastic, albeit incredibly bleak picture of the Wookiees and their beloved Kashyyyk. A world that was once vibrant – vibrancy we can actually see in Revenge of the Sith – is all but devastated. The barest glimmer of life still clinging to the branches of the splintering wroshyr trees; the native Wookies, “slowly being ground to dust” as Princess Leia declares in the novel. As I read Life Debt, I was profoundly moved by this imagery, saddened by the Empire’s flagrant destruction of Kashyyyk, disturbed by the harsh and murderous treatment the Wookiees must endure. In this way, Life Debt did what good storytelling should do, forcing one to dig deeper and mine the depths of their own being, thinking about ways that in our own world we might alleviate the suffering of others. The Wookiees and their world might be fictitious, but their plight should motivate us to want to help those who are also in need.

And yet, all of the devastation and plight in Life Debt, the detailed imagery of destruction and enslavement, doesn’t line up with what is depicted in Issue #005 of Marvel Comics Chewbacca series. In fact, to be entirely blunt, not only does the description of Kashyyyk and the Wookiees in Life Debt not line up with what we see in Chewbacca #005, the two canonical sources are just flat-out contradictory.

I won’t provide an overview of the entire plot of the Five-Part Chewbacca series, but I will note that the premise revolves around a personal mission Chewbacca undertakes sometime after the destruction of the First Death Star. In short, Chewie is heading to Kashyyyk so he can deliver an item to a young Wookiee. And, after an adventure on another world, Chewbacca does just that, flying an A-Wing Starfighter right up to his home-world, a world that is clearly NOT under Imperial blockade. Landing safely in a thriving city among healthy looking wroshyr trees, Chewbacca interacts with many Wookiees, all of whom are quite obvious NOT enslaved, no inhibitor chips stuck to their heads. Plus, to top it off, in the very final panel of Chewbacca #005, the Millennium Falcon descends to the planet with quite ease, no Imperial ships in pursuit.

MarvelChewbacca1
Chewbacca travels to Kashyyyk, landing safely on the planet.
Photo Credit – MARVEL Comics: Chewbacca #005
MarvelChewbacca2
Landing safely, Chewbacca makes his way through a Wookiee city.
Photo Credit – MARVEL Comics: Chewbacca #005

Since finishing Life Debt, I have struggled to reconcile these two disparate versions of Kashyyyk/the Wookiees which have crept into the Star Wars canon. When  I have wrestled with continuity issues in the past, I’ve attempted to smooth over the differences in some logical way while staying true to the source material. However, in this case, the powerful depictions of suffering in Life Debt differ so starkly from the warm and colorful panels in Chewbacca #005 that I am at a complete loss. I honestly cannot figure how to make the two versions work together. Then again, coming up with a fix is purely a thought experiment on my part, one that would not carry any weight unless the Lucasfilm Story Group were to adopt my idea(s). And speaking of the Story Group, the body tasked overseeing the content of the Star Wars canon, I have to ask:

How did they miss this continuity issue?

Frankly, I think Star Wars fans deserve an explanation about why two contradictory versions of Kashyyyk and the Wookiees were allowed to enter the Star Wars canon. While I understand that small errors can and will be show up, an inevitable side-effect of having numerous story-tellers adding to a fictional universe, when far more obvious errors like this one appear, then someone on the Story Group (or at Lucasfilm in general) needs to come forward and at least acknowledge the mistake. Plus, as a fan, I want reassurance that the cohesive and unified story being told will not have these problems in the future, particularly since I spend a lot of money on books, novels, games, movie tickets, etc. Otherwise, I have to be honest: if more and more major continuity issues start showing up, my enjoyment of the canon won’t just diminish, but I will seriously consider closing the door on my Star Wars fandom.


Addition: Having conversed with a number of people about this piece, including a member of the Story Group, I am working on a follow-up which will be posted here in the coming weeks. Stay tuned! 

The Hundred-Year Darkness

In Marvel comics Star Wars 009, Luke Skywalker finds himself in dire straits on Nar Shaddaa when he is captured by a towering and oddly muscular Hutt named Grakkus. Knocked unconscious, Luke will wake in the home of Grakkus the Hutt and quickly discovers that this Hutt is a collector of Jedi lore and artifacts. Considering that Luke’s journey to Nar Shaddaa was part of a quest to discover anything/everything about the Jedi Order, it could easily be argued that his capture by Grakkus was the will of the Force. This possibility becomes even more likely when Grakkus commands Luke to use the Force to open a Jedi holocron, giving the young Skywalker until the count of five to do so.

Now, for those who are unaware, a holocron is a small polyhedron that a Jedi (or Sith) uses to store and pass on important information. Activated by a Force-user, once opened a holocron projects a holographic image of the individual who originally recorded it, and this hologram will then provide lessons on the information contained within. When Luke is ordered by Grakkus to open a holocron, Luke’s response comes as little surprise, at least to the reader. He states, “I’ve never even seen one of those things.” Of course, the massive Hutt is unswayed, not caring what Luke has to say. Since Luke admitted his father was a Jedi, carries a lightsaber, and is seeking passage to the  location of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Grakkus is convinced Luke can open the holocron…

…and the Hutt isn’t wrong.

Having counted to five, Grakkus orders his guards to kill Luke, and it is in this very moment that Luke is able to call upon the Force and open not only the holocron that Grakkus holds, but every holocron in the room. Suddenly, Luke and his captor are surrounded by the holographic images of long-dead Jedi, each of them beginning their teachings.

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Holographic images of past Jedi present the information stored within their respective holocrons.

Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics – Star Wars #009

Needless to say, but there is a lot that could be said about this moment in Star Wars 009, especially in regards to Luke and his burgeoning potential with the Force. The thing is, I’m not really interested in digging into every angle or every thought the scene conjures in my mind, in part because this piece would quickly become a dissertation.  Instead, what I really want to share is my “holy shit” reaction to one of the statements made by the image of an unknown Jedi projected by a holocron. That long-dead Jedi states the following:

Once we were brothers in the Force. But from the Hundred-Year Darkness were born the Sith.

When I read that line, I immediately stopped reading the comic because I just couldn’t contain my excitement. There are moments when I am experiencing the Star Wars universe (or another universe I love) when I am overcome with joy and have to let it burst out of me. When that happens, I just go with the flow, and in this case, I stopped reading and called a friend to tell him what I had come across in Star Wars 009.

Why did I react this way? Simple: the Hundred-Year Darkness comes straight out of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU).

Mentioned by name for the first time in the Dark Horse comic Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lords of the Sith 3: Descent to the Dark Side (published in 1994), the Hundred-Year Darkness was an ancient, century long conflict between Dark Jedi who were experimenting with forbidden alchemy and the Jedi Order which recognized the danger these Dark Jedi possessed. For the sake of brevity, I will spare you all the minute details about the conflict, but in the end, the Dark Jedi lost the war and their survivors – including their leader Ajunta Pall – were exiled from Republic space. In the unexplored regions of the galaxies Outer Rim, these exiles came across a world named Korriban which was inhabited by a primitive civilization known as the Sith. Worshiped as gods, the Dark Jedi were given the title Jen’ari (Dark Lord), becoming the very first Dark Lords of the Sith. 

With just one line in Star Wars 009, a momentous event from the EU – an event which leads directly to the formation of the Sith and serves as the preamble to ALL of the Jedi/Sith conflicts – was preserved in the Disney Canon. But how much of it was maintained beyond it’s name and the basic facts we learn from the unknown Jedi? Well, that is the mystery, one I have wrestled with since Luke unlocked the holocron. 

In reality, there is no easy way to answer the question, particularly since the mysterious Jedi utters few words about the Hundred-Year Darkness. The first piece of his statement – “Once we were brothers in the Force” – points to a time long before the Hundred-Year Darkness, a time when the Jedi Order was whole. What really makes this line stand out though is that it mirrors a line spoken by the spirit of Sith Lord Marka Ragnos in Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith 2: Funeral for a Dark Lord. Ragnos states “Once we were mighty Jedi of the Republic, brothers in the Force…,” and goes on to describe the formation of the Sith Order. The fact that the two short statements almost perfectly match is, of course, not a coincidence. With the Hundred-Year Darkness first appearing in Tales of the JediStar Wars 009 author Jason Aaron was clearly giving the Dark Horse series a small nod by quoting Marka Ragnos. Admittedly, this raises another interesting question: since the Hundred-Year Darkness has been maintained, does this also mean Ragnos – who lived nearly two millenia after the Hundred-Year Darkness – also exists in the Disney Canon? 

MarkaRagnos
The specter of Sith Lord Marka Ragnos speaks to his listeners about the formation of the Sith Order.

Photo Credit: Dark Horse Comics – Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith 2: Funeral for a Dark Lord

Personally, I hope he does. Then again, I also hope Ajunta Pall, whom I mentioned previously, is also  maintained in the canon. In large part this is because Ajunta Pall, unlike Marka Ragnos, is an actual participant in the Hundred-Year Darkness and ends up as the very first Dark Lord of the Sith. In my mind, it makes sense not only to preserve the conflict in name, but also specific aspects like characters, battles, and locations. I say this knowing full well that if/when the Hundred-Year Darkness is retold, it will not be exactly the same. This is no more apparent than by the simple fact that the Dark Jedi in the Disney Canon will find their way to the Sith homeworld of Moraband and not Korriban. The planet itself is exactly the same, but the name change ensures that the story cannot perfectly match. 

Then again, it doesn’t HAVE to perfectly match. While I would personally love for not just Ajunta Pall but all the Dark  Jedi to be returned in the new canon, chances are that just won’t happen. And frankly, that’s okay. In just two sentences in Star Wars 009, the mysterious Jedi establishes the most important facts about the Hundred-Year Darkness, points I have already mentioned. Otherwise, in the Disney Canon, how the Hundred-Year Darkness unfolds is really open ended. For example, whereas the Hundred-Year Darkness ends in the Expanded Universe with the Battle of Corbos (depicted in the featured image), perhaps the final showdown between the two Jedi factions will take place on another world in the new  version of the conflict. Honestly, either way is perfectly fine by me; two versions of the Hundred-Year Darkness simply means two versions to enjoy, learn about, and analyze. 

Still, it’s certainly possible that the Hundred-Year Darkness never receives a new treatment, at least beyond small references here and there. At the moment, Star Wars storytelling is focused primarily on the period surrounding and following the Original Trilogy, and the galaxy’s ancient history might remain relatively vacant of new stories for years to come. However, the seeds of that ancient history have been planted in small and subtle ways – such as the reference to the Hundred-Year Darkness in Star Wars 009 – and I really hope those seeds end up blossoming into full-fledged stories down the road.

But until those seeds do blossom, and even after they do, you’ll find me continuing to explore and enjoy the ancient history in the Expanded Universe. 

So, What’s Luke Been Up To?

Guest Talker: Michael J. Miller

In the months leading up to the release of The Force Awakens, one of the most prominent questions on everyone’s mind was – Where is Luke Skywalker? He wasn’t in any of the trailers. He was shockingly absent from the poster. We only heard his voice, narrating a slightly altered version of what he tells Leia about his family and the Force in Return Of The Jedi. Speculation was rampant. And there were even those (apparently the ones who’d never watched Star Wars or totally missed the point of the whole narrative) who were insistent that Luke had fallen to the Dark Side and perhaps was even Kylo Ren. Now, all those questions have been cleared up. But the most important question for me still remains. And I hope I get an answer worthy of the mythic hero of Star Wars.

The answer to this question is important because, to put it simply, Luke is important.  Luke Skywalker is the hero of Star Wars. Yes, it’s Anakin’s story but Luke is the force (no pun intended) of redemption that allows Vader to do what must be done. If Anakin is the savior, Luke is the redeemer. And both of them are necessary to bring balance to the Force. So we know where Luke was at the end of Return Of The Jedi – happily celebrating a major victory with his family and friends, while the redeemed Force ghost of his father looks on with Obi-Wan and Yoda. And we know where Luke is at the end of The Force Awakens – doing his mystic hermit thing on a not-so-easily-accessed lake front property in utter isolation. Even R2 was left behind. His hand hasn’t been cared for (presumably), leaving the synthiflesh to rot away and expose the metallic hand underneath.

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Celebration taking place behind him, Luke looks off towards the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and his father.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

The question I need answered (the question I am so, so scared won’t be answered with the clarity and detail it absolutely needs) is what has Luke been doing in the thirty years since the Battle of Endor??  One of the major faults I have found with the Disney Canon is that (with few exceptions) it gives us no real worthwhile details. It’s all painted in broad strokes. We are left struggling to fill in almost as many gaps during those thirty years as we had before The Force Awakens was released. Disney seems to perpetually tell stories set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, stories (more often than not in my opinion) having little to no significant impact on the saga, while ignoring the gaping holes in the timeline Star Wars fans want to know about.

The major exception to this rule would be Claudia Gray’s beautiful and brilliant new novel, Star Wars: Bloodline. This was the first novel I’ve encountered since Disney took over that gave me the thrill I almost always found with the old EU. It gave a detailed look at the Star Wars galaxy. It expanded on what was in the films in a way that made logical sense.  And the expansions were helpful and felt necessary. Also, she gave us both a picture of Leia that was organic and dynamic as well as new characters who were exciting and seemed to naturally fit in the Star Wars universe. Ransolm Casterfo is the first new character I’ve found in the Disney Canon who seemed as complex and integral to the Star Wars universe as characters like Pellaeon, Natasi Daala, and Talon Karde did the first time I met them.

The novel also left us with some MAJOR question marks in regard to Luke Skywalker. (If you haven’t read Bloodline yet, this paragraph and the next contains minor spoilers about moments Luke is mentioned in passing in the novel but doesn’t address anything that’s central to the plot of the book.) You see, Bloodline is set six years before The Force Awakens. Granted, we only get glimpses of what Luke’s been up to since Return Of The Jedi. But it doesn’t seem like he’s been doing much. He and Ben Solo are bouncing around the galaxy doing…something. 

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The cover of Star Wars: Bloodline.
Photo Credit – Del Rey

A discussion in the Senate sees Lady Carise Sindian remark, “Princess Leia spoke of her brother, the famous Luke Skywalker, who has been little seen in the public sphere for many years now.”  Then Tai-Lin Garr replies, “Since the Rebellion, Skywalker has lived a private life.  He has asked no more of the New Republic than any of its other citizens, nor have we just cause to ask any more of him than the substantial service he has already given.”  So the last of the Jedi decided to…retire?  He’s road tripping with his nephew?  Whaaaat??     

Judging from the little information the new Disney Canon has provided us, Luke is apparently completely disconnected from the New Republic and almost entirely cutoff from his family.  We can infer then IN THE PRECEEDING TWENTY-FOUR  YEARS he didn’t rebuild the Jedi Order.  So, I ask again, what was he doing?

The final conversation Luke has with Yoda before his death on Dagobah makes this even more confusing.  As Yoda lays down for the last time he tells Luke, “Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall.  That is the way of things, the way of the Force.”  His final words to Luke are, “Luke…when gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.  Luke…the Force runs strong in your family.  Pass on what you have learned. Luke…there is…another…Skywalker.”  The literal final instruction Yoda – the Jedi Master that Kenobi told Luke to find to complete his training – gave Luke was to pass on what he had learned And the Disney Canon wants us to accept that Luke’s response was, “Nah.”  I don’t buy it.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Luke wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He spends much of the Original Trilogy trying to become a Jedi Knight like his father.  In A New Hope, Obi-Wan taught Luke, “The Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy before the dark times, before the Empire.”  So he knows that the Jedi were an order who protected people during the Old Republic before Vader and the Emperor wiped them out.  He finds Yoda, completes his training, is instructed to pass on what he’d learned, and THEN DOES NOTHING FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS. 

Why??  Again, it makes no sense and a legitimate answer must be given. 

This story must be told and it must be told with a depth and intimacy to rival Claudia Gray’s depiction of Leia in Bloodline. A few lines of exposition (and maybe a few flashbacks) in Episode VIII aren’t going to cut it for me. Luke Skywalker is too important a character for that! We need to understand why he turns his back on everything he was, everything he did, and everything he was instructed to do.

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The cover of Jedi Search, first book in The Jedi Academy Trilogy. 
Photo Credit – Del Rey

As I watched Yoda’s death scene in Return Of The Jedi a few more times, I wondered if perhaps Disney wanted us to buy that Yoda told Luke to pass on what he learned to his family alone. You could make the argument, from the phrasing, that Luke could have interpreted it that way. But we know this isn’t the case. In The Force Awakens, Han tells Rey and Finn that Luke was bringing up a new group of Jedi when Kylo Ren cut the order apart and Luke took off.  We know that there can’t be that many Skywalkers around.  So, in the six years between Bloodline and The Force Awakens, he was (finally!) training new Jedi.  But the question remains, why did he wait?  What was he doing??

In the Expanded Universe, Luke spent much of his time after the Battle of Endor learning everything he could about the Jedi to rebuild the Order. By seven years after Endor (in Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Jedi Academy Trilogy”) Luke was taking his first tentative steps in recruiting new Jedi and training them on Yavin 4.  Yes there were problems.  There were ups and downs. But Luke was passing on what he had learned and trying to restore the Jedi to the galaxy. Why isn’t he doing that in the Disney Canon?  Why isn’t he advising the New Republic in any role?  What could possibly be going on that’s more important than all of this?

All Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi, does post Return Of The Jedi in the Disney Canon is…fight for shrubbery??  In the (weirdly lackluster) conclusion to Shattered Empire, our first new canon look at life post-Endor, we see Luke Skywalker and Lieutenant Shara Bey infiltrate the highly secure Imperial base on Vetine…to save two trees. They’re important I guess?  Luke says of the trees, “These are all that remain of the tree that grew in the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.  The Force is with them.” And they are clearly important enough for Luke to risk his and Shara’s lives by invading this facility three months after the Battle of Endor. But they’re also important enough for Luke to just randomly and spontaneously give one away to Shara so she could plant it in her family garden??  What?  So Luke redeems his father, fights for a shrub (a shrub we never hear about again), and then does absolutely nothing

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Luke, stands before the remains of the Tree that grew in the Jedi Temple.
Photo Credit – MARVEL Comics; Star Wars: Shattered Empire, Part IV

We’re supposed to believe that the man who destroyed the first Death Star, who became the last Jedi Knight, who learned from Yoda, who redeemed Anakin Skywalker so balance could be restored to the Force just walked away?  He did nothing. For over twenty years. He was just sitting around…waiting?  Why?  WHY? 

The cynic in me believes it’s because Lawrence Kasdan remains pissy that Lucas didn’t use the darker ending he wanted for Return Of The Jedi.  As is well documented, Kasdan wanted Han Solo dead and Luke, so broken by his ordeal, to fade into the mist like Shane at the end of the famous Western of the same name.  Lucas didn’t go that route (in part, I’d argue because he understands the purpose of myth and what lesson Star Wars was supposed to be teaching us) and Kasdan has been open about his displeasure with it.  Well now The Force Awakens rolls around and look what happens!  With Kasdan helping with the writing duties Han Solo dies (admittedly, in a powerful moment that I feel served the character and the story well) and Luke Skywalker has disappeared only to be found out in the wilderness alone, not unlike a wounded gunslinger haunted by what he’s had to do (something that doesn’t fit his character or the tone of the end of Return Of The Jedi at all).

Cynicism aside, this is still a MAJOR question that needs an appropriate answer.  There’s no logical reason Luke Skywalker hasn’t been active in the galaxy since the Battle of Endor.  And every instance he’s shown up in the Disney Canon has only served to make his absence and apparent apathy more confusing. So, when the time comes, I hope we get a story that honors who Luke Skywalker is. The relevant question for Episode VIII is no longer Where is Luke Skywalker? but rather What has Luke Skywalker been doing for THIRTY YEARS that is more important than rebuilding the Jedi?  The answer, whenever Disney decides to give it to us, better be damn good.  Luke Skywalker as a mythic hero, and we as Star Wars fans, deserve nothing less. 


Check out these other Guest Talker posts by Michael Miller:

The Nature of Hero

The Seduction of the Dark Side

A Man in Debt to a Hutt

     

Star Wars: Padmé

Since writing my post on The Funeral of Padmé Amidala a while back, Padmé has continued to pop into my brain from time to time. But recently, it has been more than sporadic episodes – I’ve just not been able to stop thinking about her. This hardly means I haven’t been contemplating other awesome Star Warsie things, but for some reason my brain would just loop things back to her. Admittedly, it was a bit perplexing, but don’t take that to mean I dislike thinking about Padmé because I think she totally rocks. It’s just that lately she has been taking over my brain waves more than usual and I couldn’t figure out why.

Well, I couldn’t figure out why until just the other day when I was sitting on the couch and realized that Padmé is nowhere to be found these days. Sure, she lives on vicariously through Leia (and perhaps Rey?), but otherwise, Padmé feels like a distant memory, having been relegated to the sidelines of the Star Wars universe. In fact, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I have come to realize that Padmé is getting shafted. Consider this  – as of right now, the stories of the main characters from both the Original and Prequel Trilogies are being continued with the obvious exclusion of Padmé.

What gives? Are Anakin, Obi-Wan, Leia, Han, and Luke just more interesting than Padmé? Is Padmé just unworthy of having her story continued in a meaningful way? I certainly grant that the stories of all characters must, at some point, come to an end but there is no way her story is finished, right? There is so much we don’t know about Padmé, so many questions that need to be answered! Here are a handful that come to mind:

  • How and why did she become the Queen of Naboo at such a young age?
  • As the Queen of Naboo, how did she handle the aftermath of the Trade Federation’s invasion? Did she have regrets about how she had handled the crisis, about trying and failing to keep Naboo out of a war?
  • What was her relationship like with Palpatine in the years between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones?
  • Were there other attempts on her life, similar to the one we see at the beginning of Attack of the Clones?
  • How did she and Anakin navigate their secret marriage, particularly early on in the weeks after they wed? Did she ever confide in anyone close to her (like Dormé) that she was married to Anakin?
  • Besides the adventures we see her go on in The Clone Wars, did she have any others?
  • What was her feelings/reaction to the discovery that she was pregnant? How did she explain her pregnancy to the people around her (i.e. – other Senators, her family)?
    Padme and Dorme
    Padmé sits with her handmaiden Dormé.
    Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Like I said, these are just a handful of questions that come to mind as I think about Padmé. And while I accept that not all of them will be answered, I certainly hope and anticipate that some, heck even just one, eventually will be. Which brings me to this thought:

At the very least, Padmé deserves her own Five-Part Comic Series.

While I would absolutely love to see Natalie Portman reprise her role as Padmé on the big screen, I am also realistic in knowing she most likely never will unless it is a very minor cameo. In lieu of a film, I really believe Padmé would be a great character for a comic series, even a short one. This is precisely what we saw with the Princess Leia comic, a short, five-part series that allowed us to view Leia in her element, being a leader who isn’t afraid to make decisions and put her life in danger for the greater good. I see no reason why the same couldn’t also be true of Padmé. Heck, it already is true of Padmé, as we’ve seen her time and again step up as a leader, taking charge of situations, putting her life on the line, and doing her duty for the benefit of others. A comic series would be a way to not only add a new layer to Padmé’s story, but could serve as a way to dynamically expand upon her great qualities.  

But one of the other important things about the Princess Leia comic is that while we see Leia take the mantle of leadership, we do so while also getting into her mind. This was particularly important for the series as it takes place in the days/weeks after the destruction of Alderaan and the events of A New Hope. As such, we see first hand that she is struggling with the destruction of her homeworld and family, all of which helped to motivate Leia, as the last royal of her planet, to track down and safeguard any remaining Alderaanians.

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Padmé tells Anakin that she is pregnant. I wonder what she was thinking before/during/after she told him?
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

I believe the same mix of external and internal would be perfect for Padmé as well. Depending on when/where it took place, the series could serve as a way for us to enter into Padmé’s mind, to really experience her motivations, feelings, and struggles. Padmé would certainly get to shine as the story unfolds, and I hardly think the series should be a case study in the psychology of Padme Amidala, but it would be fascinating to get a more personal glimpse of her thoughts. But only a glimpse – even fictional characters should be allowed their privacy.

Lastly, as a final thought, I should mention that I think Padmé deserves to be the center of attention for a rather simple reason – there are far too many male characters dominating the Star Wars landscape. While I love that there’s an Obi-Wan & Anakin comic series, and that Poe Dameron will be the center of attention in an upcoming series, I can’t help but wonder why Princess Leia is the only female character who has received her own  comic run. Well, that could easily be changed with a step in the right direction if Padmé Amidala were given a chance to standout in a series of her own.


Check out these other posts about Padmé Amidala:

The Funeral of Padmé Amidala

The Death of Padmé Amidala

A Man Who Wants to Run

During my most recent viewing of The Force Awakens, I was slammed by an epiphany so insanely obvious I was shocked it hadn’t hit me earlier. This epiphany came during the conversation Finn has with Maz Kanata while the two sit at a table in her castle. Finn, adamantly stating that there is no way to fight the First Order, is confronted by Maz when she climbs onto the table and crawls towards him. Adjusting her “glasses” as she looks at Finn, Maz states to him that, “I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people…I am looking at the eyes of a man who wants to run.”

Maz
Maz Kanata
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Finn who tells Maz she doesn’t know anything about him. Of course, we know that Maz is right, Finn DOES want to run, even if she doesn’t necessarily know all of Finn’s backstory. But although Maz confronts Finn and reveals what she sees in his eyes, she does not try to convince him to stay and fight. Instead, she simply points to two individuals who Finn can hitch a ride with to the Outer Rim. And that ends their discussion, as Finn gets up to leave and Maz returns to her seat.

Okay, so far, so good. Now, what of that epiphany I mentioned? Well, in the moment Maz says to Finn that she has “lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people” and that she is “looking at the eyes of a man who wants to run,” the following thought entered my mind:

Kanan Jarrus was running, too.

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Kanan states that his Master’s last word to him was “run.”
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”

And with that, the flood gates opened…

What if as he followed his late-Master’s order to “run,” Kanan Jarrus (formerly Caleb Dume) ended up on Takodana, in Maz Kanata’s castle?

What if he when he met Maz Kanata for the first time, she could sense who he was – a Jedi?

What if in conversing with Kanan, in discussing his past as a Jedi, she looks into HIS eyes and sees “a man who wants to run,” saying the same thing to him that she says to Finn?

What if, what if, what if…

Honestly, I see no reason this encounter shouldn’t happen. No, it NEEDS to happen. Think about it – it would add a fascinating dimension to Maz’s interaction with Finn, the recognition that she hasn’t just seen the eyes of random men who were running, but saw those eyes in one of the last members of the Jedi Order. In this vein, an encounter between Maz and Kanan could function as a building block for Maz’s backstory, a window into her past. While the centerpiece of their interaction would obviously focus on Kanan running from his past life as a Jedi, the conversation could also provide keen insights into Kanata’s views on the galaxy, particularly a galaxy reeling from the aftermath of the Clone Wars. Frankly, after meeting Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens, I would love to hear what she has to say about the Clone Wars, the fall of the Jedi Order, and the rise of the Empire. Plus, it would be pretty cool to see her counsel the young Kanan, providing the young Jedi with her own ancient “Yoda-esque” wisdom.

Run
Depa Billaba commands her padawan, Caleb, to run.
Photo Credit – MARVEL Comics

Speaking of Kanan, it sort of goes without saying but this interaction would be an easy way to bolster the already rich backstory surrounding him. And, there is already a perfect medium for us to see Maz confront Kanan “the runner” – the Marvel comic series Kanan. This series provides a fascinating glimpse of a young Kanan running from the Empire in the days and weeks after Order 66, and I think an encounter between Maz and Kanan would be a natural fit for the series.

So what do you think? Am I crazy for wanting to see Maz Kanata have the same interaction with Kanan that she does with Finn?


Addition: Since writing this piece, the Kanan comic series has come to an end (the last issue was released on March 16, 2016). Sad, I know, but I am still convinced that a meeting between Maz Kanata and Kanan Jarrus would be a great story. Hopefully it is the will of the Force that the two characters cross paths. 

The Seduction of the Dark Side

Guest Talker: Michael J. Miller

“You don’t know the power of the Dark Side,” Vader promises Luke during the climactic scene of The Empire Strikes Back. As Luke struggles to survive his encounter with the Sith Lord, both physically and emotionally, we see the central struggle of the Star Wars Saga once again – the struggle between the Light and the Dark…and the Dark looks like it’s winning. We see this play out through all six films, in Anakin, in Luke, and across the galaxy as a whole. It’s a struggle we share, and one that often gets the best of us. That is one of the most important parts of Star Wars as a modern myth. It’s meant not just to entertain us but to teach us as well.

We’re meant to connect to the myth, just as it masterfully connects to itself. With this in mind, a thought struck me as I read the first issue of Marvel’s (brilliant) Darth Vader comic. Whether this connection was intentional on the part of the author Kieron Gillen or not isn’t the point (although I’m pretty sure it was). The revelation hit regardless. The comic opens with Vader entering Jabba’s Palace for a negotiation. The whole thing feels very familiar, calling to mind the opening of Return Of The Jedi and Luke’s entrance to Jabba’s Palace. The gate raises. Vader decapitates two Gamorrean guards. He then forces an audience with Jabba where the Hutt warns him not to attempt any mind tricks.

Lord Vader chastises Jabba the Hutt. Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics - Darth Vader Issue # 001

Lord Vader chastises Jabba the Hutt.
Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics – Darth Vader Issue # 001

But a deeper connection came a few pages later. Jabba tells Vader, “Oh Jedi…always making everything so difficult.” Without hesitation Vader immediately cuts apart Jabba’s forces with brutal efficiency. Vader then proceeds to Force choke Jabba while warning, “You called me Jedi. You know nothing. Mind tricks are not of the Dark Side. We prefer force. Do you understand?” When Luke appears before Jabba to bargain for Han’s release four years later, Bib Fortuna confidently affirms, “He’s no Jedi.”

Yes, this is a condescending swipe at Luke. But, as with so many moments in Star Wars, this serves multiple purposes. Bib Fortuna is stating a very real truth. Luke is no Jedi. He has fallen quite far from the path and the opening pages of Darth Vader #1 illustrate that in a new (and brilliantly connected) way. Darth Vader shows Jabba, in no uncertain terms, the difference between the Jedi and the Sith. When Luke appears in the same spot years later, he acts as a Sith does. He is no Jedi.

In A New Hope, Obi-Wan taught Luke (and the viewer) much about the nature of the Force. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda teaches Luke (and the viewer) what it means to be a Jedi. It is interesting to note that “Yoda” is Sanskrit for “warrior.” The diminutive Yoda is not what one would traditionally picture when you think of warrior. Yet, with his name, he is meant to symbolize the model in the Star Wars universe for the ideal warrior. This ideal warrior chides Luke for craving adventure and excitement. He tells Luke that “wars not make one great.”

On Dagobah, Yoda teaches Luke, “A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the Dark Side. Anger. Fear. Aggression. The Dark Side of the Force are they. Easily they flow. Quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will. As it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.”

Yoda teaches Luke about the Force. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Yoda teaches Luke about the Force.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Anger. Fear. Aggression. Easily they flow…yet they will consume you. The Dark Side offers power – quick, easy, and strong. But it will take and corrupt you as payment. It is impossible to use the Dark Side without sacrificing all that is good in you. It seems like it can be helpful, that it can even be used to good ends. But that is an illusion, the seductive allure of the Dark Side.

We live in a culture where the Myth of Redemptive Violence reigns. We are taught, by the silent (and often sinister) voices of our culture that we can solve our problems, right wrongs, even defeat evil by using violent means. It is a challenge to even consider rejecting the Myth of Redemptive Violence, much less committing to and living out that rejection. It’s scary to reject the norms of culture. It’s also difficult to believe we can triumph over the forces of darkness in our world without violence and retribution. Luke poses the same questions to Yoda as they train.

Luke—“Is the Dark Side stronger?”

Yoda—“No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”

Luke—“But how am I to know the good side from the bad?”

Yoda—“You will know when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never attack.”

Luke—“Tell me why I can’t…”

Yoda—“No, no! There is no ‘why.’”

Yoda refuses to even entertain the idea of using the Force for anything other than knowledge and defense. Anything else is of the Dark Side. Luke, like all of us, wonders why we can’t use it – from time to time – if our motives are pure and our cause is just. Why can’t we, to quote singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, “kick the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight”? Because, Yoda would answer (traditionally with far more inverted syntax), that’s the Dark Side. Yet Luke can’t see this, as we learn when he reaches the cave.

Luke—“What’s in there?”

Yoda—“Only what you take with you. Your weapons…you will not need them.

Luke descends into the cave on Dagobah, weapons anchored around his waist.  Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Luke descends into the cave on Dagobah, weapons anchored around his waist.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Ignoring Yoda, Luke straps on his weapons belt and (quite symbolically) descends into the cave. He also takes in his anger, fear, hate, and self-doubt, illustrated (again, symbolically) by his weapons belt. These emotions take the form of Darth Vader because he is of the Dark Side and the Dark Side gets its strength from those very same emotions. This vision of Vader doesn’t draw his weapon or attack until Luke does so first. Therefore, Luke fails the test in the cave because he becomes the aggressor. He attacks. He gives in to the Dark Side.

Once Luke kills Vader he sees his greatest fear—his face in Vader’s helmet. This symbolizes what Luke may become. (It also symbolizes something Luke doesn’t know yet, that Vader is his father and they are both susceptible to the pull of the Dark Side.) Despite his failure at the cave, Luke still draws his lightsaber first when he’s confronted by Vader on Cloud City.

Vader toys with Luke in combat, goading him to let go of his hate as it’s the only way Luke can hope to defeat him. With Luke physically beaten, Vader reveals he is Luke’s father, breaking him spiritually and emotionally. He takes Luke’s hand as well as any sense of self Luke had.

Luke's face appears in the helmet of Darth Vader. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Luke’s face appears in the helmet of Darth Vader.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

This all leaves Luke balancing on the precipice of the Dark Side – a place his father has stood before. So when Return Of The Jedi opens, it’s no surprise that Luke is acting as Darth Vader did in Jabba’s Palace. Vader is no Jedi. And, at that moment, Luke isn’t either. The struggle at the core of Star Wars continues to play out, in Luke as it did in Anakin a generation before…as it plays out in each of us every day.

Fear. Anger. Aggression. They feel omnipresent, in our world as well as in Star Wars, and they can often seem impossible to overcome. But they aren’t, as Luke shows us. Luke transcends the seductive pull of the Dark Side. He shows us what we are meant to be. We are called to so much more. “Luminous beings are we.” But if we believe that it’s impossible to transcend these violent forces, well that is why we fail.


Check out these other Guest Talker posts by Michael Miller:

The Nature of Hero

A Man in Debt to a Hutt

So, What’s Luke Been Up To?