Expanded Universe

White Uniform Guy with Red Eyes and a Blue Face

First introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn has always been my favorite Star Wars character. The white uniformed Imperial officer with red eyes and blue face – an alien of the Chiss species – captivated me as a young Star Wars fan. Watching the films as a youth, I was intrigued by the Empire but did not identify with them. How could I? They were the bad guys, the evil villains dealing death and destruction who had to be stopped by the likes of Luke Skywalker and the other heroes of the Rebellion. And yet, in 1993 when I read Heir to the Empire for the first time I was mesmerized by Grand Admiral Thrawn. Here was an Imperial unique not only in appearance but in demeanor, an intriguing character, a captivating Star Wars villain. Although at the time I could not fully appreciate all of the nuances of Heir to the Empire, all of the intricacies and connections Zahn had created in the novel, I could never-the-less identify with a character who was different and new.

Thrawn Trilogy
“Heir to the Empire”, the first novel in The Thrawn Trilogy.
Photo Credit: Bantam Spectra

Admittedly, there is no easy way to articulate just how my love for Thrawn has grown since that time. While memories from my youth remain rooted in my head, those memories are scattered and sporadic. I can recall, for example, playing the 1994 TIE Fighter computer game and encountering Thrawn through that medium, a medium that offered me a visual depiction of the white uniformed officer. While Thrawn is not at the center of the game, one event in TIE Fighter never-the-less grounds my overall memory: Emperor Palpatine promoting Vice Admiral Thrawn to the elite status of Grand Admiral and ordering him to track down the traitor Demetrius Zaarin. This was, and still is, an event in Star Wars as meaningful to me as watching the climax of A New Hope or the revelation that Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker. In short, my experience of Thrawn, from the very start, was as real to me as anything else in Star Wars. It did not matter that he was never in the Original Trilogy. No, all that mattered was that Grand Admiral Thrawn commanded a presence within the corner of my mind dedicated to Star Wars. He still does.

Like that moment in TIE Fighter, other “Thrawnian” moments in his story-arc stand out. But there is one moment that is light-years beyond all the rest: the way the Grand Admiral is introduced in the first chapter of Heir to the Empire. 

The Art of First Impressions

It is not just that Thrawn shows up in the first chapter of Heir to the Empire, it is how Timothy Zahn chose to introduce him that stands out – through the eyes of, and interactions with, Captain Gilad Pellaeon. Throughout the entirety of Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy (of which Heir to the Empire is the first novel), Pellaeon – commanding Thrawn’s flagship – serves not only as an independent and capable character in his own right, but also as a foil to Thrawn. While Pellaeon is established as a competent commander – reminiscing in the first few pages about leading the Imperial retreat from the Battle of Endor – once he is placed in the same room as the Grand Admiral it becomes apparent that the two exist on different plains of military acumen. How the reader discovers this is in the most obvious way possible: in the form of a battle.

It is Pellaeon who leads the reader to Thrawn, the Captain maneuvering through the corridors of the Star Destroyer Chimaera to inform the Grand Admiral of a successful scan raid on the Obroa-skai system. Yet, as Pellaeon enters a room to meet with Thrawn, our introduction to the Grand Admiral takes a curious turn. This room, we quickly learn, is filled with the holograms of artwork. Rather than concerning himself with the inevitable New Republic attack which he is confident will now unfold following the scan raid – an attack Pellaeon is skeptical will come – the Grand Admiral instead asks the Captain a rather odd question:

“Tell me, Captain, do you know anything about art?”

This singular question, and the brief lesson in art history which unfolds, establishes the uniqueness of Thrawn. He is a student, not only of military tactics and strategy, but of every conceivable topic that will enable him to defeat an enemy. But it is the study of art that truly sets Grand Admiral Thrawn apart, an aspect of his character that is returned to again and again (even in the new version of Thrawn in the Disney canon). It is in this moment that we are not simply introduced to Thrawn the character by Captain Pellaeon, but we are introduced to Thrawn the genius, the savant, the truly grand. Cool and collected, as if his job is that of a museum curator, the Grand Admiral articulates the nuances of artistic pieces to Captain Pellaeon. 

“Thrawn gestured to a part of the inner display circle to his right. ‘Saffa paintings,’ he identified them. ‘Circa 1550 to 2200, Pre-Empire Date. See how the style changes – right here – at the first contact with the Thennqora. Over there-‘ he pointed to the left-hand wall ‘-are examples of Paonidd extrassa art. Note the similarities with the early Saffa work, and also the mid-eighteenth-century Pre-Em Vaathkree flatsculp.'” 

Immediately upon finishing his tour through Saffa and Paonidd art history, the attack comes, and with the same cool and collected demeanor, Grand Admiral Thrawn enacts his strategy to defeat the oncoming New Republic ships. His knowledge of art will play a role in the battle. 

Thrawn: In Action

Again, it is Pellaeon, acting as the foil to Thrawn, who sets up the reader to truly understand the military prowess in the mind of the Grand Admiral. Learning that the attack force consists of four Assault Frigates and three wings of X-Wings (108 Starfighters in total) it is Pellaeon, and not Thrawn, who issues a command.

“‘Run engines to full power,’ he [Pellaeon] called towards the intercom. ‘Prepare to make the jump to lightspeed.'”

Without missing a beat, Thrawn countermands that order, instead issuing an order for TIE pilots to head to their stations and for the Chimaera’s shields to be activated. In turn, the Admiral issues another order for the “three nearest sentry ships to attack.” Watching the holographic tactical display – which had replaced the holograms of art – Pellaeon and Thrawn look on as three blue dots representing the sentry ships speed towards the attackers. As one blue dot disappears, Thrawn again issues an order for the ships to pull back and for the “Sector Four line to scramble out of the invaders’ vector.” In other words, Thrawn gives the attackers a clear path to the Chimaera.

Heir to the Empire
A page from the graphic novel version of Heir to the Empire.
Photo Credit – Dark Horse Comics

Confused, Pellaeon inquires: “Shouldn’t we at least signal the rest of the Fleet?” As if he had already anticipated the question, Thrawn responds by noting that “the last thing we want to do right now is bring in more of our ships…after all, there may be survivors, and we wouldn’t want the Rebellion learning about us. Would we.”

Before I continue, I should note that at no point does one get the impression that Captain Pellaeon, or any of the other subordinates on the Chimaera, are incompetent. As I previously said, Pellaeon is established as being an effective commander by virtue of his role at the Battle of Endor. Likewise, his order to flee into hyperspace, and his question about bringing in reinforcements, serve as clear examples of standard military protocol, the way the Imperial Navy is supposed to operate when it is severely outgunned. And this is what makes Thrawn’s statement about not wanting any survivors all the more fascinating. Pellaeon, a veteran of the Imperial Navy, does not believe his ship and crew – a crew that is young and inexperienced – can take on the attackers. The Grand Admiral not only has the opposite opinion, but he is confident he will annihilate his opponent.

Immediately after saying he does not want there to be survivors, Thrawn gives the order which will ensure this happens.

“‘Bridge: I want a twenty-degree port yaw rotation – bring us flat to the invaders’ vector, superstructure pointing at them. As soon as they’re within the outer perimeter, the Sector Four sentry line is to re-form behind them and ham all transmissions.”

The Bridge, and Pellaeon, are admittedly confused, but Thrawn demands obedience. As the Star Destroyer rotates into position, the Grand Admiral orders all TIE squadrons to launch and head in the opposite direction, away from the enemy. Pellaeon, to his credit, recognizes the tactic: “a classic Marg Sabl maneuver.”  But Pellaeon also questions whether the attackers would really fall for “anything that simple.” In his confidence, Thrawn is positive the attackers will fall for it AND be destroyed in the process. Of course, he turns out to be right.

As if on cue, the attackers change their strategy, playing into Thrawn’s hands. Pellaeon is stunned, inquiring “What in the Empire are they doing?” To this, the Grand Admiral’s response is laced with the brilliant depth of his character:

“‘They’re trying the only defense they know against a Marg Sabl…Or, to be more precise, the only defense they are psychologically capable of attempting. You see Captain, there’s an Elom commanding that force…and Elomin simply cannot handle the unstructured attack profile of a properly executed Marg Sabl.'”

Still stunned, it dawns on Pellaeon precisely how Thrawn had figured out he faced an Elomin task force. “‘That sentry ship attack a few minutes ago…you were able to tell from that that those were Elomin ships,'” the Captain declares. Grand Admiral Thrawn’s response is as predictable as it is unexpected. “‘Learn about art…‘ he tells his second-in-command. ‘When you understand a species’ art, you understand that species.'”

An hour later, we are told, the battle was over.

Conclusion to an Introduction

I must admit that, as I look back over what I have just written above, my retelling of Thrawn’s introduction is only able to partially capture the gravitas of his character. Then again, my intention was not to perfectly recreate the first chapter of Heir to the Empire. Rather, my description serves to acknowledge that there is a profound and impressive literary depth to the first few pages of the novel, a depth that is woven into the rest of the novel and the entire trilogy. Or, to put it differently: Timothy Zahn is one hell of a writer and this is apparent right from the beginning.

Most importantly, the depth in the opening chapter of the novel penetrates to the very core of Grand Admiral Thrawn. It offers the reader insight into this brand new character, identifying him as a formidable and terrifying villain who truly is the “Heir” to the Galactic Empire. At the end of chapter one, the Chiss tells Pellaeon that his plan is to the solve the only puzzle worth solving: “The complete, total, and utter destruction of the Rebellion.” Following his art lesson and his masterful annihilation of an enemy attack, this is clearly no idle threat. Grand Admiral Thrawn really is capable of bringing the New Republic – the Rebellion – to its knees. But if you want to know more about how the white uniform guy with red eyes and a blue face does about doing that, you will just have to reread the trilogy or pick it up for the first time. 


All quotations in this piece are from the 1992 mass market paperback edition of Heir to the Empire.

Imperial Profile: The Grand Admirals

While my admiration of Grand Admiral Thrawn has always been a center-piece of my Star Wars love, I have never-the-less also gravitated to other high ranking officials within the Galactic Empire, finding their stories equally fascinating. As part of my ongoing “Imperial Profile” series I wanted to offer a small look at not just Thrawn but ALL of the Grand Admirals who have been in service to the Empire. What follows is just a small sampling of information about each Grand Admiral in the Star Wars Expanded Universe AND the Disney Canon, information which I have spliced together from a variety of sources for quick and easy access. If you have any questions or thoughts about these individuals, the rank of Grand Admiral, the sources I have used, or anything else, I hope you will leave a comment!!!


Background on the Grand Admirals

Introduced for the first time in Timothy Zahn’s infamous novel Heir to the Empire, the rank of Grand Admiral was utilized over and over again by Expanded Universe authors, writers, and creators. While Grand Admiral Thrawn was the very first Grand Admiral introduced into Star Wars, he was chronologically the last individual to be promoted to the esteemed rank. According to The Essential Guide to Warfare (written by Jason Fry), Emperor Palpatine elevated twelve individuals to the new rank of Grand Admiral in 2 BBY during the New Year Fete Week. Promoted for various reasons – acumen as battlefield strategists, commitment to the New Order, role in research and development – the twelve Grand Admirals were adorned in white dress uniforms with signature gold epaulets (The Essential Guide to Warfare, pg. 168-169).

While twelve were initially promoted, a thirteenth- Mitth’raw’nuruodo (aka Thrawn) – would be named as Grand Admiral Zaarin’s replacement following Zaarin’s attempted coup. The last individual promoted to the rank, Thrawn would also be the last Grand Admiral in-service to the Empire until his death in 8 ABY.


Martio Batch

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson and Daniel Wallace)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) -Developed the TIE Phantom. Destruction of Aeten II using the Tarkin superweapon.

Death – Sometime between 4 ABY and 6 ABY


Nial Declann

First MentionWho’s Who: Imperial Grand Admirals (Star Wars Insider 66)

First AppearanceStar Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed (LucasArts)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human (Force-sensitive)

Notable Achievement(s) – Taken to Dromund Kaas and trained in the ways of the dark side of the Force by the Prophets of the Dark Side.

Death – 4 ABY during the Battle of Endor (stationed on Death Star II)


Octavian Grant

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson)

Homeworld – Unknown (planet in the Tapani Sector)

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Last known Grand Admiral (before Thrawn re-emerged from the Unknown Regions); Defected to New Republic in 6 ABY

Death – Unknown (survived past 10 ABY)


Josef Grunger

First MentionThe Glove of Darth Vader (Paul and Hollace Davids)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Seizure of planet Gargon following the Battle of Endor. One of the first Imperial warlords, declaring himself the new Emperor.

Death – 5 ABY at the Battle of Tralus (fighting Grand Admiral Pitta’s forces)


Ishin-ll-Rax

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson and Daniel Wallace)

First Appearance – Republic HoloNet News Special Inaugural Edition 16:5:241 (Star Wars Insider 84)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Led the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order (COMPNOR).

Death – Committed suicide in 4 ABY by crashing his Star Destroyer in the Denarii Nova


Afsheen Makati

First MentionVision of the Future (Timothy Zahn)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Hunted down and killed the false Prophet “Kadaan.”

Death – sometime around 5 ABY while leading the defense of the Corporate Sector


Danetta Pitta

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson and Daniel Wallace)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Near-Human

Notable Achievements(s) – Notable xenophobe and defender of human culture;  Commanded three dungeon ships, taking them through the Outer Rim to depopulate and sterilize non-Human worlds; established himself as the protector of the Corellian sector following the Battle of Endor

Death – 5 ABY at the Battle of Tralus (fighting Grand Admiral Grunger’s forces)


Peccati Syn 

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson and Daniel Wallace); indirect appearance in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds

Homeworld – Taris

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Devout follower of the “Sacred Way” as a youth. Remained loyal to Coruscant following the Battle of Endor. Convert to the Church of the Dark Side.

Death – 5 ABY leading the defense of Kashyyyk against New Republic forces


Miltin Takel

First MentionStar Wars Adventure Journal 5

First AppearanceStar Wars Adventure Journal 10

Homeworld – Gargon

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Victorious at the Siege of Trasemene in 2 ABY. Takel was one of the few individuals who knew of Thrawn’s promotion to Grand Admiral. Narrowly survived the Battle of Endor.

Death – Executed on Kessel by Grand Moff Hissa in 5 ABY


Osvald Teshik

First MentionThe Far Orbit Project (Timothy S. O’Brien)

Homeworld – Anaxes (spent youth on Kallistas)

Species – Human (cyborg following the Battle of Andalia)

Notable Achievement(s) – Survived his “execution” when he was ordered by Emperor Palpatine to engage the Hapan Royal Navy, with insufficient forces, at the Battle of Andalia; Continued the fight against the Rebels at the Battle of Endor even after the remnants of the Imperial Fleet fled into hyperspace. His Star Destroyer disabled, Teshik was captured and executed by the New Republic.

Death – 4 ABY by the New Republic for war crimes


Ruufan Tigellinus

First AppearanceStar Wars Adventure Journal 8

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Commanded Imperial forces fighting pirates in the Outer Rim. Member of the Order of the Canted Circle. Eventually became a Grand Moff before his death.

Death – 5 ABY


Demetrius Zaarin

First Mention/AppearanceStar Wars: TIE Fighter (LucasArts)

Homeworld – Coruscant

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Head of Imperial Starfighter research and development;. Designed the TIE Advanced and TIE Defender. Attempted a coup against Emperor Palpatine in 3 ABY but was defeated by Vice Admiral Thrawn.

Death – 4 ABY in the Unknown Regions (aboard the CR90 Corvette Vorknkx)


Mitth’raw’nuruodo (Thrawn)

First Mention/AppearanceHeir to the Empire (Timothy Zahn)

Homeworld – Csilla

Species – Chiss

Notable Achievement(s) – Destroyed the Republic’s Outbound Flight in 27 BBY. Founded the “Empire of the Hand” in the Unknown Regions. As a Vice Admiral, Thrawn hunted down and defeated the traitor Demetrius Zaarin. Promoted to the rank of Grand Admiral as Zaarin’s replacement. Defeated the Warlord Nuso Esva at the Battle of Quethold. Launched a crushing campaign against the New Republic in 8 ABY.

Death – 9 ABY during the Battle of Bilbringi (assassinated by his bodyguard Rukh while aboard the ISD Chimaera)

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Disney Canon: Alternative Universe

In 2014, with the decision by Disney/Lucasfilm to create a new Star Wars canon, the Expanded Universe was set aside under the term “Legends.” Confined under this new label, the Grand Admirals of the Empire and their stories may have been set aside but the rank of Grand Admiral has, never-the-less, found its way into the ranks of the Empire. This time, rather than twelve Grand Admirals being present, only two Grand Admirals have, so far, been incorporated into the new Alternative Universe. One is a familiar face from the Expanded Universe, the other is a bold, new character with an enticing story and growing fan base.


Mitth’raw’nuruodo (Thrawn)

First AppearanceStar Wars Rebels: Steps into Shadows

Homeworld – Csilla

Species – Chiss

Notable Achievement(s) – Pacification of the Rebel insurgency on Batonn. As a result of his victory, promoted to the new rank of Grand Admiral by Emperor Palpatine. Given command of the Seventh Fleet. Successful blockade and destruction of “Chopper Base” in the Atollon System. Important 

Death – Unknown (disappeared in 1 BBY during the Liberation of Lothal) 


Rae Sloane

First AppearanceA New Dawn (John Jackson Miller)

Homeworld – Ganthel

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – As an Imperial cadet, Sloane foiled a plan to assassinate Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Foiled a plot by Count Vidian to destroy Cynda, the moon orbiting the planet Gorse. Taking command after the death of Admiral Piett, Sloane coordinated the Imperial retreat from the Battle of Endor. Promoted to Grand Admiral by Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax, making her the “leader” of the Imperial Navy. Helped to establish the First Order.

Death – Unknown (disappeared with Imperial fleet in 5 ABY following the Battle of Jakku, still alive ten years before the attack on Tuanul village)

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Haikuesday: Coruscant

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Sorry for the wait,
I’ve been sitting in traffic
for-flippin-ever!

Was gonna write these
at home but I have time now
since we aren’t moving


Rakata Owners.
30,000 BBY.
Legends are the best.


Planet: Coruscant.
From: Heir to the Empire.
Lucas liked the name.


Entire planet,
an Ecumenopolis,
“just one big city.”


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic


An onscreen debut
in Return of the Jedi
Special Edition.


A distant Temple.
Crowds pack streets celebrating
an Emperor’s death.


The Phantom Menace.
The Republic Capital.
Corruption Galore!


Corellian Run
and Perlemian Trade Route.
Region: the Core Worlds.


Places you should see:
The Senate building of course!
Jedi Temple, too.


Manarai Mountains.
NOT an urbanized landscape.
Still canon to me.


Need something to eat?
You should try Dex’s Diner.
Tasty Jawa Juice.


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic


I wonder what the
planetary accident
rate happens to be.


Zillo Beast Terror!
Malastare to Coruscant.
Palpatine’s problem.


Honor Salima,
Coruscant Home Defense Fleet.
She is in command.


Coruscant below,
a Venator on patrol
as fire rages.

Seppie Invasion!
The Battle of Coruscant.
Massive engagement.

Invisible Hand:
Grievous’ dreadnaught, flagship.
Anakin “lands” it.


Republic dissolved.
Galactic Empire born.
Capital remains.

Official name change.
 Now: Imperial Center.
Thanks to Palpatine.


Super construction.
Buried beneath big buildings.
Dreadful Lusankya.


Deadly Krytos trap!
Isard unleashes virus
after the Rogues win.


Great Hyperspace War!
Sadow attacks Coruscant.
The Jedi rally.


Yuuzhan Vong control,
27 ABY.
Time to terraform!


The Jedi Temple,
sitting on a “Sithy” spot,
says James Luceno.


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic


Hold up for a sec:
Do we ever see the dark
side of Coruscant?


The Koros Trunk Line,
from Koros to Coruscant.
Grievous and Sadow.


Grand plan: Asteroids.
Thrawn lays siege to Coruscant
using some space rocks.

Haiku Addendum:
The rocks are invisible.
Damn, Thrawn is brilliant!


Coruscant terror!
Grievous sends cleaning droids armed
with bombs to the world.


Sheev and Anakin.
Galaxies Opera House.
Performance: Squid Lake.


Clone Commander Fox
leading the Coruscant Guard
during the Clone Wars.


Darth Krayt’s Empire.
Capital for the One Sith.
Hardly a surprise.


Rising First Order.
Hosnian Cataclysm.
Lucky Coruscant.


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic


The Outlander Club.
Kenobi and Skywalker
track an assassin.


Thrawn, Ciena,  Eli,
Nash, Thane, Kendy. Jude, Kallus.
Academy grads.


Coruscant rebels.
The Anklebiter Brigade.
CoCo born youngsters.


Ahsoka and Plo,
descent to the underworld.
Mythic adventure.


Coruscant haiku.
Dizzying, overwhelming.
Just like the city.


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Ugh, seriously!!!!!!!!
They should rename Coruscant
“Stuck in Traffic World”

Why did I move here!?!?!
I spend my time sitting in
these jam packed sky lanes.

Screw it, I’m moving.
I’ll find some backwater world
and settle down there.

Coruscant is the
bright center but I’ll find the
planet farthest from.

Traffic and Traffic
…if I can get home and pack…
Traffic and Traffic


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)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Cloud City (September 2017)

General Grievous (October 2017)

Millennium Falcon (November 2017)

Poe Dameron (December 2017)

The Battle of Umbara (January 2018)

Hondo Ohnaka (February 2018)

Jyn Erso (March 2018)

No Place For Children

“War is no place for children.” – Toor Snapit, Jedi Scout

Locked in a deadly, all-or-nothing battle with the Sith Brotherhood of Darkness, the Jedi Army of Light is in need of soldiers to keep the fight going and is willing to recruit children into its ranks to do just that. This is the backdrop of Jedi vs. Sith, an Expanded Universe graphic novel written by Darko Macan which begins with young cousins embarking on an “adventure” that ends in tragedy. Hailing from the world Somov Rit, the cousins – Tomcat and Bug – are the first to be identified by the Jedi Scout Toor Snapit, himself sent to recruit force-sensitive children for the war effort. In turn, a third cousin – a young girl named Rain – is also taken by Snapit even though she has (seemingly) minimal Force-abilities.

That Toor Snapit has his doubts about taking children to war is obvious, commenting that “war is no place for children.” And yet, this doesn’t stop the elderly Jedi from taking the cousins from their home-world to battle the Sith on the planet Ruusan.  Nor, for that matter, did it stop him from taking the siblings Sladak and Slatva, twins whom the cousins meet on Snapit’s ship. The cousins (and the reader) only have but a moment with these twins, and as their vessel flies above the Ruusan landsccape, and the siblings express their excitement about their adventure, the ship is struck by Sith weaponry which kills Sladak and Slatva. Stunned, the cousins look on in horror, the excitement about their journey immediately giving way to the reality that has struck. In turn, as she screams that she “does not want to die,” the ship pivots and Rain falls through the hole in the side of the ship where the Sith had struck…

…and all Tomcat and Bug can do is look out the gaping hole with tears streaming down their eyes.

Rain's Fall 2
Tomcat (left) and Bug watch Rain fall from their transport.
Photo Credit – Jedi vs. Sith (Dark Horse Books)

Excitement and adventure are certainly themes in Jedi vs. Sith, but they are themes that highlight the naivete of children and a juvenile belief that war offers a thrilling escape from quotidian life. One can hardly fault children for this naivete, or even for the actions that they are forced to take as the story progresses, killing included. In fact, it is not long after Rain’s fall (spoiler: she survives) that Tomcat and Bug engage in their first skirmish, a skirmish which forces the children to kill a number of Sith soldiers. Neither are trained to fight, neither wears any protective armor, but they must never-the-less kill in order to survive.

Why they are killing – or rather, why they are killing Sith soldiers – is not clearly defined, though. While there is an obvious necessity in the moment to protect themselves, on a larger scale the reason the Jedi and Sith are fighting is never clearly defined. That is, it is not defined in any overarching ethical, moral, or political sense. Rather, the Army of Light commanded by Jedi Lord Hoth and the Sith Lord Kaan’s Brotherhood of Darkness are fighting because, quite frankly, that is what the Jedi and Sith do. And, in this sense, it really does not matter who holds the moral or ethical high-ground in this struggle. The Battle of Ruusan is about the Jedi vs. Sith, but which side one fights for is utterly pointless. Jedi or Sith, both sides are in the wrong because both sides are hellbent on one goal: destroying the other.

Although one could argue that the Sith do hold a sliver of ideological superiority to the Jedi. At the very least, dealing out death and destruction are what the Sith do best. After all, one can hardly fault a Sith for acting like a Sith. Then again, there is one Sith in the story who rises above all others, finding fault with his counterparts: Darth Bane. Scheming throughout the entire story, Bane is hellbent on one goal himself – not the destruction of the Jedi but the destruction of the Sith. Only after the Sith have been purged of their impurities – naemly, everyone but himself – will the Sith truly triump over their hated Jedi enemy. And, as Bane pushes Lord Kaan and the other Sith Lords towards a suicidal end, Bane will also happen upon a child on the battlefield: the girl Rain.

Rain’s Fall

That Rain is allowed to join the adventure of her cousins is shocking, a fact that is punctuated by her seemingly feeble connection to the Force but even more so by her youth. While all  three cousins are still children, Rain is the youngest and seeks to accompany Tomcat and Bug because of her childish desire to be part of the group. The Jedi Tor Snapit, having reservations about bringing children into a war zone, never-the-less acquiesces…and Rain pays the price when she falls from the transport ship.

But thankfully for her, she survives thanks to intervention of Laa, one of Ruusan’s native and sentient Bouncers. While her cousins continue on their journey guilt ridden and believing Rain fell to her death, the girl finds shelter and protection with Laa, traveling the planet with her new friend. Unaware of the deadly struggle unfolding on the world, Rain is once again saved by Laa when the Sith unleash a Force storm across the planet, burning the landscape and immolating other Bouncers in the process. Going crazy with feral rage, Bouncers which survived the destruction begin to attack Sith and Jedi alike, spreading panic among the combatants.

Rain's Fall
Rain attempts suicide but is saved by her powerful connection with the Force.
Photo Credit – Jedi vs. Sith (Dark Horse Books)

Following the devastation, as the battle on the world grows more intense, Laa – having foreknowledge of the future – tells Rain that she will become a Dark Jedi. Distraught, the child attempts suicide by jumping from a cliff, a shocking act and one that the reader can interpret as a continuation of her fall from the Jedi transport. Before her fall from the transport, Rain cries that she does not want to die. Now, confronted by Laa’s foreknowledge, Rain tells her friend that she wanted to die but changed her mind, realizing that she is incredibly strong in the Force and can destroy the Dark Jedi within her without killing herself.

Riding on Laa’s back as they seek out the Jedi, tragedy strikes when a Jedi arrow pierces her Bouncer friend, killing Laa and  sending Rain toppling to the ground (Rain’s fall is finally complete). Grief-stricken and angered by the loss of her friend, Rain unleashes her fury on the Jedi who fired the arrow, using the Force to snap his neck (and the neck of his accomplice). It is immediately after this stunning moment when Darth Bane will come across the child. Intrigued by the powerful girl who killed two Jedi, Bane will question Rain and, in turn, allows her to stay with him.

Seeds of Destruction

While Rain joins Darth Bane on his quest to destroy and reconstitute the Sith Order in his own image – imago Bane – her cousin Tomcat also joins the Sith, albeit earlier in the story. Disenfranchised by the Jedi and believing them weak, Tomcat murders the Jedi General Kiel Charny and agrees to become the apprentice of the Sith Lord Githany. In turn, this decision to join the Sith will set the stage for Tomcat’s fatal showdown with his cousin Bug.

Tomcat and Bug
Bug (blue saber) faces his cousin Tomcat (red saber).
Photo Credit – Jedi vs. Sith (Dark Horse Books)

Thus, the story comes full-circle. In the opening of the graphic novel, the adolescent rivalry of Bug and Tomcat is on display, the two engaging in normal behavior of youth jockeying to one-up the other. Now, the innocent cousin-rivalry gives way to an all-out battle of Cousin vs. Cousin – Bug vs. Tomcat – Jedi vs. Sith. 

It should never have come to this point, to a fatal moment where these opponents, once bound together in kinship, are now locked in a climactic struggle of survival and destruction. Rooted to the belief that they alone are right, the final battle between the rivals begins and ends in the only way possible: suffering and death.

Bug will die, crushed by a rock that falls upon him.

Tomcat will suffer, recognizing his errors when it is already too late to save Bug or Rain.

Rain will survive, not as an innocent young girl but as Zannah, Sith apprentice to Bane.

The cousins should have never been there to begin with. After all, the Jedi Toor Snappit was right, war is no place for children. 

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)

Cloud City (September 2017)

Talking Thrawn with Hyperspace PodBlast

Introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the white uniformed, blue-bodied and red-eyed humanoid, has always been my absolute favorite Star Wars character. Knowing how much I adore the famous Chiss (the name for Thrawn’s species), Shelby and Bryan from Hyperspace PodBlast invited me to join them in a recent episode to discuss not only my passion for the Expanded Universe character, but my thoughts on Grand Admiral Thrawn’s new role in the Disney canon. Have a listen to our chat down below, and be sure to head over to Hyperspace PodBlast to hear this and other great Star Wars conversations! Oh, and be sure to follow Hyperspace PodBlast on Twitter @hyperspace_pod

 

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.

daala
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. 

Trailers for The Old Republic

While I have only played The Old Republic MMO sporadically, I have never-the-less been stunned by the incredible cinematic trailers that have accompanied the game. So, I decided to collect them all into one spot so people could watch them without needing to do much searching. Enjoy!


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.

Hundred Year Darkness (2)
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.

LukeGif
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.

JediSearch
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

JediTreeLuke
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