MARVEL

DJ: Most Wanted (Review)

A while back I was perusing the local comic store when I came across a decently priced copy of DJ: Most Wanted. I didn’t really have an interest in the Marvel one-shot about the slicer named DJ who helps Finn and Rose in The Last Jedi, primarily because I was underwhelmed by his presence in the film. While it was fun to see actor Benicio Del Toro in a Star Wars film, I ultimately left my first (and subsequent) viewings of The Last Jedi not really caring one way or the other for his character. I guess you could say I “nothinged” him, having no opinion of DJ other than to say “he is in the movie.”

Yet, as I stood there looking at the Marvel one-shot – which was released in January 2018 – I decided I would bite the bullet and give it a chance. At the very least, I convinced myself, perhaps the story would make DJ slightly more interesting and help me appreciate him a little bit more. Except, that didn’t really happen. While it took me some time to finally read DJ: Most Wanted, I did eventually get around to it and was left feeling…nothing.

Spoiler Time!

The general story run down for the comic book goes like this: DJ is on Canto Bight doing some gambling, but really he is just stealing money. He finds himself in a lot trouble and as a way of saving his own skin from the casino bosses he willingly gets himself arrested. Thus, he is plopped down in a jail cell and there he will sit until Finn and Rose show up.

DJ, Finn, Rose
DJ (center) with Rose and Finn.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Now, in fairness, there is a bit more to the story than my very basic summary. But ultimately the idea behind this comic book is to tell us how DJ ended up in jail, thus setting up his encounter with our Resistance heroes. Frankly, I have no problem with this. I am all for minor characters from the Star Wars movies (and other stories) getting some interesting depth tacked onto them. This can be fun and can even be used to add fascinating concepts into the galaxy far, far away. Ultimately, this is what DJ: Most Wanted is meant to do – give DJ a little background and some extra dialogue, use him to provide a little more insight into the culture of Canto Bight, all while explaining how his story intersects and merges with The Last Jedi.

Because I was a bit “meh” about DJ in the film, reading DJ: Most Wanted DID give me some more insight into his character. But it didn’t do anything to really make me more interested in him in general.  I am not disappointed for taking the time to read it, or for even spending a few bucks on it (though I would never have paid full price), but I am also not necessarily ever going to say to myself “I need to re-read DJ: Most Wanted.” Perhaps someday I will, and I hope if/when that happens I can more fully appreciate DJ as a character. Although, to be perfectly honest, the likelihood of that happening really hinges on whether DJ makes more appearances in Star Wars stories in the future where he gains added depth from meaningful encounters with other characters in the franchise For example, I could easily see him interacting with Hondo Ohnaka, perhaps on Batuu (at the “Galaxy’s Edge”).

Unfortunately, I don’t get the impression there are any plans for DJ to receive more treatment any time soon. And if I am right, this is really too bad. I mean, at the very least, a Star Wars character played by Benicio Del Toro should be a bigger deal. Right?

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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. 

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! 

Would Princess Leia’s “Real Mother” Please Stand Up…(Part 2)

Spoiler Alert: This piece contains information from the Princess Leia comic series.

My wife and I will take the girl. We’ve always talked of adopting a baby girl. She will be loved with us.” – Bail Organa

In the first part of this two part analysis, I examined the continuity issue between Return of the Jedi, where Leia describes her mother to Luke, and Revenge of the Sith, which shows the death of Leia’s mother when Leia and her brother are only minutes old. I will spare you a full rehashing of the first piece as you can go read it yourself, but I should note that, to date, no fix has come down from the people at Lucasfilm to settle this issue. Given the new commitment to continuity and canon in the form of a Lucasfilm (Star Wars) Story Group, which oversees all aspects of continuity in the Star Wars universe, I feel it is necessary for continuity issues like this be patched up for the sake of minimizing confusion.

That being said, the question then is how can this particular continuity error be fixed? I noted a few solutions in the previous post, but also explained why these knee-jerk fixes would not adequately hold up. For this second piece, then, I want to present a possible solution that I think could work based off of how I personally interpret the scene in Return of the Jedi. Of course, I will hardly suggest that this solution will make everyone happy. Instead, I hope that by presenting it, and those of you who add to it or provide your own solutions in the comment section, will inspire the Story Group to act in the future to reconcile this confusion.

So, without further ado, here is what I propose…

Bail Organa has deceived his adopted daughter for her own safety.

I am led to believe that the woman whom Leia is describing to Luke in Return of the Jedi is a real person Leia actually knew in the flesh. To me, this makes sense given the intimacy of the scene and what Luke is asking of Leia, wanting to know something about the mother they share but whom he never knew. However, if she is describing a real person, then the question becomes who exactly is this woman she is describing? I will come back to this in a moment, but first, let’s talk Revenge of the Sith for a second.

After Luke and Leia are born, and once Padmé dies, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Bail Organa make the decision to split up the twins lest the new Emperor discover them. Ultimately, the danger the twins faced was too great to keep them together.

Baby Luke being given to Aunt Beru Photo Caption - Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Baby Luke being given to Aunt Beru
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Luke was taken to Tatooine by Obi-Wan to live with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, and Kenobi stays to keep a watchful but distant eye on the boy. In turn, Bail Organa agrees to adopt Leia, noting that he and his wife had considered adopting a baby girl. In one of the final scenes of Revenge of the Sith, the viewer sees Leia being presented to the Bail’s wife Breha, the Queen of Alderaan, who holds the child and then the scene ends. But it is what happens immediately after this scene ends where the lie to protect Leia is instituted.

Immediately after the scene cuts out, an unknown woman enters, walks up to Bail and Breha, and the child is handed to her. This woman is a close and loyal confidant of House Organa, and she will raise the baby for only a short time, until Leia is old enough to form an image of this woman in her mind as her “real mother.” This is precisely what Bail wants and expects to happen, that Leia will believe this woman is her mother. When Leia is still very young, a situation will arise that causes this woman to leave Leia. Perhaps, fully committed to the deception, this woman actually does die. This would line up with what Leia says to Luke. Or, perhaps the woman’s death is a ruse, and instead, the woman goes into exile, far away, into the Outer Rim or even into Wild Space, living in solitude where Leia will never find her or encounter her again. If Obi-Wan Kenobi can hide from Darth Vader, surely this woman can hide from her pretend daughter.

With the woman’s “death,” Bail and Breha Organa step back into the picture, officially adopting the young, orphaned Leia as their own. She will be raised and loved as though she were their daughter. As she grows, the memory of the other woman in will begin to fade, and she will only recall images and feelings. Leia will see herself first and foremost as an Organa, as the Crown Princess of Alderaan, the child of Bail and Breha Organa. Yet, Leia will still know that she was adopted, and that she only knew for a short time was her “real mother,” as she would have no other reason to believe otherwise. Perhaps, even Bail and Breha reinforce this from time to time, speaking about her “real mother,” describing her to the child.

But why is this even necessary, why the lie in the first place? Precisely because Leia is in danger from the moment she is born.

Darth Sidious and Darth Vader would know that Kenobi left Mustafar with Padmé. What they would not know, though, is that Kenobi, Yoda, and Bail Organa were present when Luke AND Leia are born. Recall that the Sith Lords knew Padmé was pregnant, but they did not know that Padmé was pregnant with twins.[i] After the children are born, in order to protect them, the two Jedi and the Alderaanian Senator decide how best to protect each child. What is presented at the end of Revenge of the Sith, then, is an elaborate series of deceptions in order to throw Sidious and Vader off the trail. Whereas Luke is hidden remotely on Tatooine in the Outer Rim far from Coruscant, Leia is essentially hidden in plain view on Alderaan and will become not only the Crown Princess of House Organa but Alderaan’s Senator. What I am suggesting, then, is simply one more layer to the deception, one that Bail Organa concocted as a fail-safe, one that protects Leia even from herself.

Put yourself into Bail Organa’s mind for a second as he traveled with the child back to Alderaan after Padmé’s death. Knowing that he would have to tell the child one day about her mother, Bail knew he could never tell her about Padmé Amidala. If he was to do so, and Leia slipped up and spoke about Padmé publically as her mother, the result could be devastating…Vader could find out. Yet, Bail would also know that he had to ensure no questions would be asked about the child who is suddenly in his care. Remember that Bail was present at the Jedi Temple when the Jedi Purge began, and was also a close confidant of Padmé’s in the Senate. Certainly, the new Empire would be watching him closely and may inquire about the identity of his new daughter who just happened to appear right after the late-Senator Amidala was laid to rest.

To throw them off the trail, then, Bail had to create the ruse to ensure that Leia would never speak of Padmé publicly, and to guarantee that the Empire would not discover Leia’s true origins. This was why the woman was necessary, to act as a temporary buffer against watching eyes, and as a long-term deception to ensure Leia would never be questioned about her ACTUAL mother. In short, what Leia never knew could never hurt her.

Leia viewing the portrait of one of Naboo's former queens, Padme Amidala. Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics - Princess Leia Issue # 002

Leia viewing the portrait of one of Naboo’s former queens, Padmé Amidala.
Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics – Princess Leia Issue # 002

Furthermore, in the second issue of the Princess Leia comic series, Leia arrives on the planet Naboo only days after the destruction of the First Death Star. There, in the streets of the capital city of Theed, she comes across a portrait of Queen Amidala. Viewing the mural, she is taken aback when she thinks the woman in the mural turns and looks at her, though she dismisses this and continues her journey through the city. Leia is completely unaware who this royal figure is/was, none-the-wiser that she was standing in front of a portrait of her ACTUAL mother. Then again, there is also nothing to indicate in this second issue that Leia even knows that her real mother was from the planet Naboo. Why would she? Leia believed her real mother was a beautiful and kind Alderaanian, and that she died when Leia was very young.

A Final Thought

As modern-day myth, Star Wars lends itself to different experiences and interpretations, and that is why I love it. When I watch the movies, read the books or comics, sit down to watch The Clone Wars or Rebels, and play the video games, I engage IN and WITH the myth-making. The way I experience and interpret Star Wars is meaningful to me in a way that, at times, may line up with the way others interpret it and, at other times, will be entirely my own and fundamentally different than others. So, while my experience leads me to believe Leia was discussing a real woman she was led to believe was her real mother for her safety, others might see something different. As one person noted in a comment on the previous post, perhaps Leia had a connection through the Force with her mother, and she is describing the impression of Padmé that was left there by the Force.[ii] Either way, it is a matter of how one wishes to experience and interpret the scene, and since the Story Group has not provided a definitive fix in the new and official canon, one can believe what they wish: that Leia is describing a flesh/blood woman she thought was her “real mother” OR someone she feels connected to through the Force.

One way or another, though, I hope we can all agree that it would be great to see this continuity error get a fix and, while they are at it, maybe we could also get to experience a story in which Luke and Leia finally learn more about Padmé Amidala, their real and actual mother.


[i] Remember how Vader taunts Luke on the Second Death Star: “So, you have a twin sista…your thoughts betray her, too.” This is the moment Vader realizes he has a daughter.

[ii] Go check out the comment thread from Part I. Lots of great thoughts and ideas!