Relay, a new science fiction comic series from Aftershock Comics, is both refreshingly original and frustratingly opaque. The story is set far in the future. In accord with the dominant religion, humans invite a giant device known as a “relay” onto each planet they have colonized. The relays guide human evolution, speeding up the process of civilization, but also impose uniformity. The main character, Jad, begins as a true believer, but ultimately starts to wonder about the true purpose of the relays. Continue reading ““Relay” comic”
I am writing an article about Star Wars Expanded Universe references in the animated TV shows for an upcoming book, and so decided to reread Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple. This book is a fascinating case study in transmedia storytelling and adaptation. Dark Disciple is based on scripts written by Katie Lucas for The Clone Wars animated show before it was canceled in 2013. However, the seeds of the story originated in the Dark Horse Comics Republic line, which was part of the Clone Wars multimedia project in the early 2000s. The book both draws upon and contradicts the comics in interesting ways. Continue reading ““Star Wars: Dark Disciple” by Christie Golden”
I’m currently working on a project about the Star Wars Expanded Universe – the collection of tie-in novels, comics, video games, and other media before the Disney era – and how it influenced the Star Wars animated TV shows. I picked up Bill Slavicsek’s Defining a Galaxy as part of my research. Slavicsek worked as an editor at West End Games while the company was creating material for Star Wars roleplaying games during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continue reading ““Defining a Galaxy” by Bill Slavicsek”
Brian Jay Jones is quickly becoming the foremost chronicler of the lives of American pop culture icons. His biography of Jim Henson is one of my favorite books of the past decade. His treatment of George Lucas wasn’t quite as insightful, perhaps because there have already been many other books about Lucas and Star Wars. His latest book, Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, looks at a very different creative genius. Continue reading ““Becoming Dr. Seuss” by Brian Jay Jones”
Game of Thrones has ended. There will be no more episodes. It would have been impossible for the writers to wrap up every single plot thread in Season 8, especially because this past season had fewer episodes (6 instead of usual 10). The final episode, “The Iron Throne,” did manage to provide a sense of closure for most of the character arcs and had some incredible visual moments. However, in its rush to the end, the final episode lost sight of some of the political commentary and themes that made Game of Thrones so compelling in the first place. The raison d’être for this story is question “what makes for a good king?” The finale barely engaged with that question, which is a missed opportunity.
*** SPOILERS for Season 8 of Game of Thrones BELOW *** Continue reading “Game of Thrones: The Final Review”
It’s ages since we’ve had a compelling story set during the Prequel Trilogy. As Disney and Lucasfilm have focused on the Sequels and nostalgia for the Original Trilogy, it’s sometimes felt like the Prequels had been left by the wayside. Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice captures much of what made me fall in love with this era of Star Wars saga 20 years ago this month (hint: it’s not the acting). Gray is easily the strongest writers currently working in the Star Wars canon. She manages to imbue Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi with a depth only hinted at in The Phantom Menace.
*** Mild Spoilers below *** Continue reading ““Star Wars: Master & Apprentice” by Claudia Gray”
I hadn’t planned to write reviews of individual episodes of Game of Thrones this season. I had planned to wait until the series finale to see how the entire story plays out. However, “The Long Night” (Season 8, Episode 3) feels like an important pop culture event. In addition to being the largest battle filmed for television, it also concluded a story that has been unfolding since April 17, 2011 (or even longer if you started reading George R.R. Martin’s books in August 1996). To be clear, I don’t plan to discuss every single plot twist, character arc, or the cinematography (and, no, the episode isn’t too dark). Instead, I want to focus on one overarching question: did this provide a satisfactory resolution to the central conflict between the living and the dead?
So, for posterity’s sake, here are my thoughts on the episode:
*** SPOILERS for Season 8 of Game of Thrones BELOW *** Continue reading ““The Long Night” (Game of Thrones S8, E3)”
Tonight, I’ll be joining the Mythgard Movie Club podcast to talk about Blade Runner 2049, one of my new favorite movies. Back in January, we had a roundtable discussion about Blade Runner (you can find it here), and even though I’ve read books about the original Blade Runner and listen to the Shoulder of Orion Blade Runner podcast, I still gained new insights and appreciation for that film. Looking forward to our discussion tonight. You can watch it live (here) or download the podcast episode here later this month.
Star Wars: Outlander is a fascinating entry in the Expanded Universe. It was one of the earliest comics in Dark Horse’s Republic series, which started before The Phantom Menace and continued into the Dark Times. Republic would later be acclaimed for its Clone Wars arc, featuring Quinlan Vos, everybody’s favorite gloomy Jedi. However, the early Republic comics seemed set to feature Ki-Adi Mundi, a very different type of Jedi (he’s the cone-head alien on the Jedi Council).
Outlander came out in 1999, a time when The Phantom Menace opened up a whole new corner of the Star Wars for storytellers, but without all of the constraints imposed by later stories. The Galaxy felt fresh and full of possibilities. Outlander is also a sign of what was to come with the Expanded Universe. The story is fairly straightforward – Ki goes to Tatooine to investigate reports that a rogue Jedi called Sharad Hett has joined Tusken raiders – but it reverberates throughout much of Dark Horse’s run of Star Wars comics. Even as the Republic series moved away from Ki and focused on other Jedi characters, characters from Outlander play an important role in later events.
I enjoyed the story. It has elements of a classic revenge story, with some unexpected twists. I appreciate that Sharad Hett never becomes a caricature of a Dark Jedi. It’s not even clear that he’s fallen to the Dark Side. The subplot with bounty hunter Aurra Sing probably could have been excised (I suspect Lucasfilm wanted Dark Horse to include her because they were trying to make her the “next” Boba Fett). The text bubbles conveying her internal thoughts really didn’t add much to the story. While the art can’t quote compare to the heights of Jan Duursema’s later Republic comics, I found Outlander‘s artwork had its moments of beauty, particularly the scenes set during dusk and dawn.
Star Wars: Outlander is the type of Expanded Universe story I find myself missing since Disney rebooted the Star Wars canon. It’s not a perfect story, but it really committed to telling the story of characters who barely appeared in the films. It’s not hard to imagine hundreds of other Jedi having hundreds of other small-scale adventures just like this one before the fall of the Republic.
For a while, I’ve felt that, when it comes to politics, science world-building has been stuck in the past, fixated on stories about galactic empires or rebellions against totalitarian regimes. Governments in science fiction almost never resembles the messy democracies of our world. By contrast, in Malka Older’s Infomocracy, the protagonists are political operatives and central threat is a conspiracy to manipulate an election. This is perhaps the first science fiction story I’ve read that takes electoral institutions seriously and makes them central to the story (not surprisingly, Older is a political scientist). Continue reading ““Infomocracy” by Malka Older”