“Star Wars: Outlander” (Dark Horse)

swr12coverStar 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.

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“Star Wars: Darth Maul” (Marvel)

darth_maul_tpb_solitationWhen the license for Star Wars comics reverted from Dark Horse Comics to Marvel in 2015, it seemed that Marvel’s first instinct was to release a 4-5 issue miniseries for each popular character in the saga. Darth Maul is easily the most popular character to come out of the Prequel Trilogy. Star Wars: Darth Maul tells a short story set before The Phantom Menace and helps explain the source of Maul’s anger and hatred towards the Jedi. Continue reading ““Star Wars: Darth Maul” (Marvel)”

“Star Wars: Darth Vader” (Marvel)

Darth-VaderWhen Marvel regained the Star Wars license a few years ago, one of the first things it did was issue a line of comics focused on Darth Vader. This first series, Star Wars: Darth Vader (2015-16), only for 25 issues and takes place in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a decently fun tale. Yet, looking back, it’s probably less memorable for what it tells us about Vader, and more about those who are brave enough to work with Vader.

Spoilers ahead… Continue reading ““Star Wars: Darth Vader” (Marvel)”

“The Star Wars” by J.W. Rinzler

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The Star Wars is not the Star Wars we’ve all grown to know and love. Instead, this comic is an adaptation of George Lucas’s first draft for the film that eventually became Star Wars. This is an alternative take on the story, a great “what if?” Some of the characters and places have names similar to those in the final films, but in a completely different context. Luke Skywalker isn’t an optimistic young kid, but rather a grizzled old Jedi general. Continue reading ““The Star Wars” by J.W. Rinzler”

Solo: A Star Wars Story

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As a kid, I always saw myself as Luke Skywalker, but I always wanted to be Han Solo. As I wrote when The Last Jedicame out, I identified with Luke’s awkwardness and compassion, but envied Han’s charm and natural skill. It wasn’t until later that I began to appreciate the complexities in Han’s character arc. Han Solo isn’t simply a walking bundle of swagger. Over the course of the Original Trilogy, the character overcame his insecurities and learned to trust people. In many ways, Solo: A Star Wars Story, the latest Star Wars film from Disney and Lucasfilm, builds upon this and enriches the character arc. However, in attempting to provide a backstory for Solo, it also removes some of the mystery and possibly smoothens the character’s rougher edges.
Continue reading “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

“The Last Jedi” by Jason Fry

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Jason Fry’s novelization of The Last Jedi is a retelling of Rian Johnson’s film, with a greater emphasis on the characters and less humor. Like most novelizations, the book sticks pretty close to the story we saw on screen back in December. However, Fry gets to spend time inside the characters’ heads, shedding light on how the characters viewed certain events.

This technique provides quite a bit of insight into Luke Skywalker. In The Last Jedi, Luke is a bitter old man, a far cry from the optimistic youth we saw in the Original Trilogy. I enjoyed this take on the character, but also felt the film should have done more to explain Luke’s arc between the films. Fry’s novelization offers a few tantalizing hints. One early sequence in the book hints that Luke yearns for a more normal life. He comes to regret not only his infamous encounter with Ben Solo, but also other life decisions. Seeing Luke doubt not just that one moment but a whole lifetime helps explain his radical transformation since Return of the Jedi. Continue reading ““The Last Jedi” by Jason Fry”

Mythgard Movie Club: The Last Jedi

I had the honor of joining the Mythgard Movie Club last week to talk about The Last Jedi. It was honestly one of the better discussions I’ve heard about the film. Whereas most of the discussion has been dominated by the polarized reaction to certain scenes, we tried to focus on understanding the themes in this film.

You can listen to the audio-only version here or watch the video below:

The Last Jedi and Me

luke-last-jedi-posterIn the weeks since I shared my first impressions of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Episode VIII has become the most divisive film in the Star Wars canon. Professional reviewers, who tend to prioritize the acting and themes in a film, have overwhelmingly praised the way director Rian Johnson deconstructs Star Wars tropes and subverts expectations. By contrast, fans, who often care more about the characters and story continuity, have been much more mixed in their response. Some love that the film takes the franchise in new directions, while others complain about the self-aware humor and the slow middle act. The Last Jedi has become a sort of Star Wars Rorschach test in that each viewer’s response says as much about that person’s relationship with Star Wars as it does about the film. Continue reading “The Last Jedi and Me”

First Impressions of The Last Jedi through other Sci-Fi

the-last-jedi-theatrical-blogOne of my biggest critiques of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was that it relied too much on nostalgia. At times, it seemed like a soft reboot of A New Hope. Naturally, this led me to worry that Disney was too reluctant, too concerned with profits to take risks with the franchise. When promotional images for The Last Jedi included vehicles that looked suspiciously like AT-AT walkers, I worried that Director Rian Johnson’s new Star Wars film would again play it safe by retreading the plot of The Empire Strikes Back.

I was wrong. I am glad. Continue reading “First Impressions of The Last Jedi through other Sci-Fi”