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Review: “Star Wars: Shattered Empire” by Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso, & Angel Unzueta

Title: Shattered Empire
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso (Issue #2), & Angel Unzueta (Issues #2-3)
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

Did you ever wonder just what happened to our heroes after the credits rolled and The Return Of The Jedi was over? Yes, yes, I know, they foiled an invasion by the Ssi-Ruuk. But that was the alternate universe of the Legends canon. I’m talking the new, rebooted canon leading up to Disney’s triumphant (we hope) entrance into the franchise. Well, wonder no more! Marvel has brought us Shattered Empire to answer some of those questions and help set the board for Star Wars–Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Now, I know this is a four-issue miniseries, but I want you to try something. Instead of thinking of it as a unified story, think of it as a themed anthology, a collection of shorter tales all featuring the same main character with numerous side characters along for the ride and all loosely tied together by a common end goal. If you can do that, this earns the four stars I took the liberty of giving it–possibly even a fifth. If you can’t, if you go into this expecting a single unified story, that rating probably seems incredibly generous as the episodic plot rambles all over the place and sprawls out over a three-month period with sometimes little connective tissue between adventures. So please, go into this book with the proper expectations, because it really is worth the read.

Our story opens during the climactic moments of The Return Of The Jedi. While Luke engages his father in an epic lightsaber battle and Han’s commandos prepare to destroy the shield generator protecting the second Death Star, the Rebel fleet battles for survival between the Imperial Navy’s hammer and the Death Star’s anvil (or is that the other way around? Doesn’t matter, moving on.) Our protagonist, Shara Bey, is an A-Wing pilot caught in that battle, while her husband Kes Dameron is with Solo’s strike team on the surface. Following the battle, they get a brief respite during the victory celebration, but then it’s once more into the breach as comm traffic reveals a holdout Imperial base on the far side of the planet. Striking that base reveals a sobering fact: the war is far from over. The Emperor had a slew of contingency plans, and the Imperials control the airwaves. Palpatine may be dead, but most of the galaxy doesn’t know that. We then jump to several weeks later, as the Rebels work hard to liberate world after world. Off the front lines on light duty after her fighter is disabled, Shara accompanies Princess Leia to Naboo on a diplomatic mission to gain allies for the fledgling New Republic. Unfortunately, as the Emperor’s homeworld, Naboo is one of the prime targets of Operation Cinder, the Emperor’s program of vengeance from beyond the grave….Meanwhile, Solo’s strike team takes on an Imperial Security Bureau black site. Finally, we jump again to about three months post-Endor, as the grave reality is finally settling in for everyone involved–despite their recent victories, there is no end in sight for the ongoing war. Struggling with the question of whether or not to muster out and settle down with her husband and son, Shara joins Luke Skywalker on an undercover mission to recover an artifact of the old Jedi Order.

Like I said, if you come into this with the proper expectations, it’s solid gold. The writing is top-notch, and the art is incredible. In the middle the series gains a couple backup artists, I assume to help with backgrounds and such given the compressed publication schedule (the whole thing was published over the course of a month and a half), but it was surprisingly not an issue. The whole book is full of delightful blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gems, such as a sly, almost imperceptible reference to the fan theory that the Ewoks were serving roast Stormtrooper at their celebration party, a brief exhibition of Leia’s fledgling Force sensitivity as she feels “cold” when crossing paths with Maul’s imprint, and another semi-appearance of Commander Beck from Han Solo’s Smuggler’s Run (also by Greg Rucka, now that I think of it.) The ties to The Force Awakens range from the obvious (Poe Dameron is the son of Shara and Kes) to the more foundational, such as the war not ending where we all assumed it did. Bottom line: Find this, read it, and enjoy it. Just know what you’re in for.

CONTENT: Moderate violence. Minor to no profanity. Mild sexual content (Shara and Kes wake up together in one scene after one of their rare chances to be together.)

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Review: “Star Wars: War On The Jundland Wastes” by Mike W. Barr & Bob Molesworth

Title: War On The Jundland Wastes
Writer: Mike W. Barr
Artist: Bob Molesworth
Series: Star Wars (Legends Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Magazines, 2014

I had no idea comics were so regionally restricted. Apparently the only way for our cousins over in Britain to get their hands on the various Dark Horse releases of yesteryear was a reprint magazine published by Titan Magazines, creatively titled Star Wars Comic UK. When The Clone Wars started airing, they switched over to printing short original works along with kid-friendly bonus material and activities. When the show was canceled, they tried to keep the magazine going by alternating Clone Wars content with stuff from the original trilogy. Since these comics were packaged alongside such juvenile content, they were very easy to overlook. So, after an extensive scouring of the internet, here’s the first of those original trilogy stories! This tale was originally published in Star Wars Comic UK #7.1, then reprinted in the US in Star Wars Comic #1. What’s that you say? You want to read this too? Good luck. It’s never been collected, so only exists in the magazine versions listed above. The only advice I can offer? Google is your friend.

War On The Jundland Wastes is set during Luke and Ben’s trip to Mos Eisley, smack dab in the middle of A New Hope’s first act. While en route, our heroes encounter an unusual battle between the local Tusken Raiders and Jawas, tribes that usually leave each other in peace. What could cause such unusual behavior? And can Ben set matters aright?

On the whole, this was a fun little story. It doesn’t really add anything to the larger mythos other than showing us more of the off-screen interaction between Ben and Luke, helping to form Luke’s scant knowledge of the Jedi Order moving forward, but that’s enough in itself to justify its existence. The art was decent, stylized without being annoying, and certainly worked well enough for the story being told. If you can track down this gem, I would recommend doing so.

CONTENT: Mild violence, with nobody even injured to my recollection. Maybe a Tusken or Jawa lying injured in the margins of the panel depicting their battle, but if so I missed it. No profanity, no sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars: The Weapon Of A Jedi” by Jason Fry

Title: The Weapon Of A Jedi
Author: Jason Fry
Series: Star Wars (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Disney Press, 2015

Here we go again! The Weapon Of A Jedi is the second of three YA novels featuring the protagonists of the original trilogy in that time period while simultaneously seeding characters and locations from the upcoming film. This time we follow Luke Skywalker as he strives alone to figure out his destiny as the last of the Jedi in the wake of the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Though he is hailed as a hero by the Rebellion for destroying the dreaded Death Star, Luke Skywalker cannot shake the nagging feeling that his destiny is larger than the cockpit of his X-Wing fighter. When an encounter with an Imperial patrol cuts short a diplomatic mission and forces him to set down for repairs, Luke finds himself drawn to the ruined Jedi temple Eedit. Has the Empire managed to eradicate everything of use at the sight? Or will Luke find valuable information and training to aid his masterless quest to become a Jedi Knight? Perhaps more importantly, will he manage to evade the Imperial dragnet searching for him all over the sector?

As with Smuggler’s Run, The Weapon Of A Jedi was a solid if simple story. The characters all ring true, and it’s always interesting to see Luke fumbling about in his quest to master the Force. This particular tale falls into the niche between Heir To The Jedi and Skywalker Strikes, covering his increasing skill with the lightsaber and showing why he (mistakenly) felt confident enough to face Vader on Cymoon I. We meet a number of characters from the upcoming film, including Jessica Pava in the prologue/epilogue and Sarco Plank (aka “The Scavenger”) in the main body of the novel. I will be surprised if Farnay doesn’t show up again at some point, but as yet there’s no indication of when that will be. Interestingly, Luke’s role in the new movie continues to be somewhat obscure. Whereas the prologue/epilogue to Smuggler’s Run actually featured Han and Chewie, the same segment here instead features C-3PO telling the story to Resistance pilot Jessica Pava instead of featuring Luke himself. What do we make of that? No idea. Just a curious observation. On the whole, I’d recommend the book.

CONTENT: Mild violence, not too graphic. No sexual content or profanity.

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