Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice – The Death of Hope

Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice - The Death of HopeOrder this bookStory: On the trail of the captured Jedi Knight named Tahl, Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi finds himself losing confidence in his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, as Qui-Gon allows his personal feelings for Tahl to obscure his loyalties. At the same time, Obi-Wan and his master must try to resolve a conflict between social classes that is tearing the planet of New Apsolon apart.

Review: Boy, I hate the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I have read many Star Wars novels and with the exception of “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” and the Brian Daley Han Solo books, I have found them almost universally dreadful. (The early Lando books weren’t too bad, either.) Seldom do the authors seem to grasp the storytelling forms used in the films. They seem to have set up their own little view of the Star Wars Universe and are more interested in adhering to that than to the work of George Lucas. (Case in point: you can make an argument for an anti-alien bias in the Empire based on what’s in the films, but the EU makes it an all-encompassing passion of the Emperor far beyond anything that Lucas even suggests.) The one area where I have ocassionally found a more accurate representation of the Star Wars universe is in books written for a younger audience. (They don’t want to mess around too much for the sake of the kids.) Read More

Star Wars – The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime

Star Wars - The New Jedi Order: Vector PrimeOrder this bookStory: The plotline of “Vector Prime” is very standard sci-fi fodder, not even remotely original. Retreading the plots of such venerable SF franchises as Star Trek: The Next Generation (Conspiracy) and Blake’s 7 (Star One), the book involves an invasion of the galaxy by hostile aliens from the nearest neighboring galaxy. They’ve already slipped a few agents into our heroes’ galaxy to make sure the alarm doesn’t go up, and by the time Luke, Han, Leia and the others find out about the invasion, it’s almost too late.

Review: Sound familiar? It should. Virtually the only difference between this story and the above examples – among dozens of others – is that the aliens are invading the galaxy of Tattooine, Endor, Hoth, etc., rather than invading Earth for once. Speaking as a citizen of the planet Earth, I’m relieved about this development, but as a reader, I found the plot hackneyed and all too predictable. Read More

Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye

Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind's EyeOrder this bookStory: Pilot Luke Skywalker and Rebel Diplomat Princess Leia Organa find themselves stranded on the unfamiliar swamp planet of Mimban after their Starfighters crash land on the way to an important treaty negotiation. Once aground, Luke and Leia find themselves teaming up with Halla, a Force-sensitive, in her search for the Kaiburr Crystal, an ancient artifact that amplifies Force powers for those who wield it. But there is an Imperial presence on Mimban, and it doesn’t take long for word of the Kaiburr Crystal to make it back to the Empire’s chief enforcer, Lord Darth Vader…

Review: “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” holds an important position within the Star Wars canon. It is the first novel in what would eventually become known as the Expanded Universe (EU): Star Wars tales beyond those portrayed in the films. Read More

Star Wars: Rogue Planet

Star Wars: Rogue PlanetOrder this bookStory: 12-year-old Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker steals away from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant long enough to participate in a dangerous and highly illegal race that makes pod racing look safe by comparison – but this time, an assassin tails him, an alien with a lust for the blood of a Jedi. Anakin’s master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, barely saves the boy, bringing him before the Jedi Council for a disciplinary hearing. Just when Anakin expects to be ejected from the order of the Jedi, a mission is assigned to Obi-Wan, who reluctantly takes the boy along. The two travel to the hidden world of Zonoma-Sekot, a planet on the edge of known space renowned for its organic ship-building technology. Another Jedi was sent there several months prior, and has never been heard from again. Obi-Wan and Anakin are to investigate the ship forges and try to locate the missing Jedi in the process. Unbeknownst to them, however, an unscrupulous Republic commander named Tarkin also wants a glimpse of Zonoma-Sekot…and then he wants to take it over, using the planet’s unique technology as a part of his own grand schemes of conquest.

Review: Holy cow! A Star Wars novel which doesn’t absolutely disappoint and annoy me? My friends, you have no idea how much of a miracle this is. I’ve been underwhelmed about the Star Wars books since Timothy Zahn originated the unique legacy of Star Wars authors getting it wrong in every important way back in 1991. Read More

Han Solo At Stars’ End

Han Solo At Stars' EndOrder this bookStory: Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca run afoul of the Corporate Sector Authority when they try to hook up with a pirate outfit in order to repair the Millenium Falcon. Unfortunately, the proprietor, Doc, has disappeared. But his daughter, Jessica, an old flame of Han’s, makes a deal to do his repairs for free if he can rescue her father. They must team up with a pair of droids and variety of others who have also lost loved ones to try and penetrate the Authority and rescue the missing people.

Review: “Han Solo At Stars’ End” marks the beginnings of the “Han Solo Trilogy”, set in the years prior to the original Star Wars. It sees Han very much in “scoundrel” mode, often thinking about himself above all others. Of course, his heart of gold shows through, too, but for the most part, it is his more ruthless nature that is on display here. Read More

Star Wars: Death Star

Star Wars: Death StarOrder this bookStory: In the months leading up to the activation of the Empire’s devastating new space station/weapon, the Death Star, a variety of people find themselves aboard the immense vehicle, discovering that it’s practically opulent compared to other Imperial installations (or Imperial prisons for that matter). But when the time comes for the Death Star to unleash its full power upon defenseless worlds populated by countless innocent lives, all in the name of restoring the Emperor’s vision of “order”, they each begin to rethink their lives as cogs in the Imperial machine…and some even dare to dream of joining the Rebel Alliance, if only they can escape the confines of the Death Star itself.

Review: Remember the Babylon 5 TV movie In The Beginning, which demonstrated that nearly all of the show’s main characters had met at some point in the past, even if they didn’t remember those meetings ten years later? Combine that with the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Lower Decks, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what “Death Star” is all about: a diverse group of characters who, just as their stories are getting interesting on their own, suddenly have to intersect with the events of Star Wars (or, for you insistent revisionists out there, A New Hope). Read More

A Universe Of Star Wars Collectibles

A Universe Of Star Wars CollectiblesOrder this bookStory: The author discusses the rarity and value (or lack thereof) of numerous categories of Star Wars merchandise, including, of course, the ubiquitous action figures and toys, as well as novels (both graphic and otherwise), posters, soundtracks and story records/tapes, clothing, and many other items. He also provides estimated prices for these items, both with and without their original packaging.

Review: My last attempt to review a price guide publication, long ago, didn’t make me eager to tackle another one anytime soon. (Indeed, there’s been a gap of nearly eight years between that last review and this one.) This one, fortunately, is a bit more realistic. I have to commend the author’s decision to effectively split his pricing down the middle – one column indicating the value of an item left in completely intact original packaging (the price that everyone hopes their old Star Wars trinkets will fetch on eBay) and the value of an item outside of its packaging, presuming all parts are intact (the price that everyone will likely get if they’re lucky and have taken care of their goodies). If a loose item isn’t in pristine condition, it’s safe to assume that you scale the estimates downward from there. This is a realistic, pragmatic approach that will hopefully save us from seeing too many more beaten-up loose Hammerhead figures on the ‘net for $100 each. Read More

Star Wars: A Long Time Ago Vol. 3: Resurrection of Evil

Resurrection of EvilOrder this bookStory: The third collection of Marvel’s Star Wars series leads off with the six-part adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back, and continues with a number of original stories as Luke, Leia, Lando, and the rest of the Rebels hunt for Han Solo and match wits with the Empire.

Review: Earl: If following up on Star Wars was a daunting task for the first Marvel team to land that title, I can’t even imagine the juggling act that had to be done between Empire and Jedi. Since Empire concludes on a cliffhanger that takes at least one of everyone’s favorite characters out of the loop for the two-and-a-half years it’ll take for the next movie to get done, and sends two of the other characters off looking for that character, the writers suddenly have to do some serious plate-spinning. Empire also raises the dramatic stakes a bit – there just doesn’t seem to be as much of the carefree space opera of the Marvel issues that arrived between the first two movies. Not that it isn’t good stuff though – I really do like most of the stories included here, even if they are a bit more “serious” than what came before. I really feel for the writers, though – the open ending that made all of their previous tales possible just didn’t exist for them here. Where the previous volume had some minor tap-dancing to meet up with the beginning of Empire, this time there were some story restrictions that they just couldn’t shake. Read More

Star Wars: A Long Time Ago Vol. 2 – Dark Encounters

Dark EncountersOrder this bookStory: As Luke struggles to recover from his momentary encounter with the mind of Darth Vader, Leia, Han, Chewie and the droids try to fight and maneuver their way off the Wheel. Their escape from the gambling station is not the end of their troubles – Han still has matters to settle with Jabba, Leia tries to expand the Rebellion to other worlds, and the cyborg bounty hunter Valance is still on Luke’s trail. Throughout the adventures, the Rebel heroes often run up against the agenda of the Tagge family, led by a ruthless baron whose desire for the Emperor’s favor, and for vengeance against Vader, drive him to enact more and more elaborate schemes to crush the Rebellion once and for all. But the Dark Lord is no stranger to scheming, and he has plans for both the Tagge family and young Skywalker.

Review: Dave: Unlike the first volume, I do have some first hand memories of the stories in this collection – at one point in my youth, I had two or three of the issues that dealt with Tagge’s storm corridor through the Yavin gas giant. I remember liking them quite a bit as a kid, and they still hold up pretty well. Now that I read them as part of the bigger tapestry of the ongoing Tagge feud, I’m even more impressed.

One thing I do wish is that that unfolding saga could have led into the events of The Empire Strikes Back a little better. Now, I don’t really know how much lead time Goodwin had to work with, or how much he knew about the overall storyline of the film when he was writing these issues. So I’m not assigning blame here – it’s just something I find a little disappointing. The characters and settings all seem frozen about five minutes after the end of the first movie – Luke’s still wearing his farm boy outfit, the Rebels are still on Yavin, and so on. Outside of a tacked on epilogue that undoes Goodwin’s earlier resolution of the Jabba bounty issue, there’s not much here bringing us to the next stage of the story. And having Luke and Vader face off face to face right before the movie adaptation is supposed to start just strikes me as a bad idea all around. Read More

Star Wars: A Long Time Ago Vol. 1 – Doomworld

DoomworldOrder this bookStory: The first 20 issues of Marvel’s Star Wars series are reprinted in this full color collection. From the adaptation of the film itself, which saw print before the movie’s release, to Luke’s terrifying brush against the mind of Darth Vader, the original Expanded Universe begins here. Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie and the droids encounter space pirates, frontier outlaws, floating cities of saboteurs, and a droid-hating cyborg bounty hunter named Valance while trying to help the Rebels find a new base and stay one step ahead of a Sith Lord searching for the identity of the pilot who blew up the Death Star.

Review: Dave: With the exception of the movie adaptation, I had never read any of the issues in this volume – the handful of Marvel Star Wars comics I was able to get my hands on were all from later in the run. Reading it now, there’s certainly a degree of 70s cheese, especially in the early issues written by Roy Thomas. But what a collection of talent worked on this series! Thomas, who pushed for Marvel to take up the license, is a former editor-in-chief at Marvel well known for his encyclopedic knowledge of comics’ Golden Age. When he got past the adaptation, he didn’t quite feel comfortable with the universe, and it kind of shows – his next story was more of a Magnificent Seven-esque western than a big space opera. So Archie Goodwin, then editor-in-chief and a legend in his own right, took the reins, and things started to take off. Goodwin created new villains, set subplots in motion, and brought a sense of scale and danger to the stories. And when Goodwin needed an assist, there was Chris Claremont, longtime X-Men writer.

On the artistic side, Howard Chaykin was the first penciller, and while he was still a bit rough around the edges, but you can already get a sense of the dynamism that would serve him well later in his career. (Although he was certainly greatly assisted by his inkers in those days – more on that later.) And when Chaykin left, his replacement, Carmine Infantino, was no slouch. Infantino, a former art director and publisher at DC, was well known for his Silver Age work on Batman, Flash, and a host of other heroes. While his facial renderings are sometimes a bit crude, he could definitely pack a lot of energy into his panels, and he and his inkers did fine work on all the technology of the galaxy far, far away. There’s a lot of fun stuff packed into these comics. I can only imagine what it was like to pick up each new installment in ’77 and ’78. Read More