Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End

February 2017 saw the release of the final novel in the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy; Empire’s End. This is the series that bridges the gap (somewhat) between Episode VI and Episode VII. Over course of the these three books, we’ve been introduced to new characters as well as been able to peek in on a few of our favorite personas from original trilogy.

In retrospect, I was a bit cold on the original Aftermath. I didn’t care much for many of the new characters introduced, and I didn’t like the way the story seemed to jump all over the place. With the release of “Life Debt”, I began to feel a little more at home in Wendig’s post-ROTJ era, but still had my reservations. Now, I’m happy to say that I’ve actually come to enjoy several of the new characters he’s introduced. To me, Empire’s End is easily the best of the three novels in the series.

Those curious about the secret identity of Supreme Leader Snoke in Episode VII, will still be disappointed. Despite what many readers suspected to be a major tease regarding that character’s origins – nothing about the character is actually revealed. What we DO get in this story is a lot of background info on the planet of Jakku, as well as the Emperor’s plans post-mortum. It seems like Lucasfilm will be unlikely to give us any major revelations outside of the actual films,  but we’re certainly getting plenty of hints and breadcrumbs.  But YES – in this novel, you will finally see the fall of the Imperial Remnant and the reigns of power being handed to the New Republic. This alone, makes this novel worthy of your attention.

I’ve been an open critic of Chuck Wendig’s writing style in the past, and I’m happy to say that he seems to have really toned it down in this novel. This books reads much more like a started fantasy novel in terms of verbiage and standardized punctuation. To me, this one actually feels like it was written by a professional author and not some amateur who’s looking to make his name by being different and daring.

If you’re a serious fan of Star Wars and you love to consume every morsel of new information out there. This book is a need-to-have.

Story: The bulk of this book follows the characters that we’ve come to know from the other Aftermath novels, as well as longtime fan favorites. This story, when combined with the other three books, puts a nice end-cap on the events that occurred in Return of the Jedi, and helps set the stage for what we eventually see in The Force Awakens. However, even thoug ha lot of answers can be found here, fans are still left asking plenty of questions.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS.

Star Wars: Rebels – Season 2

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Considering the third season of Star Wars Rebels is already on the air and half over, I guess I’m a little late with this review. But, that’s ok since I plan to discuss several details in the series that can be considered spoilers. Be forewarned!

The second season of Rebels keeps the momentum that finished off the first season going. Over the course of this season, we can begin to see the Rebellion against the Empire as it starts to solidify. Different rebellious factions are slowly starting to come together. A big part of this season involves the search for a suitable location for the Rebellion to establish their first base. The second major story-arc focuses on Vader’s newfound knowledge that Ashoka, his former student, is alive and aiding the rebels. As a result of this revelation, Vader dispatches more Imperial Inquisitors to seek out and eliminate Ashoka. In the meantime, Ashoka is determined to learn all she can about the Emperor’s new Sith helper.

There’s a lot of content to digest in this season of Rebels. There’s certainly a fair share of fluff episodes. But the producers did a pretty good job of keeping the main story arcs going in this season. Again, much like in season one, the last handful of episodes are best. In the final two episodes Kanan, Ezra and Ashoka discover an ancient Sith temple. However, upon their arrival they learn they are not alone. The temple is currently occupied by none other than an aged Darth Maul as well as two Imperial Inquisitors. The inquisitors were there seeking to put an end to Maul once and for all, but upon discovering the Rebel’s presence they turn their attention to them instead. This leads to some really great combat scenes that put our heroes on the same side as Maul temporarily. Seeing an opportunity in young Ezra, Maul tries to plant the seed of the dark side into the boy’s young mind by convincing him to slaughter one of the Inquisitors, but in the end Ezra refuses. This results in Maul going on a rampage and finishing the job himself. Before it’s all said and done, Maul turns on the team and another battle ensues. During this fight, Kanan is seriously injured and blinded by Maul’s lightsaber.

Eventually, Vader arrives on the scene and an epic showdown ensues. After doing away with Maul, Vader turns his attention towards our heroes. Now fully aware of Vader’s identity, Ashoka confronts him one-on-one – allowing Ezra and Kanan to escape as the Sith temple crumbles around them. Naturally, Vader escapes the battle – injured but alive. The fate of Ashoka remains unclear.

All in all, Season 2 serves as a step up from the debut season. This second season does a great job of linking the prequel/clone wars era to the original trilogy. Things are certainly falling into place. I promise not to wait until six months after the release of season 3 to share my thoughts on it.

Comics: Star Wars – Doctor Aphra

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Happy Star Wars day!  That’s right, the release of Rogue One is finally here.  Well, technically the film releases on 12/16. But as usual, theaters nationwide will begin showing the movie this evening. So, in celebration of this event I will be posting two Star Wars related reviews today. First up – Marvel’s new Star Wars comic: Doctor Aphra.  **THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS OF DARTH VADER #25**

Doctor Aphra is a name that might not be familiar to everyone. Casual fans, or fans of the films-only have likely never heard the name before. So who is Doctor Aphra? Aphra is a character from Marvel’s “Darth Vader” comic.  She is a criminal mastermind that partnered with Vader for the majority of his solo series. In Vader’s book, she helped him with his secret quest to track down Luke Skywalker. Along with her black Wookiee bounty hunter and two sadistically programmed droids, she worked in the shadows at Vader’s command, doing his dirty work and laundering credits to help fund his search.  In the end, when the whole plan fell apart, she tried to save herself by revealing Vader’s plans to the Emperor himself. This only resulted in Vader ejecting her into the void of deep space, presumably to die. Of course, as the final pages of the the comic showed, she managed to survive.

Now, Aphra has her own comic book. Along for the ride are her droids and menacing black Wookiee. This first issue follows Aphra as she tries to slip back into her old lifestyle. However, unforeseen complications occur that may result in a few changes in Aphra’s near future.

Overall, I found the comic to be off to a good start. It’s always hard to take a non-core character and make them the focus of a new story. But so far, Marvel has done a great job of not only introducing us to a new face in the Star Wars universe, but also making us interested. I look forward to see where Aphra’s story goes in the coming months.

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Artwork: Very good. The art work here is on par with Marvel’s other Star Wars entries so far. Crisp, clear, and enjoyable.

Story: Great job so far crafting an interesting tale about a 2nd class character. The addition of BT1 and 0-0-0 to the book make for some great dark-humor laughs.

Recommended:  Yes. Fans of the Darth Vader comic will really enjoy this book as it seems to be a continuation of the tale found there. Casual Star Wars fans might even find something to their fancy here.

Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel

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Rogue One is almost here! The first “sidestory” film in the Star Wars franchise hits theaters Thursday/Friday nationwide. This film will finally tell the official story of how the Rebel Alliance obtained the plans for the Death Star. Now, if you’re a long time Star Wars fan, you probably know that this story has been told several times before in various Expanded Universe stories. But of course, all of that is out the window now. As Yoda once said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” This is now the official account of events. So… just forget anything you may have heard about “Kyle Katarn”.

Before talking about this book, we first need to briefly discuss a few details about the upcoming film. Nothing spoilerish… but certain details made clear by the official trailers will be discussed below.

The Rogue One film focuses on a character named Jyn Erso, who is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to help uncover the details of a new weapon that is being developed by the Empire. She was selected because the Rebels have learned that the developer of the weapon is none other than her father, the brilliant scientist, Galen Erso. The trailer indicates a perilous mission will be undertaken by Jyn and a group of rebels to uncover and retrieve the details behind the new Empire’s new battle station. We also know from the trailer that the Death Star project is being overseen by an Imperial officer by the name of Orson Krennic.  But little of his story is revealed in the trailers themselves.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the release of Rogue One. So, to go along with the new film, we naturally have a prequel book: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel.

All I knew going into this book was that it was going to set up the events leading up the story told in Rogue One, but I had no idea just what that entail. Well, this book starts off by introducing the character of Galen Erso. In fact, the book mainly focuses on this character. It starts during the events of the Clone Wars  and extends several years into the reign of the Empire. In this novel, we learn who Galen is – his philosophies and loyalties. It is immediately clear that Galen is a good man. Not someone we would expect developing weapons for the Empire.

The book also pays a lot of attention to the character of Orson Krennic. It provides background into this character; his rise to power within the ranks of the Empire as well as his friendship to Galen. Fans wondering how someone as good-natured as Galen might end up contributing to a weapon as horrific as the Death Star will be able to see exactly how this scenario is played out. The relationship between Krennic and Galen provides quite a bit of insight here. I’m curious to see how much of this will be seen on the screen.

Having read this book, I certainly feel that I already know quite a bit about some of the characters we are going to see in Rogue One. But, it’s obvious that there’s plenty more going to be introduced in the film that’s not covered here. I suspect that fans who read this book will certainly benefit from the background information, but I do not feel that is required reading for the upcoming movie.

All in all, I found the contents of this novel to provide a lot of interesting detail, but to be overall a bit dry and slow-paced from time to time. Fans clamoring to connect the dots between clues seen in the prequel trilogy and the original film will be pleased.

Story: Detailed and interesting. But as mentioned above, a little slow a times. Keep in mind his novel is intended to provide backstory and set up for events in an upcoming movie. Despite being a prequel, it may very well end up being a better read once you’ve viewed the actual film. We shall see.

Recommended:  For older, legacy fans of Star Wars – or Rogue One specific followers.

Comics: Star Wars – Han Solo

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Marvel has certainly not been slouching when it comes to their Star Wars books. Currently, we have three ongoing series (Star Wars, Kanan, and Poe Dameron), one retired series (Darth Vader), and a number of minis and one shots. Han Solo is the latest in this crop of 5-issue minis. Now the final issue of Han Solo has arrived! I’ve read it, and I’m ready to share my thoughts on this latest entry in the Star Wars canon.

This book takes place between episode IV and V. In this story, as part of his cover in a top-secret mission for the rebellion, Han Solo participates in a high-stakes race across the galaxy – one that, if he actually won, would afford him enough credits to square his debts with Jabba. As one can expect, losing is not in Solo’s playbook. So despite being only a ruse for a larger mission, Solo takes it upon himself to both complete the task given to him by the rebellion AND do his best to win the race of a lifetime.

All in all, the book is masterfully done. This series does a fantastic job of portraying the internal struggle that Han Solo is going through at this point in the saga. His desire to return to his independent, loner ways vs. his new found friends and a sense of belonging to something greater than himself. The writers for this series also managed to nail the unique personality and humor of his character. (A task that’s often done very poorly on paper). All in all, this is a fantastic entry into the new canon. As 2017 arrives and some new comics are on the horizon, I hope to see Marvel continue this trend in quality Star Wars comics. These five issues were not enough. I was left wanting more.

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Artwork: Very well done. Wonder use of color and the character portrayals are realistic, without looking traced or photo-sourced.

Story: A fun action/adventure romp. Classic swashbuckling Han Solo. Just what I was hoping to find in a Han Solo title.

Recommended:  YES. For everyone.  Even casual fans of the series will find an enjoyable comic here.

Star Wars: Aftermath – Life Debt

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It’s been quite a wait, but finally the second entry in the Aftermath trilogy is here. Well, technically this book came out a few months ago but I’ve only just now finished it. But, it’s still fairly new and with that in mind, I’m here to share my thoughts.

First, let’s discuss the setting of this book. Life Debt takes place after the events of the first Aftermath novel. Many of characters and situations introduced in the first entry are carried over here. This includes some of the new fan-favorites such as Sinjir and Mister Bones. But perhaps more interesting, is the introduction of a new Imperial character by the name of Gallius Rax. I don’t wish to spoil anything… but there’s a lot of fan speculation regarding the identity of this character.

The main focus of the story revolves around Leia’s growing frustration with the current state of the New Republic. Political gridlock has set in. Readers who also are familiar with the novel “Bloodline”, know exactly where this will end up. In the midst of everything going on in the galaxy, Han Solo is missing. Last seen on a quest to free the Wookiee homeworld from the grips of an Imperial remnant, Leia sends the motley crew from Aftermath in search of him.

If you read my review of the original Aftermath novel, you’ll know that although I found the story to be very good overall, it was not without issues. My biggest problem with “Aftermath” was Chuck Wendig’s writing style. It’s punchy, yes. But it feels a bit abrasive – too casual. For me, it seems out of place in the Star Wars universe. Well, I’m glad to say that here in “Life Debt”, his over-the-top style seems to have been toned down a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still obviously Chuck Wendig, but the story reads just a bit more like a traditional – more in line with what you’d find in another Star Wars novel.

Overall, I enjoyed Life Debt quite a bit more than I enjoyed Aftermath. I’m now eagerly awaiting the final chapter of the Aftermath series, where I expect some major revelations and tie-ins with Episode VII will become very apparent.

Story: Like with Aftermath, the contents of this book jump from the main overall plot, to flashes of goings-on within the galaxy after the fall of the Empire. Life Debt does a good job of filling in more of the gaps fans are looking for, while seemingly laying the groundwork for some really big revelations.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS.

Remembering: Star Wars Uprising

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I meant to get around to reviewing this game sooner, but it’s just one of those things that slipped through the cracks. Now it doesn’t even matter. In two days from date I’m writing this, Star Wars Uprising is being shut down and will no longer be available to play. So, with that in mind, I won’t be doing a standard review. Instead, I’m going to discuss a little bit about this game and why it was important.

Star Wars Uprising was a mobile phone game. It is significant because it is the first Star Wars game that is officially part of the new canon. Star Wars Uprising took place immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi. It focuses on a small sector of space that is still under Imperial control.  Rather than admit defeat, the Imperial Governor there tries to hide the fact that The Empire has fallen by cutting off his system from all outside communication.

In this game, you created a character with the goal to climbing your way up the ranks of the criminal underworld and eventually learning the truth behind the state of the galaxy. From there, you can choose your path and experience untold adventure.

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When this game was announced last fall, I had high hopes.  The promotional materials for the game really made it shine. But, once I got my hands on it, it didn’t take long to see that the title was suffering from some serious issues. Namely… it was boring as hell. On top of that, it suffered from a bad case of ‘pay to win’.

At first, all seems well. You create a character, watch a few really cool cinematics, then hit the tutorial. So far so good. Once the tutorial is over, you find yourself in a seedy cantina going to work for a petty crook by the name of “Happy” Dapp. The point of the game is work missions, earns credits, improve your character and advance the storyline.  Sadly, none of this is very fun at all. I can’t put my finger on it exactly… but unlike many mobile games, I just did not feel compelled to log in an play.

Uprising followed a familiar mobile game model. There are daily login bonuses, special events, and event a surprising strong social aspect to the game. But, it just didn’t have the magic to keep me interested. Apparently, I was not the only one who felt this way – as the official reasons for shuttering the game was “lack of interest”. One big problem I encountered was that after the first handful of missions, the difficulty curve really spiked with little rhyme or reason. This instantly provides the temptation to spend real dollars on in-game credits/items. Many mobile games are guilty of this type of thing. But most do a fairly decent job to smoothing out the difficulty and putting players behind a slightly inconvenient time wall. But this title, despite it’s claims to the contrary really slapped you hard in the face.

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It’s sad too. Because for everything that this game got wrong, there was so much that it got right. Visually, the game was beautiful. The story line had some seriously great potential. In fact, I’m pretty bummed that the setting behind the game may end up being lost to antiquity. I can only hope that perhaps Marvel or LucasBooks will decide to salvage what they can from this game and bundle it all up into a novel or comic one day. It would be a shame to have the plot line behind the first new canonical game flushed down the toilet due to mismanagement from a third-party game developer.

All in all, I’m sure there were some people who really enjoyed this game. The framework was certainly there, but the contents were shallow and largely uninteresting to even the most rabid Star Wars fans. Let’s hope this is not a sign of things to come.

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Comics: Star Wars – Poe Dameron #1

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As promised, I’m here with my review of Poe Dameron #1. (Better late than never!). Despite having been out for a total of eight issues now, I’ve only just gotten around to catching up with this series. Generally speaking, I usually like to collect 4-6 issues of a comic before diving into it. This way I can get a good chunk of the story before waiting a whole month for the next chapter. That works great for someone that is only reading a comic, but not so good for someone who is reviewing them.

Regardless, I’ve finally sat down with my copy of Poe Dameron #1 and I’m ready to share my thoughts. As you may have guessed, this comic is focused mainly of the character of Poe Dameron. Fans of The Force Awakens are undoubtedly familiar with this character. Poe is the star pilot of The Resistance, and personal friend of General Leia Organa. This book begins shortly before the events of The Force Awakens. This is the story of Poe on his search for Lor San Tekka (the old man from the beginning of Episode VII). So fans of the new film should feel right at home with events of story presented here.

Aside from Poe, we also see a lot of attention on the other X-Wing pilots in Poe’s “Black Squadron”. As well, receive an introduction to a new character from The First Order. One thing I’ve really enjoyed about these new Marvel comics is the introduction of new and interesting characters. Marvel’s done a great job of creating some really fantastic characters who fit wonderfully into the existing Star Wars mythology. Those found here in the Poe Dameron comic are no exception.

I found myself enjoying this book a lot more than I expected to. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting such a deep tie-in with Episode VII. The storyline presented in this first issue serves as a great launching point for this book. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

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Artwork: The artwork in this comic is similar to that seen in the earlier issues of Marvel’s main Star Wars line. Overall well done.

Story: The story-line here is a prequel to The Force Awakens, and a sequel to Poe’s story in “Before the Awakening”. We are given a little insight into the event’s leading up to the opening scene of Episode VII.

Recommended:  Yes. I recommend this series to any Star Wars fan. Fans of The Force Awakens especially will find a lot to like in this premier issue. I can’t wait to see where the story goes and check back in the near future.

Comics: Star Wars – Darth Vader #25

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I’m lagging a bit behind in my Star Wars comic book reviews. But fear not! I will catch up soon with my thoughts on the Poe Dameron and Han Solo comic. I plan to do so before the release of Rogue One next month, But first, I want to discuss the final issue of Marvel’s Darth Vader.

When Marvel took over the mantle of Star Wars comics from Dark Horse, it launched with both a generic Star Wars title as well as a Darth Vader comic. For awhile, these two comics ran parallel of each other. Then, Darth Vader took a bit of a turn and veered off into it’s own story line. The Darth Vader series has now come to a close with the release of it’s 25th issue.

During the course of this excellent comic, we learned how Darth Vader discovered Luke Skywalker’s identity as well as his early plans to circumvent the Emperor and reunite with his long lost son. This comic introduced us to a number of wonderful new characters; Dr. Aphra, BeeTee, Triple 0, Cylo-IV, etc. All of which I found to be fascinating and worthy additions to the Star Wars universe.  As a result, even though this book has come to an end, I’m very excited for the upcoming Dr. Aphra comic.

Star Wars fans who are curious about the era between the fourth and fifth films will find a treasure trove of material in these twenty five issues. I can’t recommend this series enough. Marvel has proved itself to be a fantastic steward for the Star Wars universe and this comic is a prime example of why.

If you have not yet experienced this part of the Star Wars canon. Now is an excellent time to catch up. Combined with the main Star Wars books, Darth Vader makes a great starting point for anyone interested in getting into the series. I’m sad to see that it has come to an end.

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Artwork: The artwork in the course of the Darth Vader comics was top notch from beginning to end. Even across the span of 25 issues, I found it to consistent and often times some of the best out of all the new Star Wars books. High praise here.

Story: Originally, this book mirrored the events of the main Star Wars series but from an Imperial perspective. During this time, several new characters were introduced. After a while, these characters and their relationship with Vader became the focus of the book. The Darth Vader comic did a wonderful job of bridging the character of Anakin Skywalker with the cold and ruthless Darth Vader that we know from the original trilogy. The story presented in this book was nothing short of fantastic.

Recommended:  Yes. I recommend this series to any Star Wars fan. Followers of both the prequels and the original trilogy will find a lot to enjoy here.