Following the (overwhelming) interest of the last Digest, it’s time for the second one! For those who didn’t catch the last one, you can find it here.
I would like to thank Aabsdu on submitting his review of Empire's End to the Voice staff to include in the Digest. As always, feel free to send your own reviews to the Voice staff for inclusion in the next installment! We’ll accept anything from book reviews to comics and shows.
Brought to you from the Voice office, the Star Wars Digest is your monthly dose of the Star Wars universe. Covering all things from comics, movies and shows, we will look into what each of these media add to the Star Wars canon. You can expect to see mentions of characters, technologies, or species. However, we will refrain from talking in-depth about the plot for those who haven’t had the chance to read the latest comic book issues or see the latest episodes of Star Wars Rebels. That being said, we will use spoiler tags wherever something might be too revealing of the storyline—so watch out for those!
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, our first deep look at the immediate months following the Battle of Endor, comes to an epic conclusion in Empire’s End as Grand Admiral Rae Sloan, Gallius Rax, Norra Wexley, and crew race to the barren world of Jakku in anticipation of the final battle of the Galactic War. Wendig’s third outing is filled with legends material canonized, references to other Star Wars tales, and the same second person present tense writing style that will make or break your enjoyment of the novel.
If you did not enjoy the story or, more likely, the writing style of Aftermath and Life Debt you should expect nothing new here. Following the disastrous Imperial attack on Chandrila, the puppet master Gallius Rax has pulled all remaining forces to the Western Reaches world of Jakku, a harsh, barren world designed to harden his troops’ resolve. Our ragtag gang of Star Wars protagonists (a pilot, a bounty hunter, a child, a defector, a crazy droid) remains on the hunt for Grand Admiral Rae Sloan, unaware of her decline in power. Toss in a few subplots with Senator Leia, Han Solo, and Chancellor Mon Mothma (during an election cycle) and all plot lines converge in the sweeping third act Battle of Jakku.
On the New Republic side, much attention is given to the clash between heroes of the rebellion unable to transition out of wartime mindsets and a new wave of politicians scrambling for power. This theme lines up with the political landscape of Bloodlines, set two decades later, showing us that politicking is hard. Mon Mothma faces an election challenger via a senator with genuine intentions for democracy yet methods that reek of order and control. Freedom versus Order: core Star Wars philosophy.
While interesting, the plot line drags as a solid third of the novel is spent following Mothma and Leia’s attempt to get Senate approval to fight the Battle of Jakku. Wendig throws in a passing action sequence with Han Solo to spice things up, but the entire second act feels like filler when we know how things go down in the end.
The protagonists’ journey throughout the trilogy never quite hooked, though Life Debt was an improvement over Aftermath and Empire’s End serves as a nice capper. The inter-relationships and drama between Norra and her son, Snap Wexley of The Force Awakens and NBC’s Heroes, or the hard to care about romantic relationships of other crew members often comes across as delaying tactics to the meat we came for.
Indeed, you find yourself rooting for Sloan’s quest for revenge as, though her intentions remain pro-Empire, she becomes less menacing than the dominating outsider seeking to activate, as we learn, Darth Sidious’ contingency plan. Flashbacks reveal via a chess metaphor that Sidious took a “if the king dies, the entire board deserves to be wiped clean” attitude toward a post-Empire galaxy.
Little is revealed on the Republic end of things beyond the expected political drama, but we learn much about how the Empire transitioned into the First Order. Jakku is a clean slate maneuver meant to aid Rax in bringing about a rawer form of opposition. I will spare the immediate consequences for the reader, but we know from The Force Awakens the result is a fringe element concerned less with governing and more with chaos. Rax even gives an inspirational speech reminiscent of General Hux’s Nazi Starkiller send off.
The death of Palpatine at Endor revealed, in Sidious’ thinking, that galactic rule is not the right path for Sith power. The intertwining of Darth Sidious with the formation of the First Order also means that while the Knights of Ren are not Sith in and of themselves, the Sith are still connected to our journey thirty years later.
The Battle of Jakku is satisfying with the brunt of it taking place over what feels like days, though we learn the battle goes on for months. Admiral Ackbar leads the battle in space while Republic troops advance on an Imperial weapons facility that is, in truth, an ancient Sith Observatory similar to the temple on Malachor seen in Rebels and no doubt a plot location we will experience in future novels, books, TV shows, or even films. Again, I leave the revelations of Sidious’ plans to the reader, but no, Gallius Rax is not Supreme Leader Snoke (a character undoubtedly being saved for a cinematic reveal). Instead, the story leaves the early First Order leadership (including Hux’s father) in search of something mystical using an ancient Sith star chart ripped right out of KOTOR…sounds like set up!
Yes, we do experience the fall of the super star destroyer now buried in the sands of Jakku. The event is a moment of military maneuvering that would make Gareth Edwards proud.
As before, Wendig’s novels drag on plot but are filled with small details, new canon elements, and interesting character interludes that shine more light on the post-OT galaxy. Notably, an extended sequence covers how individuals across the galaxy are receiving creepy dark side visions from the Force and some of Darth Sidious’ priests have begun forming a cult to steal Sith artifacts. This group is called the Acolytes of Sith and is not immediately connected to the Empire or First Order, but clearly begins the story of the Knights of Ren.
Other interlude fun facts can be covered in list form:
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy is unlikely to sit atop many “best nuCanon Star Wars novel” lists, but he has given us a rich development of lore in the year following Return of the Jedi that is ripe for Wookieepedia editors. While he tones down his uncommon writing style over the three novels, if you have trouble with Aftermath you may be better off reading plot summaries. The trilogy has been more relevant for its incorporation of numerous Legends people, places, names, and ideas, updates on characters post-OT, and, most importantly, crucial setup for the New Republic, First Order, Knights of Ren, and mysterious Snoke as we build toward the revelations of December’s The Last Jedi.
One of the better series of the Marvel Star Wars comics, Han Solo competes in the dangerous race known as the Dragon Void Run, where Han Solo himself races against the most prominent and starship racers in the galaxy. Of course, the nature of a Han Solo series will include several new alien species—at least two.
Regardless of being a cover for a rebellion-assigned mission, the Han Solo series of comics is a Cannonball Run-inspired mini-series written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Mark Brooks. Although Chewbacca retains the role of Han Solo’s copilot, the story focuses mostly on the smuggler’s persona more. It was interesting to gain some insight into what kinds of challenges Han Solo might have faced on the oft-mentioned Kessel Run the smuggler brags about whenever he can. Shining a light on Han’s feelings towards his allegiances between himself and his new role in the Rebellion (willing or not,) Marjorie created the conflict throughout the entire series between Han’s desire to finish the mission, or finish the race. After helping to blow up the Death Star, Han has tried to return to his smuggling ways; that is, until Princess Leia (assisted by her Zygerrian bodyguard, Selentia) asks for his help to uncover a Rebel spy turned traitor, it brings Han into an intergalactic race.
We are introduced to a new character of a dying race, Loo Re Anno, who is known in the comics as both the oldest and greatest racer in attendance. We are also introduced to a Pantoran intent on winning the race, even at the risk of using ‘illegal’ tactics, the Twi’lek Starshot Team, and various other characters competing against Han for the Dragon Void Run’s trophy. This comic also marks the re-appearance of both Elomin and Selonians into the new canon with the reveal of Dorae, a female spy for the Rebellion who shares a sour past with Han Solo.
Along the race, we see several dangerous obstacles; mines drawn to a starship’s signatures, a test of endurance and the Empire itself provides the excitement of the comic series. Although we are introduced to Loo Re Anno throughout, the comic’s conclusion unveils a gate at the end of the race to another realm - that which Loo Re Anno’s species, and eventually Loo Re Anno herself, have disappeared into signalling her reunion with her people.
All in all, it was a refreshing perspective in the realm of Star Wars to see a plot centered around a dangerous civilian sport, rather than the usual political or military conflicts that we are used to seeing in the Star Wars setting. It really showcases the skill of Mark Brooks in the Han Solo series' illustrations. I, myself, took particular interest in developing a character around the same ideas presented, so it was nice to have reference material to work with!
That’s it for this issue of the Star Wars Digest! I will look at branching off into reviews for different series, books, or Rebels episodes next time around. Let me know what you think, and whether or not future reviews could persuade you to read the featured comic series or books that come out. For those who would like to read reviews that they would like to feature, please contact me and I’ll see if I can include your reviews in a future issue!
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