Wednesday, February 15, 2012

32 BBY: The Smuggers of Naboo

The Smugglers of Naboo is an awesome little RPG adventure from Wizards of the Coast.  The story features four heroes who break up a smuggling ring outside the city of Theed.  The four heroes are a Jedi Padawan named Rann I-Kanu, a solider named Garak, a scoundrel named Arani Korden, and a Wookiee scout named Rorworr.
Tasked by his Master Ali-Vor, Jedi Padawan Rann I-Kanu is sent to investigate the rumors of smugglers transporting rare creatures off of Naboo.   Collecting his intrepid friends, Rann sets off with is band to an ancient shrine hidden in the nearby jungle where it is believed the smugglers are hiding.  Before long, Rann, Garak, Arani, and Rorworr find an abandoned speeder being harassed by a veermok.

As the adventure advances, the heroes fight their way to an eventual showdown with the leader of the gang of smugglers and his henchmen.  But not before they fight off a group of smugglers protecting the shrine, along with an armed droid.  They also rescue an old archeologist who runs back to his library once he’s released from his cage.
I love these little adventures.  They’re such an off-beat little piece of Star Wars fare I find it almost impossible not to love them.

What I enjoyed most about this particular adventure was the introduction of the character Rann I-Kanu.  My first thought regarding him was whether or not he survived Order 66.  If you know don’t tell me.  I want to find out on my own. But I guess that’s a thought I’ll be having about a lot of Jedi whose fates are already known.  How does that fateful day play out for Rann I-Kanu and his Jedi scholar master?
Funny, after reading this adventure I really did feel like I was in the humid jungle of Naboo with these four gallant friends.  Kudos to Owen K.C. Stephens for designing such a fun rpg scenario.

Now that I’m one post in to 32 BBY, my chase down the rabbit hole will continue with Shadows of Coruscant, but it might be a while before I get to it.  I thought I had the source which is found in the Wizards of the Coast Core Rulebook, but it turns out I don’t.  I have the Saga Edition rulebook, ergo, I don’t have the story.    Also, I don’t have the source Queen in Disguise which is next on my list.  I’ve ordered both sources and they’re on their way.  Hopefully the fella I bought it from on ebay will send it out quickly.  In the meantime I’m working my way through Cloak of Deception, but if I find I’ve read the book and have written my post and the sources have yet to arrive I may simply create place-holder posts for Shadows of Coruscant and Queen in Disguise and move on, working my way back when I get them.  Anyway, until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

33 BBY: Star Wars Junior: Droids Everywhere!

Thanks to Plaristes for providing me with the Star Wars Junior books in e-format.  Without his help, there would be no way I could affordably gather these sources and include them into my Star Wars Chronology Project.  I can honestly say without the continued dialogue from those who have been travelling with me from the start, and those new readers journeying with me now, I would find it difficult to find the motivation to keep this project rolling.  Words are meaningless without someone to read them.  The bond between the writer and the reader is an intimate one.
Moving on to the source at hand, when taken into chronological perspective, Star Wars Junior: Droids Everywhere!, is the first time Anakin Skywalker enters Star Wars mythology.  Who knew his entrance would occur in a children’s book? It’s a fun little book, but when I tried to read it to my son yesterday he wasn’t very interested.  But that’s not the book’s fault.

I really haven’t much to say about the book.  The story consists of Watto taking us through his repair shop and introducing us to the droids contained therein.  Of all the droids mentioned I thought the explorer droid was the most interesting.  As Watto tells us of the explorer droid:

“Explorers are tough.  They can keep working even during rockslides, lightning strikes, and blaster fire” (23).

Besides Watto’s droids, I enjoyed the art by Jerry Vanderstelt.  I like the detail he used in the depiction of Watto’s garage.  I think I spent most of my time with this book looking at Watto’s shop and his tools and equipment.  Is Watto holding a tablet device on page 6?  Sure looks like some sort of iPad.  Vanderstelt highlighted one of Star Wars's visual strengths very well – that sense of a lived in universe where everything is not new and shiny. 

For my next post I’ll be wadding into the abyss that is 32 BBY.  I’ll  start by engaging with The Smugglers of Naboo, a Wizards if the Coast RPG adventure.  The next four sources that will follow after that are: Shadows of Coruscant, Cloak of Deception, Tales #5 A summer’s Dream, and Queen in Disguise.  Once I’m done with these sources I’ll line up the next 5 sources and chunk my way through 32 BBY.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

33 BBY: Star Wars Tales #3: Deal with a Demon

I did it!  I finally made my way back to my chronological path! 
My move from one school to another was more discombobulating than I thought, and I lament how far behind I fell in my personal Star Wars quest.  I hope I stay at this new school I’m at for a while, but with enrollment rates dropping where I live, it’s possible I may be sent to yet another school in September.  Hopefully with some retirements at the end of this semester, I’ll work my way up the seniority tree which means I’ll be able to stay put.

But enough of my personal life, let’s get to my reactions to Deal with a Demon, a fabulous little story from John Ostrander.
It seems that Vilmarh Grahrk survived his meeting with Darth Sidious at the end of Jedi Council: Acts of War.  Having partially failed the Dark Lord of the Sith in his task of inciting the Yinchorri into a war with the Jedi to Sidious’ satisfaction, “Villie”, as he calls himself, was summoned to the Sith Lord’s presence, his fate unknown to us.  In Deal with a Demon, we have the re-appearance of Mr. Grahrk into the cosmos of Star Wars.

This character is awesome.  He’s such a sly villain I find it impossible not to like him.  What I find particularly entertaining about him is his accent. 
               “Let me see if I’m understanding you correctly, Hokay?”

Villie says this to Naradan D’ulin (his employer for this job) at the beginning of the story, the Devorian scoundrel seeking clarification for his smuggling assignment.  I imagine his “hokay” being pronounced with a rough and throaty breathing on the ‘H’.  He reminds me of some Middle-Eastern trader constantly on the prowl for a good swindle.
After reading this story I get the impression Ostrander likes this character he’s created as well, otherwise he wouldn’t have written this little narrative with Villie as the hero.  I’d love to say that Vilmarh Grahrk is a ‘rouge with a heart of gold’, but that would be too kind.  Plus, I like him this way.  He’s a character that keeps the reader on his toes.

His job in this story is to smuggle a princess off planet, a little Ootoolan girl protected by Naradan D’ulin, a Mistryl Shadow Guard.  In typical Devorian fashion, Vilmarh already sold his services to the highest bidder – the Revolutionary Purists Council – the Theocratic government looking to ends the princess’ life.  Once he had the princess in his care he immediately turned her over to the guards.  The Revolutionary Purists Council had already killed her father, the King of Ootoolan, for being impure, their goal to rid the planet of the former king’s bloodline.
Villie’s double-cross takes the reader a little by surprise, but as we continue with the story we learn his manoeuver was all in the princess’ favour, as it was always his intention to break the princess and her protector out of jail when the Revolutionary Purists Council’s attention was elsewhere.

“Was good plan!  Before everybody look for princess!  No escape! Now nobody look for princess!  Escape easy!”
After Villie’s double-cross D’ulin is rightly suspicious of the scoundrel, and asks Villie why she should trust him.  In my favorite line in the story, Villie replies:

               “Such terrible dilemma!  What to do?  Stay and die?  Go and live?  Such a tough decision!”
As I already mentioned, Vilmarh Grahrk is the hero of this story (this time), and safely delivers the princess to those looking to protect her life.

Vilmarh Grahrk is such a card.  I can’t wait to come across his scoundrel’s ways again.
It’s good to be back on my chronological path once again.  For my next post I’m going to look at Star Wars Junior: Droid Everywhere!  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

39 BBY: Restraint

Restraint: A Nightsister Trilogy Prequel, is how I would have subtitled this little piece of Star Wars fiction.
Authored by James Luceno, Restraint, a new short story found at the end of the re-release of Shadow Hunter, gives Star Wars fans further insight and backstory into the figure of Darth Maul  - the Sith apprentice we all took for dead. 

As a chronologist it’s sometimes frustrating to backtrack into the timeline because it obviously colours what I’ve said about other works.  If I were reading this in its correct chronological order, Restraint (and not Saboteur) would be the first time we meet Darth Maul in the chronicle of Star Wars. 
What I find particularly frustrating is that I found Restraint much more enjoyable than Saboteur, because in Saboteur I was never really was convinced that Maul would ever be a threat to Sidious.  The obvious reason for this is because in Saboteur we meet Maul when he’s older, and we all know he gets cut down by Kenobi shortly down the road.  But in the story Restraint we are witness to a 15-year-old Maul, and he carries with him the promise of youth – the promise that things just might work out in his favour.  “Maybe he doesn’t get cut down by Kenobi” we muse to ourselves as we read about a young Maul surviving in the wild and passing his Master’s tests.  “Maybe he’ll amount to something” we hope upon hope.

But no.  The reality comes crashing down.  He gets his butt handed to him, almost quite literally, by a young and plucky Jedi Padawan.  Bummer. 
We’ll see what Maul’s ultimate fate will be in the season finale of The Clone Wars season 4.  The re-emergence of Maul into our collective Star Wars conscience is heading towards this new revelation – that in some capacity Maul did survive his duel with Kenobi in 32BBY.

To be honest, this prospect irks me, as I feel Lucas is pulling the rug out from under his fans once again.  But I’ll hold off on my opinions until I’ve seen the episode – it may not be what I fear.
As for Luceno’s story itself, like all Star Wars short stories, it was a great little tale.

Indeed, the story did operate as almost a prequel episode to Katie Lucas’ contribution to her father’s mythology.  In the Nightsisters trilogy, Katie Lucas introduced us to Mother Talzin, the head Mistress of the witches of Danthomir, herself a powerful darkside user. 
On this note, I want to digress for a bit and quickly comment that I enjoyed Katie Lucas’ contribution to her father’s story.  What I liked most, and Luceno echoed it in his own story, was the prominence of magic amongst the Nightsisters.  I’ve said this before, and made reference to the book Star Wars on Trial in my past posts, that Star Wars is not Science Fiction; rather, it is Fantasy.  Some people argue that “magiks” as Luceno terms it in his story, does not belong in Star Wars, where I feel it rightly does.  When one looks at the definition of Fantasy, it’s clear (to me anyway) that Star Wars fits its definition more so than it does Science Fiction.  But I’ll talk more about this when I do eventually get to the Nightsister Trilogy, which admittedly may be a while.

Getting back to my point: after I saw these episodes my immediate thought was on the possible history of Palpatine and Talzin.  Had these two meet prior?  In the trilogy it is not given that Palpatine knew about these darkside witches, as it was Talzin herself who contacted Dooku and offered him a new apprentice.  The question of whether or not these two came in to contact prior to the Nightsister Trilogy was answered.  

“A human male stepped into view.  Of average height, he wore a dark robe whose hood was raised over his head, concealing his face.  Talzin could feel his power, not only in the Force, but in the dark side, as it was known to some.  Even the Nightsisters could sense the man’s strength, and fell back a step in uncertainty…for a long moment, he and Talzin regarded each other in portentous silence” (425)

Palpatine then begins to order Talzin around, and she wisely obeys the Dark Lord of the Sith, their social hierarchy within the darkside quickly decided within a few glances.  In this encounter I think we are given to understand that this was an initial meeting between the two – each now aware of the other’s existence. 
This scene also provides an explanation as to how Savage Opress will find his brother many years down the line.  Mother Talzin, brushing past an injured Maul, quickly took a sample of his blood:

“Then she walked, limping slightly, to the boarding ramp.  There she brought her left hand to one of the talismans that dangled from her neck, and impressed Maul’s blood upon it.  With this, I will always know where to find you” (426).
We shall see soon enough where Mother Talzin’s medallion will take Savage Opress.

My final comment on Restraint circles back, once again, to an idea I’ve been talking a lot about in my blog: the idea of intertextuality.  In one page of the book, there was mention of Maul’s mother, his brother, and even Asajj Ventress:

“’This one’s markings suggest that he is of the same clan as Savage Opress and Feral…‘Did you, Mother, not allow Asajj Ventress to be taken from us?’” (404).
The theories of intertextuality like to challenge the notion of ‘authorship’, in that, one can state that Luceno did not ‘write’ this story on his own, but perhaps the authorship of this story is irrelevant.  Daniel Chandler, in Semiotics for beginners says of the writer:

“[We should] treat the writer of a text as the orchestrator of …the 'already-written' rather than as its originator”
He then goes on to quote Roland Barthes on what he means by this:

“Roland Barthes refers to a text as “a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations... The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them'”
Indeed, in Restraint we have a variety of writings, concepts, characters, and ideas which are not Luceno’s blending and clashing (in a good way) into a tissue of quotations.  Luceno’s power here is not in creating the original, but in his ability to mix the writings, like a good alchemist.  This is the heart of intertexulaity, and is the driving creative force behind all of Star Wars.

For my next post I’m going to finally pick up from where I left of in late August, and continue my chronological trek down the road of Star Wars history, and engage with Star Wars Tales #3: Deal with a Demon.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, February 6, 2012

53 BBY: Star Wars: Jedi: The Dark Side

Scott Allie’s Star Wars: Jedi: The Dark Side was a highly entertaining bit of Star Wars lore, and provided for Star Wars lovers a rich and artful rendering of the events that took place prior to Jude Watson’s Jedi Apprentice series.
What I enjoyed about this 5 part comic arc is that it is a classic example of intertextuality.  This particular comic series would be an example of what John Fiske would call ‘horizontal intertextuality’, wherein a comic makes reference to a book, rather than ‘vertical intertxtuality’, wherein a book makes reference to another book. I know there is an MA thesis somewhere in this blog, pulling together the theories of Barthes, Krestiva, Saussure, and Bakhtin (to name a few literary theorists) and the literary behemoth that is the Star Wars expanded universe.  I don’t know; maybe intertextual is not the proper word to define Star Wars literature; maybe interdiscourse is a more accurate definition simply because we have all these authors conversing about the same thing, over different mediums, over different spaces of time, concerning different aspects of the same mythology.

Anyways, enough of that literary theory nonsense.
What I liked about this comic was the dialogue of Qui-Gon Jinn, the unsettling feelings Qui-Gon gave me as a “frontier Jedi”, Micah Giiett, the art, and Xanatos.

Scott Allie did an excellent job with Qui-Gon’s dialogue.  When reading Qui-Gon’s words, I could hear the voice of Liam Neeson speaking through the comic.  The cadence of his speech and the word choice was true to the Qui-Gon we all enjoyed in The Phantom Menace.  I would even go so far as to say Allie did a better job than Watson in his verbal presentation of Qui-Gon Jinn, but not in his characterization of Qui-Gon.
In issue four there was one scene which particularly shocked me.  In an attempt to get to the bottom of a conspiracy against Crion, the ruler of Telos IV and the father of his Padawan Xanatos, Qui-Gon went undercover to create ties with a group of smugglers/revolutionaries.  As part of his plan he took the guise of an old man, and made contact with a “child” as Qui-Gon called him in issue three – a young guy who looked like in was in way over his head from the moment we meet him in the story.  Once it was discovered by the group of revolutionaries that the “old man” who was brought into their midst was a Jedi, a melee ensued, where Qui-Gon killed all involved.  What disturbed me though, was the manner in which Qui-Gon killed the young man he called “child” in the previous issue.  As the melee between the revolutionaries and Qui-Gon broke out, you can see the kid in the background neither firing his weapon at Qui-Gon nor doing anything rather aggressive.  He’s mostly standing around with a shocked looked on his face, occasionally pointing his blaster at the Jedi, but again, not firing.  Once Qui-Gon was done with the more threating members of the group, he plunged his lightsaber into the young man’s chest, accompanied by the pitiful pleas of the young man’s soft “no…”.  The scene broke my heart a little, but I think this scene is what Allie meant in his preamble to the series about the idea of a creating a story around a frontier Jedi handing out “rough justice”.  Indeed, I think Qui-Gon’s lightsaber through the young man’s chest qualifies as Jedi “rough justice”.  I felt like Qui-Gon could have spared the young man’s life.  It would have been the more “Jedi” thing to do.

Another Jedi to make he re-appearance into the pages of Dark horse’s comics is Micah Giiett, our Jedi Master friend from one of my favorite Star Wars Tales stories: Jedi Chef, and of course Jedi Council: Acts of War.  His inclusion in this comic arc was a moment of ‘full-circle’ for Allie, as it was he who named Micah Giientt. In the letters to the editor section at the end of issue 1, we are told that it was Allie who won a contest to name Micah Giientt when the writer of Jedi Council: Acts of War was looking to create a new member of the Jedi Council.  Allie’s submission of Micah Giientt won, but as a writer he never had the opportunity to use the Jedi whose name he was responsible for.  Jedi: Darkside was his chance to put some words into the mouth of a character he helped to create.  It was nice to see Giientt again.  Considering that this story takes place in 53 BBY, and Giientt dies in 33 BBY, it’s important to note that prior to the Phantom Menace Giientt sat on the council for 20 years. We don’t know when his tenure on the Jedi Council began, but we know now that he must have been a prominent member, considering his years of service.
Moving on, I want to make a quick note about the art in this series.  Mahmud Asrar did an outstanding job with this comic.  I’ve never come across his work before, but like I said, he did really well.  His depictions of Qui-Gon were spot on, and his representation of Tahl was not what I imagined, but awesome none-the-less.  I did not imagine Tahl to be so ‘sexy’ for lack of a better word, but the flirtatious tension between Qui-Gon and Tahl was illustrated well, as it is a key component to the backstory of this series. 

Finally, along with my mention of Asrar’s artwork, both Allie and Asrar did well with their characterization of Xanatos, Qui-Gon’s wayward apprentice.  Xanatos’ arrogance was captured well, and the background to his facial scar was flushed out, which I thought was pretty neat.  I think we’ll most defiantly see more of him in the issues still to come that will fill in the 9 year gap between Qui-Gon “losing” his Padawan Xanatos, and before he takes young Oni-Wan to be his student.
For my next post I’m going to take a look at Restraint, Luceno’s new story about Darth Maul.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.