Tuesday, July 31, 2012

32 BBY: Duel of the Fates

“Totally #20: The Phantom Menace is a one-off 32-page official movie souvenir magazine that celebrates all things Star Wars: The Phantom Menace with a galaxy of features, puzzles, and games. It is a mirror to the movie’s exciting new dimension, and features ten pages in amazing 3D, including an all-new, all-action comic strip.”
I took this write-up from www.titanmagazines.com’s synopsis of the magazine. I think the important thing to note is that it’s a one-off publication.

This magazine is important to the Star Wars Chronology Project because is features a comic short titled Duel of the Fates, featuring Anakin Skywalker and Darth Maul.
It’s a neat-enough little comic short that features a few pages in 3D.  I didn’t have any 3D glasses however, so I wasn’t able to appreciate this comic in all its 3D majesty.

The story takes place before events in The Phantom Menace, and the tale is a juxtaposition of Anakin running a race with Subulba before the Boonta Eve Classic, and Darth Maul outrunning some Battle droids on a STAP in the Underworld on Corusant.
The art by Will Sliney was well done, and the opening box of Maul standing on the pinnacle of a building awaiting the attack by the battle droids was pretty cool.

If I ever reorganize the Chronology project I’d probably place this story sometime in Darth Maul’s early career in 32 BBY.  Sidious seems pleased with Maul’s capabilities in this story, but they are nothing compared to what he’s already done.  I’d probably place Duel of the Fates before the Darth Maul TBP, simply because this is a minor activity compared to his wiping out of Black Sun or his destroying of Silas, the Dark Lord of the Sith that never was.  
The title of the tale was apropos as well.  Indeed, Anakin and Maul both have fates that are dueling for the attention of Darth Sidious, though not right at this moment.  I really do hope that this “Duel of the Fates” will mean a duel between Sidious and Vader with Maul and Savage somewhere in the narrative of The Clone Wars.

For my next post I’m going to look at Signal Interruption, another RPG source from Wizards of the Coast.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Star Wars Chronology Project: Three Years Later

"If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things." – Albert Einstein.

It’s been three years since I’ve started my quest, and as I said a year ago, having a goal has made my life better.  Having this goal has made me happier.  Einstein’s quote speaks to me.  It seems true.
My only regret this year has been that damn World of Warcraft game.  I’m upset it stole three months from me.  World of Warcraft was the siren to my Odysseus.  I may not have been tremendously further along in my quest had I not been distracted by it, but I would have at least been a few steps closer to Darth Plagueis. 

I’m no longer going to make any predictions about when I’ll complete this project.  Last year I said it might be eight years, but the length of time doesn’t matter.  I’m enjoying what I’m doing and the length of time for me to complete this has become irrelevant. 
Though I’m not going to make any more predictions about my progress over the coming year, I really do hope I can get to The Clone Wars material, it’s an aspect of Star Wars lore I’m really enjoying, and I want to add my own thoughts and comments to what is going on.

As it is, my thanks still go out to you, my reader, for being with me along my journey.  Your thoughts and feedback are what make this project worthwhile.  The conversations we've had, and hopefully will continue to have, are the best part of this quest.
On a personal note, my wife and I are expecting our third child in January, so if the quantity of what I publish is diminished in the New Year, it’ll be with good reason.

Thank you all for being a part of my journey, and in doing so, being a part of my life.
Here’s to the continued quest!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

32 BBY: Secrets of Naboo Sourcebook: A Letter from Chancellor Valorum & Situational Analysis in the Naboo System

Texts influencing texts:  it’s one of the main ideas I’ve been talking about within my journey through the Star Wars EU. It was the subject of my MA thesis, so not surprisingly it’s an element of literature I tend to focus on.
I’ve always enjoyed engaging with Star Wars RPG sourcebooks because they are something different from the novels and comics, and they are built on the premise of texts influencing texts.  Published in February 2001, this text has subtle influences on James Luceno’s Cloak of Deception which was published a few months later in May.  A Letter from Chancellor Valorum, an in-universe letter written to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, opens with the line “My Dear Friend”, letting us know that Chancellor Valorum and Master Jinn have more than a professional relationship, and are indeed friends.  Luceno’s Cloak of Deception flushes out this friendship, and gives credence to the Supreme Chancellor’s familiar introduction.  Texts influencing texts: I love it.

A Letter from Chancellor Valorum, and Situational Analysis in the Naboo System, like I’ve already mentioned, are in-universe letters, and in fact, the Secrets of Naboo sourcebook itself functions almost as an epistolary novel, though the term ‘novel’ in this instance is problematic.  This RPG sourcebook, like most RPG sourcebooks, is written as a series of documents in the form of letters, technical readouts, personal reflections, and scientific information of planets and other aspects of the universe.  The document makes reference to this, as the sourcebook itself is the dossier handed to Qui-Gon by Valorum’s aid Colonel Kaaver Trapps for his mission to Naboo to negotiate with the Trade Federation:

“I have asked my most trusted aid to assemble the following dossier.  The information therein should help you negotiate successfully with all potentially interested parties” (pg 3).
I can envision Qui-Gon siting in his chambers reading an in-universe version of the Secrets of Naboo sourcebook before he collects his apprentice to complete his mission, which brings me to another reason why I enjoyed this source: it comes right on the heels of Shadow Hunter, when Obi-Wan sees his master preparing to head out on a mission:

“He found the door open to Master Qui-Gon’s domicile open.  The Jedi was inside, loading his utility belt with field items such as an ascension gun and food capsules.  He evidenced relief when he saw Obi-Wan standing in the doorway” (Shadow Hunter, 328).
The ending of Shadow Hunter and the beginning of Secrets of Naboo surprisingly blend nicely into one another. Qui-Gon finishes reading his letter from Valorum and the dossier given to him by Tapps, places the item on his bed, when in enters his apprentice, just fresh from unknowingly tracking the path of destruction created by Darth Maul.

On the topic of Valorum, the most interesting aspect of his letter to Qui-Gon was his comment to the Jedi about being a “veteran soldier”.  What is more, he implies that not only is he a veteran soldier, but that senator Palpatine is also a veteran soldier, perhaps the two of them serving together in the same conflict:

“I haven’t been able to identify a specific problem, but Senator Palpatine recently approached me with concerns that echoed my own.  I am loath to base my judgment on such vague impressions, since they are nothing more than the delusions of two veteran soldiers who have grown too old for battle” (2).
I have yet to read Darth Plagueis, but the idea that both Valorum and Palpatine were once brothers in arms, two young men fighting on the field of battle, armed with laser rifles and body armor, is new to me.  I like the idea, and I think the sentiment gives further depth and complexity to the relationship between Valorum and Palpatine, and quite frankly I think it would be neat were this the case, but I don’t think this narrative is consistent with what we know about them.  What battle(s) would they have fought in?  The Republic has had relative peace for 1000 years. Perhaps by “veteran soldiers too old for battle” Valorum meant the constant war of words and ideas the two fight against in the senate, fighting to save freedom, oust oppression, and end slavery and other such crimes against sentients in the galaxy.  Still, I think the idea is neat.

The Situational Analysis in the Naboo System also gives further clarification why two Jedi Knights were sent to negotiate with the Trade Federation. It seems Valorum knew there was more going on here than a simple blockade to protest an increase in taxes, and wanted to make a show of force to the Neimoidians by sending two Jedi, basically stating ‘Hey, I’ve got Jedi, what do you have?’.  He also knew the Neimoidians were by nature cowards, and thought they would buckle at the sight of the Jedi.  My favorite part about this is at the end of report on the Situational Analysis in the Naboo System, Tapps, Valorum’s advisor, reminds the Supreme Chancellor that the Republic, whether the Neimoidians like it or not, is the last authority in the galaxy, siting the Battle of Ruusan.  What’s he’s actually citing is the Ruusan Reformation, the galactic event that restructured the entire Galactic Republic following the New Sith Wars, taking power away from the Supreme Chancellor and reinvesting it in the Galactic Senate.
Texts building upon and referencing other texts.  I love it.

For my next post I’m going to give my thoughts and reactions to The Phantom Menace, the first Star Wars film I’ll engage with in my Chronology Project.  It only took me three years to get here.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

32 BBY: Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter

Darth  Maul: Shadow Hunter was one of the best Star Wars novels I’ve ever read.  As of right now it’s at the top of my all-time favorite Star Wars novels list, bumping Shadows of the Empire to second.  Prior to this project I read a bunch of Star Wars books, and the three I place at the  top of my list include the already mentioned Shadows of the Empire, followed by the Thrawn trilogy (I include them as one), followed by JJM’s  Knight Errant.  My top three is now crowned with Reaves’ Shadow Hunter, unfortunately bumping Jackson’s Knight Errant from the list.  I had no idea this book would be so enjoyable.  I don’t know, maybe when I re-read Shadows of the Empire and the Thawn trilogy Shadow Hunter will be bumped from the top, but as of right now it stands as number one.
This was the first time I’ve engaged with Reaves’ work and I’m very impressed with what he adds to the Star Wars mythos.    What I really enjoyed about Reaves’ work was his ability to take a one-dimensional character like Maul, and add further facets to him, namely presenting him as both invincible and vulnerable.  I kept guessing until the end, and before the last few pages I had reconciled myself to the notion that Maul had failed his mission.  Then Wham! In a twist of dramatic irony, Lorn Pavan turns to Palpatine for help, only to have his head severed from his shoulders from Maul the next morning. 

My thoughts on this text mostly focus on Darth Maul, but once again cloaking devices caught my eye, as did the prevalent notion of the Jedi as a martial institution.
Firstly, it seems that cloaking devices are not as rare as I thought them to be, as once again we a presented with a ship with a cloaking device:

“The Neimoidian freighter Saa’ak cruised ponderously in the uncharted depths of Wild Space.  It displayed its colors proudly, its cloaking device disabled…” (pg. 1).

Here I’m reminded of the words of Captain Needa from The Empire Strikes Back: ‘No ship that small has a cloaking device’.  It seems that so far in Star Wars the Saa’ak is the only ship that conforms to Captain Needa’s worldview about how big or small a ship with a cloaking device should be. Thus far in Star Wars chronology we’ve only come across small ships with cloaking devices.  I think the idea that cloaking devices  are rare is a notion that is a little shattered for me, or else it is a plot device of the Star Wars universe that is overused.  As it is, it’s still a plot device I myself want to use when I do decide to write some short stories.
Moving on, linking my next point with my comment on Reaves' ability to flush out Darth Maul, he did well presenting Maul as I would expect him at the start of the novel.  As those of you who have been reading my blog already know, Darth Maul is not one of my favorite characters because I never took him as a real threat to Darth Sidious, and he’s not one I would consider able to usurp the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith from Sidious.  See my post on Saboteur to understand what I mean.  Reaves gives me further reason not to respect Darth Maul’s “sithness” with lines like this:

“As far as he was concerned, his life began with Lord Sidious.  And if his master ordered an end to that life, Maul would accept that judgment with no argument” (pg 33).
This isn’t the psychology of a future Master of the Sith in the making, it’s the psychology of a brainwashed cultist who loves “the leader” too much to pose any kind of real threat.  At this point in Star Wars chronology Darth Maul is not a Sith we should respect.  It’s lines like this that make me appreciate Maul’s resurrection at the end of the fourth season of The Clone Wars.  I wasn’t too thrilled that Lucas decided to bring him back, but it seems the new Maul will demand a little more respect from us.  There is obviously a showdown coming between Maul and Savage and Sidious and Dooku (or possibly Vader if such a confrontation occurs after events in Revenge of the Sith).  The thought of such a showdown gets my nerdy blood pumping.  So far I like what I’ve seen out of the new and improved Darth Maul and I'm looking forward to season five of The Clone Wars.

Even though Maul is a character I’m rather underwhelmed with at this particular period in Star Wars history, Sidious is a character that always surprises me, even in the hands of various writers.  Reaves’ presentation of Sidious in Shadow Hunter is one that conforms to what we know of him from other works, and I was not at all surprised that Maul’s hubris was a personality flaw that did not escape the notice of the Sith Lord:

               “Nevertheless, Maul had his flaws, and by far the largest of these was hubris” (121).
It was Maul’s excessive pride which caused his ruin at the hands of Kenobi, and it was his hubris which assisted in his failure of this particular mission, which is why I appreciate Reaves as the writer in this story because he presented us with a Maul that ultimately failed.  Yes, he did complete his objective in the end, but not because of anything he did; rather, the darkside of the force threw him a bone, and had his prey land at the feet of his master when he couldn’t get the job done.
Sidious’ honest evaluation of his disciple is not the only thing that impressed me about the Sith Master, I was further impressed with ability to hide in plain sight, even more so than he usually does, by taking his disciple on a field trip to the Jedi Temple:

“One of his earliest memories was that of being taken to the Jedi Temple.  Both he and Sidious had been disguised as tourists.  His master’s command of the dark side had been sufficient to cloak them from being sensed by their enemies, as long as they did not enter the building” (181).
I find this scene sort of humorous.  Did they stop for lunch at Dex’s diner or did Sidious have the foresight to pack some sandwiches?  Jokes aside, it’s scenes like this that make me appreciate just how powerful Sidious is, to turn up at the Jedi Temple and show his student where his enemies live.

As I mentioned earlier, I found Maul’s psychology disappointing for a Sith lord, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I find the Jedi focus on martial prowess over the desire of Social Justice just as disappointing, and in Shadow Hunter, this focus was again mentioned: 

“For nearly as long as she could remember, Darsha had been coddled and cozened in the Jedi Temple, protected from direct contact with the dregs of society – an ironic situation, since the Jedi were supposed to be the protectors of all levels of civilization, even those considered to be untouchable by most of the upper classes” (pg 49).

In my posts on The Battle of Bothawui, Jedi Apprentice: The Rising Force, and The Jedi Path, I spoke about  how if a Jedi was not martial or combat oriented, they were somehow seen as inadequate, which I think is an unfortunate cultural reality in the Jedi Temple.  In my post on The Battle of Bothawui I asked if there were any moments of revered remembrance for Jedi whose focus was on Social Justice and the relief of the terrible evil of poverty in the same manner there were to Jedi Master Belth Allusis.  The answer is of course not.  The Jedi are martial.  Yes, they are peace-keepers, but they are martial peace-keepers, but as an institution they are more inclined to honor the sacrifice of Master Allusis than they are to erect a monument to Golan Palladane, who sought to relive the suffering of refugees trapped in Sith space.  I’m not surprised Darsha felt out of place with the homeless and needy, as her Jedi training never taught her how to battle the greatest evil of all, that of apathy to the unloved and unwanted.
My final thoughts on this text concern two smaller aspects that I thought were neat: the taozin and Maul’s force track.  The taozin contained in the bowels of Coruscant, and its piece of flesh which gave Lorn the jump on Darth Maul was extremely cool.  I’m endlessly fascinated with anything that can nullify the Jedi’s powers, and I think such pieces of kryptonite are important in this universe.  The Jedi’s status as demi-gods needs to be knocked down a little, and I appreciated Reaves did this in a manner consistant with the universe, not like what Chestney did in Threat of Peace.  What is more, I think this is the first time such a creature has entered the Star Wars mythos, except for Darth Sidious’ mention of it in The Jedi Path. Here’s the plot for a short story for someone to fill in the blanks: how did this creature end up on Coruscant in the first place?  Perhaps it landed there 100 years ago?  A thousand years ago?  Who knows?

Finally, I thought Maul’s ability to track Darsha very interesting.  When he did this I thought of the picture on page 26 of the Jedi Academy sourcebook from Wizards of the Coast.  Was Maul using Force Track here as it is presented in the Jedi Academy sourcebook?  There is a great picture in this book and it’s labeled “An Ikotchi Sith Lord uses Force Track in pursuit of a Jedi”, and there is a picture of a Sith Lord that looks a little like Maul following a purple smoke-like line of Force residue in pursuit of his prey.  It’s a cool picture.  Again, I wonder what the story is here.  Who is this Sith Lord?  I’m sure Wallace knows. 
For my next post I’m going to look at “A Letter from Chancellor Valorum” and “Situational Analysis of the Naboo System,” both from the Secrets of Naboo RPG sourcebook from Wizards of the Coast.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

32 BBY: A Queen's Diary

I first came across A Queen’s Diary in 2010.  A friend of mine bought my oldest son What is a Wookiee, And Other Adventures, as a Christmas gift.  Peter and I spent that winter reading all the stories before bed. Although A Queen’s Diary was not his favorite, we read it once or twice.
What I especially liked about this children’s book was the inclusion of Padme's parents.  Was there a scene in the TPM that they were cut from?  Obviously actors were hired and placed in costume, implying that at least some scenes with them were shot.  If someone has some more detailed knowledge about this let me know.

My other favorite part of this book is when the Queen mentions that her favorite place to go in the palace is one of the highest rooms, where she can then gaze at the waterfalls that flow down the side of the mountain.  I remember this spot in Star Wars Galaxies.  Of the many things that were buggy about that game, the scenery incorporated into it was not one of them.  The developers really nailed it when they created the iconic scenes from the movies.

For my next post I’m going to examine Michael Reaves’ Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

32 BBY: Tales # 3: The Death of Captain Tarpals

The title of this tale “The Death of Captain Tarpals” had me worried.  I shouldn’t have worried though, because with Windham behind the wheel I know his contributions to Star Wars canonicity are orthodox, but I was thinking, ‘How does Tarpals die when he’s in The Phantom Menace?’ Anyway, I should’ve known better than to judge a story’s contents by its title.
The Death of Captain Tarpals is a partial origin story behind Jar Jar’s banishment from Otoh Gunga.  Though it doesn’t tell us how Jar Jar upset Boss Nass (Jar Jar blathers something about that in the film) it does provide some history behind the background between Jar Jar and Tarpals’ familiar relationship.

I learned two things from this comic short: firstly, nobody likes Jar Jar Binks, and secondly, Tarpals is a champion, a class-act the whole way.
As it turns out, I wasn`t the only one annoyed by Jar Jar Binks in TPM, apparently every other Gungan from Otoh Gunga dislikes him as much I do, especially General Marshoo.  General Marshoo, a former general in the Gungan Grand Army, was sick of Jar Jar stealing food from his restaurant, and was about to manhandle the clumsy Binks before Tarpals stepped in and saved Jar Jar.  As Tarpals escorts Jar Jar out of the restaurant, it’s evident that most denizens of Marshoo’s place really do not like him.

But it’s not Jar Jar that’s the star of the story here, it is Captain Tarpals.  Who knew Captain Tarpals was such a dedicated law-man, and especially tough to boot?  Before Marshoo beats up Binks, Tarpals steps in and shows that he’s not simply a Captain with a strange accent, even among Gungans, but a law-man not to be messed with.  He quickly subdues General Marshoo, and takes Jar Jar, the Gungan he is there to arrest, into custody.
Marshoo, attacks the duo a second time, and here it is Jar Jar who saves the day through his clumsiness and stupidity.

The story ends with Tarpals exiling the pitiable Jar Jar:

“Un know what dey callen yous down at da station?  Dey callen yous ‘da death of Captain Tarpals”
Tarpals leaves Jar Jar on a lonely shore outside of the city and says to the Gungan no one likes (except Tarpals of course):

               “Mesa no can let yous be da death of my”
Tarpals is visibly upset with the task he had to perform, as it’s obvious he likes Jar Jar.  It’s a surprisingly sad ending, and one that had me re-evaluating my opinions of Jar Jar Binks.  The Death of Captain Tarpals, though not dealing with Tarpals’ actual death, now makes his sacrifice at the hands of General Grievous even more heroic.

For my next post I’m going to examine A Queen’s Diary.  It’s a short little children’s story.  I’m going to skip over Thank the Maker, and look at it at its in-universe date, sometime around The Empire Strikes Back.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures: The Bongo Rally: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures: Pirates from Beyond the Sea: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures: Festival of Warriors: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures: Rescue in the Core: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures: Trouble on Tattooine: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures: Capture Arawynne: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episdoe 1 Adventures: The Hunt for Anakin Skywalker: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures: The Ghostling Children: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures: Jedi Emergency: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episdoe 1 Adventures: The Fury of Darth Maul: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episdoe 1 Adventures: The Bartokk Assassins: Novel and Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episdoe 1 Adventures: Search for the Lost Jedi: Novel & Gamebook

In my post on Handling 32 BBY I had the collected Episode 1 Adventures listed as one source I was going to examine, but now that I’m at the threshold of these books I’ve realized I’ve grossly underestimated what these books actually are, and I’ve come to the realization that each one deserves its own write-up. So in the spirit of my chronological journey I’ve decided I want to look at both the novel and game book as one item. 
To be honest, when I was going through the sources I’d have to look at for this year in Star Wars history I didn’t have an appreciation for how noteworthy these books are.  I bought adventures 1-4 last year, and when they came in the mail I quickly placed them on my bookshelf without really looking at them.  As I started to approach these books for my quest I began to look at them a little more closely.  Adventure 1, Search for the Lost Jedi, is itself 85 pages in length, and has a narrative significant enough for discussion.  Not only that, each novel has attached to it a game book.  I really didn’t know what they were all about, but after taking a look at this website, I think I have a clearer understanding of just how much material is actually here. 

To make matters more complicated, the entire series is difficult to collect.  Not impossible, but it’s defiantly out of my price range.  Amazon has all the titles listed at very low prices, but it’s the shipping and handling that’s killer.  But to make matters even more problematic, the game books are few and far between.  If I can get my hands on the novel, I may not be able to get my hands on the game book.  So, in an attempt to remedy this situation I’ve turned to my library’s interlibrary loan system, but even then I can only place three requests at a time, and once the first three have come in I can put the next three on request. Ultimately, it’s going to take me a while to fully engage with these books. 
To that end, I’m going to make 12 place-holder posts for each book, and simply engage with each as it comes in (novel and game book), if they even do come in.  I apologize for the deluge of e-mails you are going to receive if you’ve subscribed to my blog with your e-mail address.  As it is, once I’ve made my place-holder posts, I’m going to move on to Tales #3, The Death of Captain Tarpals.  So until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

32 BBY: Tales #24: Marked

I pitied Darth Maul in this story, especially in the last box.  He just wants what we all want: someone to love us.
Tales #24, Marked, was an awesome little late.  As a matter of fact, I think it’s in my top 5 of Star Wars Tales stories.  Its premise is simple and it’s in line with what we know about Sith philosophy: only the strong survive.  Darth Maul is sent to a remote planet to investigate a significant disturbance in the Force.  There he comes into contact with Silas, a Dorvian strong in the darkside of the Force.  From there, the two engage in a death match – the winner gaining the honor of being Darth Sidious’ apprentice.  For Maul it’s a test, for Silas it’s an interview.   

Maul comes out victorious, and learns a valuable lesson: to be a Sith means constant improvement, but with that means constant dis-satisfaction with who you are.  And Sidious will be right there, offering Maul back-handed compliments until he decides he’s had enough.
Silas was an interesting character in this story.  It was also a shame Maul killed him.  His potential seemed evident.  I would have loved to see this ruthless character operate as a Sith.

I really don’t have much else to say.  Marked furthered the background of Maul and added more dimensions to him.  I think from now on I’ll always see that scared little boy under that tough and tattooed exterior.
For my next post I’ll be taking a look at Episode 1 Adventures.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

32 BBY: Star Wars: Darth Maul

I first laid eyes on Star Wars: Darth Maul while I was in Excalibur comics on Bloor Street.  I was buying some Magic: The Gathering trading cards.  I made my way over to the comic stand, picked up the first issue and flipped through it.  It seemed interesting enough, but at that moment I was there to spend some money on improving my Magic deck for an upcoming tournament with some friends. 
Like the KOTOR series, I always knew I was going to get my hands on this collection eventually.  And like the KOTOR series, I wasn’t disappointed.  This was a great story.  I’ve now gone through the entire Rise of the Sith omnibus and it was defiantly worth the price of admission. 

The Darth Maul series gave Star Wars fans exactly what they wanted back in 2000. We had only been introduced to this ascetically intimidating Dark Lord of the Sith only to have him killed at the end of TPM.  We wanted more, and we wanted to see him swing that double-bladed lightsaber around.  In this comic series he did just that. 
There were great little elements of this story I enjoyed, and I’ve categorized my reactions into three sections:  Maul, Black Sun, and Maul’s cloaking device.

Firstly, I think Marz did well with the script of this tale, as I could hear the voice of Ray Park as I read Maul’s lines.  What is more, Marz’s characterization of Maul was spot-on.  Maul was brimming with confidence and malice.  I especially enjoyed it when he asked Sidious if he wanted Black Sun “destroyed utterly”, the subtext being ‘because I can ya know’! 
Also, the penultimate confrontation between Maul and Mighella was great, not because it ended with Maul’s bisection of the Dathomirian witch (which of course foreshadows the Sith apprentice’s own demise), but because there is no need to retcon the exchange between these two. Even though this was written in 2000 before Luceno’s and Filoni’s 2012 additions to the history of Maul, the exchange between these two is totally fitting for what we now know about Maul’s past:

“Do you know what I am?
A Nightsister.  A witch of Dathomir skilled in the use of the Dark Side of the force.  You understand so little.
Do I?  You’ve never faced my kind before.
No.  You’ve never faced my kind before.” (439-440)

Of course Maul knows what a Nightsister is.  And truly, Maul was correct when he said to Maghella that she’s never faced his kind before.  The Sith have remained hidden for all this time, even from the Dathomirian witches.

Still, what really caught my attention with Maul in this series was his killing of the Iktotchi vigo Narees.  Did Maul use Sith sorcery here?  It seems he crushed Narees’ mind with the darkside of the Force, the vigo stammering and bleeding from his nose without Maul so much as raising a hand.  The scene echoed moments of Zannah and Bane’s final confrontation in Dynasty of Evil.  Has Sidious tutored his young apprentice in some minor elements of Sith sorcery?  I wouldn’t be surprised since we know Sidious is a Banite Sith.
Moving on in my reactions, this comic’s mention of Black Sun made me nostalgic for Perry’s Shadows of the Empire, probably my favorite piece of Star Wars EU.  What I found most interesting about Black Sun in this comic is its similarity to the Sith council from the Old Republic era.  Instead of 12 Dark Lords of the Sith, Black Sun has 9 Vigos, and its power structure is set up in the same manner.  Indeed, Black Sun was established after the sacking of Coruscant in the Old Republic era, but its wookieepdeia page mentions nothing concretely of its foundation.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was set up by one of the Dark Lords of the Sith sitting on the Dark Council at this time as an extension of his or her power. 

Moreover, it also makes sense that Sidious would want to get Black Sun out of the way as he orchestrates his rise to power.  When Maul asks if he should “destroy utterly” the crime syndicate Sidious reins him in.  He knows all he needs to do is divide, but not necessarily conquer in this instance.  Like Sidious, we know Black Sun has a use down the line.
My last comment in regards to this TBP is the mention, again, of cloaking devices. As Sidious presents Maul with his new Sith Infiltrator, he says to his apprentice:

“The Infiltrator’s armaments consist of six laser cannons, but more important is its cloaking generator.  You will be all but invisible.” (380)

This makes three known cloaking devices in Star Wars chronology thus far: the one owned by Tulkh from Red Harvest, Stieg Wa from The Dark Rival, and now Darth Maul from the TBP with his name.  Additionally, there may be a fourth if we take into account the comment by Nym the pirate of the possibility of him coming across one.  He may have had a particular one in mind when he made the comment which may not include any of these. Like Maul, a cloaked Infiltrator is a dangerous weapon indeed.  It reminds me of my second favorite ships from the Star Wars universe (after the Fairwind of course), the VT-49 Decimator. It was the ship I was attempting to get for my Bounty Hunter in Star Wars Galaxies, but unfortunately I never reached Master Pilot status in that game.
Duursema’s artwork was fantastic as usual, but what is more, this comic has gotten me very excited for The Clone Wars season 5.  I’ve never thought much of Maul as a Sith apprentice, but being witness to his killing efficiency in this comic, and his rebirth at the end of season 4 I’m very excited to see what he’s capable of.  See my post on Saboteur to see what I mean when I say I’ve never thought Maul was really “Sith” material.

For my next post I’ll be taking a look at Tales #24 Marked.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.