The Bad Batch, Episode 6: “Decommissioned” Review

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(E chu ta!)

As part of a recent, friendly bet (which you can see outlined here on Twitter) I have committed to not only watching every single episode of this season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, but I must also write 500-word (minimum) reviews about the series!

Yay!

That’s not actually sarcasm. I’m excited to write about Star Wars again, and am using this as an excuse and a bit of a prod to kickstart myself back into some writing. Without further ado…



A (Too) Familiar Caper(?)

This (past) week’s episode, “Decommissioned,” saw the Bad Batch sent on a retrieval mission by their new benefactor, Cid, to a familiar locale where they ran into some familiar faces and got into familiar clone-squad hijinks. Sounds pretty fun, right?

The return of industrial Corellia from Solo was a welcome sight, and I really enjoyed the intricacies of the reclamation plant—the conveyors and droid parts reminded me favourably of Attack of the Clones—but I have to admit that I did feel some trepidation while watching the episode. At this point the series has fallen into a (potentially detrimental) pattern of guest rôles given to established characters or at least familiar types (species, creatures, etc.) and so with the appearance of Corellia, a fear started building in my stomach—I worried we might see young Han (not-yet-Solo!) show up! Even during the initial skirmish with the newcomers who stole the droid head they were sent to collect, my first thought was, “Oh, are these going to be White Worms?”

Thankfully (for me) those fears were quickly allayed. I welcomed the reappearance of the Martez sisters from Season 7 of The Clone Wars, as I thought they were some of the more interesting additions to that final season. Here, they’ve clearly established themselves a bit more since the last time we saw them, but they’re still somewhat “green” and haphazard in their teamwork. The interplay with the clones was both interesting and funny, and the action sequence against the droid security force (and the eventual need to rescue Omega) allowed for the Batch to shine and be the cinematic action heroes they’re modelled after.

Wrecker once again injured his head, and this time we got some confirmation of where all this teasing and trauma seems to be headed: Whispering to himself before passing out, he begins to say the mantra of the activated clone, “Good soldiers follow orders.” On the one hand it’s good to have that particular theory validated, while on the other, I think they’re going to have to bring this thread to a head sooner than later or else the schtick might wear thin. We’ll see if this resolves in the near future or if we’ll have to wait much longer…

The end of the episode echoed Solo in the choice by Hunter: Faced with the “greater good” against his own need, he decides to give the  information gleaned from the now destroyed droid head to the young women—mirroring Han’s choice to hand over the coaxium to Enfys Nest. I have to admit that I bought Hunter’s decision a little more than I did the scoundrel’s; it’ll be interesting to see if the failure of this mission sours their relationship with Cid, as well as to eventually find out who the Martez sisters are working for, a mysterious becloaked figure in holo. Rumours abound there for the obvious and not-so-obvious choices; I just hope we don’t see another major clash with a Canon source if it’s who we all think it is!

The Bad Batch, Episode 5: “Rampage” Review

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(Animal roar!)

As part of a recent, friendly bet (which you can see outlined here on Twitter) I have committed to not only watching every single episode of this season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, but I must also write 500-word (minimum) reviews about the series!

Yay!

That’s not actually sarcasm. I’m excited to write about Star Wars again, and am using this as an excuse and a bit of a prod to kickstart myself back into some writing. Without further ado…



Muchi to Think About…? (I’m Sorry!)

This week’s episode, “Rampage,” sees the heroes and heroine of the Bad Batch travel to Ord Mantell. In need of intel on the bounty hunter seeking Omega, Echo suggests meeting an old underworld contact of the Jedi, Cid–the catch? Echo’s never met Cid. Hijinks of the Star Wars-animation variety ensue!

Once again, Omega demonstrates her shrewdness in deducing that the older, female Trandoshan at the bar they enter is the one they seek; this furthers her characterization as someone who trusts her instincts and, on occasion, can be very astute and rather capable. We see more of this later in the episode when she eludes Zygerrian slavers and does her best to help the Batch, which I’m glad to see, because, again: She isn’t chastised or deserving of such, she simply acts in a way that’s heroic and situationally called-for, and she succeeds (although at first you’re made to think all is lost) based on her abilities and the trust she and the other clones have for each other. I really think the interplay between the clones and their familial bond is one of the majors strengths of the series, as it often was between clone characters in The Clone Wars, and I am very happy that it’s been such a strong presence throughout the episodes so far.

Something to note is that, again, Wrecker’s head hurts toward the beginning of the episode, and later during his clash with Muchi, he seems to suffer some additional head trauma. If this isn’t setting up a potentially tragic/tense subplot where Tech’s implant-altering-device will be tested, I’ll be incredibly surprised.

Going back to Muchi, I suppose she’s meant to be the rancor from Jabba’s Palace as seen in Return of the Jedi. She’s cute and almost has a bulldog quality in this episode, which I liked; if it is intended to be the same rancor, we can add another potential retcon to the list. The Aftermath series previously called that rancor “Pateesa,” which could be another name, I suppose, an easy enough fix–but Pateesa was also listed as a male rancor in sources. Ultimately not the most distressing continuity blip, but yet another in a series that seems never-ending nonetheless.

Another aspect worth noting is that none of the clones touch on an elephant in the room when discussing slavery with Omega–none of them reflect on the fact that they were, canonically, grown and sold to the Republic as soldiers without any say, and in fact lacked legal representation and recognition as other citizens of the Republic. It may fall outside of the scope of the series or may be an aspect of their conditioning they’ll later shed; time will tell, I suppose, but I’ve already seen many people comment on the fact that this comparison (and its contrasts with the type of slavery employed by the Zygerrians) eludes the characters.

As with the previous episode in the series, “Rampage” lacks any depiction of Crosshair and the War-Mantle squad. I’m not sure if this is entirely a negative because it’s good to see Clone Force 99 adventure and bond without interruption, but on the other hand, I’m keenly interested in seeing how far the Empire can make their wayward clone go. It’s tense when he’s onscreen and tense when he’s off; but I do hope we get to see more of his story in the next episode.

Hunter learns Fennec Shand’s name and reputation at the end of the episode. I’m glad they’re establishing that she’s relatively new to the scene. I also liked the way that Cid leans into blackmail after offering the clones more mercenary work, should they be interested. She’s good at keeping secrets, but is utterly unsubtle in the unstated threat that she’s aware giving them up would be a profitable venture. “Rampage” ends on the tension, and I’m interested to see if it goes anywhere. Of course, things could always backfire on Cid; time will tell if she’s a Clone Wars or a Rebels Hondo analogue!

The Bad Batch, Episode 4: “Cornered” Review

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Stranger danger!

As part of a recent, friendly bet (which you can see outlined here on Twitter) I have committed to not only watching every single episode of this season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, but I must also write 500-word (minimum) reviews about the series!

Yay!

That’s not actually sarcasm. I’m excited to write about Star Wars again, and am using this as an excuse and a bit of a prod to kickstart myself back into some writing. Without further ado…



I Guess It’s a Planet Now?

This (past) week’s episode, “Cornered,” opens with the crew of the Havoc Marauder stuck between what Hunter proposes (hiding out on an uninhabited world) and reality (needing to get supplies like food and fuel); they’re also now on a wanted list, making any landing they do attempt all the more dangerous. Tech suggests heading to Pantora (incorrectly referring to it as a “planet,” interestingly enough) which is the nearest inhabited locale, where they can beef up their rations and he’ll change the ship’s engine signature.

Things, of course, don’t quite go to plan for the ragtag Clone Force 99.

I found the joke with Echo being seen as a droid somewhat funny, and his subplot with the droid crew (including new fan-favourite Clink) rather cute, but I know some people thought it went a little too far in both dehumanizing the already tragically cyborg’d clone (yes, you read that right) and in terms of the already uneven treatment of droids in Star Wars, who seem to exist in a weird space in-between worker and slave. I wonder if the act of being sold off (for less than he thought he was worth) was more damaging or not for Echo, who already seems to be a clone apart so-to-speak–not only from the “regs,” the rank-and-file clones who are now (essentially, in everything if not name) stormtroopers, but also from his other squad-mates in the Bad Batch, who share a common bond of being defective and/or altered from “birth.”

Omega in this episode is, once again, Rey-like in her wonder at the wider galaxy, but she’s different in that for whatever education the Kaminoans saw fit to subject her to, she is incredibly naïve about the ways of the galaxy, including things that we as fans would consider rather commonplace. Walking through the Pantoran streets, she doesn’t understand the jubilation at the end of the war; later, when lost, she lacks the awareness to understand that Fennec Shand may not be as trustworthy as she’s claiming to be. I didn’t actually love this sort of regression of the character, especially after last week’s more grounded, capable portrayal. I’m not saying I expect her to understand every situation she’s thrust into, but it might have been more interesting if she started to question Fennec’s motives before Hunter found them; as-is, she’s the unfortunately all-too-realistic child victim preyed upon by adults and their authority.

Wrecker, so often the butt of jokes and the childlike voice of the series (even more so than Omega), might be my least favourite character in the series, unfortunately. He borders a bit too closely on the edge of unbelievability for me to feel fully comfortable accepting that he could be part of this élite squad of commandos. I like the rare moments of introspection and when he interacts with Omega, which this episode mostly lacked; his defeat in the sewers serves as another bit of head trauma, which may yet be significant, and is also (as others have noted) an example of helmets in the Star Wars universe being mostly, it seems, for show.

When revealed to be a character in the series, I thought it interesting that Fennec would appear essentially unchanged from her appearance in The Mandalorian–a series set roughly twenty-eight years later, by my calculation. It’s definitely a choice still to give some of these characters an essentially “cartoon” or “comic book” attire that doesn’t really change, something we’ve already seen before in The Clone Wars and Rebels; but, ultimately, what’s more interesting about Fennec in this series is how established she already seems to be. She must be at least a decade older than the younger Fett, only a teenager during the Clone Wars, and she’s already well-known enough to inspire fear in her contact. I also can’t wait to see more of her ship and find out it’s name! The figure(s) who hired her to track down Omega are, for the time being, obscured, and I’ve seen fan-speculation run the gamut, but the most likely answer (especially given the end of the last episode) would be the Kaminoans. I wonder if hiring bounty hunters may end up alerting the Empire to their gambit.

All in all, I think “Cornered” might be my least favourite episode of the series so far–but I still enjoyed it. The action was delightful, and it was nice to see elements from live-action crossover into the animated realm (similar to how enjoyable it was to see Clone Wars elements used in The Mandalorian last year). But I feel the episode suffered from a bit of a middling adventure and a lack of insight into Crosshair’s current plight, although I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him soon enough.

The Bad Batch, Episode 3: “Replacements” Review

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Tragedy compounded in the third…

As part of a recent, friendly bet (which you can see outlined here on Twitter) I have committed to not only watching every single episode of this season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, but I must also write 500-word (minimum) reviews about the series!

Yay!

That’s not actually sarcasm. I’m excited to write about Star Wars again, and am using this as an excuse and a bit of a prod to kickstart myself back into some writing. Without further ado…



The Manchurian Kaminoan Candidate

This (now past) week’s episode of The Bad Batch was divided into two major plots: Clone Force 99 and their adventure trying to repower their damaged ship; and Crosshair’s continued manipulation by the Kaminoans and their Imperial masters. I enjoyed both plots, but found the second frankly more interesting for reasons I’ll get into shortly. The Bad Batch’s time on what appears to be the Ordo moon is a somewhat classic Star Wars animated romp: The characters find themselves marooned, they have to technologically overcome their circumstances, etc. Throw in some other elements that are classic Star Wars like a cool new creature/monster (that is not everything it first appears to be) and the young hero(ine) being in some way crucial to the resolution and, to quote Carl Weathers, baby, you’ve got a stew goin’!

But in all seriousness, my favourite aspects of that half of the episode were the furtherance of the relationship between Hunter and Omega, with an especially cute and thoughtful Wrecker moment toward the end of the episode as well, and especially the way that Omega, while out of her depth, is still depicted as intelligent and thoughtful enough to come up with the solution to the problem. She doesn’t have to be saved by one of her elders, and neither is she scolded by Hunter; she’s able to retrieve the part they need, stolen by the moon dragon, without resorting to violence–something that is mirrored to the opposite in brutal fashion in the other half of the episode.

Crosshair in this series is essentially (at least, as far as we know) a Manchurian Candidate–or, to make it slightly more topical, the series’ Winter Soldier analogue. For whatever reason, his genetics did not completely inhibit the inhibitor chip (hah!) and, as seen previously in the series premiere, the Kaminoans were somehow able to strengthen its signals (or some such) to enforce a greater control over his mind and actions. And he is used by his new Imperial masters to absolutely terrifying effect in this episode. Given command over a group of non-clone soldiers–and here we have a fantastic Rogue One connection, with Project War-Mantle finally getting its due–Crosshair is tasked by Tarkin and Vice-Admiral Rampart with completing the mission previously abandoned and failed by the Bad Batch: To return to Onderon and wipe out Saw Gerrera and his forces.

The interplay between Crosshair and his squad before the mission is juxtaposed to great effect with how they interact following the completion of the mission–and of course Crosshair sees his mission through (although Saw Gerrera had already gone), because as he says, “good soldiers follow orders.” The non-clone human soldiers look down on Crosshair to begin with, questioning his leadership and believing him to be an unnecessary burden; the loudest among them does not want to “complete the mission” as Crosshair sees it by killing non-combatants. In one of the darker moments of Star Wars generally but particularly in animation, Crosshair executes this mutinous soldier and then orders the others to execute the civilians. After a brief moment of hesitance, they follow his orders. In this moment, we’re beginning to see the true evil of the Empire come to the fore, the Empire that will eventually brutally murder Owen and Beru Lars and leave their skeletal corpses smoking on the Tatooine sands, the Empire that will carry out acts of genocide against the Geonosians–although anti-alien attitudes there were also seen in The Clone Wars itself, with a Vietnam War parallel that I found shocking in its cruelty–the Empire that will destroy worlds with both Death Stars and the means of Operation: Cinder. Leading the charge in this evil is a clone who seems to be compelled beyond his own desire to carry out his orders, and the tragedy of his actions is thus compounded with his own.

I definitely found this episode, and especially the Crosshair-related sections, to be the best of the season so far. I really hope the characters continue to grow and that the story continues to be grounded as it has been in their actions and thoughts. And I wonder if the tease re: Omega will develop as I think it will…

The Bad Batch, Episode 2: “Cut and Run” Review

Numero deux…

As part of a recent, friendly bet (which you can see outlined here on Twitter) I have committed to not only watching every single episode of this season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, but I must also write 500-word (minimum) reviews about the series!

Yay!

That’s not actually sarcasm. I’m excited to write about Star Wars again, and am using this as an excuse and a bit of a prod to kickstart myself back into some writing. Without further ado…

I Liked Dirt as a Kid, Too

After the premiere episode, I was looking forward to The Bad Batch‘s second–in spite of my distaste for the continuity clashes in the first and the reactions to that online (from both fan and creative). But enough has been spilled about that online for the time being…

Yesterday’s episode, “Cut and Run,” saw the ragtag team of deviant (but not defective!) clones travel to Saleucami, one of the most beautiful and interesting worlds from Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars, seeking advice from Cut, a clone who deserted the Grand Army years before. Cut and his family, the Lawquanes–a Twi’lek mother, Suu, and her two children, Shaeeah and Jek–return from The Clone Wars, where we previously saw them interact with fan-favourite clones like Rex and Jesse; in this episode, we learn that, obviously, the clones of the Bad Batch had also met and interacted with Cut. One has to wonder when that occurred, and I hope it would be neat if that story gets fleshed out one day. As has already been established in “Aftermath” and The Clone Wars, the Bad Batch is less susceptible to the Kaminoan’s conditioning (at least regarding their aptitude or lack thereof for following orders), and so I have to wonder if that could have extended to their opinions about Cut having deserted the Grand Army and gone against what he was created for–whereas regs like Rex notably had reservations about the decision, for a time.

One of the more interesting (if slightly unrealistic) moments occurs early in the episode, right after the heroes arrive on Saleucami: Omega, exciting the Bad Batch’s ship, is confused and awed by a new substance underfoot–dirt. This is seemingly intentionally reminiscent of Rey’s wonder at the beauty and diversity (and relative lush nature) of the galaxy in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but seems (on first glance, at least) slightly less realistic that a child who would ostensibly have been educated by her Kaminoan creators is unaware of…what dirt is. Or perhaps that’s a too simplistic read of the scene; after all, Omega doesn’t react with further confusion when Tech informs her the substance is “dirt,” so perhaps what’s happening here isn’t ignorance of the concept but of the reality–having been “born” and raised on Kamino, a stormy waterworld, she hasn’t actually had a chance to see some of the common, earthier elements. No matter how we’re actually supposed to interpret the sequence, I hope they kept this aspect of the character in mind when writing later episodes, because it could be a core aspect of Omega’s character and place in the plot, if her ignorance or perhaps innocence were to drive the action forward (or forestall it in some way).

Throughout the episode, I have to admit that I felt tense–Internet rumour and a foreboding about the formulation and execution of the Bad Batch’s plan in the episode led me to believe that things would not end up well for Cut, Suu and the kids; things could still go awry if the Bad Batch is traced there and connected to the clone-looking man who got on that transport. We’ll have to wait and see. But I did ultimately enjoy the fact that in this episode, the Lawquanes were able to escape unscathed–assuming they felt it, the writers reined in the destructive force of the Empire that could otherwise have come down on their heads.

This episode seems to establish that chain codes, previously mentioned in The Mandalorian, came into being following the Clone Wars under the Empire. This is interesting because, as others have pointed out online already, it suggests that the Republic didn’t have a centralized system of registration and identification of its citizens–something that’s portrayed as forebodingly fascist in “Cut and Run,” but is something anyone of at least working age is usually subject to in our world. (Do you have a SSN?) The seeming fact that the Republic lacked this might help explain (on the one hand) how seedy some elements in that society seemed and how something even as socially destructive and evil as slavery could occur under the Republic’s watchful eye, yet at the same time, it seems to clash with that government’s depiction as overly bureaucratic and capitalistically corrupt. It’s probably most likely that some form of registration existed under the Republic, but perhaps it was decentralized and sectors (or some such) had some autonomy in its implementation; no matter that largely lore-connected question, I was happy to get some background info on a concept that hitherto we knew frustratingly little about, and can’t wait to see if we get even more of that in the episodes to come.

“Cut and Run” was a good episode. I thought it had nice character work with Omega and Hunter, and it was good to see Echo be useful–although his pairing with Tech may have reinforced a sort of doubling effect with those characters and their mechanical/technical aptitudes. I hope future episodes continue to build-out the post-Clone War world, and I’m excited for next week’s!

The Bad Batch, Episode 1: “Aftermath” Review

And here we go…

As part of a recent, friendly bet (which you can see outlined here on Twitter) I have committed to not only watching every single episode of this season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, but I must also write 500-word (minimum) reviews about the series!

Yay!

That’s not actually sarcasm. I’m excited to write about Star Wars again, and am using this as an excuse and a bit of a prod to kickstart myself back into some writing. Without further ado…

A Brilliant Premiere Marred by Inconsistency

I’ll cut to the chase: Overall, I think the series premiere of The Bad Batch was a success. It balances character moments well within the larger scope of the galactic-scale issues facing them in the nascent days of the Empire, and as a result, I think the titular Bad Batch flourishes here in a way they did not in their The Clone Wars Season 7 début. Unlike others, I didn’t even dislike that arc of the series, but I did think those episodes were tonally inconsistent with the more “mature” latter-day Clone Wars–something about the characters and what they accomplished was hard to square with other events that late in the series, with other Season 7 episodes (not to mention those of Season 6) feeling much heavier and more down-to-earth. I’ve said before that, to me, the Bad Batch arc wouldn’t feel out of place in Seasons 1 or 2.

The core aspects of the characters that harken back to the old Clone Wars, including a playfulness and an immaturity, isn’t gone in “Aftermath,” the premiere of this new series, but as I said above, I feel like it’s more balanced and the focus on the characters themselves and their place in the early Imperial period serves to ground the story and provide a good “in” for the audience. While some expressed reservations about Omega, a new female clone character and (as revealed in the episode) a fifth member of the aberrant batch that led to the creation of Clone Force 99, I really enjoyed the dynamics she brought to the team and the episode, even if it’s not exactly a novel concept to have a young, student-like character who follows (and even at times mimics) her mentor(s). An equally pleasing aspect of the episode for a Canonphile like myself was the appearance of Saw Gerrera, who has clearly matured somewhat even since we last saw him (chronologically) in The Clone Wars, yet he is a far cry from the physically crippled and pathologically paranoid figure he will eventually become in Rogue One.

I could honestly be overly effusive about the aspects of “Aftermath” that I enjoyed. I suspect that the development team behind the series has used or been made aware of concepts regarding the clone army and their replacement by conscripted/recruited soldiers from the sadly abandoned TV series Underworld, as the episode concerns itself greatly with questions about the future of the clones. I absolutely loved those aspects of this episode and can’t wait to see how and where the series takes us next; however, there is something that marred (and will likely always mar) my opinion of not only this premiere episode, but perhaps also the series.

It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room: What does “Canon” really mean?

I’m mostly joking; I’ve talked and debated this issue many times, mostly to no avail, and I frankly don’t want to be bogged down in the morning following the premiere of The Bad Batch getting too into the weeds. Nevertheless, I do find it gravely concerning that previously established narratives are becoming more and more fluid and retconned–and, I’d argue, to the detriment of the overall story. In the opening minutes of the premiere, the creatives behind the series decided to place the Bad Batch on Kaller during Order 66–an event already depicted in the absolutely brilliant Star Wars: Kanan comic series from 2015-2016. Put simply, there’s zero way to make the two depictions of the same event cohesive: One does not feature the Bad Batch (among numerous other differences), and one features them so significantly that it forms one of the emotional bases on which the rest of the episode itself rests. Gone in the series are the clones Styles and Grey, friends and fellow soldiers alongside Depa Billaba and Caleb Dume (later aka Kanan Jarrus), replaced by the “reinforcements” of the Bad Batch. On the one hand I understand the desire to tell this story in animation and to connect these characters together, but something about the way the series does it–completely overriding the story depicted in the comic–comes across as lazy and petty, like a child complaining about not getting to play with the toys they want to they way they want to. I feel like more competent and frankly interesting storytelling, especially IP writing, would find a way to tell the story in a way that doesn’t contradict what came before. The recent trends in animation and live-action to do the opposite annoys me and, honestly, makes it far less likely that I’ll continue to buy things like comics and novels and reference books. It’s hard to see the point when the stories and information depicted therein are treated like suggestions and not actually considered part of the overall story.

A brilliant series, cut down in its prime…

Does this point aggravate me to the degree that I won’t watch the series? No. But I sincerely hope we don’t see more of this going forward, and that all the things I enjoyed about the premiere continue instead! Build characters and worlds, but not at the expense of what you already have!

Book Review: “Dark Legends” (Mann/Griffin)

Today’s the release day for Star Wars: Dark Legends, a new short story collection by author George Mann and illustrator Grant Griffin, and I so enjoyed a read-through of it that I decided to write a little review!

WARNING: I think I allude to some spoiler details in this review, so if you haven’t read the book yet and want to avoid them, come back after you’ve had a chance to check it out!

As already said above, I enjoyed the book–a lot! So no delay or obfuscation there: I think it’s good, and definitely recommend it. It was a quick read, too–I bought the book earlier today and read it in a couple of hours.

Front cover with bitchin’ Vader art!

Dark Legends is a follow-up to 2019’s Myths & Fables, another short story collection also by Mann and Griffin; it bears some similarity to 2017’s The Legends of Luke Skywalker, written by Ken Liu and illustrated by J.G. Jones, as well. These books all present stories from the Star Wars galaxy as in-universe stories, using a style that’s not unlike folklore collections from our own galaxy. The stories in the book can (most likely) be assumed to have occurred mostly “as-is” for any Canon-minded enthusiasts looking to expand their knowledge of the GFFA, but the phrasing and structure of the text imbue it with the sense that these stories have been passed down over time, that these are renditions of the events as opposed to exact historical record; this also means that the stories might have been embellished or mythologized.

I know this may make some bristle at a seemingly “ambiguous approach” to canonicity in stories like these, but the way authors like Mann and Liu use these real-world storytelling techniques and traditions make it feel (in my opinion) alive and so much more real. We know a great deal of our history here on Earth, but there are still parts of our historical record that are greatly informed by stories and traditions, usually written down long after the fact. I can easily imagine the stories in Dark Legends being told, first by one person to another, changing over time, growing, becoming something more than just a repetition of fact, taking on parabolic attributes and eventually being copied down–much in the same way that epic poems like The Odyssey or Béowulf were based on probable historical events, performed orally for many years, and eventually copied down and codified in the texts we have preserved today. The stories in Dark Legends are probably a bit less mythologized than my real-world examples, but the process would still be relatively the same.

In case it hasn’t dawned on you: That’s big praise! I really enjoy the sense of history books like these give to the GFFA. It’s not only the exposition of a character’s history or an event’s having taken place, but the idea that the galaxy is full of beings who may hear about these people or things and pass their stories on to others. You actually see some of the fruits of this living universe of stories onscreen in the Star Wars films, as the heroes and protagonists of the Original and Sequel trilogies reflect back on the deeds of their own heroes and figures they considered more fiction than fact; perhaps most directly, you see the transmission and power of (specifically oral) storytelling at the end of 2017’s The Last Jedi, when stable-boy Temiri Blagg hears the story of Luke Skywalker’s last stand on Crait and, inspired, looks to the sky as he feels the Force flow through him. Stories are powerful creative endeavours that impart tangible things to people. That’s what Star Wars as a whole is about, and that’s something I think Dark Legends engages with very well.

I enjoyed all the stories in the book, which have a sort of running theme: In some of the stories, such as “The Orphanage” or “The Dark Mirror,” the characters aren’t meant to be bad people–in these cases, they’re orphaned children and Jedi paragons–whereas in others, such as “Buyer Beward” or “A Life Immortal (about an overambitious politician and a Sith) the characters are downright evil; in all of the stories, however, the didactic “horror” element that gives the book its Dark Legends moniker is a result of the characters’ failures to follow the better judgment of their hearts or heed warnings they are given by others. I don’t actually want to give away too much about these stories because you should read them for yourself, but it’s fascinating to me how many times the darkness at the heart of these tales could have been avoided if the characters had just opened themselves up and listened, either to themselves or to others. Ultimately, then, the book is an appeal to act not only with best intentions, but to truly have an awareness of yourself and what’s happening around you so that you can make the best and most informed decisions.

Perhaps the most complex tale of the bunch is “The Dark Mirror,” which depicts the dangers of subsuming oneself in the Light–or rather, denying one’s own Dark Side exists. The story itself functions very similarly to The Clone Wars season six episode “Destiny,” where Yoda, driven on his quest to solve the mystery of the war and understand some of the deeper secrets of the Force, is made to face his own internalized dark side. The TV series has this manifest rather literally in a strikingly Gremlins-like apparition that taunts and assaults Yoda; in “The Dark Mirror,” there is an even darker version of this that explores a critique of the Jedi Order in an honestly amazing way. Star Wars by-and-large depicts the Dark Side of the Force as a real danger and an awful, destructive force in the galaxy–but the reality for so many living beings is to feel the negative emotions and desires associated with the Dark Side. That’s part of life! So, what is one to do? This is the complex question the story tackles, and I think it does so brilliantly. I’ll leave it there to preserve the actual story in case someone carelessly avoided my previous warning, but the fact that the book deals with a complex more topic like this was something that made me very happy.

For the Canon-minded folk I mentioned above, and/or anyone interesting in more information on the Sith lore introduced by The Rise of Skywalker, the final story, “A Life Immortal,” is probably the most interesting–and perhaps the most confusing. I think it has some pretty interesting implications, but…I’ll wait to see what others thing. I hope it’s explore more later; maybe I’ll do a separate review/write-up entirely about “A Life Immortal.” Who knows!

Grant Griffin’s art in Dark Legends, by the way, is awesome! My favourite pieces in the book are from “The Predecessor,” “The Orphanage,” and “Blood Moon.” There’s something in particular about the art to “The Predecessor,” featuring the protagonist of the story reflected in Vader’s evil visage, that I just adore. It perfectly captures the sense of terror that the Sith Lord has represented for over forty years. Clearly someone else agreed, too, because it’s also the cover art to the entire collection! The art as a whole does an excellent job of making the book feel like a true collection of in-universe folklore–especially the Grand Inquisitor-as-Nosferatu that accompanies “The Orphanage,” that’s like something out of an old Romanian vampire anthology or something!

I hope you haven’t found this too rambling. I think Dark Legends is a welcome addition to the Star Wars Canon, and I can’t wait to get a physical copy to grace my bookshelf!

“Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow” by E.K. Johnston (Book Review)

Released today on 5 March 2019 by Disney-Lucasfilm Press, Queen’s Shadow is a young adult Star Wars novel by Canadian author E.K. Johnston (whose previous work in the Galaxy Far, Far Away includes the 2016 young adult novel Ahsoka, and the short story “By Whatever Sun” in the 2017 anthology From a Certain Point of View).

Queen’s Shadow has been the subject of a lot of positive buzz lately, and is long-awaited–the first information about the book leaked out in 2017, which allegedly led to some behind-the-scenes drama; it wasn’t officially announced until a panel at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, in July 2018–for good reason: It’s one of the very few Star Wars stories (especially in the Canon) to be centred around the character of Padmé Amidala Naberrie.

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Book Review: “Stranger Thing: Suspicious Minds” by Gwenda Bond

When I first heard about the expansion of the Stranger Things universe into the literary realm–probably last June, when the announcement was made–I got pretty excited. A large part of the appeal of the hit Netflix series (set to debut it’s third season later this year, in July) is that it is as much an homage as it is a pastiche of ’70s and ’80s films, not to mention a hefty dose of Stephen King-inspired monsters and situations, so as a pretty big fan of both I think it’s fair to say that I had some high expectations about what we were going to get.

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