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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Graphic Novels - Star Wars: Heir to the Empire

So, the Expanded Universe… I never got into it. Outside the movies and The Clone Wars, the books and comics never really interested me. I’ve only read a couple of Star Wars comics and I did try to read the Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire novel a long time ago. I do own the first tpb to Star Wars Legacy. I was originally going to talk about that today, but I really had no inclination of recapping that story. It’s not that it’s a bad story. I thought was okay but I didn’t feel like recapping something so far removed from the movies. I wanted to do something simpler and my mind started to gravitate towards this trilogy.

I’ve heard that the Thrawn Trilogy gets a lot of love from fans. The novels were written by Timothy Zhan. I’ve thought about checking it out for myself but never gave the time to do so until now. When I found out that the story was adapted to comic book form, I thought I’d check it out.  Star Wars: Heir to the Empire was the first part of the trilogy. Mike Baron is the writer who adapted the novel to comic form. Oliver Vantine provides the pencils, Fred Blanchard provides the inks, and the coloring is provided by Isabelle Rabarot. For the heck of it, I actually read this while the soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back playing on my computer. Some of the music actually fit.

Star Wars: Heir of the Empire
Writers: Timothy Zhan (novel) and Mike Baron (comic)
Pencils: Oliver Vantine
Inks: Fred Blanchard
Colors: Isabelle Rabarot

The story takes place 5 years after the events of Episode VI. The Empire has been replaced by the New Republic. Han and Leia are married and are going to have twins. Luke is trying to get the Jedi Order running again and he is also training Leia to be a Jedi. Meanwhile, Han is trying to get some of his old buddies to ship cargo for the New Republic.

While the Empire was defeated, some remnants of it still exist in the galaxy. The remaining baddies are being led by Grand Admiral Thrawn, a pretty mysterious individual. After he uses some tactical knowledge to defeat a Republic strike force, they acquire some small creatures (ysalamiri) from smugglers Talon Karrde and Mara Jade. They then head to the Emperor’s former storehouse and meet with Joruus C’Boath, the storehouse’s guard and a Dark Jedi. Joruus tries to attack them but the ysalamiri have the ability to block the Force. In order to recruit Joruus, Thrawn tells him that they will bring Luke and Leia to him.
I think Thrawn could still take the guy down.

While Luke, Leia, and Han are on the planet Bimmisaari, Thrawn’s minions try to kidnap them. Since Luke is a bit of a bad mofo with a lightsaber, they fail. Thrawn then decides to have Joruus concentrate on getting Luke while the Empire goes after Leia. Meanwhile, our group of heroes split up with Leia and Han going their way and Luke heading to Dagobah. While Han and Leia almost get caught by Thrawn’s forces, Luke finds a metal cylinder on Dagobah. All of them regroup with Lando as he’s doing another mining operation. The Empire finds them and steals some of Lando’s mining equipment.

To throw off the Empire’s trail, Chewbaca takes Leia to Kayshyyyk while Han and Lando come up with plans on recruiting Karrde for their smuggler operation.  On Kashyyyk, Thrawn’s minions try to capture scantily-clad Leia, but she, Chewie, and the Wookies are ready for them. It’s revealed that the minions (the Noghuri) know of her link to Darth Vader, so Leia uses it to her advantage. She and Chewie head back to Corascant.

Out in space, Luke almost gets captured by Thrawn’s ship. While he is able to escape from the ship’s grasp, he damages his X-Wing. Karrde’s ship finds Luke basically take him hostage. Since they have a lot of ysalamiri, Luke can’t use his Force abilities. The ship heads to Karrde’s base. They hide Luke and R2-D2 as Lando and Han come to their planet. When Luke and Artoo escape from their cage, Mara Jade goes after them. Thrawn’s ship then shows up and it all goes from bad to worse.
Man, Luke doesn't have it well with the ladies, does he?

In the forest, Luke, Artoo, and Mara have to fend off predators. Throughout the story, Mara has expressed her dislike for Luke. We find out that she was a servant of the Emperor. When the Empire fell, her life essentially came to an end. Thrawn sends some Stormtroopers after them (not knowing Luke is here). Luke and Mara try to use some trickery on them, but it doesn’t work and Luke gets captured. We also find out that Han got himself captured. Luckily, the smugglers don’t take kindly to the Empire, so they help out our heroes. Luke and the rest then leave the planet.

Thrawn then tries to make another assault on the New Republic. They ambush Rogue Squadron with the equipment they stole from Lando. The Millennium Falcon joins the fray and find out what the Empire is using. With Lando’s help, they are able to stick it to the Empire once more. Thrawn retreats his forces seeing this as a small setback. Unfortunately, Han and Luke aren’t able to celebrate their victory for long. Leia contacts them and tells them to return to Coroscant immediately because Admiral Ackbar has been arrested for treason.

OPINION
This was actually a pretty good read. I think playing some John Williams’ music helped with that. The overall story is pretty good.  It really felt like Star Wars to me. It was interesting to see what these characters would be up to after the war. Everyone like Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando were completely in character throughout the whole thing. It was cool to see Leia being pretty awesome on Kayshyyk. I do wonder why they only had her in a tank top and underwear during that sequence. I think she would have thrown some pants on and then got into that much action.

 I also liked the newer characters. Thrawn was a pretty cool villain. It’s like the writer decided to mix Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader into one character. I was also interested in Mara Jade. I’ve heard a lot about here over the years, so it was cool to see where she got her start. She also serves as a new female since Star Wars really doesn’t have many of those except for Leia. Karrde was also a pretty cool character as well.

The artwork is passable. It’s not bad by any stretch. It’s pretty decent for the most part. You can tell who everyone is. I don’t need it to be completely photo-referenced. Also, the action reads pretty well. Still, it doesn’t feel that great. It doesn’t really wow me. I also thought it skipped around a little too much at times. Still, it was a good read. It’s made me want to read the rest of the trilogy. I may even check the actual novels one day as well.

I really have no opinion on the death of the Expanded Universe. It makes sense that the newer movies would want to go their own way and not be burdened by that continuity. I would hope that this story at least made it in. Well, that’s all I have for now. Peace, God Bless, and "May the Force be with you."

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