Thursday, December 29, 2016

They Want a Call Sign...


Got to watch the latest film in the Star Wars universe last week. I was very pleased! An entertaining and satisfying movie, wedged into the bit of open space just prior to A New Hope.

Lots of action. Some really nice characters. A couple of pieces of cool new tech. A different environment to fight AT-ATs in (tropical jungle beaches instead of cold snow wasteland). A daring way to end, in terms of the fates of the heroes.

A few nods to the original movie. A few of what must have been excellent CGI work to match faces of long dead actors. A poignant last scene, now tinged with extra sadness at the passing of the great Carrie Fisher.

All in all, a very good movie and an excellent Star Wars entry. Definitely added to my personal preferred canon, alongside its prequel book, Catalyst. I will be going to see the movie again, perhaps multiple times more, and will likely look into picking up the "Visual Guide" et al.

Perhaps a more spoiler-heavy review will be in the future.

The RPG and the Star Wars Universe

It's been a bit slow for me lately due to holidays and travel; I must admit that I still haven't seen Rogue One, but I hope to remedy that situation today.

In the interim, here's a link to an interesting article about how the Star Wars RPG from West End Games revitalized life in the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

How a Pen and Paper RPG Brought Star Wars Back from the Dead

In particular, I find it interesting to consider how much freedom West End had back in the day, compared to how carefully controlled things are now during an era in which there'll be a new movie every year for the foreseeable future.

-Nate

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Weapons Development


Just finished this very fine novel, Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, by Star Wars veteran James Luceno (2016). I rate this as one of the best Star Wars books of recent times.

A great read, in my opinion. A nice dose of science and math flavor. Some interesting tidbits about life during the chaotic last days of Republic, through end of Clone Wars and transitioning into Empire. Interesting in that Darth Vader and Palpatine are mentioned, but never "seen", on camera. We do spend some time with Tarkin and Mas Amedda. We get to know scientist extraordinaire, Galen Erso. We also come to know Commander Krennic, a bureaucrat in charge of a certain space station's superlaser project.

A nice tie-in to elements of the prequels. A calm-before-the-storm type novel without much action to speak of, but with plenty of groundwork laid for connecting this story into the upcoming movie, the original trilogy, and the prequels (without mentioning Jar Jar). I like it. I like this time period on the cusp of the Galactic Civil War. Some beings are already forming into a nascent resistance, here and there. More will follow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Last Command


Sniff, sniff. Just finished re-reading the last book in Zahn's wonderful and ground-breaking trilogy. So many more things made for the first time, here. Conner Nets. Assault Frigates. Such well written characters: Han, Leia, Lando, Luke, Chewie, the droids...all true to their big screen counterparts. Nice supporting cast of new characters: Thrawn, Mara Jade, Talon Karrde. In this installment we get to learn that Wes Janson and Derek "Hobbie" Klivian are in Rogue Squadron along with Wedge. Janson is Rogue 5. No other specifics learned on the Rogue Squadron front.

A thrilling conclusion to the trilogy, The correct amount of galaxy-spanning threat and intrigue, without resorting to a superweapon plot device. The action focused squarely on the heroes and their efforts. This is truly the best three Star Wars books in the line-up, in my opinion. Bar none.

The climax being a blend of jumping between an epic space battle and a Force-fueled ground war was spot on, truly some Star Wars cinematography going on at the end. With the vanquishing of the last of the former Emperor's Grand Admirals, the fledgling New Republic has a bright future, indeed. Best to stop reading somewhere around here, timeline-wise, lest you run into either the Disney new canon of  low quality material related to The Force Awakens or come upon some of the worst "Legends" books ever written.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

SWAJ 5


Just finishing up Star Wars Adventure Journal, Vol. 1, No. 5 (WEG, February 1995). Another fine issue, to my mind. Some highlights include and interview with Bill Smith (who was editor of the WEG Star Wars line at 26 years old) wherein he describes writing the 2nd edition of the Star Wars RPG. He joined the company in 1990, had written the 2nd edition rulebook for a 1992 release, and had just celebrated his 4th year working a WEG as of the time of this interview. A solo choose-your-own-adventure where you play a protocol droid was fun. An interesting recap of the "Star Wars Summit", a get-together for all Star Wars licensees hosted in November 1994 at Skywalker Ranch, included some of the earliest information on two major announcements: the Shadows of the Empire multi-media release, and the future plans for what would become the Prequel Trilogy. Exciting times, back then!

The fun continues with a cool little adventure on a gas giant (not Bespin, but similar). We are treated to another installment of Charlene Newcomb's ongoing story about the rebel activity on Garos IV. The Galaxywide NewsNets snippets are interesting, and we get another story/comic at the end, describing a Rebel operation against an Imperial target.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What Has Come Before

As we grow more and more familiar with the Star Wars RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games, and as anticipation builds for Rogue One, it's important to remember the rich depth of material that has already been created for previous incarnations of the game. With that in mind, I share below a couple of maps (one from the d6 System and one from the d20 version) that can be used by GMs who want to incorporate the Alliance's Yavin base into adventures or campaigns.




Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Dark Force Rising


Just finished book two in the Thrawn Trilogy. Another epic spin through the New Republic. More Han. More Leia. More Lando, Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Luke.

In this installment we learn that there were a total of 12 Grand Admirals in the Empire. We also never learn any names of the pilots with Wedge in Rogue Squadron. The best we get is a call sign here or there ("Cut the chatter, Rogue Seven"). A bit strange to be so anonymous, coming from my recent history of reading the "X-Wing: Rogue Squadron" comics. We also see a poisonous grass, deliberately planted on the Noghri homeworld by the Empire. I think we see a similar scheme in the recent Ahsoka book. Can't recall the name of the grass in that newer tome, but might be a cool nod to the past by the Disney canon.

Two things I remember thinking about Zahn as I read this one. 

First: Zahn's big (perhaps a bit too big, in my opinion) on intelligence. Everyone from Thrawn and Karrde to Lando and Han to Garm bel Iblis and famous ship-jacker (who has yet to actually jack a ship 'on-screen') Niles Ferrier trades in information. People know things. A lot of things. And other people know who knows these things. And people know who knows who knows things. And there are double-crosses. And fake-outs. Everyone is very "information rich" in these books.

Second: the action (rightly so) focuses squarely on our favorite characters. This is a sweeping tale, but definitely told on the human scale. This can lead to Shakespeare-like plot devices (antagonists and protagonists frequently wind up in the same place at the same time, unbeknowst to one side or the other). Sometimes people are hiding in a closet peeking at the enemy, sometimes they're shacked up in an out building when the main bad guy arrives, sometimes Friend A is present, not knowing Friend B is also present. Highly entertaining, in its way.

All in all a very nice read. Wrapping up the trilogy will be bittersweet. After that I will have to move onward to re-reading the first four books in the X-Wing novel series by Stackpole.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fulcrum


Just finished this good new book, Ahsoka by E. K . Johnston. Technically a Young Adult type book, it was a quick read and well written.

The story takes our heroine from sometime after her departure from the Jedi Order up through her becoming intermingled with the growing rebellion under Senator Bail Organa.

She has to hide, and keep moving, and stay out of trouble. Until she can't ignore the problems the Empire is causing all around her. So she takes action, at first locally, then on a broader scale.

A good entry into the canon, I'd say. Ties in with Star Wars: Rebels, of course, as well as Clone Wars.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Of the World


Just finished my re-read of the opening salvo in the peerless Thrawn trilogy. The Rocky Balboa of Star Wars! Take that, Chuck Wendig! Feel the pain, J.J. Abrams! 

Ahhh, yes. Home again, with our favorite characters. Such a ground-breaking series, as well. Page 106 is the first mention of a little Star Wars novelty known as: Rogue Squadron! Led by Commander Wedge Antilles, we know (from the climatic battle of Sluis Van) that the Rogues have 12 members, that they fly X-wings, and that Red Five (no other name given) is Wedge's wingman. No doubt we'll learn more in the next installment.

Lando. Han. Leia. Chewie. Luke. Ackbar. Mon Mothma.

The insufferable Borsk Fey'lya. Mara Jade. Talon Karrde. Grand Admiral Thrawn. The psychotic Joruus C'baoth clone. Interdictor cruisers invented on page 175.

Grand adventure. A big story, without another superweapon. Compelling characters, old and new. Great use of tech from the WEG archives.

Simply a wonderful read. Well deserving of its place in the Star Wars firmament. Fits well with the stellar Han Solo Trilogy. I don't care about the "Legends" appellation: I succeeded in my Will save to disbelieve. This book simply outperforms almost every piece of junk Disney has released thus far. By a wide margin.

Well done, once again, Mr. Zahn. I eagerly await the re-reads of numbers 2 and 3.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Adventure Journal 4



Just finished reading Star Wars Adventure Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4 (WEG, November 1994). A decent issue, I would say, overall. A couple of nice fiction pieces, an article about Gamblers, a continuation of the serialized story of Alex Winger and the rebellion on Garos IV, a nice little "Smuggler's Log" piece from Platt OKeefe, two or three adventures, a "Wanted by Cracken" entry and "Cracken's Rebel Field Guide" entry. I also like the HoloNet news headlines feature.

I have my eye on a No. 5 on eBay, and will likely be getting that in the next week or so.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Finally!

Just announced on the FFG website: a long-awaited sourcebook for Bounty Hunters!

Cool cover art, too. Looks like a nice addition to the collection is on the way.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lull Before the Storm?

I see a bunch of Star Wars books coming soon that are of great interest to me. All of these juicy tales represent a new crop of entrants into the Disney canon of the Rebellion era.

The first is set for an October 11 release: Ahsoka, by E. K. Johnston. Technically a Young Adult novel, I think this will be a cool read nonetheless. Remember that one of the best books last year was Lost Stars, also a YA release. This will cover her story after Ahsoka left the Jedi Order and before she became a Rebel Operative.


Star Wars veteran writer gives us another tale as James Luceno's Catalyst: A Rogue One Story is set to be released on November 15. A prequel tale that sets up the movie, this book will delve into the Erso family and Director Krennic's role in bringing about the Death Star superweapon.



The novelization of the new movie comes to us from Alexander Freed (of Twilight Company fame) on January 3, 2017. Looking forward to this one, as Freed's first foray into the "Star Wars as a war story" style book was excellent.


Finally, on April 17, 2017, we get to be re-introduced to Zahn and Thrawn. I hope he doesn't have to re-write too much of what he's done already. This is related specifically to the re-launch of this character with respect to Star Wars: Rebels. Potentially we will be able to work this in to the original EU canon without too much fuss.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Rebels Review


Ahhh, the new Disney Star Wars canon. Such a mixed bag. And what better foil for such a discussion than Star Wars: Rebels. I have very strong feelings about this cartoon. On one hand, I like to see a band of operatives cruising around, half-affiliated with the forming rebellion. An interesting time in Star Wars history to explore more fully.

Continuing with the positive vibes, I am thrilled that they chose to base their 'look and feel' on the extraordinary original concept art of Ralph McQuarrie. Some of the backgrounds in some of the scenes in Rebels look just like a McQuarrie painting. Wonderful stuff. As for characters, I am a fan of Hera. A bit of a fan of Kanan. 

Now for some negatives. In terms of the characters other than Hera and Kanan, I marginally don't care for Sabine and the concept of the street artist spray painter vandalizing for justice. I equally dislike Zeb, although he is easy enough to ignore. Ezra is bad, but not nearly as bad a Chopper. I hate that droid. And I am a droid lover!

The space whales and whatnot fit with the StarCave of ThonBoka, so I'll grant them a pass. Those silly ideas are grandfathered in, and Lando vouches for them personally.

The lack of third dimension to the character animation is odd. All of their clothes, including layers like vests, accessories, belts, etc seem to be printed onto one skin-tight surface. The characters also move weird. The run very slowly and disjointedly. Whenever they go into a "crowded" place, there are like 2 people around. Even (literally) aboard a Star Destroyer, they basically encounter nobody except 1 squad of stormtroopers...eventually. And don't get me started on the Wookiees. Or the shape of the Ghost. Or the firepower and capabilities of the Phantom.

The worst part, to my mind, is the flippant disregard for existing canon. Yes, I know, Disney can do whatever they want. They aren't bound by the old "rules". What irks me is that this leads them not to making up new stories, but to WRECKING OLD ONES. Why do they need to make wrong sized A-wings? They are not the same size as seen in ROTJ, I don't care what Lucasfilms incorrectly states as the ship's length. Why destroy the origin story of the B-wing, using the same system name (Shantipole), but replacing Commander Ackbar and a whole team of Verpine Engineers with a single mad Mon Cal tinkerer working alone? Even making the guy a Mon Cal just rubs it in our faces that these new idiots get to wreck whatever they want from the (at times) carefully crafted shared world. Why make up a THIRD, and different, Interdictor cruiser?  Why have fragile, bat-like TIE fighters land on the ground like dummies? And don't ask about Wedge Antilles. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

It's the same feeling I got from Jar Jar Abrams and The Force Awakens. The feeling of watching a moody and un-creative outsider smash someone's carefully painted models together over and over while filming the whole thing and adding lens flare. Why? Why? Add in another Death Star and turn everything up to 11. The essence of an old quote comes to mind: "What was good wasn't original, and what was original wasn't good."

Timothy Zahn wrote circles around these losers, and it isn't even close. Most of the WEG stuff I've read is better, too. And Stackpole. And Crispin. And Luceno.

I can't be too hard on Filoni et al., as Rebels is a kids show and I am not exactly the target audience. I guess I have to chalk this up to a Marvel-esque, good old fashioned comic book re-boot for Star Wars lore as a whole. Where we get to tread over all the same ground again. And re-hear the same origin tales, but with new twists here and there. Old villains come back. Etc. Etc.

I just wish we could thoughtfully add new, compelling content to the shared universe (with some pruning, here and there) instead of a wholesale sloppy re-write by amateurs.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Forged in Battle (P)Review

Presented here is an overview of what one can expect from the new Forged in Battle supplement.

Page 1: Opening crawl

Page 2: Inside title page

Page 3: Table of contents

Page 4: Fiction

Pages 5-9: Overview and summary

Chapter 1 (pages 10-39): Heroes of the Rebellion
This chapter presents ideas for soldier backgrounds and duties; four new species (Elom, Elomin, Kyuzo and Shistavanen); three new soldier specializations (the Heavy, Trailblazer and Vanguard); soldier motivations; and two signature abilities (The Bigger They Are... and Unmatched Courage).

Chapter 2 (pages 40-63): Weapons of War
In this chapter one can find ten new ranged energy weapons (including the BlasTech A280, which I was happy to see); three each of slugthrowers, explosive weapons and melee weapons; five new types of armor; three weapon attachments; perhaps a dozen other equipment items; and ten new vehicles, including the LAAT/i.

Chapter 3 (pages 64-96): Indomitable Courage
This chapter presents suggestions for using soldiers both in combat scenarios and in other types of adventures. There are suggestions for different types of objectives; rules for different combat environments; suggestions for ways to reward soldier characters; and rules for creating and using fortifications. 

All in all, this seems like a useful sourcebook, one that should see plenty of use during an Age of Rebellion campaign. 




Saturday, July 30, 2016

Adventurous


Star Wars Adventure Journal, Volume 1, #3 (WEG, August 1994). The least inspiring one so far, in my opinion. A cool article about cartoonist Al Williamson who drew a syndicated newspaper strip from 1981 to 1984. Apparently Dark Horse Comics collected these into a collected, edited, and colored comic book in 1993.

Another good tidbit was entitled "The Business of Bacta". It seemed like less adventures and more "wall of text" background stuff and/or short stories in this issue. Onward to #4!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rogue Leader

    

Issues 1-3 "X-Wing Rogue Leader"
Released in August, September, October, November 2005.
Set immediately after Battle of Endor, ~4 ABY
Written by Haden Blackman
Penciller Tomas Giorello
Letterer Michael David Thomas
Cover Art Gary Erskine

The Rogues Return, sort of. Dark Horse Comics released this three issue 'Rogue Squadron Origin Story' in 2005, seven years after the end of the great Rogue Squadron run.

The tale opens with the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Endor; the Rogues are split up and helping out with clean-up and salvage operations. The squadron is still led by Commander Luke Skywalker (Rogue Leader). Wedge is also a Commander, but his call-sign is Rogue Two. Captains Ten Numb and Tycho Celchu are there, as is Lt. Wes Janson ("Nice shot, Janson!").

Ackbar gives them a mission. Go to Corellia (still held by the Imps) and scout out the situation. Assess the current Imperial presence and report back. Of course it all goes awry! Imps attack! Ten Numb is captured, and over the course of the short series is tortured to death by a ruthless General Weir. The other Rogues work with the Selonians to find Weir's secret base and kick some.

At the end, Luke steps aside, handing the reins of Rogue Squadron to Wedge. Ackbar leads Wedge to a briefing room filled with volunteer pilots. Wedge is tasked with hand-picking his new squadron...and the rest is history!

A pretty good story. Nice art. Good action. Glossy pages.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rogue Squadron Wrap-Up


Issue "Handbook: Volume One"
Released in July 1998.
Written by Peet Janes
Penciller various
Letterer various
Cover Art John Nadeau

The last of the Dark Horse Comics X-Wing: Rogue Squadron comic books. This issue includes a bunch of information on the making of the comic series and specific details about different characters and ships and whatnot.

A nice read. A couple of things struck me as very interesting. 

One: Michael Stackpole was approached to write the X-Wing novels first. In an off-hand comment when meeting with a Lucasfilm exec, he mentioned he'd like to do comics one day. That comment led directly to this memorable run from Dark Horse. Stackpole envisioned the comics as a prequel for the novel series.

Two: Peet Janes, the writer for this Handbook, suggests in his closing comments that Stackpole was "...the original builder of the squadron..." Interesting. The confusing history of "Red Squadron", "Rogue Flight", "Red Group", "Rogue Group" and whatnot, from Yavin, through Hoth to Endor is not really clear. Somewhere along the way Rogue Flight or Rogue Group, a couple of T-47 snowspeeders led by Luke Skywalker became the basis for the iconic "Blue Angels" of Star Wars; perhaps the best addition of any from the offerings of the now-Legends Expanded Universe. Credit goes to, who else, Zahn:
"And then in 1995, out of the blue, I picked up the phone and there was Mike. It seemed he'd just been contracted to write a series of Star Wars X-Wing books for Bantam and wanted to discuss the Rogue Squadron group I'd created for my own Star Wars books."―Timothy Zahn.

Three: Stackpole spoke to Zahn and Ann Crispin about Baron Soontir Fel, just as he was being created as an "Imperial Red Baron" for the "In the Empire's Service" story arc. The initial Red Baron idea was Dark Horse editor Peet Jane's. Both Crispin and Zahn decided to include Fel in their current projects: The Hutt Gambit (1997) and Vision of the Future (1998).


The timeline looks something like this:

Heir to the Empire novel (creates Rogue Squadron as they exist in 9 ABY): June 1991
Stackpole meets at Skywalker Ranch to discuss books (and comics): July 1994
Dark Horse X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics: first issue on July, 1995
X-Wing: Rogue Squadron (the first novel by Stackpole): released January, 1996


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rogue Squadron Oddballs


   

Issue "1/2"
Released in February 1997.
Set in the Galactic Civil War Era, 0 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller Gary Erskine
Letterer Annie Parkhouse
Cover Art Christopher Moeller

Issue "Special"
Released in August 1995.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Ryder Windham
Penciller John Nadeau
Letterer Steve Dutro
Cover Art Mark Harrison

These two are technically a part of the Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron comic legacy from Dark Horse. They are both oddballs, however.

The "1/2" issue takes place right before the Battle of Yavin. Short story, older art. Good, but odd. The Rogues (before they were Rogues, I guess) start out in a bar on Commenor. A smuggler named Nera Dantels (who has a thing for Biggs Darklighter, and who would later go on to pilot a B-wing in the FFG Rebel Aces expansion set) delivers a load of astromech droids. Imperial entanglements ensue en route to the hyperspace jump point (the squadron wants to return to Yavin). One of the X-wings selflessly takes one for the team, allowing the others to make good their escape.

The "Special" issue was released as a part of a Kellogg's Apple Jacks promotion. It's a very short story with old art, odd and inconsistent material, and overall underwhelming. The action takes place on the planet Tandankin, and all the Rogues are using "Red Squadron" call signs. Wedge is a Commander. Luke is there. Eh.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A-Wing Issues

I love the RZ-1 A-wing interceptor. A very small, very fast craft hand-built for speed. Some of these awesome starfighters incorporated actual wood furnishings. Very cramped cockpits assured that the tallest pilots in the Rebellion couldn't fly them.

This is a brief study to set the record straight, as I see it. Somebody at Lucasfilms made a mistake, back in the day, and we are now paying the price. The mistake? An incorrect quoted length for the A-wing of 9.6 meters. The price? Star Wars Rebels actually scaled their version of the A-wing to those dimensions (as did FFG) and it looks silly! Just look at the cartoon pilot swimming in his luxurious cockpit. You could fit three people in there, plus a Wookiee! That's just one of the latest attacks on Star Wars perpetrated by the Rebels people. More on that, later.


Many have tackled this subject before, some incorporating screen captures and relative size comparisons, etc. Here is one such discussion from FFG discussion boards, and one from BoardGameGeek (and another, for fun).

My argument relies on simply two variables. Observed cockpit width (inferred from some movie stills) and the ratio of that width to the overall length of the craft.

First, cockpit width. Here are some legitimate, actual A-wing pilots for you, taken from the original source: Return of the Jedi. Behind the scenes, they are probably being filmed in the same A-wing "set", I'd imagine. Arvel Crynyd, Jake Farrell, and Sila Kott.




I submit to you that these three are fairly cramped in the small A-wing cockpit. Measuring myself across the shoulders, I took a guess that this is something like 2 feet across. Modern jetfighters (more on that in a minute) agree very closely with this "shoulder width" measurement guess.

Here is a drawing of the A-wing where we can get the ratio between the shoulder width and the overall craft length. I drew a orange highlighter line across the area of the cockpit where I suspect the pilot's shoulders are located (halfway back in the "rear section" of the canopy). On this particular printout, that shoulder width measurement was 18mm. The overall craft length was found to be 185mm, for a craft length of ~10 times the shoulder room measurement. Ten times two feet is twenty feet, or ~6.1 meters.

Working backwards, if we actually think 9.6m is the correct ship length, we need to assume that the shoulder width allowed for the pilot is 3 feet. That is a very roomy cockpit, much like what Star Wars: Rebels illustrates incorrectly.


Just for a proof of this "shoulder width to length" concept, I applied the same technique to a real world aircraft: the F 16 Falcon.

The Falcon pilot is very cramped, too. The cockpit is barely wider than their shoulders, at something like the 2 feet I guessed for the A-wing.


Applying the same logic to another scale drawing suggests that, in the case of the F 16, the shoulder width to overall length multiplier is something like 23 times.


This suggests the overall length of an F 16, just based on the apparent shoulder room for the cramped pilot, is something like 46 feet (14.0m). The actual length of the plane is 49.4 feet (15.06m). Very close, especially for such a rough method of guessing, based simply on how cramped the pilot is while flying.

Long story short: the A-wing seen in Return of the Jedi is not 9.6m long. Rebels and FFG have incorrectly repeated this mistake, and made the vessel much different from its origins. In the case of the FFG miniature, it is a faithful 1/165 scale reproduction of the A-wing (not 1/270 they were shooting for). The A-wing made by WotC for their Star Wars miniatures game is much closer to being correctly scaled, and with the advent of the FFG spare bases and pegs accessories, I have made the switch to the more correctly sized craft. I will keep the beautiful, wrong scale FFG ships somewhere safe, off to the side.


The FFG models look better, but the size was really starting to bug me.

I can't resist a few more pictures to drive the point home. Note the size of the pilot in relation to the overall craft. This is not the annoying Rebels version of the A-wing. This is the original item (with a British Royal Family shot tucked in for good measure).





***

To be complete and as fair as possible to the Star Wars Rebels depiction, here is the prototype (?) design by the great Ralph McQuarrie. I suppose it is among the first views of the fictitious craft, and it looks & feels larger than the ship that eventually appears in Return of the Jedi. I admire how Rebels often goes back to the old McQuarrie stuff for inspiration (it is the best part of the cartoon, in my mind), but don't do such a thing if it opens up a discrepancy with the OT films.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review of Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt

I think there are too many colons in the title of this post, but such is life.



Just now I finished reading Aftermath: Life Debt. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It builds upon the story of Aftermath, but takes the story in different directions. Here are some observations:

1. The present-tense writing style bugged me a little bit in the first novel; in this one, I hardly noticed it. For me, first-person point of view is much more distracting.

2. I like the new characters, and it was fun to see them develop even more in this book. Even so, it was good to see more of familiar characters, especially Wedge, Leia, Chewie and Han.

3. It pleased me that the scale of this novel was bigger. While the focus of the first one was largely the events taking place on Akiva, this one focuses on Kashyyyk--a story that's been waiting to be told, and this one doesn't disappoint. While it took almost half the book to introduce the Han-and-Chewie shenanigans for which I was waiting, said shenanigans were worth the wait.

4. There are more of the Interludes that show what's happening around the galaxy. With the first novel, those were a big part of the drive to read it quickly, since they provided the first (newly) official details about what happens after Return of the Jedi. This time around, while I was intrigued by these glimpses and the hints that they might provide to other stories, I also felt impatient; I wanted to go back to the main story to see how it developed.

5. Rae Sloane is my favorite character to come out of the new canon. She's tough and smart, and makes a much better villain than many in the old books.

6. This book ties a lot more into Episode 7. I don't want to spoil things, but there are some details that I'm eager to discuss with others once they've read it.

7. It's no surprise that the novel to finish this trilogy, Empire's End, will tie into the Battle of Jakku. That means, I think, more connections and an explosive finish. I wish I didn't have to wait half a year for it. What is more, it's interesting to see how the novels in a more regulated Star Wars universe connect to each other. A character (Sloane) who appeared in A New Dawn has risen to importance, and events first introduced in Lost Stars are going to provide a climax. This feels much more orderly than the old Expanded Universe, where a lot of the character development happened retroactively. (For example, Prince Xizor became a lot more believable in the stories released after Shadows of the Empire, even though he was killed in that debut novel.)

8. Finally, I'm intrigued to see how much of this hints at developments that we'll see in Episode 8. While Lost Stars and other books in the Journey to The Force Awakens had some clues, it feels like this has many more. Time will tell, I guess.

Rogue Squadron 9

    
   

Issues 1-6 "Crimson Empire"
Released in December 1997, January, February, March, April, May 1998.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~5 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller Steve Crespo, John Nadeau
Letterer Vickie Williams
Cover Art John Nadeau

All good things...

The art inside this, the last miniseries within the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comic run, was different yet again. Clean, simple, almost anime-like. Regular lettering.

Sate Pestage is on the run; Isard has made her move. Both the New Republic and the Imperials want Pestage. The action focuses on the planet Ciutric, where, just as the good guys break Pestage out of lockup and head for orbit, a Star Destroyer and Interdictor cruiser arrive. Rogues and ground strike team hightail it back planetside to wait for a better time to leave.

Lost the Mon Calamari pilot Ibtisam in this one. Fiery explosion and crash. Her Quarren almost-lover does not take it so well.

The loser Pestage decides to try to rejoin the Imps. They kill him.

The Rogues go for it, fight-wise, trying to damage the Interdictor enough to let them through the blockade. Horton Salm and a full wing of Y-wings appear to assist. Blockade lifted.

A great run of comics, considered to be a precursor to the X-Wing novels, also written by Michael Stackpole.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rogue Squadron 8

    
   

Issues 28-31 "Masquerade"
Released in March, April, May, July 1998.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller Drew Johnson
Letterer Vickie Williams
Cover Art John Nadeau

Cover art is great--wait a second...is that the Falcon!? Yes, my friend, it is. Gloss pages again. Interior art is an older, less modern style. A bit simpler, or cleaner, to my eye. The lettering is the regular style.

Rogues include: Captain Wedge Antilles, Wes Janson, Lt. Tycho Celchu, Derek "Hobbie" Klivian, Nrin Vakil, Ibtisam, Feylis Ardele, Avan Beruss, Plourr Ilo, Soontir Fel, Xarcess Huwla. Also seen are Han! Leia! Chewie! The Falcon! Woo hoo!

Isard is plotting an overthrow back on Imperial Center. Sate Pestage, the interim Emperor, is eager to scratch gravel, and decides to offer the Alliance a deal it  can't refuse. He'll leave Coruscant essentially undefended in exchange for safety and a handful of safe worlds to do with as he sees fit.

Winter, acting as Leia, goes to a high profile meeting on Eiattu with Tycho. They get captured, and the bad guys think they have Leia! (Hence the "Masquerade"). It seems underaged Moff Leonia Tavira (from "The Warrior Princess" story arc) is now a pirate, and wants to transfer her tortured captives to the Imps.

Meanwhile, the real Leia has slinked off to Axxila in secret to meet with Pestage in person to negotiate the terms of his surrender. 

Tycho and Winter escape the clutches of their pirate captors in a stolen Y-wing. They fly through the cityscape, trying desperately to buy some time for help to arrive. And arrive it does, in the form of their fellow Rogues.

DIE wings and other "uglies" make another appearance as the crappy scrap-built starfighters the pirates use (we saw them in "Family Ties" as well).

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rogue Squadron 7

   

Issues 26-27 "Family Ties"
Released in January, February 1998.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller Jim Hall
Letterer Vickie Williams
Cover Art John Nadeau

These two comics continue the Baron Soontir Fel storyline. The interior art is the older style. The pages are gloss. I'd consider the short storyline to be good.

Fel has become a Rogue, and now the others assist in trying to locate his missing wife, who happens to be Wedge's sister! Stang! (That wonderful expletive has made a triumphant return, here). The action takes place on Corellia, where Fel is from. We have a run-in with CorSec officer Corran Horn, who manages to take flight in a green striped X-wing at the end of the tale.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Rogue Squadron 6

    
   

Issues 21-25 "In the Empire's Service & The Making of Baron Fel"
Released in August, September, October, November 1997.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller John Nadeau
Letterer Vickie Williams
Cover Art Tim Bradstreet, John Nadeau

This is why I bought the X-Wing comics! Cover art is awesome, including two covers by one of my favorite RPG artists ever, Tim Bradstreet! Interior art is different from the previous story arc, and the lettering has that 'hand drawn' feel again. The story is great. The action is awesome. Really like this miniseries.

Rogues include: Captain Wedge Antilles, Lt. Wes Janson, Lt. Tycho Celchu, Lt. Plourr Ilo (promotion?), Hobbie Klivian, Feylis Ardele, Nrin Vakil. New recruits include Dar Keyis, Standro Jcir, Avan Beruss, Xarce Huwla. Colonel Horton Salm makes an appearance. Bad guys include Baron Soontir Fel and his 181st, including Major Turr Phennir. Ysanne Isard is the main bad guy back on Imperial Center. 

The action takes place on Brentaal IV, a rich world with ties to many in elite Imperial circles. Isard is using the world as a means to consolidate her own power.

By the end of the ride, rookies Jcir and Keyis are no longer with us and Horton Salm is promoted to General.

"The Making of Baron Fel" is different interior art yet again. It also has gloss pages. It is also great; telling the backstory of one of the coolest characters from Star Wars lore.