It’s Time For the Year of Sabine Wren

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Mike: This week saw the beginning of the second half of the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels—and in less than three weeks the series will have come to its conclusion. While the final fate of Ezra remains a gigantic, some would say overwhelming, question mark, we’ve known since Rogue One came out a year ago that Hera and Chopper survive, at least into the original trilogy era. And how could they not? Hera is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars canon, and the small pile of random appearances she’s accumulated since then demonstrates that creators are clamoring to use her in stories of their own—and once Rebels has finished telling its story they’ll be freer than ever (barring an immediate follow-up series) to really dive into her role in the formal Rebel Alliance and beyond.

But there’s another character every bit as deserving of that increased spotlight, whose fate is also in question. Sorry, Zeb—I’m talking about Sabine Goddamn Wren. While it appears that Sabine’s major character arc as far as Rebels is concerned concluded with her reunification with her family earlier this season, it remains possible, however unlikely, that she won’t make it out of this show alive. And even if she does, will she return to Mandalore and stick to being a local player? Or become an Alliance leader in her own right?

As long as those questions remain open, I get why Lucasfilm would be reluctant to use Sabine elsewhere, whatever the time period—it stinks, like it stinks that we probably won’t get any post-The Last Jedi content for a while yet, but I get it. Dave Filoni is Sabine’s creator, and to the extent that Rebels is telling one complete story it’s fair to let him have the “last word” on who Sabine is, where she’s from, what she wants.

But that last word should be coming very soon now. And if it was up to me, while production schedules are still catching up to the aftermath of TLJ, this year would be chock-full of Sabine content. Even leaving the post-Rebels timeline off-limits just for argument’s sake, Sabine has crammed enough living into her nineteen-ish years for any number of stories in any number of media. As one of Star Wars’ very few in-universe artists, Sabine is especially well-positioned for a visual medium like comic books, where her personality could explode off every page. Going back to her younger years, her time in the Imperial academy and the attendant clan drama is deep enough to support at least one novel. It’s even easy to imagine a spiritual successor to the Bounty Hunter video game covering her time hunting alongside Ketsu.

With that in mind, what would be your ideal Sabine spinoff? Which era of her life are you most interested in seeing explored further, and what medium would be best for it? While it’d be pretty easy to assemble a similar article about Hera, to a certain degree we’ve already seen her story—her origins are the Alliance’s origins, her future is the Alliance’s future. Sabine is much more of a wild card, and her life could very soon become a wide-open, paint-splattered book. What page should they turn to first?

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Sarah: My ideal Sabine spinoff would be a comic series (miniseries or ongoing) that explores her beginning with the Rebellion. We know there was a period of time between when she deserted the Imperial Academy and when she joined up with the Ghost crew, a time in which she was operating as a bounty hunter. We could see her transition from self-interested survivalist to openly rebellious freedom fighter.

Plus, as Coop mentioned, this offers an excellent chance to really highlight the visual nature of Sabine’s character and her role as a political artist. The comic medium offers an excellent chance to draw a visual contrast between the drab, suffocating monotony of the Empire and the riotous color and diversity of the Rebellion (and here’s where I plug that I would LOVE for Jen Bartel to have a hand in a Sabine comic).

Plus, that time period specifically would add more depth to Sabine as she moves from selfish underworld denizen to noble rebel. We know she hates the Empire because of what she built for them and how it ruined her relationship with her family, but it’s still a tall order to take up arms against her friends; just look at Thane Kyrell in Lost Stars for another example. Her transition from idealistic cadet, to brokenly cynical bounty hunter, to determined Rebel leader would be a wonderful journey to see…and perhaps ending with her covering her dull Mandalorian armor with brightly-colored paint to represent the person she’s become through her trials.

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Ben: While I could just be rote and echo everything that Sarah said (which sounds awesome in every way), I’ll pick up something different and a bit more out of the box. While I’d not hold this up as the only way Sabine’s story should continue to be explored, if I worked at LFL and could do whatever I wanted (with Filoni’s blessing) to her story, I would build a video game around her.

My vision for a game built around Sabine would be something between the old Bounty Hunter game and Jet Set Radio. Imagine an open world (or even a couple of open worlds that can be progressed through as the story advances) where a young Sabine, younger than we see her in Rebels, part-timing between hunting bounties and doing whatever she can to mess with the Empire, disrupting patrols and shipments of supplies. All the while she’s teaching herself the sort of street tagging and painting she’s known for, both through observation of other Rebel and partisan artists and through experimentation.

Imagine standing on a rooftop over a patrol of five or six stormtroopers guarding a building, with a choice of what you can do with them: taunt them and lead them away, drop paint bombs to confuse and distract them, avoid them and find an alternate way in, or just kill them. The game would have enough room for emergent narratives about individual missions, while certain story beats, like Sabine parting ways with Ketsu and thereafter falling in with Hera and Kanan, would occur after major missions and milestones.

Sabine herself has an incredibly versatile skill set that makes her an ideal game protagonist. Plus, it would allow Tiya Sircar to continue to perform in the role and help shape Sabine’s story. And yes, it would give us a lengthy single-player Star Wars game for the first time in a while. Who knows, maybe they could use some of the scrapped ideas from 1313 to give us a Coruscant level!

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David: There’s so much virgin territory to explore with Sabine that I wouldn’t oppose any projects that could come out starring our favorite Mandalorian troublemaker. Who would say no to a Last Jedi-era tale showing an aged Sabine leading the legions of Mandalore against the invading First Order? Not many among us, I suspect.

Still, I see two particularly strong areas to explore in the coming years. First of all, her upbringing and Imperial years. This era would give us the perfect window into the Empire through the eyes of a character that we know is eventually going to rise above the very restrictive society she was raised in. We could get an Imperial viewpoint that doesn’t glorify the Empire, and see how the idealism of a young woman eventually became a spark of rebellion that would bring her whole world down. We could explore her character with some depth: what her early family life was like and how her very different parents forged her, how she felt when she was chosen to attend the Imperial Academy, what were her thoughts when she designed what eventually would become the horrible superweapon known as the Duchess, and the circumstances that led her to her eventual defection. Given that all of this would require a good look at Sabine’s thought processes, I suspect a young adult novel in the style of Ahsoka and Rebel Rising would be the ideal medium to explore the Academy years. Perhaps a whole series even, a sister or successor to Servants of the Empire. There’s enough material for it, that’s for sure. And I’m not discounting that a comic series could perfectly explore that same territory (is Marjane Satrapi busy these days?) but it just feels especially fertile for some good old written fiction.

The second project I’d love to see is exactly what Sarah described above: a comic miniseries (to ensure a high standard of quality) focused on her early adventures with Hera’s group. A comic starring our graffiti artist could give real life to her art, let Sabine’s works take over the page, break the confines of the panel, and end up with the comic exploding into a maelstrom of swirling colors. Think of the early Generation X issues by Chris Bachalo, for example, or the vibrant colors of Tamra Bonvillain or Matt Hollingsworth. Sabine could very well be the character that finally introduces Star Wars to the heights of what sequential art can do as just that: art.

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Jay: So I really want to know about Sabine’s Imperial Academy days. Both because — hello it’s the Empire — but also because they fundamentally shaped her in various ways, both in terms of instilling her desire to fight the Empire but also showing how someone with her personality acts in an environment of conformity.

Usually, the way to go would be a YA book. It would basically be an Imperial Hogwarts type of thing, either as a single books or a series of books. But this has been done before — it’s well-trod ground in general, but also in recent Star Wars: between the Servants of the Empire books and Lost Stars (and heck, even Thrawn to an extent) we have Imperial academy stories pretty well covered.

No, I want the story told in a way that makes Sabine the central focus rather than the school. And that means doing something that is unique and different, rather than tried and true. So I’m going to pitch a game.

Star Wars gaming today means either a mobile game or an FPS. That’s pretty much all we have — and while these games tend to have pretty good stories (both Star Wars: Uprising and Battlefront II have excellent story modes), the underlying gameplay mechanics are basically imitations of existing games. They’re Star Wars reskins. That doesn’t mean they can’t be good — some really good Star Wars games are based on tried and true models, it’s just that there’s not a lot of originality out there right now (RIP Visceral’s “Ragtag” project).

But what if we had something unique to tell Sabine’s story? A game that combined narrative with the actual gameplay experience? Emergent narrative is a thing in gaming right now and while I am far from an expert in this stuff, my understanding is that it’s a type of storytelling where the narrative develops through a combination of gameplay systems interacting with player actions. It’s not scripted, in other words.

What if we had an interactive Imperial Academy game? Sabine’s all about blazing her own path. And within certain limits (so you can’t, like, become a hardcore loyalist Imperial), how cool would it be to blaze your own path and craft your own story? It could be a mobile experience or a traditional console/computer game; I’m indifferent on the format. I just think a more experiential and player-freedom game would perfectly suit Sabine.

No, you won’t have a “canon” backstory for Sabine — but hey, Sabine’s traditionally been pretty tight-lipped about her backstory anyway. Instead, the game would be about “you doing you” — and what more Sabine thing could there be?

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