Last Shot is a zany Han and Lando novel, but among all the fun there were moments that covered some pretty weighty issues. The presence alone of an Ewok slicer, Peekpa, makes us question some of the assumptions we’ve had about Star Wars aliens in and out of universe. In another scene (details below the spoiler cut), Older has an alien character discuss how their species is still stereotyped and discriminated against by humans, even though they’re all supposed to be equal. Finally, Lando’s droid, L3-37, is an advocate for droid rights and while I don’t know how much of that will show up in the Solo movie (it’s enough to warrant a mention on L3’s StarWars.com databank page), the relationship between droid and organic sentience is a major theme of the book. These are the sorts of topics that Star Wars really papers over or treats superficially, if at all.
Before I get into the topic in full, I did want to briefly give Last Shot a straightforward review. I greatly enjoyed it. The book felt like coming back home to the old-school EU with its take on the post-Endor New Republic and the adventures of Lando and Han, or the relationship between Han and Leia (my favorite part of the book aside from the scenes below). There are some great lines and hilarious scenes, especially featuring certain droids near the beginning of the book.
But as much as I quite enjoyed all of that, I want to focus on aliens and droids—populations in Star Wars that have to live by humanity’s rules, and who might defy human expectations if given a chance. This book does just that—it’s the little things, but Daniel José Older gives us things we have not seen in Star Wars before by treating aliens and droids with respect. They’re involved in jokes, but they are not the butt of jokes. Minor spoilers beneath the cut.
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With the imminent finale of Star Wars Rebels, I thought it was a good time to take stock of the recurring villains of the show. Where did we start, and where did we end up? Are the villains satisfying? Are they evil, without seeming cartoonishly so? Or should they be cartoonish, because this show is actually a cartoon? When this show started, Grint and Aresko were among the first Imperials we saw – and they were spending their time stealing from jogan fruit vendors and threatening to lock them up for treason on ridiculous pretexts. Thankfully, those clownish villains weren’t typical of the villains we’d get in the show. The use of Thrawn in “Jedi Night” and “DUME” is what got me thinking about how villains have been portrayed throughout the show’s four seasons and it’s as good a time as any to take a villainous retrospective.
The end of the show isn’t the first time that it’s made sense to take stock of the villains of the show. There have been a lot of new villains introduced, and a lot of change. What’s the villainy of Maketh Tua (RIP) next to Vader and Tarkin? Was Kallus’s defection earned, or was he “honorable” all along? Would the return of fan-favorite Thrawn result in white-washing, or a nuanced portrayal? The villains’ competence reflects that of the heroes – every time the Ghost crew up the stakes, the Empire did so in turn. Tracking the arc of the major villains is another way to track the arc of the show and its main characters.
Ultimately, Rebels is a kids’ show that belongs to the Star Wars franchise: it’s clear to everyone who the villains are and who the heroes are. The complexity is never in terms of moral gray: the show will never make us ask “are the Imperials good?” or “are the Rebels bad?” Instead, the villains are given complexity in other ways: the petty evils of Grint and Aresko give way to the likes of Thrawn and even Darth Maul. They’re bad people but they’re evil in different ways. We might even forget for a second that they’re villains, until the show rightly reminds us that they are.
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(this article contains spoilers after the intro)
It’s a good thing I’m writing an analysis and not a strict review, because it’s hard to be objective about Leia: Princess of Alderaan. I’ve long wanted a young Leia book, and there were only three authors that I trusted to write it: Martha Wells (Razor’s Edge), Alexandra Bracken (The Princess, The Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy), and Claudia Gray (Bloodline) — and we got Claudia Gray! From the moment this book was announced at Celebration Orlando, I knew I’d love it — and my sky-high expectations were met. What expectations were those? Well, I wanted a story that did credit to my favorite Star Wars film character and showed us the development of her political heroism that ends up being the driving force of the rebellion. And that’s what we got.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan is a coming of age story: the narrative is book-ended by a particular Alderaanian rite of passage for the royal heirs, and it’s Leia’s relationship to her homeworld, her parents (Queen Breha finally gets a chance to shine, and gets developed in depth!), and Leia’s nascent awareness of a growing rebellion against the Empire that forms the framework for this story. It’s about relationships, and Leia maturing as a person and as a political leader. You’ll hear from Sarah Dempster on Monday about Leia’s relationships with her parents (particularly her mother) — today I’d like to talk about Leia’s political awakening and her involvement with the rebellion.
This isn’t a Star Wars book with moral gray areas. The Empire is clearly the villain in this story, whether we’re talking about Leia’s point of view or the Empire’s role in the story. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy question whether the Empire should be fought, because fighting carries consequences for Leia and those she loves. While the audience knows about the fate of Alderaan, Leia doesn’t. For her, the dangers are hypothetical — but they’re no less certain.
There are spoilers under the cut — do NOT continue if you haven’t read this book!
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As I discussed on Friday, the usual pattern of book and comic announcements at the respective Del Rey and Marvel panels at Star Wars Celebration Orlando changed a little bit. But it wasn’t a bad thing, because that meant that news got delivered more organically and it allowed the panels at Celebration to be focused on more interactive elements. But there actually was quite a bit of publishing and publishing-related news that came out at Celebration.
And since can’t talk about Star Wars Publishing news at Celebration without actually discussing the news, let’s get into it. Primarily what I’ll discuss here are Journey to The Last Jedi, Inferno Squad/Battlefront II, Hasbro news, and Marvel. We got quite a few books announced — several of which were surprises — and we heard about an astonishingly cool connection between the story of the new Battlefront game and an upcoming Del Rey novel. And we got more information about things we knew about earlier, such as Hasbro’s upcoming Jaina Solo action figure and Marvel’s upcoming Darth Vader comic. There’s so much to go over that the only way I can think of doing it is chronologically, based on when news came out at the convention.
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There used to be a predictable pattern to Star Wars publishing and Star Wars Celebration. Big announcements and other book news would invariably occur at the Del Rey panel for books, and the Dark Horse or Marvel panel for comics. I’ve been to five Celebrations, and the pattern always held. I always attended the book panels as a matter of principle, but they were also where the big publishing announcements were made. Even before I wrote for this site and officially covered Celebration, I’d always “cover” the panels and give the news to whatever fandom spaces I was occupying at the time (from message boards to social media). Things are a little different now.
Some people have observed — and some with dissatisfaction — that we’re getting book announcements outside of Celebration (such as how the Certain Point of View/”Operation Blue Milk” project was announced prior to Celebration), or that the Del Rey panel didn’t have the slew of new book announcements that it would traditionally end with. There has certainly been a change, and I’m not qualified to render any judgment about marketing or publishing, but I do have to say that change isn’t necessarily bad. It’s perhaps harder to cover these events, and there’s certainly no longer a one-stop-shop for announcements, but I came out of this Celebration thinking that the future was brighter for Star Wars publishing, and I don’t just mean in terms of the great titles that were announced by Del Rey and Disney-Lucasfilm Press.
There’s also Battlefront, a panel I attended with no expectations of anything other than good-looking pew pew. But I came out of it marveling at the payoff of almost two years of cross-medium storytelling between Del Rey, Disney-Lucasfilm, and Marvel. I’m hoping that this is just the tip of the iceberg and we have more such partnerships to come, but even if it ends up being a one-time thing, it was still a pretty great moment. So I’m going to talk about the panels I attended and what impressions I got for Star Wars publishing going forward. Sadly, this year I didn’t get the chance to attend the Marvel panel nor did I get a chance to attend the Hasbro panel, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss them too.
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