Tuesday, March 22, 2011

43 BBY: Star Wars Tales #20: George R. Binks

George R. Binks, the story of Jar Jar’s father, is an angry tale. Written by Tony Millionaire, who is also known as Scott Richardson, Gorge R. Binks provides for readers some history into the Binks family. You can read the plot synopsis here.

I don’t really know what to say about this particular piece of Star Wars “canon” – if it should even be considered that. I hope before long it’ll be regulated to infinities because the spirit of the tale resonates with a deep and cynical anger leveled towards the goofy Gungan we all love to hate. This fanatic hatred of Jar Jar Binks manifests itself into the story of George R. Binks, and gives all haters of Jar Jar something to enjoy. If you dislike Jar Jar Binks then this is the tale for you.

I wouldn’t call myself a lover of all things Jar Jar, but in the twelve years that he’s been involved in Star Wars canon he’s grown on me. I think what Richardson really wants to do in this story is have Jar Jar blow his own brains out, but he can’t, so he instead has his father making a failed attempt on his own life. We also find out that Jar Jar’s father really doesn’t love his mother (or Jar Jar for that matter), and has no qualms about sending his young son into danger.

Richardson has no love for Lucas’ creation, that much is clear, and Tony Millionaire obviously dislikes Jar.

George R. Binks is a strange tale that I’m glad I’ve left behind.

For my next post we’re going to move ahead another year in Star Wars history, to Star Wars Tales volume 5, and the story of Yaddle: The One Below. Until then my friends, May the Force be with you.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

43 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Shattered Peace

One of the reasons I found Revenge of the Sith so emotionally devastating was its visceral presentation of Order 66. It showed the Jedi at their most vulnerable, and revealed for us an aspect of their nature: that of fallible and mortal being. In The Shattered Peace, book 10 of the Jedi Apprentice series, a little of that nature was revealed in Qui-Gon Jiin.

After finding Leed, the Prince of Rutan, and convincing him to return to his father and accept his burdensome kingship, Qui-Gon thought he had completed a successful mission, and blissfully fell asleep under a benevolent Senali sky. Unfortunately for the Jedi Master, kidnappers snuck under his nose and kidnapped the prince. King Frane, the king of Rutan, rightfully angry at Qui-Gon, asked him where all his Jedi training was the night his son was stolen: “While you fools were dreaming, they stole him from right under your noses! How could you let this happen? You are Jedi! Obi-Wan admired how Qui-Gon could meet insults with composure. ‘Jedi are not infallible King Frane…We are living beings, not machines’” (69). I’m always pleased to see an author deal with the Jedi in a human way, not because I enjoy seeing the Jedi fail, but because it means I can relate to them; they’re not god-like beings, simply fallible humans with extra-ordinary powers.

As it is, The Shattered Peace was an appealing chapter in the history of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi because it showed their continued growth as both a Master and a Padawan: “’ Well, it is good to hear that you don’t know everything,’ Obi-Wan told his Master with a smile. ‘Not nearly, Padawan,’ Qui-Gon said. ‘Not nearly enough, I suspect. Even with sureness, there must be doubt. It is the Jedi way’” (130). Along with the notion of these two both growing as people, I also enjoyed the Jainist sentiment behind Qui-Gon’s words – that clinging to absolutes is dangerous.

Lastly, one small but curious aspect of The Shattered Peace which caught my attention was the mention of “laser arrows”: She (Drenna) hoisted her crossbow to her shoulder and began to fire a rapid volley of laser arrows into the trees” (82). I wonder is this weapon was similar to the type used by the Night Sisters of Dathomir in the Night Sister trilogy featured in season three of The Clone Wars. Does anyone have any information on these types of weapons? They’re pretty cool.

Fort my next post I’m going to take a look at Tale #20: George R. Binks. It should be interesting. I’m purposely passing over chapter 1 of The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and deal with that source at the end of its chronological date as a retrospective on old Ben’s life. Also, I’m going to pass over the flashback of Prelude to Rebellion, and deal with it at its framed narrative date. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Friday, March 18, 2011

43 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Fight for Truth

Looking at the cover of issue #9 of the Jedi Apprentice series – a picture of a young Obi-Wan with a little blonde girl – and noting the title of the book: The Fight for Truth, which seemed rather cheesy to me – I really didn’t expect too much from this particular JA title. But I was wrong. Of all the books I’ve read in this series so far, this was the one I enjoyed the most. I think the reason I enjoyed this title the most was because of the ironic motivations of its antagonists.

Thus far, we’ve moved the chronometer ahead one year in our examinations of Star Wars history, and I’m reminded of an old saying from a friend of mine: ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’.

Acknowledging the movement of our galactic calendar and turning our attention to the material at hand, The Fight for Truth had some similarities to the story of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in Legacy of the Jedi: there is an oppressive government watching and controlling its people, dissidents are dealt with harshly, and freedom is an illusion. The Jedi enter this scenario, de-stabilize the ruling party, the populace revolts, and good government is installed. However, there was a twist of irony in this story, as the reason the planet Kegan was isolationist in its foreign policy and oppressive towards its people was because of visions of an evil future had by the ruling couple.

What makes the planet Kegan from The Fight for Truth and Junction 5 from the Legacy of the Jedi so freighting is that places like this exist in our own world: North Korea, China, and Cuba for example. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live in such oppressive cultures. But the motivations of V-Tan and O-Vieve in the repression of their citizens, though not justifiable, have a touch of irony, as all their efforts to protect their people were an attempt to avoid the coming storm of Emperor Palpatine. This notion wasn’t expressed in such specific terms, but both had visions of a terrible future to come: “’O-Vieve has prophetic visions,’ O-Melie explained. ‘V-Tan has dreams. Many of their predictions have come true. That is why the people of Kegan trust them. O-Vieve had a vision of the Jedi. She claims that en evil force will engulf those who are close to the Jedi’” (70).

One of the most ironic lines in the book came from Davi, a young student befriended by Obi-Wan and Sari: “’It’s not that I don’t trust you,’ Davi said worriedly. ‘But the power of evil that controls the galaxy might be telling you things that aren’t true. Misinformation is spread to confuse the people and keep them in line’” (77). This line reminds me of Count Dooku’s speech to Obi-wan in AOTC: “What if I told you that a Dark Lord of the Sith had gained control of the Senate?” Both Davi and Dooku are speaking the truth, but what is a Jedi to do?

Though O-Veive and V-Tan had noble intentions, the fear of their prophetic visions lead them to a totalitarian state, even if it wasn’t their original intent: “It began as an anti-crime measure’ O-Melie explained. ‘Society was stable, but petty theft and pilfering was common after we changed to a bartering system. V-Tan and O-Vieve proposed we use autohoppers as security devices, and we all voted on it. ... No one expected that it would be used to monitor conversations and activities. It happened slowly, and now we are watched all the time’” (67-68). Like Legacy of the Jedi, I wonder if Watson is making commentary on the USA PATRIOT act which was signed into law shortly after the events of 9/11. But like my other posts regarding this matter, I could be reading too much into this.

Another element of The Fight for Truth I enjoyed beyond the ironic visions of its antagonists was how the collection of a Force sensitive child was handled. Far from the accusations of baby stealing, the events of this story are set in motion by a set of parents asking the Jedi to come and test their child for Force sensitivity. Yoda asks Qui-Gon and Adi Gallia, along with their padawns, to determine the child’s Force capability. After the resolution of the planet’s political landscape, it is the parents who decide to let the child go to the Jedi temple for training, which must have been a difficult choice indeed: “’Nen and I have decided that it is best for Lana to go,’ she said, tears in her eyes. ‘I have seen what the Jedi are and what they can do. We must honor her gift’” (135). Granted this is but one case is several thousand, but it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the parents had denied the Jedi’s request to adopt (for lack of a better word) the child.

The last element of the book I enjoyed was Qui-Gon’s own vision of the future: “Sun suddenly burst through the clouds overhead, dazzling Qui-Gon’s sight. The glare caused Obi-Wan features to blur and dissolve. For a moment, Qui-Gon didn’t see the boy. He saw an elder man, alone, living in a desolate planet; his only companions his dark memories” (137). A prophetic and sad vision from an excellent Jedi with a pitiable ending.

For my next post I’m going to examine The Shattered Peace, book 10 in the Jedi Apprentice series. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

44 BBY: Jedi vs. Sith

Pages 84-85 in Jedi vs. Sith is a mind-blowing piece of text. It details a report to the Jedi Council given by Plo Koon on his use of Force lightning.

Plo Koon. Force lightning.

What’s remarkable about this bit of text, above and beyond my two sentences previous to this one, is Plo Koon’s rational and detached disposition in recounting why he used this dark side ability. To provide some context for those not familiar with this story, Koon was placed in a hostage situation. A gunman had a blaster to the head of a 5 year old girl. The villain had already killed the girl’s family and was looking to escape. Plo Koon came upon the scene and used Force lightning on Pommel, disabling the bandit and rescuing the girl. He did not kill him, he simply subdued him.

Several points in his report surprised me. Firstly, Plo Koon’s remark that this was an ability he learned of at the Temple: “Like other Jedi, I learned of Force lightning at the Jedi Temple and I am well aware that it is regarded as a dark side power” (84). I think we need to do a careful reading of the text here because I think it could be easily misinterpreted. Plo Koon is not saying that he was directly taught how to use Force lightning, but that he “learned of” Force lightning, as if it was mentioned in a discussion with a senior Master detailing ‘why’ it is considered a dark side power. I’m not left with the impression that this ability is taught in class, rather, this ability is discussed in detail couched in a larger conversation on the nature of evil and the power that Sith may exhibit in combat.

Building upon Plo Koon’s comments here, what is also remarkable is that Koon naturally pulled upon this ability – it was instinctive for him. He says as much: “I believe I acted entirely instinctively when I extended my right arm toward Pommel and released a barrage of lightning” (84). This leads credence to the idea that Force lightning is not directly taught at the Temple. Rather, it’s something discussed in academic terms.

Another aspect which impressed me about Koon’s report was the Jedi Council’s reaction. They did not chastise him. They did not kick him out of the Order. The council asked him to meditate upon his actions. This to me speaks volumes on how much the council respects its members. The council trusts Koon’s judgment enough that after he meditated upon his actions, he himself would know if he acted accordingly. This is trust. This is honesty. Could this trust backfire on the council? Absolutely. But it’s the most fitting reaction and exemplifies what it means to be a Jedi. A Jedi is one who is honest with themself.

After meditating upon his actions, Koon comes to the conclusion that he did not act out of turn. He acknowledges that there could have been other ways to diffuse the situation, but the most expedient way for him to rescue the child was to use Force lightning. He goes even further and says he may consider developing this ability to use in combat in the future if needed: “I believe it would be wrong of me to ignore this power that I might develop into a useful technique for combat” (84).

What I find most remarkable about Koon’s report was his acknowledgment of his emotional state: “I did not feel anger as I directed the lightning at Pommel’s head, nor did I fear for the girl’s safety. I was calm and in control of my faculties. I merely acted to end the situation before any more innocents died” (84). I believe Koon when he says this too. He also acknowledges that the recent death of Master Tyvokka did not affect this particular scenario. He was not acting out of grief or anguish. Again, I believe him. If this report was given by Mace Windu, I’d have my doubts. But not with Master Koon. Interesting indeed.

For my next post I’m going to re-enter the Jedi Apprentice series and examine book #9, The Fight for Truth. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

44 BBY: The Stark Hyperspace War

The Stark Hyperspace War was a trade paperback that’s been on my radar for a while, mostly because of the character Quinlan Vos. From my perusing of Star Wars forums he’s a character that has garnered much interest, and from what I gather from other fans, it’s because he’s a rouge type character that has “much darkness in him”, as master Yoda puts it. Also, he’s directly mentioned in Revenge of the Sith, and has an awesome appearance in The Cone Wars. It was this appearance in The Clone Wars that piqued my curiosity even more for this TBP because Steve Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle have him quoting The Dude: “Well, that’s like, your opinion man”. Anytime anyone can work a Lebowski quote in anywhere I laugh.

From what I know of Vos from my periphery understanding of the EU surrounding him, he’s a Jedi who falls to the darkside, but manages to turn back to the light – this type of story is always an interesting and fun read – disgrace and redemption. I’m curious to find out if the Vos we meet in The Clone Wars is a pre-fall or post-fall Vos.

Regardless, his time in The Star Hyperspace War was relatively short, but Ostrander, the writer of this TBP, did well in establishing the relationship between Vos and Kenobi. Again, referencing the episode Hunt for Ziro in The Clone Wars, the dynamic between these two Jedi was amusing. They are the Jedi version of the odd couple. Aayla Sercura even mentions that one of the most unfortunate things in Vos’ memory wipe was the loss of his remembrance of his friendship with Obi-Wan. I’m looking forward to seeing this friendship unfold, and how Aayla came to be in her current predicament.

Beyond Vos there were a bunch of other things I enjoyed about this TBP. Firstly, kudos to Ostrander for some really good writing in this comic. The dialogue was great and the plot moved along at a steady and logical pace. After two poor comic series from the writers of The Old Republic (Threat of Peace and Blood of the Empire) it was refreshing to read something actually good. Secondly, kudos to Davide Fabbri for some excellent art and scene depiction. Comic art is more than simply the ability to draw; it’s also how an artist sets up the scene to depict the action of the story. Fabbri did well on both fronts here.

What I enjoyed most about The Star Hyperspace War however, were the many characters which made their first appearance in Star Wars history. From Iaco Stark to Master Tholme, every character in this tale has a deep and rich backstory. It’s this depth of history which makes Star Wars so great, and keeps fans like me coming back for more. The character I enjoyed most was Iaco Stark. Any character that uses the phrase “Capital idea!” is tremendously cool in my book. He and Hylo Viz are the Robin Hoods of the Star Wars universe. Though with that being said I’m not really sure Stark is ‘giving to the poor’, but I’ve always loved a bandit who knows how to ‘rob from the rich’. I’ve always enjoyed the rouge with a heart-of-gold – one who knows how to get going when the going gets tough. Iaco Stark is the type of character I had fun RPing when I played WEG’s D6 role playing game.

Some great Jedi history was flushed out in this source as well. It was neat to meet Master Tholme, and watch him in action with his padawan Vos. I really felt the generational sense of the Jedi order in this text: Qui-Gon with Obi-Wan, Tholme with Vos, Tyvokka with Plo Koon as an apprentice, all framed by Secura talking about her master, and referring to Tholme, her ‘master’s master. Also, the history of Plo Koon with his master Tyvokka was very cool as well. If I’m not mistaken (and correct me if I’m wrong) I believe this is the first time both characters enter Star Wars history, and it’s the first time we’ve come across a wookiee Jedi. His lightsaber was cool looking – a wooden handle with a yellow blade. I wonder if a wookiee Jedi would use a great-saber instead of a lightsaber. It seems Tyvokka’s was a lightsaber, as it states on his wookieepedia page, but I think a wookiee Jedi could get away with using a lightclub.

I’m glad I covered this source at its flashback date, as Plaristes was correct regarding the majority of its narrative being at 44 BBY. But still, I felt out of the loop with regards to the framed story of Aayla’s and Quinlan’s memory loss. It’ll be good to fill in some blanks when I get to this couple’s back story.

Though I enjoyed the story behind The Star Hyperspace War, it seems that, like the last narrative I looked at, the notion of conspiracy theory crept into Star Wars history again. What’s interesting about conspiracy theory narratives in the Star Wars universe though, is that they’re all completely true! After all, at the end of the day the galaxy was taken over by an evil wizard.

At the beginning of the story, it’s Tyvokka who proffers the idea that there is no bacta shortage at all, and it’s all a conspiracy by the Trade Federation to run up the price of the much needed resource. Logical Valorum then says to the Jedi Master: “That would imply that both (sides) are willing to cause untold deaths and risk galactic war to reap short-term profits. Have you any proof of this Master?” Master Tholme provides the needed proof later on: “On Thyferra, Quinlan and I had already determined that the “disaster” that had supposedly caused the shortage was faked. The questions were – who, why, and how? A secret meeting between the Trade Federation and Xucphra, then and now one of the leading bacta producers, seemed a good place to find answers”. Like Legacy of the Jedi, this TBP was written in 2003, a time when 9/11 conspiracy theories were reaching fever pitch. In this particular narrative, replace the ‘bacta disaster’ with the WTC, and the ‘bacta shortage’ as a reference to the control of oil, and you may have the political climate of the day influencing Star Wars story telling.

Humans love a good conspiracy theory.

Again, like with Watson I’m not claiming Ostrander is a conspiracy theorist, I simply think it’s interesting how the political climate of the day can affect the creation of fiction.

All-in-all I really enjoyed The Star Hyperspace War and I’m looking forward to Ostrander’s other contributions to Star Wars history. For my next post I’m going to look at a few pages from Jedi vs. Sith, and then move on to Jedi Apprentice #9. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

44 BBY: Legacy of the Jedi: Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi

Written in 2003, two years after the September 11th attacks on America, Watson, an American and resident of New York, through her book Legacy of the Force and the sub-story of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, seems to be reacting to the historic events of that day.

Or maybe she’s not and I’m reading way too much into this short narrative.

Landing on Junction 5, a planet heavily scrutinized by its government, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan investigate the cause of the immense fear that has gripped the populace. They quickly discover Dooku’s old nemesis Lorian Nod is behind this fear. He is now head of security for the planet, and perpetrator of a giant lie.
Fearing a weapon of mass destruction, the “annihilator”, from their celestial neighbors on the moon of Delaluna, Lorian Nod had covertly taken control of the government of Junction 5 by convincing the people that the citizens of Delaluna are planning an imminent attack with their new super weapon.

The basis of this simple plot synopsis is why I wondered if Watson was making political commentary here: weapons of mass destruction (Iraq) and a distant threat (Bin Laden) are all great reasons for a government to scrutinize its citizens and slowly erode civil rights. I could be grasping at straws here, but it’s always interesting to note how the politics of a certain period in history affects an author’s work.

I believe it was in 2003 where the idea that it was the Bush administration that was responsible for the attacks began to grow in notoriety and belief. Conspiracy theories grew and eventually this idea became the standard belief of what “really” happened that day. I don’t put too much credence into this belief myself, but I do think the way conspiracy theories have gained such popular opinion is a new and interesting aspect of our culture.

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History seems to be an interesting book by David Aaronovitch which examines how the culture of conspiracy theories has grown in modern times. I haven’t read it myself but I did listen to an interview he gave with George Noory on COAST outlining his thesis. Also, there was an article about the book and an interview with its author, here.

With that being said I still love conspiracy theories. Aliens, big-foot, the Loch Ness monster, I love it all. My favorite conspiracy theory is reptilian people and the New World Order – Illuminati and all that crap. I even subscribed and listened to Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell (when Art was hosting at the time) for many years. I still listen to COAST. On a Saturday morning I look at what shows were running that week, find them on YouTube, and listen while I clean up the house. I don’t believe any of it – it’s great entertainment, that’s all.

I am not calling Watson a conspiracy theorist here. Like I said earlier, I simply think it’s interesting how the political climate of a country can influence an author’s work.

As it is, the story of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in Legacy of the Jedi was fun little diversion from the Jedi Apprentice series. Order was restored, good government won out, and the bad guy was put back in prison.

For my next post I’m going to jump into The Star Hyperspace War, and move from the pages of a book to the images of a comic. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

44 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Day of Reckoning

The final events of The Day of Reckoning genuinely took me by surprise. The 8th book in the Jedi Apprentice series took a dark turn, and it will be interesting to see what ramifications the final standoff on Telos will have for Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I’m referring, of course, to the death of Xanatos.

I am also very suspicious of his death. This is the fault of the many comic books I read as a kid. I have trust issues surrounding the death of a villain. In comic books the villain rarely ever stayed dead, so although I’d like to believe our heroes are out of the woods, I hardly think this is the end of Qui-Gon’s former apprentice. With that being said though, I’d like Xanatos to be dead – not because I disliked him as a villain (quite the opposite) but because I want to believe Watson has the gumption to kill her villain off and provide other obstacles and challenges for our intrepid knights.

I think that from a writer’s perspective the death of their villain is difficult to handle. Fans have a peculiar relationship to their villains. We love the villain, yet we want the hero to win and kill him, but when they are dead, we’re like ‘what the hell?!? That guy was cool, why did you (the author) kill him?!?’ Star Wars is full of examples like this. Boba Fett, Darth Maul, and General Grievous are three examples of what I mean.

Take Boba Fett for example: he “died” in the Sarlacc pit, but was later written back into the Star Wars mythos by Tom Vietch in the Dark Empire comics released in 1991. Tom Bissel, a journalist and critic, says that Fett is a character who is “too big” for his original presentation and lends himself for continued development in other stories. Boba Fett is a character who can’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, stay dead.

I think the same could be argued for Darth Maul. His death on Naboo seemed quite clear, yet he’s arrived in the Star Wars mythos again through the CGI TV show The Clone Wars. Though the details of his return are still very unclear, it seems that Lucas (or perhaps some other invested party) is interested in bringing him back to influence the continuation of Galactic history. It’s understandable that good villains are hard to let go.

General Grievous is an interesting example as well. He’s not reappeared in Star Wars history after the events of ROTS, but it may only be a matter of time before someone decides he’s too good to keep dead.

I understand why author’s keep bringing their villains back – it’s the sentiment behind Bissel’s words – these characters are too big for their original presentation. Authors want to continue to explore these characters. They’re interesting, 3-dimentional, and complicated. I myself am in the process of mapping out my own Star Wars narrative and I’ve spent more time figuring out the villain than I have the hero. In my opinion my villain is much cooler than the hero I’ve developed, yet at the end of the day the hero will have to dispatch the villain for order to be restored, but I’m loathe to let him go.

I know much ink has been spilled on the nature of the villain in literature, and I’m not adding anything new to the discussion here, but it will be interesting to see where Xanatos ends up from this point on. Does he stay dead, or was his death a ruse to have Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan believe he was dead. Such a scenario is fitting with his character.

Besides the magnitude of Xanatos’ death, the other aspect I enjoyed in this book was the way Watson presented evil. “Evil” is always confounded by the motivations of “good”, and can never come to an understanding of good’s altruistic purposes. In the final duel between the Jedi, Xanatos says to Obi-Wan: “’The noble Jedi try to pretend they only come for justice when actually they come for blood. Remember Obi-Wan? You took off after a thirteen-year-old boy and then he turned up dead. Do you remember the look in Bruck’s eyes when you killed him? Are you trying to tell yourself that you’re sorry your rival is dead? Admit the feeling in your heart. Admit your gladness! Admit your thirst for revenge.’” (124). I think in this scene there is more than Dun Moch going on here, I think that “evil” really can’t believe “good” is not feeling the emotions it would in a similar circumstance. I think Xanatos really does believe what he’s saying here, and does not believe for one second that perhaps Obi-Wan did not have these feelings. “Evil” really doesn’t believe good exists because it fails to understand that “it” is not the only motivations in a beings heart. Evil, like a psychopathic killer, is unable to understand that not everyone in the world is feeling the same emotions as it. Such is the nature of the good-evil dichotomy: each fail to understand the other.

For my next post I’m going to complete the last third of Legacy of the Jedi. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.