Thursday, December 11, 2014

What's in a Name?

Entertainment Weekly got the exclusive on the character names for The Force Awakens teaser. Check below the cut for the info from Lucasfilm's clever release strategy. The names come in the form of Topps cards, really driving home the movie's A New Hope aesthetic. One thing about them, though, is distinctly not like A New Hope...

A Dark Look Back: On Ventress and Cover Art

Star Wars: Dark Disciple cover
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The cover art for Dark Disciple, the Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos novel coming out on July 7, was released on on Tuesday. Matt Taylor created original work for the cover, which is more stylized than the cover art for previous books Tarkin or A New Dawn. Instead of aiming for realism for previously animated characters, such as on the A New Dawn cover, Dark Disciple refers instead to Quinlan's comic book roots.

Since the rise of The Clone Wars, however, Asajj Ventress has taken the spotlight. She stands in the front on this cover, and her darkness seems to pervade the piece, with the black and gray characters and a bloody, smoky background. Female fans, myself included, have rejoiced to hear that one of the most complex female characters in the canon will be starring in her own novel. She isn't alone, though, and it's worrisome to think that Ventress might have been given the spotlight so that she could stand out as a simple love interest, not as the fully-formed character she has become on The Clone Wars.

First, though, the great things about this cover. Bright colors outline the markings on both Ventress' and Quinlan's faces, and that is one of my favorite things about the design of the book. Both of these characters are more morally gray than most Force users, with Ventress serving as both Count Dooku's apprentice and a Dathomirian witch before striking off on her own and becoming even more gray, but perhaps not so dark. The Quinlan Vos of the Expanded Universe had a brush with the dark side, while the Quinlan Vos of The Clone Wars was a brash, cocky Jedi who butted heads with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The cover nicely expresses the idea that the two are fierce, ruthless, and morally murky. In Star Wars, though, there is always hope, and the markings on their faces show that the light might still be close, if they could just see it right in front of their eyes.

Their poses also show the closeness of their alliance, with their legs crossed in the middle to make it hard to tell which leg belongs to which. All of that jives nicely with the novel's description on as " a tale of love and loss, betrayal and redemption."

This, though, is where I worry that Ventress will become only a love interest, that Quinlan will learn something and she will not. That she will become a vehicle for mainpain, like Johnamarie from The Wookiee Gunner said. That her over the shoulder pose means that this is a book not about Ventress moving forward with her lightsaber raised, like Quinlan, but about Ventress being observed.

Women can be powerful without using their sexuality, and can be sultry without being claimed. A love story could be good, too, but it must go beyond simply the idea that the characters are beautiful. Maybe, with these two rogues, it will.

While it isn't as if Ventress is the only female character Star Wars fans have to turn to for entertainment and inspiration, the balance is still skewed in the favor of male main characters. Last year's Razor's Edge was a nice exception, but the Hera of A New Dawn was sometimes so mysterious that she became indistinguishable from the Strong Female Character trope, all flash and no substance.

Ventress brings a unique challenge to an author, to be sure, since it's always been in Ventress' nature to be sensual, sometimes going even further than Cartoon Network would allow. (Of course the authors, not the character, have a say over what Ventress does.)

I'm very much looking forward to Dark Disciple. I hope it keeps Ventress in-character and digs into what we know about both her personality and Quinlan's, based on what we saw on The Clone Wars. And I hope it gives both of its protagonists equal attention and equal agency.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Coruscant Falls in Star By Star

The New Jedi Order was my first passion in Star Wars literature. Soon after seeing the movies for the first time, I got caught up in this ongoing story about Jedi fighting aliens. About ten years later I’m re-reading the series with a fresh perspective.

I have vivid memories of reading Star By Star on a family vacation to South Carolina,  on a long, hot car ride and a windy beach. After re-reading it over a long period in the fall, I have come to the conclusion that it isn't a good cold-weather book.

This is, obviously, because Star by Star is sad. The deaths of Anakin Solo and of Borsk Fey'lya are some of the most praised, most illustrated scenes in the Expanded Universe.  The mission to Myrkyr consists of teenagers sometimes literally wading through corpses. In the messy, grueling fall of Coruscant, the Big Three and their families are separated and made victims of the terror and boredom of war. In contrast to the idyllic opening scene in the rather dull novel Rebirth, Luke and Mara sit on a beach and watch the world burn.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Teaser Reactions With Friends

TOTJRedemption-FCI joined the lovely Star Wars With Friends podcast to talk about our impressions and analysis of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer. We talk about the first time we saw the trailer, how the new movie tries to strike a balance between different parts of the Star Wars franchise, and whether we like that three-pronged lightsaber. Listen here.

Why is Ulic Qel-Droma pictured over there? That cover from "Tales of the Jedi: Redemption"  is one of my favorite depictions of Star Wars and unusual weather, a topic that came up a few times in the podcast.