Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Star Wars: Shadow Games by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff


I usually say that a Star Wars novel, even a mediocre one is better then just about any other book out there.  The reason I feel this way in large part is because of the Expanded Universe that has been created by Lucasfilm and it's licensees.  Even a story that I dislike adds to the tapestry of the Star Wars universe lending additional depth, new characters, and shifting the reader's point of view on events previously established.

That being said, I recently read Star Wars: Shadow Games by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff.  With all due respect to the authors, this is a novel that I haven't really been looking forward to.  The idea to resurrect the Dash Rendar character for a standalone novel, and to set the premise around a galactic celebrity in the person of Holostar Javul Charn, left me wondering what the heck the editors at Lucasbooks and Del Rey were thinking in approving this book.  I kept picturing The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, except with aliens and droids.

There was some trepidation on my part based on continuity issues from Mr. Reaves last series, Coruscant Nights.  Though I will say, I am a fan of some of Mr. Reaves Star Wars works.  The penultimate scene in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, in which the lead character Lorn Pavan escapes the clutches of Darth Maul long enough to "safely" entrust a Sith Holocron to Senator Palpatine, is one of my favorite scenes in the Expanded Universe.  I will also say that Reaves' Medstar Duology starring Barriss Offee is a very underrated and off-beat (MASH in Space) set of Star Wars books.

Enough of my ramblings, you want to hear about Shadow Games.  I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  I am a fan of the mystery genre, as child I grew up watching a lot of television and movies.  Some of my favorite re-runs included Scooby-Doo and Murder She Wrote. I also enjoyed a heavy dose of the Hardy Boys series of children's mystery novels.  In Shadow Games there are multiple hidden agendas and multiple mysteries at work, there is a strong who done it element combined with a slow reveal to the reader and the main character about what is truly going on.

The main character of the story and the primary point of view character is Dash Rendar.  We basically follow Dash through the story except for a few minor detours.  We also get a heavy dose of Leebo (Dash's Droid), Javul Charn (the holostar), Han Solo, Eaden Vrill (Dash's partner and Teras Kasi practioner),  and Yanus Melikan (Charn's tour cargo master).

In addition to these characters we also have a number of Imperial and Black Sun characters, and even an assasin, that come in and out of the story and act the foils to our heroes.

I enjoyed the portrayals of both Dash Rendar and Javul Charn in the story, Javul in particular was a much better developed character then I was expecting going in.  It is also interesting in the way that they portrayed Rendar and used Han Solo to contrast and compare the two characters.  Long time fans will be familiar with criticism of Shadows of the Empire, that Rendar was created to be a basic carbon copy of Han because Han was unavailable for use in the story because of that unfortunate business on Cloud City.  Well the portrayal of Han that we get in this book is like Han in the beginning of Episode IV except even more militant in terms of his independence and staying away from causes and women.  I liked the winks in this book to the Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin and the way that Han's Bria Tharen causes him to look at women and at the Rebellion.

The key to the Dash Rendar in this story is his attachments.  He is a character motivated by bonds of friendship and love, be that to his smuggling partner, his droid, or his would be paramour.  In many ways it's this soft heart combined with the gruff exterior that makes Han Solo such an endearing character and why Dash grew on me in this book.  There a few funny scenes that show the rivalry between these two characters that are so similar.  If they weren't so busy one uping each other, then they might just get along pretty well.

There are some minor quibbles that I have with the book, the biggest thing that stuck out to me was a continuity issue that arises from a throw away line.  One of Javul Charn's hangers on is a fashion designer, who according to the book previously worked for Lando Calrissian, the Baron-Administrator of Cloud City.    When I read this, I couldn't tell why, but something struck me as off about this so I raced to the Wookieepedia to confirm my hunch.  According to the Wook:

A year after the Battle of Yavin, Cloud City was run by Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian, who had won administration of the city from Baron Administrator Dominic Raynor in a Sabacc tournament. Not much later Raynor hired the bounty hunter Bossk to get revenge on Calrissian. Bossk and his group of mercenaries ambushed the new administrator in one Maintenance Level, but were unsuccessful.

It is a very minor line that doesn't factor into the outcome of the novel, but it is this kind of little continuity hiccup that drives the more continuity obsessed fans bonkers.

There was also the labeling of an Imperial Interdictor ship as an "Interceptor Class," vessel.  You understood what they were getting at, but I don't recall ever reading those vessels referred to in that way.

We do get an addition to the ever growing list of in-universe profanity, with the phrase; "womp rat's ass."

There are two pretty big hanging threads that the authors leave open to interpretation or future clarification.  I don't want to give too much away, but lets just stay Reaves an Bohnhoff give us another potential version of events leading up to A New Hope with a nifty potential retcon to solve some preexisting continuity issues.

They also leave this reader wondering about the identity of a certain character, who I think we saw heavily in the Bantam era EU under a different identity.

I enjoyed the say the end of the book dovetailed nicely into A New Hope, but it did so in such a way that there is wiggle room in the timeline.  It is almost like Reaves and Bohnhoff purposefully set certain portions of this story in the sand instead of in stone to avoid continuity issues.

All in all, Shadow Games is an interesting change of genre for a Star Wars novel, a bit more mystery then we are used to seeing and an engaging enough tale to keep my attention all the way through.

It is a solidly average book in terms of the Star Wars publishing line.  Worth a read, but I am not sure how many re-reads it will end up getting on my bookshelf.

To learn more about Star Wars: Shadow Games, you can visit Random House.com.

To learn more about the process behind this book visit, Ms. Bohnhoff's blog.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Kidnapped (4.11)




"Slavery, a great tool it is for the rise of the Sith." ~ Grand Master Yoda on the Zygerrian Resurgence 

Despite dealing with the despicable institution of slavery, this week's episode saw a return of humor and our main Jedi characters in a bit of a palate cleanser after the intense dark drama of Umbara.

"Where we are going always reflects where we came from."
Zygerrian slavers are behind the sudden disappearance of an entire colony of people on the planet Kiros. As Anakin and Ahsoka rush to defuse a series of bombs planted by the slavers, Obi-Wan must fight with their imposing leader.
It was nice to see Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka return and star in an episode after the Clone-centric arc of Umbara.  You will be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of the Clones then myself, but TCW has a large cast of characters and it is important that we don't go too long without seeing some of the main characters in action.  It was also great to see that at least Clone Trooper Boil is still alive, even though his buddy Waxer didn't make it through the last story arc. 

This episode saw some pretty interesting character development for Ahsoka, but not in the way that we traditionally get character development.  We saw Ahsoka's physical maturation and growth of martial skills in this episode.  While she has always been able to hold her own in a fight, this episode saw Ahsoka kicking some major butt.  Her Force augmented leaping, combined with a fluidity of motion when she threw the detonators into the Droid Tank was very impressive and something I don't think Season 1 or Season 2 Ahsoka would have really been able to do.  We also see a flash at the end of the episode as she is quickly able to subdue and capture Darts D'Nar, otherwise known as the guy who was using Obi-Wan as a punching bag.  Ahsoka is becoming a very formidable warrior in her own right.  

There are interesting parallels between the weaponless Togruta on Kiros and the weaponless world of Alderaan.  In this episode we see an entire planets population pressed into slavery because they choose the path of neutral pacifism.  The episode specifically calls out the fact that the society doesn't have any weapons.  This echos the pleas of Princess Leia when she is aboard the Death Star.
Princess Leia: No! Alderaan is peaceful! We have no weapons, you can't possibly... Governor Tarkin: [impatiently] You would prefer another target, a military target? Then name the system! I grow tired of asking this so it will be the last time: *Where* is the rebel base?
Princess Leia: ...Dantooine. They're on Dantooine.
Governor Tarkin: There. You see, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.
Princess Leia: WHAT?
Governor Tarkin: You're far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration - but don't worry; we will deal with your rebel friends soon enough. ~IMBD
On  Alderaan we see an entire planet destroyed by the Death Star, on Kiros we see see the planet left intact but the population totally enslaved by the Separatists and their Battle Droid army.  Alderaan's pacifism combined with it's political agitation against Emperor Palpatine's New Order sealed it's fate.  What planet would be better to test the weapon on then one that cannot fight back and doesn't risk damage tot he battle station on it's test run?

One of the big differences between the situations on Kiros and Alderaan is the state of the galaxy.  While the population of Kiros is under duress, the Jedi Order is lining up to come to their aide.  The Order has it's faults and it's moral blind spots, but the presence of the Order and it's opposition to slavery gives the people of Kiros hope of salvation.  In contrast there is no Jedi Order to protect Alderaan and possibly prevent the planet's destruction.

The moral of  both tales is similar.  It is all well and good to hold to idealist sentiments, but one must recognize the reality of the world or galaxy around you.  There are bad people out there and if you are unable to protect yourself, then you will always be at their mercy.  This rugged individualism is a good lesson for younger viewers of the show to be exposed too.

Perhaps this episode was sponsored by the GBA, the Galactic Blaster Association, a political action committee lobbying for fewer restrictions on blasters in the galaxy far, far away.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, now that is a name I haven't head in a long time on The Clone Wars.  Obi-Wan is one of greatest Jedi Masters during the Clone Wars.  Obi-Wan's strength as a Jedi is his ability to be above average across a broad category of Jedi abilities.  This episode shows us one of his greatest strength and that is the ability to take a beating like a champ.  Rocky Balboa and Hulk Hogan have nothing on Obi-Wan.  In order to give Anakin and Ahsoka time to diffuse Darts D'Nar network of bombs, Obi-Wan takes a pretty brutal hand to hand beat down.

I really enjoyed how quickly Obi-Wan was able to take control of the situation as soon as the battle droid transmission revealed that all the bombs had been deactivated. Seizing and crushing the droids quickly and retrieving his lightsaber.

"I had a dream I was a Jedi. I came back here and freed all the slaves. Have you come to free us?" ~Anakin Skywalker to Qui-Gon Jinn
One of my favorite scenes in the episode begins with Anakin's reaction to Dart D'Nar's request to discuss surrender terms with Obi-Wan.  The flash of pure unadulterated rage that we see from Anakin, was very dark and shows just how deeply scarred he is by his past.  That powerlessness of being a slave is one of the central factors I believe in Anakin's search for power, control and order which helps lead him down the dark path.

It is particularly curious how Obi-Wan reacts to Anakin's seizing of the hologram and his outburst.  This is very un-Jedi like and would seem to be particularly egregious behavior in front of a Padawan and in front of Clone Troopers.  Not very becoming for a General to behave like this.

"I will come back and free you, Mom. I promise." Anakin to Shmi

The scene then flows into a conversation between Obi-Wan and Ahsoka.  This same scene occurs in the comic from which this story arc is being adapted.  I just love this part of the scene because it is the revelation to Ahsoka about Anakin's past as a slave.  This revelation will undoubtedly answer some questions for Ahsoka about her Master, and also put her on guard to try to help him through these issues.

Because of the war and the speculation about Anakin's being the Chosen One, I believe the Jedi Order was more lenient with Anakin then they would have been with the average Padawan or Knight.  In any other situation I believe Anakin would have been forced to confront his past as a slave and deal with those internal issues before he was elevated to Knighthood or given a Padawan.  This fact combined with the flaw of attachment within Obi-Wan which caused him to be too forgiving and too trusting that Anakin would eventually find the peace within himself that always eluded him.

It would be interesting to see what lessons are learned by Anakin, Ahsoka and the Jedi from this arc.  If the Jedi are able to rescue the enslaved people of Kiros, will this surrogate emancipation provide Anakin some comfort over his failures to free his Mother from slavery and ultimately his own feelings of guilt over her death.  Perhaps Obi-Wan and Ahsoka will believe the events of this arc will end up helping Anakin work through his issues and presume that they are no longer a problem.

I particularly liked Yoda's quote in the High Council at the end of the episode, Slavery is a great tool for the Sith because it creates the emotions that the Sith feed off of.  It also has the material benefit of free labor to use as laborers or warriors that Sith Empires have used to build on in the past.  But like many things the wise sage of the Jedi says, there is yet another layer of meaning to this line.  Because the new Sith Empire that is soon to emerge on the galaxy will be built on the back of a single slave in Anakin Skywalker, who in his moment of choosing picks the Dark over the Light, the Sith over the Jedi.

There are some very interesting similarities and differences between the story arc as it appears between the Dark Horse Comics TPB and in the TV show.  The biggest difference is in how they approached the Droid Commander on Kiros.  In the comic, he is a four-armed creature, it appears to be a Besalisk.  We just had four episodes co-staring a new Besalisk character, to follow that up with another Besalisk villian might be a bit much, so I think this editorial decision makes sense.  It also appears that they are combining two characters form the comics into one for the TV show.  In the comics, Anakin, Ahoska, Obi-Wan and Rex stumble upon a Zygerrian Slaver ship in space and board the vessel looking for information on the missing colony.  That ship has a Zygerrian captain who the Jedi subdue and capture the vessel.  It appears that in the TV show they are combining the Separatist Commander and the Zygerrian Captain into the same person in the role of Darts D'Nar.  This change makes sense for another reason besides Besalisk fatigue, it allows them to cut out what is basically a generic episode that would involve them searching an asteroid field and having a running fight aboard a ship.  It allows them to get the story to Zygerria quicker.  In effect this three episode arc will have episode one on Kiros, episode two on Zygeria and episode three on Kadavo.

Rating: This enjoyable episode gets 7.5 exploding droids.  The humor from the battle droids and Obi-Wan always amuses me, and there were some important revelations like Obi-Wan detailing Anakin's history to Ahsoka.  On the whole it was a very fun episode but lacked the mature tone and drama of the previous story arc.  It worked for me, but if handled properly I think next week's middle episode in the arc will be the best one of the three, there is some very interesting exchanges between Anakin and the Zygerrian Queen.

Direct Link to Watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Kidnapped (4.11)

Next Time on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Slaves of the Republic (4.12)


"Those who enslave others inevitably become slaves themselves."
To locate the missing colonists, Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka go undercover to infiltrate the slavers on Zygerria. Anakin struggles with his emotions as a wily Zygerrian queen forces him to take questionable actions in order to carry out his mission.



Sources:  Starwars.com and Wookieepedia

Friday, November 25, 2011

Star Wars Fan Days 2011 autographed Clone Helmets ebay Auction for Princess Leah


Two very cool and very unique collectors items are going up on ebay for a charity auction the proceeds of which will benefit the family of Princess Leah.

Here is the link to the auction page.  If you have the money to bid it's a cool chance to get some Star Wars memorabilia and to help a young girl and her family deal with some catastrophic medical bills.

To read more about Leah, visit her Parent's blog, The Princess Leah Diaries.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Lightsaber Rattling

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.  I hope where ever you may be that you are surrounded by family and/or friends.  Have a wonderful day and MTFBWY.

Hallmark Vader E-card via Starwars.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

Star Wars Identities: Go on your own Star Wars hero's journey


Lucasfilm has officially unveiled what Star Wars Identities is and I don't think any of our speculation was correct.

Star Wars Identities is going to be an art exhibition, but this isn't your Father's art exhibition.  This sounds like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel on a wicked Kessel Spice trip.  You can watch a really cool Rorschach test like video where each Star Wars image morphs into others on the Star Wars Identities website.

The Exhibition will begin April 19, 2012 and will run until September 16, 2012 in Montreal, Canada. Adult tickets are going to be $23 (Canadian Dollars).  It looks like the exhibit will move to other locations after its run in Montreal is up, but no announcement on potential other locations has been made yet. 

A complete description of the event is available on the Montreal Science Centre's website:

What forces shape you?

How did Luke and Anakin, who share the same genes and grew up on the same planet, become such different people? Don't miss the world premiere of this unique travelling exhibition, which looks at the characters of Star Wars™—and you—in an exciting new way.
  • A vast collection of Star Wars props, costumes, models, and artwork from the Lucasfilm Archives, including iconic items like Darth Vader’s costume, the Millennium Falcon model, and Anakin’s full-sized Podracer.
  • An insightful investigation into the sciences of identity, developed by the MontrĂ©al Science Centre and a committee of scientific advisers, shedding light on what can make fictional characters who they are and what makes you you.
  • An interactive Identity Quest inviting you to create your own unique and personalized Star Wars hero.
  • Behind the scenes insight into the creation of the characters of Star Wars and fun facts from the movie-making process.
Want more information you do?  The company behind the exhibition X3 Production provides even more details about this traveling exhibition.
 
CONTENT:
STAR WARS™ Identities explores the theme of identity using ten components: species, genes, parents, culture, mentors, friends, events, occupation, personality, and values.
These ten components are grouped into the exhibition’s three main sections, which follow the evolution of identity from childhood to adulthood: first Origins, then Influences, and finally Choices. This thematic backbone gives structure not only to the educational content of the exhibition but to the Star Wars collection as well.
From a scientific perspective, visitors learn how these components affect identity. Ten videos, one per component, combine clips from Star Wars with animated graphics explaining how each component affects who we are, “we” in this case referring simultaneously to the fictional characters of the Star Wars universe and to the visitors themselves. These videos were developed in collaboration with the Montreal Science Centre and a team of experts practicing in a variety of scientific fields, including genetics, neuropsychology, health sciences, and psychology.
The stunning collection of some 200 props, costumes, models, and pieces of artwork from the making of the films and animated series is integrated seamlessly into the structure provided by these ten components. Carefully selected from the Lucasfilm Archives, each object offers a deeper understanding of the identities of the characters of Star Wars and is accompanied by behind-the-scenes information sure to delight fans of the films and visitors interested in the movie-making process.

ENVIRONMENT:
Spanning over 1000 square metres, this touring exhibition uses state-of-the-art technology to transform the museum experience into an interactive, multimedia adventure.
Two types of technology allow for an immersive and innovative experience. First, visitors are each equipped with a hands-free audioguide. Using infrared technology, the guide gives visitors personalized access to all of the exhibition’s audio-visual content in the language of their choice.
The second technological element is an RFID bracelet which tracks visitors’ progress as they complete the different stations of the Quest. This information allows the visitor to create his or her own Star Wars hero and then to visualize the results in the exhibition’s conclusion. The results can then be sent to the visitor via e-mail, at which point they can be shared through social media platforms.

The interactive Identity Quest sounds simply amazing.  In designing the exhibit they consulted with experts in the fields of Neuropsychology, psychology, biochemistry, social psychology, occupational therapy and education.  I am either going to have to book a ticket to my old stomping grounds in the lovely city of Montreal, or I am going to have to pray the exhibit comes to the San Diego area. 


SOURCES: StarWarsIdentities.com, X3 Productions, and  MontrealScienceCentre.com

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Carnage of Krell (4.10)



All war is based on deception. ~Sun Tzu, The Art of War

General Krell's flawed tactics finally make sense as his diabolical strategy is revealed.  Only one thing stands between Krell and his ambitions and that is the brave Clones under the command of Captain Rex.  Can the Clones stop one of the fiercest warriors in the Jedi Order?

"Our actions define our legacy."

With two of his men facing execution for disobeying orders, Captain Rex must confront his overly aggressive commander, General Krell. Risking charges of mutiny, Rex must make a dark choice as the true face of the enemy emerges.
There are so many layers of story to unpack in the review, grab a drink and get comfortable because this review is going to take awhile to read.  Before I get into the meat of the review, I would like to give some serious praise to Dave Filoni, Joel Aron, Director Kyle Dunlevy, Writer Matt Michnovetz, and actors Dee Bradley Baker and Dave Fennoy for the terrific concluding chapter to the Umbara arc.

The episode opens with Rex again trying to bargain with Krell to pardon the insubordination of Fives and Jesse and to place any blame on Rex as the pair of rebellious trooper's commander.  Instead of helping the situation, Rex's lobbying only expedites Krell's Court Martial decision and he orders the immediate execution of Fives and Jesse.  But Krell isn't going to carry out the execution himself, instead he is ordering the Clones to execute their own brothers.  This reminds me of a story line from Karen Traviss' Republic Commando: True Colors, where ARC Trooper A-30 "Sull" went AWOL, and Chancellor Palpatine ordered Secret Ops Clones to track down and execute Sull.  In the end, one of the central characters of that book series Darman kills the two Secret Ops clones, only realizing what he has done after seeing the face of one of the dead clones.  This opens up all kinds of moral questions for Darman personally and what the heck is going on in the Clone Wars in general.

Asking the Clones to execute one of their brothers is the ultimate test of whether or not they will follow orders.  All the Clones have is each other and if they cannot trust each other then what do they have?

Of course every one's least favorite clone, Dogma is leading the execution party, but lucky for Fives and Jesse, their ability to duck combined with their brothers shooting like Death Star Storm Troopers combined to save their lives.  This scene was interesting, but the thing that stuck out at me was the behavior of Rex.  Even after Fives gives his impassioned plea to not be executed, Rex just stands there and allows the execution to move forward.  Rex still isn't able or willing to stand up and do what he knows in his heart is right.  This serves to show there is a great deal of personal conflict swirling within Rex, but combined with his actions in the rest of the episode it seems to keep Rex on relatively safe moral and legal ground.  I am just surprised based on the character growth we saw from Rex in this arc, that it wasn't until after the execution went of the rails that he intervened.  Perhaps, in spite of his leadership skills, were are seeing the effects of what are basically over sized adolescents dealing with very complex issues (based on true age and experience) as these rapidly aging Clones are forced to grow up unnaturally fast. 

The Clones should have been a little more suspicious when General Krell didn't unleash hell on them after their refusing to carry out the execution.  Instead they and he acted like it was business as usual when reports of a new Umbaran offensive reached the command center.  As Krell and Rex ride the elevator down to the base of the control tower, the General emphasizes to Rex to remind his troops that the Umbarans have been stealing Republic armor and may be posing as Clones on the battlefield.  That seeming throw away lines comes back to have some serious consequences for the Clones.  

My first clue that something bad was about to happen was the fact that we only saw one color of blaster fire as the Clones engaged the "enemy."  Fans of Star Wars will know that conveniently opposing forces always use different colored laser bolts for their blasters.  As soon as you saw the orange armor markings, you could see what direction this scene was going to go in.  It wasn't until Rex found the body of what he thought was an Umbaran wearing Clone armor that he realized what was really going on.  Rex is horrified upon looking at the face of a dead clone that his men have killed.

The next scene may be Rex's finest hour of the entire series and the entire war.  Despite a full scale battle raging around him and Clones dying left and right, Rex removes his helmet (Buy'ce or bucket, whichever term you prefer) and rushes onto the battle field between the two battle lines, waving his arms and shouting like a mad man for the Clones to cease fire, shouting that they are all Clones.

This is the ultimate betrayal of the Clones by a Jedi.  The Clones recognize that they may not always understand their Jedi commanders, but they trust in the Jedi Order to be on the same side as they are, on the Republic's side.  In this scene, Krell knowingly and intentionally places two forces of Clones in battle against each other and convinces both sides that the other are actually Umbarans in disguise.  A Jedi has lied to the Clones and forced them to kill their brothers, in doing so betraying any trust that the Clones had in them inspite of their mysticism, mystery, and aloofness. 

When the dying Waxer reveals the truth to Rex, the Captain finally finds the resolve to do what must be done.  Rex assembles his remaining troops and tells them of his plan to arrest General Krell and remove him from command.

After Rex heads down to the airbase brig and springs Fives and Jesse, the Clone posse goes up to the command center and attempts to arrest General Krell.  This scene is evocative of the Episode III scene where the Jedi go to arrest Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in his office, right down to the line, " it's treason then."  I like the way this scene was set up, because in many ways throughout the episode Krell is like a pale imitation of Palpatine.  Krell is setting the Clones up against each other, just like Palpatine is setting the galaxy against itself in playing both sides in the Clone Wars.  But whereas Palpatine is cunning and patient, Krell is clumsy and lacks finesse.  Krell's plan may survive the initial fog of war, but as soon as that initial confusion dissipates if he thought it through, some Clones would have had to survive the battle and know the truth about what he was doing and would attempt to stop him.

What ensues is a battle between Krell and the Clones, it is readily apparent that Krell is an incredibly formidable warrior, there is a fluidity to his motion that is unexpected for a being with his size and power.  He uses his two dual-bladed lightsabers, as well has his hands and feet to dispatch clones left and right before making a quick escape out the control tower window.

When the Clones led by Captain Rex go to pursue Krell, they are confronted at blaster point by Dogma.  Even thought Dogma was horrified at having killed fellow Clones, he is still unable to shake off his training and unable to think outside the box and not blindly follow regulations.  Dogma is out numbered and eventually surrenders, which leads to his arrest and detention in the air base's brig, which conveniently ensures that he will be present for the climactic scene of the episode, but more on that in a minute.

When the Clones eventually catch up to Krell in the Umbaran wilderness, the battle definitely isn't going well until Tup stumbles upon a nasty Vixus creature and comes up with a plan to attempt to make plant food out of Krell.  The Clones lead Krell into the trap, unfortunately the Vixus isn't up to the challenge of finishing off the Jedi Master, if the mighty Sarlacc can't contain Boba Fett, is there any way its little cousin will be able to take down Krell?  I don't think so.

Finally Tup has the bright idea to use the stun setting on his blaster and stuns Krell.  Apparently the Clones forgot that a) Jedi can't use the Force when their nervous system is being shocked either by electricity or a stun bolt, and b) it is much harder to block the ring shaped discharge of a stun beam as opposed to the linear blaster bolt.  Recommendation for anyone fighting a Jedi, stun first, then kill the Jedi once they are unconscious.

I absolutely love the scene that happens next, Rex leads a group of Clones into the brig and begins to interrogate General Krell about his actions.  Let us take a look at a bit of that exchange. 

Krell: A Jedi? Hahaha.. I am no longer naive enough to be a Jedi. A new power is rising, I've forseen it. The Jedi are going to lose this war and the Republic is going to be ripped apart from the inside.  In it's place is going to rise a new order.  And I will rule as part of it."
I loved that Krell dropped the "new order" line, Palpatine's Empire is often called the New Order in the Expanded Universe, this little head nod was a nice touch.  It is also very interesting to see that Krell is claiming to have had what we can assume are Force visions of the future and the fall of the Jedi, are other Jedi having the same visions? 

Krell: I serve no one side, only my own. And soon my new Master.
Rex: You're an agent of Dooku?
Krell: Not yet, but when I get out of here I will be.  After I have succeded in driving the Republic from Umbara.  The Count will reward my actions and make me his new apprentice.
Wait so all this was Krell's elaborate attempt to impress Count Dooku?  Couldn't he just have shown up on Serenno and been like, "Listen Count, I know your last two apprentices didn't work out so well, but I here you need a new one, I have four arms, two dual-bladed lightsabers and I can kill Clones by the dozens, you should give me a job."

I couldn't help but thinking about how cool a Sith Apprentice Krell would make for Dooku, but visions of the would be Sith Lord quickly were snuffed out a short time later.  My theory about Krell's fall is that through the course of the war, the power that the General held over life and death, by nature of the orders he gave his troops slowly got the better of him.  He began to enjoy this power, he began to abuse it as he fell, which led to higher and higher casualty counts.  The Jedi were desperate enough to win the war, that they looked the other way in spite of the casualties because Krell was winning battles.  Just like they were blind to the darkness within the Chancellor, the Jedi were not able to sense the growing darkness within one of their own, the Dark Side clouds everything. 

As Rex and his troops leave the impromptu interrogation, they return to the surface of the airbase and learn that communications where intentionally sabotaged by Krell and that those communications have been restored.

It is interesting that once communications are restored the Clones do not attempt to call General Kenobi to deal with the rogue Jedi, instead they decide to take matters into their own hands and without authorization go back down to the brig to execute Krell.  What is Rex thinking right now?  Is it simply a matter of revenge and he is afraid the Jedi won't execute Krell?  Does Rex not trust any Jedi at this moment? 

Again in this episode we have interesting behavior from Rex, who is unable to follow through on his plan to  kill Krell, seizing the moment of Rex's hesitation, Dogma does the job with Five's blaster pistol, shooting the imprisoned General Krell in the back.  

Before the episode ends we see Dogma led off in stun cuffs to a LAAT, Dogma looks to Rex and nods, and Rex returns the gesture.  What does this all mean?  Is Dogma going to be arrested and court marshaled for killing Krell?  Is Rex allowing Dogma to take the blame for what Rex was going to do himself? Are the Clones going to cover up what happened with Krell or will they come clean with the Jedi and tell the the truth about Krell's fall to the Dark Side?   The one thing that bothers me about the way this arc ended, I am worried that like the Mortis Trilogy from last season, some of the fall out from these episodes will not be addressed directly any time soon. 

The concluding exchange of the episode is between Rex and Fives and gives us a clue as that Rex will be spending a great deal of time thinking about the future for himself and all his brothers when the war comes to an end. 

Fives: We did it. We took Umbara
Rex: Whats the point of all this? I mean Why?

Fives: I don't know Sir. I don't think anyone knows.  But I do know that  some day this war is going to end.
Rex: Then what? We're soldiers. What happens to us then?
The final shot of the episode is the transport's doors close locking away Dogma.  Is Dogma's fate the fate of all the Clones, to follow orders, only to be used and discarded? 

Rating: Without any reservations, Carnage of Krell gets a 10, this episode was simply incredible from visuals, to sound design, to acting, to writing.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  When we were all kids and saw Star Wars for the first time, we heard Old Ben mention the "Clone Wars" and our imaginations attempted to fill in the storytelling gaps.  I will say that this episode blew away anything I could have imagined the Clone Wars being, it was incredible.  This is not only one of my favorite The Clone Wars episodes ever, but it is one of my favorite episodes of any television series ever. 

Direct Link to Watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Carnage of Krell (4.10)

Next Time on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Kidnapped (4.11)

After the Clone-centric Umbara arc, we return to the big three Jedi as Ahsoka, Anakin, and Obi-Wan deal with slavery and a missing Togrutan colony. 

"Where we are going always reflects where we came from."

Zygerrian slavers are behind the sudden disappearance of an entire colony of people on the planet Kiros. As Anakin and Ahsoka rush to defuse a series of bombs planted by the slavers, Obi-Wan must fight with their imposing leader. 

SOURCES Starwars.com and Wookieepedia

Friday, November 18, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Codes

Courtesy of Star Wars Books on Facebook (Del Rey/Random House) and Electronic Arts, we are proud to give you access to some special Star Wars: The Old Republic: Beta testing codes.

How the codes work:
Instructions for key redemption:

1) Visit www.swtor.com/redeembetacode and login to your Star Wars: The Old Republic account or create a new one and opt-in to the game testing program (www.swtor.com/tester).
2) Redeem your Beta Testing Code .
3) Enter your code prior to 11:59PM CENTRAL STANDARD TIME on Friday, 11/18/2011.
4) You will receive an invite with your gameplay dates at a later time. Invites will be sent to the email address associated with your Star Wars: The Old Republic account. Please add the email address no-reply@bioware.swtor.com to your 'safe senders' list in your email client to ensure delivery.


Lightsaber Rattling's Codes:

APEK-5VGE-3SKT-ZQDS
2RUB-ME7J-Z9PY-FYVF
7KDC-TCFH-2ANL-ZLMQ
BCLZ-KVA2-3UCR-FY2J
GWTL-M97Q-PG3K-23SA

Thanks to Erich for providing us with this and may the Force be with you.

Editor's note: This was posted via my iPhone it will be updated later today.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Who will die in The Clone Wars: Carnage of Krell?

Place your bets now, who lives and who dies in this Friday's episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Episode 4.10 Carnage of Krell.  

Fives:  Nearly got impaled by Krell's lightsaber in the first episode of the arc, Fives has been spoiling for a fight with Krell for the past two episodes and got caught red handed following his rogue mission.  Odds Fives survives: 50% chance he dies. 

Jesse:  Along with Hardcase, Jesse became one of Fives merry band of mutineers.  While Jesse is a recurring clone character, he isn't as well developed or to be frank, interesting as Fives.  If one of the two court-martialed clones has to die, I think Jesse gets the blaster bolt. 75% chance he dies.

Rex:  To quote Walt Wittman, "O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;" the 501st Legions trip to Umbara has certainly been a fearful trip from Hades.  Will Rex make it off the planet alive?  Yeah, I would say he will.  Only a 10% chance he dies. 

Krell:  A General who is repeatedly ordering his troops into apparently hopeless battles and treating them like chattel instead of men.  Instead of rewarding two Clones who risked their lives and turned the tide on the battle on Umbara, Krell is planning to execute Fives and Jesse.  Combine this with the fact that Krell may have fallen to the Dark Side and become a Dark Jedi, and Rex is going to have to stand up to the General and I have a feeling that we won't be seeing Krell in future episodes.  Chances Krell dies, 90%


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lucasfilm, Del Rey & Dark Horse Plotting the Future of the Star Wars Expanded Universe


Unfortunately the Rebel Alliance (i.e. Star Wars Fans) has been unable to steal the secret data tapes that recorded the recent major pow wow at Lucasfilm's San Francisco Presidio Headquarters.

Creative teams from licensees Del Rey publishing and Dark Horse Comics were in attendance to meet with Lucasfilm's new Senior Editor for Star Wars Fiction, Jennifer Heddle and the rest of the Lucasfilm team.

Representing Dark Horse Comics were Editor Randy Stradley, Editor Dave Marshall, and  Vice President of Marketing Micha Hershman.  Representing Del Rey were Director of Publishing and Creative Development Keith Clayton, Licensing Editor Frank Parisi, and Editor-at-Large Shelly Shapiro.

Randy Stradley (left), Dave Marshall (right)
I have a feeling that with all the cool memorabilia and art work at Lucasfilm's office, I would be to distracted to focus on the job at hand, but clearly the men and women at these meetings have much better self control then I have.

No hints of what to come has come from this top secret conclave.  Hopefully the inclusion of the two major publishing licensee speaks well to continued and further integration between the two lines.  It would be pretty cool to see novels using characters from Dark Horse Comics.  A Star Wars Legacy Comic era novel?  A Zane Carrick novel based on the success of John Jackson Miller's Knight Errant novel and comic series, seems like an idea.  A Lost Tribe of the Sith comic series seems like something that would appeal to comic fans and Sith fans alike.  It will be interesting to see how events unfold.  One fairly obvious story that will be told is the marriage of Jag Fel to Jaina Solo.  Will we get that story in the forthcoming Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse book by Troy Denning?  Will we get that story in a comic like Mike Stackpole's Union.  The great thing about the multitude of characters and story lines that are in the Expanded Universe is that there is plenty of fertile ground for storytelling.
Keith Clayton, Frank Parisi, Shelly Shaprio (Left to Right)

If I was in attendance at this meeting one thing I would push for would be for Dark Horse Comics to do a series focused on ARC Troopers and/or Republic Commandos.  You could even set a Republic Commando series to take place after the events of the Imperial Commando: 501st novel and give some resolution to that story line to fans of the Karen Traviss series of novels.  The popularity of Clones and Commandos is at an all-time high with the success of The Clone Wars television series, the time is right to capitalize on this.

There was plenty of nerdy brain power at this conference to come up with some great new story ideas and I for one can't wait to hear about what the future holds for the Star Wars Expanded Universe.


SOURCES: Star Wars Books on Facebook, Dark Horse Comics 

What Star Wars stuff is currently available at Target?

An update from a San Diego Target store.  Some pretty full Star Wars pegs, some good sale prices and lots of vintage packaging.  Below is a brief visual tour of what was available at my local Target.  What are you finding in your area?

Cloud Car Pilot, B-Wing Pilot and vintage packaging galore. 

Vintage packaged Landspeeder

Clone Wars figures and Ultimate FX Lightsabers on Sale! 

I had to restrain myself from buying all the Tauntauns

S3 Hevy, go Domino Squad.

2 Yodas, a Vader, R2, Rex and assorted mini-ornaments.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Battle Meditation Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Plan of Dissent (4.09)

Hardcase. Nu kyr'adyc, shi taab'echaaj'la
Who would have thought four episodes of Dee Bradley Baker basically talking to himself would have been some of the best episodes of the series?  Take a bow Mr. Baker, well done.

"The ignorant man follows, the wise man leads."

After the Republic conquers an Umbaran airbase, General Krell orders Rex and his men on towards the heavily fortified capital. Realizing there's a better plan, several clone troopers disobey orders to carry out a rogue, covert operation.
For all their cool technology, the Umbarans are really nothing more then an elaborate plot device to tell the story of what is occurring behind the Republic lines.  It is really interesting to see factions form within the Republic Ranks as the actions of General Krell forces Clones to make tough choices and fight against what all of their flash learning and training tells them is the right thing to do.

I love the fact that not only are we getting the Clones opposing Krell's orders, but we are having divisions within the ranks of the Clones.  The skill of the writers and the voice acting of Dee Bradley Baker, provides us with an entire spectrum of Clone Trooper perspectives on Krell and his command.

On one extreme we have the revolutionary agitator ARC Trooper Fives and his disciples Hardcase and Jesse.  Leaning towards the rebellious camp, but attempting to preserve military discipline and structure you have Captain Rex.  In the middle you have Tup (the Tear Drop Trooper) who is part of the new batch of Clones.  He wants to side with the rebellious faction but as of this episode he seems to be too afraid to do so.  On the other extreme you have Dogma who I am just waiting for one of the other Clones to punch in the nose.  Dogma is the sort of Clone that has the critical thinking skills of a battle droid and appears to be more invested in following orders then protecting his brothers.  It makes you wonder if they changed the training of the Troopers to an extreme degree to eliminate some of the camaraderie and Mandalorian cultural identification by the Troopers in preparation for the homogenized Storm Troopers of the New Order.  To me it even seemed like the Clones sent to arrest Fives and Jesse were even walking more like Episode III Clones or Storm Troopers then the way the Clones usually move in this show.

This episode except for one brief segment was relatively light on the action as compared to the previous two episodes on Umbara.  In sacrificing some of the action scenes, the Clone Wars more then made up for it in increased character development and plot development.

 In terms of the overarching plot, we have Krell introduced, Clones initial excitement turned to doubt, then we have increasing questionable orders by Krell leading to the Clones opening expressing doubts about his leadership.  Then we have the Clones led by Rex directly disobeying an order and pursuing their own plan to capture the airbase.  After seeing that they disobeyed Krell and were both successful and got away with it without any severe punishment, it was inevitable that they would disobey Krell again at some point.  It was also clear given Krell's personality that it would not be tolerated.  The conflict that we see at the end of this weeks episode and what is previewed for next week's episode was the inevitable outcome of arraigned marriage between Krell and this group of Clones.

In Plan of Dissent, neither Fives or Dogma get a ton of development.  They are both the same characters before and after the episode.  We do get some great dialog that explores their respective views, but largely they are here to exert pressure on the characters of Rex, Jesses, Hardcase, and Tup.

Jesse and Hardcase pretty early in the episode clearly go all in with Fives and his view and contempt for General Krell.  They serve to give some support to Fives views and show to the viewer that this view is not unique to Fives and would likely spread unchecked.

Tup seems to initially side with Fives' faction when they are plotting their covert operation, but then he succumbs to the peer pressure from Dogma and is ready to accompany Dogma to rat out Five's faction when Dogma discovers they are missing in the middle of the night.

By far the star of this entire arc and this episode in particular is Captain Rex.  Rex repeatedly is confronted in this story arc by Fives, whom is trying to push Rex farther and farther out of the comfort of routine and onto the unstable ground of insubordination.  Rex throughout the episode is trying to act as the mediator between the two extreme factions within the Republic forces.  Attempting to force Krell to recognize his errors and the better alternative plans developed by the Clones.  At the same time Rex is trying to keep Fives, Jesse and Hardcase in line and prevent an outright mutiny among his troopers.

Rex isn't a perfect person, he will often vocalize his views in a way that makes him sound much closer to Dogma then to the more rebellious of the Troopers.  The key to Rex is character however, is that when push comes to shove he simply always does the right thing.  When confronted early in the Clone Wars with a deserter in Cut Lawquane, Rex acknowledges that he is suppose to turn Cut in for desertion, but Rex does not allowing Cut to stay with his new family.  In this episode Rex encourages his troops to think outside the box, when Krell denies their covert op plan, Rex attempts to discourage them from acting, even telling them that if they get caught he cannot help them.  When Rex is put to the test and questioned by Krell he lies to the General attempting to cover for his three men, then when they are caught at the end of the episode he attempts to take all the blame and punishment on himself.

In the episode The Deserter, we see Cut Lawquane find love, marry a Twi'lek and act as a father to her two children.  Cut's action makes sense both as a human being and as a Clone.  The Clones were trained in small units and groups, in effect raised like brothers.  At the loss of all of his brothers, Cut was lost and fled.  The natural human longing to find attachment and belonging is universal and is no different to characters that are naturally born or grown in tanks.  While Cut found belonging in a more nuclear family, I believe Rex has formed the same sort of emotional bond with the Troopers underneath him within the 501st Legion.  Rex feels every loss from his ranks, Rex recognizes the sacrifice that is required with every order that he gives that puts his troops in danger.  Rex cares about his brothers in a way that no Jedi can, not even those who are much better men and women then General Krell.


What action will be forced upon Rex in Carnage of Krell?  Just how far will Rex go to protect his men?  I have a feeling we are going to see a showdown of epic proportions next week.

On a lighter note, there were three really cool scenes that were throwbacks to the Star Wars saga of films.  We had a very obvious scene that parallelled Han Solo's Detention Level comm call, with Fives playing the role of Han Solo.  It is a great scene in A New Hope and I really enjoyed seeing the Clones in that role.

While the Clones were launching their stolen Umbaran Starfighter attack on the Separatist supply ship, Fives tells Jesse and Hardcase how General Skywalker had recounted how to attack such a ship.  Apparently Anakin told Fives the story from his childhood and his role in the Battle of Naboo, flying into the hanger of the Droid control ship and destroying the main reactor.  This is an awesome bit of story.  I can just picture Anakin sitting around a campfire with his Clones and sharing old war stories with them.  It also shows the respect that Fives has for Anakin, adopting General Skywalker's actions that had previously proven effective in formulating his plan.

The action scene that we did get in this episode was kriffing awesome!  We had a full scale space battle going on between Republic and Separatist forces.  Droid Tri-fighters, ARC-170s, Z-85s, Umbaran Starfighters, etc.  There was so much going on it was very evocative of the Battle of Coruscant in Episode III.  The way the three Clones entered the battle, breaking through the atmosphere to stumble into the pitched battle was also similar to how Anakin and Obi-wan flew from what appeared to be relative quiet space on one side of a ship only to find a enormous space battle on the other side of the ship.  A nice moment of surprise for the audience.

Which side will the Troopers of the 501st Legion choose to be on when push comes to shove in Episode 4.10 Carnage of Krell?  Will they line up behind the General and his order to execute Five and Jesse?  Or will they protect their own and remove General Krell from his command?
Factions are being formed...Choose wisely

Rating: Plan of Dissent was one of the more dialogue heavy episodes you will see on the Clone Wars, but between the writing and Dee Bradley Baker's acting this is one episode that will be watched by this Star Wars fans many many times.  Plan of Dissent gets a 9.0.

Direct Link to Watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Plan of Dissent (4.09)


Next Time on Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Carnage of Krell (4.10)

"Our actions define our legacy."

With two of his men facing execution for disobeying orders, Captain Rex must confront his overly aggressive commander, General Krell. Risking charges of mutiny, Rex must make a dark choice as the true face of the enemy emerges. 

I have a feeling I know how events are going to unfold in next weeks episode.  You will notice that General Krell has set up shop in the Umbaran Air Base's control tower.  Rewinding the tape Spaceballs style, we take a look at the Season Four Trailer posted on Starwars.com and two images from that trailer.  The full trailer can be seen HERE.
Notice that Krell is jumping from the Umbaran Air Base's control tower, you can see the transparisteel shattering around him.

As Krell lands you can see debris from the control tower raining down on him.

My bet is that the episode will play out something like this.  Rex attempts to negotiate with Krell and get him to halt the execution of Fives and Jesse.  Krell will of course refuse Rex's attempts.  Rex assembles the firing squad for execution duty, but cannot follow through on the orders and stops the execution at the last moment.  Rex  then gives an impassioned speech to his troops and makes the decision that he must remove Krell from command. Due to Umbaran jamming, Rex will not be able to communicate with General Kenobi (theoretically senior commander in theater) so he is forced to take matters into his own hands.  Rex goes to the control tower and attempts to arrest Krell with a group of Clones.  Krell takes exception to this arrest, but is out numbered so he lops off a few Clone heads (Dogma included) and jumps out the control tower's window to escape.  Where the episode goes from there I do not know.  You could have Krell flee off planet to "survive" this story arc and possibly be reused down the road  as a non-Sith, but Dark Jedi character in the series.  You could have the Clones hunt down and kill or arrest Krell.  Or I could be way off and Krell is simply jumping out the window because the turbolift is broken...

Tune in next Friday to see how close to the mark I am on this wild speculation. 

SOURCES: Starwars.com and Wookieepedia

Friday, November 11, 2011

WWCLD: What would Cut Lawquane do?

Are you a Clone Trooper frustrated by incompetent Jedi leadership? Do you want more out of life then simply sacrificing yourself to the Grand Army of the Republic meat grinder?  Are you seeking your own place in the universe.  Well Trooper, do I have the solution for you.  Just ask yourself one simple questions...

WWCLD: What would Cut Lawquane do?

Image Source: Starwars.com

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Episode 4.10 "Kidnapped" Brief Description


The tenth episode of Season Four will be the first episode of the three part Slaves of the Republic story arc.

The arc will feature the story of Anakin, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan investigating a missing Togrutan colony which has been taken and sold into slavery. 

TV Guide has a brief description of the first episode up now.


Episode Detail: Kidnapped - Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Anakin and Ahsoka investigate the disappearance of a colony and stumble upon a major secret that has a personal effect on Anakin.

SOURCE: TVGuide.com

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Clone Wars: Slaves of the Republic arc Visual Preview

I just finished reading Dark Horse Comic's Slaves of the Republic TPB and there are some panels that looked pretty familiar to me from the Season Four Trailer that was released prior to the beginning of this season's The Clone Wars.

The following images are some selected shots from both TCW Trailer and the Slaves of the Republic comic to show a comparison between the two interpretations of Henry Gilroy's story.  The comic first appeared in 2008, so in adapting the story to fit later in TCW timeline there will be some inconsistencies I am sure.  It is interesting to see just from this brief clip, that they seem to be staying pretty close to the source material.


Speederbike Battle Royal on Kiros: 





Obi-Wan explaining Anakin's personal history as a slave to Ahsoka:


Arrival on Zygerria:


Zygerrian Slave Market:


Dooku confers with Palpatine: 



Anakin and the Zygerrian Slaver Queen:



Captain Rex doesn't like being a slave:














Stay tuned to Lightsaber Rattling and The Star Wars Report for more Clone Wars coverage as we get closer to the next big story arc on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

SOURCES: Starwars.com and Dark Horse Comics
There was an error in this gadget