About the Author:
As well as being a writer, W. Haden Blackman has also worked as a games producer for LucasArts.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures - Volume 1
(Art by Ben Caldwell and the Fillbach Brothers)
22 BBY. Three short stories told in the dynamic and action-intensive style of the original Clone Wars animated series (which you should watch, by the way!).
I was surprised to discover that, despite its cartoony nature, I really liked the visual look of these stories. They manage to cut away the unnecesary details, whittling the artwork down to pure storytelling. 'Heavy Metal Jedi' is quite funny and 'Fierce Currents' carries on directly from a chapter of the cartoon, but the best offering here is 'Blind Force'. Anakin and Obi-Wan find themselves on Nivek, the Night Planet, where they are unable to see and, therefore, fight the sinister Shadowmen. However, in a nice nod to the classic films, Obi-Wan blindfolds Anakin and tells the young Skywalker to 'Stretch out with your feelings'.
A great little bit of Star Wars fun, this.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison
(Art by Agustin Alessio)
19 BBY. In the months after Episode III, Laurita Tohm graduates as an Imperial officer cadet but his life is thrown into turmoil when his colleagues unleash a coup attempt against the Emperor. Tohm finds himself going into hiding with the wounded Emperor alongside the cyborg Moff Trachta and Sith Lord Darth Vader. In the long-lost Ghost Prison they find an army of deadly convicts with whom to attempt to defeat the leader of the coup, General Gentis.
A great many of the graphic novels set in the Dark Times era fail to have plots significant to the larger galaxy. That's not the case here as Gentis' mutineers actually seize control of Coruscant and drive both the Emperor and Vader offworld. This means that this book really feels like its an important part of the Star Wars saga and with the inclusion of characters such as Grand Moff Tarkin and Moff Trachta (who later stages his own coup attempt in Scott Allie's 'Empire: Betrayal'), as well as new information about the Jedi Council's actions in the Clone Wars, it seems to have greater weight than many of its peers.
Alessio's artwork is fantastic and brings real depth to some of the book's most importants scenes, with the bombing of Coruscant and the Emperor unleashing his full power being my two favourite.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Darth Vader And The Lost Command
(Art by Rick Leonardi and Dan Green)
19 BBY. Not long after the events of 'Revenge of the Sith', Darth Vader is still haunted by the death of his wife and unborn child at his own hands. He is then sent on a mission to recover the son of Moff Wilhuff Tarkin during which his resolve and his connection to the dark side will be tested to the limit.
The Vader on show here is a very interesting one. We've not actually had chance to see much of the emotional fallout which Vader has to face and certainly never seen him wrestle with the guilt of having (apparently) killed Padme. It was particularly interesting to see Vader's dreams/fantasies in which Padme becomes Supreme Chancellor, Anakin becomes head of the Jedi Order and they rule the galaxy together in peace with their son.
Sadly, the new take on Vader's guilt is about the only new thing in this story. Imperial traitors, slaughtered natives, peaceful mystics; it's all stuff we've seen before and, often, done better.
However, the biggest letdown in this book is directly linked to its greatest strength. The story begins promising to reveal how Vader leaves behind Anakin's compassion; something that 'Revenge of the Sith' totally failed to do. Instead, we get a last-minute, totally unexplored turnaround almost exactly the same way that he fell to the dark side in Episode III.
A book which fails to live up to the promise of its premise. (But which did give me the chance to use that satisfying alliteration).
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Jango Fett - Open Seasons
(Art by Ramon Bachs and Raul Fernandez)
32 BBY. This book chronicles the backstory of Episode II's best character, the father of fan-favourite Boba Fett. The story is told through flashbacks as Count Dooku researches Jango's past to check his suitability to be the Prime Clone.
The book is divided into four sections, each being one of the seasons (as in the Open Seasons of the title) and each season being a clever metaphor for that period in Fett's life. It begins with 'Summer', telling of how, in fire and heat, young orphan Jango comes to be adopted by the fearsome Mandalorian warriors. 'Fall' (which is what Americans call Autumn for some reason) represents an important event in Jango's life in a literal way, as his mentor Jaster Mereel falls in battle. The Mandalorians face their darkest hour in 'Winter', when they find themselves confronted by a small army of Jedi, led by Dooku himself. Finally, 'Spring' reveals how Jango escaped from slavery, took revenge on his enemies and began his new life as a bounty hunter.
This is an excellent graphic novel that truly helps us to understand one of the best characters from the Star Wars prequels. I particularly liked 'Winter', at the beginning of which Darth Sidious asks Dooku how Jango managed to kill so many Jedi, to which Dooku replies "With his bare hands", and so he does!
I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that Bachs' cartoony art style doesn't spoil this book (as it did somewhat with 'Jedi Vs. Sith'), but instead works really well with the story.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
(Art by Omar Francia and Manuel Silva)
1 BBY. Rather than being a straight adaption of the computer game of the same name, this book reveals the games events from a unique perspective; that of Boba Fett.
In the game itself Fett was little more than a cameo, but here we get to see all of his behind-the-scenes activity ranging from battling the enormous gorog to discovering that cloning Starkiller is not the only secret cloning project going on on Kamino. Really, what we want from any Boba Fett story is to see him being hired by Vader and then go from place to place ruthlessly kicking ass until he gets the job done. That's exactly what we get here.
What's bad about this book is it is, understandably, tied to the deeply disappointing story in the game and therefore features the same plot holes and unresolved story as the game itself. But at least it's not mindlessly repetetive like the game.
4 out of 5
Collaborations & Anthologies:
Star Wars: Clone Wars - Last Stand On Jabiim (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars - The Best Blades (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars - When They Were Brothers (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures - Volume 2 (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures - Volume 3 (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures - Volume 4 (here)
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures - Volume 6 (here)
Star Wars: Galaxies - The Ruins Of Dantooine (here)
Star Wars: Purge (here)
Star Wars: Tales - Volume 4 (here)
Star Wars: Tales - Volume 5 (here)