About the Author:
Charles Soule is based in Brooklyn, New York and works as a writer, a musician and an attorney.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.3 out of 5
Star Wars: Darth Vader - Dark Lord Of The Sith: Imperial Machine
(Art by Guiseppe Camuncoli and Cam Smith)
Beginning where 'Revenge of the Sith' ends, this book follows Darth Vader's first days as a Sith Lord, tasked by Emperor Palpatine with finding a lightsaber for himself by taking one from a fallen Jedi.
Not to be confused with the Darth Vader series set during the Rebellion (written by Kieron Gillen), here the titular Dark Lord is still all raw edges and unresolved Anakin Skywalker angst. It's interesting to see this iconic villain finding his feet (somewhat literally) and coming to grips with not only his role as Sidious' apprentice but also his position in the new Galactic Empire. This culminates in a great scene where he's shown a possible future in which he returns to the light side, kills Palpatine and seeks out Obi-Wan for forgiveness.
It also never hurts to see a story which features Vader going toe-to-toe with a Jedi survivor. What makes it particularly compelling here is that, without a lightsaber and unused to his cyborg armour, Vader is actually initially outmatched. Although, I have to say that this story isn't sufficiently different to the old Expanded Universe comics (the Dark Times series and 'Purge') to be a standout.
On top of the main story, we're also given a brief epilogue in which Vader meets the Grand Inquisitor for the first time. Fans of this 'Rebels' villain will enjoy learning a bit more of his backstory, as well as seeing why the Inquisitors bow before the might of the Sith. Sadly though this storyline cuts off rather abruptly and, presumably, one will have to buy the next book in the series for the resolution.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Darth Vader - Dark Lord Of The Sith: Legacy's End
(Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Daniele Orlandini)
Book 2, set shortly after 'Revenge of the Sith' (novelised by Matthew Stover). Vader is tasked by the Emperor with hunting down Jedi Master Jocasta Nu, former keeper of the Jedi Archives, but is told he must capture her alive in order to retrieve a list of Force-sensitive children identified by the Jedi before Order 66.
This is fairly straightforward fare in regard to stories about Vader before the rise of the Rebellion, with him attempting to establish his position within the Imperial hierarchy whilst hunting down a fugitive Jedi. It is unusual for that Jedi to be one who actually appeared in one of the films, however, giving a bit more weight to the inevitable conclusion to the pursuit. I also liked the fact that this time around Vader is trying to capture the Jedi alive, but is unable to let any of his subordinates know why, putting him somewhat at odds with the likes of the Inquisitors.
Which leads me to one of this book's major failings; the way the Inquisitors are portrayed. Here the Inquisitors are shown as incompetent, flippant and little more than thugs. Whilst I get that the author is trying to set up a comparison between them and the true Sith Lord, it diminishes them as antagonists to the point that they're really no different than any number of Imperial officers. This is particularly disappointing in the case of the Grand Inquisitor, who is given none of the calculating menace displayed by the onscreen version shown in the 'Rebels' TV series (and brilliantly voiced by Jason 'Lucius Malfoy' Isaacs, too).
The book ends with an underwhelming final act in which bounty hunters try to kill Vader and he has to Force-choke some of those aforementioned Imperial officers in order to establish his spot in the pecking order. It's not bad, it's just something any long-term Star Wars fan will have seen many times before and feels like a big come-down from the Jedi-hunting action of the rest of the book.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin
(Art by Marco Checchetto)
Set 'a few years' into Anakin's training this book sees the impulsive Padawan chafing at the strictures of the Jedi and considering leaving the Jedi Order. He and Obi-Wan are then sent on a mission to the remote planet Carnelion IV, which has been at war for generations, in response to a mysterious call for Jedi aid.
Since Marvel reclaimed the rights to Star Wars comics they've had a strange inclination to title all of their series after the main character(s), as if they think we're too dumb or fickle to buy into a book which doesn't have a familiar name plastered all over the cover. This annoys me, but isn't entirely relevant to this review, so I'll just get on with things...
The plot of this book is one which will be new to those who've only joined Star Wars under (evil) Disney's new canon, but as a long-time fan of the old Expanded Universe, I can say that there is nothing about the 'Jedi go to a world troubled by generations of war' plot here that breaks new ground. In fact, the whole book is almost a comic book remake of a Jude Watson younger reader story, from the Jedi Apprentice series, in which all the same plot points are hit except with Obi-Wan as the youth thinking about leaving the Jedi and Qui-Gon as the mentor unsure how to deal with it.
Add to this the fact that Checchetto's artwork is occasionally so overly busy that it made my head ache to try and take in what was happening. This book would have been much better with more minimalistic artwork.
It's not all bad, of course. There's an interesting scene in which Palpatine takes Anakin for a night out, the revelation that the 'Jedi' who is remembered on Carnelion IV actually had a red lightsaber and my favourite Star Wars character, Obi-Wan Kenobi, being a total badass.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: The High Republic - Light Of The Jedi
The first novel of the multimedia High Republic publishing programme, set two centuries before The Phantom Menace. The Republic is experiencing a golden age and Chancellor Lina Soh has set in motion several Great Works, the most recent of which is the construction of Starlight Station; a hub of Republic culture in the Outer Rim. As a result, Republic ships and numerous Jedi are near at hand when a disaster threatens the destruction of an entire star system. But the Great Disaster is just the first event in a chain that will pit the Republic and the Jedi against a vicious new enemy; the Nihil.
First off, I'll say that I'm a big fan of the High Republic Era as a concept (although this is the first story of it I've read so far), steering Star Wars publishing away from the shambles that is the Sequel Trilogy, whilst also tactfully avoiding overriding any of the old Expanded Universe (AKA 'Legends') stories of the Old Republic. A whole new era of storytelling which allows for great narrative freedom, whilst still being able to include the odd familiar face (three members of the Episode I Jedi Council make brief appearances).
Unfortunately, this book tries to do too much all at once in establishing this new era and is very poorly paced as a result. Things start well, with the Great Disaster and the various Jedi and Republic forces rushing to avert an even worse calamity, but then the book grinds to a halt and more of less starts all over again. There's also too much exposition going on, with characters stopping to lay out organisational details or technical specifications that are clearly for our benefit but which feel completely forced into the narrative.
On top of that, there are simply too many new characters to get to grips with. It's not that they're bad characters but constantly being thrown between the POVs of about half a dozen new Jedi, plus several Republic figures and the leaders of the Nihil means that there's little opportunity for us, the readers, to actually engage with any of the characters in any meaningful way. Honestly, I probably couldn't even name all of the 'main' characters in this book because they're so generic and we're given so little time to get to know them.
It's certainly not a bad book and I very much look forward to finding out how the High Republic series will develop, but this isn't the perfect launch point that I'd hoped it would be.
3 out of 5