The Rise of Skywalker Novelization Review – Palpatine Edition

***I just recently finished the Rise of Skywalker novelization. Naturally, as the “Expanded Edition,” it’s intended to supplement the events of the film and hopefully fill some of those gaping plotholes. Naturally as a Star Wars geek, I’ve got opinions. Too many to fit into a single review. Thus, welcome to the first of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***

By Rob Siebert
Has a LOT of free time during quarantine.

1. After the Big Boom
The book confirms something that a lot of fans already suspected: The Palpatine we saw in The Rise of Skywalker was indeed a clone. Or rather, the real Palpatine’s consciousness in a clone’s body.

There are more than a few Darth Plagueis references in the novel, which is a nice touch. Having learned from his old master how to cheat death, the Emperor began working on his contingency plan when he sensed the conflict in Darth Vader.

Palpatine’s consciousness left his body as he fell toward the Death Star core in Return of the Jedi. It traveled “far, far away to a secret place he had been preparing.” I can only assume that secret place was Exegol. But his new body wasn’t fully prepared, and his various Sith heretics rushed to sustain him. Obviously they never fully succeeded, as he would eventually plan to take Rey’s body as his own.

I know some fans thought Palpatine’s survival essentially negated the end of Return of the Jedi. I never really got that logic. Darth Vader was redeemed, the Empire was dealt a fatal blow, and the galaxy had three decades of peace. Not a bad deal as far as I’m concerned.

2. “They turned our kids into our enemies.”
Since The Force Awakens, one concept that’s both fascinated and frustrated me is the formation of the First Order. How they came together, what they want, how they’re different from the Empire, etc.

Lando has a few lines in this book that I really wish they’d put in the movie. During the scene on Pasaana where he tells Rey and the others he’s not coming back with them, he says…

“First Order went after us – the leaders from the old wars. They took our kids. … My girl wasn’t even old enough to walk. Far as I know, she’s a stormtrooper now. … They turned our kids into our enemies. My girl. Han and Leia’s son, Ben. To kill the spirit of the Rebellion for good.”

When you take into account Palpatine was been behind the First Order from the start, and that he’s essentially the most patient villain in pop culture history, that makes all the sense in the world. What better way to not only take the galaxy back, but to exact revenge on the heroes of the Rebellion than by targeting the next generation? You turn Han and Leia’s son into your unwitting apprentice, and you get Lando’s daughter as a bonus. The movie never even indicated that Lando had a daughter…

To an extent, the whole “They took our kids” thing applies to Luke as well. Remember, all his students ended up dead. All of them.

Ultimately, Palpatine’s plan worked, didn’t it? Han and Leia’s family imploded, Luke went into exile, and Lando ran away from it all.

3. Stormtroopers and Sith Troopers
The book tells us that the Sith Troopers, a.k.a. the red stormtroopers, were pulled from the regular stormtrooper roster, and designated lost in action somehow.

While the novel never indicates this explicitly, I think putting Palpatine in charge of the First Order adds a nice little irony to the stormtroopers being taken as children and forced into training. Because, to an extent, that’s exactly what the Jedi did.

Granted, you can make that argument without Palpatine. But it’s much more poignant with him.

4. You Have One Unheard Message
The first paragraph of the opening title crawl tells us “The galaxy has heard a mysterious  broadcast, a threat of REVENGE in the sinister voice of the late EMPEROR PALPATINE.”

Gotcha. But what did he say exactly? We never hear it in the movie.

Thankfully, the book fills us in…

“At last the work of generations is complete. The great error is corrected. The day of victory is at hand. The day of revenge. The day of the Sith.”

5. More From Dark Empire
While I’m about to talk about this book yet again in relation to The Rise of Skywalker, it must be said that Dark Empire is one of the most atrociously colored books I’ve ever seen. Obviously it was a style choice. But hindsight being 20/20, a different choice would have been better.

This isn’t so much about the novelization as the story itself. In Dark Empire, Palpatine comes back in a clone body and has a fleet of “World Devastators” at his disposal. In the end, he’s defeated by Luke and Leia as they draw strength from words spoken by Yoda as he trained Luke.

Would Star Destroyers with attached Death Star lasers count as “World Devastators?” Asking for a friend…

I’m not trying to make any sort of salacious allusions here. I just find it amazing how prophetic this story from 1995 would turn out to be in terms of a movie that would come out 25 years later. And feature a much older Luke and Leia.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Imperial Machine Review – Year One, Day One

TITLE: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine
AUTHOR: 
Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Giuseppe Camuncoli. Cover by Jim Cheung and Matthew Wilson.
COLLECTS: Darth Vader #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: 
November 22, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can we talk about the lightsaber for a minute? Because to be honest, I’m getting sick of them. Specifically, their overblown importance.

I’ve talked previously about how I subscribe to what I’ll call the Red Letter Media theory on lightsaber use. Generally, the less we see of them, the more impactful it is when someone finally ignites one. This becomes apparent when watching the prequel trilogy. But in recent years, lightsabers have been getting a strange in-universe reverence. Not just as cool or dangerous weapons, but artifacts with an increasing amount of personal and spiritual symbolism. They’re almost characters unto themselves. I understand this from a marketing standpoint, as a lightsaber is a fanboy’s wet dream. But to me it makes little sense from an in-story perspective.

Mind you, there is a certain precedent for it. Lightsabers act as an instantly recognizable symbol for the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, which later plays a prominent role in The Force Awakens. Luke builds his own lightsaber, which we see in Return of the Jedi. General Grievous collected lightsabers like trophies from fallen Jedi. So let’s not go so far as to say they have no significance at all.

But while I appreciated the use of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens as a link to the past, and a sort of symbol of for the Skywalker family, the notion that the weapon itself “calls to” Rey was a little much for me. What the weapon symbolizes is one thing. Giving it special powers is another.

Rarely will you find a better example of this strange lightsaber reverence than in Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine. Immediately after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine sends Vader on a mission to obtain a new lightsaber for himself. “I have very high hopes for what we might achieve together,” the Emperor says. “But first…you will need your lightsaber.” Vader must take a lightsaber from a surviving Jedi and use the dark side to corrupt the kyber crystal inside. Make it “bleed.” Obtaining this new weapon won’t be easy. But it is the first trial the former Anakin Skywalker must now face as a dark lord of the Sith.

So because the kyber crystals are “alive” in their own way, Sith lords use their anger to make them “bleed,” thus the red lightsaber. The idea itself is actually pretty neat. But did it merit an entire story based around it? Did Darth Vader’s lightsaber really need an origin story?  I don’t think so.

This strikes me as the kind of thing they could have explained in a scene before Vader goes off on his first big mission. Or maybe a one-shot where Palpatine gives Vader a kyber crystal, and shows him how to corrupt it. At first Vader has trouble, but he conjures up images of Obi-Wan and Padme and gets the job done. It didn’t need to be the motivation for an entire story arc.

More interesting than Vader’s quest to steal a lightsaber is the surviving Jedi he’s tasked with taking it from. Kirak Infil’a has taken the “Barash Vow.” Under said vow, the individual in question must cut themselves off from Jedi affairs, living only for the Force. It sounds suspiciously like what Luke is doing when Rey finds him on Ahch-To. Kirak also has his hair pulled back in two braids, just as Rey’s is in the Last Jedi footage we’ve seen. Coincidence? Probably. But you never know…

It’s almost always interesting to see Vader’s agony at the loss of Padme, the state of his body, and all that’s come as a result of his actions. It’s a glimpse into the hellish reality his existence has become. We see surprisingly little of that in Imperial Machine, given how soon this is after Revenge of the Sith. It is touched on effectively, however, in issue #5. As Vader is trying to bend the crystal to his will, a scenario plays out in his mind in which he turns on Palpatine and re-unites with Obi-Wan. He’s fantasizing about making things right, and perhaps atoning for his actions. In theory, that’s a path he can take. But of course, he doesn’t. Not yet, at least.

I spent a good amount of time ragging on Salvador Larroca for some of the work he did on the previous Darth Vader book. Namely drawing certain characters based off still shots from the various movies. The upside to this approach, however, is that Larroca draws a picture-perfect Vader. For me, if you can get that mask right then half the battle is won.

Giuseppe Camuncoli gives us a different kind of Darth Vader. It’s hardly picture-perfect. For instance, I’m not a fan of the panel at left. But I nevertheless find Camuncoli’s version more artistically pure. He’s creating of his own mind, and at no point do I feel taken out of this book when I see a familiar image of Vader or Palpatine, pulled from a movie still. That’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Camuncoli, along with inker Cam Smith and colorist David Curiel, waste little time in ripping up Vader’s iconic suit. It’s already in tatters by issue #2. Things only get worse when we get into the fight with Kirak Infil’a. We end up with a partially skeletonized version of Vader’s suit, which he pieces together using droid parts after being incapacitated and effectively broken in combat. In the opening pages of issue #4 we see him using the Force to put all the little pieces into place so he can haul himself to his feet. It’s an awesome visual, and a fun callback to Anakin’s expertise with machines. It’s later followed up on in issue #6, when Vader gets to repair the suit to his liking.

Issue #6 takes us into the next arc, which will feature the Inquisitors we saw in Star Wars: Rebels. We get a confrontation between Vader and the Grand Inquisitor in the Jedi Temple, which is pretty decent. Fittingly, Vader’s next target will be someone Star Wars fans recognize as a face from the Jedi Temple…

I maintain there was no need to end the previous Darth Vader book. We all knew Marvel would come back to the character eventually. There’s no shortage of creators to work on the life and times of the dark lord. While I have a major gripe with a lightsaber being Vader’s motivation in this story, Imperial Machine is still a solid read with mostly good art. Star Wars fans who aren’t as finicky as I am will enjoy it.

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