Tag Archives: Star Wars Beyond the Films

Star Wars: Smuggler’s Run – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka (hardback, 2015)

On Force Friday, amid a massive Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing blitz, several new novels hit store shelves. Often lost in the excitement (and controversy) over that day’s adult novel, Aftermath, were four junior novels (three character-focused adventures for the “Big Three” and Lost Stars).  All of these five new stories were billed as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka, billed as “A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure,” features Han and Chewie on a mission for the Rebel Alliance (well, a “job” for the Rebels) shortly after A New Hope to rescue Rebel agent Caluan Ematt, who holds information on all of the Rebels’ potential new bases in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin.

The adventure brings the duo into contact with Imperial Security Bureau Commander Alecia Beck (whom Rucka later also references in his comic mini-series Star Wars: Shattered Empire), an interesting starship-turned-cantina under the ownership of a woman who is an acquaintance of Han and Chewie, and the leader of the Alliance’s “Shrikes” – Ematt himself.

The story is a fairly straightforward chase and “race against the enemy” tale that shows off Han’s wit and introduces Ematt into Star Wars Canon (alongside Moving Target, also released on Force Friday). The extent to which Ematt will affect The Force Awakens, or if he even appears in the film, has yet to be seen, but his appearance as an important member of the Resistance in the era of The Force Awakens in the “framing” segments of Moving Targets suggests that it is his appearance in the story that gives the book its strongest (read: tenuous) link to the film.

Does the Label Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Actually Fit the Book?

Some will argue that a story set in this era is far too early to count as part of any kind of “journey to The Force Awakens.”

Barring further exploration of Ematt in the film, those people would be right.

The framing story for the tale, told in its prologue and epilogue, does indeed feature an older Han and Chewie in the era of The Force Awakens, but as we know so little about their circumstances leading into the film, one cannot readily see strong ties to the film in those passages. As noted above, the main connection one can expect with the film is the character of Ematt, but even that is just conjecture at this point.

This will be a question best revisited after the film’s release. (For the record, yes, I do intent to revisit and update all of my reviews of material from the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens line once the film is released and more context is given for characters and events from the film.)

A Chronological Note

With so many of the Stroy Group’s new canon stories already being set in the era immediately after A New Hope, it is perhaps important to note where this story fits chronologically.

Given an amusing opening of the first regular chapter that finally answers the question of Chewbacca’s medal in a canonical way, one can surmise that the story takes place during the events of Marvel’s Princess Leia mini-series (with only a tiny bit of the mini-series’ first issue taking place prior to this story’s ANH era opening). Since the story seems to span just one day, it probably ends shortly into the second issue of Princess Leia. That also means that it is set prior to Marvel’s Star Wars and Darth Vader series. (Hey, this is why we have The Star Wars Timeline Gold, isn’t it?)

The Verdict

Smuggler’s Run feels like the least necessary of the three character books released on Force Friday. It is an enjoyable romp with our favorite smuggler and walking carpet, and Ematt is an intriguing new character, but until we have greater context for how the story fits the “journey to The Force Awakens” concept, it feels like a throway story (i.e. a tale with little real impact), even in its prologue and epilogue.

It is a good book, but it is not, so far, an essential story. Perhaps The Force Awakens will surprise us and make me have to revise that assessment.

Recommended for: Those interested in a fun romp with Han and Chewbacca shortly after ANH with the menance of a new, strong female adversary in the form of Alecia Beck.

Not recommended for: Those looking for significant page time for Original Trilogy characters other than Han and Chewie, or those looking for a story that is set in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens concept seems to imply.

(Or those confusing this title with one of the first-ever Star Wars fan-made audio dramas to enter production for online release, Michael Mays’ Smuggler’s Run.)

I purchased a copy of this book on Force Friday, though Disney Lucasfilm Press later provided a copy for review.

POST-TFA EDITORIAL ADDITION

I would suggest that Han’s TFA era segment in the prologue and epilogue are almost certainly quite a few years before TFA, or he no longer has the Falcon (which does not seem to fit his dialogue in the text).

Star Wars: The Weapon of a Jedi – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry (hardback, 2015)

On Force Friday, amid a massive Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing blitz, several new novels hit store shelves. Often lost in the excitement (and controversy) over that day’s adult novel, Aftermath, were four junior novels (three character-focused adventures for the “Big Three” and Lost Stars).  All of these five new stories were billed as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry, billed as “A Luke Skywalker Adventure,” features Luke on a mission with C-3PO and R2-D2 for the Rebel Alliance in the period shortly after A New Hope. That mission is quickly derailed, sending Luke on a more personal journey to an abandoned Jedi Temple on Devaron. Along the way, he meets a young Devaronian girl named Farnay and the mysterious masked scavenger known as Sarco Plank.

The story features Luke becoming a better young Jedi, as he learns a bit more about lightsaber combat and the like at the old tempe. The novel is, in fact, touoted in Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know and elsewhere as including Luke’s first true duel with a lightsaber. (The circumstances of that duel and whom he duels are spoiler material, so I will refrain from specifying his opponent.)

In general, the story does not include many shocking twists or turns, perhaps owing to its younger intented audience, but seeing Luke undergo training that is now considered Canon on par with the films is a welcome scenario, espeically given how haphazzardly Luke seemed to learn Jedi skills in the Legends Continuity due to decades of disconnected stories that tried to fill in the 0 – 3 ABY time gap (espeically pre-1991 tales never meant to fit together that were later shoehorned into continuity).

Does the Label Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Actually Fit the Book?

Some will argue that a story set in this era is far too early to count as part of any kind of “journey to The Force Awakens.” I would agree if we are considering only the main story itself. However, one should note that the tale does introduce Sarco Plank, who will appear in The Force Awakens (albeit to an unknown extent), and also features a prologue and epilogue in which C-3PO relates the primary story of the book to pilot Jessika Pava (AKA “Blue Three”), another character from The Force Awakens. (These “framing” segments would seem to take place just before or during the film itself.)

A Chronological Note

With so many of the Stroy Group’s new canon stories already being set in the era immediately after A New Hope, especially in relation to Luke, it is perhaps important to note where this story fits chronologically.

In Heir to the Jedi, Luke has not yet heard Obi-Wan’s voice through the Force since A New Hope. He does so here, putting this story after Kevin Hearne’s novel (which also makes telekinesis available to Luke in The Weapon of a Jedi).

With this being Luke’s first combat with a lightsaber, it also puts The Weapon of a Jedi prior to the events in the first Marvel Star Wars storyline, Skywalker Strikes.

In short: Heir to the Jedi then The Weapon of a Jedi then Skywalker Strikes.

The Verdict

The Weapon of a Jedi is another important step in Luke’s evolution between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The extent to which the book will impact The Force Awakens has yet to be seen and is likely negligible, but the introduction of Sarco Plank and Jessika Pava should bring a smile to moviegoers’ faces when seeing characters they now “know” on the big screen.

Recommended for: Those curious about Luke’s evolution between ANH and ESB, or those interseted in what are likely background characters for The Force Awakens.

Not recommended for: Those looking for significant page time for Original Trilogy characters other than Luke, or those hunting a story that is set in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens concept seems to imply.

I purchased a copy of this book on Force Friday, though Disney Lucasfilm Press later provided a copy for review.

As an additional disclaimer, I have previously worked with Jason Fry on elements of Star Wars: The Essential Atlas and consider him a friend, though not a close one. That affiliation had no impact on the content of this review.

POST-TFA EDITORIAL ADDITION

I would suggest that Jessika Pava’s TFA era segment in the prologue and epilogue are almost certainly set during TFA, rather than shortly before the film. Unfortunately, Sarco Plank is relegated to a background character in a “blink and you’ll miss him” role, making the focus on him as a link to TFA tenuous at best.

Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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The Perfect Weapon by Delilah S. Dawson (ebook, 2015)

Relased with little fanfare and no physical form, The Perfect Weapon, Delilah S. Dawson’s ebook entry into the recent Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens product line, is rather easy to miss. The question this raises is whether those who missed it should indeed seek it out.

The story features bounty hunter Bazine Netal, a character seen lounging in early EW The Force Awakens images as the woman in silver and black, complete with black lipstick and fingertips. (No, not fingernails. Fingertips.)  The extent to which she will play a significant role in The Force Awakens is currently unknown. She could be extremely significant or just another background character like so many of the denizens of Chalmun’s Cantina (yes, Chalmun owns it in Canon, thanks to The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy) that were fleshed out extensively in the Legends Continuity.

The Perfect Weapon sees Bazine take a mission from a mysterious employer (complete with Mission: Impossible style exploding mission delivery). She and a student of her former teacher (Orri Tenro and Delphi Kloda, respectively) are in a race against a competitor to recover a sealed metal case that was known to have been in the possession of former stormtrooper Jor Tribulus. The mission takes them to a bustling city, into an insectoid alien hive, and into direct confrontation with a (somewhat) unexpected rival.

The story is pretty straightforward, hitting the expected beats (including the identity of her rival), but the primary focus for most readers is in learning more about this new The Force Awakens character, In that sense, the story succeeds in giving us enough background to get a feel for the character without going into so much depth as to feel heavy-handed.

I would imagine that we will have a better sense of how important (or not) the story is in the grand scheme of the Story Group’s canon once TFA hits theaters later this month. For now, I am pretty sure I know what is in the story’s McGuffin (the case), but if I’m right, I’d prefer not to spoil it for fellow fans.

The Verdict

The Perfect Weapon is a solid introduction to a new character whose overall importance to The Force Awakens is not yet known. Unlike so many of the stories marketed as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, though, this story does indeed feel like it is part of that journey by being set closer to the film (albeit at an unspecified date) and potentially having a direct impact on the film’s story (depending on what is in the case). For $1.99, it is well worth checking out.

Recommended for: Those who are curioius about new characters appearing in The Force Awakens in the same way we had curiosity about the patrons in Mos Eisley or Jabba’s Palace.

Not recommended for: Those looking for epic conflict or numerous twists and turns. This is a short fiction piece, after all.

A NetGalley digital review copy was provided for this review, but I did also purchase a copy on my Nook.

POST-TFA EDITORIAL ADDITION

It is interesting that Bazine actually has a brief speaking role in the film, rather than being an unspeaking background character like so many others. That said, Maz’s comment in the film about having the item in the case (which was what I had thought it was) for “ages” would suggest that this story takes place quite a while before TFA, rather than shortly before the film as originally believed.

Feedback: The Glass is Half Full – SWBTF #188

New Marketing floods, New Sith Wars, Voices in our heads, and are there any Legends stories worth salvaging still? All this and so much more! All on the next Star Wars Beyond the Films. YOUR Star Wars discussion podcast! YOUR Podcast of Legends! YOUR ticket to that Galaxy far, far away! Beyond the Films lies your Fandom!


This week true believers, Beyonders, Fanboys, Fangirls, respected aliens around the galaxy, The Champion of the Multiverse; Mark Hurliman, and your Count of Continuities; Nathan P. Butler sit down to discuss your feedback! So strap in and tighten your crash webbing Fandom, Star Wars Beyond the Films is setting off on another rapid-fire trip into the galaxy far, far away!

This episode your hosts discuss topics from the following Beyonders: Continue reading

Star Wars: Battlefront Companion App – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


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Battlefront Companion App Career Menu

A Companion and a Game

I recently reviewed the new Battlefront video game from EA and DICE. Due to its length, I chose to keep one releated item for a separate review: the Battlefront Companion App. As has been the case with a growing number of AAA video games on current consoles, EA has released an app to tie into Battlefront that not only assists in managing your career in the game but also has a built-in game of its own, Battlefront: Base Command.

The app’s home screen features the latest official Battlefront news from EA. A Friends Menu helps you keep track of which friends on your gaming network are online or offline and, if online, whether they are playing Battlefront. (You can even allow the app to send you notifications any time someone on your friends list signs on to play Battlefront.) The main thrust of the app, though, is found in the Career and Base Command sections.

The Career section allows you to track your current credits, items related to stats and progression (such as how many diorama pieces you have unlocked, what your kill/death ratio is at the moment, etc.), and allows you to view your Star Cards, Blasters, and Appearance options from the normal game’s “Collect” menu. You can change your equipped items and spend credits on available items, just like in the regular game. In this sense, it works as a decent (though somewhat redundant) management system.

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Battleftont: Base Command pre-siege loading screen

The built-in game, Base Command, is where the app really shines. It is a digital combination of a card game and miniatures game. You take the role of the Rebel Alliance. At the center of a set of concentric rings is a Rebel base (with a big ol’ cannon) that is under siege by Imperials, represented by various miniatures that appear at the outer ring and work their way toward the center, turn by turn. Your goal is to wipe out all of the Imperials before they can bring your base’s “health” to zero.

To to this, you draw upon two decks of Star Cards, built by unlocking Star Cards both in the main game and in the app itself. Each turn, you draw three cards that act as support, doing things like dealing damage to all enemies in a particular quadrant of the “board” or rebuilding the health of your base. You also draw three cards to represent Rebel units to attack the Imperials like snowspeeders, X-wings, infantry troopers, and the like. Different cards (and different Imperial enemies) have various perks that alter how they play in relation to other units. This is a turn-based game, though, so while the constant march of the Imperials on your base gives it a sense of tension, you can also strategize and take your time akin to playing chess.

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Base Command siege in progress: Imperial units converge on the Rebel base, while the player uses its cannon and three cards drawn from two customized sets of Star Cards to withstand the assault.

Base Command is relatively simple intiallly and grows in complexity. Eventually, you will face Battlefront‘s three villains (Boba Fett, Darth Vader, and Palpatine), Slave I, and two different power levels each of seven other Imperial units. You will use nine different Rebel units as you unlock them, including Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, the Millennium Falcon, and other more generic units. The game includes 25 regular missions, divided among 4 campaigns, then also features a Master level version of all four campaigns for a total of 50 sieges to play.

As a fan of both card games and miniature games, along with digital variants of those that track stats for you as you play, I was very pleasantly surprised by Base Command. In fact, I may one day find myself playing it more than Battlefront itself.

The Verdict

The Battlefront Companion App is a redundant management tool in relation to the Battlefront video game, but its built-in Base Command game is quite enjoyable. If only for Base Command, any fan with a compatible mobile device should pick this one up. It is free with no microtransactions involved, so why not give it a try?

Recommended for: Those who enjoy combinations of card and miniature games, looking for a fun “freebie” game.

Not recommended for: Those looking for something that substantially adds to the Battlefront experience on Playstation 4, Xbox One, or PC in the vein of something like the Destiny Companion app.

No review copy was provided for this publication. It was a standard consumer download.