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REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 8

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 8: Reunion

The Bad Batch marks the halfway point of its first season with one of the best efforts in Star Wars animation to date. Episode 8, titled Reunion, follows Clone Force 99 as Crosshair and his troopers show up on Bracca and pose the greatest threat to the Bad Batch yet.

After 8 episodes, Reunion really affirms what we’ve felt since the series’ pilot: The Bad Batch is more cinematic than anything we’ve seen from Star Wars animation yet. Although its run time hovers under 30 minutes, watching Reunion feels like you’ve sat down to watch a Star Wars movie – or at least a significant portion of a Star Wars movie.

The stakes feel higher than ever for the Bad Batch with the return of Crosshair. The former member of Clone Force 99’s allegiance to the Empire was heartbreaking and unexpected in the series’ pilot, but Crosshair has been conspicuously absent from the series’ third episode. In the meantime, we’ve seen the Bad Batch navigate life in the Imperial era and the growing bond between Omega and the other members of the ragtag team. But all this time, Crosshair’s absence has spoken volumes. Kind of like a slasher film’s villain disappearing for large stretches of the movie, we’re left thinking: when will Crosshair appear and what will happen when he reunites with his former teammates. This sense of dread was palpable in Reunion, which did not shy away from the danger posed by Crosshair nor the stakes at hand for the Bad Batch. 

The entire episode has a frantic, tense feel to it as Hunter and the others try to fight (and think) their way out of the perilous situation. With the exception of a few lovely moments at the beginning between Wrecker and Omega, the episode largely focuses on a series of suspenseful action set pieces. At times, shows like The Clone Wars or Rebels or even The Bad Batch have suffered from excessively action-centric episodes. But although Reunion marked a stark contrast from last week’s slow burn installment, the action was purposeful and brilliantly executed in this week’s episode. And the moments of ‘rest’ between action sequences proved more tense than the action itself. Hunter and Crosshair’s showdown was haunting. Crosshair seemed like a shell of the man he once was, and appeared unresponsive to Omega and Hunter’s calls for him to recognize the influence of the Inhibitor Chip.

The action came to a head with the ignition of the cruiser’s engine and how the Bad Batch turned this maneuver against their enemy. The scale of this entire sequence was incredible and added a welcomed variation on blaster and hand-to-hand combat. Crosshair’s defeat in the episode was unexpected and it was interesting to see such a powerful character reduced to a man in aid in Reunion.

Just when we think the Bad Batch are in the clear though, we’re greeted with shock and heartbreak. The shock comes with the appearance of none other than Cad Bane. The infamous bounty hunter was a highlight of The Clone Wars and it was jaw dropping to see him re-emerge in this series. It’s a testament to The Bad Batch so far that a show set in an era we know so much about manages to continually surprise us week after week. But it’s not longer after the shock and joy of seeing Cad Bane comes about that dread and heartbreak sets in. Cad Bane. Hunter and Bane’s Western stand-off was terrific and, coupled with Kevin Kiner’s superb score, felt like perhaps the most overt reference to the Western genre in Star Wars to date. The stand-off ends unexpectedly – Hunter is shot and Omega is stunned and captured by Bane. For better or worse, this really evoked Chapter 14: The Tragedy of The Mandalorian, in which Grogu is captured by the Dark Troopers despite the best efforts of his father-figure Din Djarin. The Bad Batch and The Mandalorian have closely shared a theme of found family and this reluctant father figure’s touching relationship with a child. For now, these parallels are acceptable given the emotional impact of The Bad Batch week after week, but some deviation from The Mandalorian’s core plot would be nice moving forward.

Verdict: 9/10

Reunion delivers shock, and heartbreak in abundance as The Bad Batch hits its halfway mark. Crosshair’s long-awaited return lives up to expectations and sets up a tense reunion with Clone Force 99. And just when the episode packs in some incredible action and emotion, we’re given a one-two punch with the return of Cad Bane and the capture of Omega, making it almost impossible to patiently wait until next week’s episode.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

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Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE LOOK: Star Wars Insider 203

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

The long-running Star Wars Insider continues this month with #203, and we’re happy to deliver an exclusive first look at the upcoming release. Featuring a new The High Republic story by Justina Ireland, an interview with Star Wars and Indiana Jones producer Robert Watts, a lookback at the cultural phenomenon that is The Mandalorian, and more, the new issue (hitting bookstands on June 22 in the U.S. and July 8 in the U.K.) looks to be full of interesting pieces and insights for all types of Star Wars fans. Check out the exclusive preview below!

MANDO MANIA

How secrets, storytelling and fan-pleasing moments helped make The Mandalorian an instant pop-culture phenomenon.

How the secret of Grogu helped the first live-action Star Wars series make the space-fantasy saga a cultural phenomenon yet again.

ROBERT WATTS INTERVIEW

The veteran Star Wars and Indiana Jones producer looks back on his days scouting the world for galactic locations.

Of all the distant worlds of the original Star Wars trilogy, one fact remained consistent: They each needed to be captured on film at a more down-to-Earth location. It was part of producer Robert Watts’ job to scout the real-world setting that would make for suitable doubles for the likes of Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor.

REBEL ROUSERS

From the dawn of its foundation to its triumphant victory, we profile the top ten leaders of the Rebel Alliance.

At the heart of Star Wars beats a story of good and evil. While allegiances and choices can be complicated – not all Jedi make the right decision all the time, and scoundrels and bounty hunters can make some of the best allies – the stories always come back to people who fight for justice, kindness, and freedom from fear. That’s especially evident in the story of the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire.

And that’s not all Star Wars Insider #203 has in store…

PAUL BROOKE INTERVIEW – TEARS OF A RANCOR KEEPER

The British actor reflects on his scene-stealing turn as Malakili, the tearful rancor keeper from Return of the Jedi.

It may have only been a few days’ work for actor Paul Brooke, but the bereaved rancor keeper Malakili’s brief appearance in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) remains a standout moment in the saga. Star Wars Insider caught up with Brooke to look back at his time on set shooting the memorable scene.

A GALAXY ON YOUR DOORSTEP

A guide to the Californian filming locations for the forest moon of Endor, Tatooine, and even the Death Star.

The Star Wars movies have been filmed at exotic and often remote locations all over the world, but there are some that are within easy reach of residents of mainland U. S. A. Star Wars Insider takes a trip across California to find a galaxy far, far away that’s not so very far away at all.

NEAL SCANLAN INTERVIEW – A FORCE REAWAKENED

An exclusive conversation with the award-winning Star Wars creature and special makeup effects supervisor.

Creature and special makeup effects supervisor Neal Scanlan headed up the Star Wars creature shop for all five of the movies released since 2015. Star Wars Insider spoke to him about the part his team played in bringing the Skywalker saga to a close.

A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW

Star Wars expert Michael Kogge explores the best locations for Rebel Alliance and Resistance bases.

STAR WARS INSIDER #203 is on sale: US: JUNE 22, 2021 / UK: JULY 8, 2021

U.S. / CANADA SUBSCRIPTIONS

U.K. SUBSCRIPTIONS

REST OF THE WORLD SUBSCRIPTIONS

DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS

Images courtesy of Titan Comics

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 7

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 7: Battle Scars

Tensions rise, questions are answered, and inhibitor chips are activated in the newest episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The series’ seventh episode, Battle Scars, sees the Bad Batch join forces with Captain Rex as they seek out a way to deactivate the ticking time bombs inside their heads before it’s too late.

A stark contrast to the action heavy sixth episode, Battle Scars is a significant improvement – adopting a more slow burn pace that allows for plenty of suspense and intimacy. This is probably the most plot heavy episode since the terrific premiere and, while Crosshair, Tarkin and others are still absent, we’re treated to what ended up being a brilliant episode from start to finish. The return of Rex, while teased in promotional footage, was great to see and confirmed some suspicions after the appearance of a mysterious figure in last week’s episode. Rex’s inclusion added yet another sense of continuity between The Bad Batch and its predecessor series The Clone Wars. We’ve seen Rex in the waning days of the Clone Wars and his journey years later as a member of the Rebellion, but seeing him during this intermediary time added a new and interesting look at the character.

Rex’s inclusion also sparked the plot of this week’s episode: arrive at a medical facility and remove the inhibitor chips. And, due to this premise, there was a palpable sense of urgency throughout Battle Scars. Wrecker’s worrying headaches have increased and his utterance of “good soldiers…” was a chilling foretelling of what’s to come. It was a welcomed change of pace from last week’s episode with the slow burn, tension-building structure of Battle Scars.

In fact, there was relatively little action in this week’s episode, but, when blasters were raised, the action was intense and frightening. The moments leading up to Wrecker’s turn felt like every Bad Batch fan’s worst nightmare. Wrecker has been so endearing and sweet in the series so far, with Dee Bradley Baker conveying gentle giant energy to perfection. And his touching bond with Omega made Wrecker’s turn all the more gut wrenching. The sequence in which Wrecker tried to eliminate his friends, including Omega, was haunting and unpredictable. Will Wrecker remain this way as Crosshair did? Will we lose another member of the Bad Batch? Wrecker’s imposing strength also added a unique angle to this sequence as the brute force that often provides us with moments of humor suddenly became an imminent threat. This entire sequence was a “hold your breath” sort of moment and was executed superbly.

Speaking of superb execution, special attention should be drawn, once again, to the incredible animation on display this week. It was great to see Bracca make an appearance after its inclusion in Resistance Reborn and, more notably, Jedi: Fallen Order. The Bad Batch has done an excellent job so far in crafting unique settings for each episode, and Battle Scars continued this tradition. The wreckage on Bracca felt grand and vast, evoking what it was like to see massive collapsed Star Destroyers on Jakku in The Force Awakens. The beautiful water animation and design of the dilapidated ship were incredible to behold.

And, as the episode drew to a close, we’re left in an interesting position moving forward in the series. Rex encourages Clone Force 99 to join him in his efforts to defeat the Empire, but Hunter and the others are unsure what path to take. This concept of finding their way and their purpose in the changing landscape of the galaxy has been a central theme in The Bad Batch so far and it’ll be interesting to see how this continues to be explored in later episodes.

Verdict: 9/10

Greatly benefitting from a slower, more methodical pacing, Battle Scars tackles some important plot points in thrilling and chilling fashion. Tensions were high in an episode that saw Wrecker’s inevitable turn, and were beautifully balanced by touching moments of intimacy among the crew.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

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Star Wars Holocron

Breaking Down The Star Wars Production News

By @HolocronJosh for @sw_holocron

Collider recently reported a series of updates on several upcoming Star Wars series on Disney+, including the highly anticipated The Mandalorian Season 3.

According to Collider, the new season of the Pedro Pascal led series won’t begin filming until late 2021 or early 2022, alluding to a probable fall 2022 release date. This would keep the show in the fall slot on the calendar, and it would debut roughly two years after season 2. This would give the show a consistency in its release date that Lucasfilm and Disney have reportedly been keen on recently. Given all of the other Star Wars shows in active development for the streaming service, there’s definitely enough content to keep fans happy until then.

One of these other series is The Book of Boba Fett, which was teased (and announced) in a post credits scene attached to the finale of The Mandalorian season 2. This series recently wrapped production last month, as Ming Na Wen’s social media posts revealed, and is still on track for a December 2021 release.

Fett and his accomplice, Fennec Shand, are set to be the two leads of the series, but there are more appearances of characters from The Mandalorian yet to be revealed, according to Collider. While they don’t state who these characters are, speculation suggests that Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth could make a return, among others. This would make sense given his history with Boba’s armor and his residence on Tatooine.

Interestingly, Collider also described The Book of Boba Fett as “The Mandalorian Season 2.5”, further emphasizing the connection between the two series that will seemingly be furthered by these mystery character appearances. Given Kathleen Kennedy’s comments about a culmination event to come from all of these series, it definitely seems like they’re building a mini interconnected universe of sorts, so Collider’s report does seem to make sense based on what fans have heard.

Finally, Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is currently filming, is said to continue to be in production for several more months, which could be a reason for the delay of filming of The Mandalorian, which shoots on the same sound stage and the now famous Volume technology.

Source: Collider

Images courtesy of Disney and Lucasfilm

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 6

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

Action, action, and more action. That was the focus of The Bad Batch’s sixth episode, an episode light on characterization, but rich in tension and intrigue. Decommissioned sees Clone Force 99 continue their work with Cid by traveling to Corellia to claim a soon-to-be destroyed tactical droid.

As The Bad Batch progresses, it seems to have settled into a comfortable structure moving into its sixth episode. The initial episodes highlighted how the Clones navigated the immediate aftermath of the rise of the Empire, including their frantic attempts to escape, rescue Omega, and hide. With the continued inclusion of Cid (voiced by the wonderful Rhea Perlman), The Bad Batch is slowly building out their array of side characters as its animated predecessors did beforehand. And, in doing so, as the crew settles down so do the audience.

With this structure, the adventure of the week is an interesting premise: go to Corellia and retrieve the Separatist tactical droid. This premise works on a number of levels. For starters, we get to see Corellia again. The planet beautifully came to life in Solo: A Star Wars Story and it’s always great to see interesting locations like this be revisited in other projects. The retrieval of the tactical droid is also a point of interest in that writer Amanda Rose Muñoz and director Nathaniel Villanueva find a way to intelligently explore the ins and outs of the galaxy in such a transitional and tumultuous time. This is something the entire series has excelled with so far and it adds a feeling that this galaxy is really lived in – the Empire’s takeover has consequences. In this case, we see how the Empire dealt with the remnants of the Clone Wars in melting battle droids to scrap. It’s little things like this that really make the universe feel alive.

For better or worse, Decommissioned leans heavily into action set-pieces. The vast majority of the episode consists of a sprawling action sequence between the Bad Batch, the Martez sisters, and the police droids. The factory is beautifully designed and obviously evokes scenes on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones. The return of the Martez sisters was a welcomed surprise after their run in the final season of The Clone Wars. And Omega’s practice with her new weapon offered another endearing way to showcase her growing role in the team. Eventually, however, the action does grow tiresome. So far, The Bad Batch has struck a delicate balance between intimate character moments, overarching plot, and exciting action. But it seems that this balance was somewhat off in Decommissioned.

While the episode doesn’t delve much into the father-daughter bond of Hunter and Omega, it did offer a few points of intrigue worth noting. Wrecker’s progressive deterioration continued, and the utterance of “good soldiers…” felt daunting of what’s to come. It would be heartbreaking to see him turn the same way Crosshair did. We are also still left wondering who hired Fennec Shand to hunt after Omega, although it’s likely the Kaminoans are up to something. And, finally, who are the Martez sisters communicating with at the end of the episode? Although Ahsoka seems like the logical choice, she seems a bit too obvious for this reveal. Could it be Bail Organa? Or another rebel? The person was referred to by “he” (I think?). Regardless, this offered an unexpected mystery heading into future episodes.

Verdict: 7/10

Star Wars: The Bad Batch continued in fine form with an exciting and intriguing sixth episode. Although action set-pieces take up too much of the episode, Decommissioned offers plenty of cool throwbacks, locations, character moments, and surprises to make us eagerly anticipate what Clone Force 99 will be up to next.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

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What’s New in Star Wars – June 2021

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

From new adventures in the High Republic, to more of the Bad Batch, to the start of the War of the Bounty Hunters crossover event, June looks to be a thrilling month for Star Wars fans. It is important to note all of these release dates are subject to change. Below includes a list and description of upcoming Star Wars projects in the month of June:

June 1 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

After several delays, celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back with this upcoming collector’s edition from Titan Comics. You can check out an exclusive preview of the book here, featuring some cool behind the scenes stories and production stills of one of the film’s most iconic moments. The publisher’s summary for the book is as follows: “Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, the fan-favorite Star Wars movie, with this deluxe special edition dedicated to the making of the iconic film. Inside its pages is an in-depth look at how George Lucas expanded the saga with new environments such as Hoth and Cloud City, and new characters like Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, and Yoda. It also includes comments from the cast and crew involved in the making of the film, including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. See how scenes such as the Rebels battle against the AT-ATs were created and learn more about how Luke Skywalker’s battle against Darth Vader was filmed in a must-have item for every Star Wars fans collection!”

June 2 – War of the Bounty Hunters 1

The highly anticipated War of the Bounty Hunters finally kicks off this month after a few interesting appetizers in May. The crossover event looks to be one of the most ambitious projects in Star Wars comics to date and will fill in a cool gap in canon regarding how Han ended up at Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. The publisher’s summary for the first issue, written by Charles Soule, is as follows: “AT WAR FOR THE GREATEST PRIZE OF ALL: HAN SOLO! THE HUNT BEGINS! Nobody. Steals. From BOBA FETT! The notorious bounty hunter will not stop until he gets what’s rightfully his. For the thief, no corner of the galaxy is safe. Good thing for them that the REBEL ALLIANCE, THE EMPIRE and every bounty hunter in the galaxy is standing in Boba’s way. With a last-page reveal that will blow this Death Star–sized story wide open, Issue #1 is just the beginning. The biggest crossover in STAR WARS history will continue raging through the pages of the WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS event miniseries and tie-in to STAR WARS, DOCTOR APHRA, DARTH VADER and BOUNTY HUNTERS through October. Only one hunter will be left standing, and the STAR WARS galaxy will never be the same!”

June 4 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 6

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the sixth episode of the series, hitting Disney+ on June 4.

June 8 – Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol 2 — Target Valance

Marvel Comics’ 2020 series Star Wars; Bounty Hunters is compiled in this upcoming trade paperback collection. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “With precious cargo and a price on his head, Valance must turn to the one person he can trust. But the Unbroken Clan has sent a unique and deadly pair of bounty hunters after him! No one in the galaxy can escape the combined cunning of 4-LOM and Zuckuss! Wounded and on the run, Valance reunites with a long-lost love in a secret rebel base — but the deadliest bounty hunting duo in the galaxy are closing in! The pair are ready to capture their quarry, dead or alive — and they brought an army of Clone War-era Battle Droids with them! As Valance makes a desperate gambit to survive, he’ll risk the wrath of pirates in the Outer Rim…and set himself on a collision course with his old rival, Dengar!”

June 9 – Bounty Hunters 13

Ethan Sacks’ Bounty Hunters series for Marvel Comics continues with its 13th issue this month as part of the War of the Bounty Hunters crossover event. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “THE WOOKIEE ALWAYS WINS! Hot on the trail of BOBA FETT, VALANCE and DENGAR run into a rather large obstacle—the mighty CHEWBACCA! Will T’ONGA escape the trap set by a mysterious organization out to upend the underworld? And who is the figure in the shadows hunting them all?!”

June 11 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 7

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the seventh episode of the series, hitting Disney+ on June 11.

June 15 – Star Wars: Join the Rebellion!

A fun reference book for young readers about what it takes to join the Rebellion releases this month from DK Children. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Jump aboard with the Rebel Alliance and the Resistance. Find out what it takes to topple the evil Empire and the First Order…Being a rebel in the Star Wars galaxy is dangerous work! There are stormtroopers to avoid, TIE fighters to dodge, and lightsaber-wielding Sith Lords to outsmart before they learn the location of the latest secret base. Just how did these brave heroes defeat not one, but two, Death Stars? Star Wars Join the Rebellion! will answer this question and many more in an engaging and funny book for young readers. Featuring doodle-style illustrations, stills from the Star Wars movies and animated shows, and lively, humorous text, Star Wars Join the Rebellion! will enthrall even the most reluctant young reader. Learn all about the most famous rebel leaders, from Admiral Ackbar to Princess Leia. Follow them into big battles. Discover interesting facts about their ships, droids, and the missions that changed the galaxy.”

June 15 – Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

Del Rey’s The Essential Legends Collection kicks off with the first of the Darth Bane trilogy titled Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. The novel written by Drew Karpyshyn was released in 2006 initially, but will be featured in this new re-release with stunning cover art. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Now for the first time in trade paperback: A Star Wars Legends classic featuring the fearsome Sith lord Dark Bane, repackaged to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm. Once the Sith order teemed with followers. But their rivalries divided them in endless battles for supremacy. Until one dark lord at last united the Sith in the quest to enslave the galaxy-and exterminate the Jedi. Yet it would fall to another, far more powerful than the entire Brotherhood of Darkness, to ultimately realize the full potential of the Sith, and wield the awesome power of the dark side as never before. Since childhood, Dessel has known only the abuse of his hateful father and the dangerous, soul-crushing labor of a cortosis miner. Deep in the tunnels of the desolate planet Apatros, endlessly excavating the rare mineral valued throughout the galaxy, Dessel dreams of the day he can escape-a day he fears may never come. But when a high-stakes card game ends in deadly violence, Dessel suddenly finds himself a wanted man. On the run from vengeful Republic forces, Dessel vanishes into the ranks of the Sith army, and ships out to join the bloody war against the Republic and its Jedi champions. There, Dessel’s brutality, cunning, and exceptional command of the Force swiftly win him renown as a warrior. But in the eyes of his watchful masters, he is destined for a far greater role in the ultimate Sith plan for the galaxy-if he can prove himself truly worthy.”

June 15 – Heir to the Empire

The Essential Legends Collection also sees the release of Timothy Zahn’s iconic Heir to the Empire. You can check out a video where we talk about how Heir to the Empire may be the basis for the upcoming crossover event in The Mandalorian here. The publisher’s summary for the exciting new re-release is as follows: “Now for the first time in trade paperback: A Star Wars Legends classic featuring the ever-popular Thrawn, repackaged to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm. Here is the #1 New York Times bestselling novel that reignited the entire Star Wars publishing phenomenon. The biggest event in the history of Star Wars books, Heir to the Empire follows the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia after they led the Rebel Alliance to victory in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi. Five years after the Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated, the galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights. But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords—the brilliant and deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn—has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to create.”

June 15 – Shatterpoint

Matthew Stover’s classic Clone Wars novel sees new light with this re-release as part of Del Rey’s The Essential Legends Collection. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Now for the first time in trade paperback: A Star Wars Legends classic featuring Jedi Master Mace Windu, repackaged to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm. Mace Windu is a living legend: Jedi Master, senior member of the Jedi Council, skilled diplomat, devastating fighter. Some say he is the deadliest man alive. But he is a man of peace—and for the first time in a thousand years, the galaxy is at war. Now, following the momentous events climaxing in the Battle of Geonosis, Master Mace Windu must undertake a perilous homecoming to his native world—to defuse a potentially catastrophic crisis for the Republic…and to confront a terrifying mystery with dire personal consequences.”

June 15 – The Skywalker Collection: Episodes I–IX

Golden Books and Star Wars are always a great combination, and this upcoming collection looks to continue this tradition by focusing on the entire Skywalker saga from beginning to end. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “All nine films in the epic Star Wars Skywalker space saga—The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker—are retold in this Little Golden Book hardcover treasury! Featuring stunning retro illustrations, this collection of nine Little Golden Books is perfect for Star Wars fans and Little Golden Book collectors of all ages. Star Wars has captivated millions worldwide for over forty years. The phenomenon began with the 1977 theatrical debut of Star Wars, later retitled A New Hope, and has expanded to include ten additional major motion pictures (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and The Rise of Skywalker), television programming, publishing, video games, and much more.”

June 16 – Star Wars 14

The Star Wars mainline series from Charles Soule continues with this War of the Bounty Hunters tie-in. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “The REBELS finally have a lead on the location of HAN SOLO! It’s time to save the captain of the MILLENNIUM FALCON from his frozen carbonite tomb! A general, a Jedi, and a Wookiee will mount a desperate rescue mission… But they have no idea what actually awaits them.”

June 16 – The High Republic Adventures 5

IDW Publishing’s impressive The High Republic Adventures run continues with this fifth issue in the series. The publisher’s summary for Daniel José Older’s comic is as follows: “The Nihil have launched an attack on Burundang. The Republic sends Yoda and his Padawan learners, along with other Republic and Jedi ships, to try to stop them from escaping. Zeen and Lula pursue Krix, hoping for a final confrontation between the two friends. Writer Daniel José Older, bestselling author of Star Wars: Last Shot, and artist Harvey Tolibao bring IDW into The High Republic, a massive publishing crossover spanning comics and prose!”

June 18 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 8

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the eighth episode of the series, hitting Disney+ on June 18.

June 22 – Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol 2 — Into the Fire

Greg Pak’s Marvel Comics Darth Vader series is compiled here in this upcoming paperback compilation. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Darth Vader failed to turn his son, Luke Skywalker, to the dark side. Vader sought revenge against those who hid Luke from him for all these years… and in doing so nearly betrayed his master. It did not go unnoticed by Palpatine… and now it is time for Vader’s next lesson. Now, left battered and broken by his punishment, the Dark Lord drags himself across the scorched surface of Mustafar with vengeance on his mind! But as Vader closes in on the key to Palpatine’s greatest secret, the deadly assassin Ochi of Bestoon stands in his way. Vader and Ochi are in for the fight of their lives, with the fate of the Emperor in the balance — but how much of this deadly scenario is Palpatine’s grand plan?”

June 23 – Darth Vader 13

Whenever Vader is involved, we’re always interested. And this is most certainly the case with the upcoming 13th issue of Greg Pak’s incredible Darth Vader run with Marvel Comics. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “DARTH VADER and OCHI OF BESTOON embark upon a search for the carbonite-frozen body of HAN SOLO. Get ready for intrigue, betrayal and action in the heart of HUTT SPACE with the explosive reappearance of EVERYONE’S FAVORITE ASSASSIN DROID, IG-88! …And a shocking cliffhanger brings the shadows to life!””

June 23 – Star Wars Adventures 5

IDW Publishing and Katie Cook team up once again for the fifth issue of Star Wars Adventures. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Padme [sic] and Anakin have grand plans to have a romantic night celebrating a recent victory. But before they get a chance to get together, Anakin is Jedi-napped by a group of outlaws with their sights on a holocron in the Jedi temple! Now it’s up to Padme [sic] to use all of her cunning to infiltrate the outlaw base and rescue him.”

June 25 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 9

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the ninth episode of the series, hitting Disney+ on June 25.

June 29 – The High Republic: The Rising Storm

The adventures in the High Republic era continue with the highly anticipated second adult novel titled The Rising Storm by author Cavan Scott. You can check out our advanced review for the book here (thankfully it lives up to the brilliant Light of the Jedi). The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Following the dramatic events of Light of the Jedi, the heroes of the High Republic era return to face a shattered peace and a fearsome foe. In the wake of the Great Hyperspace Disaster and the heroism of the Jedi, the Republic continues to grow, bringing more worlds together under a single unified banner. Led by Chancellor Lina Soh, the spirit of unity extends throughout the galaxy, with the Jedi and newly established Starlight Beacon station at the vanguard. In celebration, the chancellor plans “The Republic Fair,” a showcase of the possibility and peace of the expanding Republic—a precept the Jedi hope to foster. Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and others join the event as ambassadors of harmony. But as the eyes of the galaxy turn toward the Fair, so too does the fury of the Nihil. Their leader, Marchion Ro, is intent on destroying this spirit of unity. His storm descends on the pageantry and celebration, sowing chaos and exacting revenge. As the Jedi struggle to curb the carnage of the rampaging Nihil, they come face to face with the true fear their enemy plans to unleash across the galaxy. The kind of fear that even the Force cannot shield them from.”

June 29 – The High Republic: Race to Crashpoint Tower

Daniel Jose Older continues to deliver some excellent stores in the High Republic, now with an exhilarating junior novel. We found the book to be a thrilling adventure that complements the events of The Rising Storm really well, as you can see in our advanced review here. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “The Republic Fair is coming! Visitors from all over the galaxy are traveling to the planet Valo for a massive, awe-inspiring festival celebrating the Republic. While his fellow Valons prepare for the fair, Jedi Padawan Ram Jomaram is hiding out in his favorite place: a dingy garage filled with mechanical parts and tools. But when a security alarm goes off on the nearby hilltop nicknamed Crashpoint Peak, he ventures out with his trusty droid V-18 to investigate. There he discovers that someone has knocked out Valo’s communications tower—a frightening sign that Valo, and the Republic Fair, are in danger. Sure enough, as Ram races to warn the Jedi, the dreaded Nihil unleash a surprise attack! It’s up to Ram to face down the enemy at Crashpoint Tower and send a call for help to the Republic. Luckily, he’s about to get some assistance from unexpected new friends…”

June 30 – Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi 2

The second issue of the Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi comic series drops this month. The publisher’s summary for this reprint is as follows: “The Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Empire’s dreaded Death Star, but the Imperial starfleet continues hunting the rebels throughout the galaxy. Luke Skywalker now seeks to support the Rebellion as an X-wing fighter. But as he flies with the pilots of the Red Squadron, Luke feels stirrings of the Force. And this farm boy turned fighter pilot begins to suspect that his destiny lies along a different path.”

June 30 – Doctor Aphra 11

Alyssa Wong’s Doctor Aphra series for Marvel comics continues in this 11th issue. And fan favorite Durge will make his long-awaited debut in canon with this issue! The publisher’s summary is as follows: “MYSTERIES ABOUND ABOARD A DURGE-ANGED SHIP! DOCTOR APHRA and SANA STARROS discover an eerie abandoned ship while on a new mission from DOMINA TAGGE. But on board they will come face-to-face with a nightmarish horror not seen in the galaxy for untold eons. And then there’s….THE FEARSOME BOUNTY HUNTER DURGE!”

For reference, a condensed list of upcoming projects in June without descriptions is included below:

June 1 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition 

June 2 – War of the Bounty Hunters 1 

June 4 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 6 

June 8 – Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol 2 — Target Valance 

June 9 – Bounty Hunters 13 

June 11 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 7 

June 15 – Star Wars: Join the Rebellion! 

June 15 – Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

June 15 – Heir to the Empire

June 15 – Shatterpoint

June 15 – The Skywalker Collection: Episodes I–IX 

June 16 – Star Wars 14 

June 16 – The High Republic Adventures 5 

June 18 –Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 8 

June 22 – Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol 2 — Into the Fire 

June 23 – Darth Vader 13 

June 23 – Star Wars Adventures 5 

June 25 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 9 

June 29 – The High Republic: The Rising Storm 

June 29 – The High Republic: Race to Crashpoint Tower

June 30 – Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi 2 

June 30 – Doctor Aphra 11 

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney, Del Rey, Marvel Comics, IDW Publishing, and Golden Books

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 5

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 5: Rampage

The Bad Batch and Omega? Ord Mantell? Zygerrians? Bib Fortuna?? An adolescent Rancor?!? The newest Star Wars series on Disney+ more than delivered once again this week with tense and unexpected delight of an episode. Rampage sees Clone Force 99 seek an old contact of the Jedi in order to discover who placed the bounty on Omega.

The Bad Batch certainly kept up the momentum from last week’s stellar episode with Rampage. The series continues with the adventure-of-the-week style seen in the last few episodes and, more broadly, in Star Wars television. This approach can yield mixed results, with more uneventful and flat episodes like episode 3 of The Bad Batch, but, fortunately, this isn’t the case with episode 5.

Rampage is anchored by a great, very straightforward premise – retrieve a child from Zygerrian slavers in exchange for information on the deadly bounty hunter on their tracks. The set-up feels distinctly Star Wars, showcasing a beautiful planet and different species interacting in a cantina-setting within its opening moments. Both during and after this set-up, Omega continues to be a highlight of the series. At this point, she’s most certainly a member of Clone Force 99. Her growing relationships with the different members of the team continues to be really endearing, as are moments like high-fiving Wrecker and playing with her new com link. It’s interesting that Omega has somewhat taken the role of Crosshair in this crew (whose reemergence in the series we’re eagerly awaiting). The Bad Batch don’t overtly mourn the loss of Crosshair to the Empire, but his absence is felt and continues to be powerful.

Cid (voiced by the wonderful Rhea Perlman) provided a unique character for the Bad Batch to interact with. She definitely evoked Amy Sedaris’ Peli Motto in a show that continues to draw upon The Mandalorian in more ways than one. The Zygerrian slavers provided formidable threats to the Bad Batch. Seeing their endorsement of slavery and the horrors they committed in The Clone Wars made them feel more imposing than the typical villain of the week. Merely the threat of Omega being captured by them is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the episode.

The real takeaways, though, will surely center around Muchi, the MacGuffin of the episode. Muchi being an adolescent Rancor was a really unexpected twist and led to a string of exciting action sequences. Who would’ve thought a Rancor could be so…cute? And, where Rancors are concerned, Jabba also comes to mind, which was confirmed with the surprising appearance of Bib Fortuna. This inclusion opens several interesting doors for the Bad Batch, especially as the crew continues to hide from the Empire and delve deeper into the underworld. 

Rampage ends on an intriguing note with Cid and Hunter’s conversation. Fennec may be new to the field, but she’s dangerous and mysterious. Who is hiring her and why? Is it the Kaminoans wanting Omega? This seems like the obvious answer, so let’s hope the twist ends up being more unpredictable than that. But either way, there’s a mystery in The Bad Batch that we’re eager to see unfold.

Verdict: 8.5/10

The Bad Batch continues it’s impressive first season with an unpredictable and action-packed installment. Omega’s relationship with her new friends continues to develop in intimate, if not nuanced, ways in Rampage. And surprises including a Rancor, Bib Fortuna, and a mystery surrounding Fennec were particular highlights.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

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Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE LOOK: The Empire Strikes Back – Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of one of the most iconic films of all time, Titan Comics will soon release a deluxe special edition book dedicated to the making of The Empire Strikes Back! The deluxe special edition offers an insightful deep dive into how George Lucas and colleagues crafted the fan-favorite Star Wars film. Filled to the brim with cool trivia facts, rare behind the scenes photos and production stills, interesting comments from the cast and crew, and more, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will be a welcomed addition to the collections of every Star Wars fan.

In anticipation of its release this June, we’re thrilled to publish an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming book highlighting the Han-Luke-Leia love triangle and the iconic “I know” scene from The Empire Strikes Back.

Right before Han, Leia, C-3PO, and Chewbacca arrive on Cloud City to have the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive repaired, the Imperials reach the mining colony with a demand. To protect the independence of his facility, and his life, Lando Calrissian has no choice but to give in. Betrayed by his old friend, whom he actually never trusted in the first place, Solo is therefore tortured in order to lure Luke Skywalker into a trap and later frozen in carbonite as a test—because Darth Vader wants to be sure that when it’s Luke’s turn, he won’t be killed. It’s the darkest moment for the rebels, but for Leia and Han it’s also the most emotional, the culmination of their love story.

THE ORIGIN –

As he stated in a 1977 story conference, George Lucas was planning to develop the romantic connection between Leia, Han, and Luke in the sequel to Star Wars: “Han would state his position, sulks off. It should be very mature in the way it works. It’s not until later that we realize that Leia doesn’t love Luke. It has got to be a real triangle with real emotions; at the same time, it has to end up with good will. Luke has gone off to learn the Force and the ongoing story continues with Leia and Han. The Empire continues to chase them. We keep them in a constant danger situation.” Looking for a traditional and effective way to set up the relationship between his heroes, Lucas thought about Gone with the Wind (1939) and initially visualized Han as Rhett Butler, Leia as Scarlett O’Hara, and Luke as Ashley Wilkes. Taking inspiration from the well-known characters played by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, all the drafts focused on the tension between the princess and the smuggler, creating an equally iconic couple. In the second draft, for example, when the two argue about Solo leaving because of his debt with Jabba the Hutt, he tells her: “They say I kiss very well. But don’t worry, I’m not going to kiss you here—you see, I’m quite selfish about my pleasures and it wouldn’t be much fun for me now.” The scene remained in the following drafts, but the line was changed to: “Afraid I was going to leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?” To which Leia replies: “I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.” In another scene featured in the second draft, Leia and Han exchange their first kiss aboard the Millennium Falcon. This scene as well made it to the final script and was shot, but not exactly as planned, due to the director’s improvisation on set: in the script, Leia moves away from Solo; in the film, it’s C-3PO who interrupts them. “I think he’s rather disconcerted throughout the film that he’s not human,” said actor Anthony Daniels (C-3PO). “He doesn’t quite understand what kissing is because if there’s one thing a robot isn’t into it’s kissing.” It’s only on Cloud City that the two really express their feelings for each other, but, once again, it was the set that established how this would happen.

THE SET –

On June, 18, 1979, Irvin Kershner, the cast, and the rest of the crew were shooting the carbon freezing chamber scene. It wasn’t the easiest set to work on. Built inside Stage 4 at the Elstree Studios, England, 12 feet above the ground, it was completely filled with steam, “which made it photographically very impressive, but physically very uncomfortable” as director of photography Peter Suschitzky described it. Besides, dozens of arc lights raised the temperature. Story-wise it was also a tense moment for Princess Leia and Chewbacca who had to watch Han being frozen in carbonite before their eyes. In Kasdan’s final draft, after one last kiss, Leia was supposed to say to Han: “I love you. I couldn’t tell you before, but it’s true.” And he was supposed to reply: “Just remember that, ’cause I’ll be back.” Kershner, though, was not sure about the dialogue and discussed it in detail with Harrison Ford (Han Solo). Helping the director explore Han’s personality, Ford came up with a different line: “Yeah, I know. Don’t worry, I’ll be back.” Then, as the conversation went on, the actor realized what his character should’ve said. As we know from a live recording of that day, Ford’s exact words were: “If she says, ‘I love you,’ and I say, ‘I know,’ it’s beautiful and it’s acceptable and it’s funny.” The change worked. As actress Carrie Fisher recalled later, the cast and crew laughed for about 15 minutes watching the dailies. “It works because they actually can make the transition from that laugh into the fact that it is something very sad.”

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition releases this June and can be pre-ordered here.

Images courtesy of Titan Comics

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: The High Republic: Race to Crashpoint Tower

by @holocronJulie for @sw_holocron

The High Republic era propels forward with Daniel José Older’s exhilarating junior novel Race to Crashpoint Tower. The novel follows Jedi Padawan Ram Jomaram as he investigates and faces a surprise attack from the Nihil at the awe-inspiring Republic Fair.

Older has been one of the flagship authors building out this era in Star Wars lore and his efforts so far have excelled. His work on The High Republic Adventures comic for IDW Publishing strikes a delicate balance between a breakneck paced array of action and more intimate, grounded character moments. And, thankfully, Race to Crashpoint Tower does just the same. Regarding the former point, Race to Crashpoint Tower is a non-stop thrill ride. The book is a quick read and affords little time to linger between its moments of intensity, which are frequent. For the most part, this approach really worked, especially for the formatting of a junior novel, and provided an interesting juxtaposition to other High Republic projects like Light of the Jedi in regards to pacing. That being said, the novel could have done with a little more breathing room on the front end to flesh out the Republic Fair before the intervention of the Nihil.

Race to Crashpoint Tower continues what is, arguably, the most appealing element of The High Republic releases so far in its really intricate depiction of different Jedi. Each Jedi in this era, including Ram in Older’s novel, feel like distinct characters with idiosyncratic interests, personalities, and connections to the Force. Race to Crashpoint Tower does not feature cookie-cutter portrayals of Jedi, but, instead, takes advantage of its medium as a novel by carefully examining and developing each character. Ram is very likable from the get-go, as is fellow Padawan Lula Talisola. They both have their own insecurities they must tackle throughout the novel and Older does a great job depicting what it’s like for these two burgeoning Jedi to face such a threat. Ram’s banter with his humorous droid V-18 is a highlight throughout the novel, and readers will surely grow to love the bond these characters share. 

Older also succeeds in some terrific worldbuilding in his novel, as emphasized the interconnectivity Race to Crashpoint Tower has with other High Republic projects. The worldbuilding that the first wave of High Republic releases accomplished is greatly expanded upon here. While those initial releases introduced us to this new era and the threats that exist, Race to Crashpoint Tower and the other wave 2 releases put their foot on the pedal and don’t look back. While this approach may make it somewhat difficult for readers to hop into Race to Crashpoint Tower without prior exposure to other High Republic projects, it feels really rewarding to see plot lines, characters, and locations introduced in other works explored here. For instance, Lula features in Older’s High Republic Adventures and Venestra Rwoh from Justina Ireland’s A Test of Courage play prominent roles in this novel and, amongst other things, add a sense of interconnectivity that Star Wars, overall, explores so brilliantly.

Verdict:

Daniel José Older’s Race to Crashpoint Tower follows other junior novels in Star Wars like Justina Ireland’s A Test of Courage in providing a brilliant tale that will appeal to younger and older readers alike. The humor and intimacy we’ve grown to love in Older’s writing is once again on display here, in a novel that interestingly intersects with various elements from other High Republic projects. While the breakneck pace leaves little room for downtime, Race to Crashpoint Tower triumphs in its portrayal of diverse, vulnerable characters and tension-filled narrative.

STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC: RACE TO CRASHPOINT TOWER is on sale 6/29/21

Image courtesy of Disney-Lucasfilm Press

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows

by @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

Justina Ireland follows the superb A Test of Courage with her YA novel Out of the Shadows, a uniquely told and largely character-driven tale. Out of the Shadows follows the events of other High Republic phase 2 novels in detailing the aftermath of the Nihil’s attack on the Republic Fair. The story follows Sylvestri Yarrow, a young woman whose trip to Coruscant is disrupted by a political conflict. Syl’s journey intersects with those of Vernestra Rwoh, Cohmac Vitus, and Reath Silas, who are asked to assist with a mysterious property dispute.

Out of the Shadows stands out from The Rising Storm largely due to the heavily character-centric story told by author Justina Ireland. While The Rising Storm is populated with a whole host of protagonists to keep track of, Out of the Shadows narrows its focus significantly, allowing for a more intimate and introspective tale. Syl is one of the most compelling leads in The High Republic publishing initiative yet. Her backstory is deeply tied to the horrors inflicted upon the galaxy by the Nihil, making her character a unique product of the era in which this story is set in. Ireland’s knack for clever dialogue is best exemplified with Syl as she navigates relationships with her ex and the familial political struggle she finds herself in the middle of. And it’s great to see greater representation of sexual orientations with Syl’s character.

It’s also great to see some of the returning characters as well. Reath’s bookworm charm and the journey his character went on were highlights of Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark, and he’s a welcomed addition to Ireland’s novel. Ireland develops Reath in a really natural way as we see him grow more confident, assured, and angry. Vernestra Rwoh also makes her return after featuring in Light of the Jedi, A Test of Courage, and Marvel Comics’ The High Republic. Rwoh feels like a staple to the High Republic era at this point and her inclusion in the novel is earned and adds a sense of interconnectivity between these novels.

With its smaller cast of heroes and more intimate focus, Out of the Shadows certainly prioritizes characters over plot. While the overarching narrative is intriguing throughout and features many cool connections to elements in Star Wars canon, the plot never quite hits the heights of the characters that navigate this plot. 

Verdict:

Out of the Shadows proves to be another win for author Justina Ireland. Ireland expertly navigates relevant themes and emotional journeys in her YA novel that will resonate with readers across the age spectrum. Her characters are given such careful attention that it’s easy to become deeply invested in their arcs as a plot full of intrigue commences. 

STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC: OUT OF THE SHADOWS is on sale 7/27/21

Image courtesy of Disney-Lucasfilm Press