‘Tis The Season To Build Lego 2021 – Day 4

The run-up to Christmas has arrived and with it the all important Advent Calendar.

Once again, my Wife, the Saint, the Expert Gifter, the Gift-Giving Goddess has got me the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar and with it she has, once again, also given all of you dear readers 24 days of Blog Posts.

Day Four, as I anticipated, brings us a Blaster Cannon, including stud-launcher. The design is pretty bulky and reminds me of an old-school film camera, except with a lightsaber hilt attached to the lens and a stud launcher instead of film stock…

It’s a great addition, and accessory for yesterday’s Stormtrooper Mini-Fig, giving the Calendar a bit more playability for younger builders.

One nice, and festive, detail with this build is the studs for the stud launcher. Instead of the usual transparent red/green studs, these ones are white to emulate Snow Balls. I wonder if Stormtroopers would be more accurate with those than their regular blasters…

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‘Tis The Season To Build Lego 2021 – Day 3

The run-up to Christmas has arrived and with it the all important Advent Calendar.

Once again, my Wife, the Saint, the Expert Gifter, the Gift-Giving Goddess has got me the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar and with it she has, once again, also given all of you dear readers 24 days of Blog Posts.

Day Three brings us our first Mini-Fig of the festive season, an Imperial Stormtrooper. Given how early in the month we are I wasn’t anticipating one of the exclusives. However it’s nothing to scoff at, this is one of the newer Stormtroopers, which comes with the dual mounded helmet which has been in circulation for a couple of years now, but to my knowledge, hasn’t been included in an Advent Calendar until now.

It’s a pretty standard Stormtrooper mini-fig, with printed details on the front and back of the torso and on the front of the legs. The head has a generic grim looking face which is standard for the army-build Mini-Figs.

This figure doesn’t come with an accessory, which leads me to believe, based on previous calendars, that tomorrow’s item will be a gun-rack or blaster cannon. Well, we’ll be finding out in 24 hours if I’m right or not.

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Thrawn Ascendency Book 3: Lesser Evil Audiobook by Timothy Zahn Spoiler Free Review

I won’t lie folks, it’s very rare that a book affects me on a huge level. Not since ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ and I read *THAT* scene and launched that time across a room because I was so emotional.

Listening to ‘Lesser Evil’, I had some very vocal responses. Luckily I was in my car for the most part so no one heard my reactions, but they were loud, and full of excitement and wonder.

‘Thrawn Ascendency: Lesser Evil’ is the conclusion of Timothy Zahn’s second trilogy set in the canon timeline, a trilogy that has taken us into ‘The Chaos’ and allowing us the chance to learn about The Chiss Ascendency, how it is made up, how it operates and functions as well as allowing us to see Mitth’raw’nuruodo in his natural habitat rather than navigating the known Galaxy as part of The Galactic Empire.

For readers of Zahn’s first canon novel ‘Thrawn’ have a good idea where this novel will lead, however, it’s not the destination but the journey that makes a great story and this book is one heck of a journey. Not going into much detail, Zahn manages to make this story work exceptionally well and whilst Thrawn is central to the plot, he spends a considerable amount of time working in the background, allowing Zahn’s newer characters to really take control and drive the narrative forward. Part of me is hoping that this was a way of gauging the audience to see if a novel set within the Ascendency and continuing the stories of Ar’alani, Samakro and even Thalias without Thrawn as a central character. And given how great this book is then I wouldn’t be surprised if Zahn brought us some more stories from within The Chiss Ascendency in the future.

As the final part of a trilogy, Zahn really crafts an amazing story that, as I said earlier, ties up the loose threads of the precious books, and provides us with a satisfying conclusion that feels right and also leaves us wanting more, not in terms of this storyline but more from Zahn set in this world. Like ‘The High Republic’, the ‘Thrawn Ascendency’ Trilogy hasn’t relied on events from the main Star Wars narrative. Events have been mentioned, including ‘The Clone Wars’ and events from ‘Thrawn: Alliances’ but life in ‘The Chaos’ can easily distance itself from the events in ‘Lesser Space’.

The audiobook is, of course narrated by Marc Thompson, who is a master of the craft. His ability to work so many voices into the story really gives the listener the ability to easily differentiate the characters with the strange names. At first some of the choices were a bit odd to me, but now I shall forever associate Samakro with Jack Nicholson, and Thompson’s voice for Thrawn is so perfect that if Lars Mikkelsen ever chose not to voice the character again, then Thompson could easily take on the role.

‘Thrawn Ascendency: Lesser Evil’ is the kind of (audio)book that you can’t put down. As it twists and turns there is so much to absorb and when it all comes together in an explosive confrontation, the excitement levels reach higher and higher. I was very loud and very vocal during the last couple of hours listening to it, through shock, excitement and awe at the brilliance.

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‘Tis The Season To Build Lego 2021 – Day 2

The run-up to Christmas has arrived and with it the all important Advent Calendar.

Once again, my Wife, the Saint, the Expert Gifter, the Gift-Giving Goddess has got me the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar and with it she has, once again, also given all of you dear readers 24 days of Blog Posts.

Day Two continues the hot streak with Riot Mar’s starfighter. Now, I had to Google that because, even though it looked familiar I had no clue what it was other than the Bounty Hunter Starfighter from Chapter Five of ‘The Mandalorian’.

Much like yesterday’s ‘Razorcrest’ build, Riot’s Starfighter looks really good, and fairly accurate. I love the use of colour in this build, the yellow pieces really make it stand out amongst the usually grey/white/dark grey builds we quite often get.

I’m not anticipating another ship build for tomorrow, with only three left, possibly a mini-fig to shake things up.

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‘Tis The Season To Build Lego 2021 – Day 1

The run-up to Christmas has arrived and with it the all important Advent Calendar.

Once again, my Wife, the Saint, the Expert Gifter, the Gift-Giving Goddess has got me the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar and with it she has, once again, also given all of you dear readers 24 days of Blog Posts.

And starting strong, right out of the gate, on Day One we get ‘The Razorcrest’. Given the theme of this years calendar being ‘The Mandalorian’ and of course ‘The Child’, this was a given, despite it being plastered on the box.

What’s striking for me is how accurate this teeny-tiny version of Mando’s ship is. It’s no secret that sometimes these scaled down versions of ships can look a little rough given what the designers have to work with, but this looks really great and instantly recognisable. Definitely a great first day of this Lego building… I mean festive season…

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Attack of the Clones Novelisation by R. A. Salvatore Review

As listeners of The Life Debt Podcast will know from last week, I recently finished reading the ‘Attack of the Clones’ Novelisation by R. A. Salvatore which was the culmination of my week long ‘Attack of the Clones’ binge where I watched the film, listened to the soundtrack a bunch and read the book, which was the second time I ever read it and I honestly wonder why I waited so long (the first time was back in 2002) because it’s a damn good book.

Luckily for all of us, we already know the story, so I don’t need to re-tell the story of a nearly 20 year old film, but rather I’m going to give some of my impressions that I was left with whilst, and after reading the book.

First off the bat is the relationship between Jango and Boba. The film barely scratches the surface of the dynamic between this father/son relationship. For all intents and purposes they are the same person but Jango is teaching Boba to be the greatest Bounty Hunter, giving by him all of the lessons that it took Jango his whole life to learn. Whilst it’s an unorthodox relationship, there are quite a few moments where Jango muses to himself about his feelings towards Boba. The amount he cares about the boy is a huge juxtaposition to his moral code when it comes to his profession where his feelings towards others is cold and uncaring. Just look at Zam Wessell, toxic dart anyone?

The added content between Jango and Boba, even if it’s an added handful of lines within a scene from the film, really expand the relationship and goes on to really illuminate why Boba is so hell bent for revenge during ‘The Clone Wars’ when most likely Jango would have frowned on the notion because a revenge mission is likely to get you killed.

One thing about ‘Attack of the Clones’ I usually have a problem with is the love story between Anakin and Padmé, at first she looks at him just like she did when he was a child, then realises he’s grown up and more mature, then suddenly the two of them bicker in front of her boss (the Queen), then they’re full on flirting and kissing, then flirting and rolling around a field, then she pours a bucket of ice on the whole thing… it’s a roller coaster, and it always felt, to me, that something was missing… and there was, a handful of deleted scenes with Padmé’s family wher she fully realised her feelings for Anakin… and they are in the book, right where they should be and allows the whole romance plot to advance in a much more natural way. Even the scene where he confesses the slaughtering of the Tusken Raiders, the way Salvatore writes the way she reacts and processes the information feels right, in the film it just makes her look like someone who writes to and marries serial killers who are in prison with life sentences.

For me, these aspects were the two major stand-out examples of how effective the novelisation is at enhancing the cinematic experience.

It also fleshes out the Shmi storyline, giving us time to understand her family life on the Lars Homestead and her relationships with her family. Her love for Owen as her step-so, whilst incomparable to her love for Anakin, is a great addition and we are lucky to experience a touching moment between the two, as well as Cliegg and Owens reaction to finding Shmi missing and the raiding party to try and get her back, including how Cliegg lost his leg.

Following on from that, we get brief glimpses into Shmi’s time as a prisoner of the Tusken Raiders as well as Anakin’s massacre of the tribe after her death.

Much like the novelisation of ‘The Phantom Menace’ by Terry Brooks, ‘Attack of the Clones’ really enhances and elevates the film, the insight we get into the minds of the characters as well as the added character development from the deleted scenes which are reinserted by Salvatore gives ‘Attack of the Clones’ greater depth and I look forward to rewatching it with all of the added knowledge this book has given me for the story.

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Dark Horsing Around

When it was announced in September that Disney/Lucasfilm had withdrawn the Star Wars licence from IDW it came as a bit of a shock.

IDW had been publishing the popular “all ages” title ‘Star Wars Adventures’ which featured stories from across all eras of the saga and written by some pretty big names in Star Wars publishing.

Whilst I hadn’t really read much of them aside from the first collected edition until earlier this year, their popularity was huge, and some pretty groundbreaking moments, including the canonical naming of Terbus the Porg (named by members of the podcast Tatooine Sons), some of the first post-‘Rise of Skywalker’ content and the ‘Vader’s Castle’ Anthologies of Horror Stories set in the Star Wars Galaxy. Not to mention the recent ‘High Republic Adventures’ which has been insanely popular with fans of ‘The High Republic’ and brought us some new iconic characters (Buckets of Blood anyone).

However, the move to Dark Horse doesn’t spell doom for the comics. According to the official announcement over at starwars.com states that there are a handful of projects in the works, starting in Spring 2022. One of the first being a new ongoing series set during ‘The High Republic’ and another Anthology series that will tell stories across the full breadth of the franchise.

To me, this sounds like we will be getting the Dark Horse versions of both the series that IDW have been publishing, hopefully continuing the stories with the same creative teams who have been absolutely killing it on their respective titles.

And it’s not like Dark Horse hasn’t got any experience with Star Wars, until 2015 when Marvel took over the licence, Dark Horse had been publishing Star Wars comics since the early 1990’s, starting with the critically acclaimed ‘Dark Empire’ series and went on to publish various series, including the long running ‘Star Wars: Republic’ series that ran from 1999 to 2005, telling stories set during the Prequel era, including The Clone Wars, giving us some amazing characters such as Quintana Vos and Aayla Secura, both of whom were picked by George Lucas to be part of the films and ‘The Clone Wars’ series.

My only hope (see what I did there) is that Dark Horse makes their Star Wars content available on Kindle/Comixology in the UK, unlike IDW who only produced physical media (for Star Wars anyway) in this country which made getting hold of the comics a bit of a nightmare for me (it’s all about me right), involving a whole rigmarole of changing my location on two Amazon sites and paying currency exchanges through my bank in order to get an issue every month, then having to reverse it (which for some reason proved harder) if I wanted to buy anything else that month.

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The Life Debt PodCARst 2.0 Episode 2: Attack of the Clones Deep-Dive

Listen to the episode on your Podcatcher of choice or on Anchor.fm.

This week I talk about some recent news before deep-diving into a bunch of aspects of ‘Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones’.

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#CollectionCorner – January 2022 Lego Reveals

I always like this time of year, just waiting to see who I need to hit-up for Amazon vouchers for Christmas so I can splurge on the new Lego wave.

In the last few days, we’ve gotten confirmation on at least two sets coming out on 1st January and so far it’ll be a cheap one for me, with one Battle Pack and a mid-sized set revealed.

According to the always reputable JediJacPenquin site, there are four Battle Pack’s coming out in January, seeing as we’ve not had any Battle Packs since early 2020 (the Mandalorian Battle Pack and Sith Speeder Battle Pack) I wouldn’t be surprised if that rumour is true, however, we have only had one confirmed so far, the ‘Snowfrooper Battle Pack’.

Out of the two reveals, this one is the one I’ll be after. So far in my whole collection I only have two Snowtroopers that came with the #CollectionCorner: Lego AT-AT Set Review, and I’ll not just be getting it for them. The new design for the E-Web Blaster Canon looks really good with what looks like a new missile launcher design which has coloured me very intrigued. The terrain build looks very good and provides a nice detail for display, and of course the Speeder Bike, which looks to be a repack of the same vehicle from the AT-AT set I mentioned earlier.

To go with the Speeder Bike we are also getting a new design for the Scout Trooper, giving the figure more of a Hoth look, which is a nice detail rather than just getting a regular version from ‘Return of the Jedi’, even though we never see one onscreen on Hoth.

However, the price for this Battle Pack is pretty high at £17.99. In the past, these sets have been priced at £12.99 which has always, for me, been an acceptable price for the small build and the four Mini-Figs but the increased price for what we get feels a bit too steep. But I do still really like the look of this set.

The second set, the ‘Hoth AT-ST’ is a 586 piece set for the decent price of £44.99 which is a bit of a steal when looking that the price/piece ratio.

But what sets this apart from the recent versions of the AT-ST?

Well, the design is more reminiscent for the version of the AT-ST that we see briefly in the Battle of Hoth from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ which has a longer cockpit than the version we see in ‘Return of the Jedi’ and this set is no different.

To sweeten the deal, we get a small buildable Probe Droid as part of this set as well the Chewie, Rebel Hoth Trooper and AT-ST Driver Mini-Figs

The more elongated cockpit seems to be quite screen accurate (based on the few seconds of footage), however, seeing as we only see it from the side I can’t be 100% sure of exactly how accurate it is. However, thanks to a mystery post on Reddit we can see some images of the original model used in ‘Empire’ and damn, is this Lego set accurate.

At the start of this post, I was pretty much going to avoid buying either of these, but having taken more time to look at the images, I am now having to convince myself not to buy both on the day of release. The Battle Pack price, as I said earlier just seems a bit high for what we get and I already have three AT-ST sets (‘Rogue One’/‘The Last Jedi’/‘The Mandalorian’ and I don’t feel I can quite justify a fourth one.

I’m hoping we get some more Lego announcements soon, I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the Battle Packs will be and what the rumoured Razorcrest Microfighter will be like.

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The Edge of Balance Volume One by Shima Shinya and Justina Ireland

‘The High Republic’ branches out into an new genre for its first Manga, written by Justina Ireland and Shima Shinya that tells a new story with a cast of new characters and some familiar villains.

Set on the planet Banchi and following the adventures of Jedi Knight Lily Tora-Asi in the aftermath of the events of ‘Light of the Jedi’ as she works as a part of a team who helps relocate refugees after the Great Hyperspace Disaster.

However, things on Banchi aren’t as it seems, when farmers start falling ill with a bizarre ailment, Lily, her Padawan, Keerin and a group of Younglings venture into the local forest and find a group of Drengir. The Jedi defeat the monsters but the afflicted villagers don’t wake up whilst in the care of the local Doctor (who may also be a member of The Nihil).

The story is short, and focus’ mainly on Lily as she deals with the issues around the developing settlement on Banchi whilst training the Younglings, all the while, focusing on her own development as a Jedi Knight with the guidance of her former Master, Arkoff and Stellan Gios.

The story, feels very drawn out despite its small size. The whole story is illustrated using a typical manga style, I’m hoping that is is more to do with it being the first book in a potential ongoing series and as the story progresses it the next volume, it will hopefully branch out in a new direction.

With the exception of Stellan Gios, the characters are all new for this part and generally the all feel like they belong in Star Wars. I’m even really pleased that Arkoff, another Wookie Master is part of the Hedi Order, maybe he knows Burryaga.

The book also contains a mini-story featuring Lily and her group venturing into the forest and finding a cave, in which a monstrous creature wakes up but falls to its death n the cave.

With a second part coming out next May, I wonder if it will be a part of Phase 3 in which it would probably be the final part of the ‘Light of the Jedi’ era of ‘The High Republic’.

Overall, I’ve not been disappointed by this Manga, and as well as blitzing this book and looking up some Anime/Manga with similar sensibilities I may be tempted to try and audition for the newly ‘Quiet Place’ film.

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The Life Debt PodCARst 2.0 Episode 1: Bit of a Sh*t Couple of Weeks

The Life Debt Podcast returns this week and what a week to return on.

Listen to the episode on your Podcatcher of choice or on Anchor.fm.

Directors not directing anymore (on Star Wars at least), teased footage/Sneak Peeks not happening and a giant freaking Lego Set that makes a Mini-Fig look like an ant (well not really but I’m going for dramatic).

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Disappointment+ Day

On 1st November, fandom got to see the first look at the upcoming series ‘The Book of Boba Fett’, as the excitement started to settle, a realisation occurred, Disney+ Day is just under two weeks away…

We were already promised ‘Under the Helmet: The Legacy of Boba Fett’, a documentary all about the most famous Bounty Hunter in the Galaxy, but we were also promised ‘Sneak Peeks’ at the upcoming Star Wars, Disney, Marvel, Pixar and the rest of the Disney+ repertoire.

And if they were dropping that trailer a week before the festivities then just imagine what Disney+ would be throwing our way…

The festivities began at 6 AM Pacific Time, or 2 PM in the UK. Unfortunately that meant I would be at work, unable to keep up with things as they happened, but I would only be missing two hours and what was the likelihood that I’d miss out on all that Star Wars content that would inevitably be dropping…

So at just after 4 PM I finished work and quickly logged onto Twitter, anticipating something… and what we got was less than two minutes of Ewan McGregor and Deborah Chow saying a handful of sentences about the fans wanting Obi-Wan to come back, how it was going to be a hard time to be a Jedi and that Hayden Christensen was returning to play Darth Vader. What was great about it was seeing a handful of concept art images and a brief look at Hayden training with a lightsaber.

It was a shame that, not only had this video leaked the day before, there were a whole lot of people proclaiming that this was the Sizzle Reel shown at the Disney Investors Day last year to the investors whilst us regular folks saw a black screen.

On top of that, we had all those scoopers saying we were getting trailers for ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’, ‘The Bad Batch Season 2’, a Sizzle for ‘Andor’ and a Behind-the-Scenes of ‘The Mandalorian Season 3’ as well as an official announcement of the rumoured animated Darth Maul series.

After the hour-long drive home from work I checked back in… nothing new to speak of, but the Marvel section of the day was underway and we were getting announcements and trailers all over the place. Pixar got some announcements out there as well as a bunch of Disney films mentioned. But Star Wars seemed to be lacking.

And the fandom was outraged.

On the one hand, Disney+ delivered what they said on the Press Release, the Boba Fett documentary and a Sneak Peek at an upcoming project… just one though… and it wasn’t even a new featurette, just taken from the archives, dusted off and passed off as something new.

On the other hand, why were Disney and Lucasfilm not taking this opportunity to generate some hype, show the world what was coming after a pretty quiet year in terms of content (yes we got ‘The Bad Batch’ but was that really enough for all of us).

I’ve seen many fans expressing their disappointment. One even went on to say that, as someone who pays for the service, felt let down because surely, as part of their big “Thank You” to the fans who signed up over the past two years they would give us more to be excited for moving into their third year. A fair comment, did we, as Star Wars fans get our money’s worth? Absolutely not.

But another part of me wonders if we built ourselves up only to be let down by Lucasfilm’s really poor marketing strategies. They waited until six weeks before it airs to put the trailer of for ‘The Book of Boba Fett’. Is that really long enough to generate the level of hype this kind of series would have? Why couldn’t we have already had one trailer at the end of ‘The Bad Batch’ and then get a second one now? Build the hype folks, it’s what keeps us keen.

It feels like the marketing department has gotten a template and just stick to it for every project. We’ve seen it with the films (except Solo: A Star Wars Story which was marketed so poorly no one knew it was coming out). Teaser in April, Behind the Scenes Sizzle in the Summer and then a Trailer at a big sporting event at least three months before the film is released. Like clockwork. Now it’s a six week window for streaming shows. Hardly hype building for Disney+ shows is it?

Also, the marketing strategy always focus’ on the next project after one has been released. Usually this wasn’t a problem with the films, except for ‘Solo’ which got three months of promotion rather than the usual eight months from the first trailer to the release of the film that was coming that year. And look what happened to ‘Solo’, no one knew about it and it was considered a Box Office flop. Does this strategy mean that Disney+ content will be given a handful of week to build hype between each series release? With five different projects coming out next year will there be any crossover? Will the trailer for the next project launch the week after the last one ends?

Now, I’m not a marketing person, however, this marketing strategy really feels absurd. Surely Disney wants to build as much hype around all of their content but Lucasfilm seems to want to solely rely on the fan base devouring the content rather than generate hype outside of the fans. The more casual viewers you get on board the higher the viewing numbers… right.

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And Another One Bites the Dust…

Josh Trank…

James Mangold…

Colin Trevorrow…

Patty Jenkins…

What do they all have in common?

They got Star Wars cancelled. They all had a film in development and they either got let go (Trank and Trevorrow), it never came to fruition (Mangold) or it got put into the “indefinitely postponed” camp (Jenkins).

But why does this keep on happening? In the case of Trank, the rumours of his behaviour on set of the critically destroyed ‘Fantastic Four’ basically led to him being shown the door. Trevorrow’s departure was more of a shocker, and the reason still isn’t quite clear, but some rumours that have floated around suggest he couldn’t quite figure out how to incorporate the loss of Carrie Fisher into his story.

Mangold never even had an official announcement, however, the rumours that he was working on a ‘Boba Fett’ film came out in the run-up to the release of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ and the sources seemed pretty reliable, but the Box-Office failure of ‘Solo’ led to a number of unannounced projects being shut down.

And now, this article from the Hollywood Reporter has announced that the Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman 1 & 2) helmed ‘Rogue Squadron’ that was announced last December at the big Disney Showcase has been removed from the Production Schedule due to Jenkins’ other commitments. The recently announced ‘Wonder Woman 3’ may have something to do with that, or the ‘Cleopatra’ film that would star Gal Gadot in the title role (most likely WW3).

What I want to know is, given the pretty nightmarish track record of feature film announcements that has plagued Star Wars and Lucasfilm, when will they learn to keep their mouths shut until something is an actual sure thing? Surely it’s be cheaper for them in the long run, how much got spent on that two minute video of Patty Jenkins talking about ‘Rogue Squadron’ for that showcase last year? Could have saved a pretty penny there.

Also, all of these cancellations/postponements just look bad for the reputation of Lucasfilm. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Disney higher-ups stepped in to do some sort of damage control at some point. So far, out of their five Star Wars films that got released, only one managed to get through the whole process of announcement to release with no problems, and that was ‘The Last Jedi’, which the vocal minorities can’t seem to go a day without spewing hate for on the internet. The rest suffered from delays due to injury, extensive reshoots with a new director, directors getting fired two-thirds of the way through production and then a drastic change of director. And this curse has moved over to the in-production ‘Indiana Jones 5’ with injuries and now a death of a crew member.

Before I go on, this isn’t me bashing Lucasfilm, I’m not calling for the head of Kathy Kennedy (I think she’s doing a great job but keeps getting dealt lousy cards), but you have to wonder what is actually going on over there at Lucasfilm that they keep running into problems?

What pulled Patty Jenkins away from the already announced and in-development ‘Rogue Squadron’? The third Wonder Woman film couldn’t wait a year? Is the well so tempting she just had to run back to it? Or did DC just pony up an even bigger boatload of cash to pull her from the commitment she made to Lucasfilm, for what is probably a pretty hefty boatload of cash.

Of course there are rumours of an unannounced Star Wars film that is already in development that must also be pretty far along in development that can take the now abandoned ‘Rogue Squadron’ release date of 22nd December 2023 so perhaps we won’t be waiting for what could be the soon-to-be-cancelled Taika Waititi film or the could be removed-from-development Kevin Feige in 2025 or 2027.

At this point, should Lucasfilm just put the films on hold indefinitely and focus on the Disney+ content. With two incredibly successful seasons of ‘The Mandalorian’ and the hotly anticipated ‘The Book of Boba Fett’, ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ and ‘Andor’ on the way in the next year and the rest of the series’ that were announced last year, surely they have enough to keep even he most negative of fans happy for a few years?

And don’t even get me started on the Benioff and Weiss debacle or the Rian Johnson trilogy that no one has spoke about for years…

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Star Wars Visions: Ronin – A Visions Novel by Emma Mieko Candon Audiobook Spoiler Free Review

I’m just going to say it, ‘Ronin’ is a beautiful (audio)book.

Set in an alternate timeline as part of the ‘Star Wars: Visions’ series, ‘Ronin’ adapts the first ‘Visions’ short, ‘The Duel’ and expands on the story, giving us a continuation of the Ronin’s adventure as well as backstory that really she’d light on the version of the Galaxy that the short presented us.

Ronin, along with his trusted Astromech Droid, Bee-Five wander the Galaxy. The Sith is haunted by ghosts of his past and gets drawn into a quest with a wonderful cast of characters that are each a mystery that we get to unravel as the story moves along.

Candon weaves a wonderfully rich tapestry, giving us a great amount of information to let us understand this Galaxy, all the while it feels incredibly Star Wars but at the same time it’s vastly different. The whole (audio)book feels like it’s been lifted from ‘The Duel’ short film, as the story unfolded I could see it in my head, I even pictured it in black and white, of course with the hints of colour like the short film.

There is one aspect of the book that feels inherently Star Wars, and it slowly develops throughout the story until, for the reader/listener as well as for Ronin, and that is the sense of found family. We see it throughout all aspects of Star Wars, from ‘A New Hope’ all the way to ‘The Mandalorian’, and in ‘Ronin’ it’s right there.

The crew he finds himself with, that he initially didn’t want anything to do with slowly endear themselves to him, and even more slowly for some, him to them.

What felt really good about this (audio)book is that everything felt fresh and new, it’s easy to anticipate the outcomes of some of the Star Wars novels. I’m not saying that to gloat or saying it’s a bad thing, but ‘Ronin’ was the one (audio)book where the majority of those predictions were completely off base…

…and that was wonderfully refreshing.

My one regret in terms of this novel is that I went down the audiobook route, and whilst Joel de la Fuente does a great job as narrator but the novel itself (I have seen online) has wonderful artwork inside that at some point I will have to pick up a physical copy.

I have previously gripes about the music used in the Star Wars audiobooks, specifically the ones set around the Sequel Trilogy using music from the Prequels, but I never felt the music out of place or distracting.

Overall, ‘Ronin’ could very well be the most beautiful Star Wars novel around. Candon weaves a fantastically rich tapestry that feels like it’s been ripped from an Akira Kurosawa film, only in an alternate universe where Kurosawa invented the lightsaber years before George Lucas had the thought. It’s one I will be revisiting again I’m sure and I’m already looking forward to it.

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The Book of Boba Fett Trailer Thoughts

The hype train for ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ has left the station folks, thanks to that minute and a half of wonderful Temura Morrison filled content.

When it comes to trailers for Star Wars content, at this point it’s not a way to get me hyped, I can do that all on my own, rather, it’s more about just getting to see something, even a glimpse of footage and maybe get an idea of the feel of the film/series.

Given Boba’s part in ‘The Mandalorian’ and how the character was shown, I was already on the hype train, I love how, in his time post-Jedi in the Tatooine desert has altered his perspective. He doesn’t come across as that mysterious Bounty Hunter now, rather a more matured and, despite his brutal fighting abilities, more likely to try and talk you down rather than disintegrate first and ask questions later.

And that’s definitely carried over into this trailer. As Boba says “I intend to rule with respect.” The team-up of Favreau, Filoni and Rodriguez worked wonders in ‘The Mandalorian’ when the latter helmed the reintroduction of Fett in ‘The Tragedy’ and showed us how great Fett can be in this new era of Star Wars storytelling.

Having been a fan of Robert Rodriguez’s films for quite a while (in fact a Special Feature on the ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’ DVD was what convinced me to become a filmmaker), seeing his name on any Star Wars title was exciting, let alone him getting his own series. Knowing his own passion for film, I can only imagine what has influenced this series.

One such possible influence, in my opinion, is ‘The Godfather’. The scene where Fett and Shand are at the table with Jabba the Hutt’s former Captains is reminiscent of the sit-down meeting of the different families from that cinematic masterpiece.

Based on his previous body of work, I have no fear that Rodriguez will handle the action brilliantly, we’ve already seen what he can do with the character in action, taking the short fight description in the script for ‘The Tragedy’ and creating a battle of epic scale. It’s the quieter moments I’m now looking forward to. The aforementioned sit-down scene looks to be a pretty major moment for Fett and Shand, who at no point in the Trailer is far fromBoba’s side. I really get the feeling that, despite her being indebted to Boba, their relationship is and will continue to be based on mutual respect. This isn’t going to be a Jabba/Bib Fortuna style relationship. Whilst he will be the crime lord, she will command just as much respect.

The classic, gangster film vibe of the trailer will hopefully be a mainstay for the series. It seems like it will continue the trend that the two ‘A Star Wars Story’ started, with ‘Rogue One’ being a war film and ‘Solo’ being a heist film, ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ could take the mantle of being the full on gangster film, taking on elements of ‘The Godfather’ and even have a modern feel, perhaps like ‘The Sopranos’ which more modern audiences may feel more at home with.

However the series plays out, the Trailer has certainly piqued my interest more than it already was, and with the launch coming up fast at the end of December I doubt we will be seeing much more in terms of footage, maybe a few extra minutes on Disney+ Day, but the rumours for what we’re getting that day (other than the Boba Fett Featurette) are pointing a bit further ahead in the upcoming schedule when it comes to that.

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The High Republic: Heart of the Drengir Part 3 Review

BOOM!

The explosive final part of ‘Heart of the Drengir’ has landed (a couple of months ago) and boy did it not disappoint!

The battle between the Jedi/Hutt Alliance and The Drengir reaches its peak just as Keeve and Orla arrive on Mulita. Avar Kriss has gone on alone to fight the lead Drengir and as Keeve find her, she has become assimilated by the living plant.

With the rest of the Jedi with her, they reach out through the Force and save Avar, who using her own special power of connecting the Jedi manages to bind The lead Drengir in a Force bubble, stopping it from once again spreading its evil.

The Hutts, unhappy with this turn of events initially try to break the barrier and kill The Drengir but are turned away, vowing revenge against the Jedi.

The celebration is cut short however, when Maru informs the gathered Jedi that The Nihil has attacked The Republic Fair on Valo.

This issue is stunning. The art just leaps from the page, Anindito’s ability to convey so much going on is phenomenal, and in this issue alone are three panels that stand out so well that they are worth the price of admission alone.

I’m a bit gutted however that I read this completely out of sequence, having taken a couple of months off, I read this after ‘Out of the Shadows’, which unfortunately spoilt the defeat of The Drengir, so I knew what was coming on a way, as well as the highly publicised splash page of the two forces engaging in battle. That being said, I’m thankful that the story itself didn’t get spoilt because Cavan Scott really did a great job with the writing here.

I am surprised however that The Drengir threat has been thwarted so early in ‘The High Republic’ story. We are only in the midst of Phase One, Wave Two, with Wave Three arriving in January and the build up of these villains felt like they would be there for the long run, however I get the feeling that moving forward, the writers are focusing heavily on what’s left of The Nihil. And of course, The Drengir aren’t actually dead, the lead Murder Plant is now in a stasis field onboard Starlight Beacon so something could release it back into the Galaxy (maybe something to do with that poster released a week-or-so ago).

I’m really pleased that this story wasn’t dream out, I’m a sucker for huge battles that span hours/pages but Scott and Anindito really do a great job of telling the story and not getting caught up in the glory of battle. It’s like the Kenobi/Maul fight in ‘Twin Suns’. Everyone wanted the ultimate showdown between the two rivals but what we actually got was perfect and I can honestly say that this issue is just that, a perfect end to this storyline.

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The High Republic: Heart of the Drengir Part 2 Review

Keeve Trennis is stuck inside the shared consciousness of The Drengir’s Root-Mind, lost and having visions of those she has met previously she encounters a Sith Lord who attacks her in the presence of four statues (which I’m 100% sure are the ones from ‘Into the Dark’). She wakes up from her vision and tries to talk with Maru who is in contact with Avar Kriss who is requesting as many Jedi as possible to meet in Wild Space to attack the homeworld of The Drengir. Keeve wants to go but Maru sends her to an outpost to stop a Nihil attack.

After arriving and getting distracted by glimpses of the Sith Lord from her vision, the Nihil are stopped, Keeve is aided by another Jedi, who Keeve also saw on the vision, although, unlike the Sith she is real. This is our introduction to Orla Jenari, who wields a double lightsaber which is the same model as Dark Rey from ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ that flips open.

Once the two workers from the outpost are safe and the Nihil apprehended, Keeve experiences a vision where The Drengir Root-Mind speaks to her, telling her that the Jedi have lost.

I get the feeling that this issue is that part of the story that starts setting things up for later down the line with the introductions of the Sith Lord within the Root-Mind and Orla Jenari. Her ominous vision at the end also hints at something big happening but this isn’t the place for it to be told (the issue).

I really enjoyed Keeve in this issue, we get to see a flawed side to her which we haven’t really seen before. She’s distracted by what she saw in the Root-Mind and isn’t able to shake the Darkness that The Drengir have left in both her mind but in the Galaxy as she has become connected to them in a way that no one else is.

I’m looking forward to seeing where Scott takes this storyline. We’ve got Keeve and Orla one on side of the story and the whole battle with The Drengir happening elsewhere, which according to Keeve’s vision, isn’t going to end well for the Jedi, although I’m assuming that this is just The Drengir Root-Mind tricking her.

I’m looking forward to seeing more or this mysterious new Jedi, Orla, who we were originally introduced to in early promotional art back when we first learned about ‘The High Republic’, and this new Sith who may be the key to the Dark Side connection of The Drengir. Perhaps he has something to do with those statutes that were filled with Dark Side energy. I hope we learn more about them too.

Another solid issue with great writing and art. We’re being left with more questions and here I am looking forward to learning some answers soon, as I’ve got two more issues loaded on my Kindle App to dive into.

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Bad Batching Episode 14: Return to Kamino/Kamino Lost

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week and another two episodes of ‘The Bad Batch’ with ‘Return to Kamino’ and ‘Kamino Lost’.

So stick some Star Wars podcast in those ears as I talk about the latest episode all about our favourite defective clones, and it’s right HERE for your convenience.

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Tempest Runner by Cavan Scott Audio-Drama Review

Set between ‘The Rising Storm’ and ‘Out of the Shadows’, ‘Tempest Runner’ switches the main perspective from the Jedi and Republic to The Nihil, specifically the Tempest Runner, Lourna Dee.

Much like ‘Dooku: Jedi Lost’, Cavan Scott’s previous Audio-Drama, the narrative flits between the current storyline, here, focusing on the capture of Dee, her time imprisoned on the Republic Correctional Ship, The Restitution and moments from her past, all the way from her time on Aaloth, a Twi’lek colony, her time in a Zygerrian Slave Camp and the rescue by Master Oppo Rancicis and his Padawan. Dee then enters a Republic Academy but soon learns she’s not one to take orders and escapes, eventually joining The Nihil as part of Pan Eyta’s Storm and quickly becomes Tempest Runner after meeting Asgar Ro.

I have to admit, I really struggled with this one. The first half felt like it dragged for me. I was really hoping for a bit more of an original story instead of the riches to rags to leader of a gang of Space Pirates than we got.

The second half, once Dee is a member of The Nihil (in the flashbacks) and has gotten over the first hurdles of being incarcerated (her first trip to the med-bay) does the story pick up steam.

Lourna is desperately trying to keep her identity hidden in prison, going by the name Sal, there are only a handful of people onboard who know her true identity, and one of them inevitably betrays her to the Dowatun Pan Eyta, the former Tempest Runner who is believed to be dead, but instead is pretty messed up and constantly on deaths door, his need for revenge against Lourna is the one thing keeping him going.

The climactic battle makes most prison riot stories look tame, with Lourna leading a group of prisoners and guards against Eyta’s forces and eventually killing her former ally as well as taking control of The Restitution and taking it back to Nihil space where the remnants of the Pirate hoard are gathering give the story a decent yet predictable conclusion.

The one thing that I kept thinking as I listened to this was that I wasn’t really sure if I wanted the back story of any of The Nihil, or at least not a whole origin story, rather I wanted them to be like The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’, an absolute, a mystery. Instead, Scott has turned one of the most bad ass villains in Star Wars literature into a cliché. Her story has been told in many times and it, for me at least has made Lourna Dee at least, less threatening, which is a real shame because I absolutely loved her in ‘Light of the Jedi’ and ‘The Rising Storm’.

One other (and the last) gripe I have is the structure. This is the third Star Wars audio-drama and we’ve had in as many years and all three have followed the same structure, which has worked but it’s getting old now. Having recently listened to the Dirk Miggs produced ‘The Sandman: Act 1’(which is absolutely phenomenal), I feel like the publishers/producers are holding the authors back from going all out, giving them a template that has worked previously and not allowing them to stretch their wings.

Despite my gripes, I think that the cast were well chosen and all performed amazingly, I really love how Jessica Almasy used a French accent for Lourna, who as a Twi’lek has been established that the majority of the species speak with one, even Hera in times of stress or when necessary in ‘Rebels’.

I’m gutted it didn’t enjoy ‘Tempest Runner’ more, and I suppose it was only a matter of time for a ‘High Republic’ story to fall short of the mark for me. I’m hoping this is just a blip on the radar, and maybe on future listens I will enjoy it more but right now I’m still disappointed.

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#CollectionCorner: Lego Imperial Armoured Marauder

In my house, when it comes to buying stuff we have a rule, “If you’re not sure then leave it.” This rule usually works out for us and the feeling of buyers regret quite a bit.

However, with this set I went back and forth with myself on whether or not I really wanted it. Even after buying it (before building it) I really wasn’t sure I had done the right thing…

The box contains the instructions and four bags of pieces (for the size and price I was expecting three bags). The set doesn’t require stickers either, but comes with a small amount of printed pieces.

The first bag constructs the core of the vehicle, it’s got very little in the way of details but that’s pretty much the case for a lot of sets.

The first bag also gives us the two new Mini-Figs that are exclusive to this set, the Season Two version of Greef Karga complete with blaster pistol and the newly introduced Artillery Stormtrooper, with new yellow printing and a yellow Paulson that also comes with a brick-built backpack and brick-built grenade launcher as seen in ‘The Mandalorian’.

The Second Bag adds the details for the sides of the rear section of the Marauder, both sides are identical and include rotating cannons and hinged flaps that open and close on storage areas.

The Third Bag essentially doubles the length of the vehicle by adding front compartment which also includes the cockpit which opens at an angle and includes printed parts as the controls. The side of the cockpit also has two Stud Launchers.

This Bag also includes the final two Mini-Figs, the Stormtroopers. Each includes a Blaster Rifle and feature the double sided printing on the torso and the dual moulded helmets we’ve been privy to for the past few years.

The build is finished with Bag Four, which adds the roof, side doors, rear door and the rotating cannon on top, which features two more Stud Launchers.

The finished build looks phenomenal. The level of detail is just fantastic. I really love the little details that just add to the look of the build. The Stud Launchers feel a bit too bulky for the rear cannon, but work better than a pair of missile launchers which would be far too long. However, this isn’t one of those 18+ builds that have been coming out recently and is instead aimed at a younger audience so the play features add the fun.

My biggest gripe here is the Mini-Fig selection. Firstly, the Artillery Stormtrooper isn’t even from the episode which features the Marauder and would probably feel better in the recent “Boba Fett’s Starship’ set. The Stormtroopers do fit with the set but one or both could have been swapped for a Scout Trooper. However, there are two characters that could have been included, Cara Dune and Mythrol. I’m not getting political here, but, seeing as Cara Dune is the one who actually drives the vehicle, a Season 2 Mini-Fig could have been included (but I’m sure that Lego has followed Hasbro’s example and has stopped production of her Mini-Fig after the whole Gina Carano debacle earlier this year). That being said, however, what did Horatio Sanz do to be neglected here?

For a price-tag of £34.99, I was expecting a lot less from this set, but with 478 pieces and four Mini-Figs, two of which are new prints, the price-per-piece ratio is fantastic for a Star Wars set. There’s great playability here and it’s a nice looking set to display (even with the bulky Stud Launchers).

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#CollectionCorner: Lego The Armourer’s Mandalorian Forge

The Armourer’s Mandalorian Forge was a set I knew I had to get from its announcement. The Armourer is such a great character and the inclusion of Paz Vizsla just made it even more desirable.

At the RRP of £27.99, for 258 pieces and three Mini-Figs, two of which are new for this set, it’s not a price to scoff at really. It all comes in three numbered bags, with a long piece out of the bags, the instructions and the sticker sheet.

The first bag builds the forge itself, which looks really cool on its own. The details of the forge itself are made through a group of stickers that run around the top edge, the middle has eight small blue flame pieces that make the forge look absolutely roasting. The Armourer also gets a piece of equipment (essentially a box on a stick) in which to melt the block of Beskar.

The first Bag gives us two of the three Mini-Figs, Mando himself and The Armourer. I’m sure this is the same version of Mando that came with ‘Trouble on Tatooine’ but I could be wrong. He comes with the buildable Amber Phase Pulse Blaster and a blaster pistol, there is one addition I should note, which is the jet pack he is given at the end of Season One. The Armourer is a wholly brand new Mini-Fig and unless she is featured in Season 3 of the show, I can’t see her being released in any other sets. The printed details on the torso look great, her fluffy collar is even depicted on the back. She domes with a hammer and some buildable tongs as accessories that can be clipped to the side of the forge for storage. The helmet is a brand new mould and is well detailed, including the Zabrak style horns.

The second Bag builds the doorway into the forge, it includes a shelf on which an unpainted Mandalorian helmet sits on a shelf along with a small blade-like item. A sweeping brush is also clipped to the wall. It’s good to see that the Covert takes pride in their hideouts cleanliness. A pair of stickers featuring the Mythosaur skull emblem are above the door, one on each side, and I like how the designers have almost Lego-fied it to make it fit with the aesthetic.

Bag 2 also concludes the Mini-Fig selection with Paz Vizsla. It’s nice to get a different looking Mandalorian, the added armour and the buildable backpack and heavy blaster really makes this figure feel unique.

The Third Bag build the final part of The Armourer’s Forge, this part has a great amount of detail for such a small area. Firstly the tool cabinet is an interesting build that allows the cub board to open. The boxes at the bag also contain added accessories, in this case a blaster pistol, a pair of Thermal Detonators and some blocks of Beskar. The computer had a printed blue holograph of Mandalorian armour about to be made by The Armourer and the device that helps do something to the blocks of Beskar.

When put all together, ‘The Armourer’s Mandalorian Forge’ is a nice looking set. It’s got some great details that are great for fans of the show and the Mini-Fig selection is well chosen.

If I had one gripe it’s the overall shape of the build. The angles at which the three sections are positioned major it quite awkward to display on a shelf, but that design also allows all of the details to be on show rather than hidden away at a ninety degree angle, so either way I’d have a gripe about it (there’s just no pleasing some people), and they could have given Mando and Vizsla a small knife each to help reenact their tussle in Chapter 3.

Overall, the price-to-piece ratio and the Mini-Fig selection is great. It’s got a lot of playability for such a small set and has decent display value. In terms of the screen accuracy, the designers did a great job of taking memorable parts of the set and transferring them into this set. There isn’t one part of the design that doesn’t feel out of place.

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Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland Audiobook Review

Justina Ireland is busy. Just her recent Star Wars content alone is something to be in awe of, with ‘Out of the Shadows’, the YA entry to the second wave of ‘The High Republic: Phase One’ as well as ‘Edge of Balance’, the first Manga entry into ‘The High Republic’ and ‘War of the Bounty Hunters: Jabba the Hutt’. A pretty impressive roster to say the least, not to mention her upcoming book for the next wave of ‘The High Republic’, ‘Mission to Disaster’.

Of course, this post is my review of ‘Out of the Shadows’, which follows Vernestra Rwoh and her Padawan Imri Cantaros who team up with Cohmac Vitus and his Apprentice Reath Silas are sent on a mission with pilot Sylvestri Yarrow, who has been wrapped up in Hyperspace Prospector family politics thanks to Xylan Graff, whose family are the main competitors of the San Tekka Prospectors to visit the Berenge sector where Sil’s ship was previously pulled out of Hyperspace by The Nihil in an attack that her and her crew barely managed to escape.

Along the way, they learn that the Graff family are in league with The Nihil, assisting them to build a gravity weapon to disrupt Hyperspace (which so happens to be in the Berenge sector, coincidence I think not) and when they are double crossed and Syl and the Padawans are captured by Nan (from ‘Into the Dark’) and Syl’s mother, Chancey Yarrow, whom Syl had believed to have been killed in a Nihil attack, who is the brains behind the Hyperspace weapon.

Master Cohmac and Vernestra, joined by Syl’s ex-girlfriend Jordanna go to rescue Syl, Reath and Imri whilst calling the Jedi Temple for reinforcements. Thanks to an ability to experience visions through the Force in Hyperspace, Vernestra begins to communicate with an unknown woman, who turns out to be Mari San Tekka, the old woman that Marchion Ro had kept alive in a medical pod who was the key to The Nihil’s ability to use Hyperspace.

As the two groups reunite onboard the weapon, Gravity’s Heart, they seem to rescue Mari who is finally able to pass away peacefully after giving Vernestra a secret Hyperspace Path.

Gravity’s Heart is destroyed in a battle between The Nihil and the Jedi and Republic forces, during which, many of the pirates are captured. Chancey and Nan return to the Graff stronghold and form an alliance with the family, turning their backs on The Nihil. The Jedi are able to once again go about thier business, with Vernestra and Imri deciding to return to Starlight Beacon, with Syl and Jordanna being their pilots on Syl’s new ship provided as promised by Xilan Graff.

In all honesty, ‘Out of the Shadows’ has been my least favourite part of ‘The High Republic’, and not in terms of the story, which has some hefty implications for ‘The High Republic’ moving forward, but in terms of the pacing. For me there were whole stretches where I wasn’t sure where the story was going but then suddenly we’d get some sort of information that, whilst important to the plot, could have been revealed earlier.

Having a nice mix of new and known characters really give ‘Out of the Shadows’ the opportunity to give us fresh eyes and perspectives as well as further develop characters that, over the course of ‘The High Republic’ have become fan favourites. At first, when we were first introduced to Vernestra Rwoh before ‘A Test of Courage’ was released, I initially (and rather stupidly) wrote her off as just a character made for kids. The youngest Jedi to be made a Knight at sixteen, if just felt like a way to have this character that kids would gravitate towards without having the parental figure breathing down their neck all the time, but when I finally read that book and have continued to follow her story, she is a great character. The growth we see from her, especially in ‘Out of the Shadows’ is phenomenal, from her concerns over telling her former Master, Stellan Gios about a modification she had made to her lightsaber that allows it to change between the traditional blade to an energy whip to her coming to understand an ability she had previously thought to be an occurrence that happened a couple of times as a child where she would have visions through the Force when travelling through hyperspace which become an integral plot point in this book.

I really like two of the new characters, Syl and Jordanna. Syl is completely down on her luck, she’s suffered some hardships and the Nihil attack really sets her off to making sure something goes right. She puts herself into an uncomfortable position with Xylan, who seems to say all the right things to convince her to join him on his mission, of course we later learn that it’s all a manipulation because of her connection to Chancey Graff. Her perspective on the Jedi is also a fresh take, she doesn’t really care for them, especially after her mother’s “death”, feeling that if the Jedi were doing more to protect the Galaxy that her mother would still be alive. Of course her opinion changes by the end of the book, as well as her general outlook, where everything went badly for her before, the end of the story, however really shows her development. Brand new ship, her relationship with Jordanna is repaired and feels better than ever and a new lease on life.

In terms of the audiobook, narrated by Keylor Leigh is good. Once again I wish we had Marc Thompson (he’s the voice of literary Star Wars much like Kevin Conroy will forever be the voice of Batman in my head). on the mic but Leigh does a phenomenal job.

Despite my issues with the pacing, I still very much enjoyed this book, Justina Ireland has continued to evolve Vernestra Rwoh’s character and given us some great insight into the ongoing state of the Galaxy with The Nihil infiltrating the Republic and making connections with powerful groups their threat level feels like it’s increasing, just in time for the third wave to come out next January, which I’m very excited about.

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Bad Batching: Infested/War-Mantle

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week and another two episodes of ‘The Bad Batch’ with ‘Infested’ and ‘War-Mantle’.

So stick some Star Wars podcast in those ears as I talk about the latest episode all about our favourite defective clones, and it’s right HERE for your convenience.

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#CollectionCorner: Lego AT-AT Set Review

In terms of excitement and ‘The Razorcrest’ near desperation, the ‘AT-AT’ was always a set I wanted but could happily wait, which is why I didn’t rush to buy this set in its initial release, instead opting to wait for my birthday this year…

And wait I did, as after another month and a half after being told it was on its way and then waiting for a refund to buy it again from a more reputable seller… needless to say when it did finally arrive my excitement was pretty high.

The biggest surprise was the size! The box was f%#+*€g huge. Not UCS set huge, or ‘Death Star’ huge, but almost. Opening the box, I was expecting a lot of bags… alas there were only eight sections, as well as the large instructions book but amazingly, no stickers.

The first bag, whilst giving us a pair of decent accessories and three of the six Mini-Figs could really have been separated into the rest of the bags to cut down on plastic (gotta look after the planet somehow) and reduce the size of the box (although the larger sets having massive boxes has always baffled me). The Speeder Bike and E-Web Blaster Cannon look great and are well built, the Cannon especially as an interesting building technique of using some gun accessories as feet which surprisingly works.

The first three Mini-Figs are Luke Skywalker in his Pilot gear, he comes with a lightsaber and a pair of thermal detonators. The two Snowtroopers look really good, I love the printed design and the little attention to detail where they have light brown gloves rather than standard black or white hands that other Stormtrooper variants have. Both come with the standard issue blasters.

Bags Two and Three lay the foundations for the body of the Walker. Bag 2 builds the core and Bag 3 adds the interior design as well as the chassis details and the mechanism that allows Luke to hold onto the grappling hook blaster that goes up and down.

Bags Four and Five complete the Walker’s body with some great brick built details and the various angles that give it some incredible screen accuracy. A nice addition is the opening hatch at the back that opens up to allow the Speeder Bike to sit inside, whilst not shown onscreen, this little detail is mentioned in the ‘Incredible Cross Sections’ books.

Bags Six and Seven build the legs and feet of the vehicle. I absolutely love how the legs look after the sixth bag, the core of the legs are built out of Technic, meaning they are pretty strong but they do look hilarious, especially with the large feet. Luckily the seventh bag rectifies that by adding the details using various plates.

Bag Eight finishes the build with the AT-AT’s head/cockpit. I’ll be honest, I thought I was missing a bag or two when I had all the pieces out but the designers really did a fantastic job of creating the walker’s cockpit in incredible detail with what felt like so few parts. There are a pair of flick-missiles on the underside of the head which are well hidden and unobtrusive.

The final Bag also includes the final three Mini-Figs for the set. We get General Veers I’m his armour with binoculars and two AT-AT Pilots, each with a blaster accessory. All of the figures have great printed details and look great. Despite never being seen stood up on screen, the level of details on the two Walker Pilots is great, the designers really do their research when giving us these characters with little screen time.

When fully built and on display, the AT-AT is seriously impressive. As you can seen the above picture, it towers over the Mini-Figs and would look incredibly imposing on display as part of a diorama. The play features are really fun, with the Speeder Bike addition as well as the missiles, the Walker also includes a grappling hook which is operated using a gear mechanism hidden inside the front panel of the body which allows players to have their Luke Mini-Fig to reach the chassis and open it up to throw in the detonators to win the battle.

It’s a really fun build, and a great looking model. I’m really glad I finally picked this one up and didn’t miss out as I’m sure it will soon be up for retirement. The £140 for 1267 pieces is good for a licensed set, of course with it being out for a while there are places it can be picked up for a bit less but price-tag truly represents the quality of the set.

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Behind the Scenes, Remakes and the Other Stuff That Happened.

Hello there.

Remember me?

Been a while hasn’t it? Wish I could say it’s been a quiet couple of months but that’d be a bit of a lie.

Firstly, I’ll answer that burning question, “Where did you go?” Well, nowhere. Absolutely nowhere.

Second question, “Why did you go?” Well, as I got towards the end of July, I started to feel burned out. Not just with the Blog or Star Wars, but with a whole bunch of stuff.

Work was killing me, pushing almost 50 hours a week, working split shifts in a busy restaurant is good fun, but it doesn’t leave you with a whole bunch of free time, especially when you finish around 12am every day and just want to sleep afterwards. So I ended up falling behind on the Blog and Podcast and found myself feeling somewhat overwhelmed.

Add that to the realisation that when we reached September, my Daughter would be starting school and those hours I was working would pretty much mean I wouldn’t see her… not something that made me happy, luckily, through some fortuitous circumstances, I had a meeting which led to a trial shift which in turn landed me with a new job, which I have now started, with much more manageable hours where I now get evenings (I had forgotten what they were like).

Add in some troubles at home, mostly down the the fact that I was never home, the whole situation became a cluster-fudge where Star Wars got further and further to the back of my mind and I entered a world where I just needed pure entertainment, so two and a half months of me absorbing countless hours of non-Star Wars books, films and TV occurred.

Not to say that I kept my head buried in the sand when it came to the Galaxy Far, Far Away. I was aware of the news and some of the goings on (I also stayed off of Twitter for around 90% of that time away).

I didn’t watch the latest part of ‘Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian’ until last week, and when I did watch it I didn’t get the whole hype around the episode (of Gallery) other than the images of Mark Hamill holding Grogu. The secrecy around the making of that episode was astounding, but after twenty minutes of Filoni, Favreau and Hamill talking about keeping secrets and digitally deaging Luke Skywalker and then Favreau’s monologue of how technology can be used for bad things I was ready to throw my hat in until the last ten minutes brought me to tears in a geek way.

Of course, the biggest news over the last couple of months was the ‘Knights of the Old Republic Remake’ announcement…

Well, seeing as I don’t own a PS5 and that I’ve never been a big fan of the original game the announcement was a whole bunch of non-news, but the graphics on Revan looked pretty good, we’re this coming out on XBox as well I may have had some interest but I was more excited for the ‘Alan Wake Remaster’ announcement (my favourite non-Star Wars video game).

Yikes this all sounds a bit negative doesn’t it? Well, in a much more positive light, the latest wave of Star Wars Lego was released, and it’s the first wave in quite a while where I’ve wanted to just run out and buy most of the sets (not the helmets or UCS Gunship), although a trip to the nearest Lego Shop did result in Sara seeing the price of the UCS Millennium Falcon, say that the price is pretty reasonable and asked if I wanted it one day… but I’m sticking with my as-of-yet still unfinished Lego AT-AT.

Of course, the comics have been churning out, and I’m still way behind (still got to read most of July’s offerings) so a couple of months of catching up I lies ahead, which luckily means content, so for the next few weeks I’ll be plotting through older issues and books (just started Justina Ireland’s ‘Out of the Shadows’ audiobook). And soon, with the release of ‘Star Wars: Visions’ I’ll be focusing some attention of that series as well.

Unlike the Galaxy at the end of ‘The Last Jedi’, my spark has returned (and queue the music…

The Spark by John Williams

and now the content, like the Jedi, will return.

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War of the Bounty Hunters Issue 2

Boba Fett finds his way into the Crimson Dawn party after encountering an old friend. Once disguised and inside, he tasks a new ally with a job and attempts to sabotage the party as the auction draws to an end, leading him into a chance encounter with Leia, Lando and Chewie as Darth Vader makes his presence known.

The second part ties into the events of ‘Doctor Aphra’ issue 12 and gives us a look at what to expect in the upcoming issue of ‘Star Wars’, all the while showing Boba Fett’s journey and the lengths he’s willing to go to deliver Solo to Jabba the Hutt.

The Crimson Dawn party is underway with members of the various crime organisations contemplating the nature of their return. Bokka the Hutt is getting antsy and belligerent, with Jabba exerting this authority over the newest member of the Hutt Council.

Outside, Fett has just landed and is looking for a way in. After locating some stragglers he makes his move, only to be stopped by Bossk. The two former allies have a quick fight before Fett blows up a ship next to the Trandoshan, the explosion ripping the legs off the reptilian Bounty Hunter. Fett leaves him tied to a rock, telling him to deliver a message to anyone else looking to steal Han Solo, “Don’t!”

Inside the party, Fett (disguised as one of the stragglers) approaches Doctor Aphra and Sana Starros and has Aphra agree to help him to cause a distraction when he sends her a signal.

The auction heats up, Jabba wins with a bid of One Million Credits as Fett is about to set something off (I’m assuming a bomb) but he comes face to face with Leia, Lando and Chewie. All of them are surprised when Darth Vader arrives, announcing that Solo belongs to him.

As the core story of ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ starts to intersect with the individual stories told in the separate titles, we start to see some overlap, whilst this could be seen as pretty lazy, here we can really see how intricately Charles Soule has plotted all of the characters through this story. It just happens to be that I read this after reading the latest ‘Doctor Aphra’ issue first that I ended up feeling ripped off by reading this issue. Of course after a second read through and a better perspective (I read it the first time at 1am after getting in from work) I realised that the art is drawn from a different perspective and Fett’s encounter with Aphra seems expanded here.

Seeing Fett’s commentary during the bidding war shows that either he’s very angry or has a bit of a sense of humour at this stage of his life, albeit quite cynical. I hope it’s the latter but you can never tell sometimes.

The story of the ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ is still at a very early stage, with so much more to come over the next few months, with at least three more issues from each of the titles involved and a handful of One-Shot stories there is a big part of me that just can’t fathom how Soule is going to continue to weave everything together when in this issue alone we get to see how Vader’s story intersects as well as the characters from the main title.

I don’t envy Soule who has undertaken this massive task, but his ability to craft amazing stories seemingly knows no bounds and I have every bit of faith in his abilities.

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Doctor Aphra: War of the Bounty Hunters Part 2

After getting into the grand Crimson Dawn party, Aphra and Sana work to keep a low profile but after getting recognised by a disguised Clone Soldier and a failed attempt at jewellery theft, Aphra is blindsided by the arrival of Darth Vader.

The bar is raised in this slow paced but equally tense issue as we get our first look at Qi’Ra’s lavish shindig as we are introduced to the veritable who’s who of the criminal underworld.

Aphra and Sana get into the party using the recovered invitation they got in the last issue. For the most part they do their best to lay low, seeing as most of the patrons have death sentences on Aphra’s head.

Of course that doesn’t stop the rogue archaeologist from doing what she does best after she tries to steal a necklace from a member of Black Sun, the jewels on which also act as data storage. The botched theft leads Aphra to planting a slicing chip on the jewellery to get info for Domina.

She is then approached by a former, disguised Clone soldier who enlists her and Sana to help him by creating a diversion when the time comes.

When Qi’Ra makes her appearance, Lucky and Ariole, also at the party, follow their former mentor, Crae into a back corridor where he he challenges them to a fight which the two younger gangsters are put through their paces.

Back at the auction, things are hitting up as the bidding war for Han Solo begins between the illustrious Jabba and another Hutt. Jabba wins the auction but the festivities quickly come to an end with the arrival of Darth Vader, claiming the Solo belongs to him.

The arrival of Vader sends Aphra into a state of panic, telling Sana they have to leave before she drops the device given to her to cause the distraction, drawing Vader’s attention.

And just like that, my faith in this series is restored (well a little bit). In what I think is the quietest issue of the series so far, with very little happening, the tension level has ramped up exponentially to the point where I feel like an impatient child in wanting to read the next part as soon as possible (a kriffing month).

I’m sure that many of the ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ Part Twos will feature similar beats as this one as the auction is possibly one of the biggest moments that the characters are part of so seeing it from different perspectives could be interesting, but having it first shown in the pages of ‘Doctor Aphra’ gives this series some added weight.

Having been disappointed with this run over the last few months, this issue was a refreshing change of pace and has reinvigorated my enjoyment of the series. I’m really hoping that the rest of this arc continues to, in my opinion, maintain this standard, and if it does I’ll be happy to keep going with it.

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CollectionCorner – Sabine Wren Black Series Figure Review

Out of all the characters from ‘Star Wars: Rebels’, Sabine is the one who got some of the best character development throughout the whole series.

The quick witted, teenage Mandalorian graffiti artist turned heads with her brightly coloured armour and explosive hobby which makes her more than perfect to be immortalised in 6” of plastic.

Like the rest of the ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ wave, Sabine’s look is taken from Season 1, and she comes with her helmet (which is not being worn in the packaging), her two blasters and her paint spray/detonator.

The design is fantastic. All of the little details on the armour are spot on, even down to the flecks of paint on her legs and arms, the kind of details that could be easily overlooked.

The n the wrong hands, this figure could have looked a complete mess with all of the colours and designs. I remember having a 3.75 inch Sabine that was released in the ‘Rogue One’ packaging and (knowing that they are not the same level of detail) whilst it looked good for what it was, it just didn’t pop like this one. It felt muted and looking back, underwhelming. This one however, every colour blasts you in the face, the details are almost overwhelming but it never looks wrong or out of place on the figure.

Her accessories are also very well designed l, even down to the paint spray which is a great addition that could easily have been overlooked. Her twin Mandalorian blasters are also very well detailed and screen accurate, and ready to be kept in her two holsters.

The helmet, whilst not as streamlined as on screen, is built to fit on her head so that lack of accuracy doesn’t bother me, I think the only way that Hasbro could get around this is by having her head removable and have a neck joint in the helmet but that would take away display opportunities so I think that they made the right choice, and when it’s being worn by the figure it doesn’t look too big or too heavy.

The head sculpt looks great. Like the rest of the ‘Rebels’ wave, Hasbro have done a great job of making her look realistic rather than animated and she is instantly recognisable. The hair is well detailed and brilliantly coloured to match her onscreen look.

The artwork is stunning. The artist has really captured Sabine brilliantly here, her warrior confidence and her cocky personality that makes the character so great.

This is an amazing looking figure, and it does the character justice. The level of detail is phenomenal and has really set a high standard for me in terms of what to look for in a ‘Black Series’ figure.

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Doctor Aphra: War of the Bounty Hunters Part 1

Aphra and Sana’s search for Ebann Drake comes to an unexpected end when they find the crew and clientele of The Opal Empress dead. Their search leads them to a swarm of vicious bugs and the terrifying Bounty Hunter, Durge.

The first issue in Aphra’s story within ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ doesn’t wow. In fact it’s once again a lacklustre instalment of a series that’s struggled along for quite a while now.

The issue starts on The Opal Empress with Ebann Drake enjoying himself and the opulence on board the ship before it jumps to a bit later with Aphra and Sana on approach to the ship in Sana’s Volt Cobra.

Once onboard The Empress, the two soon realise that something is wrong and eventually come across the corpse of Drake. They find his invitation to the Crimson Dawn meeting and auction for Han Solo.

Meanwhile, Lucky and Ariole discuss the upcoming Crimson Dawn meeting and how Crae, their former mentor betrayed Wen Delphis.

Soon after, Durge appears on the scene, also on board The Opal Empress and the monstrous bugs make their presence known and swarm Aphra, Sana and Durge who do their best to escape.

Using her quick wits, Aphra has Durge lead the swarm into an airlock and jettisons the bugs and the Bounty Hunter into space. Whilst some bugs remain on the ship, Aphra and Sana manage to get back to The Volt Cobra and escape.

On The Cobra, they contact Domina Tagge and inform them of Ebann’s demise as well as the invitation. Tagge tells them she wants them to go to the meeting and get as much information for her as possible.

I’m really trying to really enjoy this series, and whilst I haven’t finished reading the original run of ‘Doctor Aphra’, she is a character I have thoroughly enjoyed reading since she showed up in ‘Darth Vader’. However, this series has been on a steady decline after the first story arc (granted we’re only on the third right now) but when you have a great character like Aphra and she’s not reaching the high potential that she has then it’s going to be disappointing.

It’s time to address my elephant in the room. Durge. Why oh why has he been brought over from the Legends content? I was never a fan of the strange tentacle creature in armour from his introduction in ‘The Clone Wars’ microseries and when he was in the ‘Star Wars: Republic’ comics from Dark Horse I was less than interested. He always felt to me, like an attempt to fill the main Bounty Hunter role left behind after the beheading of Jango Fett and when Filoni and Lucas gave us Cad Bane in ‘The Clone Wars’, I had hoped that Durge had been left by the wayside for the long run.

Now, I’ll give the ‘Doctor Aphra’ team some credit, Durge never came across as some sort of beast/monster in this issue, he does however come across like Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Predator’ or ‘Commando’, I was almost hoping for a “Get to da choppah!” type line and the lack thereof probably added to my overall disappointment. And, to be honest there’s still plenty of time to get one seeing as his ejection out of an airlock is probably not the last we will see of him.

The art is great, which for a comic is a definite must, but the story just continues to lack something for me. It’s hardly through a lack of talent, Alyssa Wong wowed me with her first run of this series and her bibliography is nothing to be trifled with. There’s a part of me that wonders if, because of ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’, her hand has been forced to a certain degree to have the characters reach a point and then participate in the crossover, rather than Wong have complete control over the direction of the series. I’ll definitely finish this arc, with the hope that I find the series more engaging by the end but I’m afraid at this point, Doctor Aphra’s time on my subscription list may be limited.

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The High Republic: Heart of the Drengir Part 1

Holy s&@£!

After breaking our hearts with Issue 5 and then in ‘The Rising Storm’, Cavan Scott starts to heal one of those brutally inflicted wounds.

Set in the time period around Scott’s recent novel ‘The Rising Storm’ following the oft mentioned battle against the monstrous Drengir led by Avar Kriss and Myarga the Hutt.

The latest battle is taking place on Daivak and The Drengir are winning. Leading Avar to put a call to Starlight Beacon for all Jedi to come to their aid.

On Starlight, Master Maru updates Stellan Gios on Avar’s situation and also on the condition of Master Sskeer, who seemed to have died after allowing Keeve to invade his mind to learn about The Drengir that had contaminated him.

Wracked with guilt, Keeve is desperate to help her Master and, in an attempt to help him, tries to connect with his mind but is seemingly taken by The Drengir.

Nice inside Sskeer’s mind, their spirits meet and go on a search through the Drengir part of Sskeer’s mind to find The Great Progenitor, or ‘The First Seed’. They are held back at first but with help from Maru and the Jedi Archivist, Orbalin they are able to push The Drengir mind back enough to find The Great Progenitor.

To break their connection, Sskeer rips the Drengir arm from his body, severing any connection with the monsters and waking up from his strange coma. Also, through chance or the Force, the location of ‘The First Seed’ is engraved in Keeve’s armour, a planet called Mulita, hidden deep in Wild Space.

If someone would have told me that ‘The High Republic’ would give us an image of a Hutt on a Hover Chair leading three Jedi, two of which are riding Rancors and the other on a Speederbike I would tell that person to sit down, have a glass of water and relax until the crazy had passed.

And then I would have eaten my words.

Because this image is everything!

And it’s not even the icing on the cake that is this issue and Cavan Scott is doing that thing again where he has two battles taking place, much like last issue, with Avar Kriss and her group fighting The Drengir on the battle ground whilst Keeve and Sskeer fight them on a more spiritual plane.

Firstly, I was was relieved to see Sskeer still alive, albeit in some sort of coma and being kept that way to stop the spread of his symbiotic Drengir attachment. Keeve, feeling guilt for putting her Master into this state pleads with the Doctor on Starlight Beacon to help him more than they already have, with Keeve being concerned about Sskeer’s revelation that his connection to the Force was getting weaker. The Doctor responds with a question, which I hadn’t actually considered, that he was having a crisis of faith. Which would make a lot of sense seeing as it started after losing his arm and one of his closest friends, Jora Malli during the Battle of Kur (in ‘Light of the Jedi’ by Charles Soule).

Keeve entering Sskeer’s mind and connecting with The Drengir part of him, resulting in Avar Kriss sensing the newly Knighted Keeve as a part of The Drengir in the Force is just creepy, and the horror vibe continues with images of The Great Progenitor, dwarfing Keeve and Sskeer, followed by The Drengir leader surrounded by its followers.

In the hands of lesser writers, The Drengir could come across as pretty lame villains, their one track mind of eating living beings feels like it could get old very quickly, but so far they have been handled well, and Scott has written them amazingly through this series and this issue is no different, adding new layers to the creatures and making them more menacing as well as adding in a hint of backstory that I hope gets expanded in a later issue.

This issue sees the introduction of Georges Jeanty as the artist, and he absolutely nailed it, keeping the high standard that Anindito filled the first five issues with. Scott is delivering on all cylinders yet again, which at this point should be a given.

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Bad Batching Episode 11 – Devil’s Deal

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week and another episode of ‘The Bad Batch’ with the latest episode ‘Devil’s Deal’.

So stick some Star Wars podcast in those ears as I talk about the latest episode all about our favourite defective clones, and it’s right HERE for your convenience.

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The High Republic – Where’s the Merch?

In 1996, Lucasfilm tried something that was pretty ballsy at the time, so ballsy in fact that it has left an impression on fans the world over.

They released a movie… without the movie.

‘Shadows of the Empire’ was a phenomenon, a cross-media event that told the story between ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ through a book, a comic series, a musical score, a video game as well as a whole range of toys, most of which were brand new (a couple of repackaged figures too but that’s not new). All that was missing was a film, but that was Lucasfilm’s intent and it showed just how popular the franchise still was in the lead up to the release of the Special Editions.

Similar things have happened since. I remember a huge range of merch for ‘Star Wars: The Force Unleashed’, with a novel, a graphic novel and toys, including at least one Lego set to whet the appetites of the fans, especially at a time when fans were clamouring for Star Wars content before ‘The Clone Wars’ came out.

And just look at how popular the world of ‘Knights of the Old Republic’ is, the amount of toys that have been produced, even to this day, are incredibly sought after.

Even since the Disney acquisition, we’ve gotten figures based on games (mainly from ‘Jedi: Fallen Order’ but some for ‘Battlefront 2x’). But there seems to be a serious lack of merchandise from ‘The High Republic’, which so far has mainly been in books and comics, but a recent update to the newest VR game, ‘Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge’ is a story set in the same era and with much more to be announced there is a myriad of potential merchandising opportunities.

It’s not like there isn’t any reference material to work from, in every ‘Behind the Scenes’ video we’ve seen for the initiative there have been walls full of designs, from the characters and the creatures to the vehicles it’s all there, not to mention the monthly issues of the two comics series.

Hasbro could be bringing new figures out regularly (or as regularly as Hasbro does so these days), imagine having Avar Kriss and Marchion Ro in your display of figures, I’d love it, and at the same time, even though the recent packaging for ‘The Black Series’ is wonderful, they could give ‘The High Republic’ figures a different type of packaging, as a way of showing the opulence of the era as part of the overall design. Imagine the fun the designers could have, I don’t know about you but I’d pay out for a Deluxe set of Bell Zettifer and Ember the Char Hound and imagine how amazing a Drengir figure could look. It’s not even just about ‘The Black Series’, with ‘The Vintage Collection’ Hasbro could even put out ships and also get the younger readers buying those ‘Action Fleet’ toys, which look pretty good to be fair.

The new vehicles are just begging for Lego to drop some sets. Give me a Jedi Vector, any time with any Mini-Figs they can think of (Burryaga please) and just think how creative the designers could be when building the Nihil ships. They could even forget about the ships (not that I’d want them to) and just do a series of ‘The High Republic’ Mini-Figs in blind bags. I know I’d be buying one… or three every time I went shopping.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, given the relative freedom of the time period, that the upcoming UBISoft open world game isn’t set during ‘The High Republic’, or another game come out that makes use of the time period on the next few years. Or even add characters to ‘Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes’ which would be a great draw for fans of the books.

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Race to Crashpoint Tower by Daniel José Older SPOILER FREE Audiobook Review

Jedi Padawan, Ram Jomaram is much more at home in the garage tinkering with machines than meditating and his craftiness with electronics is required when, in the run up to ‘The Republic Fair’ on his homeworld of Valo when a long range communications array at Crashpoint Tower is damage by Nihil raiders, leading Ram on a life-or-death mission to repair the tower and survive a Nihil invasion.

Daniel José Older’s first novel in ‘The High Republic’ series is a Middle Grade adventure whose events run concurrently with those in Cavan Scott’s ‘The Rising Storm’ and the two even cross over on occasion with characters and specific events referenced and even shown from different perspectives. For me this just adds legitimacy to ‘Race to Crashpoint Tower’ because there are many who would write it off because it’s “for kids” but actually it adds another layer to the already amazing ‘The Rising Storm’.

Older adds a few characters from other parts of ‘The High Republic’, some in a supporting role whilst a pair of them, from Older’s own ‘High Republic Adventures’ series take on major roles and assist Ram through the story. Whilst it was fun having them in another medium, there was a necessity to finish the most recent issue as to not be spoilt. Older has confirmed that the characters not involved with ‘Race to Crashpoint Tower’ will have their story told in the next arc of ‘High Republic Adventures’ which is hinted at in this book.

The story is fast paced and incredibly engaging, Ram isn’t the typical Jedi Padawan and seeing how he engages and sees the Force, like how Avar Kriss sees it as a song and Burryaga as an ever growing tree really fits with his character. Having him be a not-typical Jedi allows him to be relatable to more people and shows kids (the target audience) that it’s ok to be who you are and doesn’t do it in a preachy way. When we think of Jedi we instantly see them like Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon or Luke Skywalker so having a more tech savvy mechanic Jedi is new and fun.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed that the audiobook wasn’t narrated by Marc Thompson, who has become the unofficial voice of Star Wars for me (like how Kevin Conroy will always be the voice of Batman), instead this was narrated by Todd Haberkorn, who does a great job and really injects the fun into the story with his enthusiastic reading.

I have seen folks online questioning if this is an important part of the overall story, an honesty I would say it is. Aside from the fact that characters cross over and ‘Race to Crashpoint Tower’ shows events and adds more depth to moments shown in ‘The Rising Storm’, this book even explains and gives the story around what could be seen as a throwaway line from the end of Cavan Scott’s novel, so if you want the full story of the events of The Republic Fair then yes, buy this (audio)book and read (or listen).

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The High Republic Adventures Issue 5 Review

The junk Moon, Quantxi, becomes a battlefield between the few Jedi and the Nihil as Zeen and Krix finally come face-to-face for the first time since they separated on Trymant.

Daniel José Older brings the first arc of his ‘High Republic Adventures’ to an exciting end as ‘The High Republic’ prepares to enter its second wave.

After Krix shoots down Zeen’s ship, Zeen tries to talk to him but in the end, her feelings of betrayal lead her to use the Force in a dark way.

After locating Krix’s communicator, Lula makes her way to her friend, luckily in time to stop Zeen from using the Dark Side and killing her former friend before he escapes with Marchion Ro.

Meanwhile, Farzala and Qort team up with Masters Sy and Buckets of Blood as Yoda talks with Elder Tromak.

Yoda agrees to go on a mission alone with Tromak to retrieve and artefact that Marchion Ronis trying to find whilst Sy and Buck(ets of Blood) join with Zeen and Lula, trying to stop the Nihil ship from escaping but are unable to when a larger ship latches on and jumps to hyperspace.

At the end, Marchion Ro asks Krix to join The Nihil whilst Lula and Master Sy ask Zeen to join them on Starlight Beacon so that she can learn to control her powers and use them for good.

As the conclusion to a story arc, some of the issue fell flat for me. I was hoping for more from the Zeen/Krix reunion, a bit more back and forth about Zeen’s powers and Krix’s choice to stay with The Nihil. Justifiably he runs away after blowing her ship from the sky, causing it to crash, so I can understand not wanting to talk too much, but this was something that the arc had been building towards pretty heavily. Whilst her use of the Dark Side was pretty alarming, especially from someone who has been so intrinsically good. Of course Lula is on hand to calm her friend down and the fact that it is Lula’s presence that calms her rather than Krix’s pleas for mercy.

The mystery of Yoda’s new adventure is intriguing. Not only do we get a hint at more of Yoda’s past when Elder Tromak mentions the planet Dalna, the mention of it switches Yoda’s side of the conversation completely from not interested to very interested. I wonder if that is something Older will explore in the future. Of course the bigger mystery now is what’s happened to the old Jedi Master and Tromak when their ship was seemingly destroyed above Vrant Tarnum where Marchion Ro has recovered an artefact and decides to leave Krix in charge of a Nihil base.

Whilst the events of this run don’t impact greatly on the rest of ‘The High Republic’ storytelling, going forward it feels like all of the different areas will be coming together a lot more, but having these past five issues to really get to know Zeen, Lula, Farzala, Qort and Krix, as well as the rest of the characters allows us a chance to care for these characters and maybe follow their adventures in other mediums.

Older has guided us through this first arc, allowing us to get to know them all before we find out where they are all headed as we enter wave two of ‘The High Republic’ (and I may already know some stuff after reading a certain book recently but no spoilers).

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Bad Batching Episode 10 – Common Ground

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week and another episode of ‘The Bad Batch’ with the latest episode ‘Common Ground’.

So stick some Star Wars podcast in those ears as I talk about the latest episode all about our favourite defective clones, and it’s right HERE for your convenience.

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#CollectionCorner – Chopper (C1-10P) Black Series Figure Review

Whilst Hasbro have had a hit-and-miss success rate of getting figures to look like their on-screen counterparts (just look at every Poe Dameron figure ever), Droids, Troopers, masked characters have always looked amazing

This is Chopper’s second ‘Black Series’ release, and this is a repack of the first, with the same accessories and base that came before, to me that’s not a problem as I had only just started collecting ‘Black Series’ when this version came out. Had I already got the original I think I would have still bought this one to have the Ghost Crew on display in the same packaging.

The detail on this cantankerous Droid is superb. Every dent, rivet and burn are there on full, glorious display.

Taking the design cues from the life size model that was used in ‘Rebels Recon’ and later ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, this Chopper figure looks exactly like the real Astromech Droid. The paint work and choice of colours really bring him to life in a realistic way, the orange isn’t over the top and more muted than the animated version and the weathering effects really show how much this little guy has been through.

The accessories really make up the cost, which would seem rather steep if all we got was the figure itself. Chopper comes with a spare leg, which is taken from the Season 2 episode ‘The Forgotten Droid’. He also comes with a detachable middle wheel that slots into the rocket in the middle of the body.

He also comes with a rocket boost effect which is part of a base that can be used to display the figure. It’s a fun addition which could really make the figure stand out in the shelf when it could so easily get missed without it.

The box art shows Chopper in all his glory, rocket on full blast and his grabber arms stick out of his “head”. It’s a bit of a let down that the arms don’t come as add-on accessories but it’s not a deal breaker. I love how the artist has added a pair of Purgil in the background, it’s a nice little detail that’s a nice nod the the fans of the series.

A really nice looking figure, which comes with enough accessories to make you forget that you’re paying full price for a half-sized figure.

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Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott Book Review (SPOILER FREE)

There are very few books in the world (that I have read) that, when I finished them I closed the book and just sat for a moment wondering “What will I do now?”

The last time it happened what back in early 2017 when I finished Stephen King’s ‘It’. That’s how rare it is for me.

‘The Rising Storm’ was added to that very, very short list today (28th June).

Cavan Scott’s follow-up to Charles Soules amazing ‘Light of the Jedi’ is nothing short of brilliance, and Soule’s book was a hard one to beat.

Set almost a year after ‘The Great Disaster’, Scott takes us to the planet Valo where Chancellor Lina Soh is hosting The Republic Fair, an event for all systems to join together in unity and welcome new members to the growing Government body.

As ambassadors, Jedi Stellan Gios, Elzar Mann, Bell Zettifer and others are there to foster peace but Marchion Ro and the other Nihil leaders have other ideas.

The Nihil storm attacks the Republic Fair and the Jedi struggle to withstand the storm as the Galaxy finally sees the fear and devastation these Pirates want to bring to the Galaxy.

I’m sure there are many who did not envy Cavan Scott’s job of following ‘Light of the Jedi’ which so perfectly set up the first wave of books in ‘The High Republic’ but now that the era has been established, Scott has the freedom to just go nuts, and honestly, he did.

Whilst ‘Light of the Jedi’ felt grand in terms of scope, with the events spanning across the Galaxy, Scott focus is much narrower and more personal for the characters, we get to spend a lot of time with Gios, Mann and Zettifer as they navigate the events from different fronts, giving us a wide scope of the devastation the Nihil bring.

With more focus on Stellan and Elzar, both whom Soule introduced but who get to spend more time in the spotlight and whilst we got a sense of who they are in ‘Light of the Jedi’, the characters really come to life in ‘The Rising Storm’, even more than before, both are well written and wonderfully developed and as co-leads, vastly different enough to make them both feel fresh and complement each other throughout the book.

It’s not just the Jedi who get some major development, Scott spends a fair bit of time with Marchion Ro and the Nihil Leaders, seeing how things have changed for them over the past year, of course Marchion is front and centre but the Tempest Leaders are all a huge part of the book.

To say that I was excited for ‘The Rising Storm’ is an understatement, Cavan Scott’s ongoing Marvel series, ‘The High Republic’ has been consistently amazing and to see him get to tell a bigger story has been amazing. The book is so well paced, it speeds along but never rushes, the short chapter lengths drove the story from moment to moment, never holding back and kept me on the edge of my seat.

Of ‘Light of the Jedi’ is ‘A New Hope’ then ‘The Rising Storm’ is truly ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, in all ways. The deeply personal stories mixed with insane and intense action and a darker tone can easily draw those comparisons, but this isn’t ‘Empire’ rewritten to fit ‘The High Republic’, ‘The Rising Storm’ is its own beast entirely and one that any Star Wars fan should not miss whatsoever. I can see this book being the one that converts the naysayers or this who couldn’t get into ‘The High Republic’ into lifelong fans of the initiative, and with ‘Race to Crashpoint Tower’ by Daniel José Older out on the same day (in the US, on Thursday in the UK) which has been described as a companion piece to ‘The Rising Storm’ and Justina Ireland’s’Out of the Shadows’ out late July/Early August, I feel that my Star Wars reading card just got filled very quickly.

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Darth Vader: War of the Bounty Hunters Part 1 Review

After successfully thwarting Booka’s attempt to kill him, Vader uses the Hutt to gain access to Hutt Space and a Droid Gang’s base to find the lost Carbonite clad Han Solo, only to come up against IG-88 and Bokka’s own weapons.

A return to form for the ‘Darth Vader’ series. Vader kicks some serious Droid a$$ and squares up to a Hutt with muscles the size of Vader’s head and still the Dark Lord stands firm, his dark resolve stronger than ever.

After Vader vanquishes Bokka’s henchmen, Ochi brokers a deal between Vader and the Crime Lord, where Bokka’s will take Vader and Ochi into Hutt Space to locate someone who may know the whereabouts of Han Solo. Bokka agrees and takes Vader to a planet deep in the Hutt territory.

Once there, Vader and Ochi take their shuttle down to the Droid Crush base where their ship is hacked and crashes. Vader and Ochi fight off their attackers before IG-88 appears with a heavy arsenal of weapons but ends up using a slicing device to hack into Vader’s suit, managing to take control of his body.

Using the Force, Vader takes IG-88’s device and cuts off the Droid assassin’s head but the head is taken by surviving members of the Crash, just as Bokka fires on Vader who defends himself. Vader then takes the Droid’s hand and computer link to get the information that leads him to Crimson Dawn.

Returning to Bokka’s ship, Vader asks Bokka if he will try to kill him again now the Hutt has seen Vader’s power for himself, the Hutt agrees that any further attacks would be foolish and agrees to serve Vader on his mission.

Meanwhile, a group of hooded individuals , led by Sly Moore gather to plot against Vader.

This issue is a true return to form for this series. Whilst the last arc had some fun action, this issue wipes the floor with it all. The seemingly outmatched Vader against an army of Droids is reminiscent of Anakin during The Cone Wars, and luckily we don’t get any flashbacks to show this, in fact we only get a handful of flashbacks in the whole issue which was refreshing.

Ochi’s new role as Vader’s majordomo is an interesting one, but seeing as he’s dealing with gangsters, it seems fitting. And having Vader come up against a beast of a Hutt like Bokka, and survive his treachery is mightily impressive. Of course Vader would survive as we all know what happens, but we have seen him get almost taken apart piece by piece in the last arc.

What was very interesting was the failsafe that renders Vader unable to move that IG-88 uses. Is this a device that Palpatine has handed out to his most trusted employees, seeing as we learn that Sly Moore is the one who gave it to IG-88. It would make sense for Moore and Mas Amedda to have them after the last arc and their fear that Vader would come after them after their parts in his trials.

I’m really happy with the improvement of this storyline already, I know it’s great not one issue in (not counting the Prelude) and seeing Vader back on his game here is a welcome sight to see and read. The art is fantastic, the writing is great and this is looking to be a great addition to the ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ story.

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Bad Batching Episode 9 – Bounty Lost

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week and another episode of ‘The Bad Batch’ with the latest episode ‘Bounty Lost’.

So stick some Star Wars podcast in those ears as I talk about the latest episode all about our favourite defective clones, and it’s right HERE for your convenience.

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#CollectionCorner – Hera Syndulla Black Series Figure Review

Whilst you could say that making a life-like figure based on an animated character could be hard to do, an easier thing would be to translate an animated alien character to a life-like action figure.

A “life-like” Hera Syndulla has been done before. This is her second outing as a Black Series figure, we have also seen her depicted on the cover of John Jackson Miller’s ‘A New Dawn’ and more recently in ‘Star Wars: Squadrons’ and each one has looked decidedly different, each one a different interpretation of the character, and Regis new ‘Black Series’ figure is no different.

Like the Kanan figure, Hera is wearing her Season 1/2 gear (the only real change in her outfit is her rank insignia), which is her brown and grey top with Orange flight suit and white straps. The whole outfit is well detailed, the wrinkles and folds in the flight suit looks brilliant and having the straps be separate and not just painted on is an added level of detail, the likes of which I have come to absolutely love ‘The Black Series’ figures for.

The face sculpt is gorgeous, the designer has really captured Hera’s soft features from the cartoon but also given her a look of determination that the character shows throughout the series. The shade of green used for her skin is a perfect tone that feels natural and yet alien all at the same time.

Her headgear, with the flight cap and goggles looks good and well detailed again and the details on her lekku are so well done (can’t see them in the picture unfortunately).

In terms of accessories, she’s a bit light. She comes with a small blaster which, whilst screen accurate, feels a bit of a let down in terms of items to display her with. I’m not saying I want a full cockpit diorama but the single tiny blaster (that fits into her ankle holster) feels a bit lacking. Could have at least given her a Meiloorun fruit as well.

The box art, as absolutely stunning as it is, feels a bit off for me. The art and the figure don’t share the same look, the figure, as I stated earlier, shows Hera’s soft features but the art makes her look harsher, with more angular features that don’t really match up with her animated counterpart.

It’s another solid and great looking figure from Hasbro. Whilst lacking in accessories it’s still a great piece to display, especially alongside the rest of The Ghost Crew.

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Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters Part 1

After getting the location of Han Solo, now in the possession of Crimson Dawn, Leia, Chewie, Lando, Lobot and C-3PO head to the meeting, with Lando taking the opportunity to do some dealings of his own.

Soule kicks off the main titles ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ storyline and it’s already go intrigue, shady dealings, romance and some good old Star Wars style good times.

After receiving a message from Amilyn Holdo with details on the auction for Han Solo, Leia recruits Chewie, Lando, Lobot and C-3O to get on board Qi’Ra’s ship and join the auction and pay to get Solo and free him.

Lando uses this vast meeting to make good on his promise to Jabba to deliver the Talky Droid, where he will jettison the Droid out into space at a set location for Jabba’s crew to pick it up.

Before Lando and Lobot dispose of the Talky, Lobot connects with it again and Lando gives it some ‘what for’, telling the Droid he would have been much kinder had it not tried to kill his friend. That’s when Talky pulls a blinder and uses their connection to push back the implants connection to Lobot’s mind and allows the man to talk to Lando, but only after Lando sends it to its fate and the connection is lost as the Falcon flies away.

To avoid being detected, Chewie pilots the Falcon to the other side of the planet where the meeting is to be held but after a near collision the Falcon crash-lands near to the meeting place.

It’s not surprising that this story already fits in so well with the main ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ title with Soule at the helm, he’s quite probably been building his way to it, laying seeds throughout the last 13 (well 12 if you don’t include last months Prelude) much like he and Cavan Scott (and maybe the others) had been laying seeds and dropping hints about ‘The High Republic’ in their other works.

I’m pleased that Soule has referenced how out of character Leia has seemed over the last few issues. Whilst not glaringly obvious, something just hasn’t been the same, and it’s finally come to light as an intentional choice and the after effect of Leia’s defeat by Zahra earlier in the run. With that on top of the search for Han, the MIA Shara Bey and the scattered Rebel fleet it’s actually a work of genius to show the usually on form Leia show some cracks and allow herself some time to not be the all inspiring beacon of hope and just have a chance to feel like a regular person.

The continuing storyline with Lando and Lobot is hopefully coming to an end soon, maybe he can get himself out from under Jabba’s thumb in this arc. It’s totally understandable why Lando can’t be trusted by the main group but at some point he’s going to have to gain their trust, and the trust of the Rebellion leadership before the run comes to an end, which could be somewhere around issue 25 if they follow a similar structure to the first run which was 75 issues spanning three years in-universe. That leaves a bit of room after this crossover but we’ll just have to see.

The art and writing continues to be on point, I absolutely love this panel of Chewie as the Falcon is crash landing, the fear and surprise is conveyed so well which is something that could be quite difficult to do in a non-human character, but Rosanas excelled in this issue with the range that he shows in Chewie.

A great second-start to this new arc, I’m looking forward to seeing where Soule takes this series and what Lando will get up to next.

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The High Republic Adventures Issue 4 Review

Jedi and Nihil forces clash as Marchion Ro uses Krix to contact Zeen, who takes a Jedi ship and goes to meet her friend, Lula, Farzala and Qort take one last Jedi Vector and follow their new companion.

With another stellar issue of ‘High Republic Adventures’, Daniel José Older continues to bring us an amazing series that is a wonderful accompaniment to the rest of ‘The High Republic’ initiative.

Zeen and Lula meditate on the Republic Outpost above Ord Mantell when the base is put on alert and the Jedi Knights and Masters take to their starfighters to thwart a Nihil attack.

Meanwhile on The Junk Moon of Quantxi, Marchion Ro prepares for the next part of his plan, but a pair of locals try to get on the way. Ro sends Krix to stop on of them from sending a distress call, the boy chases the creature down but is too late to stop it from sending a distress call, but during the chase, he does send Zeen a message, asking her to meet him on the Moon.

As the Jedi wipe out The Nihil forces, Lula, Qort and Farzala look for Zeen who has left them a message of her own, telling them about Krix’s attempt to get in touch and that she is going to meet him. The three friends, along with Cham-Cham get into a Jedi Vector (which looks very cramped) and follows Zeen.

The Jedi forces have also picked up the distress call and are on their way to Quantxi to face what Nihil forces are there.

Oh, it’s all very, very exciting and I am loving every panel in this issue. Seeing the Jedi in action in starfighters was something that had been done so well in ‘Light of the Jedi’ that I didn’t even consider getting it in comics but wow. I really liked how the focus was on the few Jedi we have already met and we didn’t get bogged down with so many new names and faces in so short a time. I never thought I’d be so excited to see Yoda in a space battle. To be fair, I never thought I’d ever see Yoda in a space battle.

The growing companionship between Lula and Zeen is great, rather than a Jedi Master taking Zeen under their wing, Lula has taken it in herself to essentially train her friend, even though it’s supposedly forbidden for someone as old as Zeen to learn the Jedi way. I think that the Masters are turning a blind eye so that one day when she’s a bit older, Zeen will be taken on as a Padawan. Although her close relationship with Krix could put a hole in that theory, it could lead to another Anakin Skywalker situation where her attachments lead her towards the Dark Side, but who knows right now.

I’m loving how much Marchion Ro we are getting in this series, and how he’s manipulating Krix. Ro is fast becoming a classic villain and seeing him in this run as well as the novels is giving the audience a chance to see multiple sides to the Nihil leader and the lengths he is willing to go to.

Older and his team are putting out a consistently great series so far, and whilst the IDW series is aimed at a younger audience than the Marvel series, I honestly can’t tell a difference in tone, whilst Older injects a bit more humour than Cavan Scott, he doesn’t over-do it which manages to keep the series grounded.

And seriously, did no one think to check the timer on Buckets of Blood’s pastries? Careless!

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Bad Batching Episode 8 – Reunion

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week and another episode of ‘The Bad Batch’ with the latest episode ‘Reunion’.

So stick some Star Wars podcast in those ears as I talk about the latest episode all about our favourite defective clones, and it’s right HERE for your convenience.

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Doctor Aphra: War of the Bounty Hunters – Prelude Review

Aphra and Sana do what they can to thwart Vukorah’s hostage plot and fulfil their promise to Domina Tagge whilst Lucky and Ariole discover a plot against The Sixth Kin.

Doctor Aphra’s entry into the ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ is more of a fizzle than a bang in, much like the Darth Vader: War of the Bounty Hunters – Prelude it is actually the end of the current storyline with a lead in to the next issue.

Aphra and Sana deliberate on what to do, with Aphra ready to escape but Starros convinces get to help. Aphra sends Sana to find a way out whilst she throws herself into the line of fire, convincing Vukorah that she is the only one who can safely disengage the Nihil Hyperdrive from the test ship.

Lucky and Ariole manage to defeat their attackers from last issue and discover that there is is plan to destroy the Sixth Kin and so they go back to Wen Delphis for answers.

Aphra, under an intense amount of pressure as Sana brings a squad of Stormtroopers in from outside after freeing some hostages , manages to take the Crystal Core out of the hyperdrive and gets away just in time before the ship blows up.

The two of them are chased by Vukorah whom Sana manages to shoot in the eye (and she somehow survived). They go back to Domina and Aphra hands over the Crystal Core. Tagge gives them their next assignment, to get on board a luxury cruise and find a cousin of Domina before he can buy into some unknown venture.

Meanwhile, Wen Delphis explains to Luck and Ariole that someone within The Sixth Kin is leaking information, and all sources lead to the very same luxury cruise Aphra and Sana are heading towards.

I hate to say it, but the ‘Doctor Aphra’ series is very quickly losing me. The last two issues have been very lacklustre and drawn out when instead we could have had a pretty solid single issue finale last month and a worthy entry into ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ this month. Instead Alyssa Wong has overstretched one great story arc and rather than dive into a new one head first, dipped her toe into this massive crossover event., and it’s making me dubious for this series’ arc within the crossover.

I’m feeling very disappointed by this series, which had run on such a high note, for me the creative team was running on all cylinders but the last couple of issues have been so poor that the temptation to stop reading the series (I know that’ll put a dint in the content) but I can’t justify continuing to buy it it if I’m not enjoying what we’re getting. I’ll see how it fairs for the rest of the year, if maybe after ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ gives the series a bit of a boost.

For a second month running, I’ve been pretty unimpressed by the artwork as well and struggled to find a single panel to add to the post that remotely blew me away, however I did find this one pretty cool. If only to showcase the Stormtroopers actually hitting targets for once.

A lacklustre start to this series contributions to the ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ and another disappointing issue for this series. I am really hoping that the team can bring it back to its former glory during/after this crossover event, but only time will tell.

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Spectre of the Past by Timothy Zahn Audiobook Review

Note: This review of of the abridged version of the audiobook.

After disturbing information about a planets destruction comes to light the peace within the New Republic becomes frayed thanks to a plot from within the Imperial Remnant whilst the Imperial leaders debate a surrender to the New Republic in a bid to end the war once and for all.

Timothy Zahn returns with what feels like a direct sequel to his blockbuster hit trilogy featuring all the familiar names and places that he introduced in ‘The Empire Trilogy’.

Following a failed weapons test, Supreme Commander Gilda Pellaeon meets with the last leaders of the fledgling Imperial Remnant and announces his intention to formerly surrender to The New Republic. Whilst the Moff’s agree, behind the scenes, Moff Disra has put a plan into action, with the help of Grodin Tierce, a former Imperial Royal Guard to make the Galaxy believe that Grand Admiral Thrawn had survived his assassination attempt ten years before, using a Con Artist called Flim to portray the dead leader.

On Wayland, whilst on leave from the Galactic Senate, Leia mediates a meeting between a Deveronian and the local Noghri where Leia comes into possession of a collection of Data Cards, one of which details something called ‘The Hand of Thrawn’, another, which she deciphers with the help of Talon Karrde, they learn that ‘The Caamasi Incident’ which wiped out most of a planet and its population was committed by a group of Bothans.

Whilst on a diplomatic mission, Han, Luke and Chewie are drawn into a fight with pirates. Through the Force, Luke senses that the crews are made up of Clones. Han and Chewie go to meet Leia whilst Luke hunts down the pirates and locates their stronghold deep within an asteroid belt. After narrowly escaping capture by the gang, Mara arrives in time to save Luke before the base self-destructs.

Luke goes to a Medical Facility to heal wounds he got in the base and has a terrifying Force Vision that leads him to a meeting with Talon Karrde where he learns that Mara, after chasing down one of the last Pirate ships she has been captured.

With tensions getting worse in the Senate, Han and Leia travel to Bothawui to help the local government deal with growing unrest. During a protest, an assassin frames Han for the murder of the Bothan leader. Han is found innocent after a device is found that was part of the assassins plan. Later, they meet Lando, who along with a Senator were taken aboard a Star Destroyer where they met the returned Grand Admiral Thrawn.

After revealing the Grand Admiral’s return to the Senate, Lando, Han and Leia meet with Karrde who decides to join their efforts in bringing some stability to the Senate and finding the names of the Bothan’s involved with ‘The Caamasi Incident’. After some convincing, Karrde agrees to go and meet a contact who may have access to a copy of the document.

Meanwhile, Pellaeon’s plan to surrender has started to fall apart. Firstly, the messenger tasked with inviting Senator Garm Bel Iblis to meet to discuss terms was captured by a Star Destroyer. Secondly, at the proposed rendezvous, The Chimera was attacked by pirates, whose ships were disguised as Corellian attack ships, meant to be believed to be ships under Iblis’ command. Realising the ruse, Pellaeon decides to wait a bit longer.

Well, when I say this, I’m talking mainly about the abridgement of this book. It’s a mess. A complete and utter mess. Everything is all over the place. Characters are in one place one second and a minute later they’re somewhere completely different, and it’s as if the news they got a moment ago hasn’t even been delivered based on their temperament.

Whilst the bare bones of the story is good, and yes it’s a bit messy in places, but with what seem like great big chunks taken out to fit the book into three hours it’s not surprising.

My one big take away, that I stated previously, is that Zahn is writing a direct sequel to his ‘Empire Trilogy’. He’s kept parts of the established lore what had come in between his first and second forays into the Expanded Universe but he’s definitely keeping to his own sandbox in terms of characters, events and even locations (Leia just so happens to be on a relaxing holiday on Wayland of all places, but according to Han it’s changed in the ten years since Thrawn’s defeat).

Zahn has put into place some interesting ideas, the Caamasi Incident is a terrifying feat that the Empire perpetrated with the assistance of a group of Bothans, and now that this evidence is brought to light it’s caused a political firestorm that once again threatens to tear the New Republic apart. Though I’ll be honest, the ease of which anyone can throw the New Republic into so much turmoil really goes to show how fragile the concept of a Galactic Government really is.

It was nice to reconnect with some favourite characters, especially Gilad Pellaeon who hasn’t been featured (from what I can remember) since ‘The Last Command’ and seeing this once proud leader of the Empire finally admit defeat and plan to surrender is almost heart breaking, if, you know, he wasn’t a member of The Empire. Also the return of Talon Karrde, the smuggler/information broker/pirate, you name it he’s done it. I would include Mara Jade here but she seems to have turned up quite regularly, but it it nice to get to read (hear) her as part of a Timothy Zahn book.

Whilst enjoyable, I really feel the desire/need to either get the unabridged version or buy the book to get the full story. I really feel that, out of all of the abridged versions I have listened to, this one has suffered the most. Zahn’s books are always (as far as my experience) pretty dense and chock-full of detail which never really made it into this version of the story, which was a bit disappointing but it has whet my appetite for the full story.

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Darth Vader: War of the Bounty Hunters – Prelude

After learning of his Master’s plans on Exogol, Vader undergoes severe repairs and prepares to enter the War of the Bounty Hunters.

Returning to the medical centre where Vader was originally put into the suit, Palpatine orders the workers to repair the damaged Vader who chooses to undergo the procedure without pain relief, allowing him to use the pain to fuel his anger and tap deeper into the Dark Side.

Vader has visions and memories of Luke, starting to believe his son to be weak without his friends, Vader turns his attention to them, especially Han Solo whose involvement at The Battle of Yavin caused Vader to become distracted, allowing Luke to blow up the Death Star.

Meanwhile, Palpatine attempts to reassure Mas Amedda and Sly Moore that Vader won’t turn his ire on them and will instead find himself a new target to unleash his anger upon.

Once Vader is essentially healed (and in a newer, slightly shiny suit as opposed to before), Ochi has also undergone a procedure to heal his eyes (giving him the really creepy look we see in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’). Vader takes Ochi to work with him.

Later, Ochi appears before Bokku the Hutt, telling the gangster that Vader is searching for Solo. Bokku doesn’t believe the assassin until Vader himself arrives.

Honestly, I’m really disappointed with about half of this issue. The other half is superb.

The superb half is the sections set in ‘the present’. Vader being rebuilt is seriously intense, seeing the repair droids essentially pull him apart to rebuild his cybernetic limbs and the knowledge that he is fully conscious at the time is almost terrifying.

Palpatine fully understands what his apprentice is doing and thanks to his insight knows that Vader would no longer pose a threat to him after witnessing a tiny portion of the Emperor’s machinations on Exogol and even reassures his closest advisers that even they will be safe. That’s some power they hold if they are safe from Vader who has been seen laying waste to Rebels, Tuskens and Geonosians in the pages of his various comic runs.

Finally getting the Ochi of Bestoon that we’ve seen on screen feels like a long time coming, and I hope that now he’s partnered with Vader instead of hunting him, we will see his character develop more.

The half I was let down by was Greg Park’s over reliance on flashbacks to the films and previous comics. I know that they have been a staple in this and Charles Soule’s run on the title but seriously, I already own all of those and if I wanted to I’d have a catch-up session instead of getting whole clips in comic form. One or two panels here and there wouldn’t bother me but it feels like almost half the issue is old material.

That being said, the art is astounding, and rather than getting the scary uncanny valley style we had back in the early days of the first run.

I feel the issue could have been much better and even covered more ground with Vader and Ochi visiting Bokka had the flackbacks been trimmed. Whilst it sets Vader’s place in the crossover event by the end, this felt more like a tacked on ending to the Exogol plot from the last few issues, definitely not the best issue of this run and I hope that Vader’s involvement in ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ doesn’t drag the series down.

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Bad Batching Episode 7: Battle Scars

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week and another episode of ‘The Bad Batch’ with the latest episode ‘Battle Scars’.

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#CollectionCorner – Kanan Jarrus Black Series Figure Review

When I decided that ‘The Black Series’ figures were something I was going to get into, I spent some time figuring out where to start other than a Rey and Kylo from each of the Sequel Trilogy as well as a Han Solo from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ and a the Jedi Master Luke Skywalker from ‘The Last Jedi’, both of which I found for a decent price.

And then Hasbro announced the new packaging and, for the first time, the whole of the Ghost Crew from ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ as well as Ahsoka. Well, as a huge ‘Rebels’ fan this felt like a no-brainer. And rather than pick them up one-by-one I was going to buy the whole wave in one go. I just had to discuss the price-tag with my wife. All it cost me, other than said price-tag it cost me a nice lunch out (at my place of work). At the table I ordered them and a week later they arrived and now, nine months later I’m finally writing about them, starting with everyone’s favourite cowboy Jedi, Spectre One himself, Kanan Jarrus.

Dressed in his Season One/Two gear, this animated character translates brilliantly into a live-action style. The detailing on the clothes mirrors the animated details but recreate them in a realistic style, the straps and buckles on his armour, as well as the armour itself looks brilliant and give the figure a battle ready look.

The lightsaber is perfectly detailed as well as his signature blaster which would fit into the holster if I ever opened the package.

The face sculpt looks great, again, they have managed to give this animated character a great realistic look, they could have gone down the route of sculpting him to look like Freddie Prinze Jr but have opted to give him an original look.

The box art perfectly represents the look of the figure and the character. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to translate a stylised cartoon character to real life and think the artist has done a phenomenal job. Again, they could have taken the easy route and just drawn Freddie Prinze Jr as the character but the more original look feels truer to the character to me.

It’s a great figure overall and a very welcome addition to the collection, and maybe in the future, perhaps we could get a Season Three/Four version with the mask and an interchangeable head to show him in his ‘Jedi Night’ appearance (short hair and no beard).

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My Top Star Wars Moments 12

After finding out how to locate Moff Gideon’s Light Cruiser thanks to Mayfeld, Mando sends a message to Gideon that is WORD FOR WORD what Gideon said to Mando, Cara an Greef when he was first introduced (and another of My Top Star Wars Moments).

As soon as the holo appears, we all knew that $#%^ was on! As Mando repeats the Moff’s words, it became increasingly obvious that Gideon is afraid of our hero. Whilst Gideon spoke matter-of-factly, making his demands clear, Mando is straight up threatening the Imperial leader.

We know how much Grogu means to Mando, Ahsoka tell him that Grogu sees him as his father and Mando’s affection for The Child has grown over the course of the series, and this moment really cements that those feelings to Gideon who affectively begins to plan his side of the coming battle.

Whilst threatening, it’s a very touching moment and one that came as a surprise to many. Brilliantly executed across the board by the cast, especially Giancarlo Esposito who doesn’t speak but reacts so perfectly.

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Star Wars Issue 13: War of the Bounty Hunters – Prelude Review

The ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ arrives is the flagship title as Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and the Droids travel to Nar Shaddaa and meet a familiar face whilst trying to locate Boba Fett and Han Solo.

With the ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ crossover event ramping up, the ‘Prelude’ issues from the main titles are arriving to push us in the direction each of them will take for the next few months.

After Chewie receives a message from a contact on the Smugglers Moon of Nar Shaddaa, Luke, Chewie and the Droids meet with Sagwa, a Wookiee that Chewie helped free from slavery in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ who has information on Boba Fett’s actions in the arena (see War of the Bounty Hunters: Alpha).

The group try to get information as find Fett but run afoul of The Hutts of Nar Kanji, the gang who’s best fighter was beaten by Fett.

The heroes end up in a showdown with the gang, but with Luke’s Force abilities they manage to escape with Sagwa.

Onboard the Falcon, R2-D2 reveals that he has a database of former Jedi Outposts which Luke may be able to visit and learn to improve his skills, but they are interrupted by Chewie who has received a message from Leia, from someone claiming to be in possession of Han Solo.

As Soule is writing this title as well as the main ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ mini-series, this title is is the most privileged place to perfectly complement each other. Of course, this is the ‘Prelude’ issue and at the end ties into events from the first issue of the mini-series.

Luke’s return to Nar Shaddaa after his run in with Grakkus the Hutt in the first run of the main title does not go any better than the first time, but this time he knows what he is doing and his training pays off in droves. It just adds to the story of Luke doing training between ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ and the reveal at the end when Luke learns that Artoo has the list of Jedi Outposts gives us a hint at what we will get in the story after this crossover event concludes.

Having a team-up of Luke and Chewie feels fresh, it’s not a duo we have had before, and the necessity of having Threepio along to translate (and of course adding to the humour). The addition of another Wookiee, Sagwa gives the team the extra muscle they need and adds a really nice connection to ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, especially with the connections to that film in the mini-series.

There is a part of me that’s a bit annoyed that the Shara Bey storyline has been put by the wayside in what could be an extended cliff hanger, seeing as that was the emotional core of the previous arc, of course a story about finding Han Solo will take precedence, and there needs to be some story threads to pick up after ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’, and maybe I just wanted to have that all packed up with a neat little bow because of my complaints about her fate already being well known thanks to previous books and comics. I’m probably being finicky here.

The art is wonderful and we get some really great and iconic images, including the one above which really shows Luke’s growing confidence also g with his companions. Even though Sagwa is in this scene as well, it’s nice to get a shot of the main heroes.

A great start to this titles part in this huge crossover event, I’m hoping Soule is able to keep the momentum going on both this and the main ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ series because he is a busy man.

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Bad Batching Episode 6 – Decommissioned

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week (just a day late) and another episode of ‘The Bad Batch’ with the latest episode ‘Decommissioned’.

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War of the Bounty Hunters Issue 1

What the #%$¥ just happened?

I got the first part of Charles Soule’s central story to the ‘War of the Bounty Hunters’ crossover event, expecting something pretty cool, enjoyable and action packed like the Prelude.

What I got was a complete and utter masterclass in Star Wars comics storytelling that will be hard to top for a long time.

As if losing Han Solo wasn’t enough, Fett finds out he has a bounty on him, out there by Jabba’s after the Crime Lord received an invitation from a mysterious woman claiming that the criminal organisation, ‘Crimson Dawn’ was back and that they had Solo in their possession.

After fighting off the Bounty Hunters 4-LOM and Zuckuss (and taking 4-LOM’s head to find some information) Fett arrives at Jabba’s Palace, only to be confronted by Bib Fortuna and all of the Bounty Hunters staying at the Palace. Once Fett talks the Hunters down, Fortuna explains the invitation to Boba who goes in search of Jabba and Crimson Dawn.

Meanwhile, the Hutt leaders meet to discuss the return of Crimson Dawn and the leader of the returning Crime Syndicate is revealed (to the readers) as Qi’Ra, Han’s former flame who is using Solo to try and unite the different factions with interests in this Smuggler/Rebel leader.

Charles Soule has basically given us the comics equivalent of a mic drop. From the opening where we are introduced to the character who is revealed to be Qi’Ra and Fett’s fight against the Bounty Hunters to the showdown at Jabba’s Palace, every moment just wows the readers.

Having Crimson Dawn make a return is something that fans have been after since the release of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ after finding out that the organisation was headed by none other than Darth Maul and Qi’Ra was rising in the ranks after the death of Quinlan Vos, whatever happens next is a mystery (although I have some theories). I’m hoping that maybe we will get hints as to what happened between ‘Solo’ and the first time we see Maul after, in ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ when he was found on Malachor. What I really like was the fact that Soule and Ross didn’t hide the fact that Crimson Dawn was back with the character Margo Trina, who has a brief appearance in ‘Solo’ and appears here as the courier of Solo to The Vermillion. It’s enough of a deep cut reference that it could easily be missed.

It’s not just the return of Crimson Dawn that is intriguing, the return of Qi’Ra is sure to throw a spanner in the works. Seeing as she is Han’s first love interest, if there is a meeting between her and Leia and that fact is revealed, it could cause some fireworks, especially seeing the lengths that Leia has been willing to go through to save Han so far.

Soule and Ross give us a great connection to ‘The Clone Wars’ by giving us a look at The Hutt Council, which we had only seen before in a pair of episodes which focused on Ziro the Hutt after they were freed from prison by Cad Bane. As it was ‘Clone Wars’ they of course were very stylised to look like Gangster tropes but Ross does a great job of translating them to fit in more with what we’re accustomed to seeing in live action.

Luke Ross’s art is wonderful. Every panel is a mini-work of art, I struggled to decide which I wanted to showcase in this post, but this splash page showing all of he connected characters just tops all the rest. It connects all the stories in the event in one beautiful moment.

Starting at such a high, it’s a bit worrying that the rest of the story won’t live up to this issues excellence. It’s definitely one of my favourite all time issues since Marvel started releasing them back in 2015.

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My Top Star Wars Moments 11

For me, 2016 was the year of the bad-ass Vader.

He throws down against Ahsoka in ‘Twilight of the Apprentice’, the season finale of ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ Season 2, lost half his mask and walked away from the destruction of the Sith Temple on Malachor. Not to mention the amazing moment where we hear both Matt Lanter and James Earl Jones voicing the character simultaneously to create a creepy effect that sends chills down the spine.

Then of course there was the amazing hallway scene in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’. Need I say more?

But before that, at the tail end of 2015, the first part of the first crossover event in the ‘Star Wars’ titles from Marvel Comics arrived, ‘Vader Down’ and halfway through the first part we go this moment that was the start of Vader’s status as bad-ass.

Surrounded by Rebel soldiers and quite probably feeling rather disoriented after crashing his TIE Fighter onto the planet after a collision with Luke’s X-Wing and Vader has nothing better to do than ignite his lightsaber and basically tell his would-be captors to “Get &@*%#$!” before laying waste to them in droves.

It’s moments like this that I had only imagined about before the Disney acquisition (I never got into the Empire/Rebellion era comics or books beforehand) so for me this is a new side of Vader and I’m loving it.

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Doctor Aphra: The Engine Job Part 4

After last issues ridiculous cliffhanger and a very misleading cover for this issue, this is probably my least favourite issue of this series.

After their obvious survival, Aphra and Sana return to the bar to find everyone dead. They decide that their best course of action is to go to Midarr and get the hyperdrive tech from Mr De’rruyet’s facility.

After sneaking in disguised as interns, they find the device which Aphra quickly proves to be a fake. They then confront De’rruyet in his office after he finds them raising his files but the conversation is cut short by an explosion. In the hanger with the device, the wall has been blown open by Vukurah and her crew, demanding the device or they will kill everyone.

I’m really not a fan of obvious cliffhangers, so the beginning of this issue was a tad redundant for me, and of course they were going to get out because thanks to the Solicitations that come out months in advance, we all know what’s coming.

Secondly, having Vukurah appear at the end for a second issue running, where it’s all dramatic and people could die, to me it’s sloppy, just a repeat of the last issue.

What I have enjoyed so far in this run is how fresh each issue has felt for me, but this one feels like a whole lot of retreading ground just to fill an issue count. The return to the bar to find everyone dead, which we were shown last issue, just seemed to fill a panel which didn’t further the story at all.

I get the feeling that with ‘The War of the Bounty Hunters’ crossover imminent, they needed a bit of padding to get the story where it needed to be before the ‘Prelude’ issues, and maybe it’s the filmmaker in me, but I have always worked on the thought that every pert of a story needs to move the story forward and for a bulk of this issue it didn’t feel that way, which was kind of disappointing as the series had been consistently brilliant.

On the plus side, we do get more time with the villain of this arc, Vukurah and even though we’ve seen her wipe out a bar full of innocents and leave Aphra and Sana to die, we actually get to see her ruthlessness when she guns down a hostage just to prove a point.

Hopefully the series will get back to its brilliant self with the next issue, one duff part isn’t enough to keep me from reading it (just look at my thoughts on the current ‘Darth Vader’ series), but also, maybe I should temper my expectations a little.

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Bad Batching Episode 5: Rampage

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week (just a day late) and another episode of ‘The Bad Batch’ with the latest episode ‘Rampage’.

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#CollectionCorner Lando Calrissian ‘The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary’ Black Series Review

“Hello, what have we here?”

When I dove into ‘The Black Series’ figures and started getting the 40th Anniversary series for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ I debated buying the Lando figure.

Had to had not long released a Lando from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, which looked pretty good in terms of the sculpt and the design, in the (then) regular black and red box, and the price was pretty good, but I could never pull the trigger because I didn’t think having an ‘Empire’ Lando in a regular box would be aesthetically pleasing on the wall. As it turned out, the 40th Anniversary version was just a repack of that figure (look at me doing research).

I finally pulled that trigger on Amazon Warehouse, knowing the packaging would be a bit dinged up in places and when it arrived it was slightly worse than I expected, with the blister pack loose, however a couple of strips of well placed sellotape have made the packaging look almost like new…

The sculpt looks great, the likeness to Billy Dee Williams is uncanny, seeing as the new cast are scanned so that the sculpts are spot-on, being able to do it for the cast in the older films is impressive and this is one of the best I have seen.

The outfit looks great and the detail on the cape gives Lando a regal look. I’m pleased that Hasbro went with a moulded cape over a soft goods one, I can’t imagine a fabric one would hold up as nicely with this figure. However, as an in-box displayer, I wish I could see more of the details on the figure that the cape hides (just no winning is there).

The accessories are spot on, Lando’s blaster is instantly recognisable from the films, however I don’t recall him ever using this model in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, instead he used one of the E-11’s he and his security took from the Stormtroopers. The communicator/microphone however is straight from the film, which he uses to make the evacuation announcement to the citizens of Cloud City.

In terms of the packaging, I’m a huge fan of the 40th Anniversary throw-back to the old Kenner style card-backs. They look great and, through a stroke of genius, the fact this figures card is a bit battered feels like a genuine figure kept since its release.

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My Top Star Wars Moments 10

“You have something I want.” Moff Gideon, The Mandalorian: Chapter 7 – The Reckoning

As my introduction to Giancarlo Esposito as an actor, this moment was mind-blowing. Having not watched ‘Breaking Bad’, the show he was best known for at the time, I had no idea how amazing an actor he is. He’s so good in his brief scenes in Season 1 of ‘The Mandalorian’ that I started watching ‘Breaking Bad’. I still haven’t finished it but it’s good and I recommend it.

Aside from his brief appearance just before his troop unleashed hell on The Client and his lackeys, this was Moff Gideon moment to shine. And shine he does.

After landing his TIE Scout Fighter and approaching the wrecked bar, Gideon makes his appearance and sets the terms of engagement. “Give me what I want, and maybe, just maybe I won’t kill you now.” It also helps instantly establish his character, he’s a bad a$$ and means business.

Moff Gideon, for me at least, became an iconic villain the moment he gave this speech. Esposito’s performance raises the bar for everyone around him and between this and the speech he gives about the E-Web Blaster in ‘The Rescue’, he firmly establishes himself as an enemy to be reckoned with.

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The High Republic: There is No Fear Part 5 Review

Just when I didn’t think last month’s issue could be topped, Cavan Scott and his team absolutely smash it it with this issue.

With the Drengir attacking The Starlight Beacon and The Hutt Cartel attacking the Jedi on Sedri Minor, it all looks a bit hopeless for the Jedi. But when the Drengir attack the Hutts, a tedious alliance is formed but the Jedi and Hutt team-up still isn’t enough to fight back the deadly plants.

It’s a more personal battle going on between Sskeer and Keeve that, in true Star Wars fashion, is the true battle that everything hinges on. Keeve does her best to get through to her Master, she n a moment of clarity he confesses that his connection to the Force was diminished, leading to his problems through the past few issues. He hatches a plan, for Keeve to enter his mind, which is now connected to the Drengir, using the Force to convince the creatures to retreat.

Keeve does so, saving the Jedi and Hutts on Sedri Minor and those on The Starlight Beacon, including Imri, Vernestra Rwoh’s Padawan. However the attempt does come at a price, with Ssker dead in Keeve’s arms.

Just wow! That’s all I can really say.

Ever since Cavan Scott teased the death of a “beloved” character and then the solicitations for this month came out and we saw this cover I think we all knew what was going to happen, but I had no idea how phenomenal.

Seeing the end of Sskeer’s journey here, in the aftermath of The Great Disaster and the battle against The Nihil followed by his possession by The Drengir and his seeming descent to the Dark Side really gave him a great arc through all of ‘The High Republic’. He also gives us a look at something we have only seen once before, and recently in ‘Into the Dark’, which is a Jedi’s diminishing connection to the Force and part of me is wondering if it’s got anything to do with The Drengir.

Granted, Sskeer claims that his Force connection had been fading for a while but it seems very coincidental that both Sskeer and Dez Rydan who had been in contact with The Drengir who are strongly connected to the Dark Side and I hope that this is something that plays out throughout ‘The High Republic’.

Getting to see The Hutt Cartel in action for the first time, and in a time where they are essentially free to do what they wish without the confines of The Republic or The Empire, with Rancor Riders and lackeys of various species laying waste to anyone in their way and to top it off, the Jedi holding their own against an army of criminals. I never thought it was something I wanted to see but damn I loved it.

The highlight for me is the Sskeer/Keeve fight. It’s the kind of fight that that Star Wars does the best, the emotional battle, this one, for the soul of Sskeer as Keeve tries her best to get through to her former Master, to bring him back from the influence of The Drengir. As great as the new characters have been through ‘The High Republic’, Sskeer has been the one who, in my opinion, has had the best character arc throughout the initiative so far. However, this is mostly due to the fact that he’s had a considerable amount of coverage throughout, but it has been and incredibly interesting journey to go on, especially since he was one of the first Jedi we saw in the promotional art who fans gravitated towards for being a Trandoshan Jedi.

I am very interested is seeing what happens with Keeve going forward, I imagine she will be wracked with guilt after seemingly killing her Master to save people from The Drengir and that could be a hugely interesting story to follow moving forward.

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Bad Batching Episode 4: Cornered

The Life Debt Podcast returns for another week and another episode of ‘The Bad Batch’ with the latest episode ‘Cornered’.

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The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray Book Review

After what felt like an eternity, I have finally finished Claudia Gray’s inaugural entry into ‘The High Republic’ series.

The first YA novel of the series ‘Into the Dark’ never feels like a YA novel, and only really falls into that genre because of the age of the main protagonists, Reath Silas and Affie Hollow, both in their late teens.

Happening during the timeline of The Great Disaster that has been the backdrop for the other two books in the first wave (Light of the Jedi and A Test of Courage), ‘Into the Dark’ follows the crew and passengers of the ship ‘The Vessel’, one of the ships from the Byrne Guild that operates on the frontier regions of the Galaxy, crewed by the Matthew McGonaughey of Star Wars, Leox Gyasi, the navigator Geode (a huge sentient rock) and Affie, who is learning the ropes of the Guild and will one day take over from her adoptive-mother, the owner, Scover Byne.

The Vessel has been hired to transport a group of Jedi, Padawan Reath Silas, Master Cohmac Vitus and Jedi Knights Orla Jareni and Dez Rydan to the Starlight Beacon in time for the dedication ceremony but The Great Disaster forces them out of Hyperspace early.

In what seems like the middle of nowhere, and stranded with an array of other ships, The Vessel locates a Space Station and shepherds the other ships to it in time to save them from a solar flare. Once inside, the crews of the stranded ships start mingling which leads to some chaos that the Jedi manage to settle, including a kidnapping of a young girl called Nan that Reath puts an end to, leading the two of them to become close.

Cohmac and Orla explore the central arboretum that makes up the bulk of the station, where a strong sense of the Dark Side is located. After experiencing visions they decide to remove a set of statues they believes have been imbued with the Dark Side. Meanwhile, whilst exploring the Station, Dez Ryden is killed when he enters a strange corridor and Affie finds proof that members of the Byne Guild have used the Station as a way point, despite its strange and seemingly dangerous nature.

Once the hyperspace lanes are reopened, The Vessel returns to Coruscant. Affie does more digging on the Station and it’s connections to the Guild, whilst Reath deals with the news of his Master, Jora Mali’s death during a battle with The Nihil and Cohmac and Orla take the statues to try and learn about their connection to the Dark Side.

Affie, Reath, Cohmac, Orla and the crew of The Vessel return to the Station, Reath to arrest Nan after he realises she and her guardian are members of The Nihil, Orla and Cohmac to return the statues when they realise that they were keeping the Dark Side forces in check and Affie to get proof that her adoptive mother was utilising illegal indentured servants as pilots for The Byne Guild in a bid to try and get her to change her practices.

On the station, they encounter The Drengir, plant based creatures, attached to the Dark Side and hungry for meat which the statues had been keeping in a state of stasis. Reath is transported to another planet where he finds a beaten and poisoned Dez who had been transported to the planet and now a prisoner of a group of Drengir. Reath manages to escape back to the Station with Dez but finds it in a state of utter carnage with The Nihil trying to take over. The Drengir, once again imprisoned are released again to act as a distraction for The Nihil but The Vessel becomes stuck and only a life threatening plan from Reath can stop the enemies fight and fire The Vessel.

With the Station now empty of hostiles, The Vessel returns to Coruscant, Reath asks Cohmac to be his new Master, Orla finally fulfils her goal to become a Wayfinder and Affie foils Scover’s plans for indentured pilots allowing Affie, Geode and Leox to make their own way in the Galaxy.

Despite taking me a long time to read (took a Star Wars break half way through and then struggled to find time to just sit and read) I really did enjoy this book. Structurally it felt very different to most Star Wars books, in the sense that the first half was a very slow burn, getting to know the characters and their situations before an explosive second half. It has a very ‘Alien’ vibe in how it plays out as well. Having already known that this was the introduction of The Drengir and that’s they were the main antagonists, I was fully expecting them to show up at any time, picking off the different crews onboard the station, but we only get the one real casualty in Dez.

The second half is an absolute whirlwind, the pace is doubled or even tripled and the long wait make that first appearance of The Drengir that much more scary when the surround Cohmac and Orla and even Reath when he finds Dez on the Drengir homeworld.

In terms of the structure, I feel like the middle where they return to Coruscant for the first time could have been altered, perhaps not going back to Coruscant, instead having the characters make their discoveries in transit and make an unscheduled return to the danger zone would have ramped up the tension for me and maybe cut out a part that had a bit of a lull for me.

My one critique aside, Claudia Gray has written an amazing entry to ‘The High Republic’ and given us some great characters, some of which are returning in some of the upcoming books and comics which I am looking forward to (I’m loving how connected ‘The High Republic’ is) and it gives us some new ideas on different aspects of The Jedi Order, that we never got to see in The Prequel Trilogy, such as Wayfinders, Jedi who essentially go off on a sort of gap year but still being active Jedi, unlike those who take the Barash Vow who essentially leave the Order without actually leaving it to meditate on the Force.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what else Gray is going to bring to ‘The High Republic’ in the future, with a very full second phase coming up, I wonder if Gray along with Charles Soule will be hitting the front lines for the third phase which I assume will be out towards the end of this year/beginning of next year.

In terms of the rest of Gray’s Star Wars library, ‘Into the Dark’ is her first chance to bring us something wholly new without characters or settings familiar to fans, this book allows Gray to give us a completely new ‘Star Wars’ book and she does it with style, and it managed to surpass my expectations brilliantly.

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