The Expanded Universe in Star Wars is big. No, I mean, big. Like really, really tremendously huge.
So here’s my top picks from that plethora of comics, games, novels, and shows. Here’s the stuff that made me pump my fist in the air and cheer for the vision that Lucas created so that these moments might one day have life.
10. The Final Defeat of Darth Krayt (Legacy: War by John Ostrander)
“My eyes are open. I have seen the vision. I understand now. No more doubts or questions. I know who I am… I am a Jedi. And you are not my Master.”
The Star Wars Legacy comic series was one of the few things I’ve enjoyed that’s recently come out of the Expanded Universe. For one thing, it’s basically a retelling of the original six films with new characters and settings. It also plays around with established conventions, giving us a Skywalker who doesn’t want to save the galaxy, an Empire that’s fairly benevolent, and a Sith Order that’s all about obeying the guy on top than trying to back-stab each other to the top.
But for me, the most satisfying part was the end, as Cade Skywalker finally stops grappling with his own self-interest and accepts what it means to be a Jedi. It also brings an end to Darth Krayt, a villain who didn’t interest me much at first, but got a lot more impressive toward the end. This was their final battle, as Cade finally shuts up Krayt about his obsession with control and immortality in the best way possible.
9. Darth Vader Vs. Darth Maul (Resurrection by Ron Marz)
Maul: “What could you hate enough to destroy me?”
This standalone comic reads like something that fanboys have dreamed up–who would win in a fight, Darth Vader or Darth Maul? The story is that Vader has been lured to a planet where a group of rogue Force-users have somehow resurrected Darth Maul, the Emperor’s former apprentice. Maul is determined to kill Vader and take back his old place at Darth Sidious’s side. Vader seems outmatched, being burdened by his suit of armor against the agile and ruthless Maul. It’s only by a last-ditch effort and a self-inflicted wound that Vader manages to kill Maul, using his hatred as a true Lord of the Sith.
The dialogue shown above is why I love this story so much. It shows Vader using his own frustration and self-loathing as a weapon against his enemy. It shows that Maul thinks too highly of his own skills (which was what got him killed in the first place). And it’s interesting to see Vader be so cunning in a fight, proving that he’s as formidable a Sith Lord as any. That’s also why I enjoyed seeing him in action against Luke in the duel in Empire Strikes Back.
8. General Grievous Arrives (The Clone Wars)
“Jedi! You are surrounded, your armies decimated. Make peace with the Force now, for this is your final hour. But know that I, General Grievous, am not completely without mercy. I will grant you a warrior’s death. Prepare.”
In my mind, there are two versions of General Grievous: the wimpy, coughing villain with a funny accent seen in Revenge of the Sith and the badass one-man army and Jedi hunter-killer seen in Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars cartoon. I think we can all agree that the latter Grievous would have been much more interesting to have seen in the final Star Wars film, at least if his first lines (see above) are anything to go by.
7. Anakin Saves A Tusken Raider’s Life (Phantom Menace novelization by Terry Brooks)
“He gives without any thought of reward.”
In the novelization of The Phantom Menace, there’s a scene set prior to the beginning of the movie proper, where Watto sends Anakin out to make a trade with some Jawas. However, the landspeeder carrying Anakin and Threepio has to break down in the night. Even worse, they come across a wounded Tusken Raider, whose leg is pinned under a rock. And despite the terror of finding a Tusken Raider face-to-face… Anakin helps him out and waits with him while his tribe comes looking.
Remember that this is the nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker we’re talking about, the sweet kid who gives the shirt off his back without hesitation. Ten years later, well… we know how things will turn out between Anakin and the Tuskens, but for this one moment, it’s a great scene of his innate courage and compassion, which makes his fall all the more bitter.
6. Boba Fett Vs. Jodo Kast (Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction by Andy Mangels)
“You didn’t earn this armor! You didn’t earn my reputation. You called me a ‘fossil.’ If you were going to be me, you should have learned from this fossil. You’ll never be me.”
Boba Fett has just escaped from the Sarlacc pit and discovered that some young punk named Jodo Kast is trying to masquerade as Fett, letting others mistake him for the veteran hunter on account of the similar armor. Fett proceeds to announce his return to the galaxy by setting up a trap for Kast, beating him down spectacularly in both a physical and verbal confrontation, and then making sure he dies painfully and creatively. It shows Fett as both a man of pride (considering his reputation is being abused) and a man of honor (as he berates Kast for having never “earned” his armor the way Fett and others have).
5. Pellaeon Berates The Yuuzhan Vong (New Jedi Order: Force Heretic: Remnant by Sean Williams and Shane Dix)
“We have no intentions of surrendering–not now, not ever. You may win the occasional battle against us, Vorrik, but the Empire will always strike back.”
If you’re already read my reviews for the New Jedi Order series, then you know what it’s about, too. Needless to say, I had to include this grand moment by Admiral Gilad Pellaeon of the Imperial Remnant as he lays down the smack-talk on a fanatical Yuuzhan Vong commander. He not only makes the arrogance and pride of the average Imperial officer into something glorious, but in this case, it’s an inspiring moment for all the people of the galaxy. This is Pellaeon saying that, after so many setbacks and losses against the Yuuzhan Vong, the Empire and the Republic were here first and they’ll never lose their spirit to fight back.
4. The Battle of Bilbringi (The Last Command by Timothy Zahn)
“But… it was so artistically done.”
Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy is what essentially created the modern Expanded Universe for Star Wars, centering a whole set of stories after Return of the Jedi around the arrival of Grand Admiral Thrawn, an alien Imperial warlord whose tactical genius and multiple victories nearly wipe out the New Republic. So when we get to the Battle of Bilbringi in the final book, The Last Command, it’s the climax of Thrawn’s career, as we see him orchestrate yet another victory and respond quickly to several last-ditch triumphs by the Rebels. And then… his bodyguard assassinates him for the abuses that Thrawn has helped perpetuate against his people. In one moment, everything is undone and the Empire is forced into retreat once more.
The most interesting thing about this sequence is that Zahn actually makes us feel sad for the Grand Admiral. Think about that: he makes us feel sorry for the alien Imperial warlord who nearly defeated the Good Guys. It takes a lot of good characterization to pull that off, unless you’re going to pull a Vader and have him redeemed before he dies.
3. Yoda Rejects The Temptation Of The Dark Side (Yoda: Dark Rendezvous by Sean Stewart)
“You think Yoda stops teaching, just because his student does not want to hear? Yoda teaches like drunkards drink. Like killers kill.”
Despite walking into one of Count Dooku’s traps, Yoda attempts to reason with his former student and find a solution to the Clone Wars. The best part is that Dooku tries to throw every argument at Yoda about the supremacy of the dark side of the Force and how the Jedi will ultimately fail at bringing peace and justice. And yet… Yoda doesn’t buy it. He plays the simple fool to Dooku’s silver-tongued intellectual, shooting down his eloquence and “logic” with simple thinking and a willingness to accept that, while the universe may be cruel, the people living in it do not have to be and that redemption is always possible–even for a disgraced Jedi like Dooku.
I recommend the entire Dark Rendezvous book just for the fact that it reads like a love letter to the Yoda we first met in Empire Strikes Back: witty, teasing, and above all else, a determined teacher to equally stubborn youth.
2. Jacen Solo Becomes His Own Hero (New Jedi Order: Traitor by Matt Stover)
“The only power I have–the only power any of us has–is to be who we are. That’s what I’m going to do here. Be who I am.”
Although it’s another installment of the New Jedi Order series, Traitor is a story that had me gripped on the edge of my seat. For one thing, it’s the first story by Matt Stover I ever read. It’s also the first Jacen Solo story I’ve ever liked. Apparently, Stover decided that a character primarily known for being peace-loving and philosophical could also be a hero if given the chance. Here, he takes Jacen Solo’s empathy with living creatures, his philosophical outlook on the Force, and his recent tragedies and turns them into the building blocks of a new and creative hero.
Unfortunately, no one seemed to remember this characterization afterwards or else misinterpreted it severely. But I treasure this story because of it gave us what the New Jedi Order should have been about: the next generation of Jedi Knights, having adventures with no connections to the original saga, proving themselves to be heroes without needing any help from the aging heroes of the Rebellion.
1. Luke Skywalker Vs. The Dark (Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matt Stover)
“Because unlike the Knights of old, Jedi Luke Skywalker… you are not afraid of the dark.”
Stover has a great way of redefining characters into individuals I can enjoy reading about. He did it with Jacen Solo in Traitor, he did it with Obi-Wan in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, and he did it again with Luke Skywalker in Shadows of Mindor.
This is the Luke Skywalker we saw at the end of Return of the Jedi: not the naive farmboy or the headstrong warrior, but the man who faced down the Emperor and helped his father redeem himself. Here, Luke faces off against Cronal, a villain who seeks to corrupt him with “the Dark” and break his faith in the Force. Luke faces the edge of that despair and comes out stronger for it, relying on the love of his friends and family just as he did in Jedi. He beats the villain not with a swing of his lightsaber, but with a simple resolution to never lose hope.
And only Stover–or Timothy Zahn–can write it in a totally awesome manner.
I hope my readers enjoyed these Top Ten lists for the Star Wars universe. If you have any requests for other Top Tens you’d like me to do, please leave me a comment or two. It was a great experience trying to see just what it is I love so much about this franchise and I’d hope to have other lists demonstrating my love (or hate) of other sagas to come.
Bibliography: Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction. Written by Andy Mangels. Drawn by John Nadeau. Dark Horse Comics, 1997.
Brooks, Terry. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (novelization). New York: Del Rey, 1999.
Dix, Shane. Williams, Sean. Star Wars: New Jedi Order: Force Heretic I: Remnant. New York: Del Rey, 2003.
Resurrection (comic). Star Wars Tales#9. Written by Ron Marz. Drawn by Rick Leonardi. Dark Horse Comics, 2001.
Star Wars: Clone Wars (cartoon). Created by George Lucas and Genndy Tartakovsky. Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. Written by Genndy Tartakovsky. Cartoon Network Studios, 2003 – 2005.
Star Wars: Legacy—War 6. Written by John Ostrander. Drawn by Jan Duursema. Dark Horse Comics, 2011.
Stewart, Sean. Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. New York: Del Rey, 2004.
Stover, Matthew Woodring. Star Wars: New Jedi Order: Traitor. New York: Del Rey, 2002.
Stover, Matthew Woodring. Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. New York: Del Rey, 2008.
Zahn, Timothy. Star Wars: The Last Command. New York: Bantam Spectra, 1993.