This feature was written by guest contributor Lee Millington.
Today is Star Wars Day. In light of that, and all the developments in the Star Wars universe at the moment, it seems appropriate to look back on the EU in the decade so far. The past three years have been full of eye-opening changes – much positive, some negative, but entirely unforgettable.
LucasBooks has been unafraid to delve into new territory. Dark Horse’s Knight Errant (2011-12) has explored the era before the reign of the Sith’ari Darth Bane, when the numbers of Jedi and Sith were countless. Another DH series, Dawn of the Jedi (2012-), went even further back, further than any series before it, to explore the creation of the Jedi Order. This move was perhaps even bolder than when the Legacy comics took the franchise to a point over one hundred years after the films. The Agent of the Empire series (2011-) did return to familiar pre-Episode IV territory, but with a different angle – the protagonist is a spy. To delve into any new territory is a good move, whether it is an unexplored age or just a different view on a well-known one, as it provides the potential for many more stories to be told. New takes on the EU are what keep it feeling fresh.
Of course, two fan-favorite series had to be shelved to make way for the creation of the new series. Knights of the Old Republic and Legacy ended, capped off with mini-series – but the latter returned with a new protagonist, and the former isn’t necessarily over permanently. Whilst Randy Stradley revealed in an interview with Comic Book Resources that commercial concerns were behind the return of Legacy, and they obviously play a part in the creation of any product, it’s good that interesting eras, people, and places aren’t casually thrown away.
Which is why it is so good that some of the EU classics have returned. A third arc of the Crimson Empire series appeared in 2011, followed by a new X-Wing novel in 2012; both last appeared in 1999. These revivals suggest that LucasBooks might finally have recognized that some fans are dissatisfied with the current output, in particular the post-ROTJ novels, and have corners of the galaxy that they’d like to see revisited.
On the television front, The Clone Wars has been busy shaking up the franchise. The now-classic episode ‘Monster’ (2010) introduced us to Savage Oppress in a brutal fashion, followed shortly after by the revelation that his famous brother, Darth Maul, survived being bisected on Naboo. Since Maul’s return via the show, we’ve seen the character grow beyond the generally silent figure he was in Episode I and develop a personality. This shocking return was followed up by a shocking departure, admittedly expected in some form, when Ahsoka left the show after being blamed for a bombing of the Jedi Temple.
The novels linked themselves to the higher canon Clone Wars, and the main saga, with some interesting revelations. I can’t detail those in Darth Plagueis (2012), which follows the titular character’s fall and Palpatine’s rise, as some reveals will reshape your understanding of the movie saga. Fate of the Jedi has a less tremendous but nonetheless interesting link, as the series’ main villain is directly tied to characters from The Clone Wars. Such connections are great reminders that the Star Wars universe can be viewed as one continuity. Even better is that Lucas has been happy for it to be treated as such, entrusting important events to the authors and artists who create so much of the content that keeps fans entertained.
The sense of cohesion that has arisen in the Star Wars franchise has extended to connecting Del Rey’s novels with Dark Horse’s comics. In a first for the EU, Del Rey published a novel continuing the story of the Knight Errant comics. This set a precedent for the future, with a 2012 comic sequel to the Lost Tribe of the Sith novellas (2009-12), and a Dawn of the Jedi novel due in three days. It has also left numerous possibilities. One of them is that such a project could be a way to fill the gap in time between the Legacy comics and the post-ROTJ novels, when the latter starts to encroach on the territory of said comics. This will solve the issue of who gets to tell the stories by giving opportunities to both DH and Del Rey.
There has just been just as much ambition in the video games of this period as the rest of the EU, but far less success. There is no question as to the fate of the long running MMO Star Wars: Galaxies, as it came to its ultimate end in 2011 after a troubled lifespan. It was replaced by The Old Republic, which looked to be a real contender in the market since it was developed by Bioware, behind the much-loved original Knights of the Old Republic game. Instead it was met with a mixed reception, and subscriber figures soon fell dramatically. The biggest single-player Star Wars release of recent times, The Force Unleashed II, also underwhelmed. This installment was received with a mediocre critical reaction, lots of the criticism being aimed at its very short length and a weaker story, though it did pose some interesting questions. Unfortunately, it seems very likely that we may never find any answers since, on April 3rd, almost all of the LucasArts staff was laid offand the studio switched from internal development to a purely licensing model. The Guardian blames this situationon the poor quality of recent Star Wars releases. Whatever the case, Star Wars titles will now be handled by Disney Interactive Studios or a third-party developer.
Of course, the LucasArts shutdown is just one of many major changes to the franchise, following what could arguably be called the acquisition of the century. It feels like Disney acquired Lucasfilm years ago, though it was technically only last December. This, plus the announcement of a sequel trilogy and spin-off films, has left questions surrounding how the EU will be affected. Will it no longer be canon? Will there be a reboot of the EU? A multiverse? We don’t know at this point, but we’ve seen plenty of more immediate effects: the cancellation of The Clone Wars, the postponement of Detours and the end of LucasArts as we knew it.
What may happen in the future isn’t an issue. The EU is currently an exciting place to be with some great projects still on the horizon. No matter what is to come, it has been an amazing ride so far, and the last three years have arguably been three of the greatest in the Expanded Universe’s history. Today of all days, it seems right to thank everyone who has made them so great – the creators and the fans.
Thank you, and happy Star Wars Day!