|I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand this is actually something I've wanted to see for quite some time: the Big 3 together again like old times. They've always been separated in the last few series.
EDIT: I forgot to finish my thought haha...
On the other hand if this does involve
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I'm not sure how I feel. I really don't like Mortis and I'm not looking forward to seeing it again, but hey, this could be a blessing in disguise. Maybe Crucible will - at least start to - clean up the mess a little and make things a little more compatible. That said, I hope it can still stand on its own as a story, and not just be a continuity band aid like Darth Plagueis was (imo).
It does sound like this will be a farewell to the Big 3, but I don't think they'll die in this book (though I wondered if they picked Denning partially to arouse fan speculation), but I think this will be the last big adventure we'll see them in. Sounds like Del Rey has been listening to its fanbase.
The Mortis thing is purely fan speculation at this point. And, in my opinion, not the likeliest story. When I think of Mortis in the post-ROTJ universe, it is tied always with Abeloth. Yet, in the article on the EUC main site, it states that the enemy in this is bigger than the Sith and Abeloth. It doesn't mention Mortis, yes, but I feel that you can't have a Mortis story without Abeloth. And considering that the Mortis 'threat' includes Abeloth intrinsically, I don't think it'll be about Mortis. The article does state, however, that it will have West End game villains. My impression of Mortis from Apocalypse is that Mortis, itself, isn't a threat - because at the moment there's just a vacuum. The Ones were beings that had the ability to stop Abeloth from being a threat, not that Mortis itself was a threat.
One thing that could be indicative of it having a tie to Mortis is the cover. The triquetra in the background might be a symbol seen in the Mortis arc. I recall that the Son and Daughter had specific symbols, and the Father had one that encompassed both. It should be pointed out that it's not the final cover art. It may just be pointing out that they're going to, say Tatooine. Ooh! Darth Krayt!
To answer your later question, no, a firm release date hasn't been announced, but it'll be somewhere in spring 2013.
As for the Denning standalone thing, would Star By Star be counted as a standalone? As IR2 often states, the NJO isn't a series, as such, but rather merely an era with a collection of standalones, duologies and trilogies.
(Sorry, this'll be my last point. I'm catching up).
In regards to the Darth Bane books, I think they're a special case. It's a pretty special storyline, pretty special circumstance. I don't think comparing those books to a Ben or Jaina book would be accurate. To find another book that fits the criteria - that of not having any form of movie, TV or game tie in, but with similar sets of characters - I'd be hard-pressed to find one, actually. A few books in NJO could fit the bill, perhaps. The problem is that Ben and Jaina are previously established characters, and all the other examples are either tie in or are completely new, with new characters. As such, I don't think they can be properly compared.
I am a Star Wars fan. That doesn't mean that I hate or love Jar Jar. That doesn't mean I hate or love Lucas, or agree or disagree 100% with him. That doesn't mean I prefer the PT over the OT, or vice versa. That doesn't mean I hate the EU, or even love all of it (or even read all of it). These are not prerequisites. Being a man is not a prerequisite. Being a geek is not a prerequisite. The only prerequisite is that I love something about Star Wars. I am a Star Wars fan.