{Pop Culturally Insensitive will now be co-hosting (De)Constructing the Ion Canon, an ongoing blog surveying the entire official Star Wars canon according to its timeline. Check back every week for the next installment.}

Get caught up with the mission statementEpisode IEpisode IIthe Clone Wars moviethe first season of the showthe secondthe third, the fourththe fifth, the sixth, the Clone Wars Legacy,  Episode III, the lead-up to Rebels, and Rebels Season 1.

Well, ok, the title of this post is a little misleading. Yes, its a bonus entry between Rebels Season 1 and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. However, the things we’re about to discuss don’t necessarily take place between the two. Indeed, at least according to the timeline on Wookiepedia, all the below take place during the course of Rebels Season 1. Some, like the Servants of the Empire novels, have a definite placement within the timeline working off of or intertwining with episodes of the series, while others, like the video games or the Rebels Magazine comics, exist somewhere within the canon, but their definite placement is unknown. In lieu of simply going in order of publication, I intend to follow the order as listed on Wookiepedia’s timeline, though again, these could take place at any point in the Rebels timeline.

Rebels Magazine, you may wonder? What’s that? Well, though it just saw its first issue in the US as of this writing, Titan Publishing has actually been releasing a kids’ magazine specifically for the show in the UK for some time now, and amongst the puzzles and and factoids each issues rests a comic detailing little adventures undertaken by the crew of the Ghost. Thus far, the only comic available in America is “Ring Race”, published in the first issue, but I may happen to have overseas connections, and therefor got my hands on all there was to get, so my vow to cover the entire canon will still hold true, dear readers (I know, I know. Had I not been sure to discuss “Senate Perspective”, there would have been riots in the streets).

Well, clearly we have a lot of ground to cover, and not much time to do it, so without further ado, let’s dive right in.

“Learning Patience”

So one thing to accept is that, given its placement in a kids magazine, these comics are going to be a little cutesy and kiddish, more so even than the show, introducing the premise and in 12 pages resolving it, typically with some Archie-esque punchline eliciting more an “Aha” than a laugh. That said, they do seem to have a firm grasp on the characters and the tone of the show, as this little story of Ezra learning the value of patience in mastering the force displays. Hell, it captures the essence of Rebels so well that when Ezra is exercising his force abilities, you really do feel like you can hear that classic John Williams theme. I won’t say “Learning Patience” is essential reading, as it doesn’t necessarily add to any of out understanding of the characters, but it is a fun little adventure with the crew we’ve grown to love, and it feels in line with the show in a way few tie-in comics ever do with their source material, so that alone makes it worth the look.

Servants of the Empire: Rebel in the Ranks

Rebel in the Ranks picks up where Edge of the Galaxy left off, with Zare entering the Academy, and proves to be an incredible page turner, far surpassing its predecessor. No longer bogged down by grab-ball games and set-up, we dive right into the schoolyard strategy and interpersonal politics that exist within the Imperial ranks. Rebel in the Ranks ties into the Rebels episode Breaking Ranks, and fleshes out just how it is Ezra manages to sneak into the Academy, both by showing interactions between Ezra and Zare we didn’t see in Rebels and more interestingly giving us the same scenes from the episode, but now from Zare’s perspective. If I may indulge in a little spoiler, the idea that Dhara was taken for the same reason Jai almost was, her Force sensitivity, makes for an interesting twist (You know that Dhara always being about to find Zare in a crowd had some thematic significance, but I for one didn’t anticipate the Force). Perhaps more interesting is the fact that Zare lacks any ability whatsoever with the force, dispelling the idea that its inherently hereditary (to date, our only knowledge of the familial history of the Force adept are Anakin, who was an only child, and Luke and Leia, who both inherited the gifts of their father). Rebel in the Ranks works both as a satisfying companion piece to Breaking Ranks, filling in every plot hole in the episode and providing a new and introspective perspective on the high-flying, swashbuckling antics of the rebels, and also serves as a wonderfully engaging novel on its own. Well worth reading.

“Kallus’ Hunts”

Instead of focusing on the Ghost crew, “Kallus’ Hunt” makes the titular Imperial officer our focus, and to great effect: we find him in pursuit of a disloyal Imperial agent, but not a rebel. Instead, he’s after his former mentor, whose crimes were embezzling and cheating the Empire to feel his own greed. Never before have we been treated to a conflict in the Star Wars universe where we didn’t quite know who to root for (even with the Republic eventually becoming the Empire through the charade Clone Wars, the films still went to great lengths to show you who the “good guys” were). For all intents and purposes, Kallus is the hero of the story, setting aside emotion for the sake of the greater good, bringing a criminal to justice, with no sign of the Empire’s nefarious nature on display. “Kallus’ Hunt” may be a brief little flicker of a story, coming in at only 12 comic book pages, but it provides a very different perspective on the Star Wars universe, and one that provokes a little bit of thought, which makes it worth trying to seek it out. It can be found in the fourth issue of Rebels Magazine (which should be out in the US in approx. 6 months from the date of this writing; it’s also probably somewhere on the internet if you know where to find such things, not that I’m encouraging such behavior, of course).

“Ring Race”

Originally appearing in the first issue of Rebels Magazine, “Ring Race” is an amusing if mildly cliched “risky race” story, where Hera must use her superior piloting skills to attempt to save the crew’s hides when a wager tips out of their favor. It’s fun, but non-essential.

“The fake Jedi”

“The fake Jedi” contains a curious idea (though not more curious than its choice of capitalization in its title) of what might occur if one were to find some Jedi accouterment after their mass slaughter during Order 66. The comic is the first to really go for it in terms of violence and consequence, which is impressive considering how, while the comics have consistently matched the tone of the series, they’ve lacked some of the gravity until now. It’s an enjoyable read, but as was the case with some of the others, it may not be worth the headache of seeking it out until it comes to the US.

“Return of the Slavers”

Well, I’m a big Sabine fan, so you tell me a comic is going to have Sabine undercover to infiltrate a slave trade, I’m on board. Like the others, its a brief trifle of a comic, and could well have been the seed for a whole episode of Rebels, but in this particular instance I do sincerely wish that seed had had the opportunity to grow into one. It’s not that I simply want more of a character I enjoy, its that parts of “Return of the Slavers” feel very rushed, and key points that could have been explored in  full length episode are dashed away in a single line. It’s not a bad comic, per se, its biggest flaw in fact is that the story itself is of such quality that one finds themselves wanting there to be more.

“Eyes on the Prize”

“Eyes on the Prize” feels somehow shorter than every other comic, with very little story itself to speak of, but it makes up for it in the form of two bumbling bounty hunters. The most outright humorous comic thus far (I won’t go so far as to say it warranted outright laughter, however it did elicit a good deal of internal chuckles), the constant facts about Jedi the two spout make one want for more, and seeing a Jedi mind trick for the first time since the Clone Wars series is a nice touch as well. It’s hardly essential reading, true, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Rebel Strike

Rebel Strike is a browser-based game released by Disney, considered canon by the same standards Ghost Raid was, though Rebel Strike is a far more advanced and engaging game. A turn-based light RPG which allows you to upgrade your team and strategize your movements, there isn’t so much a story as a frame to set up the various puzzles. Nothing narratively truly effects the overall story of Rebels, proving to be just another encounter between the crew and Aresko and Grint. That said, its certainly a fun game, mildly challenging, and you’ll find yourself saving the in game “credits” in order to upgrade your favorite characters. Completely non-essential and inconsequential, but worth a shot if you’re fond of the series.

“Sabotaged Supplies”

First off, any time Tarkintown gets brought up, I’m on board. The materialization of economic disparity in the galaxy takes its name from the real life Hoovervilles of US history, and the sheer fact that Rebels chooses to show the Empire’s main crime not as planetary destruction or fantastic feats of military might, but as failing to prevent, and indeed willfully ignoring the poverty of its people is powerful. The story of Zeb going rogue to protect people he feels he’s brought harm to, though never outright said, speaks to his ever-present guilt over what happened to his people. It’s a worthwhile read that puts both Zeb’s sense of honor and Kallus’ ruthlessness centerstage.

Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice

I’ve had some high praise for Jason Fry’s previous two novels, but Imperial Justice far exceeds them, going so far as to transcend it’s Young Adult branding and prove itself to be a distinctly great piece of Star Wars literature, utterly engrossing and oddly thought provoking. Fry has always been good at exploring what life is like for the Imperials, but here he raises ethical questions we’ve never considered before in the franchise about what’s truly right, and whether the Empire is inherently evil or merely suffers from cruel leadership. Exemplified by Zare’s internal conflict over taking pride in his achievements within the academy, fearing he may forget his playing the role of the good soldier is merely an act, to the tactical disparity between the empathetic Zare and the ruthless Oleg, the latter of whom refuses to lift the mask of his helmet in order to appear faceless and intimidate those he apprehends, while Zare opts to remove his helmet completely, trying to comfort the innocent children subjected to Imperial tyranny. Mixed amongst the fast-paced storytelling of Zare dodging inquiry after suspicious inquiry and Merei drawn further and further into the murky criminal underworld of Lothal, we get the first-ever love triangle in the Star Wars canon, as well as a genuinely heartbreaking and honest depiction of the dissolution of a relationship. It’s astounding the quality of work Fry has been able to produce within the confines of the genre, with Imperial Justice ranking only below Tarkin amongst all the Star Wars literature, in my personal opinion. It’s a must read that paints a brilliant portrait of the other side of the galactic conflict.

Recon Missions

Recon Missions is a freemium mobile game (“mium” is Latin for “not really”) with even less “story” than Rebel Strike. The controls leave something to be desired, and were it not for the placement of Rebels characters within the game, you wouldn’t know it was Star Wars related at all. It’s simply the objectives of collect and kill, which would be fine if the in game currency allowed you to do more than purchase decor for your hide out. Everything else you could want, from more missions to play to being able to utilize any character besides Ezra, you have to pay for with actual money. Not gonna lie, I’ll pay for Star Wars. I’ll buy the magazines to read the short stories, I’ll drop the $7 a piece on young adult novels, I’m down for all that. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to micro pay my way through a game for perks, especially when there’s no engrossing story to spur me forward, no big reveals on the horizon. While Recon Missions does have little enjoyable moments (the inclusion of Ahsoka as a potential playable character is a nice touch), the restrictions on the “free” version makes it an increasingly frustrating experience to plow through. Unless you’re a hardcore Rebels enthusiast with money to burn and a lot of time on public transport to kill, you can skip past this one.

“Ezra’s Vision”

The idea of a shape-shifter aboard the Ghost trying to collect a bounty isn’t a bad one per se, but “Ezra’s Vision” does very little with the potential, in part due to its limited page count robbing it of much opportunity for any slow-burn tension a la The Thing, and instead plays out as perhaps the most forgettable of the Rebels comics thus far.

Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy

Few descriptions are more cliche than calling something the “thrilling conclusion”, but its fitting for The Secret Academy. Brief in page count but as dense as a full novel, the conclusion to Jason Fry’s stellar Servants of the Empire is a masterpiece of YA tension, splitting the book into three parts, giving us Zare’s story right up until we really want to know what happens next, then switching gears to check in with Merei before wrapping it up with a third act so lean and engrossing its impossible not to let your mind conjure up the images, complete with score. To get into plot details would risk spoiling the entire series for those who haven’t read it, and I do thoroughly encourage everyone to check it out (though I do love that they provide an explanation as to why the Empire switched from clones to regular people: clones all have the same genetic make up, and therefor the same weaknesses to germs and other ailments). It’s surprisingly thought-provoking series, with a marvelously paced and vivid finale. Pick these books up ASAP, they’re well worth your time.

“Rebel Bluff”

Lando Calrissian returns to Lothal for a sabacc game gone awry in “Rebel Bluff”, a short story that makes one long for a Lando TV show (and makes someone like myself thankful for and looking forward to the Lando comic book series from Marvel). Michael Kogge one of Star Wars’ most iconic and under-explored characters, building upon the work done in Rebels (the story takes place after his appearance in the series) and showing the balance between hero and scoundrel Lando continually straddles as his roguish ways take him to Tarkintown and trap him in between Imperials he wants to avoid and innocent people in need of help. It’s an enjoyable read, leaving itself open ended for more adventures with the character. It’s hardly essential reading, true, but if you enjoyed what you saw of Calrissian in Rebels, you’re definitely going to want to check this one out.

Kanan #6

Let’s be clear right off the bat: despite being the conclusion to the Last Padawan story-arc, even being referred to as the “Epilogue”, there’s nothing terribly conclusive about this issue. That’s not to say it’s poorly-written; in fact, it may be the best issue of the comic thus far, with a real appreciation for wordplay (when Kanan reveals his new name to a certain someone from his past, he feigns mishearing him and asks whether he said Jarrus or Janus, the latter being the name of the two-faced Greek god of transitions and new beginnings). However, it ends on a cliffhanger, leaving us with no real resolution for the “present day” storyline presented in The Last Padawan. The next arc focuses on Kanan’s first mission during the Clone Wars, but presumably continues the “present day” story as well. Kanan #6 is a great issue, and truly makes one hungry for the next arc to see where it goes, but that said, in terms of getting a full single story (going by trade paperbacks instead of waiting issue by issue), #6 raises more questions than it does answers, and one may be better off treating only the first five issues of the comic as the first arc and skipping it for now (at least until the second arc has reached its conclusion).

“Senate Perspective”

Giving us a new, forgive the term, perspective on the Star Wars universe, this comic finds Hera and the crew rescuing a marooned Senator, who greets them with hostility as they try to dispel the misinformation the Empire has put forth about them. The most interesting aspect, however, is when Hera asks the Senator how many of her votes were enacted. We’ve never really been shown before the political machinations of the Empire, and we discover here that Senators are not only in the dark about life on their respective worlds, but indeed are left in the dark about whether the legislation they enact actually goes into effect at all, reducing them to little more than figureheads putting on a show for the public. Of course, its plot goes pretty much how you’d predict, with the Senator seeing the light and helping the rebels escape the clutches of the Empire, but that little kernel of background information, that little slice of “senate perspective”, fleshes out the universe exponentially, which makes it worth the read (well, I guess not as much since I already said the big reveal, but still…)

Alright, guys, that about wraps up everything to date that occurs between Rebels Season 1 and the original film, with the exception of half of Season 2, which didn’t feel right to talk about until the entire season was concluded, and the 7th issue of the Kanan comic with was not discussed for the same reason (ok, and two issues of the Rebels Magazine that were impossible to track down, but in my defense, Wookiepedia doesn’t even have entries for those comics). Check back in Friday as we hit the final run, the original trilogy. Get excited, guys. We’re almost there.

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4 thoughts on “(De)Constructing the Ion Canon: A Bridger Between Ezra and Luke

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