Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Read, You Must: Star Wars Galactic Maps

New from Disney/Lucasfilm Press comes one of the last Star Wars books released in 2016, and one of the best surprises of the year!

Galactic Maps: An Illustrated Atlas of the Star Wars Universe is a delight for fans of the whole Star Wars saga. Illustrator Tim McDonagh shines on every large-sized 2-page map spread as writer Emil Fortune (writing as archivist “Amel Fortoon”) tells the story of these newly-discovered “ancient” maps that “seem to be centred on the saga of the legendary Skywalker family”.

These aren’t ordinary maps though - each map is filled with character moments and action scenes based in that location. The illustration style harkens back to antique maps of the high seas (of Earth) and woodcut printmaking, giving the whole book a cool, old-fashioned look. Star Wars is, after all, set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”.

The sprawl of Coruscant captured in a few key moments
Obvious important planets like Tatooine, Coruscant, Geonosis, Naboo, Jakku and Hoth are all here but over 80 pages, Galactic Maps also details locations seen only in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels TV series as well.
Events on Jakku from The Force Awakens
As an added bonus there’s even some info and a map of Jedha from Rogue One. The various planetary systems are organized into groups and then categorized together by proximity. The book is admittedly more an artistic representation of each place rather than a collection of reliable topographical maps for navigation. Amel Fortoon warns at the beginning “these maps are not strictly accurate…the artist was more interested in the feel of these strange worlds and the galaxy-shaking events that took place on them.”
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon could've used a map on Naboo!

Each map spread is full of detail and in some cases sharp eyes are rewarded with tiny details to discover. With self-referential humour and surprise appearances of all sorts of lesser-known characters from Meebur Gascon to Dr. Vindi to the Gorax, Galactic Maps has a lot of fun with what could’ve been a pretty dry book.  

Galactic Maps is part of a new trend in Star Wars merchandise that gives equal weight to all areas of the saga (not just the movies). Seeing Lothal or the mysterious The Clone Wars world of Mortis (is it a planet…or another dimension??) right alongside Mustafar and Endor is particularly satisfying.

Dathomir has many mysteries

Star Wars Galactic Maps is full of surprises, from its large 11 x 15” size to its cleverly illustrated 2-page spreads to its representation of all eras of Star Wars. 

Jedha, before the events of Rogue One!
It’s simply a wonderful book and unfortunate that it came out so late in the year. It has been added to our “Best of 2016” list now. Highly recommended!

Publisher’s Recommendation: Ages 8 – 12

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hunting and Collecting Rogue One Action Figures From the Past (Part 1)

(Warning: this article contains spoilers about Rogue One)

Rebellions are built on hope...but action figure collections are built on hunting and research!

The official Rogue One Darth Vader
Whether you’re playing with them or making a diorama, there are some important characters from Rogue One that unfortunately won’t be available in Rogue One action figure form anytime soon. Other than Darth Vader and stormtroopers, Hasbro is currently focused on toys based on the brand new characters exclusive to Rogue One. Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, K2-SO and others are available now and the new figures look terrific!

Some key characters however are not officially planned to be released as “Rogue One” action figures... but wait, there’s good news!

Many Rogue One characters have already been available for quite some time and in most cases are pretty easily accessible at your local comic/collector shops or online. 

Since Rogue One is so closely connected to 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope Hasbro (and previously Kenner) have been making action figures that work perfectly with Rogue One for a long, long time!
photo by Rebelscum.com

Here’s a look at some of the Rogue One characters that have been available to play with, in one case, since 1978!

One of the very first Star Wars characters ever made into an action figure was Princess Leia in her iconic “star puffs” (buns) hairdo and white robes. Since then there have been many action figure versions of her sporting that look. Most of them are pretty good, some are downright awful. One of the best versions of her for Rogue One play is from 2000 (seen in close-up here) but it can get a little expensive on the collector's market. 
photo by Rebelscum.com

A very reasonably-priced alternative would be the 2015 "Mission Series" version that came in a 2-pack with Luke Skywalker in Stormtrooper disguise. Of course, going back to the 1978 original figure is never a bad idea, and they are still widely available. Both of these are pictured here: 

photo by Rebelscum.com
For a character as vital to A New Hope as Grand Moff Tarkin it may be hard to believe that the very first Tarkin action figure wasn’t available until 1997, 20 years after his screen debut! Since then there have been other Tarkin toys, always in his trademark uniform, slick hair and humourless expression. 

Probably the easiest Tarkin to find of would the the 2005 Revenge of the Sith version. His hair is a little darker, but otherwise he works well for Rogue One purposes.

photo by Rebelscum.com
Princess Leia’s adoptive father, Bail Organa has been made into action figure form more than once but the Revenge of the Sith version is probably the closest to his Rogue One appearance. Like Tarkin, the hair should be a little lighter but otherwise he looks pretty good.

Not exactly the most exciting characters, but vital to the rebellion were General Dodonna and Mon Mothma, seen first in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi respectively. Mon Mothma can be spotted in the background of some moments of Revenge of the Sith but is mostly in scenes that were deleted. 
photo by Rebelscum.com

Despite their importance to the Rebellion, neither were made into action figures until the 1990’s, much like Tarkin. Here’s a great version of Dodonna and either the Revenge of the Sith version or the Return of the Jedi versions of Mon Mothma will do fine. Just take the weird helmet thing off the ROTS one!

photo by Rebelscum.com
That’s all for now. Check out part 2 of this article, including a pair of very familiar droids and another pair of ill-fated aliens!

Got a favourite character from Rogue One you’d like to see Hasbro make? Comment below!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Read, You Must: Rogue One Rebel Dossier

Transmission incoming…

Promising “Info & Intel on the Rebellion’s Bravest Band of Spies”, Rogue One: Rebel Dossier is a 64-page look at the characters and situations of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story told through "top secret" documents, schematics and data files, now available from Disney/Lucasfilm Press.

The story of Rebel Dossier is revealed through communications back and forth between rebel leaders. The Rebel Alliance suspect the Empire is testing a new super-weapon and have spies throughout the galaxy searching for information. “Operation Fracture” is the code name given to the attempt to learn the truth, including the search for Jyn Erso, the rescue of Galen Erso and more. 

Rebel Dossier’s story runs parallel with the way things unfold in Rogue One but told from different perspectives. The Rebels clearly aren’t as united as they could be and there is much disagreement over what to do about the Empire’s growing strength. Eventually the truth comes out and is more terrifying than imagined: the Death Star is real!
General Draven: Seriously Concerned about Jyn Erso

Written by frequent Star Wars author Jason Fry (Weapon of a Jedi, Rey’s Survival Guide, The Force Awakens Incredible Cross Sections), Rebel Dossier is full of photos and intelligence data about Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, K-2SO and the rest of the rebels of Rogue One.

Fry is terrific as usual as he tells this story in an unconventional way. Here the rebel leaders who may have had only a few moments in the film, like Commander Mothma, General Dodonna, General Draven and Bail Organa, tell their side of the story. The conversations feel authentic to what they must’ve had to discuss between the movie scenes. The urgency builds as it becomes clearer to the characters, and the reader, what the Empire is truly attempting to do.

There are moments in Rebel Dossier which help clarify some of the situations of the film that go by too fast for explanation, and some that just expand on what is on-screen. The perspective here is entirely on what the rebels know or are trying to learn, so there is much mystery inside about Krennic, Darth Vader and the Empire's plans. A folllow-up book from the Imperial side of the story could be interesting to read too!

In some cases, the communiques are from characters that (though important the Rebel Alliance in other stories) are not even seen in the movie, including General Airen Cracken, Major Arhul Hextrophon, and Lt. Voren Na’al - names which will be familiar for longtime Star Wars fans. Fry also has some fun with the text, even making a little nod to his Star Wars Rebels: Servants of the Empire book series by referring to Vader as the most dangerous "servant of the Empire".

The description of this book suggests it will be something like the like the scrapbook-type books like Rey’s Survival Guide and Ezra’s Rebel Journal. Unfortunately that’s not the case because everything looks pretty much the same, which was the only disappointment. It feels more like a magazine layout than a dossier of intelligence “files”. It could’ve been more creative with messages actually looking like they came from different sources, printouts, fold-out schematics, etc.

Also the book is quite dark in look, with some pages featuring blue text over black backgrounds making reading difficult at times. Then again, these are top secret documents we shouldn't be reading anyway...

Design problems aside, Rebel Dossier is a fun and fast-paced alternative way to look at the events of Rogue One.

Publisher’s Recommendation: Ages 8 - 12

Also by Jason Fry:

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