We’ve been enjoying our break, but here’s a teaser to tide you over until we return on Monday 18th. Thanks to the ongoing support of our readers, peers and recently the two thumbs of approval from Naomi Von Kreeps, the internationally published alternative model and Star Wars geek. She wrote: “In case some of you have never heard of this site. Quite possibly THE BEST Web comic ever…in the history of ever..A THOUSAND FOREVERS! EVVAAAARR!” We appreciate the shout out! Check out Naomi’s cosplay work and her Tumblr.

In December of 1996, LucasFilm launched the multimedia extravaganza that they called “Shadows of the Empire”. The story of how Luke and the gang tracked Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt. Well duh?! Jabba bought him and Jabba’s HQ is on Tatooine! Well, it was decided to throw in a curve ball to make Boba Fett’s journey to Tatooine as roundabout as possible. Oh, and to throw in an alien mastermind with the power to rape people. Yes, you read that right. Nothing’s ever perfect anymore, is it? There’s always that one part you have to ask “WTF?” about.

The idea behind Shadows was that LucasFilm would behave like they had made a feature film and move forwards with all the tie-in material. It was an experiment that effectively called in to question whether a movie was even necessary at all in order to make lots of cash off eager Star Wars fans. In truth, a movie set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi would have stretched credulity just a tad as the main cast were all 12 years older. However, you could get around that aging issue by keeping the Shadows of the Empire experience within the limitless confines of the imagination via a book, comics and video games. A soundtrack for the imaginary movie was released on CD. There was even a toyline. Hell, there were probably Prince Xizor underwear!

I kind of blinked and missed Shadows at the time and I don’t think I was any better or worse off for doing so. I’m not terribly fond of shoe-horned fan fiction, and that is how Shadows and a lot of EU works feel to me. There are a few special stories out there that feel to me like they fit in, but for the most part I have a fan fiction alert bell that rings pretty loud and tends to snap me out of the illusion.

I always felt that very little time passed between the last scene in Empire and the first scene in Return of the Jedi. The only character who seemed to have changed a lot was Luke, who was now definitely much cooler and finally a Jedi Knight. Perhaps Einstein was also talking about storytelling when he said time was relative. In Empire Strikes Back, it FEELS like very little time transpires before Han and Leia reach Bespin and before Luke cuts short his training, and yet traveling around at sub-light speeds or learning enough about the Force to give Vader a few surprises seems like it would take a LOT longer. Perhaps Jedi Knight Luke, in ROTJ also trained for just a few days, made more introspective and determined by his sense of responsibility for what happened to Han and the humbling loss of his hand. I also always felt that part of the explanation could simply be that Luke is something special when it comes to the Force. The Emperor tells Vader that Luke could destroy them both. So maybe Luke really is a super fast study.

In general though, the idea that there was some prolonged run-around in between ESB and ROTJ does feel a little shoe-horned, as does Dash Rendar. Here is a character that is basically a Han Solo from ANH personality clone, with the misfortune of having been designed in the 1990s with the result that he looks like Marvel Comics’ Cable, from X-Force. Fortunately, something happens to give dimension to Rendar later in the story that helps him become more sympathetic to the reader. The biggest problem I have with Shadows though, is Prince Xizor. But I’ll talk more about that rapist at a later date.

Although Leanne and I had both forgotten any details of Shadows, she has had the trade paperback of the Dark Horse comics adaptation for years. This adaptation incorporates the Boba Fett limited series and a bit of the Rendar material so that it is actually a little more complete and whole than the original book, comics or video game individually. So the trade was the quickest and easiest refresher course. We also turned to Wikipedia for a broader summary that included more of the Dash Rendar video game story line. Finally, rather than read the book itself, we turned to the highly abridged audio book for a little extra dimension.

While George Lucas had some oversight into the project, the story’s core was handled by Steve Perry who wrote the book, while John Wagner handled the comics which focused on Boba Fett and his rival bounty hunters. The soundtrack to the novel was composed by Jim McNeely, definitely the best thing about the experience. The game was created by LucasArts and is entirely from Dash Rendar’s point-of-view.

We hope you’ll be back next week as we start the ball rolling. Until then, may your Forciness stay strong!