Let me make one thing clear before I begin with the review: I haven’t yet read Sean William’s first The Force Unleashed novel. After reading the TFU2 graphic novel, I’m definitely going to be reading it after Fate of the Jedi Vortex (busy with that, now), for reasons which will become clear as you read these reviews.
The Force Unleashed 2 Graphic Novel:
If you haven’t yet read this, then I’ll recommend that in all honesty you shouldn’t bother. 😦
The one thing that impressed me about The Force Unleashed’s graphic novel was that there was a clear, coherent story, and that characters were focused on as and when it was needed. It was really like reading a novel, and I was able to immerse myself in it. Not so with The Force Unleashed 2. First of all, the focus of the tale seems to be on Boba Fett; now, I’m a big fan of the awesome bounty hunter, but the focus was so, well, focused, on him that the graphic novel should have been titled Boba Fett Tracking a Target (or something similar). If the tale was about the clone then I’m sorry to say that Haden Blackman failed miserably. 😦 Clone-not-Clone does appear, don’t get me wrong, but most of the time this happens when Boba comes into contact with him. I, like everyone else on the planet who knew the storyline of The Force Unleashed 1, wanted to know how it was possible that Galen / Starkiller was alive, or how he had returned; following Boba’s adventure was not something that concerned me – if both Boba’s and Galen’s / Starkiller’s storylines had unfolded parallel to each other, the effect might have been different. But with the focus being so heavilly shifted to Boba, well, a big fail indeed.
Also, The Force Unleashed 1 resonated with myriad emotions, while The Force Unleashed 2 seemed too dry – another reason why choosing Boba as the tale’s vehicle wasn’t the best choice. There’s plenty of tales involving Boba, go ahead and read those if you want a tale that does him justice.
Now, onto the art: I can do a passable body, as well as a handful of action poses, but I can’t draw faces at all. It’s probably the biggest reason why I’m a blogger and budding writer and not an illustrator. So I’m not one to judge illustrations, really – but was it too much to ask to let Clone-not-clone at least look like Galen / Starkiller? Thanks to Sam Witwer, Galen / Starkiller has very distinctive facial features, and Brian Ching, Bong Dazo and Wayne Nichols did an excellent job in The Force Unleashed 1; unfortunately, there’s nothing of Sam Witwer in the Galen / Starkiller of The Force Unleashed 2. The guy might as well be someone completely different, and I found myself just not believing that this was Darth Vader’s ex-secret apprentice. Omar Francia and Manuel Silva do a great job (I certainly couldn’t match them, for sure), but if they could make their Boba resemble Temuera Morrison, they could have made their Starkiller resemble Sam Witwer. Unless I’m completely missing something and Sam’s likeness was not allowed to be used at all (which could be the case; I’ve only thought about that now). Whatever the case, making the Apprentice look like someone else entirely didn’t help the tale, either – I just couldn’t connect with the character when he appeared. 😦
Diego Rodriguez’ colours are excellent – he added mood where it was needed and a vibrancy to all the action scenes, a job well done. And Michael Heisler’s lettering was spot-on, succeeding in bringing across what emotion there was.
But these, unfortunately, aren’t enough to save the graphic novel. I wasn’t expecting my breath to be punched from me (as The Force Unleashed 1 did), but I wasn’t expecting such a weak product. 😦 I get the feeling (although I may be wrong on this count, too) that this graphic novel was a rush-job, and that’s a shame. Either way, it’s just not the tale, or the graphic novel, it could have been.
4 / 10
To order your copies, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here for Kalahari.net customers (South Africa). I wanted to link to the product at Exclusive Books, but their website is down for maintenance. Head over to Haden Blackman’s website here.
The Force Unleashed 2 Novel by Sean Williams:
As I said earlier, I haven’t yet read Sean’s first The Force Unleashed novel, so I can’t tell you whether this novel is better or worse than the first novel. But I will say that, once again, Sean has managed to craft an excellent tale, worthy of being included in the massive Star Wars mythology. 🙂
One of Sean’s great strengths as a writer is that he really brings the characters he uses to tell the tales alive, and this remains the case in The Force Unleashed 2. Everyone, from Juno Eclipse to Rham Kota to Darth Vader, resonate in their own way.
Juno was one of the stars, in my opinion; her struggle throughout the novel as she tries to reconcile herself to her duties and to her grief (due to Starkiller’s death in The Force Unleashed 1) were not only entertaining but also cemented her in the EU as a character that deserves more exploration; Rham Kota was excellent as the clone-not-clone’s conscience / mentor – he’s definitely one of the harder Jedi out there, uncompromising and focused, seeing the world in black and white rather than variations of grey, and he excels at constantly pushing the clone-not-clone in directions both emotional and mental, which served to give the tale a great sense of ‘struggle’ on the clone-not-clone’s part. Vader is his usual menacing, calculating self – this worked for me, because I was still wondering, right up to the end, whether him prodding the clone-not-clone would end up bearing fruit. In The Force Unleashed Vader was surprising – in The Force Unleashed 2 he is still surprising but is also the Vader that captured the dread of millions.
The other characters were great, too, but Sean’s focus had to, necessarily, be on the three main characters; Mon Mothma does come across as being a bit of a (excuse me) bitch, and Leia Organa shows the hints of rebelliousness and humour that have made her such a great character (even through to Fate of the Jedi Vortex). Garm Bel Iblis was a bit of a no-show, though – anyone could have taken the role he has in the novel, though to be fair, he doesn’t do much.
Action-wise, the novel is awesome; remember that scene from the cinematic where the clone-not-clone has this massive rancor-killer bearing down upon him, and then we watch as he ignites his lightsabers and runs at it, then Force-jumps into the air towards it? Well, you find out what happens, and it’s kickass. 🙂 There are plenty of other scenes and Sean manages to make each scene a spectacle of Force-abilities, acrobatics and explosions; what more could a Star Wars fan want? 🙂
Plot-wise, the novel is more an exploration of what it means to journey towards finding yourself than anything else, which sounds like ‘Oh hell, ‘finding yourself’?!’ but hear me out – considering how the novel ends (and, presumably, the game), this journey works. Remember how The Empire Strikes Back was a really emotional movie? Well, The Force Unleashed 2 is similar – we’ve got a cast of characters that are living in an extremely dangerous time, what with Emperor Palpatine, Vader and the entire Galactic Empire gunning for them, and these characters are still getting over the shock of the death of the man that inspired the Rebel Alliance. There’s plenty of action, intrigue and philosophy (staples of Star Wars, in my opinion), but I didn’t get the sense that there wasn’t enough. Don’t, however, expect an amazing revelation (as there was in The Force Unleashed); I think we’ll have to wait for The Force Unleashed 3 for that.
One thing that does bug me (and this isn’t about the novels) the choice of having someone as insanely powerful as Galen / Starkiller actually exist. Displays of power of the kind that Galen / Starkiller can unleash will be remembered, or at the least, noticed. Yoda, for instance, or Ben Kenobi would feel such massive Force abilities, wouldn’t they? I guess I’m just thinking aloud here, but it is something that bothers me (or maybe I’ve just been reading too much Wheel of Time, 😉 ).
Anyway, The Force Unleashed 2 is an excellent novel, more akin to the breath before the plunge than a headlong rush down the Death Star’s trench, and that is definitely a strength. Great action and excellent characterization combined to give me a really enjoyable and attention-keeping read. I definitely recommend this! 🙂
To order your copies, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here for Kalahari.net customers (South Africa). Check out Sean’s website here, and head over to the official Star Wars website here.
The Force Unleashed 2 Unabridged Audiobook:
Once again, the team that brings us these excellent productions did an excellent job! I have no idea what all Kevin Thomsen does as producer for these projects, but the man does himself proud once again. 🙂 Jonathan Davis narrated this project and did another sterling job. Along with Mark Thompsen, Jonathan Davis is one of my favourite Star Wars audiobook narrators, and his voice(s) along with the sound effects and music, make this another excellent project. 🙂
10 / 10