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Double Review: The Force Unleashed 2 Graphic Novel & Audio Book (Novel)

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

Order your copies here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK and here for Kalahari.net customers (South Africa).

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2010 in Reviews

 

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Review: Star Wars – The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams (Novel and Audiobook)

I was pretty excited to read this: the first novel (of three that have been announced) that ties into the MMO game, The Old Republic, a sequel of sorts to the excellent PC games Knights of the Old Republic and The Sith Lords.

Sean has proved that he knows Star Wars, having co-written 3 novels in the New Jedi Order saga (The Force Heretic Trilogy, Remnant, Refugee, Reunion) as well as the novelization of the most awesome game I’ve yet to play, The Force Unleashed. And with Fatal Alliance, he’s proved it again, but unfortunately, not as well as I would have hoped.

Fatal Alliance is an excellent novel – I truly did enjoy it, and it’s definitely one of the most action-packed Star Wars novels I’ve read, and it’s also packed with great characters that work their way through an awesome plot.

We’ve got an enigmatic Mandalorian who is central to the plot, as well as one of the most surprising characters in the tale; we’ve got a Jedi Padawan who goes through an expertly handled Hero’s Journey; a smuggler who practically stole the show; an Imperial spy who is terrified of his own shadow but believes in justice and balance. These are just some of the characters that fill this novel, and almost all of them were well-realized and brilliantly brought to life, but not all of them were:

The Sith apprentice, Eldon Ax, was someone I just couldn’t get a handle on; chapters from her POV were great, with plenty of action and Sith coolness, but I found that when she opened her mouth she sounded like the stereotypical evil Sith-Lord-in-Waiting. I could be missing the point entirely (there were definitely chapters in which she said what she needed to achieve a specific goal) but I was routinely jarred out of the flow of the book while reading her POVs – she seemed like two different characters to me. I am looking forward to seeing her again, though – at the end of the novel, having grown and gone through all she had up to that point, she is left in a really difficult situation, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with her.

Three of my favourite characters: Larin Moxla and Dao Stryver.

Larin really had my sympathy – she’s living in a very tense time and in a very difficult professional situation, and her POVs were pitch-perfect and afforded much of the drama and danger that filled the novel.

Dao Stryver is one of the best Mandalorians I’ve read – in my opinion, on the same level as Boba Fett. Resourceful, manipulative, highly intelligent and focused, an excellent fighter, and enigmatic, Dao really impressed me. 🙂

Shigar Konshi was also pretty damn cool – there were echoes of a young Luke in him (hehehe, talk about a paradox, huh?) but he also had a personality all his own and made for some great discussions and thoughts about the Force, Sith, Jedi, the Empire and the Republic. I’m definitely looking forward to catching up with Shigar again!

Now, in terms of the action in the novel – damn! Massive set-pieces, excellent snub-fighter battles and great tactics; Sean definitely excels at these kind of scenes and it was like I was watching scenes on the level of Revenge of the Sith’s opening scene – that kind of massive spectacle. But Sean also kicks ass in the smaller battles – there’s a battle that takes place in a palace on (Nal)Hutta that is pretty damn awesome. 🙂

Tying into the action are some of the creepiest (thanks to Marc Thompson and Kevin Thomsen) and most interesting droids this side of YVH droids (Yuuzhan Vong Hunter, for those who didn’t know) – I hope we see them again some time!

Plot-wise, Fatal Alliance is a massively sprawling novel – the (Nal)Hutta sequence (from the novel’s blurb) is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much that happens, so much that the characters have to go through, that I was expecting something to fall flat somewhere, but Sean handled the plot masterfully. The tension and action ramp up continuously, and since I was listening to the audiobook, there were times when I just didn’t want to get back to work, or even go to work. There are plenty of surprises in the novel – just when I thought I had a handle on the story and what would happen, Sean proved me wrong – always a goo thing. 🙂

Now, another problem: I just didn’t get the feeling, the true sense, that this novel was set in the Old Republic. Now, hear me out here – my reasons might be trivial, but here they are: too many times, the terms “Empire”, “Imperial”, “Emperor” and “Republic” were used, and I wasn’t confused by this -I know when the story takes place- but instead of grounding the tale in the Old Republic era, these terms made me constantly think that the tale took place in some kind of ‘Infinities’ alternate era, where Luke, Han, Leia or any of the characters we know were never born and the course of the galaxy’s history had changed. It was a bit confusing and I was expecting to hear someone, somewhere say “Darth Sidious”.

But Fatal Alliance was still an excellent Star Wars novel, nonetheless, and it definitely set the scene for what players of the MMO could expect – the Cold War is on the verge of erupting into all-out war and I can’t wait to see what Paul Kemp and Drew Karpyshyn bring to the Old Republic. 🙂

Not the best introduction to the Old Republic MMO storyline, but a highly enjoyable if sometimes confusing novel.

7 / 10

Audiobook:

Once again, the team brought their best game. Marc Thompson did an incredible job with the massive cast of characters, giving each of them a vibrancy and a uniqueness that really made listening to him an experience; his treatment of the droids I spoke of earlier was incredible, and I’ve never been so creeped out by a robot before! The music and sound effects used came across as perfect and natural, really adding layers of sensory enjoyment to the tale, and I remain a fan of Star Wars audiobooks and the people who bring them to us. Excellent job!

10 / 10

To order your copies of Fatal Alliance, click here for Amazon US (novel and audiobook), Amazon UK (novel and audiobook), and audiobook download at Audible. Check out Sean’s website here and the official Star Wars website here, and for extra info about Fatal Alliance (beware of spoilers, though) check out the novel’s page over at Wookieepedia.

Be EPIC!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 1, 2010 in Reviews

 

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Star Wars, Dark Tower & Wheel of Time News!

Man, what a day for news!

Let’s get right into it; first off, I’ll show you the cover to Sean William’s Star Wars: The Old Republic novel, Fatal Alliance:

Awesome, right? Check out the details for the novel at this post on the official site.

Sean is not only an awesome guy but knows what makes Star Wars so great and brings it in droves to the novels he writes in the Expanded Universe, so I’m definitely looking forward to this!

Next up, the long-awaited naming and cover-reveal of The Old Republic novel by Paul Kemp; I’ll let the cover do the talking! 🙂

Awesome, right? 😀 And yes, that is the kickass Sith Lord who we saw in action in the cinematic of The Old Republic. 🙂 Check out the details of the novel at this post at the official site; if you want to have another look at the cinematic, check out this post at Paul’s blog, and here’s his announcement. 🙂

Very, very chuffed for Paul that he got the chance to write a novel focusing on such a badass character! Here’s hoping that the story behind the cinematic is also included in the novel! 🙂 He’s already sent in the first draft of the novel, so everything looks a-okay for the December release date!

Paul’s Crosscurrent (reviewed here) showed that he has an awesome understanding of Star Wars, so this will, most probably, be awesome. 🙂

Now for Wheel of Time news!

Check out this post over at A Dribble of Ink; Aidan gives us an extended blurb of Book Thirteen of The Wheel of Time, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll say this: Perrin and Mat.

🙂

And lastly, news of the Dark Tower movies!

Thanks to my buddy Lood, I can tell you that Ron Howard has been tapped to direct a trilogy that’ll bring Stephen King’s absolutely massive and brilliant series to the big screen. Just how he’s planning to cram 7 novels-worth of plot into three movies I have no idea, but this is Ron Howard, and I’m sure he’ll do movies that’ll be as true as possible to the King’s epic. 🙂 Check out the info here.

That’s it for now,

Have an awesome weekend!

Be EPIC!

P.S. Oh, and here’s something you all have been drooling for – the first pic of Thor. 🙂

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Announcements

 

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