Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm comics

I definitely should have read the Dawn of the Jedi comics before venturing into the first novel set in this time period. I would have enjoyed Into the Void more.

At the library on Wednesday, I picked up the first tradepaperback in the Dawn of the Jedi comics series — Force Storm. It gathers issues 1-5 of the Dawn of the Jedi series, and provides a much better explanation for this time period than Into the Void did. Not to mention it introduces characters that I like much, much better than Void’s heroine, Lanoree.

Usual warning.

Draigon-loads of spoilers ahead.

Proceed at your own risk.

The series starts off with a concise but thorough explanation of how the Je’Daii came to live on Tython. The Dai Bendu monks have been safeguarding a Tho Yor, a mysterious object which is in reality a (maybe sentient) space ship. One day it calls to them, and they board it, leaving their world. Across the galaxy, seven other Tho Yor do the same thing, gathering Force sensitives like Wookies from Kashyyyk, Witches of Dathomir and Twi-lek from Ryloth. As the ships travel to the Deep Core, and Tython, they pick up Force sensitives of other races. These people unite to form the Je’Daii, residing on Tython, a planet rich in the Force and orbited by two moons, Ashla (Light) and Bogan (Dark).

Over time, non-sensitive children born to the Je’Daii are sent to live on other planets in the system, as Tython, with weather that reacts to changes in the Force, has proven to be too dangerous a place for them to live. At the time this story takes place, these outcasts have settled all the worlds in the system, and there has been at least one system-wide war. Also, no one, outcast or Je’Daii has managed to find their way back out of the system. The very last planet, ‘Furies Gate’, has an orbiting station (also named Fury) to watch for the return of exploratory ships which are sent out periodically to find the route out of the system. To date, none of them have returned — but something else nevertheless finds its way into the Tythos System.

The comics then start to weave together two storylines, with references to a third — the Infinite Empire, the experiences of a select group of Je’Daii, and fleeting mentions of someone called Daegen Lok.

The story opens on Tatooine, yes, the Tatooine of the Skywalkers — only this planet is lush and covered with water. It’s also under attack by the Rakata of the Infinite Empire, who appear to have a massive desire to conquer the entire galaxy. The ‘Predors’ — warlords — of the Rakata keep ‘Force Hounds’ who, among other things, seek out Force-sensitive worlds and people. One of these hounds, Trill, has sensed a powerful Force-world in the Core, but can’t locate it. Xesh, another Hound, says that he can, and off he and his Predor go into the Core.

No surprise, the world is Tython, and naturally, Xesh’s ship crashes on it, killing everyone but him. In entering the system, it passed by Fury Station, and Hawk Ryo sets out to track it, sensing the Dark nature of its occupants. Hawk was a character introduced in a short story set before Into the Void, and it looks like I nay have been right — the comics seem to be setting him up to play a larger role in these events.

We’re next introduced to three Je’Daii Journeyers, or apprentices — Shae Koda, Tasha Ryo and Sek’los Rath. They each saw a vision of a masked person (Xesh) and set out to find him. Daegen Lok, an exile on Bogan, has the same vision — only he senses the darkness, and the power, within the person. The Je’Daii arrive just in time to witness the crash of Xesh’ ship and find his escape pod — and of course, to get into a pitched fight with Xesh, who then flees into the Abyss of Ruh, a place of Darkness on the planet.

Xesh, incidentally, brings the first ‘Forcesaber’ — a blade of light — to Tython. Unfortunately, this lightsaber can only be ignited through the Darkside.

Ultimately, Xesh is subdued by the Je’Daii, but only after he acts against all his instincts and training to aid Shae in her fight against an attacking creature from the Abyss. He admits that he could not allow her light to be extinguished, and that he does not understand their version of the Force at all. Since he is so completely out of balance in the Force, knowing only the Darkside, he’s banished to Bogan, there to study upon the Light and hopefully achieve balance. The fifth issue ends with the ominous statement by Daegen Lok that “Finally, it has begun.”

I enjoyed the comics much more than the novel, in part because the comics were more understandable. That opening explanation provided a basis from which to dive into this world, since so many of its terms, and Je’Daii behaviors, are different from those of the Star Wars Universe of later years. Moreover, the very fact that this story was in a comics-mode really helped, by giving a visual to the unfamiliar terms. Forcesabers and other new terms are easier to understand when you see what they look like.

Although, a rancor is still — unpleasant — whether it’s a full rancor or a half-breed. I’m just saying.

The one thing I wished they had done here was to provide more of a background for Daegen Lok. I know that people are exiled to Bogan because they are too far into the Darkside, but who Bogan is, and what he may have done while under the influence of the Darkside, are not explained here, although you’re definitely left with the impression that he’s going to play a large role in the story.

Overall, these five issues were a nice start to this part of the Star Wars Universe, although they do raise some interesting points about the changes that have occured ove time, particularly among the Jedi. One of the fascinating aspects of the comics was reading the creed of the Je’Daii:

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no fear, there is power.
I am the heart of the Force. I am the revealing fire of Light.
I am the mystery of darkness in balance with chaos and harmony,
Immortal in the Force.

Contrast that with the modern Jedi creed, which holds that the Darkside is not to be touched by Jedi, and that merely touching it will taint that Jedi’s actions forever. These Je’Daii, at least on the surface that we have seen thus far, appear to be more in balance, able to see and use both sides of the Force without (hopefully) falling prey to one side or the other. Indeed, just as those too immersed in the Dark are banished to Bogan, those who fall too far into the Light are banished to Ashla until they can regain their balance. An extreme move to one side of the Force or the other is not desirable in the eyes of the Je’Daii; balance is everything.

I’m still mulling over the implications here for the Jedi of later years.

I haven’t read anything past issue 5, as the library had nothing further from this series. But I can see that I’ll definitely be visiting the comics shop for additional issues, so I can follow up on the storylines introduced here.

And figure out if these Je’Daii are more knowledgable about the Force than Yoda and his Council.

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Is Hawkeye in Avengers 2?!?

From an article on the BBC app announcing that Robert Downey Jr. will return for Avengers 2 and 3:

Downey, 48, was one of the main stars of 2012’s Avengers Assemble, which united superhero characters Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor and the Black Widow, as played by Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson respectively.

All four of the stars are expected to join Downey Jr in the forthcoming films.

A statement on the Marvel website said Avengers 2 will feature “favourites from the first Avengers film and new Marvel characters never before seen on the big screen.”

Okay. First, there were SIX superheroes in Avengers — and Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner, was the sixth. Suddenly, no mention of him — which is either sloppy journalism or a reason for me to become very annoyed and/or concerned.

Because, second, I’m a Hawkeye fan since forever, and if they add in some new characters and leave him out — well, I’m going to be extremely annoyed, maybe even to the point of NOT seeing the film. Or seeing it only once, on the regular screen, instead of the marathon IMAX, 3D, multiple viewings. And under my new rules of life — possibly not even buying merchandise from the film. Because seriously, life is too short to waste on things that annoy me.

Must Read: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

If you love superheroes, and zombies, and end-of-the-world survival scenarios, you must read Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines. Even if you don’t love those things, you must read this book.

I took a brief detour from reading my way through Star Wars (I’m through Into the Void and Lost Tribe of the Sith and Revan, which I’ll review shortly). The sun had finally come out, after all the rain and gloomy skies of Thursday and Friday, and I planned to drop myself onto a blanket in one of Valley Forge Park’s grassy meadows and read something quick and light while relaxing before a busy week of work. So I browsed through the library shelves and spotted Ex-Heroes, by Peter Clines. The blurb on the back said the novel featured super-heroes fighting zombies. I figured it would be a fast-reading, but ultimately forgettable, book.

And it is — fast-reading, that is. Forgettable, it is not.

I assumed the book would follow the standard comics plot: Danger appears. Superheroes answer the call. Superheroes save the day, stopping the danger and preventing the collapse of civilization. Life returns to normal.

I was so wrong in my assumptions.

IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET — SPOILERS AHEAD ——>

A virus begins spreading in Los Angeles, the location for the story. The virus turns dead people into zombies — or exes, for ex-humans. Naturally, the superheroes respond, but slowly –a number of them are only a year or so into their powers and they don’t know each other really well. Before they can even mount an effective defense — the plague overwhelms the City. And the world. Our heroes aren’t concerned with that, though; they’re just trying to save the City of Los Angeles.

Surprise Number 1: These superheroes do not save the people or the City of Los Angeles.

Surprise Number 2: Some of them can’t even save themselves.

Yes, that’s right. Some of the heroes fall victim to the virus and become zombies themselves. Superpowered zombies.

The best these heroes can manage is to hold back the inevitable and preserve one tiny little corner of the City with a few hundred/thousand survivors.

And that’s what makes the novel so interesting.

You see, one of the things I love about so many of the comics superheroes is that they’re flawed. Yes, they have powers. Specialized equipment. Secret identities and hideouts and really cool vehicles from which to fight criminals and supervillains.

But underneath it all, they’re still human (well, the ones who aren’t extraterrestrial beings or deitites, that is). They have flaws. They experience fear, feel inadequate, lack confidence. They make mistakes, and they don’t always do the right thing even when they know what the right thing is. Despite those failings, they get back up — or are helped back up — and return to try again, and again, until they fix their mistakes.

And that’s what this book got right. We get into the heads of the heroes and find out how they become powered and more importantly, why they started into the superhero gig. And those insights feed into the events of the main storyline and how the characters react to a bigger threat than either zombies or supervillains.

I sped through this book at light speed, finished it, then went back and reread it. Because I was surprised how good it was, and how much I enjoyed it. Let’s face it — based on the plot outline, this book could have been so bad. So very, very bad. It could have pandered to the whole zombie apocalypse stereotype and filled the pages with gore and death and little to no character development or plot beyond ‘shoot the dead guy in the head.’ Instead, I read a book with believable people who happened to have superpowers. People who screwed up and yet continued trying to do what they could to help others. In the end, they manage to save their little corner of surviving civilization, but at a high cost.

The book isn’t perfect — for one thing, you jump back and forth between the past and present, and different characters’ viewpoints, but if you keep your attention focused, that’s a small problem that can be handled.

How much did I like this book? Enough to drive to Barnes and Noble on my way home and buy both it and its sequel, Ex-Patriots. There’s a third book coming out in July.

I’ve already pre-ordered.

Go and buy these books. You won’t regret it.

And now, I’ll return to Star Wars.

I have yarn

I have yarn.  Do I ever have yarn!  I think the skeins have been breeding in the cedar chest.

Springtime resolution #5 was toknit out the stash.” As I noted then, I knew I had yarn, I’d lined up some projects to match to it, and then I just needed to find time to knit. A few days ago, I finally found that time, on a Saturday being drenched in an unusual early thunderstorm, and so I dutifully piled all the yarn in one place.

I may have grossly underestimated just how much yarn I’ve accumulated.

Fortunately, I have more than enough patterns in my stockpile. I took an hour (alright, I took three hours!) and matched patterns to skeins and came up with a master list of projects, which for organization’s sake I’ve listed below. Also for guilt’s sake — if I’ve told the world what I’m supposed to be doing, shame should keep me on track to finish these projects.

Yarn is an addiction. If you’re a knitter, or crocheter, you can’t pass up a yarn store without going in ‘just to see what they have, honest!.‘  And so you see the yarn, you pet the yarn, you end up buying three dozen skeins just because the yarn is there and you want to Support Your Local Yarn Store — even if that store is a ten hour drive from your home.

The thing is, knitting, at least for me, is therapeutic.  I start knitting, while watching TV or reading fan fiction, and I zone out — I find my body relaxing into the back of the sofa, joints stretching out, mind calming, fingers flying away.  That’s not just my opinion, by the way — my GP once tried an experiment.  She took my blood pressure, then left me knitting in the exam room while she tended another patient.  When she came back a half an hour later, my blood pressure had dropped more than 20 points.

Knitting also helps with that healthy eating thing I’ve been discussing — if I’m holding a lovely yarn in my hand, I’m certainly not going to go pull out something greasy or salty that could stain it.

And so, having put all that yarn in one easily-accessible place, nature took its course and I inevitably went hunting for the bag of knitting needles.  I cast on two projects — because why should I hold back with this much of a knitting backlog?

Blue wool Old Friend pullover.  I’ve started in on a blue wool pullover, based on a leaflet for the Old Friend pullover from Peace Fleece and using their Siberian Midnight wool, which I think I’ve had for several years now.  It’s a fairly simple knit — straight up the sides on the back and front sections, easy to increase sleeves. Sew the pieces together, crochet a chain-stitch border to neaten it up and it’s done.  Basic stitches, no real need to think — the perfect project to re-ignite a knitting habit when you’ve not touched the needles for a few months.  In the first hour of knitting, I finished several inches.  Since I have to take the car into the garage later this week, I imagine I’ll get quite a few more inches finished.

If it turns out decently, I’ll probably give it to my Dad. He lives in northeast Pennsylvania, on top of a mountain, and it gets really cold up there in the Fall and Winter. He likes to do things outdoors — and the wool on this sweater should keep him nice and warm!

The Avengers Dolls.  Months ago, I bought yarn to make dolls of all the Avengers, and Coulson, Fury and Maria Hill, too.  I started on Iron Man — and promptly ran into trouble.   I’d get an inch or so of the leg done, and the yarn would split.  I finally decided to just put the yarn down, until I could figure out what I was doing wrong.

Turns out, it wasn’t me.  When I was checking over my needles, I discovered a tiny, minute little splinter on the side of one needle.  The yarn’s been snagging on it, and because it’s thin, the threads have been splitting apart.  Fortunately, I have another set in that size, and so I recast on Iron Man.  I hope to have the doll finished somewhere around the time the movie opens.  Of course, once I see the movie, I’ll probably want to make a Pepper Potts and a War Machine and Happy and who knows who else.  So far, I’ve finished both legs, and I’ll start on the arms and body over the weekend.

So that’s the yarn saga, for now.  I’ve made myself a promise, to knit at least 30 minutes a night, and that’s what I’ll be doing in a few minutes.   Meanwhile, for anyone interested in the insanity that is my backlog, this is a list of the identified projects from my stash (phrased that way because, as I complete these sweaters, hats, scarves and gloves, I’ll then have leftover skeins that will be folded into new projects).

Sweaters – blue wool pullover, dark brown/black mohair pullover, chocolate/caramel alpaca turtleneck, dark brown heather wool Celtic braid turtleneck, brown/grey heather Na Craga pullover, light blue wool Alice Starmore pullover, navy blue wool fisherman, black wool/red mohair pullover, pale grey alpaca tunic and cowl, grey/black/cream alpaca pullover, tricolor wool henley, cream felted wool ribbed turtleneck, Skully black/white wool pullover, blue Alice Starmore, brown/multi-red corset pullover.

Scarves/Hats — grey/blue alpaca Celtic hat and scarf, multi-brown multi-texture striped scarf, blue silk lace scarf, black rib scarf and hat, multi-blue multi-texture weave scarf, Halloween orange wool scarf and hat.

Gloves – brown Manos del Uruguay gauntlets, pale grey alpaca fingerless gloves, black rib gloves.

My hands ache just looking at these lists.