Getting straight to the point, Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon is a lot more interesting than its predecessor, and in many ways is the kind of story I wish Skywalker Strikes had been to begin with. It’s not perfect (there is such a thing as too many bounty hunters Marvel), and in my opinion some of the characters and storylines get a little too spread out before converging. However, I feel like this book is far more creative filling in the cracks of the original story, which is after all what I believe good expanded universe material is supposed to do.
In the end, I define what deserves a good write up from me on whether reading it does or doesn’t feel like work, and I blazed through Showdown mostly in a single afternoon, and at no point felt like I needed a break. In all honesty, as far as consumer advice goes I could stop there. Everything else is just me showing off…
Picking up where the Skywalker Strikes left off, Han and Leia have been joined unexpectedly by Sana Solo, a woman claiming to be Han’s wife, on Han’s Incredibly Convenient Invisible Smuggler’s Planet. Misunderstandings and hijinks ensue, as first it seems Sana is only after Han, only to become more concerned with collecting Leia’s Imperial bounty once she discovers the other woman’s identity, only to then reluctantly help both of them escape Imperial forces when she finds out Han is wanted by the Empire too. All the while, Han remains adamant than Sana isn’t really his wife, but naturally, is never given the opportunity to explain himself properly. Much to Han’s chagrin, Leia agrees to give him back to Sana as payment for her help in rescuing Luke, who’s managed to get himself in more than a little trouble.
His return to Tatooine having seemingly borne little fruit, Luke’s last and most desperate idea for learning how to be a true Jedi, involved getting himself smuggled into Coruscant, the galactic capital and heart of Imperial power, in order to locate the old Jedi Temple. In order to find some smugglers, he heads to Nar Shaddaa, the titular smuggler’s moon (not to be confused with Han’s smuggler’s planet from before). Predictably, Luke’s plan soon goes awry, as he is separated from R2D2 and falls right into the clutches of crime lord and collector of Jedi relics Grakkus the Hutt, who plans to enter Luke in a gladiatorial battle as the Last Jedi for the amusement of the rest of the moon.
Meanwhile, Han, Leia and Sana meet up on Nar Shaddaa with Chewbacca and C3PO, who were in the middle of their own rescue operation gone wrong (I swear this all flows a lot better than I’m making it sound, and from there the race is on, to rescue Luke from Grakkus as well as approaching Imperial troops, and for the prize of dozens of Jedi holocrons locked inside Grakkus’ vault.
Oh, and by the way, all of this is just from chapter 2 onwards. Chapter 1 is its own special story within a story, following Obi-Wan Kenobi during his years in hiding on Tatooine. The aging, but still powerful Jedi master struggles to adjust to his new life as a fugitive and a hermit, protecting Luke as a child while avoiding suspicion. All this, while Tatooine threatens to die of thirst around him, with Jabba the Hutt’s thugs ready to pick its scraps off the bone.
I left the first chapter for last in my summary because it was just easier to pick up where the last book left off, but also because I believe it deserves special attention. It works entirely as a standalone story, without having to have read the previous material to follow it. At most, all you really need to understand is a basic overview of Star Wars lore, for which I think you’d have to journey to the far side of Ganymede before you found any lifeforms that have no knowledge of it at all. As a standalone story, it’s one of the best tails I’ve encountered in this universe. Firstly, the art is beautiful, heavily emphasising harsh lines and shadows and with a washed out colour palette that reflects how everything on this world at this point in time is fading away (in more ways than one). The Kenobi presented in this story is a far cry from the unflappable Jedi seen in most other material, yet it makes sense for his predicament. What struck me most was the anger. Not an angst-riddled, overdramatic rage like we’ve seen in some depictions in this franchise before, but below the surface, everything about Obi-Wan’s final duty grates with him, and he desires to lash out against his better judgement. It’s sort of how I imagine a Star Wars story written and directed by Clint Eastwood would feel, and I mean that in the best possible sense.
As for the rest of it? Yeah, it’s all still pretty good. The galaxy far away was never hurting for crime-riddled slums, so Nar Shaddaa may not be the most original or interesting locale, but the characters inhabiting it make up for that in large part. Grakkus is a very different Hutt from Jabba; more refined, but in many ways far more brutal. While I think in the end the question surrounding Sana and Han’s past to answered a little too neatly, she’s still a fun character to have around, who definitely enhances the banter between Han and Leia rather than feeling like a third wheel.
I’d like also for special attention to be paid to Chewbacca and C3PO, especially seem as theirs is the storyline that really gets short-shrift in this one. Their own rescue mission, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn’t get very far, and they end up in the most unnecessary and uninteresting diversion on the story. Despite that, the two characters play off each-other really well, and it’s not very often we get to see Chewbacca actually take the lead on anything. The wookie is definitely more than Han’s burly sidekick in this one.
Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon would be worth picking up for the first chapter alone. Fortunately, the rest of it is a damn good read too.
…That was this week’s OpinionatedDavid check back on Friday for a special BearSleuth Announcement!!!