My Expanded Universe Journey (Part 1)
By: Adam Bryant
Edited by Kelsey Warren-Bryant
In my previous article (“Better Late Than Never”), I said that it wasn’t until the premiere of the Disney Star Wars film The Last Jedi that I decided to more aggressively pursue my reading of the expanded universe timeline. However, I didn’t fully expand upon my reasons for diving into the legends novels. One of the main reasons I felt I needed to focus more on the expanded universe was due to the portrayal and, ultimately, the demise of my childhood hero, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in the Disney canon.
When I was a kid, my parents bought me a toy green lightsaber that glowed and made sound effects. I would put on either The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi and mimic the lightsaber choreography during Luke’s duels with Darth Vader. For many years after that I hoped they would bring him back in the films. Although I knew that his adventures continued in the books, I had very little interest in reading when I was young.
The only book I recall reading as a child was a Star Wars encyclopedia that was published after the release of Attack of the Clones. It included characters from the films, as well as some from the expanded universe such as Han and Leia’s children, Mara Jade, and more. From that book, I was able to read a summarized description of his adventures in legends. I’m sad to say that at the time, this was the extent of my legends reading.
Fast forward many years later, I along with my wife and friends were watching Disney’s episode 8 The Last Jedi. Needless to say, I was heavily disappointed in the direction my hero was led. If I had known that was the route that Disney and the film’s director Rian Johnson had planned to go with Luke, I probably would’ve traveled back in time and told myself to start reading the legends novels IMMEDIATELY! The Last Jedi took Luke in a whole new direction, and not in a good way. He went from being a hero who never gave up, to a jaded man who gave up on everything. The events of the first trilogy seemed irrelevant in this sad, faceless new Luke. To make matters worse, his end was rushed and frankly anti-climatic for such an iconic and beloved character.
However, my favorite version of Luke was in Return of the Jedi. In that film he was more powerful, wise, and confident. He didn’t let his defeat by Vader in the previous film stop him in his journey of becoming a Jedi. He did whatever he could to save Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, including (unintentionally) facing a rancor unarmed. I admired how he sacrificed himself to the Empire in order to protect his friends and save his father. In that movie, he bravely overcame his temptation to turn to the dark side. But one of the characteristics that I loved most about Luke was that, despite his struggles and his imperfections, he never gave up. These characteristics were clearly forgotten in the Disney sequel trilogy.
I am not going to claim to be an expert on Luke Skywalker in the expanded universe by any means! My knowledge of his stories is limited to what I have read in legends stories the Dark Empire trilogy, Shadows of the Empire, internet research, and my Star Wars encyclopedia. I am also not going to claim from what I have read that legends Luke is perfect either. However, what I do know is that Luke from the expanded universe appears more celebrated than he is in the Disney canon. Most of the stories post Return of the Jedi revolve around him, Han, Leia and the rest of the Skywalker/Solo family and, in my opinion, seems to be a much more appropriate representation of what the “Skywalker Saga” should be. In the Disney canon, Luke, Han, and Leia take on more of a supporting role for the new main characters in the films. Based on what little I have read, I am aware of the threats Luke and family face in the expanded universe such as Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Yuuzhan Vong, Darth Caedus, and more. And although knowing of these threats may be a mild spoiler, I am not deterred from continuing to read the legends stories. In fact, I am excited to read more about the Luke Skywalker presented in legends, who seems to better depict the wide-eyed and determined hero from my childhood.