Disney’s 2012 purchase of the Star Wars brand for $4.4 billion came with a predictably varied response. While some dismissed outright the sale and purchase as a mistake, others concluded that Disney had done a more than adequate job with the Marvel product, and deserved at least the benefit of the doubt with regard to their new acquisition.
More mixed fan reactions came last April, when Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy announced that all material in the existing books, comics, and games of the “Extended Universe” would be set aside and re-branded as part of a new “Legends” line. This restructuring of Star Wars media would then make way for a new line of content taking place in a new continuity-controlled narrative universe overseen by the Lucasfilm Story Group. This September and October, we will see the first of this new unified content in two forms.
The first of these releases is the well-publicized Star Wars: Rebels television program, to debut on DisneyXD. With a wide range of preview material and a robust and well-received showing at San Diego Comic Con in July, it would seem that Rebels will debut with at least as much excitement as the variably good and always disorderly Clone Wars program that saw its sixth season relegated to Netflix distribution. With an ensemble cast of all-new characters whose story will focus on an early iteration of the Rebel Alliance on and around the planet Lothal, Rebels takes place approximately fifteen years after the Order 66 mandate and arrives in October.
To get set for the new show, Lucasfilm will release its first new in-continuity book on September 2nd. John Jackson Miller has written an installment that does double duty, a choice on the part of Lucasfilm that I think is a smart one. Star Wars: A New Dawn will officially introduce the characters of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, two of the principle characters in the Rebels television program. It will also be the first chronological piece of in-continuity storytelling since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, which has the potential to work as a re-introduction to the Rebel context that prompts the central conflict in 1977’s A New Hope. It also begins the reboot in a relatively unincorporated region of the Star Wars continuity, so as to let the decision to unify a new, regimented canon enjoy some breathing room as Lucasfilm plans its release schedule, which already includes four novels, three comics series, a television show, a video game, and, of course, the movies. While these will undoubtedly include visits from familiar characters, Disney appears to be taking a patient approach with this first book, which allows its new-look Star Wars brand a chance to distance itself from the existing material and to generate excitement for this new, welcome direction for the franchise.
With Episode VII still over a year away, and with these first new releases dealing with wholly new characters, it probably isn’t necessary to rush into your bookstore at midnight on September 2nd to get set for a TV show that will at that point still be over a month away. But the fresh look that Disney is giving the Star Wars universe is intriguing, with a clear commitment to a unified continuity that allows the story to function outside of expensive, seldom-released movies. The fact that they are transparently committed to releasing a product that is at least interested in maintaining a sensible, accessible story (with its relative quality still to be seen) shows that while, in the past, you might have waited to pick up Star Wars extended universe novels in paperback or at the local library, this new approach to a franchise that so many hold sacred might make its sure-to-be-regular releases a matter somewhat more urgent.
Priority Rating: 7.5/10