We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm – be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
One of the few drawbacks to Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Universe was the end of the decades-long Extended Universe of novels, games, comics, and other narrative forms that expanded the overall world of the franchise. The new set of films starting with The Force Awakens rendered several of the novels and stories set after Return of the Jedi irrelevant or officially non-canonical, which bummed me out because I enjoyed several of those books from my youth. Luckily a new set of novels have been published lately with Disney’s approval that tell new stories set between the seven official films that have been released so far, one of which is noted sci-fi author Claudia Grey’s Bloodline, which takes place a few years before the events of The Force Awakens and chronicles Princess Leia Organa-Solo’s experiences as a vetaran Senator for the New Republic. This fast-paced and immensely readable novel creates tense and somewhat gripping drama out of the inner political workings of the Star Wars Universe, something that George Lucas’ Prequel trilogy tried and failed to do, and it helps to bridge the gap between the newfound hope the galaxy felt upon the Empire’s defeat and the political upheaval that gave rise to the First Order.
The main plot of Bloodline follows Leia as she tries to establish order in a Senate that is consistently gridlocked thanks to the constant squabbling between two distinct and heavily contentious political parties, which has left her excessively burned out and disillusioned with the political process and wishing to join her husband Han Solo on his many adventures as a spacecraft racing coach. When she hears a plea for help from one of the planets under their jurisdiction in which a new crime syndicate is filling the void once left by the Hutts, Leia volunteers to go to that planet to try to handle the matter diplomatically. Joined by her two assistants, a young fighter pilot, and her trusty protocol droid C-3PO, Leia hopes that some work in the field will help to remind her of the good she can do as a Senator, but those hopes are dimmed when she discovers that she will also be joined by a young member of the opposing party named Ransom Casterfo. Mutually distrustful at first, Leia and Casterfo soon grow to respect each other and actually start to develop a friendship as they uncover a plot meant to undermine the Senate and potentially tear the New Republic apart, while another political rival of Leia’s accidentally discovers a dark secret regarding the Princess’ lineage that could jeopardize her future in the Senate.
Unlike the Star Wars films and a number of the original EU novels, Bloodline has very few outright action scenes, but while it may not be as objectively exciting as other stories within the canon, it provides a fascinatingly relatable look into the political world that Leia has been a part of since before the events of A New Hope. In the near thirty years since the fall of the Empire, many of the younger citizens of the New Republic have forgotten or never knew what it was like to be at war, and there are actually some within this society, many of whom within Leia’s rival party, who actually revere several aspects of the Empire and long for a system of government with more direct control over the galaxy. It’s impossible for readers not to think of our current political climate when reading about the constant bickering and lack of action within the Senate, and the parallels between some of the more authoritative members of the Senate with certain real-life politicians is a bit jarring, but the perceived parallels with real-life aren’t so overt that they detract from the central story, which provides a rare chance to see Leia’s skill as both a brilliant politician and a shrewd strategist in a story where she is the main protagonist. The political turmoil contained within the plot also serves as a nice prelude to where Leia and her friends wind up in The Force Awakens and contains some clues as to what may have nudged her and Han’s son to the Dark Side of the Force. For longtime Star Wars fans wanting more of a bridge between the original trilogy and this new era of films, Bloodline will not disappoint. 4.5 out of 5 Antique Helmets.