While I kept my review for the book spoiler free it was incredibly difficult to do so. As we get further into the new era of Star Wars, with more material released to explain some of the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, more of the story is coming into focus. Life Debt brings about a few more answers (and quite a few more questions) not only for The Force Awakens, but potential future stories as well.
As such, I thought this would be a great opportunity to start up our “State of the Galaxy” series on the site. State of the Galaxy will break down some of the new information from various Star Wars media (games, books, comics, etc.), to show where the story is going, and what’s been added-or reintroduced-to the new canon.
Let’s kick this off with some of the new stuff in Star Wars Aftermather: Life Debt. If you haven’t read the book yet, I’m going to be talking about all kinds of spoilers, so make sure you want to know about them before you proceed…Ready?
Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux in The Force Awakens was one of many new characters in the film. His fervor for the First Order is total and complete, though that’s about all we knew. Life Debt brings a wee bit more information on the character. His full name is Armitage Hux and he’s the illegitimate child of Brendol Hux an Imperial training officer in charge of the Arkanis facility. Brendol first popped up in the children’s book series, Servants of the Empire (which featured characters from Star Wars Rebels), and was also mentioned in Bloodline.
During Life Debt, he becomes part of Gallius Rax’s (more on him in a bit) shadow council for the Empire. Him and Armitage are rescued from Arkanis, which was about to fall to the New Republic. It’s interesting in the book that he seems to think little of his son, even though we know where he ends up ultimately.
The Emperor’s New Groove
The end of last year’s Aftermath teased fans with a secretive character who’s pulling the strings for what’s left of the Empire. Fans feverishly speculated who it might be (hoping it was an old EU character), but Life Debt reveals this right off the bat. Gallius Rax is the secret Fleet Admiral with some strong connections to Palpatine.
He’s from Jakku and as a child saw an Imperial shuttle land, survey a seemingly random plot of land, and prepare to leave. Before they could, Rax snuck aboard the Imperialis and became a stowaway in order to try and escape his rough life on the desert planet. Sheev Palpatine himself finds Rax, but rather than cast him out for stowing away, he works with the child: “I sense in you potential. A destiny. Most people have no destiny.”
Palpatine sends Gallius back to Jakku in order to guard…something, saying only that there’s something in the ground that’s very important and that it was “significant a thousand years ago and it will be significant again.” Sadly, we’ll have to wait until Empire’s End (which arrives in January) to discover what it may be, but it’s an intriguing tease. This makes Jakku not so random all of a sudden and explains why the “final” battle between the Republic and Empire was held over such a seemingly insignificant world. The end of Life Debt sees Gallius move all his forces to Jakku, leading up to the climatic battle.
Some are speculating that this means Gallius could be Supreme Leader Snoke. The time frame seems about right, and there are some suggestions that Rax has some sort of Force sensitivity as well as a few other hints along the way. I’m not entirely sold on the notion just yet, but I’m excited about the idea of Jakku having a deeper significance on the Star Wars universe, making Rey being abandoned there all the more interesting.
Breaking Up the Band
We knew from Star Wars: Bloodline that Chewie and Han were no longer a dynamic duo traversing the galaxy together as they did throughout all of the old Expanded Universe books. Instead they have their own families while staying close to one another still. It was one of my favorite reveals, as I always wanted Chewie to have a life of his own. In the old EU Chewbacca stuck with Han even though they talked about Chewie having a family and relatives. It bugged me. Thankfully, that’s not the case now, and Life Debt shows how/why they separated.
It’s one of the book’s most touching moments and makes complete sense. The Life Debt doesn’t just apply to Chewie…Han feels the same sense of loyalty to his friend. When their first attempt to liberate Chewie’s home planet of Kashyyyk fails miserably, Han takes it personally, and knows he can’t move on with his life (and family of his own) until he makes it right. When the planet is taken back and Leia needs help with the New Republic, Han knows the time has come to move forward and says goodbye.
Sure, some fans might have trouble with the idea of such an iconic pair separating, it felt like the most natural and realistic take on the characters in a long time. It was well handled and made for a powerful moment in their story.
Dark Side Cults
The Acolytes of the Beyond return for another interlude in Life Debt and it’s clear that they’ve progressed beyond making secretive deals with bounty hunters. These guys were first introduced in Aftermath, as some Dark Side fanatics who buy a Lightsaber they believe is Vader’s so they can destroy it and return it to him in death…Yeah, a real cheery group who ominously claim, “We are not violent. Not yet.”
Life Debt sees the result of that claim, as they return for another interlude. The first time we saw them was on Taris (a world in Star Wars that has some interesting history for fans in the EU), but this time around they pop up on Corellia, meaning their influence has definitely grown. The chapter is small, but offers up some interesting clues as a local law enforcement officer catches a “punk kid” who’s part of the group. While talking, we learn that some of the Acolytes wear masks like Vader did, but they have to be “earned”.
Something bigger is going on however, as the end of the Interlude reveals the Acolytes are revolting in the streets and take over the precinct. Apparently, a red-bladed Lightsaber was being kept in their basement, which is now in the hands of the cultists. As I said, it’s not much more information on the group itself, but this interlude shows they’re expanding and willing to take action now. It’s an interesting tease and makes me think more and more they’re related to the Knights of Ren (which Kylo is the leader of in TFA). Since they all wear masks and Kylo worships Vader, it seems like a decent conclusion to make. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
Tatooine and the Future of Boba Fett
I’m just going to come right out and say it…I’m pretty sure Boba Fett is dead. I don’t think the new canon will be bringing him back from the Sarlacc, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a future of some kind for him, or at least his iconic armor. I feel like I’m getting a tad ahead of myself, so let’s back up a bit.
One of the Interludes in Life Debt (my favorite one too) sees the Rancor keeper from Return of the Jedi, Malakili, wandering the desert of Tatooine listlessly. He’s unsure what to do without Jabba and his beasts, and mentions he once went to the Sarlacc with thoughts of suicide. However, the monstrous creature has been injured from the explosion of Jabba’s sail barge, and it’s body (we only see the mouth in the movie) is starting to be dug up by the Jawas in order to scavenge anything they can from the slow digesting beast, including mechanical equipment and stuff like that which could survive.
It sounds like Boba Fett’s armor was rescued in this way, but likely not the man himself. An Interludes in the first Aftermath shows Cobb Vanth, a sheriff on Tatooine purchasing a set of Mandalorian armor from Jawas, and it’s heavily implied to be Fett’s. With what we’ve learned from Life Debt, this makes even more sense, as Cobb comes across Malakili in the desert and the beast master recognizes the armor Cobb is wearing.
Cobb is building a new settlement called Freetown, where they hope to keep residents safe from rival gangs on Tatooine, and he invites Malakili to join up. It’s not a huge reveal or anything, but the implications of Cobb wearing Fett’s armor are interesting to say the least.
This feels like a set-up for a new kind of Boba Fett story, in which the ARMOR is what makes the character rather than who’s inside of it. It’s actually an idea that’s been proposed before, and been rumored a number of times over the years. Either way, these Interludes with Cobb Vanth could be setting up the future of Fett in Star Wars, possibly even his spin-off movie (which is supposedly next after Han Solo).