This is the type of post that will either appeal to you completely, to the deepest depths of your person, or not at all. In either case, I make no apologies for it. Let us begin with Timothy Zahn.
Everything begins with Timothy Zahn.
Leaving aside the fact that we’re going to see a lot of Han/Leia/Luke poses that are clearly lifted from memorable scenes in Return of the Jedi, it is RIDICULOUS that Joruus C’Baoth — a Tier-III Villain and a half-assed Khan cipher if ever I saw one — gets big, shirtless top billing, while Admiral Thrawn (ADMIRAL THRAWN) is barely drawn larger than a Stormtrooper.
“Hey, what are you reading there?”
“Oh, it’s the Joruus C’Baoth trilogy.”
“The Thrawn trilogy.”
“Why on earth didn’t you say that to begin with?”
NO ONE REMEMBERS JORUUS C’BAOTH, IS WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY.
At least Thrawn is holding a gun this time, so we have a vague idea that he’s connected to the military, somehow. I don’t know who Luke is menacing with that lightsaber. I — look, I understand that the fundamental tension on all EU covers (and probably within the texts, too) is between giving space to the newer storylines while reminding readers who might not be super-familiar with the EU canon that their favorite characters from the movie still exist, so I get that there was probably a meeting where someone said “Han has to be pointing a blaster on every single cover, regardless of what role, if any, he plays during the plot” but I really think it’s bullshit that Pellaeon doesn’t make it onto a single Thrawn trilogy cover.
NOW THRAWN ISN’T EVEN ON THE COVER. THIS IS THE THRAWN TRILOGY. NOT THE JORUUS C’BAOTH TRILOGY. COVER YOUR TORSO, OLD MAN. WRAP YOUR SHITTY JEDI BATHROBE ABOUT YOUR WIZENED OLD CHEST IN A MANNER BECOMING AN INSANE CLONE.
Also, Luke looks twelve here. Garbage.
THIS IS HOW YOU PUT THRAWN ON THE COVER OF AN EU NOVEL: HIS GLOWING RED ALL-SEEING EYES DOMINATE EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING. Also, Mara Jade’s hair looks so much better here than it did in The Last Command. It only took about ten years, but they finally got it right.
I might as well come out right now and say that I am an UNABASHED I, Jedi fan. Stackpole was right to retcon the Jedi Academy trilogy, and who better to do it with than a blonde Han Solo analogue? It is only fitting that Luke looks puffy and aged in this close-up. You should have let the New Republic try Kyp Durron for war crimes, Luke.
Okay, can we acknowledge that fucking of course every few hundred years there are massive purges of the Jedi by whatever galactic government happens to be in place at the time? It’s an elite, shadowy religious caste with absolutely no oversight that happens to run its own clerical courts. Jedi are completely exempt from civil and criminal proceedings. Kyp Durron BLEW UP THE CARIDA SYSTEM — Moff Tarkin couldn’t even manage to blow up a system! MOFF TARKIN! — and the New Republic just handed him off to his mentor and said “We’re sure you’ll think of an appropriate punishment.”
For a real-world version, imagine that some young Ba’hai adherent blew up Mars for personal reasons (which, for the sake of argument, is full of human people) and whatever New World Order is running Earth handed him over to Rainn Wilson (did you know Rainn Wilson is Ba’hai? He is!) and asked him to handle it.
PURGE THE JEDI. Or at the very least, make them serve on juries and beholden to intergalactic criminal law.
Daala! Oh, Daala. How could anyone with such a sensible braid be such a poor tactician?
I do not understand what is happening with Luke’s face here.
Nor here! But there’s Han again, pointing his trusty blaster, reminding us that he’s a cool space pirate who likes to shoot at things.
WERE YOU TRYING TO LOSE A “DRAWING LUKE SKYWALKER’S FACE” CONTEST
Shut up, I loved this cover. Those stupid flare-y stars, the luminous, rainbow-haired Hot Chick face, Luke’s eyeliner, Leia’s battle gear, the…are those Tusken Raiders? I don’t remember them in this book, but whatever. A+ cover.
Things It Would Have Been More Thematically Compelling To Feature On The Cover Than Two Imperial Guardsmen:
- Admiral Daala
- Durga the Hutt
- The actual Darksaber
- Bevel Lemelisk just getting murdered over and over again
- Literally any character with a speaking role in this book
Also perfect. Just crowded enough.
NOW THAT IS HOW YOU DESIGN A SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE COVER. Prince Xizor was a terrible character — maybe the most terrible of EU characters — and he looks completely accurate on the front cover. You look at that guy and you think, oh yeah, that’s a sleek-skinned green sexual predator, and you’re right.
You either think that giant background skulls on book covers are a good idea or a bad idea, and nothing I can say will change your mind. (I like them, but I still think Kueller should have made the cover instead.)
Man, I don’t know. Out of all the New Republic characters to include on the cover with the Big Three, you went with Borsk Fey’lya, Leia’s scheming political rival who is also a cat-goat? No Thrawn? No Mara Jade? WHAT DOES GILAD PELLAEON HAVE TO DO TO APPEAR ON A SINGLE COVER? Is being MASTER OF THE IMPERIAL REMNANT NOT GOOD ENOUGH?
WHERE ARE THE SSI-RUUK WHERE IS DEV SIBWARRA WHERE ARE GAERIEL CAPTISON’S TWO DIFFERENTLY-COLORED EYES I GET THAT THIS WAS 1993 BUT ZAHN MANAGED TO GET C’BAOTH A COVER BACK IN ’91, FUCKING ADVOCATE FOR YOUR ORIGINAL CHARACTERS, TYERS
This is just lazy. It’s the four main characters from the films (that pose/coloration of Leia is clearly from the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when she tells Han she loves him just before he’s frozen in Cloud City), plus the outline of a Stormtrooper and some stars in the background. It’s a fitting cover for The Crystal Star, I guess, because that book sucked, but it’s hardly conduct befitting an Expanded Universe novel.
FUCKING BULLSHIT. I mean, I love a blown-up version of Carrie Fisher with sex hair and a huge, poufy eighties-style wedding gown as much as the next girl, but this lacks camp, and if there was one thing The Courtship of Princess Leia had in spades, it was CAMP.Where is Teneniel Djo? Where is Ta’a Chume (who I always imagine being played by Joan Collins in her prime)?
The Hapes Consortium is a 63-world cluster run by the misandrist descendants of space pirates; Prince Isolder is a Fabio stand-in who’s too beefcake-y to realize all of his older brothers have been murdered by the Queen Mother, Han wins a planet in a sabaac game, then kidnaps Leia and is captured by a bunch of sexy, all-female Force witches who ride rancors and are engaged in a deadly battle with the NIGHTSISTERS. That’s campier than a My Little Pony-themed drag show.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.