Star Wars Top 8: New EU Characters
When I first started writing this article, the title was “Star Wars Top 8: Characters.” You might earn a prize if you can guess the problem with that.
Did you guess that I’m still using “Star Wars Top 8” as the title of this article series? If so, you would be…well, not entirely incorrect, but that’s not the point that I’m making here. No, the point is that narrowing down my favorite Star Wars characters to just eight is nearly impossible–I was going to cheat and count Omega Squad as one, probably throw Etain Tur-Mukan in with them. Thane Kirel and Ciena Ree would have occupied a single slot, and Jaina Solo would have been dragged down in the standings as a result of being lumped in her with her brothers. So instead, I’m dividing it up into categories, and embarking on a multi-week journey of ordering a TON of Star Wars characters.
I was going to kick it off with either “Clone Troopers” or “Clone Wars characters” to keep the trend going, but I figured that I’ve written about those, and you’ve read enough about those, for the time being. One, or both, will definitely make an appearance in the future, but instead I’m going to start with New EU characters. Not exactly new ground, I know, but I felt it would be fine to return to familiar territory before venturing off into the unknown. Or known, I guess.
Anywho, guidelines, they’re back:
- In order to be eligible for this list, characters must have made their first appearance in a piece of media associated with the new EU. This means any new piece of media that was released after A New Dawn--so even though Tarkin and Ahsoka have gotten quite a bit of time to shine in the new EU, they won’t count for this list.
- Characters from any EU material count for this list. That includes comics, novels, TV shows, short stories, and anything else I may be forgetting. Most will probably come from the novels, but other characters are not discounted.
- Characters that appear in the films do not count. This is solely for EU characters, and the second you appear in one of the films, you cease being an EU character and become a film character. It’s a divide I’ve created for myself, and though some may not agree, I’m sticking to it. Sorry, Temmin.
Well, those are all the guidelines, so we’re just going to get into it…400 words in. Right on schedule! Someday my intros will get shorter.
One more quick note: I don’t have images for this post. Images of about half the characters on this list simply don’t exist (not even fan art!), so for the sake of uniformity I’m just not going to use any.
Isval is a character who’s only appearance comes in Lords of the Sith, where she is pretty much the main character. Most of the action comes from her point of view, barring the majority of the scenes with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. Her character is pretty rad (after all, she is on this list). A lot of her impact comes from her backstory–much of the beginning of Lords of the Sith deals with establishing her motivation. As it turns out, most people don’t rebel against the massive juggernaut that is (was?) the Galactic Empire because they couldn’t pay off Jabba the Hutt. Anyways, I do want to be fairly cautious, since spoiling Lords of the Sith would be a gross misdemeanor on my part, especially considering that there are those who (still!) haven’t read it.
Isval is also the perfect foil for Cham Syndulla, which I think is part of what makes her a much more interesting character. In a lot of ways, she reminds me of Fi from the Republic Commando novels. That comparison could be lost on some, so I’ll explain, and make the use of that comparison entirely obsolete. I’m a good writer? Anyways, she’s intelligent and a great soldier, but she can lean towards making poor decisions. Not because she’s irrational, rather, because of her passion and commitment to others. Sure, she may not be cracking jokes every other sentence like Fi does, but I could see her jumping on a grenade (like Fi did) without Katarn armor. No, not Kyle Katarn.
7. Shara Bey
Turns out Poe Dameron’s mother is just as much of a badass as he is. Look, Shattered Empire (the comic in which she appears) has its share of issues. That on its own is kind of surprising, considering that it’s penned by Greg Rucka, but I digress. Regardless of the quality of the series, Shara is a pretty awesome character. Sure, she’s kind of your stereotypical Rebel Alliance pilot in a lot of ways–devoted to the cause, pretty optimistic, and staunchly anti-Empire–however, where she really gets interesting (and this is actually true of Poe’s father, Kes Dameron, as well, but he doesn’t get quite as much characterization) is her growing disillusionment with conflict in general.
A sticking point of the new EU seems to be that the Galactic Civil War was not exactly the easy conflict that the original trilogy made it out to be. Shara is the first character on this list to embody that, but I will say with confidence that she definitely will not be the last. It never quite gets to the point where she abandons the Rebellion, but it becomes clear that her goals shift from “defeating the big bad Empire” to “hey, let’s maybe stop fighting so I can hang out with my kid a bit more.” Not exactly the typical view that I think Star Wars fans (myself included) tend to have when it comes to members of the Rebellion.
6. Sabine Wren
If Sabine got more of a focus in Rebels, it’s likely that she would be closer to the top of this list. As it is, she’s one of two characters from the show to get on here, and that’s in spite of her often getting sidelined in favor of the rest of the cast. That’s changed a bit in season two, and the change is welcome, because more Sabine is always going to be great. Look, I was convinced that I was going to love this character as soon as I finished watching her short that was released before the premiere of Rebels. I’ll admit, I have a bias towards anyone even remotely related to Mandalore (blame the Republic Commando novels for that), but there’s more to Sabine than just her armor.
That said, her armor is indicative of her character in a lot of ways. It’s more expressive than the typical Beskar’gam–which I guess is now standardized in canon. Regardless, Sabine seems to carry on a tradition from Mandalorian culture in the old EU, which involved Mandalorians wearing unique suits of armor to differentiate themselves. Sabine certainly goes out of her way to differentiate herself from the rest of the cast of Rebels. Rather than rebelling through conventional tactics, she rebels through her art as well. The show doesn’t get super deep into that aspect of her character, but it certainly hints at something deeper.
Sabine is definitely a character that I hope we get to spend more time with in the future. Considering that it’s set up in Aftermath, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a short story or novel starring the character sometime post-Return of the Jedi.
I’ve already talked about Galactic Civil War characters who I love because of their nuanced approach to the conflict, and there are more such characters on this list. When it comes to Gadren, the Besalisk soldier from Twilight Company, it’s actually kind of the opposite. Sure, he may not be devoted to the Rebellion to the point of fanaticism, but throughout the course of the novel, he’s always sure that he’s on the right side of the conflict. He supports the Alliance completely, even when fellow members of the company (Namir, especially, but also others) question their true motives for fighting. Honestly, a lot of what makes Gadren an interesting character is that he’s designed to work as a foil to other members of Twilight, meaning that the dynamic he shares with everyone else is often among the most interesting.
That being said, we don’t get to spend a ton of time with Gadren. The novel focuses more on Namir, Chalis, and Brand than it does on him. In some ways, this helped to earn him a spot on this list, over other characters from the novel that I loved, such as Prelate Verge. He does occasionally tell stories that offer insight into his backstory, but his story seems like one that is far from over. That’s not to say that his character arc isn’t completed; for the purposes of the novel, it most certainly is. However, there’s more to be done with him. I’m not sure if there are plans for a sequel to Twilight Company, but even if there aren’t, Gadren would be the perfect character to star in a short story or serve as a member of a recurring supporting cast in future novels.
4. Kanan Jarrus
Of the entire cast of Rebels, Kanan is easily the most fleshed out. Sure, Ezra may be the main character, but Kanan got a novel in addition to being the character with probably the second most screen time in the show. Oh, he also has an entire comic about him, which, regardless of overall quality, does give him some excellent moments. Most of the reason he gets this spot, however, is because of his role in A New Dawn, in which he is most definitely the standout character. I think a lot of what makes his role in A New Dawn interesting is that at that point, he’s still grappling with whether or not he wants to be a Jedi. Unlike in Rebels, we get Kanan’s inner monologue, and the curtains get pulled back on his psyche. It’s also a bit more mature than Rebels is in general, meaning that John Jackson Miller can do a bit more with his character.
That being said, his character in Rebels is pretty well realized and carries through well from A New Dawn. He felt a bit without purpose for a little while, but it would seem that this was a conscience decision on the part of the writers. He’s definitely the most jaded member of the crew of the Ghost, and that makes him the perfect foil for them. He’s not quite jaded enough to be grating, though–in fact, he’s still pretty easy to like. That said, he often tempers the unbridled fun of the show, which despite being one of its greatest strengths, sometimes can go a little bit too far (for me, at least). It’s unfortunate, I think, that he’s unlikely to survive the TV show, and even if he doesn’t bite it there, there’s no way he makes it to A New Hope.
Namir, the lead character from Twilight Company, is a character I love for pretty much the exact opposite reasons that I love Gadren, the other character from that particular novel on this list. He’s disillusioned with the Rebellion as a whole, despite his continuing devotion to Twilight. It’s a dynamic that creates some inner conflict for him – he’s not as devoted to the cause as some members of the company, but he’s devoted to the company. It’s something that Alexander Freed plays up well in the novel, especially when it comes to Namir’s history. We never really delve into the history of the other characters, but Namir is a notable exception to the rule. Throughout the course of the novel, we really get to see how he ticks, which is fascinating.
Namir’s relationships with the supporting cast are all relationships worth being invested in. This is especially true of his interactions with Chalis, with whom he is stuck for most of the novel. The way in which they reach common ground is fascinating. Other characters, like Brand, Charmer, Gadren, and Roach all have relationships with him that are a bit more obvious, but they definitely have depth to them. Even smaller characters, like Ajax and Fektrin, play well off of Namir. He’s not the most inherently interesting member of the cast, but due to his role as the lead character, we get to see his dynamics with other members of Twilight play out to their conclusions, and that’s what earns him this spot.
1 & 2: Thane Kyrell & Ciena Ree
Ok, so maybe this is cheating a little bit. Thane and Ciena would have occupied the top two spots of my list anyways, but I love them both nearly equally. If I had to order them, I think Thane might just barely edge Ciena out (she frustrated me on occasion). Anyways, talking about them as separate characters would have wound up sounding repetitive, since so much of who they are is based on how the interact with one another. They aren’t the same person or any corny BS like that, but it is their relationship with one another that makes them so easily likable. Actually, a lot of their development hinges on how they interact specifically with one another. There is more to them, and a lot of it is interesting. I guess it says a lot about their relationship, then, that it’s probably the best part about each of them.
Anyways, I’ve rambled about how characters have been used to fill in the gray areas of the Galactic Civil War. Bear with me as I do that again. Sorry. Anyways, the dynamic that Thane and Ciena have with the Empire and the Rebellion are great. Their loyalties are challenged throughout Lost Stars, often by events that are portrayed as being black and white in the original trilogy. And while I still think blowing up the Death Star was net good, I totally understand these two characters’ initial reaction to it. Thane and Ciena are probably the two characters that I would most like to see again. While the endings to their respective stories in Lost Stars are fine, I get the sense that their story is far from over. We’ll see.