Following on from Marvel’s Age of Republic and Age of Rebellion series’ (all of which were reviewed on this site) and their one-shot books on various Star Wars characters, we inevitably also get the Age of Resistance series, bringing us to the current, Sequel Era landscape.
And, in some ways, Age of Resistance felt more important than Age of Republic or Age of Rebellion: because we know those eras and those characters very well by now, whereas Age of Resistance had the opportunity to fill in some of the gaps in the contemporary Star Wars cinematic era and give more life to some of the current characters.
Does this series succeed in doing that? Well, yes and no.
Like both Age of Republic and Age of Rebellion, it’s a mixed bag: ranging from worthwhile and relevant offerings (the Kylo Ren book or the Phasma book) to rather inconsequential fluff (like the Finn book). On the whole, I think Age of Resistance fails to really offer enough in terms of strengthening or enhancing the Sequel Era mythology – which is therefore something of a missed opportunity.
That being said, there are nuggets of value to be found across the books.
So here’s a quick run-through of all of the books/titles that were released under the Age of Resistance banner.
Tom Taylor’s story for Star Wars: Age of Resistance – Finn doesn’t offer us much at all in terms of building up Finn’s character or fleshing out his backstory. It doesn’t tell us much or do anything to make Finn a more engaging figure. Which is a shame. It’s an ok diversion; telling us a minor, inconsequential tale that shows some of Finn’s compassion, even when he was in the First Order. But you wonder why an opportunity like this wasn’t used to do something more interesting.
Tom Taylor’s story for Age of Resistance: Captain Phasma is better, offering more of an insight into Captain Phasma’s psychology and her way of operating. It’s a useful piece of character-building for a character who has been largely under-utilised in the Sequel Trilogy movies, showing us how ruthless and calculating Phasma is and ultimately how little regard she has for the personal safety or even survival of the First Order troops under her command.
It’s a shame the films themselves couldn’t make Phasma a more interesting figure; but Tom Taylor‘s tale here provides at least something more for us.
I personally think an entire series exploring Phasma’s story might be very useful: in particular, her origins, the origins of her armour, and a backstory of how she ended up in the First Order in the first place. But a little story like this gives us something to chew on in the meantime, at least.
Age of Resistance: General Hux likewise offers us some backstory on the fanatical First Order figure who’s Hitler-esque speech to mark the Starkiller’s decimation of the Republic was one of the dramatic highlights of The Force Awakens. In a book that also heavily features Kylo Ren, we are shown some of Hux’s formative childhood experience as a son of an Imperial officer, some explanation for his indoctrination and his subsequent fanaticsm. We also get into his underlying driving force of ambition, which Taylor’s story seems to hone in on as the primary thing we should know about Hux.
It’s a decent story, telling us a bit more about Hux: and aided by having his relationship with Kylo Ren feature prominently.
Age of Resistance: Kylo Ren is probably the best of these books: which is unsurprising, as Kylo Ren is probably the most engaging of the Sequel Trilogy’s characters. In this story, we see Kylo leading a mission for the First Order, which happens to be the same mission – and in the same location – as a mission Darth Vader had once led for the Empire.
This story device is very clever, getting us in to the underlying psychology of Kylo and his obsession with his illustrious grandfather.
It’s clear that this idea of literally walking in the footsteps of his grandfather is a huge psychological event for the former Ben Solo: and the absolute best thing in this book is the visual juxtaposition that shows Kylo leading the First Order troops in the present while also showing us Vader leading the old Imperial troops in the past. They’re in the same place, carrying out the same attack, with the same objectives – two Dark Side force users of the same bloodline, separated merely by time.
It’s an engaging and evocative narrative device – and it alone is worth reading this book for.
Age of Resistance: Rey is surprisingly not that significant of a read; missing an opportunity to really say something new about the Sequel Trilogy’s main protagonist. Basically, it’s a minor tale that takes place between Rey’s return to Leia from the Starkiller base in The Force Awakens and her and Chewie setting off to find Luke on Ach-To.
The main tale itself, taking place in a salvage yard in space, is trivial filler: what’s most interesting here is Rey’s conversation with Leia about Han Solo’s death – essentially, a scene that was missing from TFA itself. It doesn’t tell us much, but it’s probably the only important thing in this book.
Age of Resistance: Snoke is, unsurprisingly, one of the more interesting releases, given that Snoke is probably the most intriguing and under-explored figures in the Sequel era mythology. And this book has some interesting things in it; but you can’t help feel it is a missed opportunity to really expand on Snoke’s backstory. Tom Taylor’s story here doesn’t do that at all – it tells us nothing at all about Snoke’s origins and, in some ways, it isn’t even about Snoke, but more about his treatment of Kylo Ren.
This book really could’ve filled in some of the big gaps left by the Sequel Trilogy films, but it seems to have no interest in doing so – or no mandate to attempt anything of the kind.
What it does show us is how cruel a master Snoke is to Ben Solo, as he tries to mold this young, vulnerable asset into what he needs him to be. This dynamic isn’t particularly new, echoing Palpatine’s treatment of Darth Vader or even Darth Maul – as explored in other comic books. Perhaps the most interesting thing here is Snoke’s specific use of Dagobah as a location to train and test Kylo Ren: which, while I question it as a story choice, does serve to create some intriguing questions and resonance.
Age of Resistance: Poe Dameron is, like the Finn book, an underwhelming affair, not doing much to expand on the character of Poe. It’s essentially one that you can afford to skip, in my opinion – though it does offer a nice little twist at the end in relation to the character of Vice-Admiral Holdo; thus acting as something of a curious prelude to their clash-of-personalities in the events of The Last Jedi.
Age of Resistance: Rose Tico, while not compelling, is one of the better offerings, as it gives us some useful backstory to Rose Tico and how she ended up in the Resistance. Using this opportunity to flesh out Rose’s relationship with her sister, their background and their inseparable bond, makes this book a more significant read than some of the other offerings. There’s nothing revelatory here, but what’s here does give a bit more life to the sisters and their role in The Last Jedi.
Finally, Age of Resistance Special is one of the books I enjoyed more; it gives us three short tales – one centered on Maz Kanata, one on Admiral Holdo and one on BB8.
The best of these is the Holdo story (written by G. Willow Wilson); and what I like about it is that it essentially shows Holdo in a similar dynamic to the one we find her in in The Last Jedi, where her style of command doesn’t necessarily sit well with those serving under her, but where her vision nevertheless succeeds, thus validating her actions (if not her style of personal interaction).
It basically displays Holdo as a strategically sound commander, but one who lacks the inter-personal dynamics to make those around her feel comfortable with her leadership. As such, it’s a kind of prelude to The Last Jedi, showing us that she has always had this problem.
What I like about Wilson’s little story here is that it doesn’t really try to redeem Holdo in the eyes of those Star Wars fans who’ve reacted badly to her on-screen story; rather, it reinforces Holdo as a flawed character, but nevertheless one who is on a path towards heroic self-sacrifice in the future.
I really think Holdo should’ve in fact gotten her own book, instead of having a truncated tale squeezed in to this Age of Resistance Special.
The BB8 story isn’t especially impactful, but it’s a fun little tale of BB8 and Poe being on a mission and the little ball-droid essentially reminding us why he’s such a useful and plucky little Artoo-style asset to the Resistance. BB8 also using his chance to liberate a bunch of fellow droids is a little cliched, but it’s a sweet thing to have happen.
The Maz Kanata tale is also a bit of not-that-important fun, particularly as it puts her on the Falcon with Han and Chewie – and thus gives us some minor backstory to show us why she and Han are such familiars when we see them meet in The Force Awakens. Again though, as with Holdo, I kind feel Maz Kanata could’ve gotten a full book and had a bigger story told about her. With a character like this, hundreds of year sold and with this long, implied history, it’s a missed opportunity to not explore something that could impart more life and mythology to her character.
On the whole, it’s a predictably mixed bag of offerings.
Some are worth reading, others not so much. Very little of a revelatory nature or deep substance is to be found amid the Age of Resistance books – but there’s fun to be had in places.
I do wish, however, that a more impactful manner of storytelling or backstory-telling would’ve been embarked on with this series to try to really enhance the experience or mythology of the Sequel Trilogy.
Fun or curious little tales like these are all well and good: but this Sequel Era could really use a more impactful expanded-universe to compliment the films.