Choices of One Cover Art, by Daryl Mandryk

mara1Choices of One cover art, by Daryl Mandryk

Admiral Parck: “You must understand that one of Mara Jade’s most subtle weapons has always been her talent for irritating people. Irritated people don’t think clearly, you see.”
Mara Jade: “Or maybe I just don’t like any of you very much.”

George Lucas can pat himself on the back all he wants for ‘reviving’ the Star Wars franchise back in 1997 with the release of the Star Wars: Special Edition films. But Star Wars fans from the 1990s know perfectly well that Timothy Zahn did that in 1991 by publishing Heir to the Empire, followed by Dark Force Rising and The Last Command. Zahn’s epic saga reunited our heroes from the original trilogy and breathed new life into the Star Wars universe, paving the way for the Extended Universe novels, Dark Horse Comics’ various series, Decipher’s Star Wars Customizable Card Game, the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games from Lucas Arts, and countless other stories and merchandise. It’s interesting to speculate just how much of the success of the Special Edition films can be attributed to the success of Zahn’s novels.

Of the many great things that can be said about Zahn’s trilogy, one of the most important is his willingness to incorporate strong, smart heroines into his stories. Not only do we see Princess Leia at her finest, we also meet Winter with the perfect memory, the infant Jaina Solo, and most importantly, Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand. Mara was likely one of my first fictional crushes and possibly the original source of my penchant for confident redheads. Zahn’s 2011 novel, Choices of One takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, when Mara still loyally served the Galactic Empire.

As the Emperor’s Hand, Mara’s job was to weed out corruption within the Empire’s government and military, acting surgically in capacities that stormtroopers couldn’t. As a special agent of the Emperor, Mara was trained in infiltration and espionage, investigation, computer slicing, piloting, as well as in personal and group combat. Additionally, Mara is a Force-user, able to hear the Emperor’s call from anywhere and trained in lightsaber use and basic Force techniques.

mara2I love that Mara wears a full suit of infiltrator’s armor instead of that sleeveless jumpsuit that I was never really a fan of (no offense toward Tony’s awesome depiction). It’s clearly designed for stealthy insurgency with the likelihood of light combat. Our heroine’s torso is protected by a flexible bodysuit and armored fibermesh chest plate. The mesh should offer basic protection from projectiles and vibro-weapons as well as slight protection from hand blasters. Mara’s shoulders and elbows are protected by armored plates of either plasteel or light durasteel. Her arms are protected by armored bracers and fingerless armored gloves.

Though trained with all manner of melee and ranged weapons, Mara’s preferred killing instruments are her lightsaber and forearm blaster. The saber, pictured above, is a traditional Jedi or Sith weapon, able to deflect blaster bolts and cut through anything but another lightsaber. Her forearm blaster stays tucked away in her right sleeve for quick access in a firefight.

I was asked recently what my take is on Lucasfilm’s declaration of the Extended Universe characters and stories being no longer considered Star Wars ‘canon.’ My take is that I don’t really give a damn. With so many writers attempting to capitalize on the popularity, the Extended Universe material was so hit-and-miss as far as story quality goes that the mediocre and downright garbage far outweigh the better stuff. As such, I’ve been picking and choosing what I personally accept as canon since I was in high school. I welcome and encourage fans to choose their own canon from among the stories and characters they value most, regardless of what someone else dictates as ‘official’ or ‘unofficial.’

‘Nuff said.

Many thanks to Daryl for letting me borrow Mara for the blog. Feel free to check out his art blog as well. Thanks once again for reading folks! Take care and stay awesome!

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