WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for Aftermath: Life Debt
As many Star Wars fans know by now, Disney and Lucasfilm have organized a cohesive franchise canon in which just about every piece of media set in a galaxy far, far away is connected and part of the same larger narrative. There's so much untapped territory that the films don't cover, using novels, comic books, and even video games is the perfect way to flesh out the universe and satisfy the craving viewers have for more things Star Wars. And while reading these publications isn't a requirement to enjoy the new films, they certainly enhance the experience with new revelations and evidence for tantalizing theories.
Arguably one of the most prominent collections in the new canon is the Aftermath trilogy written by author Chuck Wendig. Set shortly after Return of the Jedi, these books aim to fill in the three decade gap between Episode VI and The Force Awakens, with the Rebel Alliance attempting to form the New Republic as the last remnants of the old Galactic Empire hang on to whatever power they have. This series of novels will wrap up soon with Aftermath: Empire's End, which is due out in January 2017. Plot details are obviously being kept under wraps for now, but there is one major aspect that connects directly to the movies: the Battle of Jakku.
Wendig was one of the panelists at the Star Wars Publishing presentation at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, where he was asked what he could reveal about Empire's End. After joking that "the Empire ends," the writer teased that the Battle of Jakku (which was featured in Star Wars: Battlefront) will play a key role in the narrative:
"Jakku figures in considerably, the Empire figures in considerably. The end of Life Debt has some pretty galaxy shuddering things. So Empire's End is definitely about shaking all that stuff out and getting into the consequences."
It will be interesting to see how Wendig tackles Jakku, which has been hinted at several times before. Of course, the aftermath of the battle was illustrated during the first act of Star Wars 7, and gamers have been able to play through it for themselves in the aforementioned Battlefront. In all likelihood, Wendig will incorporate some (or all) of the new characters he has created in the Aftermath series, showing the conflict from their perspective. It may not be as immersive as playing through the event in a first-person shooter video game, but it could still be emotionally compelling, especially after the likes of Sinjir, Norra Wexley, and others have been developed over the course of two books.
The epilogue of Life Debt mentioned that there was something of great importance on Jakku to none other than Emperor Palpatine, who tasked a young Gallius Rax (who is now an admiral) with protecting an area that was "significant a thousand years ago and it will be significant again." Going by Wendig's quote from the panel (and how the main Life Debt story ends with the Empire arriving on the world), he was obviously planting seeds for the conclusion to his trilogy. It's an intriguing mystery that will hopefully be solved in Empire's End. Few fans could have predicted that the desolate planet of Jakku would be such a key target for forces of evil, so the reasoning for Rax being there is something many are interested in.
After the first Aftermath received mixed reviews (in large part due to the high expectations), the response was far better for Life Debt. It's clear that Wendig knows his stuff and he has done a great job establishing his own corner of the Star Wars galaxy with his first two canon novels. He's definitely earned the benefit of the doubt now, and readers should trust in his ability to craft an entertaining and dramatic story to close the book on an era of the universe's history. There's been a lot to digest in his work so far, and chances are Empire's End will have plenty of discussion points as well.
Star Wars - Aftermath: Life Debt is now available for purchase.
Star Wars - Aftermath: Empire's End will be available in January 2017.