Scariest Place in the Star Wars Universe

I love Star Wars, I have ever since I was a kid and saw the original trilogy on VHS for the first time with my grandma who was just as much a Sci-Fi nerd as myself. But one thing that really grips me about the Star Wars universe is the MASSIVE expanded universe that goes with it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Skywalker saga and all the stories it entails; however, you also have to look at it as one family’s drama has been mucking up the galaxy for EVERYONE for like 150 years… Even with all the drama that the Skywalkers and their descendants have cause, it’s still nothing compared to the massive Jedi/Sith war that spanned off and on for thousands of years or the Mandalorian Wars that spanned hundreds of years.  These wars are responsible for the scariest place in the Star Wars universe… Malachor V ( aka Malachor, Hell) How does Malachor rank higher than the likes of Korriban or even Dathomir? Read on…

While Korriban was the birthplace of the Sith and home to many torture chambers used by the Sith on captive Jedi; it was completely destroyed and turned into a tomb world when the Sith lost the war against the Jedi. Completely devoid of life, it remains as a constant reminder of where the Sith came from and the atrocities they used to commit in the name of the Dark Side.

Dathomir is a mysterious planet that is home of the Night Sisters, a dark and powerful coven of magic/force users that provided Darth Maul to Siddious as an apprentice. Dathomir played a large part in the later seasons of the Clone Wars TV show and helped to resurrect one of the GREATEST villains in Star Wars, Darth Maul. The site of many battles and wars, Dathomir remains as a dark mysterious planet even after the eradication of the Night Sisters by Darth Sidious and General Grievous.

These two planets pale in comparison to the horrors that occurred and remain on Malachor…

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HISTORY

CANON

Malachor V has been the center-point of many wars throughout the Star Wars timeline, but the most prevalent, which earned it the name “Hell”, occurred during the Sith/ Jedi war.

Before the Jedi/Sith war, there was the Hundred-Year darkness, this was a time before the Sith had officially formed and were beginning to separate from the Jedi Order. For thousands of years, the Jedi were the only force users in the galaxy, until one rogue Jedi believed that the path to true power came from the use of Bogan (the Dark Side). The Jedi High Council did not know how to deal with someone who rejected their ways so completely and cast the rogue Jedi out of the order, but this only gained him some followers who sympathized with his belief in the path to power. His followers left with him and traveled to the ancient Sith world of Malachor V to continue their pursuit of ultimate power and the Dark Side of the Force, the exiled Jedi adopted the name of the Sith and the Sith Order was born.

For hundreds of years the Sith expanded into the galaxy, conquering worlds and enslaving entire planets to work in their Empire and fuel their war machine. This rapid expansion and conflicting ideologies brought them into conflict with the Jedi and the Old Republic. As the Sith expanded so did their number of warriors that were trained in the art of lightsaber combat and dark side force powers. The Republic and the Jedi council agreed that the Sith needed to be stopped and so a force of Jedi were dispatched to the planet of Malachor V to end the threat.  The Jedi Knights attacked the planet en mass and drove the Sith back to their temple which also housed their superweapon. As the Sith were being overwhelmed the Jedi grew over zealous and pushed harder into the temple, as a last ditch effort the Sith activated their weapon.

Sith-Temple-Super-Weapon

The superweapon that was housed under the temple was one of planetary proportions. Capable of petrifying all life on a planet it was activated and targeted at Malachor. Mid-combat, Jedi and Sith alike were petrified and killed by the weapon. Their bodies remaining frozen in their petrified state for thousands of years as a reminder of the conflict and what it could cause.

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While Darth Sidious was training Maul to become his apprentice, he brought Maul to Malachor to have him “breathe in the ashes of his predecessors”. As Maul breathed in the air of Malachor and the ashes of the fallen Sith, he had visions of legions of Sith dying at the hands of Jedi knights furthering his hatred for all the Jedi.

The planet remained undisturbed for several years until in 3BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) Ezra Bridger, Kanan Jarrus and Ahsoka Tano discovered the petrified remains of the Sith and Jedi. As they examined the bodies, Ezra discovered a green cross-guard lightsaber which he activated briefly before it shorted out in his hand. When he asked Ahsoka if the Jedi had won, she remembered her teachings as a young Padawan in the Jedi temple and told Ezra that neither side had won the battle.

*Kylo Ren’s cross-guard lightsaber is said to be inspired from a design he found on Malachor*

LEGENDS

The Legends backstory to Malachor V is much different than the Canon but it still ends roughly the same way, death and destruction. As opposed to the destruction being caused during the Jedi/Sith War, it was destroyed during the final stages of the Mandalorian Wars.

The Ancient Sith order known as The True Sith used Malachor as a stronghold during their first great expansion, even going so far as to build an Academy on its surface due to it’s connection to the Dark Side. As The True Sith fell to infighting and disintegrated, the Sith abandoned the planet and their Academy as they retreated further back into the Unknown Regions. The Sith Empire, led by Darth Vitiate, reclaimed the planet for many years before an uprising by Dakar Sol took it from his grasp. Vitiate was the last remnant of the True Sith and a being of immense dark power. Able to imbue his essence and force abilities into other living beings by possessing them, he led the Sith Empire for over 1,500 years before his eventual defeat.

Centuries after the defeat of Vitiate is when the destruction of Malachor V occurred during the final stages of the Mandalorian Wars.  Despite the many other species and cultures that allied with the Mandalorians during the war, Mandalore the Ultimate (leader of the Mandalorian people during the war), restricted the planet of Malachor V to the people of Mandalore.  It was at Malchor V that Jedi General Revan launched his final attack that would seal the victory for the Jedi and the Old Republic.

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At the time of this battle, some of the other Jedi and the Republic soldiers were beginning to question Revan’s alliance to the Light Side, so Revan used this to his advantage. Composing his massive attack fleet of those questioning his loyalty he sent them into the Malachor system. Knowing the target would be too good for the Mandalorians to pass up, he waited. When the battle was joined, Revan rushed to the Mandalorian flagship and killed Mandalore the Ultimate, effectively ending the War by cutting the head off the snake. As the Republic/Jedi forces and the Mandalorians continued to clash both on Malachor and in the system surrounding it, the Jedi General Meetra Surik, began to realize they were going to lose as the Mandalorians were too many. As the battle raged the Republic forces managed to take the complex which housed the Mandalorian superweapon, the Mass Shadow Generator. Seeing the Mandalorian forces were about to retake the complex, and have a straight shot at Revan’s back, Meetra ordered the activation of the superweapon believing it to kill everyone outside of the complex. The weapon activated immediately and caused Malachor V’s gravity to massively increase instantly crushing everyone on the surface and pulling ships from in space surrounding the planet to the surface. The planet was changed from a lush inhabitable planet to a barren jagged wasteland in an instant with reports of republic ships being pulled to miles below the surface due to the increased gravity. In one foul swoop, Revan had managed to eliminate those questioning his allegiance and win the war for the Republic. It is unclear how, but Meetra Surik was able to survive the weapon activating despite being on the surface. Surik fled the system and went into exile earning her the title of Jedi Exile.

Malachor

Revan and Malak would then: go into the Unknown Regions, become corrupted by the Sith, return to known space and wage a war on the Republic in the name of the Sith, Break the hold from the Sith in the Unknown Regions and resolve to take the Republic for themselves and adopt the titles of Dark Lords of the Sith. During the Jedi Civil War, Darth Revan would use the untouched Trayus Academy, located on the surface of Malachor V and placed their by the True Sith millennia before, to convert captured Jedi to the Dark Side.

Following the end of the Civil War, Revan’s old master, Jedi Master Kreia journeyed to Malachor to discover what had caused her apprentice to fall to the Dark Side, it was on Malachor V that she was corrupted by the Dark Side and took the name of Darth Traya. She trained two apprentices in the Dark Side, Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus, the latter of which was also called the “Force Vampire” and the “Lord of Hunger”. These three Sith would go on to form the Sith Triumvirate which reigned for several years. Traya was eventually overthrown by her apprentices, stripped of her power and banished from Malachor.

In 3951 BBY, Meetra Surik was contacted by Kreia to help destroy the Sith academy on Malachor and allowing Kreia revenge on her former apprentices. Surik battled Darth Nihilus and defeated him before assaulting the Academy by herself. She defeated the Sith at the Academy on Malachor finally silencing the dark energies that resonated through the Force from that planet. As Surik fled the planet, the creator of the Mass Shadow Generator activated the weapon once more using a remote and the planet collapsed in upon itself exploding and forming an asteroid field full of chunks of the planet and pieces of ships from both the Republic and Mandalorian fleets. This area of space became a veritable graveyard floating in the black, a constant reminder of the life lost and atrocities committed on the planet.

Malachor asteroid field

There you have it, the scariest place in the Star Wars universe! I honestly prefer the canon version of the story more than the Legends, but the Legends one has Revan so…. ya…. Let me know what you think the scariest place in the Star Wars Universe is! See you next time!

 

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Mandalore – The Setting of the Next Big Star Wars Game

Recently a leaked schedule for E3 2018 has hinted at several new properties getting reveal trailers and teaser trailers at the fabled E3 conference in June. One such property is a new open world Star Wars game! The game that will be developed by EA in conjunction with Respawn (of Titanfall fame) is titled, Star Wars Bounty Hunters: Mandalorian Nights. It is rumored to be an open world, sandbox style game much like the Elder Scrolls and Witcher series. I know I for one am very excited for this type of game. Fans have been waiting for an announced title like this ever since Star Wars 1313 was cancelled when Disney purchased Lucasfilms.

Now, anybody who knows Star Wars knows that fan favourites Jango and Boba Fett are Mandalorian Bounty Hunters. Mandalore has had a rich history throughout the expanded Star Wars canon and recently got some more press within the animated show Star Wars Rebels. Though, the Mandalorians we’re shown in Rebels seem to convey a more Game of Thronesy feel than the famous warrior culture that nearly killed the Jedi; it was still great to get more stories involving them.  Star Wars Clone Wars also gave us some great stories involving the Mandalorians and the struggle of the warrior culture against the pacifist government. Now, for anyone who isn’t quite as familiar with the Mandalorian race… I’ll give a rundown of their history and culture.

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HISTORY

The Mandalorian Empire is quite extensive and has been a main player in the Star Wars universe for quite some time. Throughout Star Wars canon, Mandalorians have been known as Elite warriors, Mercenaries, Bounty Hunters, and Crusaders. Many of these people being in service to the home planet of Mandalore or its moon Concordia.

In ancient times before the Republic was formed, the planet of Mandalore was a vibrant and lush ecosystem. The various houses of the Mandalorian people went to war with each other to claim control over the planet and the opposing houses. The war and weapons used in the civil conflict as well as the war with the Jedi, devastated Mandalore’s surface making the home planet all but uninhabitable. This forced the people of Mandalore to create hermetically sealed Bio-domes or habitation cubes, to survive on the surface of the planet. Prior to the devastation of their lush home world, Crusader Mandalorians ventured forth from Mandalore and began to take over the planets that would eventually become known as “Mandalorian Space”. Due to their aggressive and militaristic nature this brought the crusaders into conflict with the Jedi and started the aforementioned Mandalorian/Jedi war.

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The Mandalorian/Jedi war went on for several years with Mandalorian tech advancing to specifically combat Jedi technology and force powers. In most of the engagements, the Mandalorians were victorious against the Jedi. Murals of these victories are on display on the home planet of Mandalore and its moon Concordia, in the capitals cities. Eventually despite the conflict between them, a single Mandalorian child was permitted into the Jedi order, his name was Tarre Vizsla. While he was in the academy, Tarre Vizsla created the fabled Darksaber. The Darksaber was a lightsaber that adopted a pure black colour and the shape of an actual blade, unlike other lightsabers which just sppeared as a cylinder of energy. Tarre would eventually leave the Jedi order and become ruler of Mandalore until his death prior to 1032 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin).Upon the death of Tarre Vizsla, the Jedi order retained ownership of the Dark Saber until the Fall of the Old Republic.

The Mandalorian Empire waged a war against the Old Republic for many years until, through many contributing factors, the Republic fell. During the fall of the Old Republic, the Mandalorian house Vizsla, broke into the Jedi temple and stole back the Darksaber, keeping it secret for many years.

Pre Vizsla with darksaber

Shortly before the invasion of Naboo, the second Mandalorian Civil War broke out. This conflict was between the pacifist New Mandalorians (supported by the Jedi order) and the militaristic insurgents working to restore Mandalore to its former warrior status. The Civil war was bloody causing many houses to lose their heirs or become extinct all together. Eventually Dutchess Satine Kryze and the New Mandalorians won the war, bringing an unsteady peace to the planet at last. Following the cease fire from both sides, Duchess Satine was nearly assassinated in several failed coup attempts. To protect her and the peace on the planet, Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan Obi Wan Kenobi were dispatched as personal protectors of the Duchess at the request of the Jedi Council. It was during this mission that Obi Wan and the Duchess fell in love, but neither of them could act on their feelings.

Duchess Satine reigned as the ruler of Mandalore throughout the beginnings of the Clone Wars before the insurgent faction, Death Watch, made its presence known. Death Watch was headed by Pre Vizsla, the last heir to House Vizsla, and the wielder of the Darksaber.  Death Watch allied with Count Dooku and the Confederacy of Independent Star Systems (Separatists) against the New Mandalorian government. When Count Dooku and Death Watch had a falling out, Death Watch allied with the still alive Darth Maul and his Shadow Collective. Darth Maul set plans in motion that ultimately ended with him taking control of Mandalore (for a brief period). He assassinated Duchess Satine, captured the remaining government officials, and beat Pre Vizsla in one on one combat to obtain the Darksaber and forcing another Civil War.

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When the Republic heard of what had happened on Mandalore, they dispatched their closest battle group to bring Maul in… their campaign was ultimately unsuccessful. Maul fled the planet leaving the young Bo-Katan Kryze, the new first lady of House Kryze, the Regent of Mandalore. She retained control of the planet for several years through the execution of Order 66 and the rise of the Galactic Empire. When she refuse to capitulate to the demands of the new Galactic Empire she was forcibly removed from her position as Regent of Mandalore and former Death Watch member, Gar Saxon,  was instilled as Viceroy and Emperor’s Hand on Mandalore. Saxon would reign unopposed for over 17 years until a third Civil War broke out between the Imperial backed house Saxon and Clan Wren who were fighting to remove Imperial influence from Mandalore.

The pacifist New Mandalorians were either exiled from the planet or executed as traitors to the Empire. Several clans would ally with the Rebels during the original trilogy with the soldiers loyal to House Saxon fighting for the Empire as Imperial Super Commandos. Sabine Wren of the Spectres rebel cell of Mandalore, would inherit the Darksaber when she found it on Dathomir following a confrontation with Darth Maul. Ultimately after an ill fated deal between Sabine’s mother, Countess Ursa Wren, and Viceroy Saxon, Clan Wren was branded as enemies of the Empire. Sabine was forced to battle Saxon in one on one combat and emerged victorious.

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House Wren returned to the planet Mandalore to do battle with house Saxon and the imperial force for control of the Mandalorian Empire. Backed by Clan Kryze, Clan Vizsla, Clan Rook, Clan Eldar and Journeyman Protector Rau, Clan Wren fought long and hard for the planet. Eventually it took the combined might of all the clans and the rebel alliance to finally defeat House Saxon and the imperials. Bo-Katan Kryze then assumed control of the Darksaber and the government of Mandalor. The remaining clans and Journeyman Protector Rau all pledged allegiance to the House Kryze and the new Mand’alor (Emperor/Empress of all Mandalorian people).

CULTURE

The overall Mandalorian clan structure is basically a pyramid with the Mand’alor at the top and their Protectors (government officials) enforcing their will. Just below the Mand’alor and the Protectors are the houses which can be made up of several clans. Prior to the execution of Order 66, House Vizsla was actually composed of Clan Vizsla and Clan Wren. The police force and secret service on Mandalore wielded electro-staffs and shields which were capable of stopping a lightsaber.

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Being some of the most feared warriors in the entire galaxy, Mandalorians were fiercely prideful and had a strict code of honour. One of the most recognized codes of honour that the Mandalorian people adopted was the honour of one on one combat to settle disputes. Whether it was to settle a disagreement or to prove they were better than someone else; Sometimes this tradition was used to settle leadership disputes as well. Mandalorians would often invoke the right of one on one combat the test their prowess in combat. Some Mandalorians even went as far as to challenge Jedi Knights to one on one combat to prove they were better fighters than the Jedi. Darth Maul invoked the right of one on one combat against Pre Vizsla for the leadership of Mandalore following the assassination of Duchess Satine. While Pre Vizsla wasn’t required to accept, the battle, his honour dictated he should, and he was killed by Darth Maul who then assumed control of the Darksaber.

As I previously stated Mandalorian weapons and technology were created specifically to combat Jedi powers and abilities. Mandalorians wore jetpacks that could launch rockets, wielded blasters and flamethrowers, used magnetic boots, and sonic canons. The favoured blaster of the Mandalorian people was the WESTAR-35 blaster pistol for it’s simple yet effective design, while the favoured jetpack was the Z-6 jetpack for its ability to launch missiles. One interesting piece of tech that was developed after the end of the Clone Wars by Boba Fett himself, was a neck wrap that was able to stop a lightsaber from taking off his head. Fans of the movies will remember that Boba’s father, Jango Fett, was decapitated by Mace Windu at the Battle of Geonosis.  The main fighting style of the Mandalorian people was a mix of ranged, close range and hand to hand combat techniques that utilized the technology and weapons in their vambracers and packs to surprise and overwhelm the enemy. This particular style of fighting was perfected after the first Mandalorian crusaders ran into the Jedi and began the Mandalorian/Jedi war.

Mandalorian Crusader

Cubism was the favored art style among the Mandalorian people during the Clone Wars. It was reflected in their murals, architecture, vehicles, clothing and even in their personal hair cuts. While some artists moved into more graffiti style following the rise of the Empire, Cubism was still the predominant art style. The main language of Mandalore is Mando’a with its written form being called “Mandalorian”, the people of Mandalore are also fluent in galactic basic.

 

There you have a brief rundown of the history and culture of Mandalore in time for E3 and the announcement of the new Star Wars game. I know I personally will be wary of the new title, given the abysmal game we got in Battlefront II. I have faith that this game may prove to be a great addition to the Star Wars catalog and with Respawn working on the project, it should prove to be something truly awesome.

E3 runs from June 12 2018 – June 14, 2018. Tune in to see some great reveals!

THIS JUST IN!!! As I was writing this post it was just announced that James Mangold (of Wolverine and Logan fame) will be writing and directing a movie centered on Boba Fett!!!!

Boba Fett

SPARTAN IIs – The Heroes Humanity Needed

This month for my Halo themed post, I will be breaking down the SPARTAN-II program which is the backbone of the Halo universe.  For anyone that’s a fan of the series, Halo is centered around John-117 “the Master Chief”. John was believed to have been the sole surviving member of the SPARTAN-II program, until the novel Halo: First Strike and the newest game Halo 5 : Guardians when the rest of Blue team was brought back. As I stated in my last Halo post concerning Project ORION, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the brilliant and frankly insane mind behind the SPARTAN-IIs and their success in turning the tide of the Human-Covenant War.

CONCEPTION

As I stated before in the Project: ORION post, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the driving force behind the development of the SPARTAN-II program. After the shuttering of the SPARTAN-Is (Project:ORION), Halsey met with ONI and Section III Special Projects Division, to discuss a new program to pick up where ORION left off. Halsey surmised that children would be better suited as candidates due to their relatively malleable minds and impressionable nature. The candidates were all 6 years of age, having been previously screened using an outer colony vaccination program. In 2511, the SPARTAN-II program was officially green lit, and the candidates were retrieved. The candidates were abducted in the dead of night by ONI operatives and replaced with flash clones. The clones were grown from the DNA retrieved during the vaccination program and placed with their families so that nobody would know about the missing children and in turn, the project. Due to the complication of growing a full human in the span of months, the clones suffered from degenerative defects that caused them all to die out within a year.

The candidates were sedated and whisked away across the galaxy to Reach (the main human military training world) where they would be trained under Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Mendez and Dr. Halsey with the assistance of various UNSC divisions and the AI, Déjà.

TRAINING

As the candidates arrived at Reach they were brought out of cryo-sleep and rushed into the main meeting hall where Dr. Halsey was waiting. She informed the children that in accordance with Naval Code 45812 they were hereby conscripted into the UNSC to help defend Earth and her colonies. She also told them they would no longer be allowed to return to their parents and that they would endure many hardships in the coming years; the children were then taken to the barracks for a meal, then sent to bed.

On September 24, 2517, the recruits were awoken by CPO Mendez and his training staff at 0530 hours. The recruits were instructed to go to the showers and prepare for the day, those that refused were hit with a stun baton. When they finished their morning ablutions, they were escorted outside where CPO Mendez ran them through a vigorous exercise routine consisting of 100 reps of jumping jacks, squats, sit ups, deep knee bends, and leg lifts. They were then run a mile to the Reach Naval Academy, where Déjà was waiting for them to instruct them in Mathematics, Science, and History. The first history lesson they were taught was the battle of Thermopylae between the Spartans and the Persian Empire. After their lessons they were run two more miles to the “playground” (a suspended obstacle course with a bell at the top). The recruits were divided into teams of three and told that their objective was to ring the bell, the last team to do so would go without supper. John (Master Chief SPARTAN 117) was teamed with Kelly (SPARTAN 087) and Samuel (SPARTAN 034) for the course. While John was first to reach the bell the rest of his team were last and thus they all went without supper.

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On September 25, 2517, the recruits were awoken and did their morning calisthenics routine before jogging to the classroom for another lesson from Déjà. The lesson Déjà taught them that day was based on hunting in packs; specifically, they were shown how wolves hunted a moose by corralling the animal until they could overwhelm it. Following their lesson they were run to the playground which had been modified to be more difficult. John and his team worked together and while they weren’t the first to ring the bell they were not last, John, Sam and Kelly became fast friends after that.

For the next two years Mendez taught them various military lessons ranging from weapons control and marksmanship, to setting and disarming traps, basic field medical procedures and  squad tactics. CPO Mendez always incorporated various obstacles into his lessons (snipers with paint guns, stun grenades, stun batons, etc) forcing the recruits to constantly be on guard and ready for anything. On June 12, 2519, the recruits were dropped individually in the Reach wilderness and each given a piece of a map that would be used to get to the dropship that would take themback to the base. The last recruit to get to the dropship, would be left behind to walk home. John took on a leadership role and coordinated all the recruits to commandeer the dropship from the marines guarding it and pilot it back to base themselves. Following the task, John was brought before CPO Mendez and Dr. Halsey. John thought he was getting kicked out of the program, to his surprise, he was given the rank of Team leader for his planning, reaction to the training operation, and obvious leadership skills.

On July 14, 2523, the SPARTAN recruits were paired against Tango Company (the best marines on Reach) for future training scenario war games. Despite only being 12 years old, the Spartans continuously won against Tango Company. With the men of Tango company growing increasingly brutal with their treatment of the recruits. After a brutal defeat by the SPARTANS, the CO of Tango Company, ordered his men to use live rounds instead of stun rounds. The SPARTANS were still victorious.

Spartans 3

In 2525 at the onset of puberty for the SPARTAN recruits, they underwent the augmentation procedures. These procedures were very dangerous and resulted in 30 of the 75 SPARTAN candidates being killed on the operating table, with a further 12 being considered “washed out” after being physically deformed from the procedures or paralyzed. The augmentations performed are as follows:

  • Carbide Ceramic Ossification – Advanced material grafted to skeleton to make it virtually unbreakable
  • Muscular Enhancement Injections – Protein complex injected intramuscularly to increase tissue density and decrease lactase recovery time
  • Catalytic Thyroid Implant – Platinum coated pellet containing Human Growth Hormone implanted into the Thyroid gland to boost growth of skeletal and muscle tissues
  • Occipital Capillary Reversal – Submergence and boosted blood vessel flow beneath the rods and cones of the subject’s retina to produce marked visual perception increase
  • Superconducting Fibrification of Neural Dendrites – Alteration of bioeletrical nerve transduction to shielded electronic transduction. Providing a 300% increase in subject reflexes with a marked side increase in intelligence, memory, and creativity

In September of 2525, following the successful augmentation, the SPARTANS were forced to relocated to an abandoned mine on Reach to enhance the secrecy of the program and reduce risk to other training personnel. The training personnel were forced to don Mark I power armour to keep up with the augmented SPARTANS. Victory for the SPARTANS was inevitable with the security cameras used to watch the training exercises even being neutralized.

MJOLNIR POWER ARMOUR

The MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armour System was developed in conjunction with the SPARTAN-II recruits themselves. The program went though various iterations before finally being able to function in the way envisioned by Dr. Halsey. When the SPARTAN-II program first began, the Special Projects group had already been working on a powered exoskeleton for roughly 11 years, with some success. The Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III exo-suits were able to function but due to their immense power requirements needed to be tethered to a power source, severely limiting their range. When Halsey joined the project, they abandoned the exo-skeleton research to focus on the MJOLNIR armour.

MJOLNIR

The first iteration of the assault armour was dubbed the Mark IV in accordance with the previous exo-suit designs. This was the first mass produced armour to be given to the SPARTAN-IIs. This is the armour that the SPARTANS wore while assaulting the frigate that resulted in Samuel 034’s death.

The Mark V armour included the upgraded reverse engineered energy shield from the captured jackal tech; as well as, the ability to incorporate an AI into the armour system. This is the armour worn during Halo:Combat Evolved.  A special modified version of this armour dubbed the Mark IV Black, was developed in secret and deployed with SPARTAN Team Black in 2552.

The Mark VI incorporated a faster shield recharge time to help reduce the amount of time a SPARTAN was forced to remain in cover. It also included improved synchronization between suit and the SPARTAN allowing for faster movement harder hitting and higher jumps. This is the armour given to the Master Chief at the beginning of the Halo 2 game campaign.

The Mark VII was never widely produced due to the incredible cost associated with its production. It bolstered a lighter weight making the SPARTAN faster, limited energy shield shaping, and a nano technology repair suite.

HUMAN COVENANT WAR

Immediately following the SPARTANS being outfitted with their MJOLNIR armour, they were engaged by a Covenant frigate. The frigate and the UNSC Commonwealth, engaged in a ship to ship battle with the Spartans deploying via dropship mid fight to disable or destroy the frigateWhile exploring the ship, John 117, Samuel 034, and Kelly 087, came into contact with covenant forces. During the firefight a Kig-Yar (Jackal as referred to by the UNSC) had flanked the SPARTANS and loosed a charged a plasma pistol shot aimed at John. Samuel jumped in front of John taking the hit from the plasma pistol directly into his armour, burning through the layers and losing his vacuum seal. As the squad moved through the frigate they eventually found the engine room. John, Sam, and Kelly planted several ANVIL-II ASMs (Air to Surface Missile) around the fusion reactor to blow the ship. Due to his compromised armour, Sam volunteered to stay behind and hold off the Covenant forces to give John and Kelly time to escape via an EVA maneuver. Sam held off waves of Covenant troops until John gave him the all clear signal, at which point Sam, badly injured, detonated the missiles blowing the frigate. During this mission John and Kelly captured a functioning Jackal shield modulator which they took back to Halsey to incorporate into the armour systems of the SPARTANS.

Due to the morale effect the SPARTANS and their feats had on the entire human population, SPARTANS were not allowed to be listed as KIA (Killed in Action), they were to be marked as MIA (Missing in Action) or WIA (Wounded in Action). Sam was the first SPARTAN to be killed and listed as MIA during the Human Covenant War.

Due to the young age at which they were taken, the SPARTAN-IIs became each other’s surrogate family. The death of Samuel was mourned by all the SPARTANS and was remembered years after his death by Kurt (SPARTAN 051) who made a similar sacrifice during Onyx event.

*Kurt 051 was secretly recruited to train a new generation of SPARTANS dubbed SPARTAN-IIIs. This new generation relied more heavily on teamwork and an active camouflage module incorporated into their armour instead of shields. They were largely utilized for suicide missions on Covenant strong points. This new generation were trained on the planet Onyx.*

Spartans 1

Following the death of Samuel, Frederick (SPARTAN 104) was transferred to Blue Team, along with Linda (SPARTAN 058), to form the most well known version of the team. Throughout the beginning of the war, the SPARTANS were deployed against the Covenant and met with large success in ground combat. While the UNSC tactics and training surpassed the Covenant in ground conflicts, most of the engagements were lost in ship battles, in which the Covenant technology was vastly superior. On August 27, 2552, all active SPARTAN-IIs with the exception of Grey Team, were recalled to Reach for Operation: RED FLAG. Operation: RED FLAG was a multi-phase plan which entailed the capture of a Covenant carrier, the discovery of the Covenant home world “High Charity”, and the piloting of the carrier to the home world to extract a Prophet Hierarch to be used for negotiations to force a cease fire. Before the UNSC could enact this plan, the Covenant found Reach and began their assault.

THE FALL OF REACH

The Fall of Reach saw almost all of the active SPARTAN-IIs recalled to the planet in defense of the military stronghold. Red Team was deployed to the surface and believed to have died when it was thought the Covenant had “glassed the planet” (plasma bombardment from space to destroy the landscape). Linda 058, was killed when she along with several SPARTAN-IIs and the Master Chief were defending an orbital defense platform. She was later resuscitated following the battle of Installation 04.

The rest of the SPARTAN-IIs that were not tasked with defending the orbital platform, were tasked with defending various crucial points on the surface. Frederick 104, commanded the SPARTAN-IIs in their defense of Orbital Defense Generator Facility A-331. While en route to the station, Bravo 001 was shot down, killing four SPARTAN-IIs and wounding several others.  Upon their arrival at the facility, they discovered the shell shocked remains of Charlie Company, the marines assigned to its defense.  Frederick split the remaining SPARTAN-IIs into 4 teams with objectives for each.

Team Alpha (Frederick, Kelly and Joshua) was tasked with eliminating an encampment of 10,000 Covenant soldiers and their hovering cruiser.

Team Beta (11 unnamed SPARTAN-IIs) was tasked with defense of the Orbital Defense Generators.

Team Gamma (Li, Anton and Grace) was tasked with the retrieval of Admiral Whitcomb.

Team Delta (composed of the injured SPARTAN-IIs along with William, Isaac, Vinh and the remains of Charlie company) were tasked with securing their fallback point at CASTLE Base.

While Alpha team was successful in destroying the cruiser, they lost Joshua (SPARTAN 029) from concentrated fire from the 10,000 Covenant ground forces. Team Beta was presumably killed when under the threat of the Covenant overrunning their position, the UNSC Majestic fired 6 MAC (Magnetic Acceleration Canon) rounds into the base and the surrounding area; all 11 SPARTAN-IIs are presumed KIA. Team Gamma was successful but did not make it to CASTLE base and was forced to take shelter at Camp Independence. Team Delta was successful but lost all members except for Vinh, Isaac and William.

With the Orbital power facility destroyed the Covenant ships overwhelmed the defense platforms and began glassing Reach.

*Originally it was thought the Covenant had glassed the whole planet and any survivors fighting on its surface. It is later revealed the Covenant merely glassed the poles leaving the majority of the planet and all surviving SPARTAN-IIs intact.*

POST FALL OF REACH

While many ships retreated to Earth, one cruiser, The Pillar of Autumn, broke through the Covenant lines and made a blind jump through slip space. This is where the entire franchise kicked off with the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved.  Following the events of the game, John 117, and several other human survivors would go on to meet up with the other survivors of Reach in First Strike. During this novel the Master Chief would team with other surviving UNSC personnel to attack a Covenant Fleet Anchorage to stall their attack on Earth.

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Eventually societal rifts in the Covenant along with the death of two of their Hierarchs, and revelation of what the Halo rings actually are, resulted in a civil war among the races of the Covenant. This civil war ended with the Elites siding with humanity against the other races. John 117, along with the Arbiter, Thel ‘Vadam, helped to put an end to the Human-Covenant war and bring an uneasy peace to the galaxy. After the fall of the Covenant and the peace brought on between the Sangheili (Elites) and humanity, several Covenant members refused to believe the Arbiter and created splinter factions, most notably the faction led by Jul ‘Mdama which took the title, the New Covenant.

At the culmination of Halo 3, after the battle of Installation 00, the Master Chief is believed to have been lost along with the remains of the Forward Unto Dawn.

Upon his return to Earth, following the Events of Halo 2, 3 &4, the Master Chief (John 117) is finally reunited with the SPARTAN-IIs he believed to have been killed in the Fall of Reach.

The lore and history behind the Human-Covenant war is quite extensive and deserves a post highlighting the various victories and defeats on both sides.  This is just a streamlined version of the involvement of the SPARTAN-II program. Many of the members of this program would become heroes to humanity and eventually the Sangheili. John 117 (forever known by his title as Master Chief) is fondly remembered by both humanity and the Elites that he fought beside near the end of the war.

That concludes the brief history of the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. I know I personally love the franchise and with so many games, comics, shows, and novels… it’s only going to continue to grow!

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“Our duty, as soldiers, is to protect humanity. Whatever the cost.”

“You say that like soldiers and humanity are two different things. Soldiers aren’t machines. We’re just people.”

“She asked me that once, about which one of us was the machine…”

Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 8 – Martian Manhunter

This month, for the inclusion of underrated hero I decided to include the Manhunter himself, J’onn J’onzz of Mars. Martian Manhunter was originally created as a DC analogue to Superman that could be substituted if the Man of Steel was being used too much. That being said, over the years he has grown into hero status in his own right and became known as “the heart and soul of the Justice League”. Manhunter has grown to be one of my more favourite classic superheroes. I say classic because most of my favourites are anti-heroes or heroes so close to anti-hero status, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. Martian Manhunter had a brief stint in the DC drama Smallville where he was portrayed by Phil Morris as well as his current stint on Supergirl where he is portrayed by David Harewood.

Martian Manhunter was first introduced in Detective Comics #225 from November 1955, he was created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa.

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HISTORY

Martian Manhunter was born to two green skinned Martians on Mars (go figure!). He was one of twins that were born to his parents, he was named J’onn J’onzz which in the Martian language means “Light of Light”; his brother, who was born without Martian telepathic ability was named Ma’alefa’ak which literally translates to “Darkness of Heart”.  It’s honestly a wonder as to why the brother turned out to be an evil twin given a name like that by the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally… So J’onn grew up to become a Manhunter ( Martian Police Officer) while his brother grew to hate and resent Martian culture.

Ma’alefa’ak eventually developed a virus, the virus was called H’ronmeers Curse. This virus was transferred by Martian psychic link; which would cause each Martian affected to suffer such a psychosomatic trauma that their minds and bodies would burst into flames. J’onn attempted to stop his wife and daughter from using their psychic abilities but he was unsuccessful and he was forced to watched as his family burned in front of his eyes. The virus was responsible for the mass genocide of the green Martian population and left J’onn to be the “sole survivor” of Mars.

This all happened centuries before his arrival on Earth.

On Earth, centuries after the Martian genocide, a scientist named Saul Erdel had discovered some ancient Martian technology buried on Earth, and was attempting to reverse engineer it to communicate with alien life. He activated his contraption and aimed it at the surface of Mars. The beam traveled through both space and time grabbing J’onn shortly after the genocide and bringing him to the surface of the Earth centuries later. Erdel discovered J’onn outside of his laboratory and brought him inside. J’onn was near insanity after having just witnessed his entire species burn themselves to death and because of the trauma forged a psychic link between himself and Dr. Erdel, the only living being within several miles. When they linked their minds, Dr. Erdel saw what had happened to J’onn and attempted to help him my mentally fabricating a different history of the tragedy of Mars. Erdel took inspiration from various science fiction writers and was eventually able to put J’onn at ease. Erdel also instilled in J’onn the belief that he should be a champion of the people and thus, J’onn took on the persona of Martian Manhunter.

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Martians have several powers along with their psychic abilities which I will get into later, but one of their most prominent abilities is shape shifting. Before venturing out of the lab, J’onn adopted a more humanoid appearance while still maintaining his green skin. Dr. Erdel was so surprised by this ability that he suffered a fatal heart attack. As he was dying, Dr. Erdel asked J’onn for forgiveness, due to him inadvertently trapping J’onn on Earth. J’onn provided the closure the doctor needed before passing away. J’onn used his shape shifting powers to take on an African American appearance and joined the local police department (Middletown U.S.A) under the identity of John Jones.

J’onn fought crime under many aliases before he helped to form the Justice League of America. He fought as Marcus Xavier to take down the international criminal syndicate VULTURE, he fought with Justice Experience as the Bronze Wraith, as well as with the League under his Martian Manhunter title and his alternate identity of Bloodwynd.

He briefly becomes the evil Fernus when he attempted to conquer his own fear of fire. It took the combined might of the entire League as well as several new recruits and a couple of Lanterns to stop him.

J’onn was thought to have perished during the explosion of the Watchtower prior to Infinite Crisis, but that was false. During Infinite Crisis, he was discovered to be attached Alexander Luthor’s tower along with several other heroes and villains. It took the combined effort of the Titans to separate him and the others from the tower. Upon being released from the tower, he telepathically coordinated the defense of Metropolis against the evil, Superboy Prime.

Following Infinite Crisis, he took on the identity of William Dyer to infiltrate Checkmate. Checkmate apparently had been holding several green Martians who had crash landed on the Earth. He rescued them with only one of the new Martians, Roh’kar dying in the process.

DEATH

During an undercover assignment wherein he pretended to be Blockbuster to spy on a Supervillain prison. Catwoman outed J’onn after deducing who he really was ; J’onn was left in his cell after being tortured when the rest of the villains broke out. Libra, a new member of the Society of Supervillains, “rescues” J’onn and brings him back to Earth via a Boom Tube. Using the staff of the Human Flame, Libra stabs J’onn through the chest and lights him on fire. As he is burning he telepathically sends a message to several League members in their sleep requesting they record a portion of his life’s story. Upon discovery of his body, the heroes all said his name and recorded their portion of his history.

J’onn was interred on Mars at the base of a pyramid that had been moved to red planet to serve as his headstone. Many heroes both Leaguers and not attended his funeral where Superman delivered a eulogy in his honour.

BLACKEST NIGHT & RESURRECTION

Black Lantern Martian Manhunter

During the crossover even Blackest Night, J’onn, along with several other deceased heroes and villains, was resurrected into the Black Lantern Corps. While Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) were standing over Batman’s grave site which appeared to have been pillaged, J’onn attacked them saying “You should be dead”. J’onn is soon joined by the Black Lantern resurrected versions of Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, and Firestorm. The Atom arrives to help but the heroes are unable to defeat the advancing zombified versions of their friends. With their backs literally against a wall, the heroes are eventually saved by two Indigo Lanterns that drive the black lanterns off. Following the final battle and the defeat of Nekron, the Entity resurrected several heroes and villains, J’onn being one of them.

BRIGHTEST DAY

Following his resurrection, J’onn noticed that something was off. Whenever he was around plant life, it would mysteriously die. He went to visit his niece M’gann M’orzz (Miss Martian) who was doing a meditation quest in the outback of Australia. When he arrived to her hut he discovered her badly beaten and tied up. When he asked her who did this to her she replied saying an unknown Green Martian had attacked her. As he is helping M’gann, J’onn receives a telepathic communication from the Entity (the being that defeated Nekron and resurrected him) telling him to burn down the newly formed forest. Knowing the devastation that had befallen Star City and the new forest that had mysteriously grown in its place, J’onn believed the forest he needed to burn was in Star City. after coming into conflict with Green Arrow and attempting to start the blaze, J’onn is again contacted by the Entity, and told the forest he needed to burn was on Mars. J’onn takes off for his home planet leaving the new Star City alone.

On Mars, J’onn confronts the rogue green Martian that had attacked M’gann. She reveals her name to be D’kay D’razz and wishes to take J’onn as her mate. When J’onn refuses she telepathically attacks him and forces him to see visions of the Mars that could be with the power of the Entity to resurrect everything. J’onn sees through the ruse and wrings her neck, and throws her into the sun, killing her. Upon completion of his task the Entity asks J’onn to choose between Earth and Mars, when J’onn chooses Earth he is absorbed by the Entity.  When the “Dark Avatar” (Black Lantern Swamp Thing) attacks, J’onn who has been deemed to be an Elemental along with several other heroes (Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman,Firestorm); combine with the body of Alex Holland (Swamp Thing) to fight the Dark Avatar. Upon defeat of the Dark Avatar, the Entity with the help of Swamp Thing restores the Elementals to normal.

NEW 52

During the DC Comics re-launch under the New 52 banner, Martian Manhunter was removed as a member of the League and placed in the covert team called Stormwatch. It is teased that he tried to join the League but came to blows with the other members and was cast out, it’s unclear what caused the rift between the heroes. J’onn is recruited by Amanda Waller into the Justice League of America as the counter agent to Superman. The Justice League of America was recruited to specifically counteract individual members of the Justice League should they ever go rogue.

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During the Trinity War crossover J’onn was investigating the Secret Society of Supervillains and their new leader, the Outsider. When they discovered the Outsider was Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-3, it was too late and the Crime Syndicate arrived on Earth-1. The heroes were soundly defeated and imprisoned inside the Firestorm matrix until Forever Evil, when Batman freed them with the help of Luthor and several villains. Following the release from the Matrix, J’onn along with fellow JLA members Green Arrow and Stargirl went on to form the Justice League United Team based out of Canada.

REBIRTH

J’onn arrived in the Dark Metal event stating he had been on Thanagar looking for answers.

POWERS & ABILITIES

All Martians share the same powers as Martian Manhunter to a degree. While they all have the genetic ability to utilize these powers, they may not have mastered the techniques and thus don’t use it. The powers of the Martian people are as follows:

  • Shapeshifting
  • Corporeal Form Manipulation – Malleability, Elasticity, Plasticity and Elongation of his form and extremities.
  • Invisibility
  • Phasing
  • Superhuman Durability
  • Superhuman Strength
  • Superhuman Stamina
  • Regeneration
  • Flight
  • Superhuman Speed
  • Extrasensory Input
  • Longevity
  • Super-Hearing
  • Super-Breath
  • Enhanced Senses
  • Martian Vision – Able to see Electro-magnetic Spectrum, Infrared Spectrum, Telescopic Vision, Microscopic Vision and Heat Vision similar to Superman.
  • Telepathy – Able to conjure Illusions, Astral Prjection, Possession, Mind Control, Telepathic Relay (connect multiple minds together to “speak”), Telepathic Assault, Thought Sensing, Mayavana (ability to create a mental reality as real as any other reality, can only be used once in a lifetime. J’onn used his during Despero’s attack on the JL Headquarters to stop the assault and save his friends/teammates)
  •  Telekinesis
  • Meditate instead of sleep

In addition to all his powers listed J’onn J’onzz also has: Genius Level Intellect, adept firearms skills, incredible detective skills and the ability to understand any language.

A Martian’s only documented weakness is to fire. Which stems from the H’ronmeers Curse and the psychosomatic trauma it caused.

J’onn is known to be very fond of the Earth snack Chocos, so much to the point of borderline addiction.

WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED

Martian Manhunter is widely underrated because of how much he is underused. This is a being that was able to solo the Justice League on more than one occasion. He has shown time and time again that he is the willing to take the hit in order to save another teammate from getting hurt, and he believes that while Mars was his origin planet, that Earth is his home. As I stated before he has been called the “Heart and Soul of the Justice League” and he wears this title proudly. When all the other heroes falter and become lost they can always look to J’onn to help put them back on the right track.

During the Injustice comic run, J’onn came into conflict with Superman and his regime. He openly stood against the tyranny and was murdered as a result. He does help to deliver one of the best lines of the whole series. The panel is directly below.

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J’onn has gone to star in several films and live action series, more so than the Dark Knight himself, which begs to question as to why he isn’t a more popular hero? Superman himself has said that J’onn is the one of the very few beings that he is afraid to engage in open combat because he is the most dangerous man on the planet.

Supes Scared

J’onn J’onzz has so much potential and he is always wasted by being relegated to a back up character. I’m not saying his inclusion in the Justice League film would’ve saved it, but it couldn’t have been any worse than what we got right? DC needs to give some of their other great properties a chance instead of sticking with the same heroes. Yes, they’ve branched out with some out there inclusions like Justice League Dark and Cyborg, but looking at how many batman and Superman imprints there are… they could easily drop a couple of those and bring in someone like Manhunter for his own series. I just hope for J’onn J’onzz to one day become a household name like the characters he helps to keep on the right path.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn – A Great Beginning To A Classic Character

This week I decided to focus on the another inclusion from the Star Wars Universe, the novel Thrawn by Timothy Zahn. The character of Thrawn was introduced by Zahn in the original Expanded Universe of Star Wars, now labelled Legends under Disney purchase. Thrawn is the by far the greatest admiral that the Empire had during the prosperity and fall of the Empire, and many years after. He was a tactical genius, brilliant commander and victorious in every task he took on. While Thrawn was considered to be one of the most liked characters introduced in the original Expanded Universe, his omission by Disney was a stab in the heart of many fans. Disney has been expanding their universe to include much of the Legends content into main canon continuity. Thrawn by Timothy Zahn is just the first novel in a probable trilogy, with the next installment Thrawn: Alliances coming out later this year.

Thrawn Alliances

Thrawn was released on April 11, 2017 and quickly garnered a positive review by both fans and critics.

*This review will be spoiler free*

SETTING

Thrawn begins during the prosperity of the Galactic Empire.  The rebels have begun trying to infiltrate the Empire to learn their secrets, but have not been effectively amalgamated into the official “Rebellion” as seen in Star War Episode IV: A New Hope. As it stands each individual rebel cell is vexing various commanders and their fleets throughout Empire controlled space and some of the Outer Systems. While the Empire is prospering so is their Xenophobia. Most systems are inhabited by more than just humans, but the upper command and echelon of the Imperial Navy is strictly humans.

Pryce Mining Company on Lothal is one of the premiere companies on the small industrial planet. When a new Doonium vein is discovered, the Empire makes political moves to remove the Pryce family from their controlling interests in the company, making an enemy of the heir to the company.

With the new special project taking up all the resources of the Empire to construct; Senators, Moffs and Governors alike are all scrambling to see who knows what and who can be removed from their quests for power.

PLOT

The story begins with a small Imperial Scouting party to an uncharted world in the “Wild Space” section of the galaxy. Cadet Eli Vanto and the other members of the scouting party find a camp which shows signs of habitation. With several crates marked with an unknown language that is only familiar to those on the border of Wild Space, Vanto is brought up to translate. A mysterious assailant attacks the party and claims the lives of 5 stormtroopers. When the assailant stows away on the landing craft as is taken back to the Destroyer, he surrenders and is interrogated by officers with Vanto for translation. The assailant is revealed as a Chiss by the name of Mitth’raw’nuruodo, though he says the humans may refer to him as Thrawn. When Thrawn, a alien Chiss, is fast tracked into command in the Imperial Navy, he becomes a likely target of hate and resentment from many of his colleagues.

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Arihnda Pryce is caught between a rock and a hard place, either agree to the takeover by the Empire of her family’s mining company or be thrown in jail for treason. She doesn’t take this lying down and journeys to Coruscant to begin a career in political espionage and blackmail.

Doonium is being bought up left right and center by subsidiaries of the Empire for a “Special Project” that is unknown to most of the population. Being the most precious metal in the galaxy, curiosities become piqued inciting full investigations from several individuals both high ranking and not.

 

CHARACTERS

Mitth’raw’nuruodo “Thrawn” – A Chiss exiled from the Chiss Ascendancy and marooned on a planet in Wild Space. He is a brilliant tactician and strategist but completely inept in the political machinations of the Imperial Navy. He believes that in order to defeat an enemy you must first understand an enemy, which leads him to research a culture before coming into contact with them. When we first meet Thrawn he only knows basic words and phrases in the Galactic Standard “Basic”; he is fluent in Sy Bisti which is a wild space vernacular known to Ensign Eli Vanto due to him being from a system bordering wild space. He requests Vanto be assigned to him as translator and aide to assist him in his career with the Empire.

Eli Vanto – Ensign assigned the be Thrawn’s personal aide and translator. Was content with his career path to be come a supplies officer at a base near his home planet. With the arrival of Thrawn, his career path has taken a detour into left field. He resents the Chiss for being able to control his career, but admires him for his tactical brilliance and strategic awareness in battle. Acting as both aide and social instructor, Eli is unsure of his future, but knows it is tied to the Chiss officer.

Arihnda Pryce – The only daughter of the CEO of Pryce Mining on Lothal. Ruthless and fiercely loyal to her family and its history. When ousted from her home she sets her sight on the seat at the top making decisions for her whole system. Moving to center of power she begins her political career with nothing to her name and even less knowledge of the inner workings of the political landscape of Coruscant. Determined not to lose sight of her goal she begins a game of cat and mouse where all the cats are bigger and fiercer than she is.

Nightswan – The Moby Dick to Thrawn’s Captain Ahab. A cunning and strategic freelance criminal that will work for whoever pays them enough. With a penchant for organizing schemes of unique style, Thrawn is drawn to solving who this mystery person is and bringing them and their whole network down.

Colonel Yularen – Colonel of the ISB which investigates the senate and any illegal dealings associated with it. Efficient and thorough he becomes an ally of both Thrawn and Pryce as their paths eventually cross.

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Notable Cameos – Emperor Sheev Palpatine “Darth Sidious”, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, Darth Vader

WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD?

Speaking as someone who never really dove too much into the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, this book is a great starting point. It’s filled with lots of new locations and characters while still keeping it rooted in canon with familiar faces. The chapters all begin with excerpts from Thrawn’s personal journal in which he discusses various topics ranging from leadership to camaraderie and strategy.  I don’t want to speak too much about the chapters for fear of revealing something spoilerific, just know that at the end of the book all the chapter introductions come together in the epilogue.

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The entire story has an air of mystery as well with Thrawn trying to figure out who the Nightswan is and where the resources of the Empire are being diverted to. With the book taking place roughly  20-2 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), any person familiar with Episode IV: A New Hope is able to ascertain where the resources are being routed; however, it also adds an air of suspense as the characters figure it out for themselves.

As a whole I would rate the book to be a solid 7.5/10 it’s far from perfect, with some chapters really dragging on and some characters really serving no purpose, but overall a very enjoyable read. As I said before, it’s a great book for any Star Wars fan and if you were a fan of Thrawn before this is quite a poignant starting point for the character.

 

*This spoiler free review has been created with Barb Cottle in mind. May I never spoil anything nerdy for her ever again.*

Project ORION – The Rise of the Spartans

This month for the continuation of the Halo series, I decided to focus on the SPARTANS and their origins as a unit.  Starting out in the early years of the United Earth Government (UEG), Project ORION is where it all began.

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PROJECT ORION

Project ORION was launched in the early years of the 23rd century shortly after the unification of the Earth into the UEG and the formation of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC). The project was started in an attempt to biochemically alter soldiers to create super soldiers for use in the field. While ORION would eventually be shut down, the concept was taken and utilized as the basis for future SPARTAN programs and certain advancements were used for field kits following the Insurrectionist Civil War.

In 2390, the UEG had formally established the Inner Colonies of the Earth Empire. For the next hundred years, humanity began to expand into the Sol system establishing dozens of colonies on habitable worlds. As the expansion continued, the power and influence of the UEG began the wane to the point that political independence was the hot topic among the colonists. Colonies began to separate themselves from UEG control and the UNSC took steps to maintain a grip on the Outer colonies that were trying to secede from the UEG. In preparation for conflict, the UNSC enacted Project: ORION on April 13, 2321, as a means of developing tougher, faster and stronger soldiers. Of the original 5 candidates selected, none were deemed a success and the candidates were returned to their respective units. Each of these candidates would die within a year of being returned to their unit for reasons  undisclosed by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

Insurrectionist

As the Civil Wars on the Outer colonies intensified, Project: ORION was relaunched in secret on January 29, 2491, to combat insurgent attacks. The project was opened with 65 candidates, with a future 100 volunteers being accepted following initial training. On January 12, 2496, the first ORION soldiers were deployed as part of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE to recover a sub-orbital transit station over Eridanus II. The mission was successful without any casualties and without detection, this was also the only time in the program’s history that a full unit of its operators would ever be deployed.

With the success of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, the tales of super soldiers being deployed by the UNSC spread like wildfire, causing conspiracy theories to be born. ONI used the leaked knowledge in a very aggressive propaganda run in the following decades to incite compliance from the outer colonies. During the same year as Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, ORION operatives were deployed as part of Operation: VERITAS, where they apprehended several Secessionist Union operatives who were employed in various high-level offices in the Colonial Military Administration (CMA).

As the Insurrectionist War began to heat up, the UNSC escalated their counter-insurgent activities with Operation: TREBUCHET. This operation was put into immediate action following the defection of UNSC Marine Colonel Robert Watts. ORION operatives were deployed to combat the insurgent threat and were very effective for a time. As the conflict dragged on, the insurgents became harder and harder to root out. The Insurgents adapted to the tactics of the ORION operatives very quickly and became increasingly harder to combat. While the bombings and flashpoint scenarios between Insurrectionists and the UNSC continued to increase, more civilians were caught in the crossfire, and were killed as a result. These civilian deaths added to the growing resentment for the UNSC on the outer colonies forcing more to join the Insurrectionist fight. In response to the growing Insurrectionist threat, the UNSC recruited more operatives into the ORION program, culminating in 300 active duty personnel.

As Operation: TREBUCHET continued, some of the older members of ORION began to exhibit PTSD and sympathy towards the Insurrectionists. Some operatives refused to participate in the program post-augmentation and were incarcerated as a result. Despite the success the ORION soldiers were having, the results were far below what the scientists expected. Due to the age of most candidates and the inadequate genetic screening performed during recruitment.; the genetic modifications led to minimal improvement and the immunosuppressants failed in many candidates. These issues led to irreversible genetic fragmentation and degenerative conditions in most of the ORION personnel.

In 2502, Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was put in to action. KALEIDOSCOPE was a multi pronged approach by the UNSC to pacify the Insurrectionist threat. ORION operatives were deployed to neutralize key insurgent strongholds and eliminate insurgent personnel. The main goal was to eliminate Jerald Mulkey Ander, the leader of the Secessionist Union.

KALEIDOSCOPE

On March 13, 2502, Jerald Ander was assassinated by ORION operative, Corporal Avery Johnson. With Ander’s death, the Secessionist Union was easily dismantled; however, it did not deter those from seeking independent control from the UEG, it actually served to strengthen the Insurrectionist movement on several planets. While KALEIDOSCOPE dealt a massive blow to the insurgents, it failed to pacify the planets as had been originally intended and was declared a failure as the result. As Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was wrapping up, it became apparent that some of the ORION operatives were beginning to develop severe side effects from the augmentations. These side effects ranged from physical anomalies to mental illness.

The ORION project began to decline in performance due to the ineffective strategies used by the UNSC. Operation: TANGLEWOOD was the final operation that ORION operatives participated in.

In 2506, project ORION was quietly terminated with the remaining 165 members being reassigned to various special forces elements in the UNSC. Some of the former ORION operatives began to exhibit mental instabilities and were discharged from the UNSC as a result. ONI concocted a plan to cover up the ailments being exhibited by the former ORION members as a medical ailment called Boren’s Syndrome. As many of the ORION soldiers began to retire and have families, the children of the former operatives required specially formulated injections to ensure they suffered no health defects. While some ORION members were discharged, others like Avery Johnson, were able to serve well past what is normally expected of human service. Johnson served for a continued four decades after the project was shut down.

*Johnson was dosed with an abnormally high amount of radiation emanating from a crate of plasma grenades on Paris IV; as a result, he was immune to Flood infection.*

THE FUTURE OF PROJECT ORION

Following the shuttering of Project ORION many of the augmentations and advancements were incorporated into the SPARTAN-II program and its successors. The failures of project ORION were blamed on the age of the recruits. Being adults, the recruits bodies rejected many of the augmentations, giving a less than expected result. The SPARTAN-II and SPARTAN-III programs were therefore forced to use prepubescent recruits so that their genetic information and physicality would allow for the augmentations to take hold. The SPARTAN-IV program overcame this obstacle, but that was not until after the end of the Human-Covenant War on March 3, 2553.

Due to the combat effectiveness of the ORION operatives the UNSC utilized project ORION and its operators as the model for a reorganization of the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs).

In the years following the closure of Project: ORION in 2506, the small amount of special forces in the UNSC were not able to effectively combat the rising Insurrectionist threat. Around 2510, ONI began to re-examine the Carver Findings (A set of theories published by Dr. Elias Carver in 2491, predicting the outbreak of an insurrection) to determine if there was a solution within Carver’s predictions to their current Insurrectionist issue. The findings stated that the instability would continue to grow unless drastic military action was taken. ONI had conducted it’s own research and came to the same conclusion as Dr. Carver; if the threat was not subdued, by 2525 there would be an open war between the inner and outer colonies.

Dr. Catherine Halsey had taken Carver’s findings and built on them herself. Halsey’s findings predicted that if UNSC inaction against rebel leadership continued, there would be a 35 year war with over 5 billion dead or a conflict of indeterminate length that would lead to the downfall of human civilization.  Halsey presented her findings to Vice Admiral Stanforth and ONI Section III, who had come to their own similar conclusions. In order to avoid this grim future, Halsey agreed to work for ONI under Section III’s Special Projects Division to develop a solution.

Halsey

Dr. Halsey took the data from the initial Project ORION and made drastic changes. The candidates would be selected based on age, and genetic markers that would increase the success of the augmentations. The candidates would have to exhibit physical strength and mental attributes as well as being under the age of 10. The age limit also helped with instilling core military values and the understanding of War; which could not be taught to already enlisted individuals. In addition to the more selective candidate pool, one of the other major changes involved the creation of powered exoskeletons for use by the operatives. The drawback of this new armor is its requirement for augmenting the subject, effectively turning the participants into human guinea pigs. Despite the obvious danger to recruits and the unethical means to which they would be treated, ORION-II was permitted.

In 2511, Generation II of Project ORION was initiated to combat the Insurrectionist threat.  By 2517, 150 suitable candidates had been selected for the program, though funding only allowed for half that number. Thus the top 75 candidates were selected from all planets across UNSC controlled space. The selection pool included both male and female candidates as well as various ethnic backgrounds to ensure diversity. The candidates all were around the age of six years old and most lived on the outer planets. ONI operatives kidnapped the candidates in the night and replaced them with flash clones. These flash clones were grown from the DNA acquired by the Outer Colony Vaccination Program. The clones would die after roughly a year due to medical complications resulting from flash cloning an entire human being.

Halsey was not fond of the original name for the project, Project ORION Generation II, so she renamed the project out of personal preference and desire to distance it from the failures of the first Project: ORION. Halsey centered on the SPARTAN-II program as a homage to the name of ORION.

With the subsequent success of the SPARTAN-II program, Project ORION was retroactively renamed as SPARTAN-I.

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There you have it, the story of how the SPARTAN program came to be. While the most popular iteration of the SPARTAN program is the SPARTAN-IIs and the face of Halo, the Master Chief; none of that would be possible without Project: ORION. Next month I will breakdown the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. See you next week!

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The Problem With Transitioning Comics To The Big/Small Screens

I wanted to start off the year with a post related to something I have been thinking about for a long time; the problems with bringing comics to the big/small screen.  I will be the first one to admit that sometimes a comic will do better as a TV show or as a movie and vice versa, but there is a fine line about the distinction and I will explain.

WHEN IT WORKS BETTER AS A TV SHOW

Arrow and Flash

We have all seen the success of the CW “Arrowverse” and its related content; conversely, we have seen the success of the Marvel Netflix corner of the MCU. Both of these successful franchises have something in common, they’re grounded.  The CW started dabbling into the superhero genre with Smallville way back in 2001. It was the first widely successful superhero television show and ran for a full 10 seasons. The show centered around Clark Kent as he grew up in Smallville and his eventual move to Metropolis. The thing that made the show likeable was that we watched as Clark grew as a person and as a hero, he started as a young naive kid and ended the series as the Superman the world needed. One thing I will say about the show is that I felt it was about 3 seasons too long, and I know I for one was a little irate that he never flew until the last 5 minutes of the last episode.  I get that the show had budget restrictions but come on! It’s Superman!

Almost exactly a year after Smallville ended, a gritty new superhero drama graced our television screens, and that show was Arrow. Arrow went for a much more dark and gritty approach and knocked it out of the park. I know I was blown away with the show and never missed an episode until the dismal fourth season… ugh. But the show worked as a television serial because of the grounded and character driven plots, not to mention it wasn’t heavy reliant on CGI.  Netflix used this formula to create probably the greatest superhero TV shows to date. Within the Netflix universe you get Daredevil, Punisher, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist; all these heroes are fairly grounded and don’t rely heavy on the crazy storytelling and plots that would require heavy CGI.

The “Arrowverse” has definitely branched out and included some more “out there shows” with the likes of Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the crossover episodes but they just don’t fit with the gritty world Arrow created. When the Flash first aired, it actually started by using a backdoor pilot in Arrow, and was an interesting contrast to the dark tone of the show. Much like the title characters of DC comics, Batman and Superman, Arrow and Flash are the exact opposites. Arrow is the dark and brooding drama; whereas Flash is the lighthearted fun serial with lots of bright colours and warm tones.

Runaways

With the sale of Fox to Disney, I am interested to see what will happen to all the new slew of X-Men related content now airing on television. I will not lie, I watched one episode of the Runaways and turned it off halfway through. It just wasn’t engaging and the rarity of a teenager using their powers? I know if I had powers as a teenager or even a dinosaur that responded to my mental commands… I would use that shit every chance I got! X-Men is one franchise that will not work well on TV just because the heroes and story arcs rely on heavy CGI. Badass ninjas and indestructible skin are easy to show on TV, shooting ice and fire from your hands or giant laser beams from your eyes… not so much. For a superhero show to be successful it needs to be grounded and character driven, which sadly most comics are not.

WHEN IT WORKS BETTER AS A MOVIE

CGI and team ups. Enough said.

Big budget movies can obviously have ridiculous amounts of awesome CGI and still pull it off. For the most part… Looking at you Justice League!

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Massive team ups also only work as a movie, unless you devote a solid series to each character first, then they CAN work. They won’t always work, but batting 80% is better than failing every time.

I just find that for the likes of Avengers, X-Men, and Justice League the characters are too big to have them just thrown in or put into a TV show. Smallville tried to put the Justice League and the Justice Society into the series and it worked… sort of. Each member of the their “league” was given at least one episode of introduction prior to the team up. The Justice society was jammed into a 2 episode arc that really only highlighted two, potentially 3 characters.  While the ending to the Justice society arc did give us back Martian Manhunter and gave us Hawkman in a more permanent role, it wasn’t properly executed.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK FROM COMICS IN MOVIES & TV

Okay I will admit that there are some glaring issues with the MCU and the DCEU, everybody with me so far let’s move on…

The MCU is the unstoppable force behind all the modern connected universes, that being said, they tend to change a lot of things so that it will work with their overall narrative. The Infinity Stones are a prime example of Marvel studios changing their lore to work with their overall narrative. We all know there are 6 Infinity Gems (stones in the MCU), each representing a fundamental force that composed the universe. Originally called the Soul Gems until Infinity War when they were renamed the Infinity Gems, Thanos was the first to use all 6 in unison.  The thing that irks me is that they take other artifacts that are important from Marvel comics lore and make them Infinity Stones for the sake of the narrative.  The Tesseract is not the Space Stone, it is in fact closer to the cosmic cube which is responsible for Hydra Cap; Loki’s Scepter is not the Mind stone, and the Eye of Agamotto is not the time stone.

Apart from the renaming and branding of the Infinity Gems, one thing that Marvel does take a liberty with is changing their stories to work with the modern superhero/sci-fi framework, let me explain… Sci-fi stands for Science fiction, everybody knows that, so why do they remove sci-fi aspects from their movies? Let’s look at Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a solid movie, not the best of the MCU but also not the worst. The thing is that Ultron is a recurring villain that the Avengers have never been able to defeat 100%. They always just BARELY beat him and then he shows up again later and better equipped. I understand that they needed to have his origin, growth and death all in one movie, but why choose that story to do? The real Age of Ultron story from the comic of the same name plays out completely differently than the movie. In the comic, Ultron confronts the Avengers and wins. Within the first 20 pages of the event, Ultron has beaten the Avengers.  He establishes a dystopian society which he rules from the future using Vision (his son) as a conduit. In order to win, Wolverine and Sue Storm make a desperate attempt to go back in time and kill Hank Pym the original creator of Ultron before he can develop the genocidal AI. Because time travel never goes the way it’s supposed to, the future ends up being worse with the Avengers being named the Defenders, and a massive war being waged by Tony and his tech/cybernetic empire against Morgan Le Fey and her magic kingdom. Wolverine and Sue Storm decide to go back in time and stop themselves from killing Pym by… killing themselves. This makes them a temporal paradox and because nobody likes that kind of stuff, they convince Pym to install a backdoor program in Ultron’s code before they use Dr. Doom’s time platform to return to their own time, thereby righting the paradox. Wolverine and Sue arrive at the beginning of the story when Ultron first defeats the Avengers. Before Ultron can finish the job, the subroutine installed by Pym in the paradoxal timeline runs causing Ultron to shut down momentarily allowing Thor the time he needs to smash Ultron to pieces.

For obvious reasons they couldn’t use the story because for one… Wolverine and Sue Storm were owned by Fox until several months ago. But this story is a prime example of one key component of comic book fiction that will never transfer well into movie form, time travel.

Time travel is something inherently accepted by the comic community as a regular occurrence in comics. When it occurs it never really throws anyone for the ringer. Most readers just say “oh, this is going to get good” and they continue reading. DC’s Flash is probably the most relevant case with this type of publication. I like the Flash but I don’t get to read a lot of his stories because Batman… and priorities. That being said most of his major events have revolved around him either travelling backwards or forwards in time and mucking something up.  Then he has to fix it before he can come back and grow a little bit as a character each time. Time travel just doesn’t transfer well into a movie, there are some exceptions (Looper), but for the most part it’s a type of Sci-Fi that works best in printed form.

Multiverse

Keeping the train moving on Sci-Fi concepts that work better in print than film, Alternate Realities. It is well established that everything that happens in comics takes place on one earth in the vast array of the multiverse. Both DC and Marvel utilize this concept and generate some pretty great stories with it. DC has made great stories like Crisis on Infinite Earth, Final Crisis, and Infinite Crisis. Marvel uses the multiverse a lot less liberally but still generates some great stories like the Hickman run on Avengers in the MarvelNow! printing, Secret Wars, and Battleworld. Alternate Realities is just something that can be accepted in comics, mainly because of the infinite possibilities and variations on heroes. Not only that but it allows for some possible evil versions of the heroes to come to the forefront as with DC’s Crime Syndicate of Earth-3. When making a film there are certain things that you have to take time to do, one of the big ones is explaining how the physics works in the world you’ve created. If you look at every successful Sci-Fi TV show they all explain how things are possible in their universe, from FTL travel to weapons and even biological life. Films can do this but they have to condense it way down into  a few minutes, which doesn’t allow for a lot of in depth explanation. For this reason most films have avoided the subject of alternate realities unless the entire premise of their plot is based on it, like The One from 2001.

With glaring plot holes abundant in their films, there are still just some things that comic fans will accept without a reason. When Flash was first published he was the “Fastest Man Alive” and nobody needed to know how it was possible. Over decades the story gets a little more clear and complex and now it’s common knowledge among many comic fans how Flash can move as fast as he does. The same can be said for Superman. Way back when Action Comics #1  was released and we saw a man who could lift a car, was bulletproof, and could fly; nobody needed an explanation as to why he could do it. Again, through several decades of continued story telling the picture has become a little clearer to the point where it is crystal.

the-defenders

Movies and TV shows are a great medium to be able to tell comic book stories, and get those who might not be inclined to pick up the latest issue of Flash or Spider-Man interested in the character. Like I’ve said though there are just some things that will never transition well into a movie and a TV show and that’s okay. Alternate Timelines and Alternate Realities are confusing enough for the fans without butchering explanations and leaving giant earth sized plot holes. The second season of the Flash TV show explored the idea of the multiverse but they didn’t let the concept overwhelm the overall narrative of the show. They dabbled into the science but kept the focus on Barry and his team, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks. For myself and many other this was not an issue when watching the show, but I do know there were several people who stopped watching due to the confusing nature of the season and its jumps from earth to earth.

Movies or TV shows,  it doesn’t matter to me how they do it, as long as they do the story justice and stay away from things that just should be better left on the pages of a comic book.