Even though Dark Horse Comics will be losing the Star Wars license at the end of 2014, they have made they’ve made quite a wonderful selection of stories since 1991. The books have featured adventures of familiar heroes and villains from Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett, to the not-so familiar—but we finally have a graphic novel that features the primitive, furry, teddy bear-like creatures known as the Ewoks who live on the Forest Moon of Endor.
In this story, set roughly eight months before the film Return of the Jedi, the Ewok village is visited by a wounded Dulok named Agluk—a member of a rival group of primitive creatures that sort of look like a Grinch or a furry evil Gremlin from the Joe Dante film. Wounded, with a bitten-off arm, and seeking refuge with his people’s enemies, he risks being imprisoned to seek the aid of the Ewoks to help him free his people. Agluk claims that his tribe have been captured by “skull ones” who attacked with fire and lightning and in their wake awoke a slumbering underground beast known as the Griagh. Chief Chirpa, the village leader, distrustful of anything the treacherous Dulok says, puts him in a suspended prison cage.
Later that night, Princess Kneesaa, Chief Chirpa’s daughter, sneaks to the prison camp to question Agluk. Joined by the young Ewoks Wicket and Paploo, they decide to free Agluk on condition that he proves to them his claims. Together the group sets out to confront the Griagh and the mystery of the Skull Ones. It’s no surprise that the Skull Ones are Stormtroopers, and soon the young Ewoks find themselves over their heads against the Imperials and the menace of the Griagh.
Shadows of Endor is unique in that it merges characters from not only the Return of the Jedi movie but also the animated Star Wars: Ewoks cartoon from 1984-1986 as well as the live action Ewoks films made for ABC television in the mid-1980s called Ewoks: Caravan of Courage (1984) and Ewoks: Battle for Endor (1985). The idea is ambitious, and the story is not without some charm and humor. It’s quite fun and the creator of the book Zack Giallongo put a lot of heart into it. The art is reminiscent of a more animated look that merges the simplistic style of the original animated series into a more kinetic style that is cartoony but fits the tone of the book perfectly. The coloring by Braden Lamb is also wonderful and brings a lot of life to the book.
My main problem with the book is that the target audience for this isn’t a 8-12 year old reader who may like the Ewoks. My son, who’s 8, got turned off by the book after the first page, where Wicket is carried off by a winged reptile and an Ewok named Teebo saves Wicket by cutting the beast with an axe as blood is dripping down the beast’s claw. I didn’t pay any attention at all myself, but then I realized that perhaps the actual target audience is probably meant to be someone in their late 20s or early 30s who watched the original source material as a child. Unless a child stumbled upon the sole collection of Ewok cartoons in print today at their library or bookstore, and also happened to watch the original live-action Ewok movies, which are not in print anymore, they might not be familiar with Princess Kneesaa, her friend Latara, the race of enemies called the Duloks (all three only appeared in the animated series), as well as the cameo of the shape-changing witch called Charal from the film Ewoks: Battle of Endor—adding in that she’s a Night Sister of Dathomir. It’s light and fluffy and fun—but just like the original sources, in the end it doesn’t add much to the grand world of Star Wars.
As a self-confessed Star Wars aficionado, I have to fully admit I never really cared much for the original animated Ewoks series and the tacked on addition of a pink-wearing princess Ewok. I was already a teenager then and though I watched the show, it just wasn’t for me. Also, I haven’t seen the Ewok movies at all since they originally aired on TV almost 28 years ago. They were okay, but not something I have an urge to watch with my kids. I was just around 13 when Return of the Jedi came out in theaters, and even then I realized the Ewoks were meant to appeal to younger kids. Later, this same experience happened to Star Wars fans with the Gungans and Jar Jar Binks. I don’t hate them at all—in fact, I had a pet guinea pig at the time I named “Wicket” in honor of the Ewok from the movie—but they just weren’t meant for me. I think the same could be said of this series. It’s a good tale that brings back some characters beloved by some, but in the end, anyone who hasn’t watched all the ephemeral spin-offs might be a little lost with references to wisties, sunstars, Duloks, Charal, Princess Kneesaa, Latara, and why they’re not in Return of the Jedi with the other Ewoks such as Wicket, Paploo, and Logray.