Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr This year marks the 40th anniversary since the release of the original STAR WARS film on May 25th, 1977. This month, writers at ComicsVerse will be bringing you our insights on all things STAR WARS as we look at where the series has been and where it will take us next in the galaxy far, far away… Welcome to the STAR WARS Character Spotlight. To the Star Wars fans who only know the movies: you’re missing out. There are hundreds of characters, planets, and stories just waiting for you in a galaxy far, far away that you have yet to discover. From books and comics to TV shows and video games, there’s a ton of canon material ripe for the picking. MORE: Interested in the Expanded Universe? Read more about why Lucasfilm went in another direction with THE FORCE AWAKENS! Unfortunately, some of my favorite characters are no longer canon. There are even more characters that have influenced and shaped STAR WARS if you check out the Legends Universe, previously called the Expanded Universe. In the wealth of material produced and authorized by Lucasfilm, there are stories and characters galore to suit any taste. So in this edition of Character Spotlight, we’re going to check out one of the coolest characters in the (Legends) Galaxy – Mara Jade Skywalker. Mara Jade Mara Jade is first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s iconic (if no longer entirely canon) Thrawn trilogy, which takes place five years after RETURN OF THE JEDI. This series produced a smattering of excellent characters — the inscrutable and seemingly all-knowing Grand Admiral Thrawn, Imperial officer Gilad Pellaeon, master smuggler Talon Kardde, and, of course, the mysterious Mara Jade. Mara works for Karrde, who runs a massive covert smuggling network. When we meet her in Heir to the Empire, she is being considered as Karrde’s second in command. Karrde explains that her skills and intuition are more important than seniority and that she will be an excellent choice. Mara Jade, hot hand with a blaster or a starfighter. However, this is not precisely the first time we see Mara Jade. At the beginning of the novel, Luke Skywalker has a vision of his actions at Jabba’s Sky Barge (from RETURN OF THE JEDI). At the moment when Luke reaches out to pluck his lightsaber from the air, it changes direction and flies into the hand of a shadowed woman, laughing maliciously. Luke has no clue who the woman is but knows that she is bad news. We learn later that this was Mara. This raises many questions, which Zahn answers slowly. Myrkr Revealing Mara’s history is as painful as pulling teeth. She is an incredibly guarded woman. Even Karrde, who has more information about everyone than pretty much anyone else, barely knows anything about her before she joins his organization. The only thing that he knows is that, for some reason, Mara really hates Luke Skywalker. So, naturally, circumstances conspire to throw the two together. In a set of escalating coincidences and crises, Mara is forced to work with Luke to survive in the forests of Myrkr, the planet where Karrde has his base. READ MORE: ComicsVerse’s 40 Years of STAR WARS Series argues why A NEW HOPE is the best STAR WARS movie! Do you agree? Find out more! Crashing in the forest is a horrible turn of fate. One of Myrkr’s native species, Ysalamiri, have the strange effect of creating bubbles of space that suppress the force. On their own, they provide about a meter of Force-free space; in the forest, though, there are swaths of Ysalamiri. Thus the whole forest is a dead zone to Luke, his Jedi skills rendered useless. The forest also presents a topographical challenge. Mara and Luke need to walk out of the forest to the nearest city, a trek that would take them several days. This is made more difficult by the need to evade Imperial patrols who are searching for Luke, and another strange species on Myrkr – The Vornskr. Although it is not explained at the time, Karrde later discovers that the Vornskrs hunt using the Force. This presents the problem of making Luke prey. Mara and Luke must fend off several Vornskr attacks together. However, in her hatred and distrust, Mara does not allow Luke to have his lightsaber. Instead, she wields it herself and does so surprisingly well. This leads Luke to wonder – was Mara a Jedi? Emperor’s Hand Mara was, in fact, almost the exact opposite of a Jedi. She was known as the Emperor’s Hand. Palpatine removed her from her family and groomed her to be an extension of himself. Mara notes with pride that she could hear his voice anywhere in the Galaxy. The Emperor’s Hand. Credit to Sketchy McDrawpants. Mara’s past finally explains why she hates Luke so much. At the time of his death, Palpatine called out to Mara and gave her a vision. In this vision, Mara sees Luke dueling Vader. The two cross blades and then turn as one to strike down Palpatine. At the moment of his death, he calls out a command to her: “YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER!” Mara blames Luke for ruining her life — because he killed Palpatine, she lost all her power and status. She was forced to go into hiding. It was Luke, indirectly, who led her to Karrde. Mara also struggles with the fact that she has not killed Luke, disobeying Palpatine’s last command. She can do so in the forest, but Luke correctly pinpoints why she does not — she is loyal to Karrde and doesn’t want to get Karrde in trouble with Thrawn. This loyalty makes Mara so much more than a one-note character. They survive the forest and Luke walks free, though Mara is still filled with hatred. But What Now? At this point, if you’re not familiar with Mara and her story, you’re probably shaking your head. The title of this article is “Mara Jade Skywalker.” How on Hoth did that happen? Well, naturally, Mara’s story does not end with the escape on Myrkr. The Thrawn crisis is gripping the Galaxy. Thrawn’s military prowess is enhanced by the powers of the mad Jedi clone Joruus C’boath. The New Republic is in chaos. Nobody knows what to do about Thrawn. There is political infighting. Leia is the subject of multiple kidnapping attempts. She is pregnant with twins, and Thrawn has promised her and her children to C’boath to train into Dark Jedi. Luke is also drawn in by C’boath, who poses as Luke’s only hope at learning more about the Jedi past. CLICK: Learn how the new STAR WARS canon gives a deeper insight into everyone’s favorite bad guy, Darth Vader! Thrawn imprisons Karrde, and Mara sets out to rescue him. She realizes, reluctantly, that the only person who can successfully help her free Karrde is Luke. She finds Luke falling under C’boath’s sway and whips away the cobwebs. Luke, realizing that C’boath is insane, leaves, but does not kill him (something Mara, of course, advocates). The two work together to save Karrde, and part ways, if not friends, at least slightly more civil enemies. Wayland In the third novel, Mara once again joins forces with Luke. The two, along with Han and Lando, head off to Wayland, the site of Palpatine’s hidden treasure room and Thrawn’s cloning enterprise. On Wayland, Luke attempts to give Mara some rudimentary Force training. He has a premonition that she will need these skills in the upcoming battle. Mara pleads with Luke to kill her before allowing her to turn to C’boath’s side. C’boath has said he had a vision of Mara kneeling at his feet. Mara will do anything to prevent that from happening. Luke will not promise to kill her but does promise to stay by her side. Mara would rather die than return to the dark side. One tough lady. Their mission on Wayland, however, is not to confront C’boath. They are searching for a way to destroy the cloning facilities. Mara remembers that there is a self-destruct in the Emperor’s throne room, and she and Luke head up. Unfortunately, C’boath is waiting. He goads Luke, who attempts to bargain for Mara’s freedom. When C’boath refuses, Luke prepares to fight for their freedom. A buzzing enters his head when a surprise opponent emerges from the shadows — himself. Luuke Skywalker Luke is facing a clone of himself grown from the hand that he lost at Bespin. C’boath insists that Luke will join him one way or another — either him or his clone. Luke is forced to duel his own clone for his life, while Mara is forced to watch. Another set of coincidences and circumstances lead to Leia, Han, and Karrde coming to their rescue. Emboldened and enraged, C’boath gleefully tries to kill them. However, in his distraction, Mara can get ahold of a lightsaber. She approaches the clone Luuke, who is being worn down by Luke, and strikes him down. In her head, she hears Palpatine’s last command: “YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER.” She may have bent the rules a little, but she has finally completed her task. The Emperor’s Hand is finished. Mara Jade ain’t nobody’s apprentice. In the end, Mara can save them all. C’boath goes into a mad rage when Mara kills Luuke and attempts to kill everyone in the throne room. Mara is forced to work with both Luke and Leia, but she can approach C’boath as he rains rubble down around them. She is forced to her knees. She looks up. Kneeling at his feet, as in his vision, Mara kills C’boath. Moving Forward All this leaves Mara a little lost. She is forced to reconsider her whole past when uncomfortable truths about Palpatine are brought to light. Without the rage that has anchored her, she does not know what to do. Luke attempts to provide her with options. He gives her his old lightsaber and tells her that she has a home now. Luke trying to welcome Mara to the good guys. Mara pops up again in multiple Legends novels. In the Corellian trilogy, Mara again helps Leia in a moment of crisis. During several other novels, Mara is on a quest with Lando and pops up when Han needs information. When Luke forms a Jedi Academy on Yavin IV, Mara stops by to see what it’s like. She leaves, later revealing that being treated like any other student, or left behind when Luke got a new star pupil, made her feel unwelcome. She wanted to feel special. Mara forms connections. She develops as a character. She is not a major player at this point, but don’t worry, she pops up enough that you don’t forget her. The Hand of Thrawn Mara comes back in a big way in Timothy Zahn’s Hand of Thrawn duology. In this series, Thrawn has supposedly returned from the dead and is threatening the fragile peace between the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant. Pellaeon, who was once Thrawn’s protégé, is now in power and seeking a peace treaty. With Thrawn’s reemergence, everything is once again thrown into chaos. READ: ComicsVerse analyses the DARTH VADER comics — see why this author thinks DARTH VADER is better than the movies! A mysterious ship had broadcasted a message in an unknown language that, according to Mara, contained Thrawn’s real name: Mith’raw’nuruodo. Believing this ship to be one of Thrawn’s people, Mara sets off. She is shot down and stranded on a strange planet. Meanwhile, Luke has had a vision of Mara lying in a pool of water as if dead. Desperate to prevent this from happening, he sets off after Mara. He finds her annoyed but unharmed. She is further annoyed that Luke had run off after her when he was probably more needed elsewhere. There is so much unspoken tension. Why is Luke so desperate to prevent his vision? His and Mara’s history is not exactly a loving one. Mara Jade Skywalker Shockingly, though, it has become one. The two struggle with unsaid feelings of jealousy, fear, inadequacy, and so on. As the two approach the fortress that shot Mara down, the atmosphere fairly sizzles. Later, when Mara is injured attempting to enter the fortress, Luke realizes that he is in love with her. He puts her in a Force trance to heal and is left with his thoughts. The two reenter the fortress and go into the lower levels, where they find a shocking surprise: a clone of Thrawn still in its tank. A beautiful, if strange, couple. A pitched battle ensues between Luke and Mara and two battle droids. To survive, the two open their minds to the Force and each other. In such a state, they can read each other’s thoughts and even emotions. There is no longer unspoken tension or unsaid feelings. The two now know they are in love, and it is reciprocated. Luke asks Mara to marry him, regardless if they survive. Of course, they do survive. They make it back to the New Republic. Dealing with many strange occurrences and mishaps, the two are married. Mara Jade has become Mara Jade Skywalker, leaving behind her hatred and anger to find love and fulfillment with the man she once swore to kill. Not the End This is not the end of Mara’s story. She continues to play a significant role in the New Jedi Order novel series. She becomes a Jedi Master and takes Jaina Solo as her apprentice. A mysterious disease strikes the galaxy, infecting her — though she is the only victim that is not killed. When the Yuuzhan Vong invade the galaxy, she is frustrated by her inability to take part in the war. Mara uses the Force to keep the disease at bay. When given a suspicious medicine, Mara takes it despite the risks. She is desperate to regain her health. In a surprise twist, Mara learns that she is pregnant. Now she must also stop the disease from killing her baby. Gripped with a new urgency, and bolstered by Luke’s strength, Mara can eradicate the disease once and for all. Similarly, our heroes can eradicate the Yuuzhan Vong threat. Mara, Luke, and their son Ben — notably, NOT Kylo Ren. New crises emerge after the Yuuzhan Vong are defeated, of course. If the galaxy were ever at peace, there would be no need for more novels (and more profits for Lucasfilm). Eventually, a new Sith Lord appears. A shocking reveal shows the Sith to be Jacen Solo, who had taken Ben Skywalker as an apprentice. In a bid to save her son, Mara challenges Jacen. She loses. I cried. THE LAST JEDI We don’t know what will happen to Mara in the new canon. She has not been explicitly denied yet. We don’t know enough about Luke’s story between RETURN OF THE JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS to know if he ever married. So it is possible that Mara shows up.A stunningly perfect Mara Jade cosplay by Eve Beauregard. Credit to Steamkittens photography. I’m of two minds about this possibility. On the one hand, I love Mara and would be excited to see her brought to life on screen. On the other, I don’t think the new canon would do her justice. I don’t want to know what happened to her that drove Luke to hermit-cy. MORE: We’re all interested in what happened to Luke! Read ComicsVerse’s take on the latest trailer for THE LAST JEDI! If Luke is given a wife, I only hope that she can somewhat resemble one of my favorite characters. Mara Jade Skywalker is cool, tough, resilient, awesome, powerful, and overall an excellent and well-developed character. I’ll miss that about the Legends Universe.