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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

CLASSIC REVIEW: 'THE CLONE WARS VISUAL GUIDE - ULTIMATE BATTLES'



STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS-VISUAL GUIDE: ULTIMATE BATTLES

Written by Jason Fry

Published by DORLING KINDERSLEY BOOKS UK


Reviewed by Scott Weller


With our hearts and minds, as well as our ruined bitten fingernails, in full anxiety mode awaiting the return of our Jedi heroes and Separatist villains for a further TV season of CLONE WARS excitement and adventure, DORLING KINDERSLEY (and LADYBIRD BOOKS), in their most infinite kindness and wisdom alongside LUCAS BOOKS, have found numerous ways of making us feel better during the interminable interim wait, unleashing a full barrage of productions to keep us happily occupied. The best by far over these summer months being the large format DK coffee table book that will stay on it for a very long time and which will have to be prized away from you before you’ll consign it to a shelf-THE CLONE WARS-VISUAL GUIDE: ULTIMATE BATTLES.

If you thought the first Visual Guide book last year was great, I’m more than happy to report that this one’s even better, going beyond the earlier work and encompassing the entire first full season of the series (but truly taking over in depth from CLOAK OF DARKNESS onwards) and including some mouth watering info and photos of two Series Two episodes yet to air (more on that later...). Regular scribe Jason Fry delves deep into the Lucas holocrons to give us all the best info on the characters (friend and fiend), droids, planets, technologies, and weaponry being used throughout the galaxy wide Clone War, as well as outlining the tragic and successful continuing events that are shaping the season of war into such an important factor within the STAR WARS cannon, and bridging Episodes II into III and beyond- how the war has escalated so far and how quickly it has affected its players, for good and for evil, and the worlds that have now become their manipulated battlefields.

Keeping the stylistic design factor present from all the other DORLING KINDERSLEY books of this type (and all the better for it), the picture choices for the books many spreads are wonderful and really do great justice to the individual episodes and their wide variety of scope and adventure-surely STAR WARS at its best. The book is called ULTIMATE BATTLES and they are certainly all here-from the massive armies in conflict grandeur of Christophsis, and the epic mission by Republic forces to re-take the planet Ryloth, to the more intimate lightsaber duels between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker versus Asajj Ventress, to the fight for survival within the Lair of Grievous, to the escapee from the nick of time atmospheric clash between Jedi and Super Battle Droids in JEDI CRASH-this covers ‘em all beautifully.

The informative copy provided by Fry provides all the necessary detail needed, though, intriguingly, some of the events and character information he has imparted via his close work with the writers of THE CLONE WARS series seems to have unintentionally upset the LUCAS BOOKS applecart, with one popular author within the range sadly leaving the actual THE CLONE WARS/STAR WARS books series she was so beloved for, for reasons of the animated series continuity clashing with what had already been established with certain characters existing within the Expanded Universe of STAR WARS. Sad to hear, but its Lucas’s universe-THE CLONE WARS is his baby and he has come up with the majority of the storylines and certain specific characters so far-his universe, his rules.

Past the text, check out and savour the beautiful layout spreads that showcase such great art depth that you simply won’t get on your TV screen unless you’re watching it on something like a 56 inch size set or at a cinema-just look at the pages for Cloak of Darkness (pgs 32/33), Lair of Grievous (pgs 38/39), Dooku Captured (48/49), Jedi Crash (54/55), Defenders of Peace (64/65).

And then there’s those tantalizing glimpses of the Season Two episodes. Rise of the Bounty Hunters is the new series subtitle and from the looks of things such a naming certainly seems apt- the books last six pages show the villainous Cad Bane and his motley band of vicious bounty hunters and thugs in the upcoming episode Cargo of Doom (an adventure originally planned for Series One but held over for Two instead) and mentioning The Holocron Heist. Some superb imagery and some intriguing story info from Fry point to a darker, harder edged series to come-leaving you wanting much, much more-and the animated series will be all the better and richer story-wise for it.

The ULTIMATE BATTLES book is, to steal half its title, the ultimate visual/information tribute to THE CLONE WARS episodes (so far), and its sadly one and only movie- a wonderful testament to all the talented writers and craftsmen that are still putting so much work into making it such a great experience and pleasure for STAR WARS fans of all ages to watch. Special kudos, too, to the DORLING KINDERSLEY people, who are showing equally strong passion and commitment to such quality products as this, and at such a worthwhile purchase price. In many ways, this is ultimately a much more exemplary and unique book for CLONE WARS fans than TITAN BOOKS own ART OF THE CLONE WARS which, though focusing on a different aspect of the show’s visual style and production, is way over priced and with very little meat on the bone text-wise. If you want a great book representing the on-screen spirit, fun, colour and excitement of this series, as well as a wonderful tribute to the original STAR WARS visualizers like Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston (of which the new series has a look deliberately in homage to them), look no further than the ULTIMATE BATTLES book for fulfilling that criteria.


AFICIONADO RATING: With a book front and back cover alone promising a visually more ambitious and exciting book-and that’s not being derogatory to the first Visual Guide, which was also an excellent production-this is a superb book presentation. Great value for money that fans of all ages will enjoy reading in full, and then dipping in and out of for years to come. 10 out of 10

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