We got a ton of new Star Wars content in 2021.
Though it paled in comparison with what came in 2020 and especially pales in comparison with what is to come in 2022, we are in the midst of an incredible time to be a Star Wars fan. Consider that a “down” year for the franchise still gave us a brand new TV series, a brand new massive publishing initiative spanning tons of books and comics, the largest Star Wars comic crossover we’ve seen, and much more! Pretty impressive.
So, much like I’ve done for 2018 and 2019 and 2020, let’s hand out some awards for the very best of Star Wars in 2021!
Winner: LEGO Star Wars: Terrifying Tales
Just like last year, there was no theatrically released Star Wars film, so the only candidate to choose from here is the LEGO Star Wars: Terrifying Tales special that was released in October to celebrate Halloween. It tells the story of Poe Dameron and BB-8 crash-landing on Mustafar – only to discover that Graballa the Hutt is turning Vader’s Castle into a luxury hotel. From there, Vaneé tells the crew a series of terrifying tales that are quite entertaining. This special was really well-done and I love the LEGO projects, which is something I hope continues. Though I didn’t find this quite as good as the LEGO Holiday Special that came out the previous year, it was still very fun, beautifully animated, and enjoyable to watch.
Winner: The Bad Batch
Picking up on the incredible momentum of the final season The Clone Wars last year, a brand new animated series debuted this year about The Bad Batch, which shows the squad of clones trying to fit in to the changing galaxy in the days following Order 66 and the fall of the Republic. It had a fantastic first season that really felt like a continuation of TCW while branching out into new territories as well. It tells a compelling story with absolutely stunning animation. It’s the best an animated Star Wars series has ever looked.
Honorable Mention: Visions
Winner: Light of the Jedi (by Charles Soule)
This year saw Lucasfilm Publishing taken over by the launch of the High Republic, and it’s been incredible. There have been several novels already released with many more to come, and the first two of the ‘staple’ stories (the main adult novels) have both been among my all-time favorite Star Wars books. So, yeah, there’s a lot to choose from this year (and that’s not even mentioning many other non-High Republic books released too!). But while Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm is incredibly deserving and one of my favorite Star Wars books ever, so too is Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi, and I can’t imagine a more deserving candidate than it. This is the book that carries the full weight of introducing us to a brand new era and brand new characters and a brand new story, and it does so incredibly well. If you’re not too familiar with Star Wars books and are wondering where to dive in, this might just be the place.
Honorable Mention: The Rising Storm (by Cavan Scott)
Winner: The High Republic (by Cavan Scott)
This was a huge year for Star Wars comics, with several new series set in The High Republic and the continuation of many ongoing comics – most of which combined for a massive crossover event that spanned much of the year, focusing on the War of the Bounty Hunters. There was a ton of storytelling that happened through comics this year, and so this category is filled with more competition than most. But to me, one stands out as the slight favorite, and that’s the main The High Republic line by Cavan Scott. Keeve Trennis is the main character, and she’s quickly become one of my very favorite Jedi from the era. But to say it’s just about Keeve as the main character would be doing a disservice to the many other Jedi who take center stage, including the mysterious Trandoshan Jedi Master Skeer, the Jedi Master and Marshal of Starlight Beacon Avar Kriss, and the twin Jedi Ceret and Terec who operate almost as one. The comic tells a great story, and it ties in so well with all of the other material from the era we’re reading about. And it’s not just about filling in gaps but also telling significant developments, such that the books also reference it. The story and the art are both fantastic, and in a year of excellent comic storytelling this one stands at the top.
Honorable Mention: War of the Bounty Hunters (by Charles Soule), Trail of Shadows (Daniel José Older)
Winner: “Aftermath” (The Bad Batch)
I’m deviating ever so slightly from what I wrote following the conclusion of the first season of The Bad Batch and actually giving this award to the premiere episode of the show, “Aftermath.” And the reason why is because I think this is the most complete, most significant, and most engaging episode of Star Wars that aired in 2021. “Aftermath” kicks off a brand new series, but also has to transition from The Clone Wars to The Bad Batch. It does so with astounding success, and it makes this show feel both like a continuation of the classic series and yet something new. It connects to The Clone Wars and Rebels that came before it, it marks a landmark achievement in Lucasfilm Animation’s visual beauty, and it tells a thrilling story introducing us to the characters (particularly Omega) and setting up the conflict that will carry us through the entire rest of the season. Plus, it helps that it’s the closest thing we got to an actual Star Wars film this year, since the episode is a 75-minute series premiere. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Honorable Mention: “Return to Kamino” (The Bad Batch), “War-Mantle” (The Bad Batch), “Battle Scars” (The Bad Batch), “The Ninth Jedi” (Visions)
Winner: Lucasfilm Games is reborn
For as big of a year as it was for Star Wars comics releasing, it was equally as quiet of a year for Star Wars games releasing. There were a couple of LEGO games released for Apple Arcade, and that’s about it. Support for the console games has stopped, and the flagship mobile game, Galaxy of Heroes, is in a precarious spot. So what do I give this award to? Well since I’m the one making the rules, I’m going to come from a bit of a different angle with this award and, instead of giving it to a particular game, give it to what was by far the biggest and best development of the year in this category: the launch of Lucasfilm Games! The new label will work with all future projects, and it brings an end to EA’s exclusivity license – which is great news for Star Wars fans. And with it has come announcements about several games, including an open-world game from Ubisoft, a new Indiana Jones game, the recently-announced Eclipse, and more. And in 2022 is coming LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (hopefully), a new mobile game in Hunters, and perhaps even more. For the last several years the Star Wars gaming industry hasn’t exactly been keeping up with the other mediums of storytelling, but that looks to be changing slowly but surely with Lucasfilm Games.
Honorable Mention: LEGO Star Wars Battles
Winner: “The Book of Boba Fett” (by Ludwig Goransson)
We’ve had just one episode of The Book of Boba Fett so far, which is why it’s not getting much attention here – but one area where it does already stand out is in the main theme for the series, composed by Ludwig Goransson (who also provided the score for The Mandalorian). It sounds like his longtime collaborator Joseph Shirley is providing the score for this series, but Goransson did the theme, and it’s terrific. Even after just hearing it for the first time a few days ago, it’s already really catchy and fun. There were once again several great options to choose from in 2021, and Kevin Kiner’s work on The Bad Batch was phenomenal like always, but I’m giving the nod to this theme.
Honorable Mention: “Omega’s Theme” (by Kevin Kiner); “The Ninth Jedi” (by Nobuko Toda and Kazuma Jinnouchi); “The Village Bride” (by Kevin Penkin and Emi Evans)
Winner: Dee Bradley Baker
The main Star Wars series of the whole year, The Bad Batch, featured five main characters – four of whom were voiced by Dee Bradley Baker. He provided the voice for Hunter, Wrecker, Echo, and Tech, as well as voiced Rex, Cut, Howzer, Gregor, and the other clone troopers in the series too. He does a remarkable job of distinguishing them so that fans can quickly adjust to who is actually talking, while keeping them similar enough that we remember they are clones. It’s an amazing testament to Baker as a voice actor, and it’s never been on display more than in The Bad Batch, where literally the entire pitch for the series relies on him talking with himself quite often – and as several different characters. He deserves a lot of credit for making The Bad Batch work, just like he did for The Clone Wars before it.
Honorable Mention: Temuera Morrison
Winner: Kamino is destroyed; Qi’ra returns (tie)
I’m giving this one to two different events, since I was going back and forth on it for a few days and instead decided to just have a tie. And it’s that the biggest surprises of the year in Star Wars storytelling were the destruction of Kamino and the return of Qi’ra. The Bad Batch took us back to Kamino and explored the clones in the immediate aftermath of the Purge, which was especially interesting. But while many of us expected it wold lead to a clone uprising on the planet, it led instead to a far more stunning result: an Imperial orbital bombardment of Tipoca City that sank it to the depths of the sea. In a very different medium and very different era, the War of the Bounty Hunters comic gave us the bombshell reveal that Qi’ra was back, as the leader of Crimson Dawn, and was re-emerging onto the scene with an elaborate plan. Both of these moments were genuine stunners, and both of them were handled really well by their respective storytellers.
Honorable Mention: Cad Bane returns; Lucasfilm Games is launched
Winner: Charles Soule
I’ve been a fan of Charles Soule’s Star Wars storytelling for a long time now, and he’s actually been an honorable mention in this category in two of the past three years of me doing these awards – but this year, with three-time champion Dave Filoni busy working primarily on other projects not yet released, Soule easily runs away with the title in 2021. He wrote Light of the Jedi, the novel which kicked off the High Republic era and is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars books. He continued writing the main Star Wars comic line, which is telling the story in-between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. And he wrote the War of the Bounty Hunters mini-series, which was the main heartbeat of the massive crossover initiative. Plus, his newest mini-series, Crimson Reign, just began in December, telling the story of Qi’ra’s leadership of Crimson Dawn. And because he just keeps going, in January his newest project is launching, Eye of the Storm, which tells some backstory about Marchion Ro. Soule’s fingerprints are all over some of the biggest Star Wars stories of the year, and he’s doing it with the same high quality we’ve come to expect from him.
Honorable Mention: Cavan Scott
BEST STAR WARS STORY:
Winner: The High Republic
I typically give this to a specific project, but this year I’m going with the entire High Republic storytelling initiative. It’s spanned a number of books and comics, beginning a story set in a brand new era of Star Wars lore. The High Republic is set around 200 years prior to the events of The Phantom Menace, and features an almost entirely new cast of characters (with a few familiar faces like Yoda), in an entirely new situation, facing an entirely new threat. It’s described as a golden era of the Jedi and Republic, and the team of storytellers really makes that obvious. Amidst the rising threat of the Nihil, there are tons of awesome Jedi who are immediately lovable. To establish a brand new era and brand new characters and make them almost instantly favorites is an incredibly difficult task, and to tell a compelling enough story to garner interest may be just as difficult. But the story told by the High Republic authors so far is easily my favorite of the year. To have Star Wars stories in publishing that feel this unique and important is a breath of fresh air and a return to a former era of Star Wars fandom, yet the coordination and precision of this project makes it stand out even then. Simply put, the High Republic has not just lived up to expectations but exceeded them in nearly every way. It’s the clear and well-deserved winner of this award – for light and life!
Honorable Mention: The Bad Batch