Review: Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor

Reference books and visual guides aren’t usually the sort of Star Wars item that I consider my thing. They’re neat, of course, and fun to flip through at a friend’s but when there’s only so much money in your bank account, you can’t get everything. Not so here. Much like the Star Wars Propaganda book from last year, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor by Ryder Windham and Adam Bray is one of those books that caught my interest completely from the moment I started paging through it right up until I closed it.

Windham and Bray do a fantastic job of taking readers through the ages from the birth of the stormtrooper in pre-production for A New Hope all the way up to all the armor designs we’ll be seeing in The Last Jedi next month. It’s an informative history that manages to be both a deep dive and remain high level enough so more casual readers will still be able to follow along. It’s divided into seven chapters with the first six moving chronologically and with the seventh devoted on how stormtroopers have permeated our culture. Leia and Luke might be the heroes but stormtroopers… stormtroopers are what the entire world knows on sight.

If you’re either a member or a fan of the 501st Legion, this book is a must buy. The Legion gets a ton of page time and plenty of nods from the writers. It’s pretty awesome to see an organization that’s 12,000+ strong across the world get so much respect in official Star Wars literature. Likewise, it’s fascinating to read about all of the work that originally went into creating these costumes. We may have to spend hours trimming and forming the armor to us and rigging it to fit but we also have the benefit of the expertise of other Legion members who’ve built the costume before and even if they haven’t, we know how to generally make armor work. The original builders not only had to design and create the armor pieces but figure out how to get it on and off the actors relatively quickly. You know the saying about respecting those who came before us? Yeah. It applies here.

That’s not to say that the book is only of interest if you’ve been elbow deep in armor building before. Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor is on a mission to ensure that you learn something every chapter. While we all know that the potential for toys likely plays a big role in the existence of all the different trooper types, the book shows how the two went hand in hand for years. The toys certainly had quite a bit to do with Star Wars’ staying power, even during the dark ages. The book also includes plenty of reference to the novels, comics, and video games that also helped shape the world’s perception of stormtroopers. Plenty of it might be Legends now but their lasting affect on the Star Wars universe is recognized and given its due. Included with the book are five prints/reproductions that can be framed or otherwise displayed; a nice side benefit to a book that already earns its price tag. This is in addition to all of the gorgeous photos and illustrations and the half dozen or so pull out pages.

Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor is one of those companion books that focuses on just one aspect of the saga but follows it all the way through in such a way that it feels like a key piece to truly appreciating the franchise. Star Wars is a unique cultural phenomenon and Windham and Bray capture a part of that with their work here. This is a must have for any costumers, film history buffs, dark side supporters, or fans who want to gain a deeper appreciation for stormtroopers.

Thank you to Wunderkind PR for providing a copy of the book for review purposes.

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