Anakin Skywalker returns on the new cover for Thrawn: Alliances. The Star Wars novel comes from author Timothy Zahn, the man who created Thrawn in the 90s and helped bring him back to life with his novel Thrawn last year. This new book will see the famed, blue Imperial bad guy crossing paths with Darth Vader, which is something many hardcore Star Wars fans have dreamed of for a long time. But this new cover, which will be a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, features a pre-Vader, straight-up Hayden Christensen Anakin standing with Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Fans will likely feel conflicted about this image. There are a great many who hate the Star Wars prequels and much of the blame is aimed squarely at Hayden Christensen. That said, the character of Anakin Skywalker is undeniably important and the idea of him crossing paths with someone like Thrawn is no doubt interesting, to say the least. Not only that, but since Disney took over Lucasfilm, more and more fans seem to be easing up on their prequel hate. Christensen was even welcomed with open arms at Star Wars Celebration a couple of years ago. As such, this cover for Thrawn: Alliances reveals it may be time to heal old wounds and revisit the character in new ways. Based on the synopsis for the novel, the return of Anakin sounds rather exciting.

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root, its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor's favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs, including the Death Star project, the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it's not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there's more behind his royal command than either man suspects In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown . . . and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance, neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged, by a test of their allegiance to the Empire . . . and an enemy that threatens even their combined might."

Despite the fact that Grand Admiral Thrawn has never appeared in a live-action movie, he's arguably one of the greatest villains in the Star Wars universe. Timothy Zahn first introduced the character in the Heir to the Empire trilogy of novels in the 90s. Even though they're no longer considered canon, the character has endured in the hearts of fans and, outside of these new novels, he was also featured heavily in Star Wars Rebels. He's in many ways the polar opposite of Darth Vader, which is part of what makes them crossing paths so compelling.

Thrawn: Alliances is set to arrive on July 24. Those in attendance at SDCC will be able to get hold of a copy with this special cover at the Del Rey booth. If you're not quite sold on the novel just yet, an excerpt was also released that features an encounter between Anakin and Thrawn which may help get you on board. You can head on over to StarWars.com to listen to the audio clip or to read the excerpt for yourself. You can check out the Anakin Skywalker cover for yourself below.

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Ryan Scott