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ALL TIMELINES

THE BEST BLADES

A graphic novel by John Ostrander, Hayden Blackman, and Jeremy Barlow (2004, Dark Horse Comics)
Republic comics #60-62, 64, and Jedi: Yoda
21 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Senators and Jedi begin to suspect corruption in the Chancellor, Obi-Wan escapes his prison, and Yoda discovers that winning the war might not be worth the cost.

 

 

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Read on August 27th, 2005  
    Like all sets of short stories, some are good, and some are not really worth reading. In general, however, the artwork was better than usual, with some very interesting styles.

I really enjoyed Dead Ends, by far the best story in this book. It is here that we get what is probably the first stirrings of the Alliance to Restore the Republic. Bail Organa is trusted by Mon Mothma to hear some reports that the Senate (or the Chancellor, more to the point) is trying to repress. The details of the pullout from the Last Stand on Jabiim are known only to the Jedi; Organa can't even get a private discussion about them.

The highlight of the tale comes in the form of a visit from former Chancellor Valorum, whom nobody has seen in since the events of The Phantom Menace. Once Valorum raises Organa's suspicions, however, he is killed. Palpatine obviously has spies planted throughout the Senators homes. This only galvanizes Organa's and Mothma's feelings that something is wrong with Palpatine, which obviously leads into the trust that Yoda and Obi-Wan put into him during Revenge of the Sith.

An attack on Organa's ship at the beginning of the story allows Palpatine to "reluctantly" support another security bill, giving him even more powers.

Anakin is featured quickly in this story, and I wonder that he has so much patience for everybody calling him Young Skywalker. It occurs in another story, as well. He is pretty much grown up now, and will soon face the trials. Because they think that Obi-Wan was killed on Jabiim, Ki-Adi-Mundi has taken him as his Padawan. There is also a small reference to the last story in Last Stand on Jabiim, where Anakin helped repel a Separatist attack while paired with the Tusken Jedi, Asharad Hett.

The story appears to be only loosely connected to the rest of the Republic series, but it tells an important tale, of what is happening in the Senate while the Jedi and the troops are out fighting. Although I have not been impressed with the political stories in the prequel era so far, like Cloak of Deception and others, I would like to see more of these kinds of tales if they are told as well as this.

Artwork in this story was very good as well. I liked the details in people's faces, especially Palpatine's when he is threatening Organa. The flashback to the failed battle by the Jedi was full of amazing details, and great colors.

The story Bloodlines shows how far Palpatine is willing to go to keep his identity secret until the time is right. This story is told backwards, and we keep jumping back in time! It starts with the death of a Jedi, one who was good friends with Palpatine since he became a senator. He and his Padawan suggest privately to Palpatine that a midi-chlorian test on all Senators would prove the identity of a Sith on the Senate. The Chancellor appears to take this into consideration, but when the Jedi are sent on a mission, he lays a trap that will kill them both, so that the plan never even reaches the ears of the Jedi Council. It's a wonder that these are the only Jedi with the courage to make this suggestion, as it is an obvious tactic. They wouldn't even have to tell the Senators what it was about -call it a vaccine, requiring a blood sample. The Chancellor would, of course, need to know, which is the main problem, as he would undoubtedly implicate somebody else.

Jedi Master Ronhar was one of the rare Jedi to know his family, though he disassociates himself from his father as much as possible. Being the last of his bloodline, however, his father wanted him to raise a family. His father was senator for Naboo, until he is killed while trying to have a talk with his son. Ronhar doesn't know if the assassin was after the senator or the Jedi, but we do, when introduced to the replacement senator -Palpatine.

The artwork was more rough in this story, tracing lines in obvious pencil, but I liked it a lot, just the same. Once again, the features on Palpatine's face when somebody is on his trail, was very telling. The colors were outstanding in the garden- is this a senate garden or part of the Jedi temple?

Hate and Fear is my least favorite story in the book. Obi-Wan's escape from Assaj Ventress was very underwhelming, and did nothing at all for me. The artwork was not at all pleasing, with few details and no interesting stuff besides what the characters were doing. Obi-Wan, who has been in a Sith mask to keep his mind unfocused for weeks, can still use the Force enough to smash some pipes above him when the clone trooper Alpha is placed in the same cell as him. This shorts out the handcuffs on the clone, who then frees Obi-Wan. They free all of the prisoners in Ventress' cells for distraction, and make their escape. Obi-Wan has another brief lightsaber fight with Ventress, steals her ship and the lightsaber of her first Jedi Master. We get a backstory on Ventress (finally), which is equally uninteresting, in which a Jedi crash-landed on her home planet and took her under his wing, since she had Force-sensitivity. They put an end to the violence on the planet, and ended up ruling there until he was murdered. It seems that Ventress has been out for vengeance ever since.

Also uninteresting was Obi-Wan's rescue, in No Man's Land, although I liked the development of his connection with Anakin. The Force points Anakin, who is on another mission against pirates with Ki-Adi-Mundi and others, in the direction of Obi-Wan's ship, which has been disabled by Ventress' forces. I really liked the way the other Jedi allowed Anakin to follow his feelings, even when Ki didn't believe him. Reckless as he is, he goes straight in for the rescue, as first Ventress' forces are after his Master on the ground, then bounty hunters. Ki is as frustrated by Anakin as Obi-Wan has ever been, as the young Jedi doesn't follow protocols. Together, without verbal communication, Obi-Wan and Anakin lead the bounty hunters into a trap of their own.

The artwork in this story was both good and bad. I liked, again, the detail, but compared to the best stories, the colors were muted (except for explosions), and I didn't like the look of the characters. I also didn't like the floating heads that abounded everywhere, cutting across scenes.

The final story is the Jedi: Yoda tale, called The Best Blades. This is quite a sad tale, in which Yoda goes to see an old friend who is seceding his planet from the Republic because of the corruption that he sees there. Two Jedi Masters were killed in an attack, leaving two headstrong Padawans in command. Maybe it was the computer-generated artwork, which looked very anime-style, and the fact that their heads were too large for their bodies, but they didn't look older than fifteen years old -much too young to be commanding a battle fleet.

Yoda's diplomatic mission does not go well, and he is voluntarily imprisoned with one of the hot-headed Padawans, who is constantly on the offensive, first against the natives, then against Yoda himself. Times have changed, and this is war, he says, thinking that Yoda should either change or retire. The boy is too young to know what the Republic was like before the Clone Wars and corruption, so he doesn't understand why the older Jedi try to adhere to the old ways. When the Padawan inevitably dies, he does so blaming Yoda for everything, rather than seeing reason. In order to make certain that his people keep fighting to secede, the King kills himself. I didn't believe his death, though it was more of a dramatic and meaningful one, as he points a blaster at Yoda, forcing the Jedi to defend himself. The blast is deflected back to the King, where I thought Yoda should be able to deflect it anywhere he wanted to. Still, it served as a reminder to Yoda that they have lost many of the values they are fighting to protect. The young ones like the action, and even old friends cannot agree on the best course.

I liked the artwork in this story for its style. Sometimes it looked very obvious, with no shading, even, on objects, that it was computer-generated. But I loved the backgrounds, when they were present, especially in the King's garden. The colors there were so vibrant that they made the story brighter just by being there. The blurred trees in several panels served as terrific backgrounds to Yoda's conversation with Thustra's King Alaric.

On another front, the Padawan who was left with the troops is forced to make a pre-emptive strike against the gathering native troops, thus disobeying Yoda. I wonder what happened to her after the mission? I can't figure out why she is wearing today's clothing styles, with bare arms and midriff, when the other Jedi wear their traditional robes. More dissent among the Jedi, I suppose -or perhaps Aayla Secura has started a trend!

A variety of stories was told in this book, which makes it less coherent than the last couple. There is only the idea of corruption and suspicion about the Senate tying some of the stories together, combined with the return of Obi-Wan. I still hope that Dark Horse Comics will return to long story arcs which can be combined into single books. Ah, well, the stories continue to be good, at least. 

 
   

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