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A graphic novel by Tim Truman, Tom Lyle, and Robert Jones (2001, Dark Horse Comics)
Republic comics #13-18
32 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Half the Jedi Council is sent to oversee peace negotiations on the "neutral" ground of Malastare.



2 stars+

Read January 27th to 28th, 2006  
    I was bored through most of this book. There seemed to be no purpose to any of it. Did the Jedi settle the negotiations? Did Mace Windu stop the importing of the giant beasts?

I suppose that Attack of the Clones also rendered this storyline obsolete, as two members of the Jedi Council know who their parents are! They obviously still have attachments. I was unclear on the state of Adi Galia's parents, too. Were they still alive? If so, would it not have been wise to include them? I would guess that the old Prince died, even though he was once saved by Even Piell. Since when does a Prince rule, instead of a King?

The less said about Mace Windu's adventures to Nar Shadda, the better. I have never warmed to the character, and all of the stories about him have made me dislike him further. 



2 stars

Read on April 7th, 2002  
    Not very interesting, with three plots that seem to be disjointed, a mission that is paradoxically not resolved, and an intrusion into podracing that seems superfluous.

I was pretty ambivalent about this book.  It had some ups and downs, but didn't really go high up or far down.  It was sort of middle of the road, neither impressing me nor did I dislike it. 

I did enjoy the beginning, with A'Sharad being tested by the Dark Lady.  Is she the same one who lost Vergere in Rogue Planet?  I don't remember.  She's not given a name here, but she did appear in Outlander, since she trained Aurra Sing.  That mini-plotline was given a small appearance here, and will undoubtedly become of greater importance in future installments.  It is not mentioned why A'Sharad, Ki Adi Mundi's Padawan, is being tested.  Presumably he would be "too old to begin the training" as Yoda said of Luke in Empire, so in order to let him in the ranks of Jedi Padawans, his knowledge needs to be tested.  The Dark Woman's methods are tough, but she pushes him to the edge, where he might have struck her down in anger, showing a potential for the Dark Side.  But A'Sharad keeps his cool, blocking her advances with his two lightsabers, and reversing their positions when she pins him to the wall.  She defeats him, of course, but he passes the test marvelously.  She leaves somehow, through a magical corridor, in the only part of this segment that I did not like.  It appears that she disappeared through a shimmering curtain, as does Quinlan Voss later in the story on Nar Shadda. Why, and what kind of teleportation do the Jedi possess?

Regardless, the story doesn't stick around to investigate, and that's good. A'Sharad's training continues when they reach Malastare. Here the Senator Aks Moe has agreed to host peace talks between the inhabitants of Lannik.  One set is a group of terrorists, who have been at it for nearly a generation, it seems.  The terrorists feign to be tired of fighting, and want peace.  In fact, this is only a ruse to get close to the prince. 

The most interesting part of the negotiations is A'Sharad's impatience, and his nervousness at being in a city.  It is interesting to see how A'Sharad is always trying to be outside, whether it's on Coruscant or on Malastare.  He smells the desert on the latter planet, and obviously longs to be out there.  This means he is a little over-sensitive, and he can detect betrayal earlier than the others.  Unfortunately, after a talk with Ki Adi Mundi and Plo Koon, A'Sharad virtually disappears for the rest of the book.

In what seems like a decision of the writers, only members of the Jedi Council are chosen to go, and A'Sharad is the only Padawan to join them.  Don't the other members of the Jedi Council have Padawans?  Ki doesn't get much to do, and neither does Plo Koon.  Mace Windu gets to look and talk stern, but he seems mischaracterized some of the time.  He says he thought the Dark Woman was dead, and didn't recognize Quinlan Voss.  Isn't he the head of the order?  Yoda, who is not on this mission (because we are to think these guys could be in mortal danger, and we know that Yoda must survive), is also poorly written.  He has always been portrayed as speaking in a very precise manner.  His "backwards" phrasing has a natural ring to it.  Here, everything was backwards.  He has never said "with you, may the Force be" before.  Some things he can get right.  Yaddle is the same way, even when suppressing the violent wills of Gammorean guards. 

The story, from the Jedi point of view, is about Even Piell, whose homeworld is the one involved in the dispute, and Adi Gallia, whose Corellian parents tried to settle the same dispute when she was young.  Piell single-handedly stopped suicide bombers from destroying the Prince (why not King?) and the Corellian delegation. 

We don't get to know what the war is about, but it must be about power.  There is a new Prince of Lannik now, and he seems to only want pleasures of the flesh, and has no interest in the welfare of his planet.  But he seems to enjoy his power, and fights against the terrorists.  The negotiations break down before they even get started -actually, they get started while the reader is subjected to podraces, but they break down soon after we return.  Mace Windu calls a break in the proceedings, and they are all taken back to their dwellings. 

And here is where the podracing comes into the front of the story.  Thanks to a brief appearance by Anakin Skywalker, we know that there is a big podrace on Malastare right now!  It is even bigger than the Boonta Eve race he was in on Tatooine.  I blew through all the pages that contained podracing very quickly.  Although the colors were vibrant, compared to the rest of the book, they were completely superfluous -filler material.  I think it was supposed to give us a bit of comedy, but it failed.  Large, full-page drawings of the podraces did not inspire me, and neither did watching Sebulba reign down terror on his competitors.  Though we do learn that he was charged for his misconduct on Tatooine.  We also learn how the dugs are subjugated by the Gran on Malastare.  Interesting -is it only because Sebulba is a good podracer that he is allowed off-planet?

The Jedi are ferried back to their hotel with the advisor to the Prince.  This is a man who served the Prince's father, and who knows Even Piell.  But the man is so distraught by the new Prince that he has actually joined with the terrorists!  Why he decides to blow up the Jedi is beyond me.  He and his guards are strapped with bombs, but the Jedi escape rather easily, making themselves a nuisance to Sebulba as he travels underneath them as they fall.  If the terrorists wanted to get rid of the Prince, why destroy the Jedi?  It looks like the authors wanted to frame the deaths of the Jedi on the Prince, but then why attack the Prince while he is relaxing?  Was this their backup plan?  If so, it seems that this backup would have worked better than the original.  For since the Jedi were now aware of the terrorists' involvement, they came to the help of the Prince.  If they had been unaware, the Prince could have been easily killed. 

Which leads to another cliché of the story: the lead terrorist doesn't kill the Prince, but decides that a slow death would be better.  How the giant dog-monsters would have been a slower death is beyond me.  At the end of the story, they ripped that man apart rather quickly.  Painfully, but quickly.  And I'm sure Zug could have found inventive and painful ways to deal the death blow.  But since he decided to bring in the monsters, he leaves time for the Jedi to rescue the Prince.  Though the Prince doesn't seem too grateful: and all he wants to do is get back to his pleasurable pursuits. 

And so the mission to Malastare is over!  Just like that.  We know that behind the scenes, Aks Moe, Zug (who dies by flying into a podracer engine), and a Ffib priest (whatever that is -it's not explained) were conspiring, but I don't know what their ultimate goal was.  It seemed like it was the death of the Jedi, but it could have been the death of the Prince, also. 

And so they leave Malastare.  But Mace is unhappy about the appearance of the Akk Dogs, which are from his home planet (which is also never given a name, conveniently).  He travels to Nar Shadda to investigate.

My favorite character in this installment was Adi Gallia.  She was drawn so beautifully, and she looks the most interesting, as well.  I love her headgear.  She is truly a beautiful woman.  I liked the way she fought, as well.  She and Even fought side-by-side when attacked at the spaceport on Malastare, and did a truly inspired job, even if she did utter some poor dialog. 

But she doesn't follow Mace to Nar Shadda, unfortunately.  This chapter seems completely unrelated to what came before it.  There is no follow-up to any of what happened on Malastare, except for the Akk Dogs.  Mace and Depa Billaba, another Council member who followed him, rescue an old and senile woman on Nar Shadda.  She tells them where to find his Akk Dogs, along with help from Quinlan Voss, but they are attacked as they reach the lowest levels of Nar Shadda. 

Down there, a gladiatorial circus is being presented, where the authors also decide to show some poor attempts at humor.  I did chuckle a little when the gladiator's arm was torn off by the announcer, but how was he able to replace it?  What kind of species does that?  The "circus" is sponsored by Gargonn the Hutt, whom I think reappears in a later book, though I can't be sure.  Was he the inept Hutt in the middle of Jedi Eclipse?  Regardless, he only has half a head, and is slowly re-growing it. Gross! Mace indicates that he might have a whole head in another century, which would put him halfway healed in the time of the New Jedi Order. 

Crash-landing in the ring, Mace and Depa are forced to fight the Akk Dogs, who have been so distorted physically and mentally that Mace can no longer even communicate with them, as he would have been able to do on his home planet, and as he did on Malastare. 

They are saved by a riot that breaks out over a bet on the lives of the Jedi that went sour.  A Devaronian better, who won on the podraces on Tatooine when Anakin won the race, ends up running for his life as Sebulba leads a group who want their winnings after the Jedi are not slaughtered so quickly.  The Jedi leap out of the ring and confront Gargonn, who implicates the owner of the circus of importing the Akk Dogs. 

Strangely enough, after capturing the owner, they are convinced that the illegal trade is over.  Why?  Is this the only importer?  And how would they know, only having been on Nar Shadda for a matter of hours? 

In fact, there are so many loose threads that this entire book would look like an old rag.  A priest was captured on Malastare, but we never learn of what involvement he had.  Was the whole thing set up by the Sith?  They are mentioned several times, mostly as a warning against trusting people, but we never see behind the scenes to confirm this. 

What purpose did the assassination attempt on Sebulba serve?  He obviously survived, but is he even aware of the attempt?  And what happens next to the assassin?  The mini-plot is left hanging.

I also want to know how long it took Mace to get to Nar Shadda.  The Devaronian had an issue of Podracing Quarterly, which had the results from Malastare -in print form.  I wish my magazines could be that up-to-date.  Sebulba also had time to get there from Malastare.  Something seems amiss.

The art was well-drawn, except for several instances where Mace looked more like a ten-year-old than a grand Jedi Master.  I liked the grand chambers on Malastare.  Most of the characters were drawn really well, also.  One exception was Yoda.  Yuck- he was ugly here!  Adi Gallia, however, was wonderful, even when she was drawn green-skinned.  And at least the podraces were colorful, giving at least some merit to those pages.

The story was rather disjointed, however.  There were many meaningless things going on, from the podraces to the strange exchange of lightsabers in the Jedi Council.  And way too little was accomplished.  It felt like the story was running in place.  It left me feeling like nobody could decide on what it should have been about.  In the end, I have decided that it was not really about anything, except for the opening sequences, where A'Sharad learned some lessons.  Hopefully we will see him put them to good use in later stories. 


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