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A graphic novel by John Ostrander, and Jan Duursema (2005, Dark Horse Comics)
Republic comics #72-77
21 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

The Jedi forces lay siege to a Separatist world growing clone soldiers of their own, as Quinlan Vos attempts to find the identity of the Second Sith Lord.




Read on February 5th, 2008  
    This book was like a movie -it had great visual style, an actual story, real characters, and a full blown personal crisis worthy of the Dark Side as a climax.

I much prefer the long, multipart stories like this one compared to the one-shot short story collections that we got in much of this series, though many of those turned out well, regardless. But this one is even more consistent because it has the same artists and writers all the way through.

The first story, Trackdown, is a prelude to the big siege of the second one, but aside from the months that separate it, the two flow together as one. Given the events of Revenge of the Sith, I can see the plotlines here running down. Everybody has to end up at the right place by the start of the movie. We know that Aayla Secura and Quinlan Vos are on different planets at that time, and we also know that both are acting as generals for the Republic. That means Vos has to come back from the shadows somewhat, at least in the eyes of the Jedi.

The story opens shortly after Attack of the Clones, when apparently Dooku defeated Tholme and Sora Bulq, offering them both the power of the Dark Side. Tholme declined, and was left for dead in a rockslide, while Bulq unconscious, apparently accepted, and caused quite a bit of chaos in the Jedi Temple before officially leaving. I am unaware of this story, as I don't recognize it from the Republic series. Was there a short story giving this plotline, or was it actually a comic that I simply don't remember?

We pick up again six months before Revenge of the Sith, with Vos' obsession with finding the second Sith master. He upsets the tomb of the senator he killed back in Light and Dark (was it really so long ago?), so that he can take the memories from the body. He then sets a trap for an Anzati assassin, the one who killed Valorum, who knows all about the trap but shows up anyway. Vos takes the memories from her, as well, and concludes that the second Sith Lord is Sora Bulq. He is about to be taken as "soup" by the Anzati, except that Khaleen shows up in the nick of time and knocks her over. Vos is so far from the Jedi ideal that it is no surprise that he takes Khaleen to bed and she ends up pregnant. Like Anakin, and Etain in Triple Zero, this war and the restrictions the Jedi place on themselves is causing everybody to lose track of the long term in favor of love.

Tholme and Aayla Secura, meanwhile, travel to Anzat to find Sora Bulq. Tholme meets with an Anzati assassin instructor who indirectly tells him that all the other instructors are training some sort of Separatist shadow army. Secura tracks down the former Jedi's ship and encounters a clone of a Nikto Morgukai warrior she had bested in the past. I really liked Tholme's confrontation with the Anzati instructor, and his subsequent conversation with the peculiar Jedi Zao. I don't think Zao has followed the orders of the Jedi Council to become a general, so I wonder if that means he will survive beyond the end of the Clone Wars. He is a hilarious character, though, much like Yoda in the way he spouts riddles.

In the end, Tholme finds the Morgukai cloning chambers, and remains there to sabotage as much of it as possible, confronting Bulq once before going into hiding. The Jedi Council decides that they must destroy this facility at all costs.

This leads us directly into the second story, The Siege of Saleucami. The siege has been going on now for five months, for it is now three weeks to Revenge of the Sith. Several Jedi are committed to the attack, but they can't get at the facility because of the ion cannon, the particle shield, and the large planetary defense cannon. It has taken them this long to get in the immediate vicinity of the place. Now, as Jedi Master Ranciss enters the battle meld, Vos blows up the ion cannon. Then he and Aayla enter the tunnels to destroy the shields and the cannon, so the republic gunship can bombard the place.

It is here that Vos' loyalties are tested. Nobody really trusts him, except the Council and senior Jedi like Ranciss, because they trust to the Force. The dialog is enough to show us Vos' seeming indecision. All he really wants is to get close to Sora Bulq, to destroy the second Sith he thinks the former Jedi is. He will do anything to get that chance, including betraying everybody at Saleucami. When asked to find and kill Tholme, who is extracting a huge vengeance on the cloning chambers, Vos actually thinks he has done it. In reality, Tholme managed to cut himself off from the Force at the right moment.

At the same time, the Separatists set up several attacks, in order to distract Ranciss so that Bulq can kill the Jedi Master. Vos returns later, casting a bit more suspicion on him, but he pretends to read Ranciss' memories in order to pick victory out of this siege. Meanwhile, he enters the Separatists stronghold again with Aayla to destroy the shield, and meets with all his old enemies, including Bulq, and Dooku by hologram. They reveal that Bulq is not the second Sith, and that Vos has fallen to the Dark Side after all. Thanks to Secura, however, he manages to defeat the darkest part of himself, as she projects herself into his thoughts to help him through this last test.

Outside, when the shield is down, a Jedi is shot down, but steers her craft into the laser, destroying it so the capital ship can bombard the place. Tholme, in his five months in the complex, knows a way out, so leads Aayla and Vos out.

There is so much going on in this story that it is impossible to describe all of it, and nor would I want to. The images tell so much of it, showing us so much of the emotion and setting. The artwork was superb all the way through. I appreciated the coverage that Khaleen and especially Aayla Secura got, of course. I especially liked the frames that appeared in the bottom right corner of several pages, which appeared to have been given a sheen of some sort. The colors were light and dark, which was a good combination. I find that because of the gritty nature of the war, some of these comics have become much too dark. Quinlan seems to be drawn inconsistently, though. On the cover of the book, he is a hulking Conan-type. In the opening page, he appears little more than a boy. Throughout, he appears older and younger at times. And how A'Sharad Hett has changed from Outlander. He no longer covers himself with the Tusken garb, and sports interesting facial tattoos. He, too, appears to have fallen in love with a young Twi'lek Jedi.

This is a great culmination of the Clone Wars comics series, and even though it is not the last book, it makes for a great conclusion. I expect Vos to disappear like Etain, and train his child in secret, well away from the Empire. It would be kind of nice to see a Vos heir to appear in some more of the expanded universe stories in Luke's era. After this story comes Revenge of the Sith, so the last story in the series must be cleanup. If it remains at this quality, I am actually looking forward to it.


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