||Probably the best clone wars stories
so far. They get the grittiness and despair of war, but also the
relationships that develop. This is a very dark set of stories.
In Blood and Rain, we get our first
glimpse at the new war machines of the Republic. The Separatists are
using the same old droid armies, but they do not appear in this story.
The Republic has new AT-AT walkers! The first generation certainly seems
to have some flaws -several are destroyed very easily by the rebels. The
artwork was awesome on the rain-covered Jabiim. Everything was dark and
dismal, and the characters were drawn with just enough detail. The
Padawan Aubrie was really cute, and the clone trooper Alpha stood out
well against the backgrounds. The leader of the opposition, Alto
Stratus, was particularly well drawn. He took over the Jabiimi
government in a coup, allowing the Separatists to take control. Battle
after battle goes poorly for the Jedi, who seem to be losing their
concentration. One Jedi is stabbed in the back, while she is
concentrating on another task. Others don't seem able to detect attacks
coming at them. Anakin gets some good lines in this story, talking about
preserving as much life as they can, and wondering why the Jedi aren't
hailed as heroes. Obi-Wan wisely suggests that it is because there are
many worlds where the Jedi have not visited in a single person's lifetime, and
even when they do, they are only seen by a few. The Jedi are legends,
and when they appear in the Clone Wars, they are usually the wielders of
death. The conclusion of the story is a cliff-hanger, leaving us to
wonder how Obi-Wan escaped the exploding AT-AT where he was rescuing
clone troopers. We know he hasn't died, though everybody else believes
Thunder and Lightening takes us
a little deeper into Anakin's growing darkness, and despair, mostly from
the outside perspective. I love the fact that so many other characters
get the spotlight in this story. Anakin is placed in a group of Padawans
who have lost their masters, and he is the only one to survive! In fact,
he is the only Jedi to survive the battle of Jabiim. I still think the
Jedi are dying way too easily. In this story, for example, one Padawan
is killed as he is going after the resistance leader, because Stratus
pulls a gun on him at the last second. The same guy pulls a sword on
another Padawan who comes to finish the job, again at the last second.
This trick is overused in movies and TV, and I was disappointed to see
it here, especially against Jedi, who should be able to see that kind of
Anakin and the others hatch plan after
plan to get try and get the convoy of supplies to their main base, which
will be evacuated. The characters are all well developed, including one
between Jedi lovers. I wonder how Anakin felt, if he sensed their open
love. All of the female Jedi were drawn really, really cute! There is a
shootout in a minefield where the Jedi get to show off some of their
skills, getting more of them killed. The resistance has repulsor boots,
which allow some of them to get away, including their leader.
The Separatists manage to land an
armada during a short break in the rain (which was still depicted as a
drizzle!), which prompts the Republic army to retreat. The Padawans hold
off the army for a short while, managing to kill Stratus in the process.
In a cool (or cruel?) twist of fate, Anakin gets a message from the
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to lead the retreating troops off-planet.
Palpatine obviously knows, through his ties with Dooku, that the
separatists will kill everybody. He also has a special interest in
Anakin, and wants him to leave. I wonder if he ordered the retreating
gunship to be left alone...
get special new droids, adapted to hunt Jedi and for warfare on muddy
Jabiim. The kill some of the Jedi, but Anakin has no trouble defending
against them. In the most poignant moment of the battle of Jabiim,
Anakin has to make his first real command decision, judging the lives of
the Jabiimi resistance against the war as a whole. He decides to leave
the resistance fighters to fend for themselves, even to the point that
he nearly Force-chokes one of them who threatens him. As the man said,
Anakin just proved that Stratus was right about the Republic, that they
come to further their own needs, then leave the locals to deal with the
consequences. Still, he avoids unnecessary killing afterwards.
At the hospital in Republic controlled
space, Anakin tries to help somebody by Force-pumping the heart, but
causes more pain than anything else, and the person still dies. Anakin
can only feel pain and loneliness, and nothing he does seems to be able
to soothe him. In a cool tribute, the surviving Jedi release glowing
insects into an eternal pillar that holds the names of the deceased
Jedi. The pillar, of course, is glowing brighter every day. One of the
names in the pillar is Oss Willum, from the
Knights of the Old Republic
series. I liked the ethereal way the pillar was drawn.
The third story in this
book is called The Storm After the Storm, and deals with Anakin's
losses, from Attack of the Clones to the Battle of Jabiim. The Republic
is dealt another loss on yet another planet, and the army is pinned down
by Separatist forces. Anakin and A'sharad Hett, the Tuskin Padawan found
way back in Outlander, are separated from
the rest of the army, and lose yet another Padawan to an ambush. The
artwork was not quite as good as in the previous two stories, but was
still pretty impressive. The artists were able to capture Anakin's
turmoil as he confronted yet another apparently unsympathetic Tuskin, like the ones who captured and
killed his mother. As they journey together back to the base, Hett
learns of Anakin's killing spree, and removes his helmet to reveal that
he is a human just like Anakin, not a true Tuskin, after all. Yet Anakin
reveals to himself, at least, that he would do the same thing if
confronted by the same situation again, even after all he has learned.
Hett is a good counterpoint to Anakin, especially considering their
common roots. His lectures are very Jedi-like, counselling patience and
the honor of local customs, even when they are opposite to our own.
After watching a creature devour a
Sarlacc, they lure it to the battle with the Separatists, which somehow
ends abruptly. I didn't get the sense that the battle was even close to
ending, but a small textbox tells us that they just had to mop up after
their victory. We also get a taste of what's to come... Obi-Wan is
revealed as a prisoner of Asajj Ventress, to be tortured or broken, two
books from now!
In total, this
set of stories was, I think, the best so far. Although it was dark,
there was a lot of character development, and I loved the supporting
cast. The artwork was great, showing lots of action and well-cast
expressions. I am really enjoying this series, and wonder where they
plan to build up to in the end.