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A graphic novel by Timothy Zahn, Michael A. Stackpole, and Carlos Equerra (1999, Dark Horse Comics)
4 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Mara takes on one last mission as the Emperor dies: to destroy the person who is trying to resurrect Black Sun.



3 stars+

Read on June 15th, 2003 for the second time  
    This is a cool look at one of Star Wars' coolest characters. Mara Jade is sexy -that has to be the first word that comes to mind- and she is deadly. She was so different from what we had experienced before, that when she made her debut in Heir to the Empire, she took on a life of her own.

So how does this graphic novel do her justice? It shows her in action, not just as a lethal weapon, but also as a person, as she tries to figure out who she is once her master is gone. She is as good at spying as she is at assassination.

It is unfortunate that the two missions that we are witness to are failed. In Jabba's palace, of course, she doesn't manage to kill Luke Skywalker before he goes out to the Sarlacc pit. Then, she kills a decoy of Dequc, the new leader of Black Nebula, not realizing that she had the wrong guy. Is she good, or is she incompetent? I don't think she's incompetent, but I wonder why she didn't bother to listen to the decoy's words -even I could see that he was trying to tell her that something was wrong. And with her Force sense, weak as it was, she should have picked up a warning, at least.

Mara also wasn't very quiet about the whole thing, but that's part of the appeal. If she took out her targets quietly, then we wouldn't get to see this gorgeous woman in tight clothing defeating an entire complex of professional criminals -twice! But I think she was supposed to be quieter in most of her missions.

The two best parts of this graphic novel show Mara at extremes. As a compassionate woman, just learning about her freedom, and what it means to her, she gains the trust of her employer, a cantina owner. Sure, she's still serving people, but it's on her own terms, and she even risks her life for the man who gave her work. When he is killed by Black Nebula, she takes it personally, since she actually cared about this man. We can see it in the casual conversations she has with him after-hours, or with the striped alien she knows so well as a regular customer.

At the other extreme, it was wonderful to see her break out of her cell, and trick Isard all the way to her exit. Besides the stretched-tight jumpsuit, she manages to slice into several computer systems, including Isard's own personal data pad, sending confusing information to the door controllers and various shuttles, allowing her to escape on a refugee transport.

Mara thinks a lot, and we get to witness most of those thoughts. It explains things to the reader in a more personal way than the narrative boxes that many comics provide. I like that much better. The thoughts we see are the everyday thoughts of somebody in her situation. Sometimes she is silly, often chastising herself, running through her upcoming plans, and musing about several different topics.

The artwork was good, but not great. Although Mara was drawn as a beautiful woman, the somber colors and diffuse lines detracted from her beauty. Contrast this with the fabulous artwork of Guri from Shadows of the Empire: Evolution, who turned out to be stunning because of it. I think Mara should have been given the treatment that made her the better-looking female assassin, because I think she is.

I'd like to see more of Mara in action, perhaps before the death of the Emperor.


3 stars

Read on February 26th, 2000  
    A cool Star Wars adventure.  Mara Jade has been well used, and not so well used.  I was afraid this would be a trek to track down Luke, since it takes place just after Jedi.  But I was wrong. 

We are given a glimpse of Mara's job as a dancer at Jabba's palace, and how she missed killing Luke there.  Instead of chasing after him, the Emperor sends her to a planet to kill the leader of Black Nebula, who is trying to resurrect Black Sun.  She accomplishes this task with ease, but discovers that it was a decoy she had killed. 

Just then, the Emperor contacts her.  She sees through his eyes, as Luke and Vader duel, then both turn their lightsabers in his direction, and kill him.  She sees them cooperating to do this.  He gives her a final order: Kill Luke Skywalker. 

But as the Emperor dies, another takes his place.  It's neat how they tied in the Special Edition to this, in discussing the apprehension of the people involved in toppling the Emperor's statue, and setting off the fireworks.  The new leader has as his advisor Ysanne Isard, from the Rogue Squadron books and graphic novels.  Since both authors worked a lot in this universe, it's nice to see the continuity. 

Isard takes Mara captive, holding her in a cell, until she manages to use the Force to get her guard to let her out.  She escapes into the tunnel system, while being chased all through the Throne area of the Imperial palace. 

She escapes, and takes work at a small cantina on a backwater planet.  As she says, a second rate cantina in a third rate city on a fourth rate planet.  The artwork there is really good.  The landscape, the aliens, and the dark lighting of the cantina all show well defined lines, and muted colours that are easy to follow.  Mara works happily there, carefully saving up money until she can buy passage offworld.  But members of Black Nebula come in and kill the barkeeper for not paying his tribute to their leader.  Mara decides she needs to get back to work, finishing the last assignment her Emperor gave her (except killing Luke, of course).

Mara follows her leads to a tourist planet, and manages to infiltrate the lair by posing as a dealer in electronics that allow her to cheat in games, while being completely undetectable.  She goes through these demonstrations, but is actually using the Force.  In that way, she fools everybody.  She gets a tour of the Black Nebula facility, and notes all its weak spots. 

Unfortunately, she is recognized as an Imperial assassin by a former Imperial officer with whom she had worked earlier.  She kills him, but then her disguise is off.  She disables the power in the facility, and goes on to disrupt the base.  She tricks the guards into letting her get close to the Black Nebula leader again, and manages to kill him this time.  She escapes through his back door, and leaves his cruiser, complete with many Black Nebula files in it, on an Imperial doorstep.

The script was pretty good here.  Mara didn't talk much, except when she is trying to act like a rich woman.  The characters were efficient, and didn't do any really stupid things.  This was pure Zahn and Stackpole.  Even though nobody made any mistakes, Mara did her job well, and killed her target.  She was just better than they were.  That's life. 

As for the art, most of it was good, though nothing really made me sit up and take notice.  Mara was drawn probably as Zahn instructed -absolutely stunning, beautiful and sexy.  Her green eyes were noticeable at several points, as they lit up the page.  During battle scenes, the tone of the colours changed.  Mostly, they turned into glossy blacks, and pinks or reds where there would be a blur of movement. 

Fairly well done, all in all.


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