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A graphic novel by John Ostrander, Randy Stradley, and Jan Duursema (2005, Dark Horse Comics)
Republic comics #65-71
21 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

The Jedi send a message to the Bounty Hunters Guild, while Quinlan Vos, under cover as a Separatist, confronts his former Padawan and helps Anakin complete a mission.



Read June 21st to 22nd, 2006  
    In general, I quite liked the stories presented in this book, even though I have never been a huge fan of Quinlan Vos. I wish the Clone Wars as shown in the novels were as interesting.

The first story in this collection is Show of Force. Apparently, the Bounty Hunter's Guild has started accepting bounties on Jedi, and they only require a Jedi's lightsaber to prove that they killed some Jedi. After a nasty attack on a disputed planet, some Jedi nearly die, so Mace Windu decides that they should take a message to the Guild. The Guild seems to be undecided on whether the Jedi bounties are a good thing or not. The way that Mace decides to send a message to them is pretty cool, if rather predictable. Mace spreads a rumor that he is coming alone to deal with the Guild. Other Jedi, including Kit Fisto, Saesee Tin and another, come along apparently incognito. They do a lot of destruction, and eventually deal with the leader's bodyguard and the leader herself. The second in command takes over, promising to cancel all Jedi bounties. The one who took out the bounties happens to be a Twi'lek whom the Jedi had dealt severe blows financially in the past, acting on his own against orders from Count Dooku. While Mace goes after the Twi'lek, Dooku dispatches Quinlan Vos to kill the traitor. Mace and his colleagues don't like what they find when they arrive.

The artwork for this story was quite dark, but with lots of contrast, which I liked. That gave it more detail than the usual comics, and more texture. The action moments were nicely depicted, as were quiet moments, like the reference to Shatterpoint with Mace's comatose former Padawan in the Jedi garden.

In the second story, Forever Young, we get a rather lackluster tale about Anakin, who seems to think that some Jedi, some Padawans-turned-Knights after their Masters were killed in the Clone Wars, are too young to be going on suicide missions. The Jedi in question, a young woman who looks too much like Padmé, distracts Anakin. I disagree that Anakin was simply thinking that she was just too young, but rather has some notion about women in battle. I think he really was looking at how beautiful she was, and how that beauty would be lost. The mission wasn't supposed to be suicide, but of course it is. Apparently only a Jedi engineer can figure out where to place the explosives accurately enough to destroy the new Geonosian base of operations. All she does, though, is locate the central reactor and blow it up. When she is trapped, Anakin disobeys orders and goes after her, knowing he can save her. After being admonished, however, for doing so by Obi-Wan and the trapped Jedi, he turns around. This obviously sets up for one of the later stories in this collection, one where he doesn't turn around.

The artwork here is more like a set of colored pencil sketches. While not my favorite type of art, the artists managed to capture a lot of detail, and it actually felt refreshing after the deep colors of the previous story.

Armor continues the story of Quinlan Vos, and his attempts to conquer the Dark Side from within. The story leaves him questioning whether he actually has gone too far, that he was willing to kill his own Padawan. Unlike Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, however, he holds no animosity toward Aayla Secura, and so does not conclude the battle.

The story is a prequel to Heir to the Empire, the Grand Admiral Thrawn trilogy. We get to see the ship laden with poisonous gases crash to the planet Honoghr, and the teams sent to recover the logs. Because of the Clone Wars, of course, nobody tried to pick up the pieces, but obviously Palpatine gained knowledge of the Noghri through either Aayla Secura's report or Dooku through Vos. The Noghri do a very effective job of killing the people trying to recover the logs. When Secura shows up, so does Vos. They team up to defeat the Noghri, and escape into the swamps. Vos leads them into a dead end, however, intending to escape on his own. Neither Secura nor the clone trooper with her let him go so easily. To the clone, Vos is a traitor and therefore an enemy. Secura still thinks he can be redeemed. She fights him for a while, but then does as Ben did in A New Hope, dropping her lightsaber so that Vos could kill her if he really wanted to. Instead, he leaves in his ship, and Secura and the clone escape on their own.

Any story that has the beautiful and sexy Aayla Secura in it, drawn so exquisitely, is going to be at least somewhat enjoyable. The authors obviously think so too, putting her on the cover like they did. The artwork takes on the dark and high contrast tones again, which is perfect for the dark story they are telling.

The last story is the longest, and is thus the most engaging. Dreadnaughts of Rendili tells three tales, which are fairly well intertwined. First, we get Anakin finally doing some daring stunts while disabling the dreadnaughts of the title. In doing so, he disobeys the orders of the other Jedi, but, of course, succeeds. The Jedi negotiation team surrenders way too fast, but I suppose that is in the interests of peace and less violence. The spirit is there, but it is counter to what we've seen from most Jedi. It was nice to see Dodonna as a younger man.

The second story concerns Obi-Wan and Asajj Ventress. She toys with him until rescue comes. In the meantime, he fights a rancor and two dark Jedi, including Ventress, again. She is out for revenge, and despite the good looking lightsaber battles, it is getting tiring. The third story enters here, as well, as Ventress is actually hunting Quinlan Vos when Obi-Wan arrives at the derelict cruiser. Vos uses Obi-Wan's ship to escape, but comes back for him. There is a large interplay about Vos' loyalties. Vos tells of how he has reconsidered his position and his willingness to infiltrate Dooku's inner circle after his encounter with Aayla Secura. Ventress' hunt of him says that he actually is in disfavor with Dooku. He rescues Obi-Wan from Ventress and then helps Anakin with the dreadnaughts. Vos is forgiven by the Jedi Council, but we learn privately that he might still be in league with Dooku. Based on the one line comment from Revenge of the Sith, I believe that Vos must be playing Dooku, but whether he will remember which side he is on remains to be seen.

While we visit Coruscant to see Vos redeemed, Anakin gets a private holo-message from Padmé, as she is away on a mission of her own. Ventress interrupts, however, and Anakin uses the Dark Side to throw her down a pit. It seems like closure for Ventress, but as I understand it, the next book contains the real closure, as Obi-Wan hunts her. It's better that way, I think, as Ventress has always hunted Obi-Wan. This is likely how Palpatine learns that Anakin is ready to join the Dark Side, even if he can feel the boy's hatred and anger when they are together. Reports of people nearly killed by the soon-to-be Sith Lord surely hold some credibility. Interestingly enough, it appears that Ventress gives Anakin his facial scar. I don't see where she struck him across the eye with her lightsaber, but he doesn't appear to have the scar when fighting against the dreadnaughts, nor when he is viewing Padmé's message. But is is quite clear after the fight with Ventress. General Grievous also appears for the first time, I believe, rescuing Ventress so that she could get to Coruscant.

These four stories held my interest throughout. They show credible people whom we have grown to know and love (and hate), doing extreme deeds required in war. Some are frustrated, some are confused. The older Jedi actually know what they are doing, which is amazing in itself. I keep saying this, but I wish the Clone Wars novels could keep up this kind of storytelling. So far, I haven't seen it.


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