||Very decent artwork, with an excellent
story. I could use more of this.
Unlike many of the other stories in this series, this one has a good
story combined with good character moments. Multiple storylines, and
tie-ins with other books and movies give additional fun by trying to
look for more.
The frame of the story takes place soon
after Darkness, as Aayla Secura is being brought back to Coruscant, and
her memories are returning. A chance reunion between an officer and the
Jedi allows them to tell Aayla about their roles in the Stark Hyperspace
War, the last major armed conflict before the Battle of Naboo. I would
hardly call Naboo a major conflict, but if it was, then the Republic has
certainly been peaceful in recent years. Even this conflict wasn't very
widespread, though the story seemed to think it was.
The conflict came to a head when the
pirates, led by Iaco Stark, started targeting Bacta-carrying ships,
because a Bacta shortage meant the outer rim worlds were not getting the
healing fluid. Master Tholme and a young Quinlan Voss were sent to
Thyferra to uncover the forced Bacta shortage. They engage in an
exciting battle with some droids, and find out that the Trade Federation
is conspiring in raising the price of Bacta. They escape through a
sewage pipe, and stow away on a Trade Federation ship that happens to be
going to Troiken.
On Troiken a delegation of many Jedi,
as well as Senator Valorum, have met with Stark, but it is a trap with
more than one deception. Nute Gunray, as much a coward here as he was
during both The Phantom Menace and
Attack of the Clones, made yet
another deal, this time with Senator Tarkin, who secretly created a Republic Army.
I wonder how much the authors knew about Episode II before writing this,
because many of the same themes are echoed here. Tarkin constantly calls
for an Army or Navy to deal with crises such as this.
At a signal from Gunray, Tarkin heads
into hyperspace to destroy the meeting place. I see that the Tarkin of
New Hope inherited the ruthlessness, as this one doesn't care that he
would be killing a Senator and a whole bunch of Jedi. Stark, however,
had laid a trap for the delegates. His people piggybacked a virus on Gunray's signal, which caused the navicomputers on the Republic ships to
crash, which led to disaster for the ships. I don't understand how all
Republic ships were infected, however. Shouldn't it only be the ones
that received the signal? Since those ships did not communicate with the
rest of the Republic before being destroyed (they were on an illegal and
secret mission), how did the virus spread?
Regardless, since it did spread, the
delegates were stranded on Troiken, with the Stark fleet intent on
destroying them. I loved the way Qui-Gon dealt with Nute Gunray, keeping
him quiet for some time!
Adi Gallia managed to help get Valorum
to Coruscant, on a ship stolen from Stark's fleet, which was immune to
the virus. The ship destroys itself before they can land, thus depriving
them of both a working ship and the patch for the virus. Speaking of
patches, once they have it, it is treated much too much like a Windows
virus: applying a patch, cascading infections, and so on. It didn't
sound enough like Star Wars for my tastes.
Stark sends troops to surface, where
the delegates are holed up in caves. The Jedi help the remaining
soldiers hold out against those troops, also helping the injured. Here
is where we see some of the Empire coming through, even at this early
date. One of the characters telling the story, the human Jace Dallin,
was a direct subordinate of Tarkin, and he admits to disliking aliens as
part of the culture on that fleet of vessels. He became very impressed
with Plo Koon, and adopted a new attitude concerning aliens for the rest
of his life.
Obi-Wan and Quinlan
Vos, meanwhile, mourn the loss of a great Jedi Master, the Wookie
Tyvokka, who was killed by a stupid move by Gunray trying to protect
himself. Tyvokka was in the midst of Stark's troops, when Nute Gunray
ordered his droids to kill everybody in that force. Qui-Gon silenced the
droids forever. Deep in a cave where they contemplate death (the Jedi
Code says there is no Death, only the Force), they come across some
strange insects, which the other Jedi are warned can strip the flesh
from bones. The Jedi unite to bring the ceiling down on that tunnel.
I don't remember Plo Koon being
telepathic, but once it is established, it is used to great effect. I
wonder if they didn't make him too powerful, though, that they will be
hard pressed to explain why he can't do something similar in the future.
He can look into Stark's mind, deciphering his battle plans so they can
be on the defensive. He knows the Stark collective is falling apart. He
can even communicate across space to a cousin in the Jedi Temple, who
relays his information to the Council!
I was confused by which ship Tholme and
Qui-Gon were on. They and their apprentices seemed to be on the same
ship, but that can't be the case, since Quinlan knocked out the shield
generators and the command ship was destroyed while the two Jedi
escaped. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, however, were on Stark's ship, and it
wasn't destroyed. Why was Stark not on the command ship? I also want to
know how they stowed into the ships they infiltrated.
Stark's troops made one last push, but the
delegates and Republic soldiers made their way out of the mountains
through the back. Tarkin, however, took some explosives and reopened the
tunnel holding the flesh-eating insects, taking his life in the process.
The Jedi and more explosives sealed the insects inside -with many of
The final page of this comic gives us a
hint of things to come. We already know that Tarkin was hailed as a
hero, as evidenced by several chapters from
Cloak of Deception. Stark
somehow got away without much (or any) punishment, and ended up being
part of the Commerce Guild. The Jedi say he is leading a life of legal
activities, but we know that in Attack of the Clones (and also in
Approaching Storm) the Commerce Guild has sided with the Separatists.
And, of course, Valorum was elected Chancellor of the Republic.
A lot of story occurred in this small
comic arc. I was quite impressed. There were some things that didn't
quite fit, but the story was so well told, with great dialog, actions
and flashback text, that it didn't matter.
The artwork was not spectacular, but it
was very good. Characters were clear, the action was well-laid out, and
the colors did what they were supposed to do. There were even a couple
of frames that showed that blurry motion I love when things are moving
so fast. There were a lot of aliens depicted, which was really nice to
see. They used their lightsabers in action that felt like it could be
from a movie.
The balance between character, plot and
artwork was excellent in this story. I look forward to more like it.