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A graphic novel by John Ostrander, Davide Fabbri, and Christian Dalla Vechia (2003, Dark Horse Comics)
Republic comics #36-39
30 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Jedi Masters recount their part in defeating a pirate who caused Republic ships to wander from established hyperspace lanes.



4 stars

Read on September 2nd, 2010  
    I can't believe it's been seven years since I last read this book. Even the second time around, I found this story to be quite engaging and exciting. If the earlier comics were like this, I would have felt much better about them. I liked the interplay of the politics, something that the novels couldn't portray successfully. As mentioned below the artwork was pretty good. The most prominent aspects were Master Plo Koon, because his skin is rather orange, and the fluorescent blue carnivorous insects. But I really appreciated the attention to the backgrounds, which had lots and lots of details. Too often in the Star Wars comics, the backgrounds are simply uniform colors. In this case, nearly all of the pages had full backgrounds that were very busy. When portraying action sequences, like when the ships fell out of hyperspace, the artwork showed quite clearly an exciting aspect, such as lightning effects.

One of my favorite concepts comes near the middle of the third part, when the soldier tries to praise Plo Koon for his actions, and Mace Windu subtly criticizes him for his excessive humility, saying that "one should not seek the glory, but one should own one's deeds --good or ill." Don't go seeking the battles, but don't deny the thanks and praise and respect that come from it.

I'm obviously slipping, because it's been almost two years since I reread the last book in this series. Time to get back into it.



4 stars

Read on September 21st, 2003  
    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 A 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 Stark's troops.

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 The 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.


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