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VICTORIES AND SACRIFICES

A graphic novel by John Ostrander, Haden Blackman, and Jan Duursema (2004, Dark Horse Comics)
Republic comics #51-53, and Jedi: Shaak Ti
22 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Obi-Wan and Anakin find new disgust at the way the Clone Wars turned ugly, with mass slaughter and chemical weapons.

 

 

4 stars

Read on April 28th, 2004  
    After reading The Defense of Kamino, I was hoping that graphic novel wasn't an exception to the quality of storytelling in the Clone Wars tales. I am happy to report that the great stories continue in Victories and Sacrifices, in terms of story, dialog, character, and artwork. The only major complaint that I have is the fact that the three stories are not really tied together as one tale.

The first story, The New Face of War, tells of Anakin and Obi-Wan's journey to one of Naboo's moons, where some Gungans have settled, and from where they expect the Separatists to launch an attack against Naboo.

Anakin and a clone trooper manage to knock out the droid support base, ruining the attack, and freeing some hostages. I liked the way he turned two droids against each other. His use of the Force is expert, and I enjoyed seeing him use it. Unfortunately, all of the Gungans have been slaughtered, and the real enemy is still there.

I don't know if Mace Windu told anybody about Asajj Ventress from the last book, but Obi-Wan doesn't seem to know her when she shows up here. I wonder if she is talking about the New Jedi Order reinvention of the Force when she mentions that "there is no dark side"... Regardless, she is much more powerful than the Jedi, although she runs away from the fight when she is about to be overrun, again. She raises the dead Gungans to fight beside her, and is skilled with two lightsabers so that she can take on four Jedi at once. I don't think she should be able to do this, but it still makes for some great visuals.

Ventress has help, of course, in the form of the Jedi-hunting Durge. I'm not sure what to make of him, as he is a mass of neural tissue, and seems pretty much impervious to lightsaber blades. He takes down one Jedi master, and nearly kills the Padawan. When their mission fails, Durge and Ventress leave. It doesn't make for a very satisfying conclusion, but it avoids the cliché of a clear victory at the end of every tale.

All through the fights, however, I kept wondering why the Jedi and their enemies are portrayed so inconsistently. On one hand, they can do terrible damage. Anakin didn't die after being strangled by a steel cable, coming back stronger than before. Likewise, Obi-Wan did some great feats here. Yet he was easily picked up in a Force-hold by Ventress. Sometimes the Jedi are all-powerful, and other times, they can be stupid. The same goes for Ventress. For all her power, she runs away a lot, and she looks completely surprised, pulling the clichéd move of stopping everything she's doing so that she can gawk at how Durge didn't obey her orders and began firing at the Jedi.

The artwork in this tale split my opinion in half. One one hand, there is great three-dimensionality to the foreground objects, and vibrant colors where it is needed. Obi-Wan looks terrible, as the effects of the toxic gas work on his skin, though he uses the Force to keep his lungs working. The characters, unfortunately, didn't really look like the ones we know, and there is little depth to the scenes beyond the foreground.

In Blast Radius, Obi-Wan recalls his most recent mission, which he undertook without his apprentice. He meets up with four other Jedi Masters -legends- in order to secure the antidote to the poison used on the Gungan moon in the previous story.

Each of the Jedi dies in their own turn, not necessarily doing what they do best. One is called Fire-Eater, and she tames the fire of an explosion in the building they infiltrate. The others can go on, but this fire was too intense for her to tame completely, and it takes her life. Two others die needlessly at the hands of Ventress and Durge, almost at the same time. The cute elf-like Jedi nearly claims Ventress' life, rendering her unconscious, so that Obi-Wan could secure the antidote. Yet as powerful as she was, Durge overcame her, and Ventress regained consciousness to finish her off, stabbing her through the back. Durge nearly kills Obi-Wan, but apparently, they have orders not to kill him. That's interesting; I hope we hear about that again, and its not just a way for the authors to get Obi-Wan out of a nearly impossible situation. The elf-Jedi gives Obi-Wan the rest of her Force-energy, which allows him to get back to his ship after the enemy leaves.

Although I liked the use of colors, or shades for a given page, the artwork was not really to my liking. It was not bad at all, but didn't show details that I like to see. The characters, especially Obi-Wan, looked horrible. I think this was intentional, after all he's been through.

Catspaw, the story about Shaak Ti, delves into a failed Jedi attack on the planet Brentaal IV, where Jedi and clone troopers are getting slaughtered. Shaak Ti led a small party to a former prison, and convinced some of the inmates to help them. One was sent to the prison by Ti because of killing her Padawan. They also find Quinlan Voss in solitary confinement.

In order to destroy the resistance on this planet, Ti is determined to capture the leader. Of the three prisoners who join her, the Wookie is killed in the sewers trying to get into the tower. The other is redeemed by helping to disable the tower cannons. The one who had killed Ti's apprentice betrays her again, even after Ti saved her life. Firing on Ti, she tries to seduce the commander of the tower, but Shaak Ti manages to recover in time to kill him. The criminal kills herself, convinced that Ti would put her back in prison, or would kill her with her own hands. Finally, the clone trooper nearly fails at his job of bringing down the shield generators, but, left for dead, manages to complete his job, anyway.

This story continues with the mediocre Jedi series, which doesn't really add anything to the Jedi personalities, or ethics. Shaak Ti expresses concern at the end that people don't want the Jedi anymore, but they must continue the fight, anyway, perhaps at the cost of their souls. I can understand her despair.

Still, the story was fairly interesting. The artwork was the best of the three stories, with great shadows and colors, as well as backgrounds that managed to stay interesting instead of fading.

The three stories continue to be well-told, although I am hoping to have some interesting developments in the future. The characters didn't grow as much as we saw in the last set of stories, but that's okay, as long as it doesn't continue too long. For the moment, although the stories are interesting, they also continue the status-quo. Things are not moving forward in any way. I suppose we are building up to a great conflict between Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ventress and Durge, so that's fine. I hope the payoff is worth it. For the moment, I am satisfied.

 
   

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