Welcome back, dear Reader, to the most glorious feature of all – Saturday Star Wars! If you somehow missed the last entry in my series of love letters to Star Wars, worry not – here’s your link!
A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
The ten years before the Clone Wars are a period only outlined by a throwaway line of dialogue or two in the movies — and as such, I expect they’ll make for plenty of one-shot stories such as this one, told in comics and novels – something I’m all for, as long as the stories themselves are entertaining.
Charles Soule is one of my three favourite authors working on Star Wars stories right now, along with Timothy Zahn and Claudia Grey. He has a love for the lore of the galaxy that runs deep, as deep as the knowledge he taps into in small pieces of dialogue that might fly by you without a second thought:
The premise: Obi-Wan and Anakin have been sent to respond to a distress call on a planet ruined by internal strife, uninhabitable safe for the tallest mountain peaks. The twist? There’s a bit of a steampunk vibe to the two sides of this planet-endangering conflict.
A pair of locals are introduced early on, signifying one side of the conflict — that I don’t remember their names might tell you something of the kind of impression they make, or it might tell you that I’m a forgetful old wamp rat.
Either way, I do remember the personalities of both, as well as that of their foe, a man by the name of…what’s his name, again?–a most lovely bald man with lovely face tattoos…
Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship is deconstructed in a way that will at once reveal the resentment of the Jedi Knight for having to take care of this boy:
The volume shows the depth of Obi-Wan’s commitment to his padawan, as well, in a short conversation with master Yoda in the very last few pages, which leaves no doubt as to the sacrifices Obi is willing to make to honour his oath to Qui-Gon, and to perform his duty to Anakin.
On the flipside of the coin is Anakin’s awe and downright idealization of Kenobi. Whatever resentment he might feel towards his master later on at the beginning and during the Clone Wars has not yet manifested itself; the young padawan recognizes that Obi-Wan is the very best exemplar of the Jedi Order, and for good reason — as the ending of this comic book will remind us.
As for the plot on Carnelion IV, I’ll not say too much other than…it was okay. The story is at its best when Anakin and Obi-Wan interact, and the adventure-of-the-week type story is more a backdrop than a breathtaking story that shifts my way of thinking. One action sequence in particular made me giggle:
Let’s spend a few moments to discuss the other key relationship in this graphic novel.
Surprising none but the newest readers of my scribbles, I enjoyed Chancellor Palpatine’s skillful manipulation of Anakin in a section that shows ol’ Palpy working to earn Anakin’s trust and admiration in ways fine tuned to take full advantage of the young Jedi padawn’s naive and limited experiences of the galaxy.
Stepping away from geeky humour, my favourite sequences are on Coruscant, whether they’re between Yoda and Obi-Wan, a few short panels between Anakin and other padawans, or
Soule so well captures Palpatine’s sly, cunning nature. The Chancellor manipulates a young Anakin in just the right way, playing to his idealism, making of himself a champion of justice, while eroding his trust in a flawed, broken democratic apparatus. What’s best about it is, Palpatine doesn’t even have to lie; he shows Anakin the rot within the Republic, and his inability to do anything to remedy it on this occasion. By the end of this volume, Anakin is eating out of Palpatine’s hand, and the bond between the two has the strong foundation on which Palpatine’s plan hinges on.
The score for this one is 4 stars out of 5. I enjoyed this story, though the conflict between the factions of Carnelion IV was nothing new, the relationships between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and Anakin and Palpatine, were well-explored and offered a layered view of some of my favourite lightsaber-wielding characters.
And lest I forget, the art was quite excellent — though Obi-Wan looks somewhat older than I’d have liked.
I also loved this alternate cover by Skottie Young, which is as glorious as any Skottie Young alternate cover for Marvel I have seen.
A few lingering questions: