We’re deep into the heart of the Clone Wars now, and we’ve got some of my favourite issues from the Republic ongoing series contained within these pages. Let’s get cracking!
Volume Four: Light and Dark presents the story of Quinlan Vos’ defection to the Confederacy. We start off with Double Blind (though it isn’t defined as such in the trade paperback), which sees Agen Kolar attempt to bring Quinlan in for questioning, as he has been found selling Republic holocomm codes to the Separatists. It’s all a ruse, as Tholme’s plan was to send Kolar as proof of the fact Quinlan has gone rogue. The Jedi do capture Khaleen, however, who Tholme later releases from prison to act as a go-between for Quinlan to get any Separatist intel back to the Jedi.
Jedi: Aayla Secura is the third of these one-shots, and personally my favourite. We have the main story of Aayla, Tholme, Kit Fisto, T’ra Saa and the Dark Woman (whose name we finally learn) sent undercover to Devaron to learn who has been betraying the government to the Separatists, layered onto that is the ongoing story of Aurra Sing and her vendetta against the Dark Woman, layered over which is Aayla’s anguish over Quinlan’s defection and her determination to bring him back. It’s a truly cracking story, and serves to move the storyline on in so many ways!
Jedi: Dooku was a surprise back in the day – I thought we’d get a different Jedi, but throughout the Clone Wars, Dooku is the suave public face of the Confederacy, of course, and so naturally he never “comes out” as Darth Tyranus. The one-shot serves really as a focal point for Quinlan Vos, however, who is forced to finally choose a side and, when Dooku takes him to Kiffu and confronts Sheyf Tinté about her rise to power, we learn that she basically killed Quin’s parents by giving their lives in payment for Anzati assassins clearing the way for her to become Sheyf. Quinlan kills his aunt, and it seems that he has truly fallen to the Dark Side.
The book ends with Striking from the Shadows, where Quinlan is given the task of assassinating a Republic dignitary who Dooku hints is the Sith Lord he told Obi-Wan about, and the art hints that he is indeed given Palpatine as a target, though it ends up being Senator Viento. K’kruhk fights Quinlan but is unable to stop the murder, and so the Whiphid reports back to the Council, hammering another nail in. For his part, however, Quinlan tells himself that he’s only deeper in the shadows.
The whole book is just excellent, and has got some of the best storytelling from this era. For comic book stories, they are actually quite intense, and that Dooku one-shot in particular is really quite harrowing as we see Quinlan torturing the truth from Tinté. Definitely some awesome storytelling, for sure!
I’m skipping volume five, which continues the Obi-Wan and Asajj Ventress storyline from the Jabiim volume, and moving straight on to volume six, On the Fields of Battle. There are two main story arcs in here, plus a one-shot that are worth talking about. We start with Show of Force, which is a two-part story about Mace confronting the Crimson Nova chapter of the Bounty Hunters Guild, for having accepted bounty postings on Jedi. Mace confronts the chapter with Agen Kolar, Saesee Tiin, and Kit Fisto, which kinda foreshadows his later confrontation with the Chancellor in episode three. The Jedi basically dismantle the chapter, and learn that Kh’ariss Fenn is the one behind the postings. However, he has used money that had been given to him by Count Dooku for the Separatists plans for Ryloth, so Dooku sends Quinlan Vos to kill him. Mace and the others arrive to find the corpse and a holo-recording, which troubles Mace even further. Tholme, feeling anguish for basically setting it all in motion, tells Aayla the truth about Quin’s defection being intended at first to be a ruse.
Show of Force was written to replace a planned one-shot Jedi issue featuring Barriss Offee, which is partly why the story begins with Barriss and T’ra Saa being attacked by bounty hunters.
The one-shot Armor is told from the perspective of Commander Bly as he observes his general, Aayla Secura, in the field. The devastation of Honoghr is the backdrop for the tale, something I thought was a bit unnecessary really, given that the story that we were told in Dark Force Rising seemed to indicate a different scenario. There is also the description of Rakata temples on the planet, which was weird. Aayla faces off against Quin, anyway, and is able to make him see sense, at least partially, and while they duel, he stops short of actually harming her.
The book ends with Dreadnoughts of Rendili, a truly sprawling epic in three parts. While Obi-Wan investigates a wrecked zoological ship, he finds Quinlan Vos fighting for his life against attack droids. It becomes clear that Asajj Ventress has been sent to bring him in after Quinlan has gone rogue from Dooku’s camp, but he and Obi-Wan manage to escape. They join Saesee Tiin’s battleforce at Rendili, where the Separatists have convinced the planet to leave the Republic. We meet up again with Jace Dallin from The Stark Hyperspace War, and are introduced to Jan Dodonna as a member of the Republic navy. The Rendili mutiny is defeated when Obi-Wan and Quinlan are able to help Plo Koon overcome the ringleaders and bring Rendili back over to the Republic, then Quinlan is taken to Coruscant for questioning. He explains his actions, and Obi-Wan vouches for him with some very common sense – if Tholme’s plan was for Quinlan to act like a renegade to earn Dooku’s trust, then why is anyone surprised that he has acted like a renegade?! His welcome is undercut by Anakin fighting Ventress high above Coruscant’s industrial sector, where he binds her in electrical cables and Force-pushes her off the top of a building, after she gives him that scar over his eye. The book ends with Quinlan getting a message to Khaleen – “tell Dooku that his plan is working”…
These two volumes are two of my favourites from the whole Dark Horse run. True, we do get that kind of ugly leer on Quin’s face that Jan Duursema seems to have become fond of – she would use it time and again on the face of Cade Skywalker during the Legacy series, as well. But the way the story of Quinlan Vos unfolds in these books is just spectacular. There are wheels within wheels, and it’s really awesome that we get this sort of spy/thriller storyline going on for the clone wars, as it tells a fascinating tale beyond the usual ground or space battles. Of course, Dreadnoughts of Rendili shows that space battles are not forgotten, and despite only being told across three issues, there is so much story in that one. With so many callbacks and references, it provides the reader with some really incredible payoffs for having stuck with the ongoing series since Prelude to Rebellion!
One of the things that I love about these comic books is the way in which the stories are able to reach back across the whole of the Republic run, to pluck characters like Dark Woman back from much earlier in the series and continue her storyline, weaving those elements into the clone war narrative alongside the “main” story of Quinlan Vos. When Kh’ariss Fenn was revealed to be behind the bounty postings, it was a mystery reveal that didn’t make the galaxy feel small, but rather made sense given what happened in Rite of Passage.
Having this large cast from which to draw really helps to make the stories flow, and feel part of a much larger story without making the galaxy too narrow in focus. Something that I often berate the Clone Wars cartoon series over was how much Anakin and Obi-Wan feature, with too small a supporting cast that makes the series as a whole feel very small. It really needed to feature the dynamic duo only 2-3 times a season, and use recurring characters to tell some of the stories to help achieve the galactic scope. By using characters like Jiesel, K’kruhk and T’ra Saa as recurring every so often, the comics achieved that sense of scale. Aayla is used for some of the big moments, but otherwise we have Quinlan doing one very specific, very linear thing, and it just works so much better.
We’re not done yet, of course, but next we have some very peculiar, very brilliant stories to come. Next up, then, it’s Hero of Cartao!