It’s time to return to the Great Prequel Re-Read, this time making a start on some of the many, many graphic novels that are on the list!
Jedi: The Dark Side
I remember this coming out, and being really excited for the possibility of a Jedi ongoing series that had the potential to be in the vein of the Jedi one-shots that we had during the Clone Wars publishing programme. The fact that it was set 31 years before the events of The Phantom Menace was almost irrelevant – I think, in my mind, I was picturing a series that wouldn’t necessarily be tied down to a specific time, but could jump around at the whims of the stories being told. In the end, this is the only book that we got and, if I’m being completely honest, I was pretty disappointed.
The story involves Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan Xanatos, the guy he trained prior to Obi-Wan Kenobi, as they go on a mission to Telos IV, Xanatos’ homeworld. It serves as something of a prequel to the Jedi Apprentice series of YA novels from Jude Watson, as we get to meet a lot of the characters from that series. Having never read those books back in the day (maybe that’s something to look into?) I must admit, I didn’t get a great deal out of this. What might have been enjoyable background for some was just a bit dull, to me. Xanatos as the dark and moody padawan is a bit annoying, at the best of times, and I feel a bit like this is a trope that we see a lot with the pre-prequel stuff, as though giving us a story about a regular serene Jedi is just not interesting. The fact that they’re meant to be serene and stuff makes me wonder, sometimes. I guess it does explain why the Jedi Council didn’t particularly think there was anything wrong with Anakin being churlish though, as it seems to be the case that every Jedi padawan is a moody brat. Maybe we can also put this down to Sidious and Plagueis dampening the Force or something.
At any rate, Qui-Gon and co go off to Telos to mediate the unrest there, and fail to reach any kind of accord. When Lord Crion himself is killed, Xanatos abandons the Jedi, and Qui-Gon goes off to be alone for a while. It’s not exactly something I would consider reading again, but maybe if I were to read the Jedi Apprentice series, I might get something more from it…
Jedi Council: Acts of War
This is something of a classic, for me, going back to those days when I would devour the prequel literature like there was no tomorrow. While the art does seem a little bit silly (Davide Fabbri and Christian della Vecchia, a respected duo, have done quite a bit of work for Dark Horse, and while it does always look a bit cartoon-y, there’s a level of nostalgia to it now, I suppose), the story is perhaps a little bit under-developed (you really need to read Darth Plagueis for the back story on the Yinchorri conflict), it’s perfectly fine as a bit of a throwaway story. I mean, I seem to remember reading the idea was to explain why Ki-Adi-Mundi came to be on the Jedi Council, so we have the character of Micah Giiett, a close friend of Plo Koon and respected member of the Council.
We get to meet a fairly large cast of Jedi in this book, with most of the Jedi Council from The Phantom Menace getting speaking parts. We also get the first appearances of Tsui Choi and K’Kruhk, both of whom would go on to recur throughout the Republic comics and, in the case of K’Kruhk, well beyond!
The storyline tells the fairly straightforward story of Mace Windu assembling a Jedi task force to repel the Yinchorri threats by taking the fight to the reptilians, locating their command base and overwhelming them with a show of force (as the Yinchorri are said to back down when faced with a superior threat). The task force splits in three, and includes Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan because these two seemingly need to be in everything we get from this timeframe. They locate the command centre on a fourth world in the system, and in a fairly rushed ending, the Yinchorri almost immediately surrender when the Jedi arrive.
It’s a bit of a throwaway story, to be sure, coming along the lines of ‘generic border dispute’ that seems to try and instil a sense of drama in the period that is otherwise said to be a time of peace for the Republic. We get some decent Jedi action, both in the Yinchorr system and also back on Coruscant, so it’s always fun to read these sorts of tales. After reading it now, it strikes me as interesting that Darth Plagueis uses so much of this as a backdrop, but I suppose it’s better to use a pre-existing piece of the jigsaw than creating another border dispute for the novel.
Another classic from the prequel era, this book collects the four issue miniseries that sees Darth Maul go up against the Black Sun criminal organization, in case they foul up Darth Sidious’ plans. We aren’t given any indication as to how that might come about, but the book doesn’t really need that, as it becomes something of an orgy of Darth Maul killing his way through the syndicate. There’s no real need for this as a storyline, other than the fact that it shows Darth Maul in action. The fact that it exists means that it has been referenced by other stuff that is set around this time, and in fact one of the main plot points early on in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter is concerned with the aftermath of this series.
It’s good fun, and it’s drawn by one of my favourite comics artists, Jan Duursema, so I can recommend it for the art alone!
Prelude to Rebellion
To close, I’ve got the six-part series that launched the Republic ongoing series all the way back in 1999, very shortly before The Phantom Menace hit the screens. We are on the planet Cerea, home to the Jedi Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi. The planet is very well fleshed-out as a peaceful agrarian world, where the eternal struggle of preserving the past wars with the need for the young to progress with technology. It’s a bit bizarre to think of, now, but apparently Cereans just want to live life with wheel-level technology. In steps the Republic, cast in an evil light as they tempt the young with technology from off-world. Ki kinda straddles both worlds, as he is a Jedi from the wider galaxy, but he is also given special dispensation to marry and have kids due to the weird issue of girls outnumbering boys by 20:1 or something, so he kinda lives on-world.
That is, until the tensions boil over at a pro-tech rally and Ki’s lightsaber is used to kill a bystander. The miscreant, who also happens to be dating Ki’s wayward daughter Sylvn, is “saved” by Ephant Mon, who takes all the kids to Tatooine where his buddy Jabba holds sway. Jabba is trying to get a shipment off world, however, so uses Sylvn as a distraction for Ki so that he could do so. Seems there are links to the Trade Federation afoot, and while rescuing his daughter Ki is able to gather some intel for the Jedi Council, prompting them to consider him for the position that opened up following the death of Micah Giiett.
The story is daft, especially when you compare it with the stuff that came out later. But there’s a part of me that has a faint kind of nostalgia for it, nevertheless. I think it definitely strikes me as being the sort of thing where Dark Horse desperately wanted to put out a new title, but couldn’t spoil anything to do with the movie coming out, and so they took a Jedi with about three lines in the film, and made a huge thing out of him. Throw in Yoda in flashbacks, and the obligatory trip to Tatooine, and we have a winning formula. I mean, I really don’t think it’s one of the greatest comics, but I couldn’t resist re-reading it this time around simply because it’s been a while!
Next up, it’s back to novels as I embark upon Cloak of Deception, a book that I love so much, it’s just untrue! So prepare for the bias…