Marvel’s Star Wars: Age of Republic takes us back to the good ol’ days of the Prequel Era of the saga with short tales of the benevolent Jedi, scheming Sith Lords, and opportunistic agents of the criminal underworld.
Age of Republic is the first wave of Marvel’s 27-issue one-shot series that will span the entire saga of Star Wars films. Each era, the prequels, original trilogy, and sequel trilogy – or in this case the Age of Republic, Rebellion, and Resistance respectively – is divided into 9 issues featuring major and minor characters from the films. While the individual issues connect and flesh-out the larger stories of the films, these shorter tales do not link up with one another directly and can be read in any order. Veterans of Star Wars lore will find plenty of connective tissue, new lore details, and references to dig into despite the short-form style of the stories. New readers might be a little confused by the format though, so I wanted to recap the first few issues and give some insight into the series.
First off, for the sake of simplicity I’ll be referring to these issues as the “first five” collectively, or individually by the names of the characters the stories focus on. Every issue is a number one as part of this special series – we’ll be discussing Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jango Fett, and Special #1 (the last one featuring three stories about Mace Windu, Asajj Ventress, and Captain Rex featuring Jar Jar Binks)
Overview and General Opinions:
There is a lot to love in the Age of Republic series. It gives glimpses into the prequel era with characters who have yet to be explored in canon (reminder: 2015 onward, post-Legends) with an equal mix of heroes and villains. There are even small hints of events happening before or concurrently with The Phantom Menace as well as in between Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, both periods of time I believe are greatly under-represented. The art of this series is consistently colorful and interesting to look at. And all of Star Wars is represented throughout with a variety of alien races from all three film trilogies. Even species such as the Fosh and Falleen, first introduced in Legends, make appearances and have speaking roles! There are also plenty of fun concept art cover variants for collectors to track down, plus short articles in the back of every issue for behind-the-scenes details from back in the day.
Generally-speaking, the faults of this series stem from the format. Creating twenty-seven single issues all counted as number one, minus the specials, sounds a little confusing, especially if you’re a first-time comic reader. Each story is independent of one-another and seeks to connect to Star Wars as a whole instead of being an ongoing series of comics building on their own storyline. Personally I usually only read comics in trade paperback collections, and these are the types of stories I think will benefit from being collected in trades. The short stories are a good way to introduce expanded lore to newer readers, even if they don’t get all the references on their first read.
Lastly, the ongoing series of short stories seems to be an exploration of concepts. The short stories represent Marvel dipping their toes into different characters and seeing who stands out amongst the crowd. Once these three trilogies of comics wrap-up, I would not be surprised one bit if Jango Fett, Asajj Ventress, and others got new ongoing series or at least a miniseries spinning out of their appearances here. And that’s a good thing. Using these single-issue stories, new readers can be drawn into exploring characters they liked previously but either didn’t have a lot of established lore or points of reference to explore. Whether you want to track down the issues as they come out or wait for trade collections, I recommend this series highly and can’t wait to see what else is coming from Marvel Star Wars.
*****The following recaps do contain spoilers for the first five issues of Star Wars: Age of Republic. Because the stories are short it’s rather difficult to discuss them without spoiling the reveals and lore connections. So if you want to remain unspoiled, take my above recommendation, get to the comic shop, and get reading. You’re missing out.*****
#1 Qui-Gon Jinn:
Alright, so I’ve really talked this series up. . .but Qui-Gon’s debut issue was the overall least-interesting issue of this series thus far. And it’s because they don’t spend enough time on Qui-Gon being different than the other Jedi. I don’t hate Qui-Gon Neeson, I just didn’t feel a great connection to this piece the way I did some of the later ones. The art is spot-on and I love the appearances of T-6 shuttles and Jedi starfighters. Not only is there visual continuity there, it shows that the Jedi had some hardware of their own pre-Clone Wars – so despite being just peacekeepers at this time, not soldiers, they did have the capacity to travel in armed spacecraft.
In this issue, Qui-Gon Jinn is sent to rescue someone from a battle on their home planet. Despite successfully rescuing her, Qui-Gon maintains that the Jedi have taken neither side in the conflict and that they can only give guidance, not fight the battle. This upsets the woman, who is forced to flee the battle and reside on Coruscant, a world of metal and skyscrapers far-removed from the natural beauty of her home.
After upsetting her with his talk of bringing in an outside force to help win the battle on her behalf, Qui-Gon leaves to meditate on the matters of balance within the Force. This is actually the best part of the story, and I wish it was more focused on the Force rather than the external conflict the mistress is facing back home. In Legends and his only film appearance in The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon was shown to be paying much more attention to the Force in the moment and listening to it rather than trying to come up with a solution much later with a committee. Qui-Gon realizes that rigidity when dealing with any situation is the incorrect path, and that a more understanding, flexible path is the true solution to any problem. The fact that he interprets the Force this way and less-so as black and white is what makes him one of the most compelling Jedi. However, I just wanted more of that shown. I’d love to see a series of him and young Obi-Wan, but we are getting a novel of just that, so there’s going to be more of these ideas to explore in the future! A small part of me hopes this issue was a light teaser for the novel Master and Apprentice, so maybe we’ll get this story expanded upon and the mistress will be explained further? Even if not, Claudia Gray is writing it so it’s going to be fantastic, that’s a given.
#2 Darth Maul:
It’s no secret that Maul is one of my favorite characters and that I’m more than a little biased towards Star Wars villains, but this issue doesn’t need my bias because it’s really good. However, that does come from a perspective that has read the previous Darth Maul miniseries, and this issue pretty much requires having read that to get much from it.
Previously, Darth Maul hunted down and murdered a Jedi padawan to prove to his master, Darth Sidious, that he was ready to unleash his full power on the Jedi Order. Though praised for success, Maul is praised to bide his time and let his anger simmer. The ultimate plan is not yet ready, but Maul remains eager to test himself against other Force-sensitives. Enter Age of Republic: Darth Maul, and our glorious black and red angry boy remains hungry for battle.
Reaching into the Force, Darth Maul seeks out other Force-sensitives on Coruscant. His directive leads him to a smuggler and into the Coruscant underworld, which is great foreshadowing of where Maul will go much later in life. Upon realizing that this smuggler can subtly use the Force to turn dealings to his favor, Maul murders the man. His death serves a dual purpose, allowing Maul to test himself against a variety of Force-wielders as well as taking a potential future rival out of the game.
Darth Sidious encourages Maul’s rage but also wishes he knew when to temper it and when to unleash it. They return to Malachor, and as in the previous Maul series, Maul has a vision after inhaling the remains of some dead Jedi and Sith who turned to statues of ash. I said it last time and I’ll say it again – huffing dead people to have crazy Force visions makes absolutely no sense. . .but it is so metal and actually awesome. Completely out of left field, Maul has a vision of himself as a Jedi. He meets other apparent Zabrak Jedi, a whole family of them, who plead to Maul for assistance. They are attacked by a rancor, which Maul dispatches with his lightsaber (turned blue for the duration of the vision.) When sitting down to dinner with the family he rescued, Maul feels rage when the Zabrak praise him and the rest of the Jedi, driving him to murder the family in the name of ending the lies of the Jedi.
So yeah, Maul being Maul. Good stuff. Please, Marvel can we have an ongoing Maul series?
#3 Obi-Wan Kenobi
If you’ve played the phone game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, odds are you’ve unlocked a background character called “Jedi Knight Guardian.” If not, or if you don’t remember, she’s a Zygerrian (think humanoid, vaguely cat person) with a double-bladed yellow lightsaber. And because someone on the writing team for this issue was a fan of the game, the character is now canon and is named Tosan. That’s one of the first things that made me love Star Wars back in the day – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, every single person in the Star Wars universe has a name and backstory, just like real life.
So that summed up literally a panel or two, let’s actually talk Obi-Wan.
This story takes place before Attack of the Clones, featuring Obi-Wan with a younger Anakin Skwalker. Although this story doesn’t sync up at all with the previous Anakin and Obi-Wan series in any way I can remember, seeing them again pre-Clone Wars is always an interesting prospect. It’s a time before Anakin has developed – and subsequently lost – ultimate respect for his master. At first believing Anakin to not be ready to go on a mission (read: the younger Anakin is, generally the more of a brat he is), Obi-Wan has a change of heart and takes young Anakin on a mission to an archeological dig on the planet Dallenor.
As to be expected, their relationship has a great deal of ups and downs. Anakin feels that Obi-Wan is training him only because he promised Qui-Gon he would, not because he wants to. This distress leaves Anakin feeling unwanted and distracted during the mission, and he’s eventually caught off guard by pirate invaders. However, Anakin is strong in the Force even at this young age, and dispatches his attackers by lifting small rocks with his mind and chucking them at the pirates’ heads. The experience brings Anakin and Obi-Wan closer, and Obi-Wan is able to explain his initial misgivings. He actually doesn’t feel he’s stuck with Anakin, rather than Anakin is stuck with him, the inferior teacher compared to Qui-Gon. Despite their flaws, the pair obviously go on to understand each other further, at least for a while until *cough cough Clone Wars cough Dark Side cough*
Like I said before, I think the pre-Episode II era is something that needs explored further. I want to see the Jedi at the height of the Republic before the war and their fall from grace. And I especially want to see the first days of a young Obi-Wan dealing with an even-younger Anakin, something similar to Anakin dealing with training Ahsoka during the Clone Wars. I think there’s a couple solid novels or comic miniseries to mine from that relationship alone, not counting all the other stuff going on with the Jedi and the Republic at that time.
#4 Jango Fett:
The man, the myth, the Mandalorian armor. Probably the best issue of the series so far, the Jango Fett issue is begging to become a miniseries fleshing out its multiple points of interest. Where do I begin even?
Issue 4 tells a short story between father and son, featuring young Boba Fett at the forefront with his bounty hunting dad, Jango. A mysterious contract has Jango set for life, but he chooses to continue taking on new work. He doesn’t take the extra work for the sake of profit, and instead uses these missions, often with lesser-known bounty hunters, to prepare Boba for anything and everything the galaxy can throw at them. This establishes a code of honor that Jango wishes to instill in Boba, creating a great legacy for the Fett family.
A quick flashback to one of the moons of Bogden (as referenced in Attack of the Clones) gives a glimpse of Jango working with Count Dooku, or as he knows him Darth Tyranus. Fast-forward a bit, we also get a short look into how Jango feels about his clones, the Republic’s future army. He actually dislikes them and doesn’t regard them in a familial way, instead choosing to focus on Boba as his only true son. The moments we get to see are great despite being so short, which is why this story is screaming miniseries to me – these are details a lot of readers want to see fleshed-out.
The ideas of legacy and reputation are nicely tied into the mission that Jango brings Boba along for. They are tasked with retrieving a young woman and returning her to her father. Jango links up with a small-time crew of three other bounty hunters. Two of them dismiss Jango’s reputation, but the third knows the stories aren’t just stories and that Jango is as good as he claims to be. Once the crew has their bounty, the two less-respectful hunters turn on Jango, getting the drop on Boba and threatening to kill him. Calm behind the helmet, Jango knows Boba can handle himself in this situation, which of course he does.
Turning the tables back on the traitors, Boba is able to escape and kill his captors. The third bounty hunter, a smart Rodian who respects the Fett legacy, narrowly avoids the fate of his partners. It all boils down to respect and the fact that he didn’t appear to be in on the plan to hijack the bounty. Boba allows him to live, forfeiting his share of the bounty and living to tell the tale of the Fett’s prowess. Later, aboard Slave I, Boba asks his father if he did a good job. In possibly the best Jango Fett dialog ever, Jango states that his son shot well, trusted his judgement, and worked toward building a good reputation – and those things make him a very proud man who knows he will have a great legacy.
I can’t gush about this one enough, and not just because it’s a Fett story. It’s a great father/son dynamic with a strong central theme running through it. I’d love to see all the stuff about the dealings with Tyranus and the Kaminoans fleshed out, but I’d also like to explore Boba’s childhood with Jango around as well. And yes, there is a Legends version of all this told through comics and the Bounty Hunter video game, but this is about it in canon thus far. That stuff is all good but I think I like where this one is going, assuming this issue is a teaser for more stories like it. The flashbacks and asides from the main mission are good but short, and I think more fleshed-out versions are bound to expand upon these abridged versions.
And here we are at the midpoint of the series of short stories with three especially-short stories. I have mixed feelings about this one. I think these stories were probably longer at some point, or that they should have been. While their wings aren’t entirely clipped creatively, they don’t seem to soar and exist more as teases for potential future stories rather than complete, satisfying short stories.
Mace Windu’s story takes place either before or at some point very close to The Phantom Menace. Chancellor Valorum is mentioned, meaning that Palpatine has yet to take that position. Mace has been dispatched to deal with a group of terrorists who seek to strike back at he Republic from the Outer Rim, and that part is good. It shows that before the Separatists unify and the Clone Wars begin there are already fringe groups who wish to change the galaxy for better or ill. Mace is captured and taken to the terrorist leader, Guattako.
Guattako is either a Kaleesh or wears a mask similar to one. The Kaleesh are the species General Grievous was before his cybernetic enhancements and wear bony war masks. This particularly nasty alien is raising an army of child soldiers to attack the republic with, and his endeavors are funded by Hutt gangsters. Mace Windu, having been captured and disarmed, bides his time until he can regain his lightsaber, which was dismantled. Little do these thugs know, Jedi learn to assemble their sabers through the Force at a young age. Here we get to see a cool flashback to younger Mace Windu building his first laser sword with Huyang, a Jedi Order droid who guides younglings in the crafting process. This was a great callback to Huyang’s appearance in Clone Wars and it took me completely by surprise to see him again. Overall this story isn’t bad, just kind of a fluffy one that doesn’t add any great lore or breathtaking action.
Next up is my personal favorite Clone Wars character Asajj Ventress. We find Ventress on the streets of Coruscant working as a bounty hunter after the failed attempt on her life by former master Count Dooku. More specifically, it takes place during the time Ahsoka Tano is on the run from the Jedi Order, and Ventress takes up the bounty contract. In her eyes she can use Ahsoka to clear her name in the Republic’s eyes.
Along the way, Ventress is interrupted by a thug harassing some girls. It’s none of her business and not her problem, but Ventress knows all too well what it’s like being bullied. She thinks back to her time as a Jedi briefly (and when she had that awesome mohawk) and the loss of her master, then the loss of her entire clan of Night Sisters at the hands of Grievous. Ventress steps in, lightsabers at the ready, and relieves the girls of their trouble while also relieving the thug of one of his arms. She reinforces a fighting spirit in the pair, encouraging them to fight against anyone who ever tries to give them a hard time. They offer some space fruit as thanks, which she tells them to keep, and reminds them to keep one another safe – they appear to be sisters, and that kind of relationship obviously strikes home with Ventress.
While this story is also brief, it makes me want a Ventress solo series really bad. It was a better fluff story than the Mace Windu one in my opinion. There’s more meat to Ventress as a character, especially at this time in her life. It also flowed better for my tastes, knowing exactly where it was taking place and seeing that strong central theme again, this time about keeping family safe.
Closing out the Special issue we have a story featuring Captain Rex and Jar Jar Binks. The Battle of Mimban rages on – this is actually one of many times it’s brought up, as the people just refuse to give this planet up to the Republic, even to the Empire later on. We meet a Jedi who is killed as quickly as he’s introduced, leaving command of the clone forces to senator Jar Jar.
Okay, so two things to say about that first of all. I hate when a Jedi is introduced just to be killed off. It’s been done alright in some places but this death in particular is almost comedic. Command falling to a senator also doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me in this situation. Jar Jar does point this out but that doesn’t make it entirely better. Also, Jar Jar is only there because he can somehow communicate with the Mimbanese people, who are also swamp-dwellers. I’m surprised I’m not hearing anything across the internet about people being offended by this somehow – while that reaction would be a bit extreme, this logic is pretty stupid.
So Captain Rex’s unit is tasked with destroying a shield generator and not much else is known about the mission aside from Jar Jar needing to speak ‘swamp’ at some Mimbanese people eventually. There are some cameos from other 501st clone troopers but they don’t get to do a great deal. (I also hate to be this nitpicky but when Rex draws his dual pistol and Jar Jar wields a clone’s blaster rifle, the shots aren’t blue) Jar Jar comes across the dead Jedi’s lightsaber and nearly kills himself with it, which is accurate. And then they charge the shield generator. Really, not a lot happens here. It’s the weakest of these stories thus far, which is a shame because it’s the only one to prominently feature clones and it doesn’t even do very much of that.
So there we have it, a whole bunch of new Star Wars stories. I’ll be picking up this series as they come out throughout the year. Although I like the dense, lore-heavy stuff, bite-sized stories can also be good in their own right. And there’s even the chance of some of these stories getting picked up and expanded upon in the future. Overall there’s something for any Star Wars reader to love and I’d recommend every one of these stories with the exception of the Rex/Jar Jar one (and that’s not Jar Jar hate, I just didn’t find the story personally interesting.) If you’re reading this series or going to star now, I hope you enjoy it!
Thanks for reading, keep space fun, and may the Force be with you,
-Supreme Leader D