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.
An edited reminder on how we’ll be discussing the comics in question.
For the sake of simplicity I’ll be referring to these issues as the “last four” 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 Count Dooku, Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala, and lastly General Grievous.
Ongoing Thoughts and Impressions:
I hear a lot of other readers comparing these Age of Republic comics to bite-sized episodes of The Clone Wars TV series, and while I enjoy that the prequels are getting some love in comic form, I think there’s some minor missteps here and there keeping the series from greatness. This whole “Age of. . .” series has been a comic series I like. I’m not sure I love it. Rapid-fire tidbits that flesh out existing stories are great in some issues, my particular favorites being the Jango Fett and Padme Amidala issues. Yet some other issues suffer from their short format and become supplemental material adding a small anecdote to existing supplemental material. At best we get great new character moments or twists on existing stories, and at worst it’s much like a TV show – sometimes it feels like a filler episode. The less-great issues are fluff, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Every perspective is different and maybe that fluff is essential to somebody, just not everybody, and at the end of the day those different perspectives are what creates new readers and new stories each and every day.
*****The following recaps do contain spoilers for the last four 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, get to the comic shop and get reading.*****
Count Dooku was a character that, to me, never got to realize his full potential. Moments like his temptation of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Attack of the Clones) and duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan (Revenge of the Sith) are some of my favorite prequel moments, yet he’s often outmatched in appearances on The Clone Wars, simply because future events (that were already made and released) dictated he had to lose. A comic book setting Dooku in amongst brand-new characters fixes that problem, allowing the Sith apprentice to stretch his wings a bit.
The Count is on a mission to Sullust, tasked with swaying the native Sullustans to the side of Chancellor Palpatine to fulfill important plans to come. Sullust, being a mining world, has obvious uses to the future Empire and pops up again all over canon. As time goes on, however, Dooku realizes he is not the only Force-user present. Jedi Master Jak’zin is also there, on a mission from the council to root out a group of weapons dealers operating on the planet.
The short story we get here is good, with glimpses of Dooku’s past as a revered Jedi. The story goes that he became disenfranchised with the Jedi Order, seeing their views as too narrow-minded and stuck in old ways of thinking. I would love to see this comic be the spark of getting a full Dooku story explaining his fall from the Jedi Order and first meetings with Lord Sidious. This is not that story, but it’s good in its own right. Count Dooku, a great thinker and manipulator, sees an opportunity to meet with these weapons dealers and strike his own lucrative deal with them – and he tricks Jak’zin into helping him root them out.
Bringing it back to animation, I narrowed Dooku down to two categories I jokingly refer to as ‘cunning’ or ‘running.’ He’s exceptionally intelligent and can outwit anyone without proper plot armor, and when stuck against plot armor, he’s usually forced to run away. This story represents the cunning Dooku, able to manipulate new albeit minor characters into doing his master’s bidding. Really, ‘running’ Dooku is just a trope of long-running animation – the bad guys must lose often enough for the show to keep going, and in the case of Dooku, he’s in the movie set after the show so he has to survive somehow. I don’t regard these tropes in any negative light, so long as the stories stay good, and overall I think the Dooku short story adds to his reputation as a smart, dangerous Sith Lord.
This is of course a visual medium and I can’t move on without commenting on the art, which is very good. Dooku’s likeness is spot-on, at times equally sinister and sincere. His flair for dueling saber techniques, dramatic leapss and landings, and feats of the Force using both hands add to his air of power. As for lore connections, seeing Dooku genuinely sad at being reminded of the death of his friend Qui-Gon Jinn was great to see. However, that’s part of something I want to see in a full “The Fall of Dooku” story arc – there’s just so much to unpack there, setting the precedent of being able to leave the Jedi Order well before Ahsoka or Anakin ever did. Fans of a brain-over-brawn type of Sith will enjoy this short story.
So they already did a story-line called Slaves of the Republic. They did it twice actually, once in a comic arc and then again when it was adapted into an arc of The Clone Wars episodes. Those were way better than the single-issue Anakin story.
The Anakin issue isn’t bad, it just isn’t essential in my opinion. Other story arcs have tackled the issue of Anakin dealing with the presense of slavery in the galaxy. One way or another he’s driven to rage and determined to free the slaves because that’s what a space wizard who is also an escaped slave would want to do. Not every Age of Republic story has a set date, but this issue does have a rough date of taking place during season 2 of The Clone Wars, setting it before Slaves of the Republic.
After a starfighter battle where Anakin wipes the floor with a bunch of droid fighters, a new task is given to him and Obi-Wan by Admiral Yularen. A droid factory has been established and is using a moon’s local populace as slave labor to produce more war machines. Always the straightforward military man, Yularen suggests a swift attack that will destroy the factory’s main power generators, utterly obliterating the facility. However, Anakin comes to realize that this will also cost the lives of the innocent workers inside.
Although I prefer the Slaves of the Republic arc, Anakin’s pain and dismay with this situation is well-written. He understands that destroying the facility will save casualties, but can’t allow himself to authorize such a mission when it is guaranteed that innocent lives will be taken. His struggle between his Jedi teachings and thrust-upon military duties is actually a good angle that wasn’t explored in the animation.
My issues don’t come from any of the writing being bad or not thought-out – however the ending of this issue does seem a little too perfect and convenient. Anakin is able to infiltrate the droid factory by himself and begins a slave revolt. He cuts down droids and encourages the workers to take the blasters from the scrap, arming themselves against the Separatists who control them. But the twist is that the Separatists planned on leaking the whereabouts of the factory to the Republic in order to encourage them to attack a factory full of innocent people. So in the end, the Republic is spared any wrongdoing after Anakin rushes in to take care of things himself. Yularen congratulates Anakin for making the right play. . .but that’s one instance where I don’t like the wording. Making the right play implies that there was foul-er play going on the entire time to me, and somehow Anakin saw through it and made the right call. He didn’t, he just rushed in, sliced up some droids, and started a slave rebellion. Something about the ending just didn’t resonate with me.
So overall, the Anakin issue isn’t bad but could be skipped. The art is good, though sometimes Obi-Wan and Yularen don’t quite sync up with other looks (that could honestly just be me being used to seeing them drawn differently, and animated.) I’ll say it one more time – for a better “Anakin dealing with slavery” story, watch or read the Slaves of the Republic episodes/comics.
The last four issues are a bit of an up-and-down ride, and for my money Padme was one of the best issues of the series. This story nailed a one-shot with good pacing, tidbits of lore and references sprinkled in, and a satisfying conclusion.
Padme is on a mission to Duro, except she actually isn’t and that’s one of the first interesting points this issue raises. Padme lies to Anakin’s face about a mission because she isn’t sure she can trust Palpatine so long as he has so much influence over Anakin and the Republic as a whole. Her true mission is kept a secret so that the neutral system of Clabron can be swayed into joining the Republic.
As the secret lovers share a kiss, they are discovered by one of Padme’s handmaindens, Motee. Her knowledge of their relationship makes Anakin uncomfortable, though Padme reassures him that Motee knows when to be discrete. This opening explores so many facets of Padme and Anakin’s relationship. They can barely be together, and when they are close to one another, they have to hide from everyone else. Padme has to keep secrets from her husband for fear that the Senate and Palpatine (he is also the Senate) will strip her of any authority to go on any kind of peace mission, never mind the secret ones. At it’s core, something general fans usually don’t pick up on is that Anakin and Padme don’t have a normal, healthy relationship – this issue reminds of that very important fact, though it is not the center of the story.
Arriving on Clabron, Padme and her handmaidens (think decoys/bodyguards) are set upon by an assassin. This sniper is able to wound Motee, but she pulls through and the group must make their way to cover. I was actually surprised to Motee live through this encouter. Knowing about the secret romance between Padme and Anakin seemed like a sure-fire way to get a minor character killed off, so props for doing something unexpected there.
Padme is denied entry into the building at which they’ve landed. The Grand Minister, whom Padme was to meet with, was also targeted by the sniper and is being treated by a medical droid. The Second Minister refuses them entry. With an assassin on the lose, he doesn’t want to risk his own life letting more high-value targets into the secure room. He eventually cedes and allows Padme to enter and speak to the Grand Minister, who is dying of his injuries. It is his dying wish for his people to remain neutral in the galaxy-spanning Clone Wars, as his people are peaceful and wish no harm to either side. And although they would rather the peaceful Republic be the victor, the new Second Minister, new leader of Clabron, regrets ever meeting Padme. It’s the Second Minister’s belief that the assassin would have never targeted their previous leader if it were not for Padme being invited to speak there.
Padme is able to appeal to the Second Minister’s good heart, realizing that they are both politicians who don’t care about personal gains, only the people. Padme then takes it upon herself to deal with the assassin, catching them off guard and capturing the wanted criminal. As she prepares to depart, she has one last talk with the Second Minister. The Second Minister promises to consider joining the Republic, but makes no other guarantees. All that Padme wishes for is to be given the chance to prove that joining the Republic is the right way to go, and it’s left at that – Padme wins the day and the neutral system, despite Republic aid, remains neutral. Now that’s a great, almost bittersweet ending. Padme has to lie to go on this mission in the first place, and in some ways the mission isn’t a success as there’s no immediate gratification.
Suffice to say, I would highly recommend the Padme issue. The story is great, the art is good, especially the new alien designs, and we get a political story that breaks some of the usual Star Wars tropes. The good guys win in this one but kind of go their separate ways, and sometimes that’s how life works. The story also introduces this great fictional concept where politicians care more about people than profits, and that (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED)
Well, now that that’s out of the way. . .
The General Grievous short has its own ups and downs. At its best it’s interesting in a trippy, almost horrific kind of way. At it’s worst, some things just don’t add up.
Cyborg murder-machine General Grievous starts off this well-illustrated issue by stalking and slaughtering a pair of Jedi. He of course takes their lightsabers as trophies, but is surprised to find a file on one of the bodies detailing the whereabouts of a Jedi temple on the planet. The art is well-done here and adding big call-outs of Grievous’s signature coughing and cackling really add to his menacing likeness on the page.
Grievous sets out to find and destroy this temple, and desecrates it on his way inside. Jedi statues are bisected and beheaded, leaving nothing but rubble behind as Grievous fondly remembers his own glorious statues within his lair. This issue is set after the events of the Lair of Grevious episode of The Clone Wars, and there’s some nice callbacks to the episodes, specifically Grevious’s self-aggrandizing statues.
As he enters the temple though, that’s where things stated to get weird for me. For some reason, this Jedi temple is a death trap. There’s pits of lava, giant spikes and spears protruding from the floor and walls, and even a giant rolling pin thing covered in spikes. These all seemed like things Grievous himself would have put in fortress, not something the Jedi would use to protect a shrine. The art remains good and consistent though, and shows off some of Grievous’s abilities such as his signature spider-crawl and use of a wrist-mounted grappling cable. But the Indiana Jones-esque traps just seemed bizzarely out of place to me.
Beyond the temple’s traps, Grievous comes to a green waterfall in a chamber with runes carved into the stone walls. Grievous reaches out with a metal claw, feeling nothing from the font. It isn’t until he fully steps through the water, thus allowing his organic brain to feel any semblance of the Force, that he begins to feel anything. In a twisted Force vision, Grievious begins to lose his mechanical parts, and flashes back to to his appearance before he was more machine than Kaleesh warrior. The red-skinned warrior also loses some body parts to the nebulous space, all the while being taunted by a voice he can’t find the source of. The best part of the vision, at least for me because I like this weird kind of art, is Grievous becoming nothing more than floating organs in an empty space. The nebulous voice calls him out as small, and belittles him for choosing to destroy his own body in favor of one he believes to be stronger.
Grievous being Grievous, i.e. an irredeemable and vicious warlord, learns nothing from this vision. He emerges from the water, lightsabers drawn and angry as hell. It isn’t long before he sends word back to his ship with coordinates to initiate orbital bombardment of the temple. He utterly erases it from history because deep down, it probably scared him on some level. Going back to Dooku being either a cunning villain or a running on, this is a great example of Grievious being a coward without losing to a main character yet again. He loses to the Force, something he can’t control, can barely feel, and something he can’t destroy. That really brings a new level of character to Grievious, a fear of death steeped in a cosmic force he doesn’t understand. It creates this unsettling sense of nihilism for a moment that even the edgiest Sith can’t compete with (because they still have feelings, Grievous does not.)
And there we have it, the end of Age of Republic. As an obvious testing ground for new stories, I think Marvel has done a good job overall adding these short stories into the fold. While not every short is a home run, all of them have something to say about an overarching theme – duty, parenthood, fear, overcoming your past – all of these issues are deep and unique to any individual reader. And given the opportunity, some of these stories could be fleshed out into even greater stories. I’ll give an obligatory ranking of the issues just for fun, I really don’t hold myself to any strict ranking system (not even for the films.) I recommend this series because it’s great to have serialized stories where you can get a quick fix of Star Wars and fit it into the canon as you go, rather than keeping up with a bigger ongoing story. While I generally prefer a bigger ongoing story, Age of RepublicI was full of fun moments, great art, and some thought-provoking story-lines once I went back and reread them.
Arbitrary Ranking (from best to worst)
1 – Jango Fett
2 – Padme Amidala
3 – Count Dooku
4 – General Grievous
5 – Darth Maul
6 – Obi-Wan Kenobi
7 – Special (Asajj Ventress, Mace Windu, Captain Rex and Jar Jar Binks)
8 – Qui-Gon Jinn
9 – Anakin Skywalker
Anakin’s issue may not be the greatest and may be retreading another story, but Star Wars teaches us that clones are people too.
Thanks for reading and may the Force of others be with you,
-Supreme Leader David