STAR WARS: EMISSARIES & ASSASSINS: A Half-Empty Mixed Bag
Feb 27, 2012
Good grief. I realized long ago that the STAR WARS Prequel Trilogy really wasn’t “your father’s STAR WARS story,” and, to a certain extent, I think I’d made my peace with it. George Lucas is plenty of years older than he was when he scratched down the outline for the entirety of the story, so maybe – just maybe – he’d lost much of his original ideas for Episodes I, II, and III. Maybe a Gungan had eaten his notes! I mean, “Who knew? Right?” that an entire legion of STAR WARS fans would hate the second collection of films. I didn’t. I certainly saw them as ‘lesser films’ only in so much that they didn’t make a lot of narrative sense. I figured the big ticket items – the introduction of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the rise of Darth Vader – were handled well enough that I could easily forgive a ten-year-old Anakin, alien-based fart jokes, and a steaming pile of JarJar.
However, what I didn’t so much anticipate was how the intrusion of uninteresting characterization compounded with flat, one-dimensional writing would inhabit the world of Dark Horse Comics. That hadn’t always been the case as Dark Horse – by my own recollection and even my own reviews of several of their trade paperbacks – has created some winning excursions into the STAR WARS Universe. In fact, some of their stories have been so phenomenal that one could almost give Dark Horse a Dewback’s share of the credit for the creation of the Expanded Universe. While I understand that the EU incorporates several STAR WARS properties (games, toys, books, etc.), it’s been my experience that quite a bit of it has been fleshed out in Dark Horse materials, and George Lucas’s world has been richly textured as a result.
However, the STAR WARS OMNIBUS: EMISSARIES & ASSASSINS is – hands down – nearly unbearable for much of its nearly 500 pages. No, no, no … it isn’t awful artwork, per se, though there are some panels that really cry out for greater clarity. Rather, it’s just dreadful stories, with only two notable exceptions. Whoever working for part of Dark Horse’s editorial staff who believed exploring additional material to be set within the framework of events portrayed in STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE really needs to be either (a) drawn and quartered, (b) summarily dismissed from employment, or (c) both.
Here’s a rundown:
ANAKIN SKYWALKER is a 30-page vignette that essentially tries to flesh out “a character” from the horrific mess that was the ten-year-old misfit portrayed by (actor) Jake Lloyd. It’s almost painful to read as the young slave goes about acting like an even younger and more annoying slave than what made it on the big screen. Bonus annoyance: there’s more Watto! Zero stars.
QUEEN AMIDALA is a 30-page vignette that essentially tries to give Padme – in her disguise as the handmaiden while on Tatooine – a bit of a side adventure completely unnecessary to any of the action and events already depicted in the motion picture, THE PHANTOM MENACE. Bonus annoyance: there’s plenty more JarJar! Zero stars.
QUI-GON JINN is a 30-page vignette that’s – thankfully – much less painful than so much else in the previous two vignettes, and, thus far, it’s the only one that mildly adds to the narrative already established in THE PHANTOM MENACE. Basically, the story tries to fill in some additional story between Qui-Gon and Watto and how the two of them went about keeping their agreement to free young Anakin once he won the podrace. Again, it’s an improvement, but, much like the others, it isn’t all that relevant. One star.
OBI-WAN KENOBI is a throwback to the less-than-stellar work of the first two vignettes as it postulates a lengthening of Yoda’s private meeting with Obi-Wan after the young Jedi is named a full Knight. Essentially, it’s a “review” of the entirety of events from THE PHANTOM MENACE – told by Obi-Wan to Yoda – so that Yoda can underscore the “wise teachings” that Qui-Gon provided to Obi-Wan. Great … but didn’t we already know this by seeing the film? It’s a pointless review wasting another 30 pages. Zero stars.
OUTLANDER finally presents a story of substance as the Jedi Master Ki journeys to the planet Tatooine to unravel the mystery of a long-thought-dead Jedi. Artwork is solid, and there’s a story that develops nicely, though a few panels were pretty heavy on speeches (better editing could’ve trimmed them back for brevity). Still, it works to revisit the culture of the Tusken Raiders and to give readers another look at the planet of Skywalker’s birth. Four stars.
EMISSARIES TO MALASTARE, however, grows quite painful quite quickly. It’s a story that bares little relation to anything else here in the trade – one unifying element that threads throughout most (not all) of these works in the planet Tatooine and/or elements associated with THE PHANTOM MENACE or ATTACK OF THE CLONES. A group of Jedi masters go on a mission to … negotiate a peace treaty? There’s a tagged on epilogue story here that involved the Republic’s “relocated species act” or some such nonsense, and it’s all WAY too heavy on speeches and uninteresting characters. One star.
JANGO FETT – OPEN SEASON is, fortunately, a fresh story written and drawn with great care, and it builds upon conventions established within the STAR WARS films. Darth Tyranus and Darth Sidious get together to review how and why Jango Fett was selected to serve as their ‘primary clone,’ and the backstory clearly springs from established characters and events. It works wonderfully and closes out the book on a high note. Five stars.
The sum total of EMISSARIES & ASSASSINS ends up marginally better than it should because, like any good piece of entertainment, it saves the best for last: the Jango Fett kinda/sorta origins story is a high note artistically and creatively, easily fitting in nicely with what little ATTACK OF THE CLONES provides as a personal history. However, if these separate stories had been re-ordered, then I wouldn’t be giving the collection the benefit of the doubt, I wouldn’t be claiming that these writers and artists “really tried hard” to make this visit to the “galaxy far, far away” worthwhile. I’d say that they were, mostly, lazy.
Recommended ONLY for die-hard fans of the Prequel Trilogy
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