Star Wars: Jedi Volume 1 - The Dark SideA comic review article by: Jamil Scalese
For a thousand years everything in the galaxy far, far away was pretty chill. The Sith were vanquished, Jar Jar Binks was just a tadpole and Yoda continued to age peacefully. In what almost serves as a prequel to the "Prequels" the vanilla-titled Star Wars: Jedi - The Dark Side follows tranquil badass Qui-Gon Jinn into events that provide set-up for the trilogy.
I'm no Star Wars expert. I mean, I can tell an Ithorain from a Twi-lek, but not really because I had to look up those names to spell them. I grew up on the movies, but the extended universe always seemed unwieldy and laborious to me. I've entered the Star Wars comic zone only a handful of times but this little five-issue dabble might have me going back for more.
Qui-Gon is high on my list of favorites across the entire brand. Part of that is related to a man-crush on Liam Neeson, but the other part is demonstrated in spades by the creative team of Scott Allie and Mahmud Asrar. The story begins as the Jedi Council sends two Masters, Jinn and Tahl, and their Padawans, Xanatos and Orykan, to Telos IV where a planet is on the brink of civil war over the assassination of a popular high priestess. The world is the birthplace of young Xanatos, a talented but brash Jedi on the verge of knighthood, and he is reluctant to return.
The name Xanatos sparked something ancient in my brain, and then I remembered his name heavily involved as part as supplementary material for the Phantom Menace. He was the Anakin allegory; the character to precursor the Attack of the Clones moody teenage apprentice. The Dark Side is the spiritual prelude to the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Anakin Skywalker relationship, except abridged, and purposefully so. Allie does a fantastic job of inserting all numerous and willful themes of Star Wars into a focused and short series. Political drama, unchecked emotions, badass gun and sword battles and father/son dynamics -- it's all here.
The quality of art is top-notch, and breaths life and passion into a script that is good, but not smashing. Mahmud Asrar manages to build a world in this series that fits right into the established universe yet still stand out as wonderful. Telos IV, created by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson, is an interesting place, not much different from most city-planets, yet Asrar makes it feel a little coarse and beaten down. Just as well as he gets the setting he succeeds in the emotions. Characters like the timid Orykan and the wise and dependable Hukowl are portrayed in their posture and expression as much as they are in their dialogue.
The story is paced well, with a couple great turns and memorable character moments. It's a extraordinary balance of what a franchise tie-in should do: incorporate the source material accurately and judiciously, give depth to that material and finally, as if it's easy, create a compelling story. A worthy and recommended read for fanatics and fans alike.
Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.