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The Clone Wars: Crash Course
Story: Henry Gilroy, Gary Scheppke
Script: Henry Gilroy
Art: The Fillbach Brothers
Coloring: Ronda Pattison
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Ramón K. Pérez
Released: 12/24/2008

Reviewed by: JF Boivin (04/06/2009)

SUMMARY:

After a traitorous Republic senator gives away a data file containing the Jedi's war stategies to the Separatists, the Jedi Council send Anakin and his Padawan to retrieve it. The senator's aide Messo brings it to Mon Gazza where a major Podrace is about to take place. Anakin discovers that the data file was given to one of the Podracing teams so he enrolls Ahsoka to take part of the race. She befriends one of the suspects, a champion Twi'lek racer named Kidd Kareen, in order to find out if he is part of the plot and who his contacts are. After geting to know him, Ahsoka doesn't believe that Kidd would work for the Separatists and is proved right later when the Sep agent is revealed to be Kidd's racing partner Maxus. When it comes time to choosing sides, Kidd has to decide if he will help his long-time friend or the Jedi who deceived him.


[final cover]


THE STORY

The story opens with Ki-Adi-Mundi following up on his discovery of the identity of a spy inside the Republic Senate who's been feeding information to the Separatists. The Jedi Master attacks just as the Senator, who's having second thoughts, is about to give the latest data file containing war strategies to Asajj Ventress. Having no more use of him, Asajj kills the Senator then fights with Ki-Adi. Meanwhile, the Senator's aide, a Trandoshan named Messo, flees with the data file intending to sell it to the Separatists later (why he doesn't arrange the deal right away with Asajj is not made clear). Asajj creates a diversion and escapes. Ki-Adi runs to the Senator's side, and in his dying breath the politician in his remorse reveals that his aide will go to the Mon Gazza system.

Ki-Adi and Master Yoda meet with Chancelor Palpatine and due to the importance of the data contained in the stolen file it is decided that it has to be recovered at all costs. Anakin Skywalker is pulled from his mission of liberating the planet Queel from the droid army and urgently assigned to go to Mon Gazza. Anakin will bring his Padawan Ahsoka and his right-hand man Captain Rex, while Obi-Wan will continue with their mission on Queel. After they arrive in Miner Town on Mon Gazza aboard Twilight, Anakin follows Messo dowtown to the Podracing track. Messo turns to attack Anakin and accidentally falls on the racing track in front of an incoming Pod, but not before revealing he gave away the data file. Anakin figures he must have given it to one of the racing teams who travel from one system to the next and can easily smuggle the data to the Separatists. As Ahsoka and Rex meet up with Anakin at the track during the first qualifier race, he tells his Padawan that he entered her in the Podrace.

Ahsoka is taken by surprise as she doesn't have any experience, while Anakin did some Podracing in his youth. But he would be too recognizable and might compromise the mission. Anakin finds her a used Podracer and shows her the controls while Ahsoka reports that Republic Intelligence learned that several "enemy espionage events" (whatever that means) have happened on the Podracing circuit and one team in particular was present at every one: that team is led by the racer who just won the qualifier race, a Twi'lek named Kidd Kareen piloting his Solarix-G6 engine. So Anakin then assigns Ahsoka to keep an eye on Kareen and confirm their suspicions that he might have the stolen data file. While Ahsoka is given a tour of the racing track and starts to take a liking to Kareen, Anakin is caught snooping around the racing team's stall and Kareen's racing partner, a Devaronian named Maxus, gets suspicious of the young innexperienced racing girl and her "oil boy". Ahsoka and Kareen return in time to break up the fight, just in time for Ahsoka to prepare to enter the second qualifier race. Manwhile, Maxus shares his suspicions with his long-time partner Kidd Kareen.

Ahsoka has never raced before, but she is taught how to use the controls by Anakin and coached during the race via comlink. Nevertheless, the racing is fierce and a Devlikk named Raido (the same species as Wan Sandage) rams her pod and makes her crash. Ahsoka still qualifies as she crashed past the finish line, but she is now without a Podracer to participate in the race. Kareen helpfully offers one of his spare Podracers, a TurboDyne 99. There are some protests on both sides: Anakin thinks they might want to kill her, and Maxus still doesn't want this new kid to be in the race. Thanks to Ahsoka vouching for Kareen's good intentions, Anakin's suspicions are now on Maxus and he, Rex and Artoo tail the Devaronian racer to an establishment owned by Sebulba. When Rex asks him if he knows Sebulba, Anakin says "I've run into him once or twice." This refers of course to the Boonta Eve Podrace from The Phantom Menace and the Episode I Racer video game, but also the PS2 game Racer Revenge which occurs 2-3 years before this story. Sebulba himself is not there, but it's a cool reference. Anakin catches Maxus in the act of contacting Count Dooku himself via hologram so now he knows he's getting closer to the data file.

While Anakin returns to the Podrace hangar and interrupts Kareen giving lessons to Ahsoka, he pulls her aside and tells her what he found out. Meanwhile, Maxus does some investigating of his own and reports to Kareen that Ahsoka and her oil boy are in fact Jedi. Maxus also reveals that he does in fact possess the Republic's data file and has been working for the Separatists. Kareen is shocked but he is given no choice but to comply, being guilty by association. Maxus tells him they should get rid of Ahsoka during the race, but he doesn't tell him that a Separatist agent will meet them to receive the data file. But during the race, Kareen follows his heart and rescues Ahsoka when he Pod is in trouble. She ends up dueling with Asajj Ventress and Anakin manages to force crush the data file, rendering it useless to the Separatists. Kareen forfeited his first place in the race (Ben Quadrinaros [sic] ends up winning) and the Jedi's mission is accomplished. And they made a friend in the Podracing circuit in the process.

This story is of course inspired by the video game Episode I Racer, where the Mon Gazza circuit was first introduced as one of the racing tracks. There are also some nods to other Podracers, like Sebulba and Ben Quadrinaros who make cool cameos. There are some new ones as well like Poorfo, an unnamed Bith, Raido, and of course Kidd Kareen and Maxus (R.I.P.) There is a lot of exciting action, especially the lightsaber fight between Asajj and Ahsoka on top of a speeding Podracer. It's nice to have the focus a litle more on Ahsoka, as Anakin mostly stays undercover because of his reknown as an ex-Podracer himself. There are a few holes in the story, but this is of course an all-ages story so I'm more open-minded. It's a lot if fun.


THE ART

The Fillbach Brothers are getting good at this by now, but the art is still a bit clunky for my tastes. There are a couple of cool winks though, like Quadinaros' expression when he notices Anakin (creating a subplot of he-knew-but-didn't-tell) and Ahsoka and Kareen almost kissing. It looks like a rush job but at least the story is very well told visually is easy to follow. And for a change, instead of big galactic battles and ground skirmishes, we get to explore the life of a Podracer and it's a nice change of pace. Even though the two main ones, Maxus and Kareen, are pretty bland visually, the plot makes them interesting. But new characters, especially aliens, are certainly not the Fillbachs' forte.


CONCLUSIONS

Lot of fast-paced action and a hint of romance for Ahsoka (!?!)

Rating: 7 / 10 Recommended

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