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SOTE Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand #0 of 6

URL: http://www.starwars.com/mara (requires Shockwave plug-in)
Writer: Timothy Zahn
Art: Carlos Ezquerra
Animation: "Angry Monkey": Tomas Apodaca, Jean-Paul Leonard, Ben Olander


The Emperor shows off his new experiment... Mara Jade.

EnsViews Comic Review
Reviewed 07/27/98

I was somewhat surprised over the weekend when participants on the alt.binaries.starwars group had no idea who Mara Jade was. The few who had heard of her recognized the name from the fighting videogame "Masters of Teras Kasi". This was a good reminder to me that not every potential comic buyer out there is as excited about this upcoming release as I am.

I'm sure Dark Horse/Lucasfilm had this in mind when creating this online preview to the upcoming Mara Jade series. Unlike Crimson Empire #0 which introduced readers to setting and events leading up to the printed series, Mara Jade #0 has a single purpose: show the readers who Mara Jade is.

In the end I will likely judge this series on how well the Mara character portrayed fits with my view of Mara. What does this story tell Jade newcomers about her? She is a unique Imperial agent, has abilities in the Force, physically adept, skilled in arts of espionage and combat, she holds a hint of compassion despite her training, and she's smart enough to give the Emperor an acceptable answer. So far, that's my Mara.

One of the better concepts to come out of the novels and comics is the idea that the Emperor had layer upon layer of checks and schemes in his galactic plan, and what was on the surface was only part of the story. Behind the Imperial Navy, Mara Jade was a failsafe against Vader going soft on Luke. This makes me wonder why Palpatine is letting Vader in on her existence. Surely, he would now keep half an eye on Jade's whereabouts. It would be great to see this touched upon in "Vader's Quest". (Is it too late to request a Mara appearance there?)

The Tarkin references place this preview before ANH. In ANH, one is given the impression that Tarkin is Vader's superior. Two streams of thought on this are that either a) Vader rose in power between ANH and ESB, or b) Vader was subservient to Tarkin on the surface only. This story confirms the later. Again, this is grounds for exploration in "Vader's Quest".

Ezquerra's pencils are once again fantastic. This is the same athletic, realistic, attractive Mara we saw in dhorse.com's short preview of issue #1. The side by side contrast of equally deadly agents with the Royal Crimson Guard and redhead Mara in the white evening gown was striking.

It is a rare occasion where the color actually becomes an important part of the story. However, the simple use of alternating colors for the voice over dialog became an extremely clever plot device, leading to a satisfying revelation of the participants on the last page.

Motion and sound are an element not normally present in a comic. This is an interesting new genre that's not quite a comic, but not quite a Saturday morning cartoon. The work here has come a long way since Crimson Empire #0. While a few panels utilized "flipping picture"-style full animation, most of the animation is still essentially taking static cutouts and sliding them around on the screen. The use of the technique has improved from CE#0 by moving only part of an image (say, a hand or arm) to simulate more realistic motion. Much of the animation simulated camera movement in a simple, but effective manner. The first few pages experimented with expanding and shrinking panel sizes, an interesting technique worth pursuing in advancing this as a unique genre.

I was curious about Mara's lightsaber. In the novels, Mara has Luke's lightsaber that he lost in ESB. Of course, according to Ben that saber once belonged to Vader. Since this take place before Luke left the farm, this has to be yet another lightsaber. The look of the saber is hidden and ambiguous enough that I can accept a statement that it's different, but I'm not completely convinced.

It's very tough to put together an interesting, compelling and worthwhile comic within seven short pages, but Zahn has done it. Ezquerra's art is up to his high standards and the animation is improving (with room for improvement). This one's definitely worth the time required to view it online.

8/10. Recommended.

Cover Image

"EnsViews" are copyright ? 1997-8 by Paul Ens. They are posted to rec.arts.sf.starwars.misc, emailed to Dark Horse Comics and archived on theForce.net. With the exception of Dark Horse Comics Inc, they may not be reprinted without permission.

Titles, Cover images, Dark Horse Comics, and the Dark Horse logo are trademarks of Dark Horse Comics Inc. and its respective Licensors.

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