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SOTE Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand #2 of 6
Writers: Michael A. Stackpole and Timothy Zahn
Art: Carlos Ezquerra
Colors: James Sinclair
Cover: Killian Plunkett
Editor: Peet Janes


Mara completes her mission, but has second thoughts about it upon returning to Coruscant. Vader kills the Emperor and Mara's life changes forever...

EnsViews Comic Review
Reviewed 09/02/98

Suppose you were to ask a character if they felt they were evil (or a bad person). Palpatine, Vader and probably Tarkin would admit that they were. The recent Emperor wanna-be's like Isard or Jax, maybe. What about the rest of the servants of the Empire? Baron Fel certainly felt he was serving the best interest of the citizens of the galaxy. I quite enjoyed an unexpected trip into Mara's motivations and world view as the Emperor's Hand.

Mara's character has always had an element of "looking out for number one" to her. This series is about how she deals with having her life stripped away from her, so it definitely makes her deeper and more sympathetic that she hasn't always been quite as "selfish". She believes, as Fel does, that she is part of a "noble cause".

Of course, Mara's interesting because she's a paradox. I think opening the issue with an action sequence was equally appropriate to her character. As is using brains rather than brawn to escape. This is very nicely illustrated by her broad range of leisure activities, another enjoyable touch.

I've mentioned on previous occasions that one of the best additions of the SW literature has been adding layers and schemes to Emperor Palpatine and the politics of the Imperial leadership between ANH and ROTJ. Adding in an additional layer of activity by Isard is interesting to me and I hope and assume this will be fleshed out in the next issue.

Unfortunately, the actual death of Palpatine -- the critical turning point in Mara's life -- just didn't have the emotion to it that I've been anticipating. The Emperor's take on his own death is interesting ("what I told you is true... from a certain point of view"), I suppose. I can't put my finger on the missing ingredient, but I wanted a feeling more like the cover of this issue.

Ezquerra maintains the quality established in the first issue. Mara just looks "right". Of course, the action scenes gave her the strength and competence we expect. However, I found her body language during her leisure activities and during her mission investigation to most effectively portray the subtleties of her character.

Ezquerra is also establishing himself as the most prolific costume designer in SW comic history. (You know, a comic artist takes on the job of the prop designer, set builder, cinematographer, costumer, make-up, choreographer and probably ten other jobs.) Leia in ROTJ was the last time a SW character changed clothes this much. But this is no simple fashion show, Mara is a new person every hour and needs clothes to match.

The double-page spread of Coruscant is very cool and a nice showcase of Ezquerra's ability with biology and technology. I can't wait to see this planet on the big screen next year!

This series is shaping up to meet my high expectations. If you're a fan of the "better" novels, you should really give this series a try. The downside for me was a slightly anti-climactic death of the Emperor.

8/10. Recommended.

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"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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