Star Wars Tales #1
Cover: Igor Kordey
Editor: Peet Janes
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (09/29/1999)
This is the first in Dark Horse's anthology series. It's an opportunity for writers and artists to write short stories set in the Star Wars universe. Each quarterly issue will include stories by creators familiar or new to Star Wars.
Here is a breakdown of the stories:
"Life, Death, and the Living Force"
Story: Jim Woodring
Pencils: Robert Teranishi
Colors: Christopher Chuckry
Camping on a jungle planet, Obi-Wan receives instructions about the value of life and the Force from his master Qui-Gon Jinn.
This is a very good short story from Jim Woodring, who previously wrote the very funny Jabba the Hutt series. It lets us see how difficult it is to be a Jedi and how much judgment one has to have when it comes to using the Force. It touches on the values of "what is good? What is evil?" When is it right to use the Force to kill? The first part of the story parallels a scene in The Phantom Menace as Obi-Wan is is annoyed at his master for helping some pesky creature who's not worth the trouble. Later, he would do the same with Jar Jar Binks...
Teranishi is a relative newcomer to Star Wars, but he did illustrate the Qui-Gon Jinn one-shot and a quarter of the Episode I #? Wizard special. His style is very realistic and the characters show a lot of their emotions through their expressions. The backgounds are very beautiful and dark, and Teranishi draws a lot of shadows everywhere making this story particularly creepy. The creatures (and there are lots of them for such a short story) are very gruesome and one of them is very Lovecraft-esque. The dull colors by Christopher Chuckry just add to the eeriness of the atmospheric scenes. Worth reading a couple of times to catch the small nuances.
"A Night on the Town"
Story: Timothy Zahn
Pencils: Igor Kordey
Colors: Keith Wood
On the run from Ysanne Isard, Mara Jade gets off a transport on a small colony world named Kintoni. She witnesses a group of Rebels led by General Crix Madine at the spaceport and also hears that an Imperial Governor named Barkale is on the planet. Mara infiltrates the Imperial Garrison where Barkale is being detained and interrogated by Madine in the hopes of rescuing him. She is caught by Madine however and makes a deal with him that will give her her freedom as well as give the Rebels a little bonus. Chronologically, the story takes place right after Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand.
From the creator of Mara Jade, this story is another slice in the life of Mara Jade's complex character. It comes across as a bit too introspective, though, as there are too many thought balloons which, in a novel or short story would help explain the motivations of the main character, but in this short comic book story only state the obvious. Much like in "By the Emperor's Hand", it makes Mara sound like she is constantly talking to herself in her head. But this is only a minor concern as the story is a fun read.
I am not familiar with Kordey's art, but in this story it is unremarkable at best. It does illustrate clearly what's going on, but the characters always seem to frown and some of them don't even look the same from panel to panel. It is also very dark, filled with shadows, even for a story that takes place at night...
"Extinction" [Part 1]
Story: Ron Marz
Pencils: Claudio Castellini
Colors: Guy Major
Darth Vader is summoned by the Emperor and given some startling news: the Dark Woman is still alive and was located by Mara Jade on an Outer Rim planet. Mara feels that the task to kill one of the last Jedi should be hers for she was the one who located the Dark Woman. But the Empror send Vader instead for his experience. Once there, he meets the old Jedi woman who seems willing to let Vader kill her. The story will be continued in Star Wars Tales #2.
Very straight and to the point. The story just goes along very quickly while being very entertaining. It is a nice tie-in with the Episode I period as the Dark Woman is also featured in the on-going Star Wars series as Ki-Adi-Mundi's first teacher. It also sheds some light on the Jedi killings, and on Vader's opinion of the Emperor's Hand Mara Jade.
Castellini is just incredible. He blends the styles of John Buscema and Al Williamson with a great handle on Star Wars technology. The Emperor looks almost exactly like he did in Return of the Jedi, while Vader conveys a surprising range of expressions (he looks very startled when he hears about the Dark Woman!) However, the women look a lot like something out of a Buscema-illustrated Conan story (Castellini did draw Marvel's first Conan mini-series revival in 1997), which may not be what Mara should look like. But regardless, the artwork is just very nice to look at.
"Skippy the Jedi Droid"
Story: Peter David
Pencils: Martin Egeland and Howard S. Shum
Colors: Harold MacKinnon
Obi-Wan knows there is another Jedi besides Luke on Tatooine, but was never able to find him. He is Skippy the Jedi droid and he will sacrifice himself to let destiny follow its course.
I approached this story with weariness, having read Newsarama's preview a few months ago. I have heard a lot about Peter David, and although I have never read any of his work I knew that he wrote some of the best Star Trek novels and Hulk comics. I also knew that he has some warped sense of humor. And I was proven right as I found myself laughing out loud while reading the story. To heck with continuity and the fact that Skippy is supposed to be R5-D4, this is one funny tale of impossibilities and bizarre sentences.
Expectedly, the art is kind of cartoonish but represents well the actions and expressions of the characters. It also features some funny droid cameos that I won't name here (you'll have more fun spotting them yourself.) The bright colors by Harold MacKinnon greatly enhance the storytelling.
I think this is a very good start for a very promising series. Editor Peet Janes had a great idea and I hope this becomes the flagship of the Star Wars comics, as it has the potential of bringing new readers into George Lucas' universe. The moniker "within and beyond the continuity" worries me a little, though.
Rating: 9 / 10 Highly Recommended