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Star Wars Tales #12
Star Wars Tales #12 (Photo Cover)

Story: Brett Matthews, Henry Gilroy, Kevin Rubio, C.B. Sebulski, Christian Read
Pencils: Adrian Sibar, Manuel Garcia, Rick Zombo, Makoto Nakatsuka, John McCrea
Cover: John McRea
Editor: Dave Land
Released: 06/05/2002

Reviewed by: Mike Cooper (06/25/2002)

SUMMARY:

A post-Endor profile of Wedge Antilles, AKA The Man; an Anakin/Obi-Wan tale of lust and politics, an addendum to the Tag & Bink mythology, a confrontation between Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon and Aurra Sing, and the story of one of the last Old Republic Jedi.


[art cover]


[photo cover]


An Open Letter to Dave Land, or

"Mike Cooper's Incredibly Belated Review of Star Wars Tales #12"

First of all, anytime I address something specifically to Dave Land, Dark Horse Editor, it's based on his reputation, his visibility as a Dark Horse spokesman, and the fact that he is, quite simply, the editor. If any of the things I attribute to him in the forthcoming review are not actually things he's responsible for, let me just apologize now. I'm sure he won't lose any sleep over it.  I'm one of the few people lucky enough to have the enormously popular public forum that is TFN at my disposal for whenever I feel the need to proliferate my opinions, and so I'm darn well gonna use it.

This is an era of unequalled greatness for Star Wars fans. Look to the left, and you've got glorious cinematic set pieces like the Battle of Geonosis. Look to the right, and you see Star Wars taking bold new strides with the gritty, not-so-safe world of the New Jedi Order. Look ahead, and witness not only another movie on the horizon, but a bold new game that looks to take fans further into the GFFA than ever before, and comics that show us a GFFA we never thought possible. Oh yeah, there's also that whole business of Tim Zahn returning to the SW franchise to expand upon stories he laid the groundwork for more than a decade ago.

But whatever you do, don't look back. Therein lies the sole blemish on the bright star of the aforementioned Galaxy Far, Far, Away: Star Wars Tales.

There's much that needs to be said about this series, but since this is a review, I'm gonna start by relating specific problems with this issue as I come across them. If I happen to drift into the occasional rant, well, them's the breaks. From last to first, in true Letterman fashion. 

--spoilers follow--

The Duty - I suppose every issue must have a bright spot, and for me, this was it. The Duty shows us one of the last Jedi Knights as he struggles to secure the freedom of a group of Padawans amidst the clenching fist of an Imperial assault. The idea of Vader breaking a Jedi such as he does here instead of just slaughtering him is a fascinating one. There are some art issues (particularly with Vader's knees and the length of a certain ponytail), but all in all, the story adds a bit more gravity to the purge (the Jedi weren't just fighting extinction, they were fighting for their very souls), shows Vader being more clever than we usually see him (toying with a Jedi, not just "I-see-you-I-kill-you-now"), and communicates to us that not all the Jedi deaths were noble ones. In other words, it takes what we know and expands it ever so slightly to give everything else more meaning; exactly what a Tales story should do. It even offers up what could be info on things mentioned in other, more established EU: might these Padawans have been the Jedi children the Eye of Palpatine was supposed to exterminate? Oh yeah, and it actually fits into continuity. But I'll be getting into that later.

Once Bitten - What was the point of this story? This Tale traveled a course somewhat the opposite of The Duty's: it started out in a very good place, a place that I was looking forward to seeing fleshed out, but by the end, all I had to show for it was 5 less minutes to live. My heart leapt when I realized when this story takes place: during the Falcon's trip from Tatooine to Alderaan. Given the distance between the two planets, I was always mildly irked by the fact that ANH makes it seem as if the whole thing happened in a day or so. Seeing that time period expanded a little was a relief, even if the bulk of the story was an unrelated flashback. And boy oh boy, was it unrelated. The flashback story reminded me of something you'd hear from Grandpa Simpson: old guy discusses something, is reminded of a story, then spins a yarn that has no relevance to the original conversation. Firstly, I've read the pre-flashback part of the story several times, and I fail to see what it has to do with "the vilest of villains" being "well off to know when they're outmatched." Secondly, Aurra Sing seemed to be doing just fine against the two of them anyway. From the way Obi-Wan is telling this story, the fight ends with Sing kicking both Jedi full-force (no pun intended) to the ground, then saying "well, you're too much for me" and taking off. The only time she was on the ropes at all was when Obi-Wan pushed her to the ground, and all she had to do to recover from that was *snicker* hit Obes in the face with *giggle* her hair. Moving on, am I the only one who's not digging all this quasi-manga artwork? I can't remember the last time an issue didn't include at least one story straight out of Akira. But that's just a personal preference; you fans could love that manga look for all I know. Last but not least, this story contained some of the worst dialogue I've seen this side of Batman & Robin. If Anakin had said "Double or nothing?" to Dooku when he grabbed Obi-Wan's saber in AotC, I'd have walked out of the theater right there. Not to mention the myriad little lines like "be careful, Obi-Wan!", "she's gone", and "die, Jedi!" It also manages to fit into continuity, however, but why would anyone want it to?

The Revenge of Tag & Bink - Tsk, Tsk, Tsk. You're a fanboy, Rubio; you should know better. Not having read the previous Tag & Bink story yet, I don't have much to compare this to. I really like Zombo's art style, and the title characters do get the occasional funny moment, but overall I'd expected more. This sucker clearly doesn't fit into continuity, but it's clearly not supposed to, so I won't hold that against it. The way I see it, however, there are only two reasons for a Tales story to not fit into continuity: either it reveals things about characters that would be impossible to do otherwise (like Han figuring out Yoda's secret in Infinities: A New Hope; a brilliant move, I think), or it's just for the sake of pure amusement and is too ridiculous to be canon (like What They Called Me, one of the funniest SW comic shorts ever). Obviously, Revenge is meant for the latter, but it's not really that funny. And even if the hilarity had been up to par with Troops, it's got a believable enough setting that there's no reason it should've diverged from continuity.

A Jedi's Weapon - Decent art, decent (enough) dialogue, and it fits in continuity. The only thing really going against this one was that, well, it just wasn't very interesting. Again, that's just a personal thing, and not meant to be criticism of the creative talent. It did succeed in the realm of providing new info about characters and situations we're already familiar with, though (no wonder Anakin was reluctant to suffer through that lecture in AotC), which is more than I can say for the bulk of this issue. 

A Day in the Life - Hoo, boy. If you thought I'd been complaining too much about continuity so far, you ain't seen nothing yet. Where do I begin with this one?

1) Three days after Endor? This must be the other Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker; the ones not on Bakura.

2) Exactly what type of TIE is that they're chasing? Either someone stole Darth Vader's fighter, or this is a brand-new design that only produced one model.

3) Speaking of ship mysteries, how exactly did the Executor manage not only to remain 95% intact after ramming the Death Star, but then to transport itself to some weird purple rock planet? Or is that just the artist's interpretation of Endor's forest? Based on his interpretations of Luke and Wedge, it wouldn't surprise me.

I know how some of you would respond to the previous complaints. "It's Infinities, Mike! The story's not supposed to match the canon!" Well then, what is the story supposed to do? It's not funny, and it definitely doesn't shed any new light on its characters. Even if you're one of the few people who thought that maybe Wedge liked it when his pilots died (though I'd say the X-Wing series manages to clear that notion up about twice a chapter), a similar point could've been conveyed in countless other ways without such reckless plotting. This tells me that the real purpose of Dave Land's precious "Infinities" label is just to keep the creators from having to work too hard.

The Infinities slogan is "The World of Endless Star Wars Possibilities". I guess that's in effect with every story told in Tales so far, but who out there thinks a story in which Truce at Bakura never happened (for no better reason than so the author can say "Three days after Endor. Two of which I remember.") is a possibility they're interested in hearing about? If dramatic exclusions such as these aren't enhancing the storytelling in any profound way, the only other reason for them is pure laziness. Being something of a creator myself, I know better than to throw around such accusations lightly, but what other excuse could be made for a perfectly cute little GFFA children's story being ruined simply because the introduction implies that Anakin Solo was born 4 years earlier than he actually was? Or a story completely retelling Lando's loss of the Falcon to Han; again, for no apparent reason?

The worst part is that there hasn't really been a steady decline since the creation of the Infinities label. Every now and then, Tales delivers spectacular stories like The Princess Leia Diaries (#11), Resurrection (#9), or Incident at Horn Station (#2). If they can make a Darth Maul vs. Darth Vader story be not only exceedingly good (beyond just "Ooh, cool fight"), but, as far as I'm concerned, perfectly allowable in continuity (given the other creepy things we've seen the dark side do), there's no excuse whatsoever for the paltry offerings in issues like #12.

Dave, if you do happen to read this (you do visit TFN, don't you? =p), know that I write this with the best of intentions. I could easily bash everything in Tales unrelentingly, without any concern for the betterment of the series, but I really do want this comic to be good. There have been so many phenomenal stories in Tales, don't let any more fall victim to easily correctible details. If a story demands to be Infinities, make it so, but don't use it as a crutch. We fanboys expect, and deserve, so much more.


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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