The Clone Wars: The Wind Raiders of Taloraan
Script: John Ostrander
Art: The Fillbach Brothers
Coloring: Ronda Pattison
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Wayne Lo
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (10/28/2009)
After fowling up negotiations between the Republic and the Bothans on Kothlis, Ahsoka Tano is assigned a mission by Master Yoda to hone her negotiations skills. The Padawan is sent to Taloraan, along with her Master Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, to negotiate a treaty with the local Denfrandi to procure tibanna gas for the Republic. The Jedi trio run afoul of a Separatist plot, but they manage to alert the Resolute before the ship falls into a trap. Along the way, Ahsoka arranged a deal with the Wind Raiders tribe and enlisted their help in defeating the Separatists and restore peace to Taloraan City.
The story opens in the middle of a space battle between the Republic and Separatist forces above Kothlis. Anakin and Obi-Wan are flying their Delta-7B Aethersprite, while Ahsoka is flying one of the Y-Wings and clones are also piloting V-19 Torrent starfighters. There is some dogfighting with Vulture Droids until Ahsoka fires proton torpedoes inside a Trade Federation droid control ship à la Anakin in The Phantom Menace. The Separatist fleet retreats and the Jedi, led by Yoda, land on Kothlis to convince the neutral Bothans to contribute their SpyNet to the Republic. They are pretty close to an agreement when Ahsoka inadvertently insults First Secretary Desark Fey'lya which breaks off the negotiations. Blaming her act on a lack of diplomatic training, Yoda feels this is time to train the Padawan in the art of diplomacy. He sends her on a mission to Taloraan to negotiate a treaty to obtain tibanna gas from the natives. Of course, her Master is not that much better in negotiations and when Obi-Wan speaks up he is assigned to go with them as well.
They arrive on Taloraan and after being harassed by giant birds ridden by Humans are escorted to Taloraan City by Denfrandi escort fighters. There they are greeted by Sech Govlinder who will host the negotiations in place of Magister Orlin Denache. While the discutions go on around a table (where Ahsoka is bored to death), Magister Denache contacts Count Dooku and informs him the Jedi are here and he plans to betray them. This alliance with the Separatists is unknown to even Govlinder, who sees the Jedi as honorable people. After the first round of negotiations, a frustrated Ahsoka goes out to explore the city with Govlinder's protocol droid C9-RXO. She stumbles on some activity around a supposedly empty warehouse, and when she investigates she sees a bunch of Humans loading Separatist battle droids and droidekas into cargo crates. Ahsoka is discovered by the man in charge Rynert who destroys C9, sends droidekas after Ahsoka and notifies Captain Canteval who is aboard a Separatist cruiser hidden in the clouds planning to ambush the Republic's ship.
Running along the streets, Ahsoka notifies the other Jedi of the plot she uncovered, but they would have found out anyway because right after they are also attacked by droidekas. They try to get back to their shuttle, but it explodes in their faces and the two uncounscious Jedi are captured by Rynert. Meanwhile, Ahsoka escapes her pursuers by jumping off a platform into the sky, then landing on a sleft-chuff then jumping to another before being attacked by a fleft-wauf. She jumps on the bird and manages to control it enough to direct it to attack the pursuing vulture droids. But the bird is outnumbered and is killed in the attack. Ahsoka, now in freefall, is then caught by Stormwing who is ridden by Jeru of the Wind Raiders who takes her back to his clan. At their camp inside an Island Beast, Jeru claims ownership of Ahsoka to their chief Bafor, but another, Nardek, disputes the claim and challenges Jeru to a fight. Nardek wins, but Ahsoka proves she is no one's property by kicking his butt around the room. She then warns the tribe against the invading Separatists and convinces them to help fighting them, thus accomplishing her own treaty negotiation.
Meanwhile, Anakin and Obi-Wan are being held prisoners, but Govlinder had taken a liking to them so he promptly frees them. He also leads them to the central communications tower where the Jedi have to warn the orbiting Resolute about the presence of a Separatist ship. They litterally have to fight their way up the tower against battle droids and vulture droids, with Ahsoka joining in, but Obi-Wan is able to send the warning. Admiral Yularen raises the shields just in time as Captain Canteval fires on the Republic ship. The Resolute attacks the Separatist ship back and destroys it, then Captain Rex and his squad are sent to help the Jedi. Jeru and the Wind-Raiders also help in the air, while Govlinder and a bunch of rebelling civilians join the fray in the city and all together the various groups manage to defeat the Separatists completely. Magister Denache jumps off a platform, ending his own life for having failed Count Dooku. The Jedi are reunited with Rex, and Ahsoka goes for a little joyride on a fleft-wauf.
The story has a lots of action and intrigue, a good mix of space and ground battles, hand-to-hand fighting, and acrobatics and running. But it is a bit illogical at times as it is aimed at younger readers. How come the Resolute never detected the Separatist ship on its own? Why did Govlinder kill himself? But the thing that bugs me most is an issue of continuity with previous references for Taloraan itself. "Wind Raiders of Taloraan" was the title of a short ( pages) Star Wars RPG adventure by James L. Cambias that appeared in the February 1995 issue of Star Wars Adventure Journal. The adventure begins when the players, members of the Rebel Alliance, are sent on a scouting mission to find a Tibanna-rich planet and eventually discover Taloraan. They get stranded and rescued by the Denfrandi who live aboard living airships called sleft-chuffni and have only rudimentary technology. The characters learn from the Denfrandi leader, Laspevar, that the rival Wind Raider tribe have a "metal beast" (starship) that they recently captured and are keeping in their lair inside a colossal Island-Beast. After fighting off an attack by Wind Raiders, flying on predatory fleft-wauf, the characters have to convince the Denfrendi to help them lead an attack on or sneak into the Wind Raider's lair and gain possession of their starship in order to get back to the Alliance.
From that outline, Taloraan and its people seemed very primitive, only living with scraps of technology left over from wherever they come from and not even knowing how to use the "metal beast". In fact the description of the planet indicates that the Kelavine system has never been explored and no colonization attempts are recorded. But that all changed when the planet was used in 1998's Rogue Squadron 3D video game. In stage 11 of the game, "Battle Above Taloraan", we find out that the Empire have set up a mining operation in the planet's atmosphere and Rogue Squadron is sent to disrupt the tibanna gas harvest by destroying Imperial gas tanks on eight mining platforms. There are also "civilian" gas tanks, a "cloud city", and Corellian Corvettes, Cloud Cars and other ships flying around, suggesting that the planet is already colonized and the Empire is trying to take over the gas mining operation. This could well happen in a different part of the planet from where the Denfrandi and Wind Raiders are located, however it does not stay true to the previous source that stated the planet is unexplored. It still works when taking into account that the RPG adventure is not necessarily set at any fixed time (although it suggests sometime between ESB and RotJ) and so can very well take place before civilians established the Cloud City and mining platforms. The adventure could be the discovery of the planet, and after the characters report the location to the Alliance, they set up an operation there which is later taken over by the Empire while the Denfrandi live happily on the other side of the planet.
So far it all worked out. Until this comic was released. Much like The Clone Wars TV show, this story uses some elements of the EU as a springboard and largely ignores established continuity. This could have easily taken place on Bespin, with Cloud City instead of Taloraan City, a Baron-Administrator instead of a Magister, and beldons and velkers instead of sleft-chuffni and fleft-wauf. Or possibly Ostrander (writing his first CW cartoon spin-off) only took his information from the summary on Wookieepedia without reading the source material (which took me about 20 minutes to do). But the TV show itself presents different versions of established planets (i.e. Ryloth, Mandalore) so this is not without precedent. I was just hoping someone of Ostrander's talent and knowledge could have put a little effort in researching the material.
The cover art by Wayne Lo (one of the design artists on the TV show) is just astounding. Lo also did the cover for The Clone Wars Secret Missions #1: Breakout Squad book from Grosset & Dunlap, check it out. This comic illustrates for the first time the majestic fleft-wauf, which were barely glimpsed in the Star Wars Adventure Journal adventure which used concept sketches of ESB. The art by the Fillbachs is expectedly simplistic and cartoony, but they had a lot of pages to turn out and the artwork is consistent throughout. I just feel that their style doesn't match the TV show at all. They make an effort to make Obi-Wan and Anakin look like their CGI puppet-head versions but it looks more like their own style. And why do the characters have to look so silly while they are running? (on pages 43 and 73 namely) Basically, the art goes with the story, both are aimed at young readers who should appreciate the fun and action.
Fighting in the clouds and in the streets of a city in the clouds, and giant birds. What more can you ask for?
Rating: 6 / 10