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