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SOTE Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand #1 of 6
Writers: Michael A. Stackpole and Timothy Zahn
Art: Carlos Ezquerra
Colors: James Sinclair
Cover: Killian Plunkett
Editor: Peet Janes


After failing to kill Luke Skywalker at Jabba's palace, Mara Jade is sent by Emperor Palpatine to take care of Dequc, a criminal who is attempting to revive the Black Sun organization.

EnsViews Comic Review
Reviewed 08/07/98

With arguably the two best authors to ever tackle the Star Wars universe both collaborating on a single story, expectations for this title as justifiably high.

This issue opens with a brief recap of Zahn's Mara Jade story from 'Tales from Jabba's Palace'. This kind of tight continuity appeals to me, but it is also an important tie-in to familiar ground for those who may not know our leading lady as anything other than a video game kick-boxing contestant.

This introductory issue nicely hilites Mara's choice to use brains over brute strength, even though she's fully capable of it. It's somehow amusing to see a strong woman like Mara take advantage of weak stereotypes. In trouble? Just cry, "But my baby--!" and voila... instant distraction and tables turned. At this point in her life, she's not above using whatever tools she has at her disposal to fulfill the will of her master. (See the first three pages.)

Anyone can write a story where the protagonist is super smart and everyone around them is dumb. I appreciated the relevant intelligence of Captain Strok. He can see the big picture. I hope the rest of Mara's associates and adversaries are equally worthy.

Of course, you can't seem to have a Stackpole comic these days without someone pulling out an AT3 directive. At least this time the receiver didn't cower in fright at the mere mention. He was forced to look it up. The Empire had better hope that this secret password that opens any door just because you say so doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Try it the next time you're pulled over by the police.

With story fears vanquished by the news of a Zahn/Stackpole team, the big question for Jade fans was: how would she be drawn? For me, Ezquerra has been equal to the challenge giver her a build that is realistic, athletic and beautiful. This is no Image comic bimbo.

Much of the beauty of this title is in the impressive detail. All of the various familiar and unfamiliar faces in the crowd scenes (a true test of attention to detail) are realistically posed and wearing a uniquely designed garment. The designs of the various "new" aliens are worthy of the Star Wars universe.

We have a fascinating leading lady, two talented authors and fantastic art. It looks like this is one of the rare comics that non-comic-readers should make an effort to pick up. I hope that Episode I lives up to my expectations equally well.

8.5/10. Recommended.

Previewed 06/18/98
I received a preview copy of DH's upcoming "Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand #1" in the mail. While I won't do a formal review until it hits the news stands in August, here is a copy of the letter of response I sent to Dark Horse.

Dark Horse,

When I opened my mailbox and saw the Dark Horse logo on the envelope, I knew that my long quest was finally over... my Mara Jade #1 preview had arrived. I'd already read the pages posted on the dhorse.com preview, but somehow holding physical pages in my hand made the whole thing seem more real. I wasn't sure who I wanted to thank most: the people of RASSM and ClubJade who supported and carried my rally cry, or the people of Dark Horse for listening. My thanks to all!

While my formal review will wait for the final printed edition (as always), I think you can guess already that my unfairly high expectations for this book were not disappointed. I don't need color or glossy pages to tell that the writing of Stackpole and Zahn maintains their standard of quality. Every character in the story is smart. That's the hardest way to write and the most rewarding material to read.

Because Mara did not appear in the movies, she is extremely open to interpretation both by writers and fans. This Mara fits well with my image of her at this point in her life. She is emotionally distant, observant, brilliant, resourceful, deadly and yet under the surface her unshakable confidence is shaken from her failed mission at Jabba's. (I enjoyed the tight tie-in with her tale in the TFJP anthology.)

Of course, this freedom of interpretation extends to the artwork as well. From the great Killian cover to the Ezquerra art, I'm pleased to see a beautiful and athletic Mara who would be out of place in the Image comic universe. (I think you know what I mean.) For me, great art is in the details and how well the great number of panels involving crowds were done is extremely impressive. Ezquerra's varied aliens are worthy to live in the SW universe.

I'll leave more specific comments to my review in August, but so far this looks like the best new SW comic series in years. I hope that all SW fans who appreciate quality (especially those who don't regularly read comics) will give this series a try.

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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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