Republic #51 The New Face of War Part 1 (of 2)
Story: Haden Blackman
Pencils: Thomas Giorello
Inking: Curtis Arnold
Coloring: Joe Wayne
Lettering: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Mozart Couto
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (12/14/2004)
[Read Scott Chitwood's review.]
Ten weeks after the start of the Clone Wars, Obi-Wan and Anakin, along with Master Glaive, his Padawan Zule, and the ARC Trooper, go to the Naboo moon of Ohma-d'un to investigate a loss of communication with a Gungan colony. But what they find is all the Gungans dead from a deadly disease, and the possible enemy that caused it.
The caption on the cover says it all: this is truly a graveyard moon. It is a grisly sight to see all those scab-covered, decaying Gungan bodies, even for those who hate Jar Jar. the story opens with Anakin in the Naboo system, longing to go meet with his wife Padmé, but having to hide his feelings from his master. This is a very nice portrayal of the internal conflict Anakin has probably had been undergoing since leaving on all those missions for the Council. And Blackman captures all that with skill at characterization and dialogue. Having Threepio sent to serve as liaison the Naboo is just a touch of genius.
It's nice to see that the Jedi treat the ARC Trooper as more than a mere clone. There's a strong sense of mutual respect during a conflict. Obi-Wan actually relies on the trooper's military skills, and the trooper trusts Obi-Wan's leadership, so it creates a deeper relationship between the two characters. The two new Jedi characters though are not really fleshed out, and by the time Durge and Asajj Ventress show up, we pretty much know they are set up as cannon fodder.
Speaking of Ventress and Durge; we all know that they play a big role in the Cartoon Network micro-series, which chronologically takes place about 3 months after this story. So this is officially Obi-Wan's first meeting with Durge, although the fact that Durge reveals himself to be a "walking nerve cluster" makes me wonder why he didn't remember that in the cartoon. As for Ventress, the Official Site had to break up the cartoon series and place Chapters Six and Seven, the ones where Dooku first recruits her help, which creates a minor continuity flub, and the only one to date that I'm aware of concerning the well-planned out Clone Wars timeline.
Blackman also injects some humor into this grim story. One line from Master Glaive ("Can we get through this briefing before I become one with the Force") had me laugh out loud, while the ARC Trooper's dry, sarcastic comments ("You should be dead. Wear a helmet next time.") are just reminescent of his "father" Jango Fett.
I don't really like Giorello's depictions of Anakin and Obi-Wan, and the rest overall is good. His strength here is really new characters, since there's no pre-established concept to follow. By being the first artist to illustrate Durge, Giorello really sets the bar high. I really like the big, bulky Mandalorian-hater/Jedi-killer's fearsome appearance. And Ventress seems to be pretty faithful to the Attack of the Clones concept sketch she was based on. Another strong point is the environment: the muddy ground and the decaying bodies are truly depressing, and set the tone for the story, with the help of Wayne's coloring.
On the other hand, I'm still undecided on the cover art: it seems like a mix of manga-style and superhero style, with some European touches thrown in. It's almost like a painting that could be hung in an art museum. It almost seems too serious for a Star Wars comic cover. Oh well, maybe it's just me...
Overall, I really enjoyed this first half of the tale. The simple plot and art and intelligent dialogue, and the feeling of darkness that permeates it all, is really worth a few readings. Do not miss this issue, and the next one.
Rating: 9 / 10 Highly Recommended