Into the Unknown Part 1 (of 2)
Story: Welles Hartley
Art: Doug Wheatley
Coloring: Chris Chuckry
Lettering: Michael David Thomas
Cover: John Gallagher, Chris Chuckry
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (01/23/2006)
In the aftermath of Order 66, some Jedi managed to survive the clone attacks. On Toola, Master Simms sacrificed her life so her Padawan Noirah Na and fellow Master Kai Hudorra could escape. After two days they reach Ithaqua Station, but stormtoopers are already looking for them. Meanwhile on New Plympto, Master Dass Jennir has managed to run away from his former troops for two days. He meets a native Nosaurian named Bomo Greenbark, who seems to be an ally at first, but leads the Jedi to his camp where the other natives are not too happy to see the Jedi who was leading the troops fighting them.
Hartley wrote some very entertaining stories in the past ("To the Last Man" in Empire #16-18 and "The Wrong Side of the War" in Empire #36-40) and it seems that history is repeating itself. Maybe I'm biased, because I love the period during and after Order 66, but I really enjoyed this first half of the story.
After some scenes of Jedi Masters dying, we see a few Jedi who survived for different reasons. Then the main story starts. Well it's actually two stories that alternate every 5 or 6 pages. One story takes place on the frozen planet Toola, homeworld of the saber-toothed Whiphids. The snowtroopers, led by Commander Keller, are following the two fugitive Jedi, a young Human Padawan named Noirah Na and the Bothan Master Kai Hudorra. They manage to reach the main city Ithaqua Station (any Cthulhu Mythos fans caught that one?) and Hudorra slips out to gather some information when Keller suddenly raids the cantina. He uses the Force to convince the patrons that the troopers have no business here and a brawl erupts. What's really cool is the brief flashback that shows how they managed to escape and how Noirah's Master pulls a Ben Kenobi.
Meanwhile, on New Plympto, Master Dass Jennir has managed to survive by hiding in the dense jungle. He stumbles upon Bomo Greenbark, a native Nosaurian whose people had joined the Confederacy. At first, the two are wary of each other, as they are former enemies and only one sound could alert the nearby troopers. There is an interesting exchange between the two, where they both realize that the fight on the planet was useless. Jennir explains that he was only following orders, and the two become travelling companions for a while, until Bomo leads him to his people and the Jedi is attacked.
Is Bomo really going to betray the Jedi Master? Will Hudorra and Noirah escape from Toola? And will the two storylines somehow merge at one point? This suspense and all the little details, like the Nosaurians' ability to make their mouths glow in the dark, make the story very enjoyable. Hartley really knows how to tell a good story. Or in this case, two stories.
Wheatley is a very talented artist who also illustrated the "Darklighter" story arc (Empire #8-9, 12 & 15), the Revenge of the Sith adaptation and the new Purge one-shot. The only minor gripe I have with this issue is the first page, where Stass Allie's and Plo Koon's deaths are shown in different locations than the movie, although this could be because the movie wasn't finalized at the time this issue was drawn.
The whole issue is filled with beautiful shots of planets (the tundras of Toola, the jungles of New Plympto), cool characters (especially the unnamed Verpine Jedi on page two, and Commander Keller) and great depictions of creatures and aliens (like the snow creatures ridden by snowtroopers, which are probably mastmots as mentioned in "A Free-Trader's Guide to the Planets" from Star Wars Adventure Journal #10, and the shot of Ithaqua station on page 15 where we can see pretty much every alien species from the movies). Aside from the Verpine, page two also shows two other Jedi (one of which looks like Master Zao!) that have survived Order 66, leaving it open for future stories.
Wheatley must have been given a copy of The Essential Guide to Alien Species, because most if not all aliens look exactly like R.K. Post's versions. That includes Hedorra the Bothan, a Zeltron, a Yarkora, a Tin-Tin Dwarf, a Trianii, a Gand, an Ugnaught and an Ortolan among others. But what's even more impressive are the characters' expressions and body postures. They display such personality and add so much to the feel of the story. Like all of Wheatley's previous works, this is one visual eye-pleaser.
Note that rebelscum.com interviewed Wheatley, back when this issue was supposed to be #78, and the interview shows a couple of panels of his amazing original art.
If you read this, you won't want to miss the next issue!
Rating: 8 / 10 Highly Recommended