Star Wars Tales #5
[Also available in photo cover.]
Art Cover: Andrew Robinson, Matt Hollingsworth
Editor: Dave Land, Scott Allie ("A Summer's Dream"), Phil Amara ("Hoth," "Lando's Commandos")
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (09/05/2005)
Dave Land's one-page cartoon is replaced in this issue by the credits page for last issue that was left out due to a printing boo-boo. Starting with this issue, the series will now come in both art and photo covers. Personally, I'm not a fan of photo covers so guess which one I bought. It is also the first issue to break the four-stories format. The price also jumped up from $4.95 to $5.95, but did the quality go up as well? Keep reading to find out.
"The One Below: Yaddle's Tale"
Story: Dean Motter
Pencils: Jesus Saiz
Inks: Fernando Blanco
Colors: Dave Nestelle
Letters: Vickie Williams
After reviewing Yaddle's tale of over 100 years of imprisonment on the planet Koba, the Jedi Council votes her in as their newest member despite the fact that her Jedi training was never completed.
Much like Motter's previous Star Wars story in Dark Horse Presents Annual 2000, I really enjoyed this one as well. First of all, we have kind of an "origin" story of one of the mysterious members of the Council. Also, it is very well written and fleshes out the character of Yaddle by showing her compassion for other living beings, even the ones who kept her in her prison for so long. On top of that, it is done in a way that makes her look cool. If you think "a young female Yoda" might sound kind of silly at first, this story will make you change your mind.
This tale was also immortalized in the EU by being referred to as a legend in the novel Cloak of Deception. Is it a legend or did it really happen? My vote is for the latter. It takes place sometime before the Jedi Council: Acts of War miniseries, as Micah Giiett is seen as one of the members of the Council. Then the story flashes back to 200 years earlier, as Even Piell recounts how Yaddle lost her Master Polvin Kut in a battle with the Advoszec warlord Tulak on Koba. Yaddle survived but was imprisoned for over 100 years, first in a jail, and later interred in a pit when the warlord decided to leave the planet. During that time, she became sort of a legend to the primitive inhabitants of the village above. One day, an earthquake created an opening and she freed herself. She helped her former Koban guardians to rebuild their society until Tulak's son Kalut came back to claim his inheritance. Yaddle defeating him in a hand-to-hand duel and thus saved the people of Koba. Despite reservations by Yoda, who feels that Yaddle needs to complete her Jedi training, he is outvoted as the tale proves that she managed to teach herself to become a Master.
That is a lot of depth for such a short story, and it's really a fun read and by far my favorite of this issue.
I've never seen Saiz's work before, but I though it was very good. He managed to depict the Advosze as perfectly as Mike Vilardi, and he is able to make Yaddle look very fierce when fighting and very calm when meditating. I especially love the way Yaddle uses a long stick to jump into a fray. All the Jedi Council members are done to comic book perfection. His style has a very DC Comics-like quality, if it makes any sense. The inking and coloring are equally well done and enhance the overall look.
"What They Called Me"
Story: Craig Thompson
Pencils: Craig Thompson
Colors: Craig Thompson
Letters: Craig Thompson
A wealthy tourist visits a tribe of Ewoks on the moon of Endor. But his attemps at modernizing their culture are rewarded when he decides to leave with a few unfortunate gifts.
Another funny cartoon entirely done by one artist, much like Dave Cooper's "Stop That Jawa!" in issue #2. To appreciate this type of story you have to understand the artist's humor. Some people might like it, but I'm not one of them. I guess it's supposed to be funny seeing some Ewoks running around in underwear, and seeing a guy mistaking gundar droppings for candy (what's a gundar anyway?), but it's a bit too juvenile for my taste.
Note: Four new pages were added when this story was reprinted in Star Wars Gamer #4. Click here for my review of the new story.
Thompson's art is very cartoony and uninspired, the type of drawing you would find in the pages of Mad Magazine or in the Sunday newspaper funnies. Although it might be appreciated by some people, I just don't think it belongs in a quality Dark Horse publication like Star Wars Tales.
"A Summer's Dream"
Story: Terry Moore
Pencils: Cliff Richards
Inks: P. Craig Russell
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Clem Robins
In the city of Theed on Naboo, Ian Lago, son of the counselor to King Veruna, arranges to meet with Princess Amidala. After getting to know her better, as opposed to her public figure, he falls in love. But when his father finds out that his son is hanging out with the competition, he tries to put a stop to the relationship. At the same time, King Veruna is dethroned and Amadila is elected Queen of Naboo. She has to spend time with her people now, and has no time for a boy such as Ian. Heartbroken, and with his father out of a job, he leaves Naboo.
Most of the Star Wars stories are about starship battles, Jedi duels and explosive chases. Sometimes a little bit of romance is thrown in. But it is rare that we read a good, touching love story. This story also offers a great inside look at Amidala's coronation, from the perspective of someone who is familiar with the politics within the Theed Palace. I'm usually not too fond of love stories, but I can somehow relate to this guy's situation, plus it is very well-written and never corny or mushy. It's a nice change from the usual action, or even the cartoon parodies that are starting to be more frequent in these pages. The last pages are kind of sad and tragic. I guess Anakin was more persistent than Ian, so that's probably why he got her :)
It might sound weird, but when I saw the scene Attack of the Clones where Padmé talks to Anakin about her past lovers on Naboo, and she mentioned some guy named Palo whom she met when she was twelve, I thought to myself "hey, what about that guy from the Star Wars Tales story?" I guess they never get really close, but they do get to kiss. These events are supposed to take place about six months before The Phantom Menace, since this is how long she's been Queen by that time according to various sources.
The thing with Ian being the son of King Veruna's prime counselor creates some kind of Romeo & Juliet situation, but it's more about political alliances than about fordidden love, and when Amidala finds out who he really is it is left ambiguous whether that is the reason she ended the relationship. This is a story that I will re-read from time to time.
I've never seen Richards' work before, but of course I recognized the inker right away; which comic fan has never heard of P. Craig Russell? It's really strange to see his name buried in the credits of a Star Wars anthology. If you're familiar with his style, it is very evident in the lines of the characters and backgrounds. But in order for the inking to be effective you need a good penciller, and Richards' work really does the job. The colors by Hollingsworth are a bit drab and monochromatic, but it doesnt' really affect the overall look of the story.
Story: Tony Millionaire
Art: Tony Millionaire
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Tony Millionaire
On Hoth, a wampa chases a herd of tautauns, but stumbles upon an Imperial probe droid which it keeps as its next meal.
A quick two-page vignette about a case of mistaken identity. Not sure if it's supposed to be funny or if a wampa could actually mistake a droid for a tauntaun, but it's pretty pointless.
The art is surprisingly good and realistic. I haven't see many artists render a tauntaun properly.
"Lando's Commandos: On Eagles' Wings"
Story: Ian Edginton
Art: Carlos Meglia
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Steve Haynie
General Lando Calrissian volunteers to lead a mission to discover who is attacking New Republic convoys and stealing their cargoes. The pirates are piloting TIE Interceptors and their location has been narrowed down to the Abraxas system. Lando recruits a team of experts and plans to stop the attackers. When they land on the planet Radix, the group is betrayed by one of their members, but Lando quickly turns the tables and the traitor is thwarted. The mission is a success, but not without casualties.
This story, only 22 pages long, feels like a complete miniseries in itself. It's got a prelude, a setup and a conclusion, and never feels rushed or abbreviated. It is a remarkable feat to cram so much story in so little space, and the unfortunate casualty is the development of the sizable cast of characters. The crew Lando recruits includes some interesting characters, but most of them don't even have names or dialogue, and those that do have very little time to be explored. These includes : Air Marshal Bludfly Von Asch, the man who trained the pirates and the one that is most developped; a Twi'lek named Tiatkin who doesn't get to do much except be the only casualty; her droid companion Giza who gets to do little more; a female Human named Isolde Siro who's the "cynic" of the group; and an expert pilot named Captain Kine who turns out to be the traitor and informant to the pirates. The rest of the supporting cast includes the New Republic Commander (he's not even given a name!) who gives Lando his briefing and debriefing; the crew of the transport Dewback's Burden (including a Duro captain, a Rodian, and a Mon Calamari possibly named Saluc) that is attacked in the prologue; the group of TIE pilots led by Lt. Kiela who were hoping to get their leader back; and Lobot and Nien Nunb whom Lando brought with him as his backup (and are only given one panel and a spot on the cover). But I don't hold the lack of characterization against the story, in fact I think it works in its favor.
However, there are a few elements that would have benefitted from an explanation. Notably why is Lando flying in the Falcon; why does Kine suddenly pull out a lightsaber to try to kill Siro; and what is so special about Siro that she has a "destiny" according to Von Asch? This story begs for a sequel, but unfortunately, at the end, when Lando is offered more missions but wants to flip for it, I guess he flipped a negative because no more stories have been written to date about "Lando's Commandos."
Meglia is the artist on Underworld: The Yavin Vassilika, and I have mixed feelings about his style. On the one hand, it really suits this type of old school adventure cartoon story very well, but at times it can be too cartoony. Examples of the latter include big rectangles on forearms to represent hair, and huge square fingers. But in the end, it's just a stylized version of Star Wars much like the very popular Clone Wars micro-series. The starships, including the Falcon, as well as the droid are more realistic. I also love the colors, very vibrant and diverse. There is a very neat effect on the first page when the transports are coming out of hyperspace. Some of the background characters are interesting, but I question the odd choice of using Sith spy droids as distress buoys. Overall, the art works very well with the story.
Five stories, the two shortest ones are pretty much a waste of six pages. But the rest of them are very entertaining, a good mix of genres and time periods.
Rating: 7 / 10 Recommended