In Review: Star Wars: Age of Republic–Anakin Skywalker #1

This has a great conundrum for Anakin, but the visuals bring it down.

The covers: Five different frontpieces to pick up for this first solo adventure for Anakin. The Regular cover by Paolo Rivera is similar to the previous covers he’s done, with the character in the foreground before a classic background that’s between two diagonal black stripes. Anakin is looking at the reader with his body turned toward the left, with most of his back showing. He’s still got his face turned at the reader and he’s holding his lightsaber in his hand. Behind him is the debris strewn aftermath of an explosion in orange. A great rendering of this character. The Concept Design Variant cover by Doug Chiang is the cover I picked up because I love these variants. It features an illustration of Anakin wearing his black and brown outfit, though his cape is a dark black and he’s wielding a red lightsaber. Awesome! Mike McKone and Guru-eFX do the next Puzzle Piece Variant. Anakin has his lightsaber in both hands and is standing against a blue star field that contains Naboo fighters, Vulture droids, and Trade Federation Battleships. Very cool. Also shown peeking up from the lower left are two crimson lightsaber blades and to the lower right is one red blade. Very cool. The Greatest Moments Variant is by Rod Reis. This is an extreme close-up of Jango Fett’s helmet with the reflection of Mac Windu coming at him with his purple lightsaber. This has nothing to do with this book, but it is really cool.  The Photo Variant shows Hayden Christensen brandishing his blue lightsaber and sporting his Padawan braid. He looks fantastic. Overall grades: Regular A, Concept Design Variant A+, Puzzle Piece Variant A, Great Moments Variant A-, and Photo Variant A+

The story: “The Sacrifice” is an excellent puzzle of a story by Jody Houser, who is quickly becoming one of Star Wars’ master scribes. After helping some clone fighters win against some droid fighters in the Corvair Sector, Anakin meets with Admiral Yularen who wants to destroy a droid foundry on the third moon of Kudo. Unfortunately the casualty levels are high because it’s suspected the Kudon are assisting the Separatists. Anakin would like to avoid killing the Kudon, but the Admiral reminds him “…it’s our job to make sure it isn’t our people (that die).” It was nice to see Anakin confront this problem without running to Palpatine for advice; he had to figure out how to take out the droids and save the Kudon at the same time. He does get some advice from the other adult in his life he listens to and he makes a decision. What he does could backfire on him horrible, but he discovers something very surprising and finds a what out of this potential disaster. What the Separatists had planned at the third moon is incredibly devious, but makes absolute sense in the grand plans for war. I was impressed with Anakin’s solution, which was nice to see him solving a problem without going over to the Dark Side. This was a very smart problem for Anakin to face. Overall grade: A

The art: Visuals for this issue are provided by Cory Smith and Wilton Santos, with Walden Wong providing inks. I didn’t like them. The opening ship battle is very simplistic: the shapes are appropriate in their construction, but carry no weight — it looks as though they are hanging in space. The second page is a full paged splash of Anakin inside the cockpit of his Jedi fighter. He looks okay and having the ships above him to show who he’s talking to is a good idea, but they just look like they’re hanging there. Much, much better is the layout of panels three through seven on Page 3 that gives some speed to the ships as they go into battle. On board the Resolute, Anakin discusses an upcoming mission with Admiral Yularen. Anakin looks like he was drawn in the Japanese style, because he’s constantly got some hair that’s fallen between his eyes and when he speaks his teeth show. The characters also look really stiff. Granted, this is an official military briefing, but they seem too locked into their positions. When the characters gets their emotional close-ups on Page 6 there’s no background. This normally isn’t a problem, but the characters aren’t drawn large enough to fill the space. It’s as if the artists weren’t sure how much dialogue was going to be placed, so there’s an awful lot of space remaining after the text has been inserted. Page 7 looks incomplete: the first panel is very rough and the last panel is also incredibly basic as to how it was achieved. The character that meets with Anakin on the next two pages is readily identifiable and is the best drawn character of the issue. This individual’s final panel on 9 will make the reader smile. 10 returns to very basic artwork, with those ships standing out for all the wrong reasons. The exterior of the droid foundry on Kudo III is also very basic. The large panel on 15 is good, but it’s colored so darkly it loses much of its impact. The fight scene on 16 is good, with much happening and it being easy to follow. I really liked this page. The Kudon’s design is okay, but all I could think of was humanoid Tauntauns. The artwork is serviceable, but when compared to other Star Wars books, this is not a strong outing. Overall grade: C-

The colors: I was really happy with the colors in the opening panel by Java Tartaglia; they convey the sense of chaos that’s occurring beautifully. I also like that Anakin’s ship stands out among the others because of its bright coloring, as seen in Episode III. It’s a little thing, but the blue aura on either side of Anakin in the second panel on 3 is cool. The sequence of five panels on the same page has the colors again making the chaos believable. The conversation between Anakin and Yularen is very bland. There’s not much that can be done by Tartaglia to brighten things up since several panels have no backgrounds. I do like the cool blue give to the hologram. The first panel on 6 is too dark; he’s leaning in to the hologram to speak, so shouldn’t he have had a blue glow reflected onto him? Page 7 is a dark mess and not helping is the wishful thinking panel. I do like that Anakin’s thoughts are given two unique colors to draw the reader’s eyes. The reds used on Anakin on 10 don’t seem appropriate. Yes, he’s letting his emotions run wild, but when red is used on this character it’s a Dark Side warning, but there’s not enough emotion stated in this panel to give him this hue. Additionally, there’s nothing on the dashboard of his fighter to bathe him in this light, as made evident by Pages 2 and 3. I understood why reds are used inside the foundry, but Anakin is lost on 15 by the dark colors — if ever there was a reason to cheat with the reality of the situation, it’s here. The fight scene is perfectly colored, as is the page when blasters get involved. These colors, like the art, are mixed. Overall grade: C

The letters: VC’s Travis Lanham is the artist behind this issue’s text which includes sounds, scene settings, dialogue and narration (the same font), a famous droid’s beeps, and droid speech. The sounds on this are really good, save the one on 15, which has the sound read in the wrong direction, because it looks as though the device is powering off, not on. The scene settings are sensational and I hope that all Star Wars books follow the lead on this. The dialogue and narration are the same font, set apart by the shape and colors of the balloons and boxes containing them. I prefer they be in different fonts as they are two different forms of communication. And speaking of communication, shouldn’t all the ship-to-ship dialogue in the opening three pages be in a different font as they are communications, not dialogue, between ships? The pair of droid texts in this issue are good, with me continually following in love with the look of the astromech’s speech. Overall grade: B-

The final line: This has a great conundrum for Anakin, but the visuals bring it down. I was incredibly pleased with the devious plan by the Separatists and I liked that Anakin is still a Jedi, rather than going sinister in his dialogue. The visuals, across the board, do not help the story. They are too simplistic, plus the colors being too dark in several instances, and the letters being disappointing at times. I’m really on board for Houser to write more Star Wars tales, but the rest of this looks like a Marvel Try-Out Book submission. Overall grade: C+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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