Our lovable GONK is back with another Star Wars comics review, this time Star Wars: Jedi – The Dark Side #4
Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan Xanatos butt heads as an insurrection on Telos IV escalates in Star Wars: Jedi – The Dark Side #4. As the Jedi close in on who is behind the attacks on Xanatos’ home planet, their opponents try to stay ahead of them, setting up for full war. Qui-Gon continues his undercover role and gets the bulk of the action in this issue, while his apprentice deals with his anger – first at returning home and facing his father, Lord Crion, then at the death of newly-discovered sister.
Previously, Qui-Gon returned from arranging a meeting with Telosian arms dealers to find that Crion was under attack by insurgents. In the fight, Xanatos’ sister, Nason was killed, and a shadowy figure escaped – but was recognized by Qui-Gon as Dairoki, a former Jedi student. After the battle, Jedi Master Tahl, gets a new assignment, leaving Qui-Gon in charge of the Telos investigation and of the other padawan on the team, the masterless Orykan. The Telosians present a lightsaber as evidence of involvement in the ambush by the Antarian Rangers, allies of the Jedi, and accuse the Jedi of witholding information on the case. Changed after the death of his sister, Xanatos quits the investigation to focus on protecting his father.
Qui-Gon’s back-alley meeting with Welleques, the arms smuggler, turns violent, but before the Jedi Master can question the criminal about how the Antarian Rangers or a former Jedi link to the insurgency, a sniper’s shot silences the gunrunner. Back at the governor’s palace, while Xanatos sleeps at his guard post, Dairoki sneaks in and argues with Lord Crion over their bungled plan to secretly manipulate the insurgents and implicate the Antarian Rangers. Enraged that his daughter was a casualty of their plans and fearing that Dairoki’s identity was discovered the Jedi, Crion sends the scarred agent offworld.
The next day, the Telosian chief of staff publicly accuses the Antarian Rangers and the neighboring world of Toprawa for conspiring against them, and tries to appeal to the insurgents to stop and unite as Telosians against this foreign threat. Qui-Gon confronts Xanatos about passing information from the investigation onto his father. Angry, Xanatos storms off and moves to the palace, and tries to convince Orykan to protect Qui-Gon in order to prove herself. That evening, Crion, with his son at his side, announces a full military strike to crush the insurgency, committing Telos to civil war.
This issue was heavy on dialogue as the story has the Jedi assembling a few more pieces of the puzzle, and showing the true plot behind the string of attacks – all orchestrated so that Crion can crack down militarily on his world, and blame his neighbors (and possibly eventually go to war with them). Sounds like a scheme worthy of a Sith Lord (Palpatine with Dooku and the Clone Wars, Vader with Starkiller and the founding of the Rebellion) – though, considering the personal loss to Crion and Dairoki, perhaps such scheming of helping rebellions against oneself is best left to the unattached Sith.
It is interesting to see Qui-Gon Jinn, the patient master in touch with the Force in The Phantom Menace, act a little less polished here and more angry (perhaps channeling a bit more of the Liam Neeson character from Taken). With Tahl’s departure, Qui-Gon’s moral sounding board is gone, as Xanatos acts on his own, and sides against his master, and Orykan really doesn’t do anything. Actually, Xanatos doesn’t really do anything either in this issue, except scowl, and cry a little. Qui-Gon gets the only real action in this comic, with several pages of him fighting Welleques’ gang of hoodlums. Not sure why he needs to rip off his Mission Impossible-style mask every time he gets into combat other than to show the audience that he’s Qui-Gon in battle.
I think that this issue, as a setup for the final act of The Dark Side, was just ok – suffers a little from “middle issue syndrome” reeling from the tragedy of Nason’s death at the end of the previous issue and ramping up for all-out war in the next issue. There was a lot of explanation but I think the pacing wasn’t quite right – perhaps too much time spent on Tahl’s departure at the beginning, and perhaps more could have been done with the argument between Qui-Gon and Xanatos near the end. Mahmud Asrar’s art captures a good deal of texture well, with some nicely shadowed panels in places. The hideous Dairoki looks ghoulish at times, and the Ithorian chief of staff comes out well. Asrar does have a good style in capturing faces. On the whole, while I’m enjoying this story, it just doesn’t feel all that original – we’ve already seen the angry teenaged Jedi who couldn’t save his family member, and the plotting leader working both sides to create a war to help him tighten his grip. Part of the plotline was set by the framework from the Jedi Apprentice series (which might have been more original back in 1999), so Scott Allie might be a little constrained. Still, having Qui-Gon Jinn back in action as detective, mentor, and ass-kicker is fun stuff.