Review – Three Great Tales Packed Into Marvel’s Age of Republic Special
If you’ve been loving Marvel’s Age of Republic series, this is your week! Mace Windu? Asajj Ventress? Rex? Marvel has you covered with three self-contained stories that show some cool moments in each character’s life. In terms of content, I’d say each one is the equivalent of a Forces of Destiny episode, but a bit more mature and certainly much darker. Clone Wars fans are going to be especially pleased, but there’s something for everyone here. Who knows, one might even see Jar Jar Binks holding a lightsaber. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Our first story, titled “The Weapon”, is set before the events of The Phantom Menace and opens with a captive Mace Windu being lead through a series of tunnels by a group of terrorists. We don’t know how he got there, but the Jedi are actively looking for him. The terrorists escorting him note that he’s surprisingly calm and confident, considering they are taking him to their boss, Guattako the Grim. Guattako is a warlord of sorts, claiming to be leading a righteous cause to free his quadrant, though most of his frontline infantry is made up of destitute children.
While on the way to meet Guattako, Mace engages a younger soldier, which reveals how loyal and indoctrinated some of these kids have become. And I don’t think any of them realize how powerful Mace Windu is and that he probably doesn’t even need his noticeably missing lightsaber to take on their leader.
Now, that Guattako the Grim is an interesting looking warlord. Like a cross between Enfys Nest and General Grievous – and it makes me wonder if the now infamous Enfys Nest fatigues in Solo were a way for her to blend in with other petty warlords since this looks so similar. One of the soldiers presents Mace’s lightsaber to their leader, only it’s in pieces from whatever unfortunate events brought the Jedi Master to the warlord. Guattako mocks Mace and the Jedi as “sanctimonious”, but Mace points out that Guattako’s organization is funded by the Hutts and that he uses children as cannon fodder. Mace also points out that most of the children were kidnapped, not recruited, reminding us all that Guattako is a bottom-of-the-barrel villain.
There are so many echoes of Luke’s confrontation with Jabba in Return of the Jedi, as Guattako is given one chance to surrender; and even further, when Guattako refuses, Mace uses the Force to reconstruct his lightsaber and go up against the warlord. We get a cool flashback of Mace as a padawan learner, constructing his lightsaber with the Force.
Not surprisingly, Mace makes short work of Guattako and his thugs. Not far behind Mace are his fellow Jedi and there’s a padawan-less Qui-Gon amongst them, which makes me think this may take place a while before The Phantom Menace. It turns out the Jedi were assisting with the rescue operation of children Guattako abducted. Because the network of caverns spanned 80,000 km under, Mace allowed himself to be captured so the soldiers would lead him to Guattako and the imprisoned children.
I thought this was a really cool little story. As disturbing as it was to see children being used as soldiers, I’m glad we are seeing the forgotten parts of the galaxy where oppression hides. This is the Jedi keeping the peace and protecting the weak – a mandate I always assumed defined their golden age. “The Weapon” was written by Ethan Sacks, with art by Paolo Villanelli and Erick Arciniega.
Yes, Asajj Ventress is back! “Sisters” is the second story and it takes place during the events of The Clone Wars episode “To Catch a Jedi”. If you haven’t seen that episode, it’s definitely a prerequisite for this story (here’s a Wookieepedia summary, but it’s an excellent episode worth your time) It’s amazing how seamlessly this fits into the episode, as I went back and watched it before sitting down to write this. Ventress has taken her talents and entered the brutal life of a bounty hunter in the lower levels of Coruscant. Just as a point of reference, Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn established how brutal things can get the lower you go into the global metropolis of Coruscant, so I’ve no doubt Ventress is earning her pay. The story opens with her turning over a bounty, and as she’s getting paid, a new target pops up over the HoloNet: Ahsoka Tano.
Ventress actually seems surprised that the Jedi and the Republic have put a bounty out for Ahsoka’s capture. As Ventress ponders where she’ll start her hunt, she wanders into an alleyway where she hears trouble. An extremely large and rough Weequay thug is threatening to steal food from two young sisters. It’s not clear if the sisters know their attacker, but he’s ready to hurt them.
Ventress initially decides it’s none of her business, but then memories come back to her. She remembers when she was young and weak on Dathomir, and finding strength in the Night Sisters. This memory also triggers the loss of the Night Sisters at the hands of General Grievous. The grief is still raw and the anger associated with the tragedy brings Ventress back to the attack in her midst. She ignites her lightsabers.
Like a bully who assaults those smaller than him, the attacker mistakenly discounts Ventress, despite her two crimson sabers. When most people would run for it, the attacker mocks Ventress because of her gender and turns his aggression toward her. He doesn’t get far and she quickly dispatches with one of his arms. That’s all it takes to convince him he’s in over his head. When the attacker is gone, one of the girls offers Ventress some of the food their attacker left them. Ventress tells them to keep it and to keep each other safe, “for as long as you can“.
“Sisters” was my favorite story of this collection. Her story is ultimately a tragic one, so I loved seeing a moment in her life where she used her strength for herself. She was always being manipulated like a puppet, wielding her powers at the behest of the Sith and Separatists. In this story, Ventress owns the power and uses it for good. Ventress makes the choice and no one else. The quiet strength of this story speaks volumes to why this character is so compelling. “Sisters” was written by Jody Houser with art by Carlos Gómez and Dono Sánchez-Almara.
Welcome back to Mimban! Rex is a character I’ve always enjoyed, but I have to be honest, I’ve never felt terribly invested in him. That didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the final story, “501 Plus One”. Rex remembers a moment he had with Anakin Skywalker in the midst of an earlier battle. During a battle gone wrong, Anakin came back for Rex and left a lasting impression on the clone trooper. “A true leader always leads from the front”. Then we’re thrown into the midst of a battle that doesn’t look too different from the Mimban we saw in Solo. Han had to deal with a hungry Wookiee, Rex has to deal with a lively Gungan.
That’s right, I said a Gungan. More specifically, Jar Jar Binks, who has accompanied the 501st to Mimban to interface with the swamp natives. When their Jedi general is killed, the chain of command states that Jar Jar is in command. Rex doesn’t let Jar Jar know and is more focused on keeping him and the rest of the squad alive. When they have a chance to regroup, they realize their mission to take out a shield generator is a futile one. The captain decides that they will have to do it but orders the troopers to wait. Later, the captain sneaks off and Rex catches up with him. The captain wanted to minimize the casualties, so he snuck off on his own, but Rex is determined to join him.
We jump again to Rex and his captain being gunned down by Separatist forces. When the droids are about to finish off Rex, an unexpected lightsaber from an unexpected wielder cuts down the robotic death squad. It’s not the Jedi general, it’s Jar Jar Binks. Jar Jar Binks with a lightsaber probably makes you scoff, but I felt it was done respectfully and not gimmicky. Jar Jar has taken a lot of hate over the years, and while I’m not going to start a Facebook fan group for him anytime soon, it was nice to see him save the day.
Rex, though, is not a fan of Jar Jar carrying a lightsaber, but that’s more for the fact he respects the sacred bond it represents to the Jedi who built it. They have a moment to talk and Rex talks about his desire to be a leader, while Jar Jar says there is nothing smart about wandering into an impossible situation alone. Rex commends Jar Jar on his own bravery for coming after the clones to help when he could have just stayed back.
Rex and Jar Jar get word that reinforcements are on their way, just as another wave of droids swarms toward them. I love this last frame as they prepare to finish the Battle of Mimban. Considering I have little attachment to either character, I really enjoyed this brief story. I’m happy that Jar Jar has become more accepted by fans and that there is less hate directed his way. I thought this was a great way of reminding people of his heroism in The Phantom Menace during the Battle of Naboo, whether it was goofy or not. We know where his story goes later, but I’m holding out hope we’ll get a happy ending for Jar Jar somewhere down the line. “501 Plus One” was written by Marc Guggenheim with art by Caspar Wijngaard and Cris Peter.
Age of Republic has been killing it with solid storytelling since it debuted. This issue is just another example that. I love these moments that don’t necessarily redefine these classic characters but display their best qualities and why fans love them. We’ve seen them be vulnerable, but these stories showcase how that vulnerability helped them learn and gave them strength. I only expect this quality of storytelling to improve in this series. As much as I’m for pushing the Star Wars Universe forward, I’m happy that we are getting a chance to look back at some of the characters that solidify what is great about this saga.
Next up: Anakin Skywalker