If the “Age of Republic” comics from Marvel have taught us anything it’s that the prequel films and their comic counterparts are still highly sought after. The nostalgic vibes are strong, which makes Marvel Comics’ recent revisiting with the characters all the more entertaining. Who would have thought reading a story about Count Dooku, Darth Maul, or Jango Fett would make me wish George Lucas could go back and make spin-off movies? Thanks to Jody Houser and Luke Ross we at least get a taste of some of the most badass villains in the galaxy, now collected in a villains trade paperback.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
This is the Age of Star Wars – an epic series of adventures that unite your favorite characters from all three trilogies! And we’re bringing on the bad guys – shining a light on the darkest figures of the Old Republic, starting with Darth Maul! A living weapon of rage and bloodthirst, Maul lurks in the shadows of Coruscant waiting for his chance to strike against the Jedi Order! But the Sith lord struggles to contain his desire for destruction, and questions the wishes of his methodically plotting master. Could Maul have had another path in life, or was he always fated to follow a dark road? Plus, delve deep into the dark side with Darth Sidious! Count Dooku! General Grievous! Jango Fett! And more!
Why does this matter?
The heroes got their time to shine, so why not the villains? This collection continues to show how well Jody Houser has a handle on the characters and it offers new stories to enjoy of characters, some of which are dead.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is a good collection and dare I say it’s a stronger one than the Heroes collection I recently reviewed. Fan favorites like Count Dooku and General Grievous get their time to shine and Houser does a good job tapping into their personalities and motivations when they were still doing the bidding of the Emperor. Thanks to Luke Ross’s excellent art, the environments and worlds seen in this collection are vivid and believable.
The book opens with Darth Maul in a story set prior to The Phantom Menace. It involves the Emperor who seems to be poking and prodding Maul to test him and make him even angrier and thus stronger. A key scene involves a location that popped up in Rebels that’s quite dark and foreboding. It does a good job shining a light on the rage and lust for violence Maul is known for.
Following Maul is the Jango Fett story, which also features his young clone son, Boba. It’s all about Jango raising his boy, which is something we haven’t really seen before. It’s an untold tale so to speak and Houser never loses sight of Jango’s motivations in getting a clone as a son. Houser adds a layer to the story that’s interesting and enriches the character nicely.
Next up is Count Dooku and this issue is by far my favorite. Houser and Ross reveal a man who may look old, but in many ways, he’s a great successor to Darth Maul. He’s on a thriving planet called Sullust and doing his best to stay low key. Houser integrates a few fun elements including a rebellion of sorts, a Jedi, and captions that draw you into the head of Dooku. He’s a great manipulator and it’s too bad more wasn’t done with the character. Well, until now that is, since this story is so good.
The General Grievous story is next, and it goes deep into his psyche. It also plays around with the magical sort of elements of the Jedi and shows how deep the Star Wars universe is and how many stories can still be mined from earlier eras.
Last but not least is the Age of Republic Special focusing on Asajj Ventress, Mace Windu, and Jar Jar Binks. Like with the previous issues collected here, the story stays true to the characters and feels like an extension of or a lost tale from the films. The Ventress story, drawn by Carlos Gómez, is the most entertaining of the bunch — unless of course you love Jar Jar and can’t get enough of the dope.
Ross’ art is gorgeous, creative, and at times captivating. The work on Sullest and its lava enriched city are unique and complex in the Count Dooku chapter. I found myself lingering on panels taking in the details like fountains made to look like men pouring out lava or the aliens that are walking about in the background. Ross’ ability to make Dooku scary and domineering, yet hopeful and kind in a flash helps convey how calculating he was. Fight scenes are well choreographed throughout the collection and there’s an edginess that suits the Star Wars universe that’s always prevalent.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Customary of all these one-shot tales, be it villains or heroes, these stories don’t add a lot to the greater understanding. They’re fun check-in style stories that reveal a bit about the characters, but don’t connect to the films or any big moments that matter in the grander scheme of things. It’s safe to say this isn’t the creator’s fault, but a mandate from Disney.
Is it good?
This is a strong collection that may make you respect the characters even more when you’re finished. I certainly came away respecting, and actually loving, Count Dooku more after reading this. There are a lot of minor details explored that make this universe feel a bit richer.
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