John Ostrander and Jan Duursema have a solid repertoire of comics under their belts. Ostrander’s legacy is nearly beyond reproach; he wrote Suicide Squad, Martian Manhunter, Spectre, and a surprisingly good Hawkman/Hawkworld series. On Star Wars alone, Ostrander wrote the very fun Star Wars: Agent of the Empire, and with Jan Duursema, did Star Wars: Republic and Star Wars: Legacy, the latter set in the distant future of the Star Wars franchise.
And those are good Star Wars comics. It’s not a coincidence that Quinlan Vos, the protagonist of Republic, made his way into the animated Star Wars shows, and was mentioned (and nearly appeared) in Revenge of the Sith. Star Wars: Legacy was an inspiration upon The Force Awakens, in fact.
Which makes it such a surprise that Star Wars Epic Collection: Tales of the Jedi Vol. 1 is not very good. The Epic Collection covers the Dawn of the Jedi series by Ostrander and Duursema, set many thousands of years before A New Hope, and describing – unsurprisingly – the dawn of the Jedi. But it’s only not very good specifically in the context of those other Star Wars comics that Ostrander and Duursema already did.
Bear with me for a second.
Ostrander and Duursema’s previous Star Wars books – Legacy and Republic – are very, very similar: the Jedi protagonist who lives on the edge of the crime-world does some drugs and is very close into slipping into the dark side. He has a close companion and romantic partner who wears a mid-riff baring shirt, and a mentor figure who he has a deeply antagonistic relationship with. His main foe is more focused on essentially seducing him than killing him. Also, lots of face tattoos. Let’s not mince words; they’re the same story.
And Dawn of the Jedi? It’s the same thing. The exact same story. Xesh is Quinlan Vos is Cade Skywalker. Shae Koda is Khaleen is Deliah Blue. It repeats the same story beats, the same character beats, as the other two Star Wars books that the Ostrander/Duursema team did. The only thing that’s changed is the aesthetics, and even then, that’s only a surface level difference, and not for long.
Take lightsabers. For the first issue or two, the Jedi – excuse me, Je’daii – use swords. And that’s a solid choice: it nicely establishes the mythic tone, the primitive time period, and is a good way to separate the proto-Jedi from the Jedi themselves.
Except that the Je’daii are using lightsabers just a couple issues later. In the service of just being more Star Wars, it loses everything that makes this time period so interesting.
Duursema’s art is as good as always – it’s just as good as it is in Legacy and Republic. There’s nothing that I can really critique there. The monsters are monstrous, the spaceships cool, the faces expressive. David Michael Beck, who does the covers for the latter half of the book, has an Alex Ross-like painterly style.
But everything good in Star Wars Epic Collection: Tales of the Jedi Vol. 1 is done better by Duursema and Ostrander in Legacy and in Republic. Just go read those instead.
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