By John Ostrander, Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, & Wes Dzioba
Of the many Star Wars titles available from Dark Horse, Dawn of the Jedi was their big hit when it started out and has remained a fan favorite. It has been many months of painful waiting, but the third arc finally started this month with Force War #1. For those who haven’t been following, aside from the first few pages of the series, the story takes place long after the founding of the Je’daii but still about 36,000 years before the original films. This early age of the Je’daii, as they are referred to in these early days, has had a fantastic story throughout the first ten issues, but the beginning of Force War is unlike anything else in the series.
This issue picks up one year after the previous Prisoner of Bogan arc, and the war between the Tython system and the Rakatan Empire is in full swing. Even more exciting, the Je’daii has clearly been forced to accept Daegen Lok’s earlier visions and have not only allowed his return, but made him a General in their army. Xesh is also helping his new companions battle his former masters and even teaching them to craft the mysterious ‘forcesabers’. Force War #1 was action packed from start to finish with some huge battle scenes, both in the air and on the ground. This book was such a thriller it was almost tiring to read! The whole thing was incredibly gripping, and all of the wonderful narrations over the battles made even the all-out action feel intelligent and deep. The fact that these early forcesabers can only be used by channeling the dark side of the force is having a lot of implications for the Je’daii, and again the wonderfully constructed story by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema works this aspect into the plot in a way that lends tremendous depth; aside from the external physical conflict with the powerful invaders, there is an ongoing internal conflict amongst the Je’daii as they are driven out of balance with the force. The characters’ voices are again captured perfectly, transitioning from previous arcs to the present; it almost feels like we really know Daegen Lok now and I was filled with a strange sense of pride seeing his charismatic leadership as he commands his army, particularly compared to his darkened anger and frustration throughout his tenure as an exile on Bogan. Furthermore, the character dynamics have really expanded; Shae Koda is being drawn to the dark by her mysterious connection with Xesh, while he is slowly being brought to the light by his continued interactions with her. Finally, the entire Tython system has allied with the Je’daii, which hints at the future Republic that will eventually form. Everything about this issue was epic in scale and the story shows the kind of brilliance that can still be achieved within the Star Wars universe.
The illustrations by Duursema and Dan Parsons are suitably epic for this installment; the opening page is astonishingly beautiful, while the panels that follow are mired in grim fighting and death. However, everything is huge in scale underscoring the enormous implications of this conflict raging across a galaxy far, far away. The creatures all look wonderfully horrifying and creepy which also helps to instill a sense of suspense in the reader as the Je’daii fight for their lives against the Rakatan onslaught. The characters are more consistent than ever, with some close-up shots that are incredibly lifelike and vibrant. The characters’ armor in particular looks fantastic in every scene, with some excellent designs employed. The images in Force War #1 often match the depth and epic tone of the powerful writing as well; following a difficult encounter with enormous costs, the main characters emerge from the heavy wisps of smoke covering the battlefield with grim expressions cast across the face of each. The colors provided by Wes Dzioba seem even better than previous arcs, offering a much more lush depth of tone, and a particularly vibrant palette. Even the scenes set in the harsh swamplands are full of life while still maintaining an appropriately grim sensibility overall.
Even aside from all of the action and excellent writing, the story itself is developed with precise pacing that made the entire issue both exciting and satisfying. The creative team is back on track like never before, reminding us why Dawn of the Jedi has been one of Dark Horse’s most popular Star Wars titles. While this is the third arc in the series, the writers seem to make an effort to allow Force War to be accessible to new readers without simply rehashing earlier events. However, if you have been keeping up with this title, you definitely don’t want to miss out on Force War; after many months of waiting, excitement for this series has been re-ignited like never before.