I sense you feel that George Lucas’ powers have grown weak, and your fear of Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D betrays you. Wait. There is a disturbance in the Force – to paraphrase the figure skating biopic Blades of Glory, John Ostrander and Jan Duursema are Star Wars. Boom. Sorry, what was that about Lucas?
This week’s Dawn of the Jedi #1 reunites the pairing of Ostrander and Duursema once again for an ongoing, but irregularly published, take on the Jedi, the Sith, and the struggle between the light and dark sides of everyone’s favourite metaphysical macguffin, the Force.
Dark Horse Comics has expanded on the Star Wars galaxy’s past, present and future since 1991. Ostrander and Duursema have been instrumental in fleshing out the characters and stories that make up the comics galaxy.
Letting Ostrander and Duursema loose on Dawn of the Jedi is a gutsy, but not unprecedented, move on Dark Horse’s part. A lot of people feel that if you get too close to the magic behind Star Wars – the origins of the Force and its seemingly eternal and opposed aspects – then you risk spoiling the fun. Comics are the perfect medium to explore such touchy subjects.
Nothing in comics is sacred. Want to kill a franchise in front of a million fanboys? We know a guy who can get that done – but in a very, very cool way. Hints about the setting and characters of Dawn of the Jedi were to be found in a special #0 distributed two weeks ago. Handily for the tetchiest of fans, Ostrander and friends have set the action around 36 millennia before any of the Star Wars movies.
Locations, ships, races and conflicts were teased. The galaxy of Dawn is one without widespread hyperdrive, lightsabers and ‘Jedi’, but is populated with an array of alien species as diverse as you’d expect from Star Wars. Force-wieders exist on the planet Tython in the galactic core, brought there by mysterious pyramidal ships that now act as temples. Who populates these temples?
The Je’daii. As the #0 issue says, “All Je’daii are Tythans, but not all descendants of the Tythans are Je’daii”. Eleven settled, diverse worlds make up the Tython system. A TV analogy for this series would be Firefly – trade goes on between the planets of Tython but contact with the outside galaxy is lost. The galactic core is inhospitable to superluminal space travel. In this era of the galaxy, the Je’daii force-sensitives are confined to one system.
Tython is the home planet to the Je’daii. They exist and worship in its naturally Force-strong environment. Interestingly, all Je’daii strive for balance between the light and dark sides of the Force. If a Je’daii veers too strongly towards the dark they will be sent to contemplate the light side and vice versa. At this point, the Sith are a distinct alien race and not associated with the Dark Lords who would later invade their world and assume their name.
Star Wars legacies
You might be thinking that this all sounds a little like Star Trek‘s experiment with Enterprise. Never fear though, as the Ostrander and Duursema team have already successfully extended Star Wars way past the original trilogy and into the future. Their Star Wars: Legacy began in 2006 and jumped 137 years after the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The series ended in May 2011.
A thoughtful writer, Ostrander came to comics in the ’80s and has worked at both Marvel and DC. He’s partly responsible for turning the wheelchair-bound Batgirl Barbara Gordon into technological crime-fighter Oracle in the early ’90s after Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Duursema began her Star Wars career in 1985 on an issue of Marvel’s precursor to Dark Horse’s titles. The artist worked on a number of DC and Marvel titles until breaking big on Star Wars with her detailed and realistic style in the 2000s.
Together, Ostrander and Duursema made their name in Star Wars as a key team on the Republic ongoing series published by Dark Horse from 1998 until 2006. Republic took place in the timeframe of the prequel movies’ Galactic Republic. It’s worth picking up in trade or omnibus format, particularly if you detest the prequels.
With Legacy, Ostrander and Duursema took the basics of Star Wars and extrapolated them. The series focused on Cade Skywalker, a descendant of Luke. Cade was a lapsed Jedi operating as a bounty hunter in a galaxy once again at war and under the imperial thumb of a Sith Lord, Darth Krayt. Legacy caused a stir at its announcement but later became one of Dark Horse’s best-selling titles.
At the moment there doesn’t seem to be any plan for a Skywalker in Dawn of the Jedi. Several young Je’daii in their Journeyer stage of training were introduced in #0 though: Tasha Ryo, Sek’nos Rath and Shae Koda. Ryo is a Twi’lek caught between a Je’daii mother and a crime-lord father. Rath is an indigenous Sith raised by grandparents and living up to Je’daii examples. Koda is an orphan whose parents died in the Despot War a decade before Dawn begins. Who or what will shape their destinies?
The introductory arc of Dawn of the Jedi is ominously entitled Force Storm. It marks the arrival on Tython of Xesh, a Force Hound from the Rakatan Infinite Empire. The Rakata are one of the most powerful civilisations in the galaxy – they use the dark side to power their hyperdrive and familiar-looking energy swords. Xesh’s presence on Tython and the arrival of this Empire will serve as catalyst for events to come.
Luke – this is not your father’s Star Wars. If you’re still searching for the story about Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side you felt the prequel trilogy of movies didn’t tell effectively, check out Josh Trank’s movie Chronicle. It’s probably the closest you’ll get. If you’re open to asking questions about the mysteries of the Star Wars galaxy then the concept behind Dawn of the Jedi is definitely up your Death Star trench.
Sci-fi franchise comics are in a great place right now. IDW is continuing good things with Star Trek and Doctor Who, and thanks to Dark Horse Star Wars is alive and well in comic book form. Dawn of the Jedi could prove to be an asset to the series’ background. Even if you’re not convinced yet, the new comic is there to be mindful of.
Find out more about the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover here.