I got quite excited when the Age of Republic series was announced by Marvel: the chance to read more stories set within richness of the prequel era and the Republic.
To my thinking, there always needs to be something exploring that key part of the SW universe: all of the ongoing titles at Marvel are set within the OT era, with some limited runs exploring the sequel era.
There needs to be a prequel era book running continuously: I don’t know that the Age of Republic series is set to run for very long, but it – or something like it – should be.
The way this seems to be working is that each comic book is a one-shot story set within the prequel era, each time centered on a different character. That’s a cool premise.
And starting with Qui-Gon Jinn is a pleasant surprise.
My one, minor, complaint with this story is that it feels a little lightweight and I was maybe hoping for something more consequential.
That being said, that’s really nothing to criticise in this little Star Wars snapshot. Seeing Qui-Gon on a mission for the Order on Br’in is fun: the scenario, society and dilemma presented there is interesting and feels very Lucas-like, relating as it does to nature, resources and a seemingly tribal society.
We get to see Qui-Gon in action as a diplomat and arbitrator, albeit with a lightsaber. And actually his actions in this book seem to foreshadow his actions in The Phantom Menace: he takes the ‘Mistress of Wood’ away from her planet, out of harm’s way, and takes her to Coruscant, just as he later will do with Amidala.
The aliens on Br’in even feel a little similar to the Gungans, actually.
Whether this is deliberate or not, I’m not sure.
The more interesting stuff here is in the second half of the story, beginning with Qui-Gon’s conversation with Yoda. There’s a lot of interesting points to chew on here: Qui-Gon’s concerns about the Jedi being seen as warriors and as servants of the politicians, which is of course foreshadowing how badly the Jedi Order will be diminished in the years ahead by its involvement in the Clone Army and its fighting a war on behalf of a corrupt Senate and Republic.
That Qui-Gon is already struggling with that dilemma as early as this is interesting.
It’s also interesting that he decides he has to get away from Coruscant itself in order to really commune with the living Force and find answers. It’s the Mistress of Wood’s comments about Coruscant being a ‘city of metal’ cut off from the natural world that seems to prompt Qui-Gon into seeking another place to meditate: he takes his starfighter off-planet and lets the Force guide him to a suitable location.
This is actually really interesting: and I give a lot of credit to Jody Houser‘s writing, becasue this actually made me realise something that I’ve never actually realised before about the Jedi Order and Coruscant. Specifically that it seems odd for the Jedi Temple to be located in a place that has so little natural connection or conductivity with the Living Force – Coruscant is literally a city of metal and artifice, and you would therefore think that the Jedi Temple would need to be somewhere with a much more powerful natural resonance (like Ach-To, for example).
It actually makes me wonder if this may even have been contributing factor in the Order’s downfall, its diminishing connection to the Living Force (as admitted by Yoda in Episode II) and Palpatine’s ability to shield his true nature from them.
For a little one-shot comic book, with limited page space, to raise that kind of question is really something.
But that alone demonstrates the value of a series like this: and of what it can do to blow little bits of new life into a world and story we think we already now like the backs of our hands.
So Qui-Gon goes off to some unspecified planet that is strong in the Force. And there he has intense visions, including visions of violence and fallen Jedi – which might or might not be foreseeing the events of the Clone Wars or Order 66.
The book then doesn’t really have anywhere else to go: we get a nice little epilogue between Qui-Gon and Yoda. And even here, we get some thematic foreshadowing for the future of the Jedi, with Qui-Gon warning Yoda about the dangers of the Order becoming too rigid (which is clearly does in the future), as well as talking about the need for ‘balance’ in the Force (which is nicely foreshadowing Qui-Gon’s discovery of Anakin and his future belief in Anakin being the one to bring balance).
Given the restrictions inherent in trying to tell a meaningful and complete story within very few pages in a one-shot scenario, Jody Houser’s story and dialogue in Age of Republic: Qui-Gon Jinn is really excellent. Within a very small space, it tells a nice little adventure story, but also manages to touch on some key themes, do a lot of foreshadowing for the pre-existing prequel story, and even raise some ideas that make you think differently about the story we know so well.
That’s a pretty big accomplishment for one comic-book.
The shame of it is that it is only a one-shot.
This book makes me realise I could really do with an ongoing, monthly Qui-Gon Jinn series. It would be great if this Age of Republic format is maybe a test to see if the comic-book audience is willing to go for prequel-centered stories in good enough numbers: and that maybe it’s foreshadowing more, bigger series’ in the future – perhaps even a Qui-Gon Jinn monthly title.