Star Wars Omnibus: Tales of the Jedi, volume one
Collects: Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi - The Golden Age of the Sith #0-5, Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi - The Fall of the Sith Empire #1-5 and Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi #1-5
Writers: Kevin J. Anderson and Tom Veitch
Artists: Dario Carrasco, Jr., Christian Gossett, Janine Johnston and John Nadeau
Colorists: Perry McNamee and Pamela Rambo
Letterers: Sean Konot and Willie Schubert
Cover: Steve Ellis
By Michael D. Williams
19 December 2007 — Back in the early 1990s Star Wars fans got a special treat: the reemergence of the Star Wars franchise. For what can be assumed were profit motives, Lucas allowed authors to continue the story beyond the movies, and gave exclusive rights to Dark Horse Comics to create the history of the Star Wars Universe. Well, like most fans back then I was hooked. I first picked up the novels, the Thrawn trilogy written by Timothy Zahn, and then followed up that storyline with the Jedi Academy series by Kevin J. Anderson. I only mention this in regards to the Dark Horse Star Wars Omnibus because Kevin J. Anderson was brought on by Dark Horse to write the bulk of the Tales of the Jedi run.
It had been a long time since I read the comics, but I do remember salivating at the glorious covers, and looking forward to devouring the contents waiting for me inside. When I was asked to review the Star Wars Omnibus: Tales of the Jedi, volume one, I felt just as excited as I had in the early 90s. Upon receiving the book, I took it home to read over the Thanksgiving weekend. I thought it would only take me one sitting to go through the entire omnibus — I was wrong.
First let me say that I like how Dark Horse has put the stories in chronological order — not by when they were published, but by when each event takes place in the Star Wars Universe timeline. Collected as such you'll come to understand how the universe began. I must admit that I am a bit of a history nerd, so I had high expectations going in; I also fondly remember reading Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy, so I figured his comic writing and the unveiling of the SWU history would resonate with me today. Next time, for future reference, I'll keep my expectations low.
The collection starts off with issue #0 from the Golden Age of the Sith series. On the very first page, written on what is supposed to look like an ancient scroll being unfurled by some alien's hands, is the entire storyline of Golden Age of the Sith summarized in one simple paragraph. Here's my question: why should I read the rest of the story if I already know what is going to happen? The story follows two siblings, Gav and Jori Daragon (brother and sister) — orphaned hyperspace map charters. Things go from bad to worse when one of their charted courses destroys a crime boss' ship. Naturally he comes after them. They escape his clutches, but wind up on the other side of the galaxy — where the Sith have reigned for hundreds of years. Meanwhile, Empress Teta is trying to unify the planets to form one republic, and in order to do this she requires the aid of Jedi Knight Odan-Urr. The Sith show up, and yadda, yadda, yadda.
I don't want to totally bash the book — it has its moments — but I have to wonder if Anderson's writing isn't suited for the comic medium. Or maybe his style doesn't translate well to comics. Or maybe he wasn't used to the pacing. Or maybe those books I loved when I was younger just don't hold up now that I'm older. Regardless of the reason, Golden Age of the Sith simply isn't great. But let me tell you about the good things. First, the coloring by Perry McNamee is gorgeous. The colors really bring the universe to life: from the starships, to the clothing and the characters in them, everything just seems to leap off the page. He knows what the story calls for, and gives it to you in the right amounts — every shade fits the mood, scene and characters.
Second, the pencils are really sharp. Dario Carrasco, Jr. adds little details in the backgrounds, giving the world a depth and texture. It's those minute details that I tend to enjoy as a reader. As the artist of several other Star Wars runs, I feel he matured with time. Unfortunately after his stint with Dark Horse he's done very little in the way of comics. There's a classic style to his art, which I appreciate.
Finally, what I really enjoyed about the first collection of stories was reading the origins of the Sith. How they came to be is a fun look into Star Wars history.
Well, now it's my duty to inform you that the actual story, the one written by my favorite Star Wars author, is horrible. The book is riddled with cheesy action movie dialog. (I can hear Arnold Schwarzenegger saying, "Stick around," as he impales someone with a knife to the wall.) It was as if Anderson decided that in order to write comic books one must adapt to the styles used in Silver Age. While Gav and Jori Daragon are fighting two hired thugs — as they kick and punch the bad guys — this is what they say:
Jori: You really know how to show a girl a good time.
Gav (kicking someone as he talks): Anything for kicks!
Gav: Jori, go find us a way out of here.
Jori (runs into a dead-end in an alley): Life has just been full of dead ends lately.
If this type of dialog appeals to you, then by all means don't listen to me. However, I ask you this: is it okay to address someone by full name every time you see them — even when you personally know said person? Golden Age of the Sith, is chock full of this. I don't ever remember Han Solo ever addressing Luke Skywalker as "Luke Skywalker" every time they had a conversation. "Traveling through hyperspace isn't like dusting crops, Luke Skywalker!" And people think George Lucas is bad at writing dialog?
Knight of the Old Republic, I am glad to say, does not have that overly cheesy dialog. Tom Veitch has a pretty good handle on the dialog, and panel sequences run smoothly. My biggest gripe is the artwork by Christian Gossett; the poor boy has no idea how to draw women, and everything just seems awkwardly drawn or rushed. Maybe he was in a hurry, because the later storyline with Nomi Sunrider in it starts to look better, but the first few issues are bad.
What I like about this next group of Star Wars comics is that I am not told at the beginning what is going to happen. All we know going in is that these tales take place four thousand years before A New Hope. No plot-destroying scrolls at the beginning to stop me from wanting to read on, so I won't spoil it for you by spilling the beans. Instead I'll go ahead and just tell you to read this group of stories.
Sadly Dark Horse chose to not showcase all of the awesome covers by Dave Dorman, Russell Walks and Chris Moeller. What really drew me to these comics as a kid were the covers. Nothing else on the shelf looked like a Star Wars comic, so to read a collection that doesn't feature them is upsetting. What it comes down to is that you could buy this omnibus for sake of saving space, but losing the covers is too much. How hard is it to reprint 16 covers? Worse yet is that those covers were the real treat of the comics, so without them reprinted here — that, and the bad dialog — I can't really recommend this book.