With the advent of the Disney+ streaming service on the horizon, the folks at Lucasfilm are preparing for a mammoth PR onslaught. Alongside the highly anticipated live-action Mandalorian series, the platform also brings viewers the resurrection of The Clone Wars, the show prematurely decommissioned in 2012.
And what better way to gently reacquaint the fanbase with an era of engineered galactic civil war than a pair of stories set in its midst, as IDW’s Star Wars Adventures #19 goes battle droid crazy…
The first entry in our pair of tales this month is ‘Roger Roger’. Written by series regular Cavan Scott with pencils and inks by Mauricet and colours from Charlie Kirchoff, the story opens with clone Captain Rex pinned down by Separatist automatons on Horain in the Crantori system.
Calling upon his Jedi command for assistance, Rex is aided by the arrival of General Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the pair begin to clear a path through the considerable opposition. But when a stray ricochet short-circuits battle droid B1-0516, the resulting malfunction makes the robot think it’s on the side of the Republic. Eager to assist his new allies, B1 (re-named ‘Bats’ by Captain Rex) creates a diversion and allows them to escape.
But seeing Bats being escorted away for reprogramming by Separatist ground forces, the clone captain has a pang of guilt and asks Kebobi if they shouldn’t return the favour…
What’s most striking about this strip is Mauricet and Kirchoff’s stunning artwork (and while the pair have a track record for this, it’s no less enjoyable to see it again). The inks are strong without being overly heavy, carrying a surprising amount of fine detail in panels with so much contrast. Character likenesses bridge the gap between the actors we see in Revenge of the Sith and the marionette-stylisation of The Clone Wars, all the while retaining their own identity within the pages of the comic.
The scripting is mostly short and to the point, although with Rex and Kenobi slashing relentlessly though the CIS forces there’s no need nor room for massive bouts of exposition. And while neither character really has an established in-universe background for caring about droids, the story just about carries off their concern.
But the main draw comes from Bats himself, a droid who suddenly has a moral compass (or a remarkably good simulation of one) thrust upon him in short order, complete with a naive inner monologue which he can’t help but verbalise. B1 droids are prone to quipping in the movies of course, and their humour in the animated series was often a bone of contention. But Bats is indelibly sweet here, and the 12 pages of ‘Roger Roger’ do a solid job of setting him up for a welcome return at some future point.
The shorter, back-up, slot sees the return of the ‘Tales From Wild Space’ segment with spacefarer and story collector Emil Graf, cruising the void with his mechanical companions looking for adventure.
This time it’s the turn of composite co-pilot CR-8R to spin the yarn, telling ‘The Big March’. It’s the tale of another B1 battle droid, Q5-7070, as a routine scouting mission during the Clone Wars results in him being abandoned on a wild, undeveloped world.
Trekking toward his transport’s last known destination point, Q5 meets a swathe of the planet’s indigenous inhabitants along the way, from weirdly flirtatious plant creatures (think of the one-eyed Cacodemon from Doom, blended with Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, cropping up in The Mighty Boosh) to an army of rock-men and a gigantic sort of half-owl, half-griffin. It’s all very odd.
Under normal circumstances, this is the type of quest normally foisted upon poor Artoo and Threepio, and while it’s nice for the adventuring love to be spread around a bit, the story is no more satisfying for all that.
A large part of the problem is that while ‘Roger Roger’ definitely felt like events which took place in the Star Wars universe, ‘The Big March’ just doesn’t. It’s closer in tone to an indie, 1970s psychedelic piece, and while Nick Brokenshire’s visual characterisation is tight enough, his watercolour-style texturing feels both messy and insipid, yet also far too busy. The fact that the artist is also the author adds to the air of self-indulgence.
Ultimately, this second piece does little to enhance the galaxy far, far away, and it’s a real shame as Brokenshire has brought solid fare to these pages in the past.
But Star Wars Adventures is about variety, and in this regard the issue boldly fulfils its remit. A little more focus wouldn’t go amiss, but next month features action from master Yoda himself. Patience, padawan…
Star Wars Adventures #19 is available March 27 from IDW Publishing and your preferred comic outlet.