With its intended weekly scheduling understandably disrupted, IDW bring us the second issue in their five-part spinoff series, Star Wars Adventures: Clone Wars Battle Tales. The ongoing fight for Hisseen between the Grand Army of The Republic and Confederacy of Independent Systems rages on, with the clones on the verge of being outnumbered by battledroids. But among the carnage, the troops still manage to find moments to reassure one another with stories of commitment and courage.
Following from Issue #1’s climactic final panel, Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Plo Koon find themselves separated from the infantry stalemate, locked in a lightsaber melee with Count Dooku and his acolyte Asajj Ventress. With Dooku’s forces heading toward the hidden Hisseenian parliament to force a surrender, Plo Koon contacts Commander Wolffe with the co-ordinates, hoping the clones can get there first to defend the leaders. But while the location itself is transferred securely, the instructions surrounding them are not, and clones built for loyalty are cautious about interpreting mission-specifics themselves…
READ MORE: Sonic the Hedgehog #28 – Review
The framing-device story catches the Jedi mid-brawl, sparring as much with barbed comments as lighsabers. The Clone Wars series has a long history of this (as do the films themselves), and writer Michael Moreci captures the spirit of the characters effortlessly. The urgency of this segment is also perfect for the striking artwork of Derek Charm, finding a stylistic mid-point between Dave Filoni’s computer-animated series and Genndy Tartakovsky’s hand-drawn predecessor. Tight framing upholds the pacing, while Luis Antonio Delgado’s colour-work packs a strong punch, even rendered mostly in earth-tones.
With the ongoing arc established previously, the story wraparound consists of three pages at the front, with two to close out the issue. This shorter page-count works well with action as dynamic as this, but runs the risk of relegating what should be the driving narrative into a support-slot. Five pages is enough to introduce ideas but not so much when it comes to giving them a full exploration.
At an expanded 15 pages, Commander Wolffe’s parable becomes the issue’s main attraction. Earlier in the war, Plo Koon leads the Republic in assisting the Nexus trading outpost, a floating city above the surface of Quarmendy. Techno Union leader Wat Tambor plans to take the station for the Separatists, seizing control of the planet and surrounding hyperspace lanes in the process. While Plo Koon heads the air-support, he charges Commander Wolffe with the ground assault, warning him that this will be no easy task.
READ MORE: Transformers #20 – Review
Charlie Kirchoff’s colours stay at the warm end of the spectrum, with most of the action taking place against the peach-coloured clouds of Quarmendy (think of a sunset on Bespin, with the Nexus itself reminiscent of a more industrialised Cloud City). The gradations of the backdrops are offset by a strong base/shade/highlight system for the characters, with clones, battledroids and Tambor himself providing plenty of room for variation. The art comes courtesy of Megan Levens, whose finer approach to detailing makes for a pleasing counterpoint to Charm’s, albeit sacrificing impact in the process. A sense of physical speed is lacking here, with aerial combat scenes looking like finely sculpted tableaux rather than a snapshot in time. It also doesn’t help that this is a relatively straightforward yarn when all is said and done, and doesn’t tie too closely with Wolffe’s musings before its spinning. While the tale certainly doesn’t drag, 15 pages feels like too much real-estate at the expense of the comic as a whole.
Much like its forebear, the second issue has many superficial assets in its favour but ultimately fails to justify its existence. And while that’s consistency if nothing else, the upcoming third instalment’s flashback has some heavy lifting to do if it’s to rescue the series…
Star Wars Adventures: Clone Wars Battle Tales #2 is available now from IDW Publishing and your preferred comic outlet.