The Siege of Mandalore is upon us at last!
Canon’s first reference to it was back in 2005, though Mandalore may not have been the intent at the time. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin refers to “the Outer Rim sieges” from which he and Obi-Wan had been recalled to rescue Palpatine. Ahsoka and Rex would later tie this reference to Mandalore in Star Wars Rebels. Rex mentions the siege by name, and Ahsoka speaks of the last time she saw Anakin before he rushed off to rescue the Chancellor. Maul is added to the mix with the familiarity of his “Lady Tano” nickname, a connection made explicit in E.K. Johnston’s novel Ahsoka.
In 2016, Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo gave us an unprecedented level of detail in the “Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel at Star Wars Celebration, revealing that the Siege of Mandalore had been planned to be the true finale of The Clone Wars. We have had long years of references and teases, with the major beats of the story established in a piecemeal way that we usually don’t get from Star Wars.
As such, I admit that I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the Siege of Mandalore would have in store for us. I was eager to see it, but I’d given up on the idea of being surprised by it. Then Celebration Chicago happened, and in one panel, I was forced to reconsider everything I thought I knew about the resurrected Season Seven:
“When I got the script for this stuff and finally could read what the Siege of Mandalore was all about, I was shocked. And I mean shocked. I don’t mean, ‘You guys are gonna really like it.’ No, I mean like I was shocked. I’m glad I’m sitting down. Are you sitting down?” – Sam Witwer
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“My thoughts were in turmoil.
I can’t allow this to be done.
The Second Law of Robotics tells me I must follow orders and stay in the niche.
The First Law of Robotics tells me I cannot harm this tyrant who wishes to destroy me.
Must I obey the laws?”
– Isaac Asimov, “Cal,” Gold.
My entry into science fiction fandom was shepherded by a pillar of the genre: Isaac Asimov. It’s been a while since I’ve actually picked up one of his works, but you can still see the shape of his influence in my reading habits today. Namely, I have him to credit for the array of short story collections gracing my shelves. I, Robot was the first anthology I ever read, and from there it was a series of dominoes leading to a diet of short stories and anthologies.
There are gems to be found in anthology collections. When multiple authors are gathered under a single cover, such as Unnatural Creatures, we can explore variations on a theme. How does each author interpret the topic at hand? Answering this is a kaleidoscope of ideas. When it’s the work of a single author, such as I, Robot or Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, we get targeted explorations of the theme with deliberate nuance.
Age of Republic is an anthology that gives us the kaleidoscope and the nuance alike. It’s a work of art, a collection of individual stories beautiful on their own, but which spark to new life when seen in comparison with the whole.
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There was one element of Star Wars Rebels‘ “Twin Suns” that eluded interpretation. Over the course of my multi-part close read, with every ridiculous theory I crafted for the episode’s name, I could not place it. Why were there so many shots of eyes that looked like the suns?
Maul’s eyes were the right color. Obi-Wan’s were similar to the blue of the twin moons, which served as a stand-in for the suns at night. There was a close-up of Ezra’s eye that made the pupil and the dot reflection look like the suns across the blue “sky” of his iris. Even Chopper had a moment where he was cropped by the frame so that only two of his optics were visible. “Twin Suns” did use eye close-ups and point-of-view shots to establish whose perspective the audience was to engage with, so these decisions were not wholly without reason. And yet I still could not make the connection to why these eyes resemble the suns, almost deliberately so.
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Writer Jody Houser continues her incredible work in making these dual-and-dueling Age of Republic issues rhyme with each other. The December releases focused on the public misconceptions of Jedi as warriors, using Qui-Gon and Maul to provide counterpoints on the topic. When the Obi-Wan issue was released, January’s focus was clear. Like Ryan at Mynock Manor I had anticipated the common theme between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jango Fett’s Age of Republic issues to be fatherhood. As someone who delights in familial themes in fiction, I was ready to tackle this head-on!
Unfortunately, despite my enthusiasm and the excellent work by Houser and her teams, I was hamstrung in my analysis. I found myself unable to go as deep into the characters as I had with Qui-Gon and Maul. Understand, I am about the farthest thing from a father as one can get: a childless woman.
Now that doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion about fathers and fatherhood, but Obi-Wan’s (“Mission”) and Jango’s (“Training”) comics were focused very much on these men’s internal lives as fathers. That’s an area I am unfamiliar with, and I could not do these issues justice on my own. Fortunately, I happen to know some fathers. My own dad and one of my brothers were able to take the time to chime in with their own experiences.
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Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul are two characters who were introduced in The Phantom Menace, wherein they both were killed in an epic duel. Supposedly killed, that is, as both lived on all the way up to the doorstep of A New Hope, each of them drastically affecting the growth of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Therefore, it makes sense on a surface level for Qui-Gon and Maul to having dueling comic releases. But this isn’t just a nice nod and a wink to their shared screentime. There’s much more to be found in their texts’ comparison.
Age of Republic is a limited comic series that will run through March 2019, with a hero and a villain each getting their own issue every month along with an additional special issue combining the stories of other characters. The series kicked off in December 2018 with Qui-Gon’s and Maul’s comics, entitled “Balance” and “Ash” respectively, both comics written by Jody Houser.
Not only did Houser create two solid tales that give us better looks into these characters, but she also made them rhyme. George Lucas would be proud. “Balance” and “Ash” are a dance of contrasts, following the same beats of story while united by a particular theme: the galaxy’s perception of the Jedi.
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