Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan: Last Stand at Ord Mantell

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan: Last Stand at Ord Mantell


Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan: Last Stand on Ord Mantell was the second and final miniseries in the Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan story arc. Its three issues were never collected in a trade paperback, but it was released in the 2009 omnibus Rise of the Sith.



Story

The second story in the Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan arc sees them investigating the disappearance of an important queen's son. Their discovery onboard the vessel where he was last seen leads them to the planet of Ord Mantell, where the innocent are being preyed upon by a con man named Taxer Sundown. What follows is a great exploration of the dynamic between the two Jedi, and a comic that is significantly more serious than its predecessor.

The initial set up is an interesting one, as it plays on Qui-Gon's backstory a bit. The story doesn't fully take off until the duo have arrived on Ord Mantell, however. One of the most satisfying aspects of the plot is that Qui-Gon entrusts Obi-Wan with much of the work, including some solo assignments. This marks an important stage in Obi-Wan's development, and it was good to see the dynamic between the two evolve over the course of the book. The author manages to balance this by showing that, though Obi-Wan is entrusted with more and more responsibility, he still has quite a bit to learn from his master. An example of this is when Obi-Wan, in frustration, condemns the indigenous Mantellian Savrip animals as being a curse on the galaxy. Qui-Gon scolds him, asking that he consider the situation from their point of view, and Obi-Wan acquires yet another life lesson from the maverick Jedi. Unfortunately, the wonderful relationship between the two is offset by some weak supporting characters and overall muddled plot.

The supporting cast is rather limited, and  they fail to make an impression. The Bolds, allies of our protagonists on the world of Ord Mantell, are rather limited secondary characters. Nella is the more interesting of the two, though neither she nor her father are particularly interesting or competent. The antagonist, Taxer, suffers from an incredibly cheesy name and a rather bland demeanor. Omnino, the ruler that enlists Qui-Gon's help at the beginning, isn't given enough screen time to be all that effective, and suffers from being a horribly weak character when she tries to make a stand at the end. Perhaps the only solid supporting character is Mawkran, leader of the Mantellian Savrips. He doesn't say much, but the revelation concerning the Mantellians is surprising enough that his character is fairly enjoyable.

The plot has some surprising moments, but they are scattered among needlessly complex/ultra contrived plot elements. One of the most poorly explained aspects is the random use of lightsaber wielding warriors. Little about these characters is explained, and their entire inclusion seems to be little more than an excuse for some mindless saber action. A major twist in the book has to do with mind control devices. The revelation is rather unsatisfactory because it cheapens the power of the main villains and provides an easy way out for our heroes. In fact, one of the weakest aspects of this book is that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are never truly tested. They cut down their opponents with ease, and the major antagonists are nothing compared to them.

One of the things that does work is the revelation concerning the Mantellian Savrips. The twist comes at the perfect time, and ties nicely into one of Qui-Gon's lectures to Obi-Wan. Not to mention, it's an excuse for some cool looking action scenes as the Savrips help our heroes win the day. Nothing else really works this well, and though much of that can be explained through the lack of compelling characters, the plot itself just isn't that good.

Art

The art is significantly more complex than the cartoonish style seen in the previous arc, though it suffers from some weird facial designs and minor characters that too closely resemble characters from the movies.


Omnino looks a bit too similar to a certain Queen for my tastes.
 My first issue with the book's art is that the character design is so unimaginative. Omnino, with her powdered face and ornate clothing, looks entirely too much like Amidala circa Episode 1. Taxer is definately channeling Palpatine in the scenes in which he has his hood up. The other minor humanoid characters are uninspired, but atleast they aren't as similar to movie characters.


The duo have the weirdest facial expressions throughout the book. The droids in this scene are cool though.
Another issue that I have with the book is that of the character's facial features/expressions. The faces are extremely stylized- Qui-Gon has an enormous nose and Obi-Wan has the same stupid grin on his face in nearly every panel. Expressions also tend to lack subtlety, there is very little range when it comes to conveying emotion.


Speeders and the like are great in this comic.

That being said, the book gets alot of things right too. One of the best aspects is the convincing rendering of the Savrips as menacing beasts. This makes the subsequent revelations much more satisfying. The sabers and action scenes are also pretty good, if fairly abrupt due to the lack of challenge presented to the Jedi. Finally, the book has an usually high amount of atmospheric vehicles, all of which look pretty good. Spaceships, such as the Republic cruiser used by our heroes, aren't quite as convincing, but the new vehicle designs are excellent.

Mawkran's fearsome visage helps to teach Obi-Wan an important lesson about the looks.
Another positive is the drastically different art direction from the first arc. The new style, besides being more visually compelling and tasteful, is also a bit more fitting for the story at hand. The cartoon style wouldn't have worked here, and it was good to see something different . One of my favorite elements of the more realistic design is that it lends itself well to capturing the dirty, run down villages of Ord Mantell. Backgrounds in general are superb here, but the various dilapidated villages definitely benefit from the change in art direction.

Conclusion

The art, much like the story, is hit or miss. On the whole, Last Stand at Ord Mantell is a better comic than the first arc of the series, however it is far from perfect. Weak supporting characters and poor character design prevents the book from being great, but the Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon dynamic is great here, and there is enough of a coherent plot for most Star Wars fans to enjoy.

Final Score

71/100

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