Cavan Scott, you have a lot to answer for! It was only the other week that Scott tweeted that he was re-reading Prelude to Rebellion, part of a series that would become Star Wars Republic. I instantly tweeted back about how I loved the series, Scott then pointed out that the series was over twenty years old. Twenty years! Where does the time go? It was this initial tweeting that created the inspiration for Lockdown Literature. It got me thinking that there are a lot of fans who will not have thought to go back to these series, these series that have such an impact on us (slightly) older or more established fans. With the current crisis, now is the perfect time to go back and read these issues, whilst at the same time supporting the comic industry. With so much good material to dive into, where could one start, why start with this series in particular?
This series has always held a special place for me. After reading Crimson Empire, I wanted to sink my teeth into a full series, and I remember seeing Mace Windu on the cover of a graphic novel called The Clone Wars. It called to me. Upon opening it, I was greeted by a character whose identify alluded me, called Quinlan Vos. After reading the graphic novel, I rushed out to get the issues that came before. I wanted to know who this person was, what had led up to The Clone Wars. And that is how I discovered Prelude to Rebellion. To say I devoured the series would be an understatement. The time period, the artwork, it all felt right. It was through reading this series that I came to my very favourite of series, Star Wars Legacy, which many of its story points take note from Star Wars Republic.
In the first few arcs, we know nothing about Aayla Secura or Quinlan Vos, but it is this series that creates these characters. It is these characters that then officially became part of the Star Wars universe with their appearances (or mentions) in the prequel films. I remember at the time, this was a huge thing, one that hadn’t really been done much before. The effects of this series can still be felt now. Quinlan has moved into The Clone Wars and certain story points have been borrowed from this series. The depth that it goes into (through the over eighty issues that compromise this series) is mind blowing, and it really shows how incredibly well thought out storylines can be. Rather than developed over four or six issues (the size of most arcs), they were able to build it up over dozens of issues.
So, what begins here is a look at the very first arc, one that I had not realised, but came out before Episode One was out at cinemas (yes it really was that long ago!). For some of us, this will be a wonderful nostalgic trip, but if you’re new? Then you’re in for a real treat. This has the feel and layout from comics back in the late nineties, and to me, that makes it all the better, of a time when fans were just happy to have any new content….
Published: December 16, 1998
Rating: Rated T
Writer: Jan Strnad
Penciler: Anthony Winn
Cover Artist: Ken Kelly
Ki-Adi-Mundi is a Jedi Knight of formidable power and influence, but not on his own home world of Cerea. Most of the planet’s citizens are happy to continue their low-tech lives of simplicity, isolated from the Republic, but a new generation of Cereans crave speeder bikes and starships, and are prepared to fight their elders for them! How can a Jedi take up arms against his own children?
I remember the time before The Phantom Menace, I was 13 and everyone was talking about it. Fans were soaking up every bit of information, this comic included. When I actually read this, after the film was released, what I really loved about it was the expansion of the main character Ki-Adi Mundi. We don’t know much about him from any of the films, his role only slightly expanded in the original Clone Wars series of animated shorts. This issue introduces us to Ki-Adi as well as the world he lives on, Cerea.
So, let’s start with the planet. Cerea is considered backwards, which many see as a negative. There are people who want to set up trade details. The Republic want to be involved. Although this could be seen as boring, Strnad writes it very well, enough to keep us engaged. And isn’t it strange how comics can mean even more when viewed in the future? The main group that wants to become modernised is the youth, all they really want is the advancements in technology. I mean, maybe they want the latest console, this year’s model of smart phone or any number of technological pieces of hardware? We’re talking about a galaxy far, far away, right? This youth have no respect for their elders, think they need to not heed the warnings of those with more experience. I can think of lots of news articles that state these scenes happening in our world. And death from a lightsaber? Not realising that their actions have consequences. This maybe over twenty years old, but it’s shocking how these protesters could be an example of where our world, in parts, is going wrong. The parallels are there. Because of this, this issue really hits home. You naturally side with Ki-Adi, not only because he is a character we know, but because he is fighting against what is wrong in our world, let alone Cerea.
Linked with Cerea, is the character of Ki-Adi. I love that we get him fleshed out, it is here that I can really like the person, who I never knew from the films. Cerea has an issue with male to female ratio, which means that Ki-Adi is one of the only Jedi allowed to marry, and not just to one woman, he has several! In this comic you can see how this causes his emotions to be tested (well it is marriage at the end of the day!) but also how, like so many Jedi, he doesn’t truly understand the nuisances of the world. His wife says he should know what’s bothering her, and yes this could be the quote from many a wife to a husband, but it also shows that distance that Jedi keep themselves away from true life experience. I did say previously that the youth don’t think about the consequences of their actions, but we also see Ki-Adi suffer from that same problem. His isn’t from being young, but because he is a Jedi. He still has much to learn, he’s not the wise Jedi he seems to be in the prequel movies.
What really struck me while I was reading this, was the level of narration. In the comics of today, narration is a bare minimum, yet it is the narration, rather than the characters, that really guide us through this comic. I wonder if younger readers will find this strange? For me, this feels nostalgic, most of the comics I have read and really enjoyed have had a large part for the narration. It’s only when you compare it with modern comics, that you realise just how much there is!
Even back in the late nineties, it wasn’t all prequel. The nod back to the original trilogy in the form of Ephant Mon was superb. This is at a time when ‘Legends’ all fitted together (well, for the most part), and the back story of Ephant Mon was a bit more elaborated on in the Tales of Jabba’s Palace book. We may only see him for a few panels, but it’s enough. The same could be said for the lightsaber, a few panels and then it’s gone. Strnad writes it to tease fans and does it very well. I imagine after the gap between the original and prequel film releases, that this glimpse of a new lightsaber would have fans jumping for joy!
Finally, we have the artwork by Winn. The artwork is so very different to now, but again I like that. I’ve said before that I love old fifties science fiction because of the view and optimism it has of the world. Looking back on Winn’s work, I can’t help but feel the same. This is a Star Wars without limitations, where you can do anything (within reason). The designs of the native buildings feel like Star Wars. This doesn’t feel overly prequel but more original. The layout is very traditional, with panel after panel, one following the other. It is easy to follow, which I can’t always say the same for more modern comics (heck we have apps to guide us through them!). There is a beauty here that I’m sure is the same for all comics of this era, one that this nostalgic reviewer loves.
I have been so excited to go back to review this series. We are always so busy with what is happening now, that we don’t always have the time to re-read series that we have previously enjoyed. Issue one of Prelude to Rebellion is a fantastic opener. It keeps everything on a very small scale, letting us get the lay of the land before venturing further afield. We get to know Ki-Adi and will continue to do so in future issues. Even now, there is not much we know about this Jedi, and reading this, you can’t help but wonder if there were more plans for him initially. I do see this series, and those from this era, with a very different light, the light of one who read these comics when he was a teenager. Yet it is surprising how relevant this issue seems to be, the youth of Cerea could be members of our youth today. It may be dated in some ways, but this issue also has a relevance that will hopefully still speak to readers of today. With little memory of where this arc heads, I can’t wait till next week to read issue two…
Star Wars Republic was an ongoing series originally released by Dark Horse that ran from 1998 till 2006 encompassing 83 issues. Prelude to Rebellion is currently available in digital format from the Marvel Online Comic Store, via the Marvel App, comiXology or by subscribing to Marvel Unlimited. A physical copy can be found in one of the many trade paperback releases from Marvel. Please check with Amazon UK and US or your local comic bookstore for availability.