The Brilliance of Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi Book 1

Next month sadly will see the final issue of Dark Horse Comics’ Dawn of the Jedi. John Ostrander and Jan Duursema have done an amazing job of conceiving a Star Wars universe set more than 25,000 years before the events of A New Hope. As dawn turns to dusk, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about what I particularly loved about this groundbreaking series.

The Art. It would be impossible for me to discuss Dawn of the Jedi without immediately mentioning the incredible art courtesy of Jan Duursema (accompanied by Dan Parsons’ inks and colors by Wes Dzioba). From close-up facial expressions to expansive battle scenes, Jan illustrates this world so vividly that the characters practically leap off the page. Her attention to detail is amazing. I would always thrill at getting in new penciled pages from her.

Depiction of the Force. I love the way the Je’daii perceive and use the Force. They believe that the most important thing is balance: to keep the light side and the dark side in perfect equilibrium. It’s not about never having emotions or dark thoughts; it recognizes that people are susceptible to the dark and merely seeks to keep it in balance with the good. This seems eminently reasonable to me, and it’s jarring, in a fun way, to hear Je’daii talk about merely keeping balance with the dark side, not ignoring it completely. (One of the cool tidbits is that the forcesaber, the forerunner of the lightsaber, is seen as an instrument of the dark side, and is approached with wariness by the Je’daii.)

Really scary villains. The Rakata are seriously disturbing foes. Not only are they merciless, unfeeling creatures set on galactic domination, they eat people. That’s a surefire way to creep me out about a villain: the possibility that they might eat me. And I can just tell that the Rakatan Predor Skal’nas would do it with a smile on his face.

Diverse characters. Dawn of the Jedi has a diverse cast of characters — humans of different races, Sith, Twi’leks, Zabraks — bringing richness and variety to the storytelling, and each character has a distinct personality. (And how can you not love seeing a Je’daii Wookiee pop up now and again?)

Epic battles with high stakes. I love smaller stories, but every once in a while you need a tale where the fate of the entire galaxy is at stake. Dawn of the Jedi delivers on that in spades and makes you grateful that the Je’daii have the Force on their side.

The character Xesh. Xesh is a Force Hound, a slave bred by the Rakata to hunt down worlds that are rich in the Force. He is wholly a creature of the dark side. His conflict when he is exposed to the ways of, and the kindness of, the Je’daii is compelling, especially since not even Xesh knows which side he is on all the time. A complicated character with a sympathetic story arc.

Rancor-dragons. Some Je’daii can ride giant rancors that fly. It’s as awesome as it sounds.

The breadth of imagination that went into creating this series is truly impressive, and the Star Wars universe is richer for this exploration into the very beginnings of the Jedi and the Force. John Ostrander and Jan Duursema have set a high bar for everything that follows in the Star Wars comic book realm.