The Clone Wars.
It’s a name — three words — that ignited the imaginations of countless Star Wars fans for a quarter century between A New Hope in 1977 (when they were first uttered) and the torturously long wait until the release of Attack of the Clones in 2002 (when they were first seen). And in the last dozen years since then, there have been hundreds of stories told of that bloody conflict — in comics, in novels, in video games — and not the least of which are the 120-plus episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
With the recent release of Season Six, “The Lost Missions” of that Emmy-award-winning television series, the four-part “Crystal Crisis on Utapau” story reel (here on StarWars.com) and the Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir trade paperback (adapted by Jeremy Barlow and illustrated by Juan Frigeri), as well as the publication of Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple right around the corner, we thought to make a cool retrospective about another set of “lost missions”: the rarest of the Clone Wars comics and prose spinoffs from that inheritance of older Expanded Universe literature now known as “Star Wars Legends.”
Sure, you might have watched every episode of The Clone Wars, but did you know that StarWars.com also published dozens of webcomics and “webstrips” that tie into the TV series? Or that while the most popular Star Wars novelist of all time, Timothy Zahn, did not write any Clone Wars-era novels, he did write almost an entire novel’s worth of tales from that tumultuous timeframe? Or that Clone Wars comics were created for the pages of a magazine published only in the United Kingdom, many of them unprinted anywhere else? And for those fans who miss the emotional depth and cutting humor of the late Aaron Allston — well, there are still a few “lost missions” you can easily track down and take bliss in….
Hasbro/Toys “R” Us Exclusive comics (Jason Hall – writer, Francis Portela and Manuel Garcia – illustrators; 2002): In collaboration with Hasbro and Dark Horse Comics, Toys “R” Us gave away this collection of four comics as freebies at their retail stores to promote Attack of the Clones tie-in products. A somewhat slicker version of Kenner’s old “Imperial Troop Transporter” illustrated short story, these comics slyly showcase the merchandise in question — be they toy vehicles like Slave I or Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter with “Fight Mode” or “lightsaber-summoning action figures.” These short comics all end with the same unsubtle proclamation: “What happens next? With [toy name] and your imagination, the possibilities are endless! The Force is in your hands.”
Flagrant promotion aside, however, the stories are clever and fun. “Full of Surprises” (#1) tells of Obi-Wan’s first pre-Attack of the Clones encounter with the bounty hunter Jango Fett in a space dogfight where each warrior proves to have a skifter up his sleeve. Meanwhile, “Most Precious Weapon” (#2) amounts to what is technically the very first story of the Clone Wars epoch. It focuses on Count Dooku aboard his solar sailer, immediately on the heels of the Battle of Geonosis, as the Sith Lord reflects on his triple lightsaber duel with Anakin, Obi-Wan and his own former master, Yoda, and the immeasurable power that he believes resides in young Skywalker. “Practice Makes Perfect” (#3) has Obi-Wan and Anakin cutting their way out of an ambush by a fearsome gang of combat droids, and finally “Machines of War” (#4) takes readers into the thick of the Battle of Geonosis itself, with clone troopers showing Yoda just what havoc Republic gunships can wreak.
For years, fans were forced to track down these hard-to-find individual issues. But thankfully all four of the Hasbro/Toys “R” Us Exclusive comics are now readily available in the Star Wars Omnibus: Menace Revealed from Dark Horse.
Hasbro Short Story Collection (Jude Watson, Matthew Stover, Timothy Zahn; 2003): A remarkable prose anthology that was also given away for free at Toys “R” Us stores. In “Storm Fleet Warnings” by Jude Watson, Obi-Wan and Anakin stumble upon the Storm Fleet: a dangerous Separatist naval force disguised as innocuous freighters. The Jedi lure the fleet into an asteroid ambush in the Llon Nebulae in the hope of hindering its ability to reach the planet Cyphar and intimidate the population into joining the Confederacy of Independent Systems.
In Matthew Stover’s short story, with the unwieldy title “Equipment: A Personal Account of the Sub-orbital Action at Haruun Kal, as reported by Auxiliary Heavy-Weapons Specialist CT-6/774,” a clone trooper gunner who goes by the nickname Seven-Four recounts his harrowing experience during a massive ambush by Separatist droid starfighters while attempting to extract Jedi Master Mace Windu from a deep cover mission on his home planet. While it is exceedingly rare for a Star Wars narrative to be told from a first-person point of view, this one actually shares that distinction with one other Clone Wars story on this list: “The Clone Wars: Out Foxed.” This tale actually takes place during the events of Stover’s Clone Wars novel Shatterpoint and was also reprinted with that book’s paperback release.
Finally, in the short story “Duel” by Timothy Zahn, Commander Brolis is the last surviving clone trooper of a force that assailed the Fortress of Axion. As battle droids lay siege to his hiding place, his request for reinforcements is answered by none other than the diminutive Master Yoda, who engages an immense hoop-wheeled Hailfire droid — armed to the teeth with an array of missiles and an unusual degree of intelligence — in a deadly battle of wits.
Evasive Action: Reversal of Fortune (Paul Ens – writer, Thomas Hodges – illustrator; 2004-2006): The Evasive Action “webstrip” was a four-part series — published as part of the short-lived Hyperspace: The Official Star Wars Fan Club on StarWars.com — that emulated the layout style of old Star Wars newspaper comic strips and mostly took place in the era between Episode III and IV, commonly known as “The Dark Times.” But the first tale in this series was actually a Clone Wars story. Evasive Action: Reversal of Fortune leads into Revenge of the Sith and runs concurrently with the film up through Sheev Palpatine’s ascent to Galactic Emperor. Notable for the primacy of its female cast, the webstrip turns a spotlight on the women of the Jedi Order.
Barriss Offee, here a Jedi Knight, and her Padawan Zonder (a brawny and hairy Selonian) are on the trail of the Commerce Guild Presidente on the planet Felucia when they are captured by battle droids. Elsewhere, the Separatist invasion of Coruscant erupts, and while Jedi Master Stass Allie does her best to protect the duplicitous Republic chancellor, the Twi’lek Jedi Aayla Secura and the Padawan Ekria bust out Barriss and Zonder with the help of a clone trooper strike. But as the heroes coordinate an assault against the Separatist forces on Felucia, little do they realize that all the Jedi are about to fall victim to their own soldiers via Palpatine’s secret Order 66.
(The sequels in the Evasive Action series — Recruitment, Prey, and End Game — follow the Padawans introduced in this initial story and deal with the fallout from Palpatine’s declaration of a Galactic Empire, including the rise of Darth Vader.)
The Clone Wars: Out Foxed (Rob Valois; 2008): This short story was an exclusive from the retail store Target that was made available on their website when it was “unlocked” with a promotional code. The tale focuses on the Clone Commander Fox as he hunts down a Trandoshan bounty hunter intent on kidnapping the Republic senator Shayla Paige-Tarkin. As mentioned previously, this story is notable for being written in the first person.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars webcomic series (Pablo Hidalgo, Thomas Hodges – writers, various artists; 2008-2011): The initial premise of this series of StarWars.com webcomics was particularly ambitious. Both in content and release schedule, each issue played as a prelude to a new weekly episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars during the television program’s first season, and included such ambitious storytelling as the kaleidoscopic “The Dreams of General Grievous” (where various dreams/memories of the cyborg villain were drawn by four different illustrators) and “The Ballad of Cham Syndulla” (a story told almost entirely as a poem).
This dovetailing approach lasted for 21 issues, at which point the webcomic turned to a similarly ambitious tie-in with a series of StarWars.com flash-games in its Hunting the Hunters storyline. Building on the season one finale in which bounty hunters free Ziro the Hutt from captivity, these issues have the Jedi Aayla Secura, Kit Fisto, Anakin Skywalker, and Obi-Wan Kenobi chasing down the jailbreakers across different planets.
For its next incarnation, Act on Instinct, the webcomic turned to a more self-contained format revolving largely around newly created characters. When the rash Zabrak Padawan Tyzen Xebec loses his Jedi Master to the clutches of the mercenary Cad Bane, he is assigned as an apprentice to the no-nonsense Jedi General Keelyvine Reus. Along with Master Kit Fisto, the new master and pupil are appointed to inspect the planet Ukio’s defensive capabilities. Sure enough, while there, the Separatists launch an attack in the form of “Project Instinction,” which includes a mind-altering device that wreaks havoc on the populace of Ukio, its livestock and Republic soldiers all. While the Jedi are able to repel the invasion, destroying the mind-altering technology, they lose the support of Ukio’s politically embarrassed liege and are expelled from the planet.
Immediately thereafter, in The Valsedian Operation, a tip from the Republic’s new ally Jabba the Hutt sends General Reus and her Padawan Xebec on a mission with Obi-Wan, Anakin and Ahsoka Tano to investigate suspicious activity in the Valsedian asteroid belt, said to be mined by the Confederacy for war matériel under the auspices of Jabba’s distant cousin Torpo — in blatant violation of a treaty signed between the Hutts and the Republic. Once there, the Jedi troupe indeed finds pirates overseeing a mining operation exploiting enslaved Ugnaughts, and run headlong into battle droids and the dark Jedi Asajj Ventress. When Ventress unexpectedly murders her presumed ally Torpo the Hutt in cold blood before abandoning the asteroid, however, the Jedi are left perplexed. It is only when they learn from the freed Ugnaughts that it was Jabba’s personal majordomo, Bib Fortuna, and not the Hutt’s cousin that had been in charge of the venture, that they realize the wily gangster has played both the Republic and the Confederacy for fools.
The first 21 of these webcomics, as well as the Hunting the Hunters storyline, were collected in an exclusive trade paperback called Tales From the Clone Wars.
Stay tuned for part two of StarWars.com’s look back at rare Clone Wars tales!
Abel G. Peña is the author of dozens of Star Wars fiction and nonfiction articles for Star Wars Insider, Star Wars Gamer, Star Wars Fact Files and StarWars.com, the novella SkyeWalkers, a co-author of Vader: The Ultimate Guide and Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide, and a translator of rare and forgotten Star Wars comics and storybooks. Abel can be found at abelgpena.com, Facebook and Twitter.