Qui-Gon Jinn is one of the truly great Jedi, a character who has appealed to fans in large part because of his knowledge of the Force and his willingness to break with the Jedi Council where he feels necessary.
Last week, the first issue of the highly-anticipated “Age of Republic” comic series was released, focusing on Qui-Gon Jinn. The “Age of Republic” series will focus on a new character each issue, then we’ll get an “Age of Rebellion” series in the same format, and after that an “Age of Resistance” series. I’m looking forward to all of them, and the Qui-Gon issue certainly didn’t disappoint. And in it, Qui-Gon learned more about the Force – and there are many Star Wars fans who seemingly need to learn the same thing, especially in the wake of The Last Jedi.
The comic begins with Qui-Gon Jinn on a mission with his padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi to the planet Bri’n, where Qui-Gon was protecting Th’er, the Priestess of the Wood, hoping to bring about a peaceful resolution in a dispute with the metal clan. Due to the planet’s rules, the metal clan could not cut down Th’er’s trees without her word or her blood, so Qui-Gon evacuated the Priestess and took her back to Coruscant, where the metal clan could have neither her word nor her blood. The Priestess, however, was furious with this, as she thought that Qui-Gon had been sent to protect her and to fight back against the metal clan. “I had heard the Jedi were great warriors,” Th’er tells Qui-Gon as they near Coruscant. “But running at the first sign of a fight? The legends never hinted at your cowardice.”
This statement troubles Qui-Gon, and so Master Yoda visits him at the Jedi Temple to discuss. Yoda assures Qui-Gon that he is no coward, but Qui-Gon responds, “Being called a coward isn’t what bothered me, Master Yoda. It was being called a great warrior. Even here on Coruscant, the home of the Jedi Council, there is little understanding of our purpose. We are seen as soldiers, servants of politicians, with little mention of the Force itself.” Yoda answers, “Mysterious, the Force remains to many. And misunderstood, those who use the Force often are.” “And yet, our actions are a reflection of our purpose,” Qui-Gon responds. “Perhaps the Jedi Council residing here in the capital is part of the problem. We are used as a weapon of the Republic. And thus we are seen as such. Perhaps even by ourselves.” Yoda makes it clear that the Jedi Council would not agree with Qui-Gon’s assessment, but Qui-Gon explains that there is a loss of vision. He has questions, and he must find answers.
So Qui-Gon takes off in his Jedi Starfighter, trusting the Force to guide him and trusting that it is the will of the Force for him to find answers – and trusting that the Force won’t lead him straight into a star. He arrives at an unnamed planet, one long ago discovered but thought irrelevant. This planet is strong with the Force, and Qui-Gon soon senses cold and darkness. He journeys on and finds a place strong in the Dark Side, determined to find answers from the Force. He has a vision of strange red creatures and he ignites his lightsaber and strikes them down, only to discover that they were Jedi and that he now has their blood on him. It was just a vision, but Qui-Gon realizes that there is balance: “Just a vision. But what did it — The light found its way in… Balance. But through a means beyond conflict. Violence sows the seeds of the Dark Side. Unchecked, the Jedi could become that which we fight against.”
Arriving back on Coruscant, Qui-Gon talks with Th’er and urges her to pursue balance and compromise, seeking out allies in the city to learn from. She decides she will follow his advice. Later that evening, talking again with Master Yoda, Qui-Gon explains that he found answers, which lead to more questions. “Certainty in our understanding, to arrogance it leads,” Yoda says. “To the Dark Side.” Qui-Gon agrees, but adds, “And yet, becoming too rigid is also a risk. The tree that won’t bend will snap with the wind.” Yoda warns Qui-Gon that they must not bend to the Dark Side, and Jinn agrees, saying, “The Dark Side consumes. And there is no balance to be found in such a path. And what is our purpose if not balance?”
There are many important lessons to be learned from this issue, lessons that are especially pertinent in the wake of the reaction to The Last Jedi. As I have written about here, I truly believe that there is a fundamental lack of understanding about the Jedi when it comes to the complaints and criticisms of many who dislike Luke Skywalker’s arc in that film.
The thing that Qui-Gon Jinn recoils against is the statement that the Jedi are great warriors. This disturbs him, and he knows it isn’t true. Yet he also knows that most of the galaxy doesn’t know that. People see the Jedi as simply servants of the Republic, warriors for the cause. Yoda too concedes that the Force is a mystery and misunderstood to others. In other words, the Jedi realize that the perception of them across the galaxy is misguided, but Qui-Gon warns Yoda that many Jedi seem to have bought in to that thinking themselves. Though this comic takes place prior to the Invasion of Naboo, we know that Qui-Gon’s warning comes true, as the Jedi take up the mantle of warriors during the Clone Wars and fight for the Republic. But the tension is still felt by some, and we have seen other mediums (including The Clone Wars TV show) highlight some of the growing dissatisfaction with the Jedi understanding. This was one of the most brilliant aspects of Palpatine’s plan: he subtly turned the Jedi into that which they never should have been, great warriors. Mace Windu had made it clear in The Phantom Menace that, “We’re keepers of the peace, not soldiers.” Yet the Jedi became soldiers, even if it was in an attempt to keep peace across the galaxy.
I think for many casual Star Wars fans, however, the warrior part of the Jedi is the most recognized, well-known, and embraced. Fans love the battles (and for good reason, in a series of films called Star Wars), but many seem to miss that Jedi taking up the mantle of soldier doesn’t end well. In the Clone Wars, it ended up in the death and destruction of not just the Jedi Order but the Republic also. The Jedi downfall came about in large part because they became warriors. But then even in Return of the Jedi, it’s easy to believe that Luke Skywalker’s shining moment was defeating Darth Vader in combat. But that’s not the heroic culmination of Luke’s journey; instead, it’s when Luke throws his lightsaber away. He essentially tells the Emperor that he’s a Jedi, and he’d rather die than give in to the conflict and combat. That’s the pinnacle moment of Luke’s journey in the original trilogy. See, the Jedi in Star Wars aren’t rewarded for being great warriors; at most, it is treated as a necessary evil, but is probably more appropriately seen as a dereliction of duty. The Jedi, in taking up their lightsabers and leading armies into combat, are forsaking their primary allegiance to keeping the peace and following the will of the Force.
I think that misunderstanding leads many to wish that Luke Skywalker had physically journeyed to Crait, ignited his (green) lightsaber, and led the Resistance forces into combat. Or, at the very least, physically fight and take down the First Order forces. People say that they expected Luke to be a “great Jedi” by this point, but what they’re really meaning is that they expected Luke to be a great warrior, which is the opposite of being a great Jedi. In actuality, Luke truly has become a great Jedi – and I would argue, the greatest Jedi – because he has figured out a way to keep the peace, save the Resistance, and halt the First Order without having to fight or physically injure anybody. It’s the most Jedi-like thing we have ever seen.
See, while on this mystery planet in the comic, Qui-Gon Jinn finds balance in the Force. But it is incredibly important to note what he says about it: “Balance. But through a means beyond conflict. Violence sows the seeds of the Dark Side. Unchecked, the Jedi could become that which we fight against.” Qui-Gon’s realization is that the balance comes not through conflict but through something beyond conflict. After all, all that violence does – whether used by the light side or the dark side – is sow seeds of the dark side. Additionally, later on in his conversation with Yoda, Qui-Gon mentions that the Jedi cannot be too rigid in their own beliefs. The Jedi had seemingly become so fearful of giving into the dark side that they had become too rigid, unwilling to see the true balance of the Force that comes through a means beyond conflict.
I love the character of Qui-Gon Jinn, and he seems incredibly willing to break with the Jedi when it is appropriate according to the will of the Force. Whenever we encounter Qui-Gon, we seem to learn things about the nature of the Force, which is always really cool. This comic was a very good start to a series that I’m really looking forward to, and I think the lessons learned in this comic are not only important for the prequel-era Jedi but also for the sequel-era viewers. In order to properly understand, appreciate, and analyze Star Wars we must first understand the galaxy itself, including the Force and how it is portrayed. And the lessons in this comic are ones that I think Star Wars fans should pay special attention to.