I have been thoroughly enjoying the Age of Republic comics so far, and the most recent issue, this one about Anakin Skywalker, was no exception.
In these comics, written by Jody Houser, we take a closer look at a certain prequel hero or villain each time. Already we’ve looked at Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jango Fett, and then a special that included several others (Mace Windu, Asajj Ventress, Rex, and Jar-Jar Binks). This week, an issue about Anakin Skywalker joined the list, while we’re still scheduled to get issues about Count Dooku, Padme Amidala, and General Grievous.
I’ve been very impressed with all of the ones we’ve gotten so far, as they have mixed a very intriguing and thought-provoking story with beautiful artwork. It’s been a very fun series, and like I said, this one about Anakin was no different.
In the Corvair Sector, Anakin Skywalker leads his troops in a space battle against the Separatists. He swoops in to save the life of one of his troopers, and then as everyone forms up on him they make quick work of the Separatists. The droid presence in itself was surprising, however, so later aboard the Resolute Skywalker discusses things with Admiral Wullf Yularen, who explains that the Republic had just located a droid factory on the third moon of Kudo. But the attack had revealed their position, meaning that Separatists could get there quickly. That means that the window to attack is small, but Skywalker hesitates when he sees a large expected civilian death number. The reason for this is that the Kudo people are working in the factory, and Anakin isn’t comfortable with a mission that leaves so many dead. Yularen counters with the fact that war is ugly and that they’re lucky their primary enemy is droids, explaining that the right tactical move in this situation is to move in, which would incur some casualties but limit their own. “Either way, people will die,” Yularen explains. “And it’s our job to make sure it isn’t our people.”
This doesn’t sit well with Anakin, who wanders the ship pondering how to be a Jedi – sworn to protect lives – and a General – who must make the right tactical move for his side and his soldiers. While Anakin is eating dinner, Obi-Wan Kenobi sits down to eat with him and discuss the matter further. Yularen had gone to the wise Jedi Master to inquire about whether he had been in the right in his debate with Anakin. Kenobi then went to Anakin to discuss the matter, affirming that both are right: Anakin is right to want to protect civilian lives, while Yularen is right that they can’t risk their own troopers. Kenobi clearly isn’t comfortable with this reality of war either, admitting that some in the Republic (though not Yularen) even see the clones as just disposable. Anakin tells Obi-Wan that everything he has learned from the Jedi as Kenobi’s padawan tells him that this kind of slaughter is wrong. Kenobi doesn’t argue this but, with a smile, says, “You’ve come a long way, my former padawan. Trust your feelings. And trust the Force.”
Anakin decides to disregard Yularen and go on his own on a mission to the droid foundry on Kudo III. Upon arrival he finds things eerily quiet and soon begins to sense suffering. He moves further and finds that the Kudo people are actually enslaved by the droids rather than willingly siding with them. This prompts flashbacks of when Anakin was a slave, and he is filled with anger and decides to act. He wipes out the droids in the factory, leading the Kudo people to freedom. In doing so, he finds out what the Separatists were really up to. Back on the Resolute, Kenobi explains that the Separatists leaked the information about the droid factory, hoping that the Republic would attack and kill innocent victims, which would have been a very bad look for the Republic and a good recruiting tool for the Separatists with neutral worlds. Kenobi and Yularen praise Skywalker for making the right move and saving the Kudo people.
I have been surprised by how deep these Age of Republic issues have gotten, though it’s a welcome one! Several of the issues now have explored how the Jedi seem to fundamentally miss what they’re supposed to be about, just like the rest of the galaxy. The Jedi aren’t warriors, yet they’re recruited into this war to fight. That’s one of the most brilliant aspect of Palpatine’s plan, as he subtly convinces the Jedi to become what they never should have been: warriors. But like with most issues, this one isn’t clear-cut, and the more we explore these ideas the more we see that many of the Jedi struggle with it. In this issue, that is Anakin Skywalker (and also Obi-Wan Kenobi). He knows that as a Jedi he must protect life, yet as a General he too often must take it. Anakin is as skilled of a warrior as any Jedi, yet he wrestles with that at times.
I appreciate that Obi-Wan tells Anakin that he’s come a long way when Anakin admits these things, and I instantly thought of Anakin’s slaughter of the Tusken Raiders in Attack of the Clones. He actually has come a long way! The darkness of Anakin has always been there, but he isn’t comfortable with the slaughter of people, at least not this time. He’s growing, yet that leads him to more struggles with what the Jedi are supposed to be versus what they’ve become. So even though he’s growing as a Jedi, it actually fits in well to where we know he winds up at the end of the Clone Wars. He comes to the conclusion that the Jedi are liars and hypocrites and are the enemy of the Republic, and while Revenge of the Sith does a good job of explaining his reasoning for this, things like this also provide more backstory – because in many ways, Anakin is right. The Jedi did become hypocrites. They didn’t become enemies of the Republic, but they did betray their mission. So the more Skywalker comes to realize this, the more understandable it becomes as to how he could turn on the Jedi seemingly so quickly.
I appreciated too that Obi-Wan came to discuss these things with Anakin, yet it was clear that he too struggled with this concept. Kenobi in many ways epitomizes the ideal Jedi from the prequel trilogy, as he didn’t go so far as to disregard the Jedi Council like Qui-Gon or Anakin, but also didn’t go so far with his blind belief in the Jedi like Mace Windu or Yoda. Kenobi was wise beyond his years, and he was a trusted mentor and friend to Anakin. Seeing Kenobi admitting these things are hard is an affirmation to Anakin, and it’s ultimately Kenobi’s words that Anakin heeds: trusting his feelings and the Force.
That ultimately leads to his discovery of the slaves, and it’s such a perfect plan by Palpatine (though it didn’t work): send the Republic to destroy a droid factory and in doing so kill a ton of innocent civilians. That would be a PR nightmare for the Republic, and I imagine that Anakin’s history would have led Palpatine to conclude he might go along with an aggressive tactic. But regardless, the plan was a very good one and very understandable from the Separatist standpoint, which only serves to make this issue stronger.
In the end, I think the central idea that this issue wrestles with is the same thing that we have seen others in this series wrestle with: the fact that the Jedi have lost their way. Anakin sees it clearly, as there is an obvious and painful tension between being a Jedi and being a General. So, as I mentioned earlier, Palpatine’s greatest ploy was getting the Jedi to believe that those two terms – Jedi General – go together. They don’t. This is something that the Jedi need to understand, but it’s also something that Star Wars fans need to understand. And when we begin to understand that, we begin to understand even more why Luke Skywalker rescuing the entire Resistance and halting the entire First Order without so much as physically harming a single person is perhaps the most heroic Jedi-like thing anyone has ever done. Years before he wrestled with those things, though, so did his father before him.