Tuesday, August 21, 2012

32 BBY: Episode 1 Comics: Anakin Skywalker / Qui-Gon Jinn / Queen Amidala / Obi-Wan Kenobi / The Phantom Menace #½

The four comic series titled Episode 1: Anakin Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-Wan Kenobi (and The Phantom Menace #½), was a mild breath of fresh air.  Granted, I’m still treading in the middle of The Phantom Menace material, but not having to engage with a direct adaptation of the film was a relief.
Firstly, the art in all four comics was fantastic.  All four artists: Steve Crespo, Galen Showman, Robert Teranishi, and Martin Egeland did outstanding jobs with their respective stories.

What I loved about these four comics were the tangential paths they traveled from the familiar Phantom Menace storyline.
In Anakin’s story I appreciated how Truman brought to life some of the episodes from Brooks’ novelization that weren’t in the film.  I especially liked the inclusion of the spacer that Anakin and his friends encountered in the streets of Mos Espa.  Crespo did well with his visualization.  The dream sequence, the bar fight between Gasgano and Mawhonic, and the assassination narrative on Sebulba were all great sub-plots.

Queen Amidala’s story was the least remarkable of the four, but was still interesting enough. 
Qui-Gon’s story included the cut scene of Anakin and Greedo’s fight, but like I said in my write-up on The Phantom Menace novel, it didn’t capture the real motivation for Anakin’s anger.  I also never realized that Qui-Gon sold Anakin’s racer to Sebulba.

Obi-Wan’s storyline confirmed something I always thought: in his fight with Maul he did give in to his anger.  He later confesses this to Yoda.  I also thought it tremendously neat we were offered an outside perspective of Qui-Gon’s funeral pyre.  There were hundreds of Jedi there all mourning alongside Yoda, Mace, Obi-Wan and Anakin.
However, what most stood out to me in all four of these comics was the discussion of slavery Qui-Gon and Anakin had at the end of Qui-Gon’s storyline.  In my post on Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter I spoke of my disappointment with the Jedi, and how I find their focus on martial prowess over a real desire for the common good unacceptable.  The Jedi seem to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.  In Shadow Hunter Darsha felt out of place with the poor, homeless, and disenfranchised of Coruscant because she was not properly trained to do so.  Her training, of course, focused on combat. 

In Brook’s novelization of The Phantom Menace he understands the essence of what it means to be a Jedi:

“The Jedi Knights were peacemakers; that was the nature of their order and the dictate of their creed.  For thousands of years they had served the Republic, a constant source of stability and order in a changing universe.  Founded as a theological and philosophical study group so far back that its origins were the stuff of myth, the Jedi had only gradually become aware of the presence of the Force.  Years had been spent in its study, in contemplation of its meaning, in mastery of its power.  Slowly the order had evolved, abandoning its practice of belief in a life of isolated mediation in favor of a more outward-looking commitment to social responsibility.  Understanding the Force sufficiently to master its power required more than private study.  It required service to the greater community and implementation of a system of laws that would guarantee equal justice for all. (27)
The Jedi are supposed to root out evil in all its forms and utterly destroy it.  In Qui-Gon’s story he uses a Jedi mind trick to help some slaves, but does not go so far as to free them.  Anakin, rightly, calls him out on this:

“Anakin: Well…if you could make a slaver be more kind, couldn’t you make him free his slaves? Qui-Gon: And what would become of the slaves then?  How far would they get on Tatooine?”
I find this line of thinking absolutely shocking.  What a low opinion Qui-Gon has of the slaves, or rather, maybe Qui-Gon feels that keeping them enslaved is the most “humane” thing to do.  This reminds me of how slavery was defended and justified in America in the 1850s.  This is how Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America, defended the idea of not freeing his slaves.  In the book, The Constitutional Principles of Thomas Jefferson, Caleb Patterson writes that:

"It was Jefferson's “humane feeling” for his slaves that kept him from freeing them. To free the ordinary slave was not very different from starting him on the road to starvation. Or as Jefferson put it... like abandoning children."
Jefferson couldn’t believe his slaves were intelligent enough to survive on their own in the same manner Qui-Gon doesn’t believe the salves he helped would survive.  In both cases the vice of slavery is perverted into some kind of virtue – that maybe the slaves are better off where they are. 

Anakin was right that Qui-Gon didn’t go far enough.  Instead of simply convincing the slave owner to be kind to his slaves, he should have said “Your salves belong to me now”, and took the salves along with the boy aboard his star ship.  It wouldn’t be stealing, because one person (or being) cannot own another, regardless of what the law does or does not say.  If a law is unjust then the Jedi are under a moral obligation to disobey that unjust law.
The Jedi speak of concern for the common good, so why not start with the abolition of slavery? I’m sure 5,000 Jedi, half of the Jedi order, could dedicate themselves to such a noble cause.  Head into the slavers dens and use their ability to alter minds to free the salves.  Take on the Exchange.  Take on the Hutts.  If you want to combine your martial prowess with a worthy cause, this one is it.

Real courage is doing the right thing in the face of overwhelming opposition.  It’s time for the Jedi Order to find its courage.
For my next post I’m going to take a look at the Wizards of the Coast RPG source Secrets of Naboo.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. I've long wondered why the Jedi don't attempt to wipe out slavery, assassinations (through bounties), drug smuggling, etc.

  2. As far as narrative is concerned, I think it is an area that is ripe for exploration. The Jedi Order, supported by the Antarian Rangers (who expand their corps to a standing army) take on The Exchange to begin the fight against slavery. Totally awesome if you ask me.