The intriguing basis for Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi continues to be its greatest selling point: this is a time before Jedi and Sith, and before the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force was so diametrically opposed to each other. This is the Star Wars galaxy before it was the Star Wars galaxy; where the Balance of the Force is beyond important and more significant to the plot than what it was in the films.
Issues #3 and #4 of Dawn Of The Jedi: Force Storm continues this universe revealed in the opening chapters of this series, which seems to be serving as a “Book of Genesis” for the Jedi Order. Complete with references to and cameo appearances of the Rakatan Empire, Dawn Of The Jedi covers an immeasurable amount of ground that is sometimes a little too much to digest.
Xesh, a Force Hound for the Rakatan Empire (basically a Force-sensitive warrior who tracks down Force energies for the Rakatans), finds himself on Tython. His mere presence there ignites a gigantic Force Storm, of the likes has never been seen in the galaxy, nor probably would ever be seen again. Members of the enigmatic Je’daii Order find themselves corrupted by Xesh’s Dark Side leanings, and torn away from the doctrine of keeping the Force in balance.
While the young Je’daii confronting Xesh begin to lose focus, their masters begin a search for them, encompassing dangerous areas of Tython made even more dangerous by the Force storm. The entire system appears to be becoming imbalanced, and the consequences could potentially threaten the existence of the Je’daii and the balance of the Force.
Several cool characters arise in these chapters with some exploration into their psyche. Xesh is overanalyzed with a back story that establishes why he is so entrenched into the Dark Side of the Force without him even being cognizant of it. His nightmarish visions of being overtaken by spiders is done so frighteningly well, artist Jan Duursema should be commended for accurately pinpointing how trapped the character is, without making it come across tawdry or campy.
Master Quan-Jang is also a hyper-cool inclusion in these two issues, and the character design looks to take cross-influences from Morpheus of The Matrix, and Riddick. I am looking forward to learning more about this character in future issues.
The story writing in Dawn Of The Jedi continues to be solid, but quite difficult to follow due to its expositional nature. Because this a region of Star Wars history never really explored fully before, writer John Ostrander has consigned himself in a difficult position of trying to tell a story within an established universe but without the benefit of a historic backstory. The backstory we, the audience, is aware of, is actually the future of the galaxy, and while we know where we are going, the lack of history makes for some challenging writing, and reading.
Nevertheless, Ostrander does a reasonable job here. While there are some moments where it is difficult to follow, Ostrander has worked closely with Duursema here to establish some intense and/or important moments in the plot that act as either powerful transitional moments or near-iconic imageries. This becomes a “breath of fresh air” away from the exposition, allowing readers to take a break and soak up a little more of the atmosphere.
As already mentioned, Duursema’s art work is of an exceptionally high quality, as always demonstrated previously. The team work of Dan Parsons and Wes Dzioba adding the inks and colors correspondingly also helps. I often found myself thinking of this team’s work on the Star Wars Legacy series with these two issues; and I think this a deliberate effort. They are undertaking an incredible challenge with Dawn Of The Jedi, and commanding a familiar design structure will be helpful to fans.
I do believe, however, that the prevalent failing of Dawn Of The Jedi is the episodic nature of comic book issues. This story would be so much stronger if released in a graphic novel / trade paperback, simply because of the complex challenges Ostrander is tackling with the overbearing exposition. I believe fans would be more embracing of this story in that format.
However, Dawn Of The Jedi is a history in the Star Wars universe hardcore Expanded Universe fans have wanted to wander into for decades. Now that it is finally here, it is enjoyable to read, albeit challenging. This series has most unquestionably become one for the Star Wars fans only, and I think casual comic readers might want to wait for the collected editions before jumping into this one.