MACE WINDU #1 is one of the best opening salvos in comics, giving the reader a welcome mix of high action plot and unique characterization. With a theme steeped in wartime doubts, this is a must read issue for Star Wars fans.
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The STAR WARS prequel trilogy (PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK OF THE CLONES, and RETURN OF THE SITH) is generally disliked by many fans. In all honesty, I fell in love with these films as they were really my first introduction into a franchise I wholeheartedly admire. However, the films aren’t perfect. I’m not talking about “I have the high ground” or Jar Jar Binks. Sadly, some of its most interesting characters didn’t receive enough screen time. Among these, the Jedi Masters faced the worst. Yoda, Anakin, and Obi-Wan received their dues, but Jedi Masters like Ki-Adi-Mundi and Plo Koon died before they could make their mark. This week, Marvel took a step to fill these gaps by opening the doors into the inimitable Samuel L. Jackson’s Jedi identity with STAR WARS – MACE WINDU #1 by Matt Owens and Dennis Cowyn.

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Samuel L. Jackson loved his role as Mace Windu so much that, to this day, he swears the purple-lightsaber wielding master didn’t die. Fans from all walks of life would agree that Mace Windu was a Jedi Master to admire. And for good reason! As one of the Jedi’s most accomplished warriors, Windu’s aid in the battle of Geonosis and several others led the Republic to victory. Also, he nearly defeated Emperor Palpatine in his prime. Still, there is much about Mace Windu’s time during the Clone Wars that we do not know. Does MACE WINDU #1 leave him a worthy legacy?

A Long (Long) Night on Hissrich

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

MACE WINDU #1 opens just after the battle of Geonosis from ATTACK OF THE CLONES. After leading the Clone troopers and the Jedi into battle, Windu, alongside the other Jedi Masters, has become a general in the war against the Separatists. As he dines with Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, Windu learns of a large Separatist presence on the Outer Rim planet of Hissrich. He feels that if the Separatists are allowed to sustain this sort of planetary hold, they can form alliances and otherwise disrupt the Republic’s cause. With the Jedi Council’s okay, Windu forms a team of Jedi for a covert mission to destroy the Separatists.

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Windu’s team consists of Jedi Master Kit Fisto, naturally attuned to harsh alien environments; Prosset Dibs, a blind Jedi Knight with potent Force abilities; and Rissa Mano, a young Jedi Knight and prodigious engineer. Early on, they feel confident about this covert mission. Hissrich only receives one hour of sunlight every month. The team will be working under the perfect guise of darkness. They soon overtake their first patrol unit, though one of these patrolling droids slips away and brings news to its superiors. The time has come for this Jedi black ops team to meet the real threat.

A Fog of Doubt

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

To be quite frank, MACE WINDU #1 is one of the best opening issues I have read in a long time. While the plot, characterization, and artwork all played major roles in helping me enjoy this issue, the true underlying admiration stems from the themes. MACE WINDU #1 puts the Jedi on the stand. Windu openly doubts the war effort. For decades, the Jedi have been nothing more than peacekeepers. They were a superpowered police force and now, when stakes are raised, they have to choose sides in a war. They are generals, and that doesn’t sit right with Windu. Even Yoda’s words of encouragement — that Windu is a great Jedi and an even better general — don’t assuage these fears. They shouldn’t, as that is exactly Windu’s greatest fear. He doesn’t wish to lead armies into battle. He wants to help people.

This theme is discussed throughout MACE WINDU #1, and it helps to balance the rather interesting plot. Prosset Dibs is another among Windu’s team that feels the Jedi are not meant to participate in this war. Meanwhile, Kit Fisto wholeheartedly recognizes that the Jedi were trained in combat for a reason. This moral debate tracks through the early preparatory exposition and the later battles.

Jedi Black Ops

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

Typically, STAR WARS comes in three flavors. You have the grand scale interstellar battles, the planetary military laser fights, or the political exposition meant to move the story along. That’s fine and fun, but at the end of the day, it’s good to have some differentiation. MACE WINDU #1 gives us that different flavor. While it opens with the mumbo jumbo of Jedi Council politics, it never feels bogged down by these details.

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Every page seems to push for that eventual night raid. Mace Windu himself is leading a covert ops team into the field, and that is an exciting proposition. The Jedi have always been likened to Samurai or Knights. They aren’t necessarily ninja or spies. With a group that wields large glowing swords, is stealth a realistic goal? Seeing this new side of the Jedi’s capabilities helps flesh out the galaxy’s greatest badasses.

Meanwhile, the characterization in MACE WINDU #1 is far from lacking. While Knight Rissa Mano never quite gets her chance to shine on the page, she still has several small moments throughout the course of the issue that help to solidify her role. Windu definitely receives the most characterization, but his team has the chance to speak their minds. Kit Fisto and Prosset Dibs’ moral debate give an insight into their characters. Prosset developed deep ties to the Force, meaning he can feel every death on either side of the war. Kit Fisto, on the other hand, is a Master Warrior. Their perspectives make sense, and as such, we gain new insights into characters both new and old.

Art in a Galaxy Far Far Away

The art by Dennis Cowyn is some of the best in Marvel’s STAR WARS run. The highly detailed, inked pages give a feeling of high action, and the returning characters look like they were ripped straight from the prequel movies. The inks by Robert Poggi are bold and dark, while the colors by Guru-eFX are exceedingly beautiful and bright. They gift this STAR WARS story a wholly realistic yet alien feel. When Kit Fisto, portrayed in a bright neon green, walks into the story, your eye is immediately pulled. Hissrich is an exceptional accomplishment by this artistic team. Though shrouded in darkness, the plants glow in brilliant bright shades of neon.

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Final Thoughts: STAR WARS – MACE WINDU #1

When I first opened MACE WINDU #1, I had high expectations. The STAR WARS books Marvel has released in recent years have been a fantastic addition to my collection. I wanted nothing more than for one of my favorite characters to get his due. Luckily MACE WINDU #1 delivered. While I felt the end action scene could have filled a couple more pages, MACE WINDU is an utterly fantastic opening salvo for this Jedi Black Ops story. If you are a STAR WARS fan, this needs to be on your shelf immediately!

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