After the famous climactic reveal in “Empire Strikes Back” that Darth Vader is in fact Luke Skywalker’s father, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s knowingly false assertion that Vader had murdered the Skywalker patriarch may seem inscrutable; but, as Obi-Wan’s own story was built up through the prequel trilogy and other expanded universe epics, fans eventually received, if not an explanation, then a fuller understanding of the Jedi Master’s course of action. Now, Dark Horse is set to flesh out the history of another pivotal “Star Wars” character, turning the spotlight on Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master and a formative figure in the life of young Anakin Skywalker. The five-issue miniseries “Star Wars: Jedi – The Dark Side” debuts in May and will be written by “Hellboy” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” editor Scott Allie with art by Mahmud Asrar. CBR News spoke with Allie about who Qui-Gon Jinn is at the beginning of the series and how “Dark Side” sets him on the road to what he must become.
Prior to “Dark Side,” Allie had written the initial arc of “Star Wars: Empire” as well as a few one-off stories in the “Star Wars” expanded universe, including a later issue in “Empire’s” run and a short story in “Star Wars: Republic” #50. “Randy [Stradley, ‘Star Wars’ editor] and I were talking about what we’d like to see in a ‘Star Wars’ comic. We had some general ideas that got more specific as we talked, and eventually he said, ‘Would you wanna write it?’ Randy is a great editor, and it gives me a chance to get better at what I do, so I jumped at it,” Allie said. “We’re talking about a series of stories that will span some time. It offers me something I’ve really wanted to do, developing a character over time. Also, my son really loves the prequels, so this’ll get me in good with him.”
As fans know, Dark Horse has done a number of “Star Wars” series set across a broad timeline in this universe, from thousands of years before Anakin Skywalker first trained with Obi-Wan Kenobi to just over a hundred years after Darth Vader’s defeat. In “Dark Side,” Allie works in an era relatively near the events of the film trilogies, which he said means “staying more true to things that are firmly established for the general audience.” “But Lucasfilm has fairly tight continuity throughout the whole history of the galaxy far, far away. So you’re dealing with other people’s stuff, no matter when the story takes place,” Allie continued. “The way I see it, the advantage is that you have a wealth of story material from the films that you can safely assume the average reader will have some familiarity with.
“That said, my story takes place a long time before ‘Episode I,’ I think nearly twenty years. My ‘Betrayal’ series was within a few years of ‘Episode IV,’ so this is a lot different from that. Qui-Gon will continue to change and evolve quite a bit between this first arc that I’m doing now and his appearance in the film.”
Despite his role within the Skywalker epic that is at the core of “Star Wars,” Qui-Gon Jinn has not had a lot of mythology built up around himself to this point, which gives Allie some room in which to maneuver the character. “Qui-Gon not only trained Obi-Wan, he decided, against all counsel, to have Anakin trained. Bad call on his part. So Qui-Gon had a massive impact on the galaxy,” Allie said. “The storytelling challenge here is to create a young, smart Jedi Master who would have such confidence in his judgment and make such a bad decision. We know very little about him, but we know who he is at the time of ‘Episode I.’ And at that time, I think he can mainly be described as stoic. So how do I make a compelling character in a comics series who, when next we see him will be summed up in the word ‘stoic?’ What does he go through to become that way? Who is that guy?”
Allie put some thought into this question, and Qui-Gon’s perspective and how it evolves will play a central role in the series. “He’s a passionate young Jedi Master who struggles with his relationship with the Force, in a very particular way,” Allie said of Qui-Gon Jinn. “He has very high expectations of himself, and is not satisfied. He expects the Force to give him an active understanding of the universe that will help him do the things he needs to do, and he doesn’t get all that. He’s wise, he’s powerful, he can be fierce and he has a bit of a temper. He has strong connections with a few people around him, yet he has a blind spot regarding their emotions.”
Qui-Gon’s Padawan in Allie’s series — the apprentice who preceded Obi-Wan Kenobi — will be a character not wholly new but one who might not be familiar to all readers. “This is a character that fans of the expanded universe will know, from the YA novels. His name’s Xanatos. He’s got a daddy complex, and Qui-Gon lacks sufficient insight to properly deal with it,” Allie explained. “Xanatos is really driven to satisfy Qui-Gon, but he has a lot of anger in him that jeopardizes their mission to solve a murder.”
Aside from wanting to build up a backstory for Qui-Gon Jinn, Allie said that the focus of “Dark Side” will be on personal rather than galactic struggles, “because that’s all I want out of a story.” “I think it’s all anyone wants. You want to connect with the characters, you want to believe that the stakes are high for them and you want to relate to their conflict,” Allie said. “Qui-Gon struggling to understand his own relationship to the Force is a major theme of the book, and I think it’s relatable. I think I can make it relatable. Also, the lives and deaths he’s dealing with are going to be those of a small cast of tight-knit characters, right around him. I don’t think, in ‘Episode IV,’ viewers really cared much about those poor people on Alderaan. You cared about Han and Luke and Leia, and you believed they cared about each other. The danger and desires need to be intense and visceral between the main characters. I think that’s why ‘Empire’ is better than the original film, in part. Luke wasn’t trying to save the galaxy. He was trying to save his friends. And you believed in his love for his friends, completely. You felt it. Now, that’s not remotely the plot of ‘Dark Side,’ but I want to stay similarly focused on personal relationships and needs. There is a political thing going on, just as there is in the original films, but you don’t care about it. You care about these few people.”
Appropriate to the era of the story, in addition to Qui-Gon Jinn, “Dark Side” will feature several other recognizable Jedi Masters. “Yoda is in the first issue, along with a Jedi Master that DH created and I named many years ago, Micah Giiett. Count Dooku was Qui-Gon’s master, years before this series, and he’ll appear in it down the road a bit, because I love Christopher Lee, and mystifyingly he’s my son’s favorite ‘Star Wars’ character. Mace Windu will show up as well,” Allie told CBR. “It won’t be guest-star-o-rama, but when I need a someone to do a particular thing, I’ll use a pre-existing character if it’s appropriate.”
“Dark Side” will be “Dynamo 5” and “Adventure Comics” artist Mahmud Asrar’s first foray into “Star Wars,” and Allie said that Asrar’s talents add to the story “by being great.” “Patrick Thorpe, an up and coming editor at Dark Horse, told me to seek Mahmud out at C2E2 last year, and I’ve been dying to talk about this ever since,” Allie said. “I approached Mahmud on Patrick’s recommendation, we had a great talk, Randy and I were starting to put together the story already, and so I was able to tell him some specifics. And I’m so happy about it. He’s got a really tight, mainstream comics style with an edge. So he’ll give the thing a ton of life, and he’ll make it accessible to mainstream comics readers, which I think ‘Star Wars’ should be. Every comics reader is a potential ‘Star Wars’ fan, in my mind.
“Mahmud is doing a really nice likeness of Liam Neeson, but he’s making him a character, not a traced head. I have very strong opinions about how actors should translate into comics characters, as you can imagine,” he continued. “Mahmud primarily does great comics pages, full of action when it’s called for, but also real and relatable — things aren’t blown out of proportion. When characters are having heart to hearts, you believe it. You feel it.
“And he designs great ships. And he give us real distinctive characters, which is important when everyone’s running around in robes.”