WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Star Wars: Age of Republic Special #1 by Ethan Sacks, Paolo Villanelli, Erick Arciniega, Jody Houser, Carlos Gomez, Dono Sanchez-Almara, Mark Guggenheim, Caspar Wijngaard, Cris Peter and Travis Lanham, on sale now!
The Star Wars franchise is a strange beast. It's a multibillion-dollar industry that has been bringing joy and licensed merchandise to people of all ages for over four decades, and its biggest critics are people who claim to love it (no one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans). The dichotomy between the franchise and its fan base is as perplexing as it is volatile. Factions within its fandom have hunkered down to defend their specific interpretations and preferences when it comes to the Skywalker family saga.
There are critics and fans dedicated to defending George Lucas' prequel trilogy. Twitter is crawling with troglodytes claiming the events of The Last Jedi ruined the franchise because it didn't play out to their expectations. And there are purists who have been stripping all the special edition changes in the original Star Wars trilogy to recreate their initial theatrical versions.
The credo of these various fan divisions may or may not have their merits despite their differences, but there is probably quite a bit of Venn diagram overlap when it comes to the collected hatred for Jar Jar Binks. However, Marvel Comics has tried to reduce the malice aimed at poor Jar Jar in the pages of Star Wars: Age of Republic Special #1.
Diving back into prequel trilogy territory is a tricky matter. There are plenty of aspects from the films that are pretty indefensible: the wooden performances, the poorly-aged CGI, "I don't like sand." But the scapegoat most people bring to the party when discussing how terrible the films are (especially with regards to The Phantom Menace) is Jar Jar Binks. He's low-hanging fruit considering the sizable amount of screen time he gets and just how obnoxious he is during that time. Oddly enough, Jar Jar almost distracts viewers from all the other stuff that doesn't work on the screen.
In the story "501 Plus One," writer Mark Guggenheim and artist Caspar Wijngaard utilize Jar Jar in their story as an agent of good instead of a clown show for six year old kids who might not be into the whole galactic bureaucracy trade federation plot line.
In a mission during the Clone Wars, Captain Rex finds himself in a tough spot. The enemy droid army is closing in on him when the least likely of heroes comes to his rescue. Jar Jar Binks emerges from the shadows, brandishing a lightsaber, and cuts down the droids who have pinned Rex. The expected buffoonery occurs shortly after, but the fact Jar Jar was the tough-as-nails military man's savior is as subversive as it is kind of amazing.
Once Captain Rex relieves Jar Jar of the Jedi weapon, the motor-mouthed Gungan goes back to being the slapstick character we all remember him being. But the return to form is fleeting. As they set out to complete Rex's mission, the Captain tosses Jar Jar a weapon and the two share an action movie moment as if they are Riggs and Murtaugh about to bust up a drug kingpin in a Lethal Weapon film. In that moment, the reader doesn't see Jar Jar the same way anymore. This creature is more than an obnoxious CGI jester for children. He's a soldier... an annoying soldier, but still.
While the scars from what Jar Jar Binks did to a generation of Star Wars fans are by no means forgive, it's a step in the right direction. There have been other stories that have chronicled Jar Jar's life outside of the prequel trilogy, but never have we seen this side of the character. Instead of reluctant bravery or accidental wins due to his own clumsiness, Jar Jar exhibits real valor. He's still a bumbling idiot, but he's a bumbling idiot you could trust watching your back. You could say weesa don't hates Jar Jar so much now.