“Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Force War” #1 features the return of John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, two of the franchise’s most prolific creators, and their interpretation of the Star Wars Universe as it was an even longer time ago; thirty-six millennia ago, in fact. It’s also the return of the their cast of Jedi Knights, or Je’daii as they were called back then, but already fulfilling their roles as protectors of the galaxy, now armed with their newly-developed weaponry, known as forcesabers.
Yes, Je’daii and forcesabers; the start of the “Force War” arc continues exploring the genesis of concepts familiar to “Star Wars” fans, but at this early phase in their history they’re not quite yet the concepts they know. This exploration of the distant past is what historically has made the “Dawn of the Jedi” mini-series’ so fascinating, and this issue, with the Je’daii army wielding their new sabers on the battlefield for the first time, does its part to live up to that precedent. It also reaches out to those who missed out on those earlier issues with an excellent recap of the relevant history on the very first page.
Once readers are indoctrinated, Ostrander immediately puts the story into hyperdrive, with the kind of battle every Star Wars fans enjoys: one that’s full of aliens, monsters, and flying ships. And clearly the kind of battle that Duursema and Parsons enjoy drawing, too; the Je’daii look like the great warriors they are, the alien creatures are almost beautiful in their winged, drooling ugliness, and the ships look as though they’re straight out of Lucasfilm’s prop warehouse. Colorist Wes Dzioba plays no small part, either; attractive color gradients add texture to every panel, and are a nice touch for the foggy backgrounds in the story’s locale. It’s all brought together by Duursema’s strong layouts that make the story move along effortlessly and make for several striking larger panels that punctuate the story exactly where needed. These pages weren’t created solely to look attractive to original art collectors, although they most certainly will; it’s clear that they were drawn with the story in mind, and nothing else.
During the battle sequences, Ostrander takes the time to show how these Je’daii are indeed the precursor to the more familiar Jedi order; they’re not yet attuned to The Force to the same degree seen in the films and other media set in the more modern era, and the notion of The Force being balanced is one that’s just now being examined. Ostrander not only shows this rookie order has a lot to learn, but he also shows them learning it. Knowing that there’s tens of thousands of years of growth and knowledge to gain, he’s smart enough to avoid dumping too much change on readers too quickly, and therefore largely avoids convenient and contrived explanations to push the story along faster than he needs to. The only contrivance here is near the issue’s end, when the presumed central point of the overall story is presented in rushed and manufactured manner; it’s as though he didn’t realize he was running out of pages until there were only one or two remaining.
Shortcomings aside, Ostrander and Duursema remain the strongest and most consistent team to ever touch the franchise in comics, and “Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Force War” #1 is a stellar example of that. The force is indeed strong with this one.