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Star Wars: Dark Disciple - Review
If you are a fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and follow the animated series faithfully like I did, there's no doubt that you will grab your hands on whatever unfinished project of the series to give you a sense of closure. This is where The Clone Wars Legacy comes in, which is basically a multimedia project that brings unfinished projects of the series to see the light of the day. Besides a comic series and 8 story reels, Star Wars: Dark Disciple completes the makeup of the multimedia project. Dark Disciple, while being the sole novel in the project, manages to give a well-defined closure to one of the central characters in The Clone Wars and simultaneously paints the morality of the Jedi Order and the Force that has never been discussed in depth during the run of the series.
Star Wars: Dark Disciple, authored by Christie Golden, is based on unproduced episodes of The Clone Wars which were originally written by Katie Lucas, Matt Michnovetz and Dave Filoni. Had it been continued to be presented in its intended medium, the story line of Dark Disciple will be spread out into 8-part story arc. The premise of Dark Disciple is quite straightforward at the surface. The Jedi Order are being herded into a corner from the perpetuating Clone Wars that seemingly has no end in sight. The number of fallen Jedi Order members, Clone Troopers of the Grand Army and the innocents who are trapped between the two warring factions, the Republic and Separatist, will keep on rising as long as war rears its ugly head.
Desperately looking for a swift end to the war once and for all, the Jedi Order is forced to resort to a strategy that challenged the essence of what it means to be a servant of the Light side of the Force. Mace Windu's principle battle plan of 'cut the head, and the body will fall' is exactly what you think it is; assassination of Count Dooku and consequently, relegating the Separatist movement into leadership vacuum and thus nullifying the threat of the Separatist to bring the war to an end. Although the idea of assassination doesn't sit well with the Jedi Order, the Order caves in to pressure in the interest of greater good by nominating Jedi Master Quinlan Vos as the best agent to carry out the blasphemous task. And Vos's predicament doesn't stop there. Vos is required to establish a partnership with Asajj Ventress, a one-time Sith Acolyte of Dooku to intensify the success rate of the assassination.
Dark Disciple is a composite of action, drama and romance. The chemistry between Ventress and Vos is as organic as it can be. From the beginning of their unwilling bounty hunting partnership until they evolve to become star-crossed couple, I never felt like I was being forced into believing the authenticity of their relationship, because their relationship is as pure, honest and passionate as it can be. In a hindsight, the adaptation of this unproduced episodes allows for a more adult-oriented romance compared to the mild intensity of relationship normally showed in the animated series. It's fun to read the exchanges of lines between Vos and Ventress that can be both banter and flirtatious in nature.
The motives of the two main persona are well defined throughout the chapters. You will found yourself rooting for Ventress in no time, even though for a large part of the war, Ventress was a thorn in the Republic and Jedi Order. The shift in Ventress's personality and outlook of the galaxy change a big deal after the bleak episodes in her life, particularly after being disavowed by Count Dooku, the murder of her entire Nightsisters clan and her subsequent gigs as a bounty hunter. Just like the Jedi, she's also searching for a closure on the part of her life where she once served Dooku. The character of Vos in Dark Disciple is a perfect balance between the Vos that we are familiar with from the Legends's era and the canonical Vos that we are introduced to in the The Clone Wars animated series; a serious character with a touch of humor and sarcasm. If you are looking for a source material that defines the canonical Quinlan Vos, then look no further than Dark Disciple.
Vos's allegiance and struggles between the Light and Dark Side is fleshed out in great detail. Looking at the bigger picture, Dark Disciple also presents the moral dilemma that is faced by the Jedi Order in committing one of their own to walk into uncharted territories. The partnership between Vos and Ventress essentially presents a middle ground of the Force's neutrality between two extremes. On one end, you have the conservative Jedi Order who cradles the Light Side in its purest form, and on the opposite end, you have Count Dooku, a warrior of the Dark Side with powers so potent that can only be rivaled by his Master, Darth Sidious.
The nature of the Force in the joint venture of Vos and Ventress are neither of these extremes, but rather quite gray in nature. Ventress's severed connection with Dooku and her innate understanding of the Force allows her to tap into the Dark Side while still granting her a keen sense of morality in her actions. Vos's connection to the Dark Side, no matter how treacherous it seems, is actually rooted in pure intention. By employing subterfuge, he plans to infiltrate the Sith stronghold disguised as a Sith associate to eliminate both Dooku and Sidious in one swift motion. In the end, no one can really say that Vos and Ventress didn't go to hell and back as both redeemed themselves to the Light Side, even though it comes at the ultimate price of Ventress's life and Dooku's escape.
Despite being an extension of the animated series, Dark Disciple can still be enjoyed as a standalone literature, although a reader who is well versed in the animated series will appreciate the story better than those who are stranger to the series. There are a few throwbacks to the animated series's episodes that lend gravity to the direction of Dark Disciple's story line. Golden also has done an excellent job in capturing the overall feel of the animated series into print form. When I read Dark Disciple, I can visualize myself watching the story unfolding on my TV screen.
Even the personalities of supporting cast are spot on. The sarcasms and camaraderie between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker stay true to their animation counterparts. Mace Windu's egoistic voice in the Jedi Council is constant. The kindness and inner peace projected by Yoda are exactly like we can expect from the Jedi Grandmaster. Dooku's cockiness and his manner in exerting dominance over inferior beings stays taut whenever he shows up. Boba Fett's bitterness towards Ventress still hasn't subside a bit, especially after Ventress's double crossing of Fett in their collaboration from the fourth season of The Clone Wars animated series. Except that this time around, Fett's maturity is already showing that will groom him into the legendary bounty hunter and Mandalorian that we all know and care about.
Dark Disciple is a perfect representation of The Clone Wars animated series. Asajj Ventres is one of the most intriguing characters in The Clone Wars and Dark Disciple builds upon Ventress's potential as a character that deserves her own spotlight. Ventress's pairing with Vos is a match made in Dathomir. Personally, I don't think there is any other Jedi besides Vos that can fall in sync perfectly with Ventress.
Dark Disciple also can be treated as a perfect source material to make acquaintance with the canonical version of Vos. Even though for a short while, Vos assumes apprenticeship under Ventress to learn the ways of the Dark Side, Vos and Ventress stand as equals throughout the pages. Some shippers may call them both Vostress, and rightfully so. Vos and Ventress are essentially two sides of the same coin.
My only complaint with Dark Disciple is the manner in which Golden portrays Vos's allegiance, especially after he is captured and tortured by Dooku. There is some flip-flopping in displaying Vos's loyalty to the Dark and Light Side and can be overwhelming at times if you don't follow the narrative thoroughly.
Otherwise, as a loyal fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, I found Dark Disciple lives up to my expectation. It is a piece of puzzle that fits perfectly in the larger picture of the unfinished series.