The Dark Side - Scott Allie, Mahmud A. Asrar, Paul Mounts Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, Xanatos, have been given a mission to Xanatos' homeworld of Telos IV along with Master Tahl and Padawan, Orykan. A priestess has been killed, and the Telosians want someone's blood. But politics aren't the only thing the Jedi have to juggle; Xanatos reunites with his father, Lord Crion, and his sister, Nason, and must work through his feelings to them.

One of my all-time favorite Star Wars series is the Jedi Apprentice series by Jude Watson. The characters were strong and realistic; the plots were unique and interesting; it was great to see Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and how they related before we first see them in "The Phantom Menace". Although these are children's books, they are easily enjoyable to all ages.

It was the Jedi Apprentice series that first created the character of Xanatos: Qui-Gon's former apprentice who was swayed to the Dark Side and had become the head of a powerful, greedy corporation. Xanatos somehow managed to be an interesting, intimidating character without delving (too much) into hyperbole--which makes him a standout in children's works but even in Star Wars EU.

Now, my criteria for a good graphic novel is this:

1. An interesting, unique story

2. Consistent artwork

3. A well-written main character, and good side characters

4. Good dialogue and clear writing

Let's see how Jedi - The Dark Side measures up.

An Interesting, Unique Story

The story starts with Qui-Gon and Xanatos dueling and some heavy foreshadowing to Xanatos' arrogance. Then Tahl appears to give them their mission: to find an assassin on Telos IV. While there, the Jedi must find the killer, but Xanatos struggles with how to react to his family.

The setup is VERY generic. A lot of comics starring Jedi seem to follow this pattern: Jedi are sent to solve some mystery on another world. Having that world be Telos IV and to see a bit of the interplay between father and son and brother and sister DID elevate the novel slightly. And I felt the novel ended much better than it began.

Consistent Artwork

The artwork is decent, if not my favorite style. But what is better is that characters are unique enough that they can be recognized from one panel to the next. Some of the background, tertiary characters are a bit hard to distinguish, but given their lack of importance, I'm willing to overlook it.

Qui-Gon was pretty well-done, but Xanatos reminded me too much of Anakin Skywalker. Tahl looked NOTHING like what I expected...why the frak is she dressed in a skintight jumpsuit? I always imagined her wearing loose robes. Oh, right she's got boobs, so we got to give her a jumpsuit *rolls eyes* Orykon wasn't done bad, but I'm not sure how old she was supposed to be (same complaint to Xanatos too though). Some of her panels made her look like she was a child, while others she came off a bit older.

A big problem I had was figuring out what happened from one panel to the next. I've included some pictures to clarify this--sorry in advance for the quality, I took them using my iPhone as I do not have a scanner:

Tahl goes from leaping and slashing a speeder bike to standing at rest in a semi-circle as an ambassador nonchalantly greets them. How did THAT happen?

Crion, Xanatos' father, and Xanatos are talking. One moment the conversation is going like you would expect and suddenly...Crion's father turns around exasperated??? The panel after this shows him resuming conversation as if nothing is wrong! What is going on?

Well-Written Characters

The story ultimately is about Xanatos and his fall to the Dark Side. It was most definitely unique, but I don't really think the story brought anything new to any of the characters. Qui-Gon repeated the same information over and over again ("the assassin is a Jedi, but not a Jedi!"), Tahl seems to serve no purpose whatsoever, and Orykon is even worse (what does the girl even DO in this novel?). Xanatos has probably the best growth, but he acts like a whiny brat in the beginning and his actions are inconsistent. He is mad at his father...then he wants to stay with his father in the palace...and then suddenly, Xanatos has been twisted by his father's words when we've hardly seen enough to justify it...again, the story concept is interesting, but the execution just failed for me.

Good Dialogue/Clear Writing

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, nothing really stood out to me as particularly awful--though having Qui-Gon say, "The assassin is a Jedi, but not a Jedi" at least THREE separate times was a little much. On the other hand, we have the above image of Xanatos talking with his father, where they move from one panel to another and I have no idea what happened between them. Graphic novels are a visual medium, so narration text is usually at a minimum. In this case, I wish there was a bit more narration text to bridge some of the panels or clarify what I am seeing (or maybe I am as dense as a brick, who knows?).

This graphic novel is one of the hardest to rate for me. I actually grew to like it quite a bit by the end, but there were some points when I wanted to tear my hair out (particularly when trying to follow the action sequences). It's definitely nice to see more EU material about Qui-Gon and Xanatos and Tahl (some of my favorite characters); I just wish this graphic novel had been a big stronger.