A Comic Panel Far Far Away: The Clone Wars Hit Comics In ‘Star Wars: Republic’ #55-58

by Tony Thornley
Cover by Kev Walker

As we continue to face a foreseeable future without new comics, we continue to revisit classic comics you can check out, this time from the long history of Star Wars comics! Recently The Clone Wars returned to television to wrap up the story of the infamous conflict, so we thought it would be a good time to revisit some of the earliest Clone Wars comics!

In 1998, Dark Horse Comics launched its first Star Wars ongoing series- simply called Star Wars– after years of holding the license. After the release of Attack of the Clones the series was retitled Star Wars: Republic with issue #46 and began telling stories of the Clone Wars. Though these stories are no longer considered “canon” it’s easy to see a lot of the foundational elements of the Clone Wars stories that would follow being established here.

In Republic #55-58 by Haden Blackman, Brian Ching and team, the series told the first extended story arc of the war, chronicling a brutal battle on the key world of Jabim. The four issues take place over six weeks as the war takes a heavy toll on Jedi, clones and natives of Jabim. At the center of it all is Anakin Skywalker, who learns the moral complexity of the war he’s been thrust into.

As I pointed out, technically this story isn’t canon, but it’s pretty easy to dismiss that technicality as nothing happens to contradict the animated series to come. That’s actually the case with many of the stories created by Dark Horse (and reprinted by Marvel) in this time period. These are evengreen Star Wars stories, that are enjoyable no matter the technical classification of the story.

Six years before Lucasfilm kicked off The Clone Wars animated series, Blackman told a complex story full of the brutal realities of war here. It starts as a great action story that then shifts into something more. It results in Anakin growing up more than we’ve seen in any other story told in this era (since he’s already done this maturing off-screen when the animated series started). It’s not perfect- the characters who aren’t Anakin or Obi-Wan are barely more than caricatures and the moral choice Anakin needs to make at the end of the arc doesn’t make sense, but it’s enjoyable and deeper than just a popcorn adventure comic.

The art by Ching and Victor Llamas is inspired by the early 90’s Marvel and Image house style. It’s energetic, so even though the layouts are extremely conventional, the story is still an exciting thriller. Ching’s style a bit outdated for a book from 2002, but it’s still a fun read.

These stories leaned into the same themes and action that the animated series would cover later. It’s worth reading for any Star Wars fan!

These issues are available digitally individually or as a part of Marvel’s epic collections. You can also find them in print in their original serialized monthly issues or in various reprints and collections from Marvel.

Star Wars: Republic #55-58, originally published by Dark Horse Comics, collected by Marvel Comics, 2002/2018. Written by Haden Blackman, line art by Brian Ching & Victor Llamas, color art by Brad Anderson, letters by Michael David Thomas  and covers by Kev Walker, Tomas Giorello & Jan Duursema.

We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.

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