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Sunday Morning Clone Wars: Rising Malevolence (S01:E02)

grievousdookumalev

 

Good morning, readers!  Welcome to our second installment of Sunday Morning Clone Wars Review, in which we will take a detailed look at each of the episodes of the recently ended Star Wars: Clone Wars 3D animated series.  This morning we find ourselves traveling with Master Plo Koon to the orbit of the Abregado system, on a mission to investigate the recent disappearance of numerous Republic battle cruisers.  It doesn’t take long for the mystery to be solved, as Grievous and Dooku’s jointly-commanded Malevolence releases that secret weapon upon the fleet, a joint ion cannon that essentially casts a disabling net across an immense area, completely wiping out the defense and weapons systems of its targets.  Soon, the Republic fleet is a mass of floating debris, and the Jedi and three fortunate clones are out amongst it in a life pod.

Meanwhile, Anakin and Ahsoka (who has a special connection to Plo Koon, which will prove useful many times throughout the series) meet with Palpatine, Mace Windu, and Yoda to discuss their findings, which lead all to believe that the CIS has decimated another fleet and left no survivors.  Rebeling against her master, Ahsoka speaks up to voice her concern that they should attempt a rescue mission, an action that is swiftly blunted by Skywalker.  However, Anakin’s common sense catches up with him, and the two launch a successful rescue of Plo Koon and his troopers, and barely escape capture from Grievous and Dooku, thanks to some help from perennial hero R2-D2 and the hyperdrive.

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There are a few themes in this episode that are worthy of examination.  First, the overarching theme of how the clones view themselves- one remarks to Plo Koon when things are looking grim that “We’re just clones, sir.  We’re made to be expendable.”  Plo Koon responds, “Not to me.”  Later, we will see that this view is not shared by all Jedi, most notably the crass Pong Krell.  However, it is this lack of self-worth that clones seem to be programmed to feel that is interesting.  Surely, they are taught to sacrifice themselves, that their one and only duty is the protection of the Republic.  My question is this-  when you can completely manipulate the mental patterns of these clones (as it is believed that the Kaminoans can) why program professional warriors that they are cannon fodder, as opposed to- well, warriors?  Was this a  specific request of Sifo-Dyas to ensure that these clones would fall in line behind Jedi leadership, was it a change in their programming that Sidious added, or is it simply a byproduct of the realization that one is a clone?  Surely, it is not a quality shared by Jango Fett.  This is a principle that I have never understood, and one that rears its head multiple times in this series.

Secondly, we have a good example of Anakin trying to put on his Obi-Wan mask to scold his young padawan for speaking out of place, but then reverting back to his own principles, which include diving headfirst into the most difficult scenario he can find.  Although he later tells Ahsoka that she will “share some blame,” for what Yoda labels a “reckless decision,” and even defies a direct message to his ship from Palpatine to turn around, Anakin’s actions are proven just, and the rigid, overcautious Jedi leadership are once again shown to be completely in the dark, and pawns of Sidious.

Rising Malevolence, the first in a three-story arc, receives an 85/100.  It is our series introduction to General Grievous and many other characters who were featured in the film, but not in Yoda’s introductory story on Toydaria.  While Ventress proves to be the “assistant” to Dooku with a much deeper and interesting story throughout the course of the series, it is rather cool to see the joint command of Dooku and Grievous, especially with the red, evil lighting that their command center provides.  Excellent voice acting as always, and neat inclusion of a minor character in Plo Koon, who will become a large part of this series.  An enjoyable start to the arc.

Our scores to date are:

Rising Malevolence (85/100), Ambush (75/100).

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Saturday Morning Comics: Obsession #1

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Not many cooler covers out there than this. But does the story live up to it?

Happy Saturday morning, readers!  Today we have the second installment of our weekly Saturday Morning Comics series, in which we been a five-part look at the comic series that leads up to ROTS, entitled “Obsession.”  Throughout the series, we’ll come into contact with a who’s who of Clone Wars villains, ranging from Durge to Grievous, but this first issue serves primarily as a lead-in to establish what drives the series.

After a year on the front lines, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (now a Knight) have been given some respite, a bit of vacation, as ordered by the Jedi Council.  Anakin beelines straight for Naboo, where his wife awaits him.  Obi-Wan journeys to the world of Trigalis, on his own personal mission, an investigation/vendetta against the believed-dead Asajj Ventress.  The story opens with Obi-Wan on a swoop bike, decked out in Republic Commando armor, bossing a few Black Sun thugs on his way to what appears to be a palace of sorts.  Once there, he meets Aayla Secura, who is on an official mission of her own, one that Yoda has told Obi-Wan to stay away from.  After giving Kenobi some grief about not taking his leave, Obi-Wan gets some intel on the Black Sun leader, Xist (who resembles Xizor), who is masquerading as a common criminal boss, but actually feeding weapons to the CIS and Dooku.

Xist has quite the reputation as a dueler, to the point that Aayla actually warns Obi-Wan against engaging him.  Of course, that’s never our protagonist, now has it?  After Xist’s security detail is taken down, the two warriors engage, with Xist wielding what can be assumed to be a vibrowhip (although the art makes it rather unclear).

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Although getting roughed up a bit, Kenobi reveals his true intentions- finding Asajj Ventress- and overwhelms the Black Sun Commander, who relents and retreats to his palace for negotiations. Xist acknowledges that his loyalty to Dooku has a price, but Obi-Wan brushes this aside and continues to press for information on Ventress, who was believed to be killed on Coruscant by Anakin.  Meanwhile, Anakin, on Naboo, seems disturbed by the fact that Obi-Wan won’t accept the Sith assassin’s death, and tells Padme as much.

Xist informs Obi-Wan that Ventress has been contracted to take out a wealthy Corellian, Drama Korr, and is set to ambush him in the skies above Maramere in the coming days.  Kenobi contacts the Jedi Council to plead for their approval to engage, telling them that Ventress could “destroy entire armies” and “wipe out entire worlds.”

Wait, what?

Sure, she gave Anakin a nice love tap across the eye, and she’s captured Kenobi once or twice.  Other than that, Ventress is the personification of Charlie Brown with the football when it comes to accomplishing tasks for the CIS, and Sidious knows as much, when he orders Dooku to cast her aside after repeated failures.  Sure, she took down Scout and Whie’s generic masters on Vjun, and has been known to hold her own, but a destroyer of worlds?  I don’t see it.  Are we to assume that the author is overevaluating Ventress, or is it intended to show an intensity and obsession (ding!) in the notoriously even-tempered Kenobi with Ventress?  Seems a bit out of character.

Aayla offers her assistance and her starfighter, and although Kenobi asks her to stay, he does take the starfighter and assures the Twi’lek Jedi that he will call Anakin for help, before engaging Ventress out of hyperspace, and the story wraps.  I’m sure Anakin will take that well.

Next week, we head into the second episode of this series, in which we will watch our heroes face off with Durge, perhaps the strangest of the Clone Wars villains, but a fearsome one, nonetheless .

Tomorrow morning, we’ll take a look Rising Malevolence in our weekly Clone Wars review, and, as mentioned by Lazy Storm Trooper, we will release the first episode of Republic Sports Radio,

Enjoy your Saturday.  -Drew

Sunday Morning Clone Wars: Ambush (S01:E01)

Eat your tanks for breakfast, I will.

Eat your tanks for breakfast, I will.

Good morning, all!  As we did yesterday with our weekly look at comics, we begin a weekly series in which I will review each of the 102 episodes of the hit Cartoon Network series, The Clone Wars.  The final episodes are rumored for a web release, after which they will also be included.

As a brief recap, we join Yoda and three clone troopers on their way Toydaria to meet with King Katuunko regarding plans to build a Republic base on the system.  As is often the case, Count Dooku has picked up “intelligence,” and cuts Yoda off at the pass by sending the bumbling, stumbling Asajj Ventress to await him, as well as an ambush fleet to divert the Republic cruiser.  What can only be described as a game ensues, and Yoda is predictably victorious, topping things off by humiliating Ventress in front of holoDooku.  Toydaria then joins the Republic effort.

As we know, this is not the first story, chronologically, in the puzzle that is TCW.  It is assumed that this story takes place shortly after the first Mandalorian plotline.  However, as the first episode that was produced, there was a remarkable amount of pressure to succeed in what was a relatively untapped medium of 3D animation.  This episode, in comparison to those that follow, is not all that memorable in terms of plot complexity and character interaction- we will see and study some of the finest contributions to the Star Wars Universe in later reviews.  Nonetheless, this episode was tremendously important, as it connected back first with Empire (in its portrayal of Yoda as a crazy old coot, in contrast to his deadly serious nature of the PT), and then with Sean Stewart’s masterful Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, through Yoda’s tense, brief interaction with Dooku.  There are no threats between them, just a simple acknowledgement, but they do still refer to each other as old “master” and “Padawan,” which always brings to mind one of the most memorable quotes from the EU, the timeless promise that Yoda once told a young Dooku:  “When you fall, be there to catch you, I will.”   They are now mortal enemies, and Dooku undoubtedly engineers multiple attempts to kill Yoda, in this episode alone.  Yoda knows what Dooku is capable of, and that the boy he trained, “gone he is.”  However, it is difficult to miss the foundation of respect that remains betwen them, even though it is a respect for what once was a powerful bond and partnership.  A rare visual example of interaction between two wise Masters who took different paths is the image I am left with from this episode.

“Ambush” receives a 75/100.  The voice acting from Tom Kane is exquisite, as always, and the imagery of Toydaria, a new visual frontier, is impressive.  Unlike most episodes that we will discuss, this was a “one-shot,” and there are no loose ends.  The story, albeit basic, is touching, particularly Yoda’s interaction with the clones, who are distinctly aware of their lack of humanity.  Feel free to leave your own grades for the episode in the comment section below!

Until next week, when we delve into the Malevolence trilogy, may the Force be with you.  Enjoy your Sunday,

Drew