Best Shots Reviews: STAR WARS - MACE WINDU #1, WATER MEMORY

Water Memory
Credit: Valerie Vernay (Lion Forge/Dupuis)
Credit: Marvel Comics

Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu #1
Written by Matt Owens
Art by Denys Cowan, Roberto Poggi and Guru-eFX
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic - Mace Windu #1 opens at the beginning of the Clone Wars, just after the Battle of Geonosis, and a time of doubt for the Jedi Order. Writer Matt Owens and artist Denys Cowan use this opportunity to explore Mace Windu, a Jedi known for straddling the line between the Light and Dark sides of the Force to explore just how war can affect one’s mind.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the issue is the humor that Matt Owens injects into the script. It turns out to be a great tool that balances out the more meditative issues that weigh on Windu’s mind. Whether it’s Prosset Dibs’ dark wit, or battle droids arguing whether or not they jinxed themselves, the humor lands well and actually adds to the themes the book is exploring, such as the possibility that violence may be necessary in certain situations, or the way that war can corrupt the mind and heart.

Denys Cowan’s pencils add a layer of depth to the story here. Windu is a pensive protagonist, and Cowan captures the introspective master perfectly. And when the action comes, it’s as dynamic and lively as one has come to expect, given Cowan’s resume. Inker Roberto Poggi does a great job capturing the foreboding aspects of the story without covering everything in shadow. Poggi’s inks enhance the rugged nature of Cowan’s lines, heightening the tension in the action sequences and adding to the weariness of the Jedi who have practiced for war, but never truly experienced it on this scale.

That lack of experience is something that Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic - Mace Windu #1 captures in a way that the films never really did. Sure, in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we see some of this inexperience in the way Ahsoka goes through her journey, but the idea that the Jedi Masters themselves were nervous about their own utility in war is not something that was well explored in the more prominent entries in the franchise, and it’s fascinating to see it here.

This hook helps to mask the one elephant in the room - the outcome of this series is almost entirely known. Readers know who is going to make it out of this series alive, and who stands a good chance of dying. Readers know Mace Windu is going to be one of the strongest defenders and representatives of the Jedi order throughout the Clone Wars until his end at the hands of Palpatine. In many ways, that undercuts the tension of the story, but if Owens, Cowan, and co. can stay focused on the exploration of self-doubt, they can make the series worth more than a quick plot summary might suggest.

Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic - Mace Windu #1 is a promising start to a new miniseries. Matt Owens’ has found a thematic hook to dig into that gives the series a sense of purpose that goes beyond mere plot. The energetic artwork by Denys Cowan, Roberto Poggi, and GURU-eFX gives the series a rougher feel than a lot of the work in the main Star Wars book, but that fits right at home with the story being told. This is the Jedi at their most vulnerable, when the shock of war still haunts them and they doubt their resolve. While the outcome of the story isn’t really in question, it will be interesting to see if future issues can live up to the promise in this debut.

Credit: Valerie Vernay (Lion Forge/Dupuis)

Water Memory OGN
Written by Mathieu Reynes
Art by Valerie Vernay
Translation by Jeremy Melloul
Published by Dupuis and Lion Forge
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Home and family are powerful forces that can be as destructive as they are inspiring, and in Water Memory, Mathieu Reynes and Valerie Vernay explore these themes in a tale that deftly balances childlike wonder and the melancholy of personal loss. Originally published in French by Dupuis, and translated for Lion Forge’s Roar imprint by Jeremy Melloul, Water Memory follows the journey of Marion, a young girl who finds herself tangled in a quiet seaside town’s dark past after her mother moves them to their old family home.

As curious Marion digs into the history of the town, and her own family’s past, she finds herself swept into an eerie series of supernatural events that threatens the town’s very survival. Despite warnings from the townsfolk, and her own mother, Marion winds her way through dark sea caves and mysterious lighthouses on a quest for knowledge about the curse that’s plagued the town for decades. Stubborn and determined, she pushes boundaries and buttons, eventually uncovering the truth about the island’s legacy and her own family tree; through her actions, her family, and the town, are given closure from the myriad tragedies that have befallen them through the years.

Water Memory is a wistful and moving tale. Illustrator Valerie Vernay contrasts gorgeous blue skies and clean, clear ocean water with shadowy houses and eerily dark nooks and crannies. Her beautiful colors capture the hopefulness of Marion’s move to a new place, a new town closer to the family she’s been distant from as a child. Marion’s daytime explorations are lighthearted and engaging, while the moments Marion spends in the dark - whether it’s the dark of a new home, the fading light of twilight or the sunless corridors of the caves beneath the town - feel claustrophobic and strangely empty. The mysterious absence of Marion’s father looms over the empty house in the opening panels; the mysterious circumstances of the town bear down oppressively with the crash of each wave Vernay illustrates in Water Memory’s emotional climax, threatening to sweep Marion away with them as long as the townfolk continue to deny the otherworldly elements that weave through their history.

Jeremy Melloul does an excellent job translating Mathieu Reynes’ tale to English, though at times the lettering feels somewhat cramped; there are moments where dialogue is forced to fit into a layout clearly designed for shorter phrases, and years are lettered in such tight small font they can be difficult to decipher on first read. Reynes’ pacing through the first two acts are excellent, following Marion and her mother’s attempts to settle into their new home, and the slow revelations about the circumstances that brought them there. The primary supernatural mystery at the crux of the narrative is largely resolved through a letter left for Marion at the story’s conclusion. Reynes wraps up all of the loose ends left by the dramatic events of the final act, but it feels somewhat rushed - given the slow build of the mystery haunting the island, the final pages just feel somewhat anticlimactic. Water Memory is a beautiful graphic novel, though, and emotionally compelling enough in its opening pages that the final act will just leave you wishing the adventure would last a little longer, rather than wishing you hadn’t started the journey at all.

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