Bounty Hunter Tales of the Unexpected in a graphic novel…
The arrival of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones in 2002 was a poignant affair that afforded the fans a combination of civil war and forbidden love that split opinions amongst the fan base. Many were delighted with the incredible visual treat of the final sequences that depicted the onset of the Clone Wars, whilst the love story between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala was received with a level of discontent.
However, the one thing that the second instalment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy did deliver upon was the arrival of two new inductees into the bounty hunter fraternity, Jango Fett and his partner in crime, Zam Wesell. Unfortunately, neither survived to see the finale of the Clone Wars but that did not prevent their legacy expanding amongst the pages of the Star Wars Legacy graphic novel collection. Written by Ron Marz with illustrations by Tom Fowler, the Jango Fett graphic novel emerged soon after the movie’s release and was heralded by the fans who were eager to elaborate upon the mysterious bounty hunter’s legacy. Unfortunately, despite having some fantastic story elements, the novel was flawed by a lack of depth stemming from its limited length and less than impressive artwork. The novel was structured to be the first of a two-part series, with the subsequent edition focussing upon Jango’s partner in crime, the infamous shape-shifting Zam Wesell.
But did her offering improve upon the flaws of its predecessor?
Star Wars: Zam Wesell:
When Zam learns that an artefact that she and Fett obtained for a client on an earlier mission may be used by terrorists to destroy a planet and throw the Republic into chaos, she knows that they must act. But what can two bounty hunters hope to accomplish if even the Jedi Council can’t prevail?
Succeeding the less than impressive first instalment of the series, the fans could have been forgiven for having a less than enthusiastic attitude toward the sequel but their concerns were thankfully unwarranted. Writer Ron Marz managed to return the series back to its core material and focus the story around the fears of the Jedi Council, the members of which were sensing a disturbance in the force. Upon arriving within the grasp of the novel’s villain, a sinister creature known as General Khorda, the force sensitive artefact had begun to convey ripples of unrest through the force and the astute members of the Jedi Council had honed in upon them. Little did they know that the artefact housed an ancient destructive power capable of destroying entire planets and that Khorda had planned upon harnessing this superpower to destroy Coruscant, the central system of the Republic and home of the galactic senate. Jedi Master Yarael Poof was dispatched to investigate the potential threat and prevent its use whilst the sinister Zam Wesell, had reconvened with Jango Fett and appealed to his sense of duty to solicit his help in preventing Khorda’s planned atrocity.
Employing Slave-1, Jango Fett’s elite Firespray-31-class patrol craft, the duo set course for Coruscant and begin their search for the elusive Khorda whilst Master Poof conducted his own investigation amongst the planets underworld. With both parties following the trail of the sinister antagonist, the Jedi and the bounty hunters corner their quarry amidst the weapons installation in the planet’s depths and a confrontation ensues.
With Jango and Zam duelling the General’s meagre forces, Jedi Master Poof engaged Khorda who swiftly activated the weapon and attempted to flee but Poof had other ideas. Drawing his lightsaber, the Jedi swiftly disarmed the villain leaving Zam to retrieve the weapon before it toppled from the structure and disappear into the depths of the planet. With his attention focussed on the artefact, Master Poof was unprepared for the blade that penetrated his abdomen and he toppled to the deck, the life draining from his defeated frame. Khorda found justice at the muzzle of Jango Fett’s blaster pistol but it was too late to save the ailing Jedi Master.
With the weapon activated, Poof drew upon the last of his energy and in the ultimate act of sacrifice, used the force to bind the weapon’s power once again and in doing so saved Coruscant. With his sacrifice a success, the Jedi Master succumb to his injuries and slipped into the darkness of demise whilst Jango and Zam departed for the planet Seylott, a spiritual planet where the artefacts temple was located. Returning the relic to the inhabitants of the planet, Jango and Zam returned to Kamino where the young Boba Fett awaited their return and greeted them accordingly. Back on Coruscan, however, the mood was far less jovial as the Jedi attended the funeral of their fallen comrade. The Jedi’s elite members speculated about the fate of the relic but were boosted by the actions of the mysterious allies that had aided their fallen comrade.
The story concluded with Jango Fett back with his son whilst Zam Wesell departed on her next adventure…
With a flawed and underwhelming first chapter preceding it, I had expected the Zam Wesell graphic novel to be a mundane endeavour that revealed a similar lack of quality, but I was impressed by the respect it paid to the source material. In returning the focus back to the darkening surroundings of the Jedi Council, Ron Marz returned the story to its roots and installed a familiar theme that benefitted the story immensely. In focussing attention upon the underused Jedi Master Yarael Poof, Marz gave us an insight into the tragedy behind his legacy and revealed the characters unexpected demise which added an unexpected level of depth to the story.
However, the inclusion of this storyline only served to overshadow the titular character and banished Zam Wesell to a supporting role in her own narrative. Jango Fett found himself suffering from the same injustice and was forced into a role of irrelevance that could have been filled by any other obscure bounty hunter in the Star Wars universe. Yet, the honour of eliminating the antagonist fell upon him and Fett responded with his traditional cold hearted brutality and blasted the villain into the afterlife. The strength of the story has far more substance than the Jango Fett prequel and in hiring Ted Naifeh to illustrate the novel, Lucasfilm rectified the failing of his predecessor Tom Fowler, who had afforded us less than impressive artwork on the Jango entry. The artwork is both clean and vivid and reveals a level of enhanced effort from the studio chiefs that walks hand in hand with the literary talent of Ron Marz.
In closing, the Zam Wesell graphic novel is a great improvement on the first effort but once again suffers from the same problems that blighted its predecessor. The villain is an intriguing character but his motive for bringing an end to the Republic is betrayed by a lack of depth that comes across as unconvincing. The relationship between Jango and Zam continues to baffle and insinuates at an emotional connection that is shattered within the opening moments of Attack of the Clones, when Jango eliminates his cohort. Marz was clearly attempting to tease a potential relationship between the pair here however, with Jango heartlessly murdering her in the saga’s second instalment, the connection feels more than a little artificial. In contrast, the return of the Jedi Council was a welcome addition and set us on a familiar path with old friends whilst allowing us to explore the legacy of one of the more mysterious members of the fraternity. This however, does not conceal that flaw of the titular character’s lack of involvement.
In short, the Star Wars Legacy Zam Wesell novel affords us time with a mysterious bounty hunter that we were desperate to learn about during Attack of the Clones. However, it is a profound disservice that she is side-lined to a fleeting appearance in a story that bears her name. In Zam Wessel, we were rewarded with a profound and mysterious character that deserved more exposure than she received.
Should you find yourself reading her graphic novel, expect to find the exciting and tragic tale of Jedi Master Yarael Poof with an undertone narrative of her adventures with Jango Fett.
Whether the story has enough content to captivate you depends greatly on your own point of view.
Star Wars: Zam Wesell by Ron Marz, and Lucas Books. © Titan Books, 2002
The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.