Dec 5, 2016

How I Learned to Love Ahsoka Tano

How I Learned to Love Ahsoka Tano
The Clone Wars, Maybe Not So Bad
Ben Smith

Star Wars is ingrained in my DNA.  It’s the first thing I can remember loving with the all-encompassing passion that tends to dominate my entertainment life.  My parents have a grainy picture of me getting a Millennium Falcon one year for my birthday.  One of my earliest memories was going to see Return of the Jedi with my family and my grandmother.  (The theater was one of those old school theaters in the mall, and my parents bought me a stuffed Ewok teddy bear after the movie.  I carried that thing with me everywhere until it literally rotted to pieces.)

I’d be surprised if anyone that was a kid at any point when one of the original Star Wars movies came out didn’t have at least some sort of affinity for the franchise.  (That’s not a claim of ownership, or that my generation loves Star Wars the best, I’m simply referring to the time period as I remember it.)  Star Wars had the best toys, the best Halloween costumes, the best bed sheets, the best stickers, it was everywhere and everything.  Star Wars may not have often been my biggest entertainment passion since those halcyon days, but my love for it will always be there, ingrained in my blackened soul.  Call me a victim of marketing, I guess.

Besides the Ewok television movies (I liked them, but in my defense I was like 6 years old) I’ve never been a big fan of the expanded Star Wars universe.  Despite being a lifelong comics fan, the comics have rarely ever worked for me.  The cartoons have varied from pretty good to abysmal, but never great.  Part of the problem is that so much of what makes the Star Wars movies great is the light sabers, the aerial battles, the voices of the actors (James Earl Jones) and the all-time great musical score.  Most of that cannot be replicated well, if at all, in a comic or a novel.

My primary problem with the prequels is the same problem I have with most prequels: we already know what’s going to happen.  (The prequels have many flaws, but Ewan McGregor is not one of them.  I feel bad that his spectacular performance as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi will always be lost amid such a terrible series of films.  He and Padme are the only true heroic figures from that series of films, and he was a much better actor than she was at the time.  I love Portman, but she's very not good in those films.)  It’s even harder to get behind a main character in Anakin that is eventually going to betray everyone around him and turn to the dark side.  

Out of the prequels came an animated series, The Clone Wars.  Much like everything else that wasn’t the original trilogy, I didn’t like it.  Here was this new character, Ahsoka Tano, that I couldn’t stand.

She was the annoying teen sidekick, that was flawless and perfect and often as capable, if not more so, as the seasoned Jedi.  (I don’t like to use any of the dismissive terms used for characters that are aggressively forced upon the audience, but she was definitely pushed hard.)  The thing that probably bothered me the most, is that if she was so great, then why didn’t she factor into any of the movies.  To me, the movies are the main story, and everything else is complementary.  That made her either irrelevant to the grander narrative, or fodder to be killed off at some point.  Either result gave me little reason to care about her in the here and now.

Except, one of the stranger things about my overwhelming love for the new movie, The Force Awakens, is how it led to Ahsoka Tano becoming one of my favorite Star Wars characters.  More on that later.  Unfortunately, Ahsoka didn’t have that big of a presence in the Star Wars comics published by Dark Horse, except for the series I’m going to be looking at today.

So, long-winded preamble aside, let’s take a look back at Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Script: Henry Gilroy; Pencils: Scott Hepburn; Inks: Dan Parsons; Editor: Randy Stradley

The war between the Republic and the Separatists has made its way to the colonized world of Ahsoka Tano’s people, the Togruta.  Count Dooku arrives on the planet, with promises of peaceful occupation and offers of sanctuary.  Some time later, the Republic has come to Kiros to rescue the now missing Togruta, led by Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano.  Together with their clone squadron, led by Captain Rex, they fight against the Droid troopers of the Separatists.

(One of the big factors in making me a rabid Ahsoka fan was the current cartoon series, Star Wars: Rebels. Unlike some of the previous television undertakings, Rebels has been allowed to weave in characters from various Star Wars continuities.  Set 5 years before the original Star Wars movie, it details the beginning of the rebellion, and has had episodes featuring R2-D2 & C-3PO, Lando Calrission, Princess Leia, and even Darth Vader.  At the end of the first season, the new team’s mysterious rebellion contact was revealed to be an older Ahsoka Tano, now a very capable Jedi.  In the second season, they brought back Captain Rex, revealing that he was one of the few clone troopers that successfully removed the implant chip that forced all the clones to turn on their Jedi and slaughter them on behalf of the Emperor and his new Empire.  As I said earlier, one of the things I originally hated about the Clone Wars cartoon was how inconsequential it seemed, but Rebels has made good use of its best characters.  Much like comics, it uses its own continuity to strengthen the current product.)

Obi-Wan and his team have secured the area, giving Ahsoka time to lament all the destruction being done to her homeworld.

The leader of this Separatist faction agrees to meet with Obi-Wan for negotiations.  Commander Ugg threatens Kenobi to surrender, or he will ignite the thermal bombs he has hidden all throughout the city, destroying everything.

Obi-Wan plays to Ugg's vanity, and tricks him into accepting a one-on-one duel to settle the matter, giving Anakin and Ahsoka time to locate all the bombs.  Anakin holds off the Droid troopers while Ahsoka disables the first bomb, then it’s on to the next one.

Obi-Wan is doing his best to hold off the much larger Ugg, while Anakin and the rest of the team continue to look for the bombs.

Ugg finally figures out he’s being distracted, and activates the detonator to set off any bombs that might remain.  Unfortuantely, there was only one left, and it was inside his own escape ship.

Ugg lunges at Obi-Wan in a rage, but Obi-Wan easily sends him hurling out of the window, and falling far down to the pavement below.

The Separatist army has been defeated on Kiros, but there is still no sign of the missing Togruta.  However, Obi-Wan has discovered several transmissions from Ugg to the Zygerrians, notorious slave traders.

The quest to find the missing Togruta begins.

Like I said, I wasn’t a big fan of Ahsoka when the Clone Wars cartoon series initially debuted.  After having seen The Force Awakens, I developed a desparate thirst for more Star Wars content, so I gave the Clone Wars another try.  In the fifth season, Ahsoka is framed for a crime, and the Jedi are pressured into expelling her from the Jedi order so that the Republic (specifically Chancellor Palpatine) can try her in court.  Anakin uncovers the truth and clears her name just as she was about to be found guilty and sentenced to death.  The Jedi apologetically attempt to bribe her back into the order by promoting her to the rank of Jedi Knight, but she refuses, saying she can no longer trust them.  She leaves, and isn’t seen again until her shocking reveal in the Rebels cartoon.  The sense of betrayal she felt from the very people she was supposed to be able to trust, and her subsequent rejection of their apology, was one of the best moments in all of Star Wars canon.  It made me an instant fan.  We watched the rest of the Clone Wars looking for her to come back, but she didn’t.  I realize now, that this was their way of getting her out of the line of fire before Palpatine took over and had all the Jedi killed.)

Script: Henry Gilroy; Pencils: Ramon K. Perez; Inks: Dan Parsons; Editor: Randy Stradley

Anakin and Obi-Wan confer with Yoda.

Count Dooku has already begun to spread word that the Togruta were destroyed in the Jedi’s attack on Kiros.  Obi-Wan informs Yoda of the clues they found pointing toward the Zygerrians.  Yoda relays to them how the Jedi had previously suppressed the Zygerrians slave trade, but to proceed cautiously. Anakin is appropriately (for once) worked up, having been a slave himself as a young boy.

They travel to Shi’Kar, a lawless region for scavengers, smugglers, and pirates.  Luckily, they run into a Zygerrian ship.  Anakin wants to attack, but Obi-Wan convinces him that they need to take a subtler approach.

Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka board under the pretense of offering new merchandise, but things quickly turn hostile when he assumes they are there to sell Ahsoka.

In the ensuing chaos of the battle, a rocket fired into the side of the ship threatens the integrity of the seal.  Ahsoka closes the seal, locking herself on the slaver’s ship with the Zygerrians and separating her from Obi-Wan and Anakin.

The Jedi ship is still clamped on tight to the Zygerrians, so they try their best to knock them off.

Distracted by trying to shake loose the Jedi ship, the Zygerrians have left Ahsoka unattended.  She contacts Obi-Wan and Anakin for advice on her next move.

Ahsoka tries to use the Force to unlock the rear maintenance airlock for her allies, but is interruped by one of the Zygerrians.  He grabs her communicator and offers them a trade, Ahsoka for their men.

Obi-Wan and Anakin make their way to the rear airlock door in a pair of spacesuits, fighting off some monsters that the Zygerrians unleash to try and stop them.

Obi-Wan and Anakin finally make their way onboard, and offer to spare the remaining Zygerrian’s life for any information he has on the missing Togruta.  He doesn’t know where the Togruta are, but has heard they are to be auctioned off on Zygerria by their queen.

Now, the search continues to Zygerria.

I definitely appreciate this depiction of Ahsoka.  She’s very capable, but not infallible.  She makes some heady moves in the middle of battle, but still needs her teammates to help her out in the end.  Every new major character is going to receive a big push from the creators, so the only hope is that they do it in a believable and balanced way.  I think it’s done pretty well so far in this series, unlike Stern and his version of Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau).  I like Monica Rambeau quite a bit, but there’s only so many times you can read established legends like Captain America and Thor wax poetic about her before it gets a little ridiculous.

Seeing as how I waxed poetically for eight paragraphs about my childhood with Star Wars, we’re going to have to end this here for now.

In case you couldn’t tell, I enjoyed The Force Awakens quite a bit.  All of the more prevalent criticisms that people had with the movie online, were all criticisms I noticed as well, I just didn’t care.  (Except for the criticisms about the race and gender of the main characters, those are criticisms that I would never have.  Nobody should ever have those criticisms, unless you’re 7 and think girls are icky.  That’s the only acceptable reason to think that way in a modern society.  Seriously, go live somewhere else.)  I enjoyed it quite a bit, and really have no desire to try and pick it apart.  (For some, Rey was pushed hard to the point of unbelievability.  It’s an understandable criticism, but I have to wonder if anyone would care as much if she was a guy.)  Unlike superhero movies, which I tend to nitpick for all the things that are changed from the page to the screen, Star Wars is one of the few movies I was able to just appreciate and enjoy.  You can’t ask for more than that.

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