Count Dooku, on paper, should have been one of the most memorable Star Wars villains. An honorable Jedi Master turned poisonous Sith diplomat, played by horror master Christopher Lee, sounds like a lethal combination. And yet, Dooku remains one of the least talked about Sith Lords. Marvel’s “Age Of Republic” one-shots have provided a perfect opportunity to further explore the character, however. With Jody Houser, Luke Ross, Java Tartaglia and Travis Lanham on board, will we get the Dooku we deserve to see?
Written by Jody Houser
Illustrated by Luke Ross
Colored by Java Tartaglia
Lettered by Travis Lanham
THE FORMER JEDI BEGINS LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR HIS SITH MASTER! However, an unexpected encounter with an old student threatens his plans. Caught between his old life and his new, will DOOKU be able to protect the secrets of the SITH? And does he control the DARK SIDE, or is he merely its tool?
Houser paints Count Dooku with the facets of all good Christopher Lee characters. What we see of Dooku in this comic is someone who can be noble, someone who can be grim and brooding, and someone who is constantly scheming and delightfully evil. Houser doesn’t necessarily balance the light and dark sides of Dooku as much as the solicitation would have you think. However, there’s still a conflict in watching if Dooku will spare the Jedi Knight Jak’zin he is teaming up with, try to corrupt him, or simply be rid of him. Houser gives us just enough insight into Dooku’s thoughts, through his discussions with Sidious and through little moments of interior monologue like “IT’S NOT YOUR TIME TO DIE, JEDI. NOT YET.”. From these little soliloquies, the moments of Dooku showing Jak’zin sympathy begin to ooze with evil manipulation, and you can’t help but push for the innocent Jedi to fall for it.
As rock-solid as Houser’s characterization of Dooku is, everything else in the issue seems to just fall on serviceable. I will give credit to Houser for her Sidious, however. Even with his limited screentime, we get him asserting his dominance and signature manipulation talent, rebutting Dooku’s idea of corrupting Jak’zin with the jab “A SITH MASTER ONLY NEEDS ONE APPRENTICE. UNLESS YOU ARE SUGGESTING THAT HE REPLACE YOU.”. Jak’zin himself, however, is a little one-dimensional, falling easily for Dooku’s plan and not feeling interesting except for his connection to Dooku’s past as a Jedi Master. We don’t see much of the Sorosuub representative, Klyp, either. He seems to serve more as a setting for why Dooku is here and to be nervous at his actions around Jak’zin. It would have been interesting to find out more about the Kaldana Syndicate, as again, they seem to be a mere backdrop for Dooku getting to manipulate the Jedi Knight. Considering how big and influential and tied together crime syndicates can be in the Star Wars universe, it would have been fun to see it explored more, but it’s still a fun backdrop regardless.
Artist Luke Ross manages to balance photo-realism with kinetic comic book style in this issue. Marvel’s “Star Wars” line gets a little flak from time to time about how eerily true to life its art can be, and make no mistake, Ross’ Count Dooku looks unmistakably like the Christopher Lee character. However, it’s done without trying to ape the look of the movies too much, infusing the best of Lee’s acting characteristic with a more fluid, frenetic art style. Dooku’s baseline emotion is brooding annoyance, but Ross subtly shifts his face from this into unbridled rage, melancholy or unsettling satisfaction with relative ease. His body language also feels remarkably solid in a similar way. Dooku remains most of the time walking in a slow motion with his arms hidden beneath his cloak but gets to show his more athletic side at times, jumping from buildings and landing with a flourish. Ross makes sure that this feels like it could have been pulled straight from a Star Wars movie but gives it the subtle flow and panel to panel movement that could only work in a comic.
Luke Ross also plays with the setting and environment of Sullust pretty well. The opening scene is one of powerful, volcanic grandeur, where Ross renders a cityscape emerging from molten lava and twisting hauntedly into the sky, gleaming with neon lights. It’s the biggest and best use of the environment to set the tone in the issue, with the Ross only using this sporadically from then on. We get a solid glimpse of the city from ground-level when we meet Jak’zin, witnessing some intriguing stone monuments of humanoid figures carrying vats of lava. It’s a small addition, but it’s really engaging and builds the world and mythos superbly. From here, Ross uses the setting more sparingly. We get a flashy restaurant when Dooku, Jak’zin, and Klyp have dinner, and we get a small bird’s eye cityscape when the two force users leap from skyscraper to skyscraper. However, the main conflict takes place in a rather generic warehouse setting, giving more focus to the action but not supplying much to ground it. It’s disappointing, especially considering how fun it would have been to see the fight take place in a volcanic environment (heady Revenge Of The Sith flashbacks ensue).Continued below
Colors are handled by Java Tartaglia, who gets to have a lot of fun with a very glowy environment. Thanks to Tartaglia, everything about this comic feels beautifully cosmic. From the very first panel showing the planet Sullust, the globe itself has a classic soft glow and the ensuing environment pulses an angry red from moody grey shadows. I love especially how Tartaglia uses the glow of the planet to highlight Dooku’s presence. It makes the character a focal point that few others get to be in the story, and feels appropriate. In contrast to the warm highlights of this issue, Tartaglia plays with shadows really well too. In the rooftop scene with Dooku and Jak’zin partaking in some serious parkour, Tartaglia uses shadows really well to highlight Dooku’s demeanor in his landing scene. Tartaglia is a strong colorist and shows it in his work here.
Although it has some minor setbacks, “Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Count Dooku” #1 proved to be a fun character exercise, showing us more of the devilishly delightful Sith Lord. Houser plays with character superbly, while Ross handles emotion and body language deftly, with a solid grasp on setting work too.
Final Score: 7.0 – A fun dive into one of the most overlooked villains of the Star Wars mythos.