Publisher: Dark Horse
Release date: June 18, 2008
Designed to gather novel-sized stories and material never before collected, the Star Wars Omnibus Collections are perfect for any fan looking to find a long, cohesive story. With an average of 400 pages in each release, Dark Horse has provided an economical way for readers to experience stories from all the different Star Wars eras.
Omnibus: Droids takes place five years before A New Hope, offering fans a glimpse into the hijinks of C-3P0 and R2-D2 in a time when the light of the Jedi has been snuffed out and replaced with rampant greed and crime. Although Revenge of the Sith ends with the two droids safely aboard the Tantive IV, and they are seen still aboard the same ship in the opening moments of A New Hope, there is a vast amount of unaccounted time between the films. It only makes sense that, at some point, the droids would find themselves in the thick of some grand adventures that, although written before the prequel films, still mesh perfectly well with continuity.
It is hard to tell, even after reading the Droids Special, if this is an omnibus that collects stories meant primarily for all fans or if it is targeted specifically to younger children. It is hard to take a story seriously, or even get excited about it, when the main characters are simply droids – especially with one of the two main characters not even capable of producing dialogue. It also does not help that the artwork seems purposefully more colorful and simplistic; the kind of artwork that kids would enjoy. There are also a few childish gags with the droids, again reinforcing the belief that this could be a story aimed for children, but these incidents are extremely infrequent and really do not distract from the overall story.
That said, there is plenty offered in Droids Special for fans of all ages to enjoy. The story opens with C-3P0 and R2-D2 bound for Hosk Station, having been auctioned off to a junk trader. Right from the beginning, it is clear that the writers perfectly captured the personalities of the robotic duo. C-3P0 is especially enjoyable, and readers will have no difficulty imagining his lines performed by his actor in the films, Anthony Daniels. R2-D2, on the other hand, is a bit more of a mixed bag. The comic gives him dialogue in the form of his usual unintelligible noises, but it seems like a waste of space. He does shine in his sequences of misadventure, but dialogue is never needed to increase the enjoyment. Fans of the Expanded Universe will be particularly thrilled to know that this opening story has a great appearance by IG-88, the notorious droid bounty hunter.
This story is really meant to be an introduction to the larger story in the omnibus, The Kalarba Adventures. It introduces key characters, like the villainous Olag Greck and Forno, but in such a way as to not impart on the reader that the story exists solely to fill in excess backstory. There are hints at Olag’s criminal activities, like the existence of droid arenas, but they are left shrouded in mystery and work to keep the reader continuing to the next story. The story does wrap up too abruptly, but while the ending may stumble and miss its mark, the overall product is of surprisingly good quality.
The Kalarba Adventures:
The Kalarba Adventures is, at its core, a series of loosely connected stories that feature C-3P0 and R2-D2. Picking up immediately where Droids Special left off, the droids spend their time with Nak, a young kid who is very unlikeable at first. He is a constant annoyance, teasing and torturing the droids. As the stories progress, though, Nak does receive some character development and essentially grows up and becomes a more mature character. Olag Greck and Forno return, and while they do not receive any real characterization aside from simply being the designated villains, they are enjoyable to read.
The Kalarba Adventures switches between the artwork of Bill Hughes, which is decidedly more colorful and kid-friendly, and the artwork of Ian Gibson. Gibson’s artwork is less detail-oriented, but with a more visually engaging sketch-style quality that appeals more to older readers. The quality of stories found in this collection varies dramatically. Sometimes, Olag and Forno are walking caricatures, reminiscent of old cartoons where the villain is not only foiled at the end, but suitably embarrassed too. Truly, it sometimes becomes difficult to take the story seriously when droids battle in gladiatorial matches and living stone monsters plague the heroes. There are a few exceptions, though. Both of Gibson’s contributions were far superior, and much more accessible to older readers. One such story dealt with C-3PX, a Threepio lookalike that was actually an assassin droid. Not only did the robot kill, but it was actually quite menacing as it stalked through the pages. The most notable story, however, was a poignant story involving babysitter droids. It was hard to believe it even belonged in the same collection as the other stories, as it had such a somber, mature atmosphere. It was easily the highlight of The Kalarba Adventures.
Younger readers will clearly get a bigger kick out of these stories than the adult readers, though there is plenty of decent humor that all ages will enjoy. Visually speaking, the story contains a diverse cast of aliens, and almost every panel is likely to catch the eye with something intriguing. Although unexpected, given the self-contained nature that each story in the overall collection of The Kalarba Adventures contains, this entry in the omnibus ends with a rather nice cliffhanger. While there are some standout moments, this is a story that really depends on its characters to sell the plot. When the material is good, the story shines. But when the material falters in quality, it is noticeable to the reader.
Without a doubt, Rebellion just might be the best story that C-3P0 and R2-D2 have ever starred in. Picking up within moments of the ending to The Kalarba Adventures, and drawn solely by Ian Gibson, Rebellion kicks off with an amazing start. The story is filled with great action, shocking deaths and a much more mature storyline than the previous offerings. In essence, Rebellion focuses on the serious issues surrounding droid freedoms, an area that has mostly been ignored in the Expanded Universe. It is fully addressed here, however, and forms the basis for a deep and cohesive story from start to finish.
The best part about Rebellion is that it never forgets its roots. Characters and events from The Kalarba Adventures are mentioned, and both Olag and Forno reappear. While the villains take more of a supporting role than in their previous appearances, their roles are more meaningful to their overall character. The story introduces a mysterious new villain, Movo, and includes great cliffhanger moments at strategic points that promise to keep readers charging through the story until they reach the fantastic ending. Rebellion is the crown jewel of this omnibus, and readers of all ages will find an aspect of the story that resonates with them.
Season of Revolt:
Season of Revolt manages, sadly, to take the best elements of the droids stories and somehow remove them from its story. Picking up right where Rebellion ends, this story abandons all the events and characters that have carried the story and instead settles for a mediocre plot involving the overthrow of a tyrannical leader and stopping a dangerous drug. While this does sound interesting, if a bit overplayed, on the most basic of levels, Season of Revolt somehow manages to cheapen even the most basic of plots. C-3P0 and R2-D2 find themselves in the middle of a revolution, as the Revoltists aim to overthrow their leader, Dictator-forever Craw. To make matters work, Craw is attempting to get his hands on a dangerous drug that, when ingested, turns its users into “smilers.” These “smilers” become brain dead after ingesting the drug, making them completely uncaring and oblivious to the world around them. Yes, this story really is as awful as it sounds. There is no hint of menace found in the villains of this story, only the utmost of stupidity. Sadly, Season of Revolt is a return to the idiocy found in portions of The Kalarba Adventures.
Bill Hughes returns for the artwork, which is actually a more subdued and mature approach to the visual world of the droids. While Season of Revolt does not begin to approach the level of seriousness found with Rebellion, it offers a middle ground of tone between the two stories. Of course, the story still has basic problems like giving too much dialogue to characters that do not speak intelligibly. As annoying as the beeps of R2-D2 can become with each new panel, it does not compare to an Ithorian that speaks several sentences in an alien language with virtually no translation. These moments seem to exist solely to take up additional space. Season of Revolt lacks a clear vision, as the lame and uninspired ending makes clear to readers. It is a real shame that, after all the brilliant moments exhibited in the earlier stories, Season of Revolt could still fall so flat.
The Protocol Offense:
At its core, The Protocol Offense is a fairly pedestrian story about galactic diplomacy, with a tiny bit of mystery thrown in that will likely surprise very few. Aside from a single throwaway line, in fact, there is very little to tie this story in with the previous Droid stories from this omnibus. Following Season of Revolt, however, a little distance certainly does not hurt this story. This is a story heralded for the involvement of Anthony Daniels, who actually wrote all of C-3P0’s dialogue for this story. It is very noticeable too, as C-3P0’s characterization is extremely authentic to the films. Not to be outdone, R2-D2 has his own memorable moments in this story that will delight and humor readers of all ages.
The first thing that readers will notice about The Protocol Offense is the vastly different artwork. This story looks as if it were actually painted. Overall, this works for story. It is very off-putting at first, though, especially after having read all the other stories in the omnibus which utilized only two different artists overall. Whether one loves or hates the artwork, though, there is no denying that the story contains so much dialogue that most of the artwork is actually hidden behind text bubbles. For all of its quirks, both visually and narratively, The Protocol Offense is easily the weirdest story in this collection. Were it not for the tired plot, the characterization shown in this story could have elevated the droids to new heights in the Expanded Universe. Instead, The Protocol Offense serves as a swan song for the continued adventures of the droids in this omnibus.
Make no mistake; the purchase of a Dark Horse omnibus collection should only ever come down to the content that is inside of it. In terms of format, the omnibus is unparalleled. It’s a sturdy paperback that is slightly smaller than a hardback novel. It’s very portable, with enough pages (averaging around 400 pages per omnibus) to make it feel like you’re really getting the maximum value for your hard-earned money. This isn’t a skinny, flimsy trade paperback. This is truly a graphic novel. Our omnibus reviews are meant only to inform potential readers of the content they will be experiencing in any given graphic novel, and to guide readers to the content that they will enjoy the most.
Reviewed by Chris Carey
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