Star Wars Adventures: Forces of Destiny #4: Ahsoka and Padme
Beth Revis (writer), Valentina Pinto (artist and colours), Tom B. Long (letters)
24 January, 2018
The Forces of Destiny series heads to the Star Wars prequels and The Clone Wars animated series with Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano and Naboo Senator Amidala starring in the fourth installment.
We open with Ahsoka at a training session where she uses her ingenuity to win against fellow Padawan Barriss. But ingenuity alone does not a good Padawan make. Barriss points out that Ahsoka’s move would do her no good in the real world. She had sacrificed learning for a momentary victory. Barriss’ words prey on Ahsoka’s mind, even more so when Senator Amidala arrives with a request.
Amidala is to host the Arthurian delegation on Coruscant. The Arthurians are a particularly prickly species and could easily end negotiations on a whim. A great deal is riding on this meeting and Amidala wants her security to be top-notch. Despite Ahsoka’s concerns about her own abilities and the fact that her Master Anakin Skywalker is away, Amidala’s trust in her convinces Ahsoka to help. With stakes this high, Ahsoka cannot afford to make a single mistake, but danger lies closer than she realises.
Following the brilliant Hera issue, this comic is a bit of a let-down. The story feels rushed, which is surprising, considering there isn’t much action till the last few pages. The book is very dialogue-heavy, but the dialogue fails to give us any insights into the characters, instead working more as exposition.
The story also fails to build the dynamic between Ahsoka and Padme. Star Wars fans would understand why Amidala trusts Ahsoka with such an important task—she has done it before, employing Padawan Anakin as her personal security during the events of Attack of the Clones—but why would Ahsoka so readily agree when she has doubts about herself?
There is also a lack of follow-through regarding Ahsoka’s emotions. At the beginning of the comic, she is elated at her ill-gotten win against Barriss, soon quashed by Barriss telling her off for being too impulsive. But by the end of the comic, when Ahsoka manages to prove herself, she continues to doubt herself. Amidala steps in to boost her confidence in her abilities . . . by comparing her to Anakin? What?
Which brings me to the main problem I have with this comic. Despite a cast almost entirely made up of female characters, the issue fails the Bechdel-Wallace Test. Whenever Ahsoka and Padme have a conversation, they find a way to mention Anakin. Even Ahsoka and Barriss’ conversation is hijacked by talk of their Masters, especially how Anakin’s impulsiveness has influenced Ahsoka. This trend does not stop with one-to-one conversations. When Amidala is addressing her handmaidens, she talks about Captain Typho’s security measures, not mentioning Ahsoka to them at all. This is hugely disappointing for a series that aims to highlight the female characters of the Star Wars franchise. Even more egregious is the fact that the issue was written and drawn by women.
The art in this issue returns to the cutesy-cartoonish look of the Leia comic but manages to stay somewhat faithful to The Clone Wars. The art and colours do justice to the aesthetic of the characters, specifically Ahsoka and Padme, whose clothes and headdresses are perfect.
But I found the characters’ facial designs much too inconsistent. Whereas Ahsoka and Padme’s face shapes are different for most of the comic, there is one important panel (see above) where, for some reason, the artist has chosen to draw them as mirror images of each other. The panel threw me a bit and took me completely out of the story. I wondered whether the reader was meant to infer something deeper from this image, but it ended up being just a visual quirk instead of being meaningful.
Even the supposedly sprawling panels—the vast interiors of Amidala’s quarters, the landing platform overlooking Coruscant, the main hall with towering pillars—have the bare minimum of details. The art in this issue is functional at best, and certainly does the job of conveying the story, but everything looks so incredibly rushed.
The final action scene almost redeems the comic. It is exciting with plenty of motion depicted on the page. Ahsoka and Padme acquit themselves very well against their adversary. I also love the inclusion of a twist that has some basis in the films. But once again, the inconsistencies creep in and take the reader out of the comic. Despite that, these pages are the best of the comic.
There is no way to gloss over my disappointment with this issue. It could have been so much better with a tighter story, a concerted effort to understand the characters, and dialogue that passed the Bechdel-Wallace test. I thought we were seeing the series improve but alas, it seems to have come full circle. There is only one issue left in this series, featuring Rose and Paige from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Hopefully the series can end on a high note.