One problem with multimedia universes is that they frequently require a laundry list of titles for each entry to differentiate where it fits into the universe. In this case, “A Planet Divided” is Part One of a five-part comic book series from Marvel Comics meant to set the table and help hype the upcoming Jedi: Fallen Order video game by Electronic Arts, which releases the month before the upcoming Star Wars film The Rise of Skywalker, or Episode 9 if you’re keeping count. Did you get all that? It’s enough to breed confusion right out of the gate. The first question is: ‘where does this particular story fit in the overall Star Wars timeline?’ The answer is: “Multiple places, silly.”
“A Planet Divided” starts between the events of Episodes III and IV in the film series. The Clone Troopers have given way to the Stormtroopers. (An apparent downgrade, as subsequent films would show.) The Jedi are being hunted down and exterminated. A high-ranking Empire official known as The Inquisitor (think about what would happen if Vader and Phasma had a daughter) arrives on the planet of Onthotho after hearing about the possibility of a lightsaber being used by someone in the local forces as the Empire is trying to take over the planet. Commander Atty of the Stormtroopers is predictably inept and skeptical, and The Inquisitor has about as much patience for this as you might expect from someone named “The Inquisitor” (she doesn’t like asking questions twice, despite her name.) She’s an interesting character who hopefully will be seen more in subsequent issues.
Right as we are about to meet our apparent protagonist (the main character in the upcoming video game, perhaps?), we are taken in flashback form to another incident on the planet years earlier; back when the Jedi were still a symbol of law and order throughout the galaxy. Jedi Master Cordova and his Padawan Cere Junda are sent to Onthotho to monitor an agreement between the local government and the Daa Corporation in excavating an ancient temple. There’s even a mention of potential trade agreements for those yearning for the politics of prequels past. The two Jedi are sent there after a bunder on Junda’s part during a dispute on another planet that escalated violence and greatly annoyed Masters Yoda and Windu. (Their rebukes to her about it are some of the best written dialogue in the issue, along with Cordova’s defense of her.)
Before anyone can say “I have a bad feeling about this,” the two arrive on the planet to discover that things are much more complicated than they’ve been told, and that the planet has a stronger Force presence than either of them have ever experienced before.
The biggest problem with this issue is it hearkens back to the very worst indulgences of the film prequels– politics and business deals involving planets we know nothing about, and Padawans that are annoyingly sure of themselves even as they constantly screw up seemingly simple instructions. Cordova seems like a stand-in for Qui-Gon Jinn, while Cere has the attitude of Anakin with none of the talent, at least not as of yet. It makes it hard to care about where writer Matthew Rosenberg‘s story is going when you know she’s going to be the main focus when she hasn’t been allowed writing-wise to show any competence or ability. She basically complains all issue and never displays any reason as to why the Jedi would have tolerated her this long, assuming she was brought up in the Order since a young child. There’s four more issues to correct this, but creatively this stumbles out of the gate.
Because it’s Star Wars, and because Jedi: Fallen Order is one of my most anticipated games of the year (despite that Electronic Arts stink on it), I am interested in seeing where the story goes and how it wraps back around to the opening scene with the Inquisitor. But if Star Wars wasn’t on the cover, there’s nothing really stand-out about artist Paolo Villanelli‘s artwork or writing here that would have me buying subsequent issues. 2.5/5 Bibles.