Review: Star Wars – The Clone Wars – Defenders of the Lost Temple / Author: Justin Aclin / Artist: Ben Bates / Publisher: Dark Horse Comics / Release Date: April 9th
Comic books are a hybrid medium. Though primarily visual, they typically require lengthy dialogue and exposition in order to get across a story cleanly and efficiently. A picture can tell a thousand words, but a well-placed caption multiplies the effect many times over.
Bearing that in mind, Justin Aclin’s decision to write Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Defenders of the Lost Temple with no speech bubbles or text boxes seems brave verging on foolhardy. When done well, this sort of technique can create stimulating, innovative work that explores the untapped potential of the medium. Sadly, this is not the case with Defenders of the Lost Temple. The problem is that there are simply too many details for the reader to keep track of, including a twist told through visual similarities which is all too easy to miss at first glance, and this leaves the reader frequently wondering what on earth is going on. Don't get us wrong, poring over the minutiae of a graphic novel can be fun, but when the central hook of your story requires tireless vigilance, your narrative has gone wrong somewhere.
This is a real shame, because pencil-man Ben Bates has done a brilliant job here. His artwork is clean, pretty and perfect for this sort of storytelling, as well as being evocative of the highly successful Clone Wars TV series. But despite his best efforts, the intricate twists and turns aren’t easily sold to the reader. The sad truth is, even with dialogue this would be a weak story, and it feels like the absence of text is merely a gimmick to make up for a lack of other ideas.
Edit: Since publishing this review, we have been told that this print version will be supplied with word bubbles. The galley copy released for review was silent, and we are investigating why this is.