Continuing our preparation for Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple, today I’m going to be looking at Asajj Ventress. Ventress is a rather different beast than Quinlan Vos. As I mentioned, both originated in the old Expanded Universe, and both were brought into the current canon thanks to The Clone Wars. That being said, Quinlan made all of his major appearances in the old Expanded Universe in the Dark Horse comics, and most of his appearances were written by the same author, John Ostrander. Ventress, however, was created as a villain for the Clone Wars multi-media project that really took off in early 2003. Never meant to be the pet project of one author, she appeared in novels, comics, and as a villain in Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars micro-series. Following that, she was present in the subsequent CGI series from the get-go, appearing in the theatrical movie that started the series. The CGI series made some alterations to Ventress’s story from the early material: while many of the same general beats are there, the circumstances surrounding them are vastly different. In each, she’s discovered by a Jedi named Ky Narec, who takes her on as a Padawan. He dies while she’s still young, and she subsequently develops a hate for Jedi. Discovered by Count Dooku, she serves as a top lieutenant for him until he eventually betrays and attempts to kill her. In both timelines, she survives the attempts and strikes out on her own, serving neither Republic nor Separatists. As Wookieepedia notes, “The new Legends Clone Wars timeline was never established by Lucasfilm.” As such, I’m going to run through all of her Legends appearances (at least, the ones I think you should look at to prepare for the novel), then do the same for her canon ones. Some of it gels, some of it doesn’t. Let’s get to it.
Star Wars: Clone Wars
You know, I was writing out a big piece about this, but I scrapped it to just say this: watch the video. I’d recommend taking the time to watch the whole thing, but if you only want to see the stuff with Ventress (which, again, I advise against) just watch 16:22-22:54, 29:07-35:39, and 52:02-1:01:21.
Alright, have you watched it yet? Let’s get to it then. Creator Genndy Tartakovsky made an absolutely fantastic, crazy, badass series that both served as my proper introduction to the EU and cemented my love of Star Wars. It features Ventress in a fairly major role, at least for the first two seasons, and serves as a good introduction to the character. Originally released in 3-5 minute installments starting in 2003, the series features a good deal of characters from other aspects of the Clone Wars project, Ventress included. It’s the reason I still view General Grievous as one of my favorite characters from the films (his first appearance of any kind was in Chapter 20 of the microseries). In a wise decision, all major deaths are left ambiguous so that the characters could return in books or comics. It features Jedi and Sith at a power level that wouldn’t be seen again until The Force Unleashed in 2008. It’s wonderful, weird at times, and I love it dearly.
Ahem. Back to Ventress, yes?
Clone Wars Volume 2: Victories and Sacrifices
Ventress actually makes her initial appearance in the first volume of Clone Wars comics, The Defense of Kamino. Appearing in the final issue within the collection, she makes a pretty good impression. However, her big comic debut was in the first arc in Volume 2, appropriately titled The New Face of the War. Introduced along with Durge, the other major villain created for the multimedia project, this collection doesn’t feature all that much character development for Ventress, but it does have participating in several battles, and since that’s basically what she was introduced to do, it’s worth a read.
Clone Wars Volume 5: The Best Blades
The Best Blades is an interesting collection, in that it is composed entirely of one-shots. Ventress only has one major appearance in the volume, but it’s by far her most important appearance in the Dark Horse run, and perhaps the Legends continuity: Hate and Fear features the best look in the EU to Ventress’s past before Count Dooku, and it actually makes her out to be a tragic figure. The story, set up on the last page of Clone Wars Volume 3: Last Stand on Jabiim, features Obi-Wan as her prisoner and his eventual escape with the assistance of a figure from her past. It’s this knowledge that sparks his curiosity with Ventress, which will be seen later in Volume Seven’s Obsession.
Yoda: Dark Rendezvous
Once again, I must confess to not actually reading Dark Rendezvous. Ventress features in several books counted as part of the Clone Wars project, among them The Cestus Deception, Jedi Trial, and the young reader book Boba Fett: Pursuit. That said, she never shows up in person in Pursuit, despite making the cover, and her appearance in Jedi Trial is as a hologram (again, despite making the cover). That leaves this and The Cestus Deception as her major novel appearances, and since I don’t recall particularly enjoying The Cestus Deception when I first read it around a decade or so ago, I went with this. From what I’ve read on the novel in The Essential Reader’s Companion, it has some good material for her, so hey, that’s pretty swell. Look, I wanted the list to feature a novel, and this fit the bill. Sue me.
Clone Wars Volume 6: On the Fields of Battle
I featured this in my spotlight on Quinlan Vos, and it really is a better collection for him than Ventress. That said, it does feature her fairly significantly, and she has an excellent duel with Anakin crosscut with one of Vos’s scenes. Primarily important because it sets up her situation in the next volume, it’s still worth reading if you want to see Ventress in action just for that duel.
Clone Wars Volume 7: When They Were Brothers
This was the first volume of Clone Wars comics I ever purchased, and I’ve always quite enjoyed it. Outside of their Quinlan Vos stuff, Obsession serves as a nice capstone to all of Dark Horse’s Clone Wars material. It brings back major characters from earlier in the run, and is a nice ending for Ventress in the Legends continuity. Ever since Obi-Wan’s escape from captivity, both he and Ventress have been focused on each other, both with very different goals: Obi-Wan never stops wanting to redeem her, and Ventress never stops wanting to kill him. It’s a plot line that one might not expect from their earlier appearances, but it works rather well. This collection really is the end of Ventress’s adventures in the EU, but she still would find much to do in The Clone Wars. Let’s begin our look at that, yes?
Cloak of Darkness
Ventress makes enough appearances in The Clone Wars so that it isn’t really necessary to view all of them to get a feel for the character. After appearing in both the movie and Ambush, the first episode of the series proper, Ventress has a nice turn in the series’ ninth episode, Cloak of Darkness. Showcasing her infiltration abilities, and featuring what I believe to be the first on-screen duel between 3 women in Star Wars, it’s a great early appearance for the character.
After Cloak of Darkness, Ventress appears in the first season episode The Hidden Enemy, takes the second season off, and comes back in excellent form in ARC Troopers, the third seasons second episode. Centering around an attack on Kamino, it actually was at the center of some controversy for the above scene: Cartoon Network was apparently not fond of Ventress impaling an ARC Trooper and then giving him the kiss of death. What a bunch of killjoys.
The Savage Opress Arc: Nightsisters, Monster, and Witches of the Mist
Though this trilogy of episodes is best known for introducing Darth Maul’s brother, the not spectacularly named Savage Opress, it does a lot of work for Ventress as well. After being betrayed by Count Dooku, at the orders of Darth Sidious, she travels to her homeworld of Dathomir, seeking her coven of Nightsister witches. Nightsisters is an interesting episode in seeing how it plays with pre-existing elements of the EU: the Nightsisters were created back in the 90s, and though Ventress’s past wasn’t always tied to them, it does a pretty good job of rectifying this alteration to her existing past. Though elements are changed, the major details, such as her apprenticeship to and death of Ky Narec, stay the same. It also features the only appearance of her Fanblade starfighter in The Clone Wars, and, before Dooku’s betrayal, has her in a costume much more similar to her original look in the EU. Savage, despite his name, is a pretty good character, and the shakeup to Ventress’s status quo makes this a can’t miss arc.
Massacre, Bounty, Brothers, and Revenge
These 4 episodes don’t really constitute an arc, but they are all in succession and all feature Ventress. Massacre and Bounty focus more heavily on Ventress. In the first episode, Dooku and Grievous destroy the Nightsisters, leaving only Ventress and Talzin, who soon departs. This leaves Ventress rudderless, an issue that has plagued her in the past after losing her previous masters. This time, however, Ventress is able to find herself after the events of Bounty, giving her a hopeful ending (Bounty also features some excellent action sequences, to give credit when it’s due). Brothers and Revenge both feature Ventress, but focus on Savage Opress finding and bringing back his brother, Darth Maul. I’ve always said Maul’s resurrection was a bad idea done very well, and these episodes back that up. Revenge ends with Obi-Wan teaming up with Ventress to fight Maul and Opress, and it’s quite satisfying. Ventress goes on to appear again in the last arc of Season 5, but there’s no real change to her overall situation resulting from those episodes. They are fantastic, but there’s a heavy focus on Ahsoka, and I wouldn’t recommend watching them until you’ve seen more of The Clone Wars than what I’ve covered for these recent pieces.
– Dark Disciple comes out today, but since I ordered my copy from Amazon I’ll be starting it on Thursday. On top of that, this weekend is both Connecticon, which I’ll be attending, and San Diego Comic Con, which I wish I was attending. I want to post a round-up of the Star Wars news to come out of SDCC, and my review/rundown on Dark Disciple, and the usual Artist Spotlight, and I might do something on the recent Han Solo Anthology film announcement. The endgame is that I’ll be doing a decent bit of writing in the upcoming days, so sorry if anything comes late.
– Ventress has gotten an absolutely tremendous amount of love on the collectibles front, including, but not limited to, numerous action figures, several Lego minifigures, a 12-inch figure, Premium Format figure, and diorama from Sideshow, an animated maquette from Gentle Giant, and the statue I featured in my Christopher Lee tribute, also by Gentle Giant.
– Much like Quinlan Vos being based on an extra in The Phantom Menace, Ventress traces her look to concept art created for Attack of the Clones as a potential look for the new Sith apprentice.