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Review: ‘Jedi Academy: A New Class’

star-wars-jedi-academy-a-new-classJedi Academy: A New Class
By Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Scholastic; $12.99

When it comes to Star Wars, three has always been something of a magic number, with the film franchise conceived as a trilogy of trilogies. It makes sense then that cartoonist Jeffrey Brown would stop at three Jedi Academy books, following his original with sequels Return of the Padawan and The Phantom Bully. (Similarly, his Darth Vader cartoon books numbered three.)

Fans of the series, which was something of a mash-up between a Star Wars answer to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and a graphic novel, need not fret, however. There is a new installment in the series by a new creator–if there’s any truism in modern media, it’s that there will always be more Star Wars–and that creator is a very able one whose name and work will be familiar to many in the series’ target audience.

Jedi Academy: A New Class is the work of Jarret J. Krosoczka, probably best known for his Lunch Lady kids comics, but also a pretty prolific picture book author and illustrator and creator of the more recent Platypus Police Squad series.

Krosoczka retains the setting of Brown’s books, the Jedi Academy on Coruscant, which now looks a lot more like a pretty typical grade school than it appeared in the film series, and thus much of the faculty side of the cast is still present. That, of course, means Yoda plays a key role–look, he’s even front and center on the cover!–and is the biggest “name” character from the movies appearing in the books.

Krosoczka brings in his own class of younglings, though, and so we get a new star in the form of Victor Starspeeder, a new transfer student to the Coruscant campus. Victor is naturally powerful in the ways of The Force, but he’s also extremely excitable, too eager to please and, like a lot of people who fill their journals with so many drawings, he spends a lot of time with his head in the clouds. This combination of traits means he often causes an awful lot of trouble at school, almost always in the form of disastrous accidents.

Krosoczka gives him a handful of new little kid problems too, like starting at a new school that his older sister already attends, a crush on a classmate who is anything but impressed with him, a misguided struggle to be seen as one of the “cool” kids despite his natural compatibility with the un-cool ones in drama club, and, of course, his involvement in helping pull off the school play (My Fair L8-E…one of the several groan-worthy Star Wars-ized versions of plays that gets mentioned).

It’s Victor’s poor judgement of character that provides the most dramatic conflict though, and informs all of the smaller problems, as he naturally assumes the stand-offish kid in the black, hooded robe who breathes with a laborious, machine-like hiss (asthma, treated with a noisy inhaler) might secretly be a Sith, while the outgoing, good-looking upperclassman with an interest in him must naturally be a stand up guy. It’s hardly a spoiler on the level of revealing that Vader is really Luke’s father that Victor has these two exactly wrong.

Krosoczka’s smooth, assured linework gives his art a very polished look, even when he’s drawing as Victor in the diary/journal sections, and it’s a sharp contrast with the rougher, more amateur-ish look of Brown’s artwork. Krosoczka is therefore less of a natural fit to this format. Of course, this also means his work is strong in some of the places that Brown’s is weak–it’s hard to imagine the latter pulling off the Star Wars-themed parodies of The Family Circus or Peanuts that appear in the school paper, for example–so when all is said and done, the new guy, like the New Class, holds up pretty well to what we saw in the original trilogy.

As any Star Wars fan of a certain age can tell you, that’s not always the case.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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