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Non-Writing post: Graphic Novel Review: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 6: Vindication [Jan. 1st, 2010|08:36 pm]
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[Current Location |Peekskill, New York]
[mood |bouncyHappy 2010, everybody!]
[music |Augie's Great Municipal Band/Star Wars theme, from The Phantom Menace soundtrack]

This volume of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic compiles three tightly connected stories (“Exalted,” “Turnabout” and, of course, “Vindication”) in which the “Jedi Covenant” storyline comes to a head.

In “Exalted,” Zayne, Gryph, Jarael and the Moomo brothers infiltrate the Covenant's storehouse of Sith artifacts on Odryn, homeworld of Feeorin Master Feln. As it happens, Feln is also on planet at the time. He battles Zayne and then, fearing the rogue Padawan will use the artifacts to become a Sith Lord, Feln destroys the storehouse. Unfortunately, the site Feln chose for the storehouse was the Sanctum of the Exalted, a holy place for his tribe. They, none to happy at having the sanctum obliterated, express their irritation with Feln by mobbing him to death. Zayne and company manage to escape the Sanctum's destruction with a dozen artifacts, which he hopes will go some way towards clearing his name.

As a side note, I should point out that reading “Exalted” reminded me that the clunky exposition I complained about in “Vector” has always been there.

Also in “Exalted,” Jarael disguises herself as Celeste Morne to gain entrance to the Sanctum. In an amusing little exchange, she expresses incredulity that Celeste ever wore such an outfit in the snow, which was pretty much my reaction to the sequence on Jebble. Zayne points out, quite reasonably, that it wasn't a planned stop.

However, on the next page, when Jarael removes her voluminous coat, we see that while she indeed is wearing an outfit similar to Celeste's, she did not bother to dye her cleavage and midriff the way she altered her face and hair. One wonders what the point of disguising oneself with Celeste's top is if the torso it only partially covers is pale blue, rather thank pink.

*ahem* “Turnabout” has Admiral Karath and the Republic fleet test out a new computer-control system as they blockade Coruscant against Zayne. Jarael, Rohlan, and the Moomos get captured by Karath and sit out the rest of the story, while Zayne and Gryph escape to the planet on another transport. Meanwhile, Shel and Alek (now calling himself “Malak,” for the benefit of anyone who hasn't already guessed his future role in the greater mythos) have met Masters Vandar Tokare and Vrook Lamar to plead Zayne's case. The Masters fear none of their evidence would be enough to convince the council, it would take someone from within the Covenant speaking out to do that. Right on cue, Master Xamar appears, with Zayne and Gryph in tow, ready to turn himself in if it means averting his prophesied death and ending this madness.

In the explosive four-parter “Vindication,” the Covenant storyline reaches its climax in appropriately epic fashion. With the assistance of Master Xamar, the Jedi Council stages a raid on the Draay Estate, seeking to extract Lady Krynda Draay and end the Covenant's abuses of power. The Covenant Jedi fight back, having been duped by Haazen, Krynda's lieutenant, into thinking the Council has been taken over by Sith. As Jedi battles Jedi, Haazen uses his control over the Republic fleets' integrated computer network to call down turbolaser fire on the Jedi, adding to the confusion. In the aftermath of a duel with Lucien, Zayne gets close enough the sever Haazen's mechanical right arm. Lucien rises from the ground, grabs the arm, and—after levitating Zayne and Gryph to safety—uses the still-attached control device to make the fleet blast the Draay Estate, wiping out Haazen and his plans for control of both Jedi and Sith.

The “Vindication” four-parter in particular shines forth as one of the greatest Star Wars stories of all time. John Jackson Miller delivers perhaps his most gripping tale yet, full of clever intrigue, page-turning excitement, unexpected twists, over-the-top action and no small amount of humor.

Haazen's master plan is devilishly brilliant, and artist Brian Ching beautifully captures his awesome power and menace. The image of fire raining down from on high provides an appropriately apocalyptic background to this titanic clash of good an evil.

“Vindication” cements Haazen among the first rank of Star Wars villains—all the more impressive, given his utterly banal backstory. The second part, issue 33 of the series, relates Haazen's painfully predictable history: How he was the screw-up servant of Barrison Draay, consumed with jealousy over Barrison's wealth and successes, and his reciprocated love for the Lady Krynda. His hatred for Barrison was so great that, towards the end of the Sith War, Haazen threw his lot in with the dark side and led Lucien's father into a trap; an explosion which killed the latter and also took out Haazen's eye, arm and legs, necessitating their replacement. Yes, even during the Sith War, Haazen was a villain, and for the most cliché reason possible.

(This issue was illustrated by Bong Dazo, the same artist who did “Exalted.” Interestingly, after Jarael's line in said previous story about the inadvisability of cleavage- and midriff-revealing shirts out in the snow, Dazo chose to depict the mercenary Dossa similarly attired on snowy Arkania. Oh well, maybe Nautolans have better cold-resistance than Arkanians.)

Fortunately, after the Sith War, Haazen apparently realized he needed to clean up his act and inject some real originality into his schemes if he was ever to make a lasting name for himself as a villain. Therefore, he did not end up killing Lady Krynda—as I had half-expected—and downplayed his obsession for her. Neither did he succumb to the tired old Sith ambition of destroying the Jedi and conquering the galaxy. Instead, taking his inspiration from a vision by Lady Krynda, Haazen determined to bring balance to the struggle of Jedi against Sith—with himself secretly controlling both. Apart from the antagonist of the movie Dragnet, I can't think of any other villains with that particular ambition.

If this is the fulfillment of the Prophecy of the Five, though, I don't think much of it. Haazen, Zayne, Lucien and Gryph certainly played major roles in the showdown, but Q'Anilia—whom Haazen identifies as the one for the light who stands in darkness—didn't do squat, apart from offing herself when she found Lady Krynda apparently dead. (Way to go, Q'Anilia.) Lady Krynda herself did more, and that was only to chastise Lucien for a bit and then die for real, setting him off.

The Rogue Moon Prophecy also turned out to be a bit of a washout. Sure, all the Jedi Seers bought it right on cue, but what was the payoff?

Personally, I would've preferred it if one of the Seers had lived, in spite of the prophecy. I generally prefer for at least one redshirt to make it, and I get very annoyed at stories which smack too strongly of inevitability or determinism. Zayne's prophecy does go unfulfilled, but of course, that was just something Gryph made up to throw off the Covenant a bit.

The final pages reveal that Lucien survived, and apparently even got some sense knocked in him, persuading him to forgo his vendetta and his “the ends justify the means” attitude. However, Haazen's musings on a Sith name for Lucien, including “Darth Sion,” do not bode well for the last Draay's continued clear-thinking.

The final pages also treat us to a (hopefully) unique sight of Zayne decked out like Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. Zayne, luv, a friendly word of advice: black? Not your color. At all.

I was also disappointed that all two female characters involved in “Vindication” ended up dead, one in order to provoke a male character to action, and the other for lack of anything else to do. For shame, Miller.

As you can see, I have a number of complaints about “Vindication,” too. So what? I complain about the films, I complain about “Lord of the Rings,” I complain about “Blink,” I complain about Night Watch, I complain about The Icarus Hunt, I complain about On the Jellicoe Road. Like all stories, they have their flaws. Doesn't make them any less mind-blowingly awesome.

Did I call “Vindication” one of the greatest Star Wars stories of all time? Check that. “Vindication” is one of the greatest fictional works of all time.

Unfortunately, all is still not well with the Expanded Universe, which is why I now say again and will go on saying

Bring back the Man Who Killed Ithor!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ibmiller
2011-04-30 05:25 pm (UTC)

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I still think the pacing and plotting of the KotOR comics are way off. But they're significantly better than anything else happening. So naturally they are cancelled and replaced with an even less engaging Knight Errant series. Why can't Mike Stackpole come back and write Star Wars comics?
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-05-03 03:02 pm (UTC)

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I still think the pacing and plotting of the KotOR comics are way off.

Huh, I actually though Jackson Miller did a pretty good job with this, although maybe less so post-Vindication.

I haven't started Knight Errant yet, but I'm excited because it has a female protagonist ... doesn't it?
[User Picture]From: ibmiller
2011-05-03 03:50 pm (UTC)

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Well, his post-main-arc comics were editorially meddled with - the disappearance of Shel, for instance, apparently comes from the shortening of the run to 50 issues.

Knight Errant does have a female protagonist, but I am just not excited about Rusaan-era stories. It doesn't have the freedom of the KotOR era (where you really can do almost anything, though it's closing up a bit with the Old Republic game and such), it has a forgone rather nasty conclusion at the actual battle of Rusaan (all the really cool Jedi get offed along with all but two of the Sith - as well as the fact that those two Sith have total immunity from death), and there's no real anchor point like there is with KotOR in terms of a rich, previously developed world.

Unless they're lazy and just go with the "societies all stay the same" thing that often plagues Star Wars, even the best stories.
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-05-06 06:30 pm (UTC)

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the disappearance of Shel, for instance, apparently comes from the shortening of the run to 50 issues.

That's sad, she's seriously cool. Also cutting the series short, I'd've been really interested to see what Jackson Miller would've produced with a little less editorial control.

all the really cool Jedi get offed along with all but two of the Sith

"All the really cool Jedi" being defined here as Lord Hoth and Kile Charney? And I suppose Lord Farfalla if you're going by the comics?

Sure, the outcome of the actual Battle of Ruusan is a foregone conclusion, but doesn't the battle between Jedi and Sith which ends at Ruusan take place over a couple hundred years? That sounds to me like plenty of wiggle room.

And since the galaxy has been at war for a couple hundred years, I'd think any author with a decent spark of imagination would realize it would look different from the other eras the Expanded Universe has explored so far, and write accordingly.
[User Picture]From: ibmiller
2011-05-06 06:36 pm (UTC)

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The war between the Jedi and the Sith seems to never really stop until after RotJ (with a 1000 year gap after Ruusan), being on and off, depending on how strong one side or the other is.

I suppose I'm being a bit harsh on the Jedi - but the characterizations I read in the first Darth Bane book didn't do much for me. But then, it was Karpyshan, so I probably shouldn't have expected so much. Maybe I'll find the Jedi vs. Sith comics at the library sometime.

However, it looks like Knight Errant is on hold till August for some reason (maybe Legacy: War and Invasion are taking too much time? Wow, two grimdark and boring series taking the focus from a series with at least some promise...that would never happen).
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-05-09 03:30 pm (UTC)

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The war between the Jedi and the Sith seems to never really stop until after RotJ

Not even then, according to the Legacy era. But if we think of the millennia-long Jedi/Sith struggle as a protracted Cold War with occasional flare-ups into Hot War (e.g. the Sith War of Exar Kun and Ulic Qel-Droma), then I believe the specific Hot War which culminates in the Battle of Ruusan takes place over several centuries. Heck, I just got my copy of the Knight Errant novel in from the library, and the back cover proclaims: "A thousand years before Luke Skywalker, a generation before Darth Bane." So there's that.

Maybe I'll find the Jedi vs. Sith comics at the library sometime.

I personally found them rather "meh" (even more than "Darth Bane," I think), but maybe you'll like them.

Wow, two grimdark and boring series taking the focus from a series with at least some promise...that would never happen

*laughs bitterly* But hey, on the other hand, this way Legacy - War is over and done with sooner. That's a plus in my book.
[User Picture]From: ibmiller
2011-05-09 04:03 pm (UTC)

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Interesting way of thinking about it. But it makes some sense.

I thought Legacy was over at 50...then I read it, and it was all like "cliffhanger, with the worst resurrection of a comic book death I've seen since the 50s" and they had an announcement for War...and now I just hope that War really is the end, but have no confidence in that at all.

Besides, if it is the end, you know they're going to kill everyone except Cade, because naturally the only guy who deserves and needs to die won't...(stupid Avatar...)
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-05-09 10:36 pm (UTC)

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Interesting way of thinking about it. But it makes some sense.

Well, the point being that there actually is quite a bit of room for exploration in the run-up to the Battle of Ruusan.

My understanding was that Legacy was cut short early (just like Knights of the Old Republic, it seems), and War is supposed to cap off the storyline. I think it is the (projected) end - I'm more worried they'll lead a bunch of subplots dangling.

Besides, if it is the end, you know they're going to kill everyone except Cade, because naturally the only guy who deserves and needs to die won't...(stupid Avatar...)

I'm not exactly expecting that outcome, but I wouldn't be at all surprised. Still, as long as it means I see the back of Legacy for good, it'll be worth it.
[User Picture]From: ibmiller
2011-05-09 10:41 pm (UTC)

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Stupid 50th issue and Dark Horse editorial being lame. Of course, they're hardly unique in being a lame house of editors. However, the editors at Dark Horse seem to be a lot more hostile to their fans - Quesada and Didio (Marvel and DC, respectively) don't actively insult their fans like Stradley and Richardson do.

I am definitely expecting that outcome - they already played with killing Draco, who was way cooler than anyone else, and I fully expect the princess, the emperor, several Rogues, Hondo the cool Mandelorian, and the stormies to bite it before War finally grinds to a fizzle.

I'm bitter about Legacy. Sorry about that.
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-05-11 03:00 pm (UTC)

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I'm bitter about Legacy. Sorry about that.

Don't sweat it; I'm familiar with the feeling.

I guess the big difference is that I don't particularly care about any of the Legacy cast, really. They could all vanish into a black hole and I'd just shrug it off.

But I understand you're still attached to several of the characters, so for your sake I hope War doesn't end in a torrential bloodbath.
[User Picture]From: ibmiller
2011-05-11 03:17 pm (UTC)

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Silly of me, I know. I think it's more an attachment to their potential.

Though I do think Draco, Sia, Azlyn, and the Emperor are pretty cool ideas with some development.

I do not have any expectation that anyone other than Cade the Moron One will survive. Except maybe the stupid Zeltron chick. Unless they decide to fridge her for Cade. Either way, fail.
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-06-11 10:30 pm (UTC)

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Just finished reading Monster and Extremes trade paperbacks. Must say I wasn't too impressed with Draco. In Vector he insisted on following Fel's orders no matter how karking stupid. In Monster he was just: "I know I must put the Emperor ahead of my Love Interest in the unlikely event that it ever comes down to a choice between the two. Wait, it's become a choice between the two? Damn. For the Emperor!" Then in Extremes he went emo on Azlyn Rae over his Love Interest (did we ever see Marasiah share even one tender moment with him?) and acts pretty whiny. He then comes up with a pretty neat plan with a creative use for his own anger and pulls an extremely overdone Noble Sacrifice to Buy the Other Heroes (Including His Love Interest) Time to Escape. Even the neat plan bit didn't really impress me.

... I suppose that still puts him significantly cooler than most of the cast of Legacy, but I feel like there are a couple characters with a better track record.
[User Picture]From: ibmiller
2011-06-12 05:08 am (UTC)

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Sia does share a tender moment with him. I forget when.

But I think his endgame is cool (having read the last issue of Legacy: War). But, like everything cool in Legacy, it's once again given like two panels while Cade Moronwalker gets 90 percent of the pages.

Let me know what you think when you get to War. It's sorta interesting.
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-06-15 03:15 pm (UTC)

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I intend to wait until Legacy - War comes out in trade paperback, preferably at my local library system. Failing that, I'll have to find a time when I can drive out to my local big chain big store for an hour or so and read it there.

But rest assured, once I've read it, I'll definitely post a retrospective where I pick through the fallout and discuss Legacy as a completed storyline.
From: darthyan
2011-09-07 07:43 pm (UTC)

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according to the lore the wars that ended at Rusaan lasted 1000 years. It started when a guy named Darth Ruin took over and initiated a war. TOR is shaping well. Have you seen the site the editing room by the way? Great site. And we have screen caps of Revan's face unmasked
http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/717/wn1k.jpg/
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-09-10 03:06 pm (UTC)

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Editing room? No, I don't think I have. Is it behind-the-scenes stuff for the game, or something else?

And we have screen caps of Revan's face unmasked

Oh ... oh dear. That's unfortunate. He looks much cooler with his mask on.
From: darthyan
2011-09-18 05:03 am (UTC)

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movie reviews. And it is a damn funny one at that. Check it out. You will like it.
From: darthyan
2011-09-07 07:37 pm (UTC)

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I think Haazen's backstory was pretty good. He's the anti Zayne but where Zayne had negligent teachers and self doubt Haazen had the potential to be great but chose to just lash out and blame others rather than maturely accepting his faults and trying to grow. That's what made his fall so tragic. Had he taken the time to mature he would have been a great jedi.
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-09-10 03:16 pm (UTC)

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Okay, that's a good point. I agree that Haazen's personality is well-crafted, and makes for a good counter-point to Zayne's. What I object to in the backstory chapter is the utterly cliche motivations Jackson Miller bestowed on him: desire for Lucien's mother and jealousy of his father.