|Non-Writing post: Graphic Novel Review: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 6: Vindication
||[Jan. 1st, 2010|08:36 pm]
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!