Posted by: markfender | January 28, 2014

Star Wars Comics

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been reading the Star Wars comics.

star-warsI’ve been in a Star Wars mood recently. So, what exactly do you do if you’re in a Star Wars mood? Play some videogames? Read some RPGs? Read some novels? No, I went with comics. Primarily because the relatively cheesy dialogue of Star Wars doesn’t annoy me as much in comic form than it would in a novel. Plus, I tend to think of Star Wars as a visual medium and you get that with a comic.

For the purposes of this reading, I’m only reading the Dark Horse comics. This is because the Marvel comics are far too old for me to read. There was some sort of change in the way comics were written that happened in the late 90s (and if I was a comic scholar, I could tell you more about that) that makes previous stuff really stand out as bad (Plus, coloring advanced quite a bit in the early parts of the century). This pretty much means that only the Dark Horse stuff is going to be readable by me. Also, Dark Horse has the positive for me in that it will be ending (Granted, not until the end of this year, but there is an end date) and I don’t read things unless they’re completed. I decided to read the comics in chronological order, but not published order. So that means I start some 20,000 years or so in the past and have been slowly moving into the movie continuity and beyond.

The first such chronological storyline is the Dawn of the Jedi stuff. But, it’s still being published, so I didn’t read any of it. Maybe later this year when it ends.

Next up were the Tales of the Jedi by Kevin J. Anderson and Tom Veitch. I already complained a bit about these before, but let me reiterate, these books are fucking terrible. Neither writer is good. Kevin J. Anderson has absolutely no ear for dialogue, writing in the most ham-fisted way possible. I mean, the sentence I’m writing right now has more personality than anything Anderson has put to page. Tom Veitch is slightly better, when he decides to write dialogue. But most of this story is told through captions. Entire books of captions. It’s abysmal.

Star Wars names are already ridiculous, but Tales of the Jedi seems to take that farther. Naga Sadow, Exar Kun, and Freedon Nadd are some of the delightful names we’re subjected to. Okay, to be fair, Exar Kun is a pretty badass name. But the rest of those suck. The basic story across this comic arc is a bunch of Sith show up and wage war. They have a stupid superweapon that blows up suns and a couple Jedi end up falling to the Dark Side. And Anderson and Veitch go on and on about the new Jedi power they invented called Battle Meditation. This is the power that the Emperor supposedly used to lead coherence to his forces, which explains why the Empire fell apart after the Death Star II blew up and the Emperor was no longer around to lead his forces. I have no problem with Battle Meditation as an ability (Even if it’s a little bit of a pat answer as to why the Empire fell). What I have a problem with is how much Anderson and Veitch go on and on about it. In the Nomi Sunrider stuff (whose hairline magically changes based on which artist is drawing her), they go on and on about how she’s destined to use Battle Meditation in an exciting new way. Later, she severs Ulic Qel-Dromo’s connection to the Force with it. There’s really nothing made of this seemingly Dark Side power, but it does lead us to the Redemption storyline which might be the best thing Kevin J. Anderson has ever written – which means it’s on a 7th-grade reading level. Final verdict: skip this crap.

Next up is the Knights of the Old Republic series, which tells the story of Zayne Carrick. This storyline is pretty good. Zayne is an interesting character and his surrounding cast is decent. After Zayne’s padawan class is killed by their own masters, he goes on the run with Gryph, an underworld smuggler guy (who has the unfortunate problem of distorting perspective when drawn by people with no grasp of how to draw a snout – I should not be able to look down both of his alien nostrils if it’s a profile view of the character). They pick up a cast of other rejects and battle the Jedi masters and the web of conspiracy surrounding their murder of Zayne’s graduating class. As it takes place before the videogames, there are also cameos from notable characters from the videogames. There’s also a lot of Mandalorians if that’s your thing (It’s not really mine – the last arc dragged a bit due to their inclusion). I would recommend this series, however. Zayne is an interesting take on a Jedi and the characterization of the crew was pretty consistently good.

Next were the Old Republic comics, published in correlation with the videogame. These were okay. The first arc was confusing with its inclusion of every character class in the ongoing story. I felt that the second arc was the best, as it dealt with a single Sith and his investigation into the Emperor’s story. This tied in directly with the Jedi Knight’s story from the videogame which I’d previously played through so it was a nice bit of storytelling that was relevant to my interests. I’m also a fan of the design of a lot of the elements in Old Republic so it was cool to see these again.

Knight Errant was next. Written by the same guy who did the KOTOR stuff, I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well for me as Zayne Carrick’s story. It follows Kerra Holt, a new Jedi Knight and her battle against two Sith brothers. Kerra Holt was designed to be an obvious difference from Miller’s previous character of Zayne Carrick. Unlike Zayne, who never killed anyone and always looked for the peaceful solution, Kerra goes in with lightsaber swinging. The two Sith were sort of annoying as well. Miller was obviously using his philosophy degree here to create a solipsistic and a nihilistic Sith pairing. At first I thought it was a decent idea, but the solipsism got a little silly as the book went on. Read KOTOR instead.

Jedi vs. Sith details an early battle of Darth Bane in which he decides to implement his “Rule of Two.” Unfortunately, I don’t know who Darth Bane is, other than that he instituted the Rule of Two. I think I have to read a novel or something, which I sure as hell am not doing. This series also featured the Sith power Thought Bomb, which just sounds stupid no matter which way you interpret it. Skip it.

We’re starting to get into movie territory here with a few scattered standalones with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. I like Qui-Gon so there were pretty decent. However, this also starts to introduce the problem of ‘gap-filling’ stories which I’ll talk about later.

Jedi Council: Acts of War is about a whole bunch of Jedi Council members going to a planet and fighting a lot. I don’t know what else to say.

Star Wars Republic is the next longer series (83 issues) and it covers the time frame of Episodes I-III. This series begins unfortunately with ‘gap-filling’ stories, which are less than interesting. Unless these are characters I care about, I can’t get all enthused about the random adventures of Jedi Council Member #123, especially since I know that this minor adventure is not going to have an impact on the ongoing story. The first two arcs illustrate this problem pretty well, telling of the various adventures of Ki-Adi-Mundi. Ki-Adi-Mundi is that pointy-headed alien on the Jedi Council. The first arc details his family (I thought Jedi couldn’t marry? Or was this something Dark Horse learned later after Episode II was released?), who are also pointy-headed aliens. The women, in particular, look like Coneheads, which was a bit unfortunate. The second arc was slightly better as Timothy Truman wrote it. As the guy responsible for Scout and Jonah Hex, it shouldn’t surprise you that this takes place on Tatooine. After these two arcs, the stories get a bit stronger as John Ostrander takes over primary writing duties. For the rest of this series, the main protagonist is Quinlan Vos. As we mostly concentrate on him and the various masters and padawans that surround him, we get some recurring characters outside of the movie-appearing-ones that can actually develop, die, or provide some character investment. This works pretty well overall as both Quinlan Vos and his padawan Aayala Secura are interesting characters (Although Aayala raises some other troubling issues. Why are the Twi’leks the ‘sexy race’? Is it terrible to have an entire race who’s manifest trait is ‘sexiness’? And is it possible for a comic book artist to NOT draw Aayala with her bare mid-riff contorted so that we get a full view of her breasts AND butt?). Ostrander writes the fall/redemption of Quinlan fairly well across the gamut of the series, even if it did seem overly protracted in places. And there’s a bit of comic book logic involved in aspects of it (Example: Quinlan Vos is of a race that can pick up psychometric flashes from objects. Later in the series he reads a dead person’s last memories with the explanation of “Dooku taught me to treat people like objects.” Uh, yeah.) And there seems to be a violation of the Rule of Two going on. We’ve got Palpatine, Dooku, Asajj Ventress, and then two other random dudes who show up to fight Quinlan Vos a lot. Where do those other two random dudes fit in? They’re both working for Dooku but their place in the whole “master/’prentice” thing is never clarified.

As Republic goes on, it gets a name change (to Republic…originally it was just called Star Wars) and involves the Clone Wars. I felt the series got a little too military sci-fi for my tastes here. There’s only so many stories of the mass slaughter of clones and Jedi before my kill counter fills up and I lose interest. The final two arcs are after Order 66 in Episode III and the Jedi begin to be hunted down. And Quinlan Vos decides to get married to his girlfriend because it’s totally fine for Jedi other than Anakin to do that. And then the series gets renamed again to Dark Times. More on that one later.

Of course, while Republic was going on, Dark Horse was publishing other stuff. Like a Darth Maul 4-parter. Or a Jango Fett story. Or some one-shots about various Jedi Council members – almost all of which featured Quinlan Voss. Okay, Ostrander, I get it. Quinlan is your baby and by God, we are gonna milk his story across every comic we can get him into. Most of these were fine, but they’re just filler. And reading a whole issue with Yoda being a diplomat in Yoda-speak is just tedious. So skip ’em.

And, of course, there’s the Clone Wars Adventures series, which features the same art style as the cartoon. I’m not a fan of Gendy Tartakovsky’s art style, nor the weird chunky CG from the latter series, so I didn’t enjoy these. They’re written for younger readers as well. So, I disliked the art, disliked the writing, and dislike the setting. Not much to recommend these.

Okay, this got long, so we’ll continue tomorrow with Dark Times. Which shouldn’t be depressing or anything.

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