Tuesday, September 14, 2010

1000 BBY: Jedi vs. Sith

I thoroughly enjoyed Jedi vs. Sith.

I thought I’d put that out there at the start, since most of the comments, reviews, and responses to this comic that I have read have been mostly negative. With that being said, the comments I’ve mostly encountered regarding this text have come from the www.swtor forums – which is only a small part of the whole conversation about Star Wars occurring online, and may not be indicative of the overall opinion of this comic to most fans. I thought this comic was much better than Threat of Peace, if that gives you an indication of where my tastes lie.

For all the reasons most people did not enjoy this comic, I found that I did. The most complained about aspect of this comic seems to be its fantastical nature – a trait I thought brought a lot to the Star Wars realm, and an aspect of the comic I thoroughly enjoyed. I also appreciated the way the Jedi were presented, the armor of Lord Hoth, and the character of Valenthyne Farfalla and his awesome ship the Fairwind.

I think it is most people’s understanding that Star Wars is science fiction (and I think hardcore fans know this to be untrue), and since Star Wars seems to fall into this category of “science fiction” people expect it to adhere to certain conventions – and I get that. Satyrs and Fauns are for Lord of the Rings, The Sword of Shannara, or Dungeons and Dragons and most defiantly not for a galaxy far far away. But Star Wars does not completely fit the mold of science fiction, and as a matter of fact bucks this label. Indeed, Star Wars is closer to Lord of the Rings than it is to something like Bladerunner or Star Trek. Its American space opera, more closely related to fantasy that anything else. So encountering a Jedi Satyr and a knighted Faun is par the course for this world, as Star Wars has always blurred the lines between genres.

What I loved about Jedi vs. Sith was the Lord of the Rings type feel it had to it. I liked how the leaders of the Army of Light referred to each other as “Lord”, and I thought the chivalry they attempted to live up to added something to this realm. The Knights wore armour reminiscent of Christian Crusaders – for they were making a pilgrimage to destroy the darkness of the world. Like the elves marching on Mordor, Hoth’s Army of Light marched on Russan to confront the Brotherhood of Darkness. Its ancient theme familiar and unshakable – Light vs. Dark. But are the lightsiders truly light? And are the darksiders truly dark?

In the thought bomb all lines are blurred.

The fantastical nature of Jedi vs. Sith made this story better, and indeed, I would appreciate more stories like this in the Star Wars universe. Princesses, witches, dragons, knights and wizards have always been a part of Star Wars. As Owen Lars once famously said “That wizard’s just a crazy old man”. Elements of the fantasy realm included in the Star Wars universe should not off-put us, but should be something that should be included in more Star Wars stories. But alas, you can’t please everyone.

One of the most striking elements of this comic for me was Lord Hoth’s armour, which included on it the fleur-de-lis. I was struck by it because it carries with it such historical connotations. Mostly used by the French monarchy, the fleur-de-lis became a symbol of the papacy in the middle ages, and was often used a reference to the Virgin Mary. Very often in art, Mary would be depicted holding a fleur-de-lis, its three flowers symbolizing the Holy Trinity. I think for the purposes of Jedi vs. Sith, the fleur-de-lis was probably used to give Lord Hoth a kingly or knightly quality – something recognizable as found on a coat-of-arms or present on the flags of monarchies. I wonder if the artist realized the symbol’s historical connotations, or simply added it because it looks cool.

The sheen on Hoth’s armour did not last long however, as the drudgeries of war very quickly weighed on him and his Army of Light. I can understand how difficult it might be to maintain the truths of the Jedi code when one sleeps in mud and engages in life-or-death skirmishes with Sith on a nearly daily basis. I liked how the harsh reality of war had its effect on the Jedi army. Hoth did not act very “Jedi-like” on Russan, as the ravages of war wore away at his most basic principles. He was hot-headed and arrogant, and was in danger of falling to the darkside of the Force as Lord Farfalla had warned.

I also enjoy how Kiel Charney was able to maintain his Jedi dignity, even offering aid to fallen Sith, explaining to young Tomcat that fear was controlling the Sith acolytes: “He’s just afraid! He’s hurt! His Lords have abandoned him…” Tomcat did not understand this teaching, as the world seems very black-and-white to a thirteen year old boy. This depiction of the Jedi seemed real to me- they were not all perfect beings of light always upholding truth honour and the Jedi way. They were broken individuals, prone to weakness, arrogance, and human (or alien) frailty. It was this truth of the human condition, Jedi or not, that Tomcat could not reconcile in his mind, as for him, the term “Jedi” was synonymous with “perfect”.

The best aspect of Jedi vs. Sith though was Valenthyne Farfalla, and his ship the Farwind. What I find remarkable about Valenthyne Farfalla, is that even after being introduced to Star Wars canon nearly a decade ago, there is still no definite answer to his species. Wookieepedia lists Valenthyne’s species as “equine”, but as Leland Chee said: “that 'Equine' was not the species name. Rather, he considered all pointy-eared species to be derivations of the Sephi species”. Valenthyne has more than just “pointy-ears” however, and is the only character in the Star Wars pantheon to sport Satyr-type legs. I think it’s high time that the ‘powers-that-be’ at Lucasfilm write a backstory to Valenthyne’s species. I also thought it neat Valenthyne was a mixture of Elves, Satyrs, and Centaurs.

In his novel Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Drew Karpyshyn downplayed Valenthyne’s ships, not really providing for the reader a description of them. As it states on Wookieepedia.com, and I don’t know if this quote is reflects the whole truth or not, but Karpyshyn purposely did not include descriptions of Farfalla’s flagship: “In order to remove some of the fairytale characteristics of the original comic, Karpyshyn made no reference to the unusual design of the starships, instead referring to them as "gunships””. This leads credence to the idea that some fans thought the “fairytale” aspects of Jedi vs. Sith were a detriment to the story. After engaging with this source, and thoroughly enjoying it, I wish that Karpyshyn had described Farfalla’s ships as they appeared in the comics. The Farwind was totally awesome! I thought it original and unique, much like Lord Valenthyne himself. Moreover, as one looks into the history of the Farwind, starship build in a boat design are not completely unheard of in Star Wars. Take for example the Tof starship the Merriweather and the flagship of Reddjak the pirate, the Blood Brother. All of these ships have a unique and cool element to them.

Jedi vs. Sith does provide some complications with the correct chronology of events in the Star Wars universe, mostly centering upon exactly when Pernicar dies (or more accurately it was Karpyshyn’s novel which complicated matters). There are basically two different events described. Like I’ve stated in the past, I don’t lose too much sleep over these things, the important thing to note is that Pernicar did die, and his death and a great impact on Lord Hoth, which in turn adversely affected his relationship with Valenthyne – this is the important point to walk away with.

As an aside, I run the sci/fi club at my school, and the students in the club have asked me to run an RPG campaign. I told them I’d GM a Star Wars campaign for them (something I’ve never done), and this week they’re going to decide what era they want to play in. I’m going to offer them a pirate or smuggler focused campaign and see if it’s something they want to do. If they decide they do want to do it, I’m going to see how I can fit a Fairwind type ship into it somehow. I hope to run a totally awesome campaign this year.

For my next post I’m going to engage with the second book of the Bane trilogy, Darth Bane: Rule of Two. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. I think Jedi vs. Sith is one of the best SW comics ever written, from the depiction of the Jedi to Rain's story to the badassness of Bane. It did amuse me when Drew downplayed some of the more fantastical stuff in PoD for the benefit of readers who'd rather not engage their imaginations too much. "A magic-wielding 2-foot green muppet? Fine. But a guy with hooves for feet? That's just ridiculous!"