Tuesday, September 29, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Sith War.

This six issue comic series published by Darkhorse was action packed from beginning to end. In this series we reach the conclusion of the Ulic Qel-Droma / Exar Kun chronicle, and discover the fate of these two fallen Jedi.

The series opens with an introduction of the Mandalorian warriors. Realizing that the Tetan system has been weakened in its conflict with the Republic, the Mandalorian tribe strikes the system with the purposes of conquering.

The Mandalorians, in my opinion, are the coolest things about Star Wars, even cooler than the Jedi. There has been nearly endless ink spilled on the progenitor of the Mandalorian image, the character of Boba Fett, and all for good reason. The Mandalorians embody everything we love about the warrior spirit, and symbolize, in their entire essence, the ancient Greek notion of ‘arĂȘte’ - personal glory and excellence. Every Mandalorian is an Achilles: aggressive, intelligent, arrogant, and deadly in combat.

My character was a Mandalorian bounty hunter when I played Star Wars Galaxies. I remember spending endless evenings in the Death Watch bunker trying to get the parts for my character’s jet pack. I eventually put together a set of Mandalorian armor, along with a jetpack. I also had over 100 Jedi kills with my character, with over 40% of them being solo kills, which in my opinion was pretty impressive considering how powerfully unbalanced the Jedi character was to the other player characters. Unfortunately, Sony Online Entertainment ruined the game with its New Game Enhancements. I had so much fun hunting Jedi with my small guild of Jedi killers. I’m looking forward to the Old Republic MMO being produced by Bioware. Anyway, back to my reactions to The Sith War.

Upon entering the Tetan system, Mandalore the Great challenges Ulic to a duel. Ulic wins the fight, and in doing so unites the Mandalorians under his banner of leadership. Mandalore the Great becomes Ulic’s right hand man.

Meanwhile, Exar Kun made his way to Ossus in order to recruit Jedi to his cause, and surreptitiously convert them to the darkside. He lures recruits with the promise of ancient secrets reveled, but he makes sure never to couch his secrets in terms of Sith knowledge, or darkside workings. He was very careful to use the word ‘Jedi’ whenever he references the new knowledge he gained.

I found it strange that Exar Kun, being a Dark Lords of the Sith, was able to walk around the planet Ossus unimpeded, not arouse suspicion, and begin trying to actively recruit Jedi to his cause. But then again, Palpatine did the same for a very long time. The Jedi were not aware that Kun was the Dark Lord of the Sith the same way that the Jedi council was unaware of Palpatine’s connection to the darkside. It must be a darkside ability to be able to cloak your darkness from other force sensitive beings.

Kun’s path eventually leads him to Master Odan-Urr, and the real reason he traveled to Ossus – to collect for himself the old Jedi Master’s Sith holocron; the same holocron Odan-Urr retrieved from Naga Sadow’s ship. When the two meet, Kun reveals his true Sith identity, and takes the holocron by force from the old Master. Odan-Urr is killed in the exchange. But the manner in which his is killed is not depicted well. One panel shows Odan-Urr throwing Exar Kun back using the force, the next panel has Kun merely extending his hand to the old Master, and Urr simply withering away. I wish this particular scene had been dramatized a bit better. Be that as it may, the old Master was killed amongst his books and scrolls, as his own Master predicted millennia ago.

Kun manages to gain some darkside recruits, and grabs for the reader familiar Jedi to his cause, like Oss Wilum and Crado the Cathar. He takes them to Yavin 4, and there destroys the Sith holocron he stole. In the ensuing chaos of the holocron’s destruction, Wilum and the other Jedi become infected by the holocron’s broken shards, and are subsequently infected by the darkside. They then become the pupils of Kun.

Meanwhile, Ulic, Aleema, and Mandalore stage an attack on Coruscant in order to bring down the Republic’s government. They were almost successful, if not for treachery on the part of Aleema. Aleema fed Mandalore inaccurate information, which lead to the capture of Ulic at the hands of his former Jedi friends. It seems Aleema feared Ulic enough to want to put him out of the picture and give to herself full control of the Tetan system. Mandalore realizes Aleema’s treachery, and enlists the help of Exar Kun to rescue his captured sovereign.

Mandalore and Kun made their way back to Coruscant to free Ulic, where a showdown between Kun and his former Master Vodo-Siosok Bass ensued. Kun brandishes a double bladed lightsaber, reminiscent of the one featured by Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, and kills his old Master.

What I find interesting about this scene is the lack of red lightsabers brandished by the Sith. Kun sports a blue lightsaber, while Ulic carries a green one. Precedence for the red lightsaber has already been established by Jackson-Miller’s short stories, so I wonder at their absence here. I guess the simple answer is that Viech and Anderson did not feel that red sabers were necessary components to their villains. I think this idea also goes along with that fact that neither of these characters underwent a name change when they took on their Sith monikers. I suppose if a name change occurred the characters may have had a lightsaber change as well. Anyway, moving on with the story and my reactions…

After freeing Ulic, a brother vs. brother showdown occurs. Cay tells his brother he loves him, while Ulic answers Cay’s love with a slash from his saber, killing him. Ulic immediately regrets what he’s done, but Nomi Sunrider, in her inconsolable grief at the situation, curses Ulic with the most aggressive and powerful attack the lightside of the force has to offer. She strips from Ulic his force abilities, neutering his power. Odan-Urr taught Nomi this technique, warning her that it is a grave thing to take away a Jedi’s connection to the force, even a Jedi who had embraced the darkness. Left completely powerless, Ulic agrees to lead the Jedi to Exar Kun.

I found this scene extremely fascinating, and consider it the climax of the story. Prior to reading this I didn’t even know that a Jedi could strip another Jedi of his abilities, but what I find even more intriguing is that this is a lightside ability. Indeed, the light is powerful, powerful enough to envelope one in itself, completely cutting one off from the darkness, and even the Force. I agree with Odan-Urr, this is a freighting ability. I wonder if this ability is used again in Star Wars history.

Thousands of Jedi converge on Yavin 4 to defeat Exar Kun. Kun, realizing his defeat is at hand, retreats to his knowledge of the darkside. Kun then chains himself to one of the pillars at the bottom of his own temple, and here, leaves the material world and retreats to the spirit world. It seems Kun effused the temple with his being, leaving no corporeal remains behind, in an almost inverted type rapture.

While Kun prepared his spirit to leave the material world, the Jedi initiate a powerful lightside attack from orbit. Unfortunately, the attack was too powerful, and ended up setting fire to the planet. They knew they defeated Kun, but had to ask themselves, ‘at what cost?’

Two years later, Ulic, still without his Force abilities, visits the temple of Yavin 4 in search of a part of himself that has been lost. He enters the temple, but leaves it still feeling empty. The final frames of the story I found quite profound and sad. In the final pictorials of the Sith War, we see Exar Kun, surrounded by darkness, pleading Ulic to come back into the temple. He pleads with Ulic “It’s dark. I’m trapped. Don’t leave me!”, and ends with a pathetic ‘Ulic?”.

The Sith War was an awesome series, action packed from beginning to end. For my next post I’ll be going back to the source Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

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