Saturday, October 10, 2009

3986 BBY: Tales of the Jedi: Redemption

I’ve come to the conclusion that Kevin J. Anderson’s greatest artistic weakness is his inability to write dialogue. It seems that every time I come across a KJA piece in the Star Wars Chronology Project I’m consistently complaining about the same thing. It has come to the point that I’m beginning to dread his novels I’ll inevitably have to engage with down the line.

Redemption, by Kevin J. Anderson, was an interesting piece of Star Wars saga, but the story would have been better served in the hands of another writer.

Redemption chronicles the finals weeks of Ulic Qel-Droma’s life, and takes place in 3986 BBY, 10 years after the events of the Sith War. The story begins with Ulic being chauffeured around the galaxy by a pilot named Hoggon. We learn through the events of the story that Ulic is looking for a quite, uninhabited planet to die on. Hoggon first brings him to Yavin 4, but the memories are too painful for Ulic. The pilot then brings him to Rhen Var, an abandoned ice world the suits the fallen Jedi’s personality.

Making appearances once more in annuls of Star Wars are the famous Jedi, Master Thon, Nomi Sunrider, Sylvar, Tott Donetta, and Nomi’s now adolescent daughter, Vima.

A great Jedi council has been called by Nomi to remember the ten-year anniversary of the Sith War, to not forget the painful memories of the past, and to restore the Republic to its former glory. Vima is not impressed with her mother’s stature in the Jedi community, and has been feeling much maligned by her mother since Nomi is too busy with the responsibilities of leadership to begin her daughter’s training as a Jedi knight.

Vima takes it upon herself to find her own Jedi Master, and has her heart set on Ulic Qel-Droma, for she believes he’s not as bad as everyone thinks.

Using the Force to guide her, Vima hides on Hoggon’s ship, but the stowaway is quickly found by the pilot. Vima tells Hoggon she’s looking for Ulic Qel-Droma, and then shows him a holographic image of the former Jedi (an image she stole from her mother’s room). Hoggon confirms that he knows where Ulic is, and proceeds to take the girl to the fallen Jedi.

Once on Rhen Var, Vima finds Ulic, and convinces him to take her as his apprentice. Ulic protests, but if it was not for a recent visit from his former Master, Arca Jeth, Ulic may not have taken the girl has his learner. Before the girl arrived on the planet, Ulic came close to death. He was visited in spirit form by his old Master, telling him not to give up on life, and that there were still things he could do that were worthwhile. Vima was the answer to Ulic’s call for purpose.

Ulic and the girl form a quick bond, and although he is blind to the Force, he manages to teach the girl many things about the nature of the Force.

As Vima is being tutored by Ulic, Nomi is frantically searching the galaxy for her daughter. She is wrought with guilt at having neglected her daughter for so long, and promises that once she finds her, will devote more of her time to training her as a Jedi knight.

Nomi manages to track her daughter down to the planet Rhen Var, and once there comes face-to-face with Ulic again. Ulic tells Nomi that he has taught her daughter everything he can, and if Vima wishes, she may return home with her. Vima agrees, and leaves Rhen Var with her mother. The meeting between the almost lovers was uncomfortable at first, but ended amicably between them.

Unfortunately, Sylvar, the Cathar apprentice to Master Vodo Siosk Bas, with the help of the pilot Hoggon, also managed to track Ulic to Rhen Var, and once Nomi left, engaged the fallen Jedi in a lightsaber duel. Sylvar, still harboring anger toward Ulic for his involvement in the Sith War, but more importantly, still blaming Ulic for the death of her mate Crado, wants Ulic dead. It seems that the Cathar can only chose one mate for life, and once that mate is dead, they can marry no more. Throughout most of the issue, Sylvar is battling her own slip into the darkside because she carries so much anger and hate for Ulic. She feels he got off too easy, and should be rotting in prison for his role in the Sith War, or barring that, he should be dead.

Sylvar quickly bests Ulic in the duel, and knowing he cannot keep up his defenses for long, Ulic acquiesces to Sylvar’s onslaught, saying “I will not fight you”. Ulic de-ignites his lightsaber and stands’ waiting for Sylvar’s final cut. Sylvar comes close to killing the fallen Jedi, but stops her saber just short of his throat, knowing that a deathblow on her part would only signal her complete slide into the darkside. She realizes the irony of the situation, in that it took Ulic Qel-Droma, a former Dark Lord of the Sith, to teach her about not giving in to her anger, and indeed, letting go of her hatred.

The story ends with a surprising twist. Watching the drama unfold in the shadows, Hoggon, the pilot who brought Sylvar to Ulic, shoots and kills Ulic with his blaster, thinking he has taken out a wanted criminal for the Republic. He rejoices in his actions, only to have Sylvar nearly kill him. He thinks he is a hero, and can’t understand why the Jedi are so upset with him. Nomi and her daughter arrive on the scene too late, and Ulic dies in Nomi’s arms. He does not leave a body behind however; he simply becomes one with the Force, leaving behind his clothing and nothing more.

Although he fell to the darkside in dramatic fashion, Ulic Qel-Droma was indeed a Jedi Master.

This was a great story with excellent potential, but was held up by KJA’s inability to write effective dialogue.

There were three scenes in particular that really ground my gears.

The first scene in question was when Nomi Sunrider was listening to a speech given by Sylvar at the Jedi council. As Sylvar had the floor and was speaking against letting Ulic Qel-Droma run free in the galaxy, Nomi mused, out loud and in public: “Ulic, why did you leave me?” The fact that this was a question asked out loud in public made the scene, for me at least, seem very awkward. There were all kinds of ways to indicate Nomi’s pinning for Ulic, but a question such as this, asked openly, out loud, at a Jedi convention for all to hear does not seem like the way to do it. Nomi’s pinning heart could have been shown as a thought bubble, or even her simply regarding one of Ulic’s holographic images. This would have been enough to express to the reader that Nomi still has feelings for him. This piece of dialogue seemed un-necessary.

The next scene which contained shotty dialogue was when Vima hid herself on Hoggon’s ship. When the pilot discovered the stow-away, Vima revealed her plans to him, and asked him to help her find Ulic Qel-Droma. She then showed a holographic picture of the fallen Jedi to the pilot, to which he responded with “That’s Ulic?!” Vima responses with: “I sense you know something…” Well no shit he knows something, the idea that he knew something was clearly indicated in the way in which he asked the rhetorical question. There was no need to “sense” anything here. The picture of the pilot was even drawn with a look of shocked knowing. KJA is a crappy dialogue writer. He’s good at writing stories with the bigger picture in mind, but the details should be left to someone else.

My last bit of complaint with regards to this tale is the way in which Ulic’s face was drawn at the conclusion of his duel with Sylvar. As Sylvar’s saber halted at his throat, Ulic’s face was depicted way too smugly. There was a bit of a half-grin on his face, as if to say to Sylvar ‘I’d knew you’d stop”. What a jerkish way to react to a foe that had him clearly beat. What is more, the jerk half-grin on his face undercut the whole point of his refusing to fight. Ulic refused to fight not because he understood his opponent so well that he knew she’d stop, but because he had come to terms with his actions, as was giving his will entirely to the Force. His face should had been depicted has serene, with no emotion, not with a smug half grin. I feel like someone really dropped the ball on this.

All complaints aside, I enjoyed this story, as I felt it gave some closure to the Ulic/Nomi saga. Ultimately, I’m an unabashed Star Wars fan, and I’m going to like almost everything with regards to Star Wars history.

For my next post I’ll be moving on to the Knights of the Old Republic comic book series, which I’m very excited about. I have all of them up to issue 40, so I’ll be dealing with them in six Trade Paper Back series chunks, with some miscellaneous issues at the end. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. I actually thought Redemption was, by far, the best Tales of the Jedi story. KJA is a bad dialogue writer, that much is certain, but he really did strike out with this one. The story that made me actually like Ulic.

  2. I think I have to disagree with you there. My vote goes to Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon - good 'ol fashioned Star Wars swashbuckling there! I'm not saying I disliked Redemption, it was very cool, and like I said, I think it would have been way better served in the hands of another writer. I still think that there were too many spots in this comic that went too wrong.