Friday, October 9, 2009

3993 BBY: Shadows and Light

There is no death; there is only the Force.

These are the opening words to the story Shadows and Light found within the pages of Star Wars Tales volume 6. Written by Joshua Ortega, and drawn by Dustin Weaver, this narrative takes place three years after the war of Exar Kun, and concerns three Jedi knights: Duron Qel-Droma, Shaela Nuur, and the twi’lek Guun Han Saresh.

For such a short narrative (only 20 comic book pages in length) there is much I want to comment on with regards to this particular Star Wars fable. But before I do, I want to quickly summarize the goings-on in this story.
As I said earlier, this tale takes place three years after the war of Exar Kun, otherwise known as the Sith war. The story begins in a cave on an unknown planet with four Jedi knights: Duron Qel-Droma, Shaela Nuur, Guun Han Saresh, and a forth Jedi known as Cale. These Jedi are hunting Terentatek, which are feral beats that eat “Force blood”.

The opening boxes of the comic depict Cale about to be devoured by one of the beasts, where he utters the words: “there is no death; there is only the Force”, as his shattered lightsaber lay by his side. Truly Jedi of him, I thought. The beast is quickly distracted by Duron, and killed by Shaela. The Jedi make their way back to their ship with what appears to be a fallen comrade.

A week later Duron, Shaela, and Gunn find themselves on Dantooine accepting another mission from the Jedi council. There are asked to go to Korriban, the seat of Sith power, to continue “The Great Hunt” there. “The Great Hunt” we learn, is an annual event spearheaded by the Jedi council to hunt down and kill the Terentatek, animals which ‘eat force blood’ and therefore presumably affect the ranks of the Jedi knights.

There is some disquieting concern about sending Jedi to Korriban to continue the hunt, due to the fact that the planet itself is very corrupting to Jedi. What is more, there is even more concern about sending a ‘Qel-Droma’ to Koribaan, knowing the fate of Ulic and his fall to the darkside.
The relationship between Duron Qel-Droma and Ulic Qel-Droma is never explored in the text, but for some reason I get the impression that they're cousins.

The three Jedi accept the mission, and spend their first week on Korriban collecting data on the Terentatek. The concerns of the other Jedi were not unfounded however, as the three companions find that they are being negatively affected by the environment. Guun Han is sleeping around with students of the Sith to gain information, while Duron and Shaela are having trouble containing their passion for one another.

Things come to a head for the three when Guun Han finds Duron and Shaela in an amorous act. Guun then tells the two that he can no longer work with them if they cannot control their feelings for each other. His own behavior is questioned by Shaela, as Guun replies with “you think I enjoy this?!?” As it is, Guun left the two lovers and made his way to Kashyyyk, where he intended to hunt some larger prey. Unfortunately, Guun Han was killed by a large beast.

Meanwhile, back on Korriban, Duron and Shaela found a Terentatek and engaged the beast in combat. Unfortunately, the beast got the better of the two, and killed Duron. Shaela, stricken by grief, and falling prey to her anger and rage, and in her desire for revenge, began to fall to the darkside of the Force.

The story ends with the words of Master Ood Bnar, Shaela’s Jedi teacher, telling Shaela to cling to the light – always.

Dustin Weaver does an excellent job with the art in this story. Of all the Star Wars comics I’ve encountered thus far, I enjoyed Weaver’s work the most. I thought the golden lightsaber held by Shaela was a nice touch. Though I know Weaver didn’t have much to do with that, it was refreshing to see a saber that wasn’t green, blue, or red. The golden saber also played a significant role to the character of Shaela, as the crystal which made the blade was a rare one given to her from her Master.

I found a particular scene at the beginning of this story telling to the character of Han Guun. As the four Jedi are leaving the planet the tale starts on, Guun is floating what appears to be a dead body back to the ship (perhaps it is a 5th Jedi companion?). This reminded me of the story Light and Shadow from the Star Wars Adventure Journal. In that narrative, the Jedi protagonist made a comment that the Sith constantly rely on the Force to do everything for them, even manual labour. The Jedi then describes a Sith Lord, weak and atrophied from doing no moving himself, sitting upon a throne moving things with his mind. I’m not sure if the scene of Gunn floating the body was drawn like that on purpose, but it seemed to me that such behavior, floating the body instead of carrying it using the sweat of one’s brow, was unbecoming of a Jedi. I also got the impression that Guun had dark tendencies. There was one scene in particular where is eyes were drawn red. Again, I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or by accident.

As the three Jedi are collecting data on Korriban, there is talk between Duron and Shaela of infiltrating the Sith academy. I found this fascinating because I had to ask myself ‘when did this happen?!?’ Apparently the foundation of a Sith academy happened in the three years after the Sith War, and part of the trials of being a student at the academy is to kill an innocent person. Many questions come to mind regarding the academy’s establishment. Who established it? When was it established? How long has Dreshdae been a settlement on Korriban? It seems to me that the Jedi council is aware of this academy, so this must be the result of the fallout after the war of Exar Kun.

Though I enjoyed this story, I do have some problems with its basic premise. Jedi are collected and sent out by the council to kill. Granted, the creatures they are killing are ones which are aggressive and ‘eat Force blood’, but I wonder if this is enough justification to take aggressive action against what Duron Qel-Droma considers a semi-sentient creature. Even he has problems with what the Jedi council have asked of him: “I don’t want to kill anymore, Shaela. I’m sick of killing. I’m sick of hunting. I’m sick of the blood”. Master Yoda himself says (to paraphrase him) ‘the force is meant for defense, never attack’. ‘The Great Hunt’, to me, seems a like a great hypocrisy found within the Jedi council. No one on the council bats an eye as to whether or not what they are doing is wrong. It seems genocide of these animals is socially acceptable. I could go on and argue that animals, if this is what these creatures are, are incapable of evil. Or if they are not animals but semi-intelligent creatures, should a group of people so matter-of-factly engage in their genocide?

Questions of genocide aside, the big topic of discussion with regards to this tale is the prohibition of Jedi relationships. It is the first time in Star Wars chronology that prohibition of Jedi relationship, and with that, marriage, is mentioned. As Guun Han walked in on Duron and Shaela kissing he grew very agitated with their actions: “Jedi do not behave like this. We do not form attachments. We protect a way of life that we can never have – that is our sacrifice. ‘There is no passion, there is serenity’ – sound familiar?”

So, in the three years following the Sith War, the Jedi council prohibited Jedi engaging in relationships of a “passionate” nature. What is more, it seems that this prohibition on attachments has worked itself into the Jedi code, because prior to this, even as far as a few years before, Jedi marriage and relationships was not something to be shocked about. This proscription was also alluded to in the hyperspace story Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Praji, when, speaking of members of the Praji family it was noted: “By marrying a few sons to daughters of the Draay family, the Prajii even produced Jedi Knights with their surname, the first since the Rianitus Period, although this branch went extinct after the modern marriage proscriptions were enacted following the Exar Kun War” (pg 4).

This is also the first time in Star Wars chronology that the Jedi code itself was quoted. As of yet, the code has not been etched in source text (non RPG sourcebook material).

Though I support the idea that Jedi should remain unmarried, I myself find a certain weakness in this part of the code. Are all male/female relationships “passionate”? Are there not some relationships that involve love between a man and a woman less about passion and more about serenity? Are there not relationships where the friendship comes first, and the passionate side of love works in the background of the relationship, flaring when needed, and cooling when needed? Can not a Jedi love, and keep the passion to a minimum? Should it not be that Jedi love more with Agape love, and less with Eros love?

I think Jedi are commanded to love, and I also think passion is not love. The Romans used to describe passionate love as a wild fire consuming wheat. This was not meant to be a positive description, as wheat was a staple for food, and ultimately for life. If the fire is destroying life, and consuming everything before it, how can it be a good thing? Passionate love can become distracting, it could make one not eat, not sleep, and feel ‘love-sick’. This is not the result of love; this is the result of passion.

For my next post I’ll be examining the five comic series Redemption by Dark Horse. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

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