Wednesday, December 30, 2009

3963 BBY: Vector Volume 1

KOTOR volume five (which is also Vectors volume one) was much more entertaining than KOTOR volume four. The story was action driven and moved at a good pace. Also, Marn Heiroglyph was more of a presence in this volume, and his comic relief, and comedic interaction with Zayne, is always welcomed.

KOTOR volume 5 featured many points of conversation, and some ‘firsts’ with regards to Star Wars chronology. My points of discussion for today’s post will centre upon the lineage of Zayne Carrick, the introduction of Jedi shadows, the character of Celeste Morne, the ancient Sith Lord Karness Murr, Neo-Crusader armor, the naivety of Zayne Carrick, and Darktimes volume three.

With regards to my first point, the cover of Vectors volume one features Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker), Luke Skywalker, what appears to be Cade Skywalker, and Zayne Carrick (there is also a scene in the comic with the four of them appearing together in a vision held by Q’anilia, one of the Jedi consulars) Three of the four characters mentioned here are of the same bloodline, the one that is the obvious question mark is Zayne Carrick. Now, if it was mentioned somewhere in all the sources I’ve read thus far for the SWCP that Zayne is somehow a progenitor of the Skywalker family tree, then that point of vital importance managed to slip by me. I’m not sure that he is. If Zayne is in any way linked to the Skywalkers as a great-grandfather, then he would have to be the great-grandfather (to the power of who knows) of Shmi Skywalker, Anakin’s mother, for reasons obvious to any fan of the movies. Shmi’s lineage, (as far as I know, yet I haven’t looked at Wookieepedia) is not elucidated, so the chance of Zayne being her ancestor is a possibility. If this is the case, I find that very interesting. I think Zayne being a predecessor of Luke is pretty cool.

Secondly, this is the first time in Star Wars chronology the idea of Jedi shadows is given a spotlight. Jedi shadows were mentioned in some of the earlier sources, in and around 5000 BBY, before the breakout of the Sith war, but there was never really any ink spilled about them. They were mentioned with regards to the Star Wars RPG. Jedi shadow was a playable class for a campaign set in 5000 BBY, and any back story about Jedi shadows were contained in the character write-up. Anyway, I always wanted to play a Jedi shadow if I were to even participate in a campaign set in that era. The idea of the lone soldier of light, seeking out and destroying the dark always appealed to me. Oddly enough, it was this kind of idea that attracted me to the notion of becoming a priest when I was in high school. The movie The Exorcist both frightened and spoke to me, because I liked the heroic depiction of the priest in that movie – the lone soldier of light facing off against the terrible forces of darkness. This, to me, was the Jedi shadow.
In KOTOR volume 5, Lucien Draay turns to his network of Jedi shadows to continue his hunt for Zayne Carrick. Shadows, he says, were once Jedi who have had their identities erased. They now work for the Covenant, seeking out and destroying any sign or memory of the Sith. As Lucien is deciding which shadow he needs to call upon he pulls up a screen of the possible shadow candidates at his disposal. What struck me in this particular scene was the plethora of shadows he had to choose from. There were no less than 30 possible operatives he could call. One of them was even of the Kamino species, which struck me as slightly anti-canonical (however, I’m sure there is a reason why such a possibility is not anti-canonical). He eventually settles upon shadow by the name of Celeste Morne, due to her proximity to Zayne.

When speaking of Celeste, Feln, the Feeorin Sage Master and one of the five Masters responsible for assassinating the padawans, says of the shadow that she: “Destroyed the last copy of the epistle of Marka Ragnos, retrieved Jori Daragon’s amulet and the eye of Horak-Mul”. When speaking of Celeste’s exploits Feln talks in awe of her accomplishments. This description of her endeavors only furthers the notion for me that Jedi Shadow are tremendously cool.

Even though Celeste is responsible for destroying or making safe Sith artifacts, there are still many Sith trinkets in existence to disturb the balance of the Force. One such trinket is the Murr talisman, which belonged to Karness Murr, an ancient Sith Lord who enters Star Wars chronology for the first time. At this point in Star Wars chronology his origins are not made precisely clear. What I did find intriguing though, was at the beginning of the story; Karness Murr was seen standing in front of another Sith with a red lightsaber, implying the Rule of Two, one master and one apprentice.

As the story progresses, the Murr talisman releases the Rakghoul plague on the Mandalorian forces, transforming the Mandalorian warriors into rakghouls – spiked creatures with large teeth. Not only are these creatures powerful, but now that they have transformed the Mandalorian warriors, they are now more intelligent, and armored. As Celeste is attempting to dispatch these creatures, her saber bounces off the neo-crusader armor of the transformed Mandalorian warriors. I was impressed with the strength of this armor, as I was under the impression that a saber could cut through Mandalorian armor as other armors. But I remember reading somewhere that Mandalorian armor contained a special metal in it that was impervious to lightsaber strikes, which explains why the Mandalorain forces could give the Jedi they encountered a run for their money in combat. A Jedi’s saber strikes would have to be well placed indeed to stop a fully trained and armored Mandalorian warrior.

As I’m reading the KOTOR series, I like more and more the character of Zayne Carrick. What I like about him the most is his consistent ethic of life, and his absolute trust in the Force. He was truly grieved when the Mandalorian forces nuked the planet of Serroco, nearly wiping out its indigenous inhabitants. He also attempted the warn Cassius Fett of the Rakghoul plague. When Fett questioned him on his motives, wondering why Zayne would attempt to help the Mandalorian forces, Zayne replied with: “You’re people”.

Celeste, under the orders of Lucien Draay, is commanded to kill Zayne at her first opportunity. As Zayne is kneeling over a transmissions device, attempting to contact Cassius Fett, Celeste is given her opportunity for assassination. With his back turned to her, completely pre-occupied with his task, Zayne fails to notice Celeste raise her saber, only to drop it again as her conscious gets the better of her. Zayne’s naivety in this circumstance saves him, as Celeste understands that naivety is a trait that is lost to one who has lost themselves to the darkside of the Force.

My final point of discussion and observation with KOTOR volume 5 is that it is actually a cross-over comic titled Darktimes volume three. The fate of Celeste Morn and the Murr talisman is continued four thousand years in the future, where she crosses paths with Darth Vader. I look forward to examining the continuation of this story, but as it is, I won’t be getting to that segment for quite some time.

For my next post I’ll be discussing KOTOR volume six. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, December 21, 2009

3963 BBY: Interference

Interference is a short story by Jackson-Miller that takes place between volumes four and five of the KOTOR series. It is about a Republic captain littering the communication frequencies of the Mandalorian foot soldiers with stories of the greatness of the Republic. His messages are meant as taunts to the Mandalorian forces. The transmissions are directed at the regular rank-and-file of the Mandalorian army, and Captain Goodvalor, the author of the helmet-comm hijackings, tells the Mando’ade foot soldiers of Mandalorian converts to the Republic, and questions the motivations of their leader “Mandalore the Great”. Captain Goodvalor argues that Mandalore fights only for ego, and is essentially throwing away the lives of the regular warriors of the Mando’ade.

As the story progresses, the Mandalorian foot-soldiers are told to ignore the “interference” on their helmet channels, while Sornell (presumably a Mandalorian leader, and counter to the transmissions of Captain Goodvalor), tracks the location of the hijacked transmissions. He eventually finds it, only to discover that "Captain Goodvalor of the Republic” has fled his uni-bomber style shack.

The story ends with “Captain Goodvalor of the Republic” offering the Mandalorians a peace settlement, and the Mandalorians rejecting it.

The story is rather short and only really establishes one thing: that the Mandalorians really don’t understand the motivation and combat tactics of the Republic (and consequently, don’t respect the Republic as an adversary), and the Republic is under-estimating the Mandalorians as an enemy.

I really didn’t enjoy this story much. Even though I think I’m fairly knowledgeable about the events of the KOTOR series, this story left me feeling like I was somehow out of the loop.

I actually found this story rather baffling. I’m trying to figure out its purpose. I’m hoping that the function of this story plays an important role in the larger narrative of the KOTOR series down the line, otherwise it’ll seem just like much ado about nothing.

On a side note, I’ve decided to deal with the Xim material in its own post, when I’m finished with the KOTOR comic series, and before I start the KOTOR video game.

So, for my next post I’ll be examining Vectors, book one, which is actually book five of the KOTOR series (confused yet?). Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

3963 BBY: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 4: Daze of Hate, Knights of Suffering

With this being the last day of classes before Christmas, and things slowing down at school, I wanted to get a post in before the madness of the holiday season, and my two week “vacation” (where it seems I actually become even busier, and grow even more tired)

I wanted to make a post about Xim week, and the recent stories released on hyperspace which, by virtue of their in-universe dates, makes them the earliest pieces of Star Wars history, but I’m still struggling with how I’m going to fit them into this project. I commented to Plaristes that I would post a write-up about them in a comment field from one of my earliest posts, but I just might give them a post on their own – but I don’t know. I haven’t quite figured out why to do with them. So, until I do, I’m going to continue down the road of Star Wars chronology.

There are five areas I want to comment on with regards to KOTOR volume 4, the first being the change in artistic style.

Firstly, I enjoyed the earlier artwork of the KOTOR series, and I missed it in the first half of this trade paperback. I did not really enjoy the art of Bong Dazo in the first half of this book, but he did the pencils in the second half and the change in style was dramatic – which basically confused me. I’m not sure what was trying to be achieved here, but the “cartoony” artwork at the beginning took away from my enjoyment of the story. The art in the second-half of the book seemed more crisp, and by extension, so did the story. Crazy observation, I know. What I’m trying to say is this: I did not like the artwork at the beginning of this story, and I’m glad it stopped.

Secondly, Mandalore the Great seemed a little less like a warrior in this volume, and a little more like a conniving politician. I’m sure that this was Miller’s intent here, as he’s probably setting up Mandalore for a fall and an accusation from one of his underlings as “going soft”. His line on Politics being another form of warfare seemed very un-Mandalorian to me. Admiral Krath of the Republic calls him out on this, to which Mandalore replies: “Politics is simply the continuation of war by other means”. Very Machiavelli of him, I thought. I also think that Machiavelli, though the quintessential Renaissance man, was a bit of a wuss.

Lucien Draay continues to be a villain I miss when he is not in the story, and I always welcome his return. Through the events of the story, Lucien Draay finds himself tied, literally, to his former padawan Zayne Carrick. I enjoyed the dialogue between the two in this scene. What I most liked was Lucien’s ability to quickly spot the darkness in others, yet fails to see his own. As the two Jedi are tied together, Lucien says to Zayne: “Look at yourself, just now. Your fear led to anger. Anger to hate. You know what’s next”. Zayne replies with: “No thanks. You can keep the darkside yourself”. Lucien’s response is telling of his blindness: “Why would I be exposed to the darkside?...”. He does not even question his actions. What is more, later in the tale, as Zayne and Onasi realize they must save Jarael from Adsca, Lucien replies with: “Ah. We wouldn’t have to save her, then. We’ll just kill her.” This takes Zayne and Onasi aback. Jarael’s murder, for Lucien, would solve a lot of complications. He offers her death very matter-of-factly. Lucien continues to be such a compelling character because he does not realize the depth of his own darkness, and actually confuses it for light.

My one critique of this volume, and indeed with much of Star Wars dialogue, is the inclusion of modern colloquialisms. Camper, when speaking of Zayne, says to Jarael, “He’s good people”. This, or course, is what someone would say of a friend in modern day North America circa 2008. I’m waiting for some Star Wars writer to include in his or her dialogue ‘fo’ shizzle my nizzle’, or ‘that’s what she said!’. I truly hate it when a writer can’t place themselves outside of their own language context. It shows a lack of creativity, and a lack of nuanced understanding of the universe they are dealing with.

Lastly, I enjoyed the death of Jedi Master Ranna at the hands of Shel, and then subsequently, Marn. I always enjoy it when the villain gets his (or her) comeuppance.

For my next post I’ll most likely engage with the hyperspace exclusive Interference, or, I might circle back to a new, and earlier Star Wars source, and engage with the Despotica. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

3963 BBY: Kights of the Old Republic Volume 3: Nights of Fear, Days of Anger

I was lying in bed in late July when the full idea of the Star Wars Chronology Project came to me.
I had always wanted to read everything Star Wars, but the idea of making it a “PhD”, and blogging about my journey was the novel element to this scheme. As I was lying in bed I thought, ‘I’m sure there are people out there who have already done want I want to do. I’m also sure there are people out there who have already read everything with a Star Wars title on it. But how can their claims be verified?’ (And by ‘people’ I meant people like me, regular fans, and not folk like Leland Chee or Sue Rostoni or other epic Star Wars writers like Timothy Zahn) That’s when I decided to document my journey by bringing it into the public realm and going online with my quest.

Blogging about my little Star Wars project became a necessary component for me in order to show to my fellow fans that I have, in fact, completed what I set out to do, and I can verify through the written word that I have engaged with every text, game, or other such Star Wars media. I also felt this was necessary to do because other fans could guide, correct, agree, or otherwise discuss in a living document my reactions and findings.

Lately I’ve been lax about my updates. There are a lot of reasons for this, reasons I alluded to in my last post. Work is rather hectic right now, and my family is very important to me, and therefore both require a great deal of my attention. But I’ve neglected to take advantage of the small moments that did crop up in my life where I could further my project. I realized why this was:

Summarization is boring.

I read volume three of the KOTOR series, and I was hesitating on writing my post because I simply did not feel like summarizing the story. To be frank, summarizing narrative is boring to write, and even more boring to read. Yet I feel that some summarization is necessary for this project to demonstrate to my fellow Star Wars fans that I’m not just making stuff up, or reading synopsis on wookieepedia. At some point in my posts I’m going to have to demonstrate some familiarity with the text to prove I actually have read the book, or comic, or whatever the media is I’m looking at.

I’m not sure how I got caught up in the summarization wheel, but for the remainder of this series I’m going to do less summarization, and more commenting on particular scenes I found of interest. What is more, I realized that the KOTOR series is basically one long narrative that is broken up into volumed chunks, and I’m going to have to approach this series the same way I’ll have to approach a long narrative like a book. I really don’t expect that anyone is going to want to read my summarizations of an entire book, and summarizing a book without losing clarity of focus is difficult. Consequently, I’ll simply choose three or four, or for longer stories, five scenes that jump out at me, and comment on them alone.

KOTOR volume three, ‘Nights of Fear, Days of Anger’ was a good read with three scenes I want to comment on. The first being the new Trandoshan character, the second being Zayne’s vision, and the third being Jarael and Camper’s storyline.

Jackson-Miller infuses the KOTOR series with just the right amount of humor. At the beginning of volume three Marn and Zayne find a third member to add to their twosome and in doing so add some comic relief.

The Trandoshan character of Slyssk, a clumsy and na├»ve ship thief, finds himself life-debted to Marn after a ruse concocted by Zayne went awry. The two were hoping that because Marn “saved” Slyssk’s life, the Trandoshan would owe Marn a life debt, and that would excuse the cost of the stolen ship. It did, but in return Marn and Zayne were now saddled with an approval starved, friend hungry, self-esteem lacking Trandoshan. After a while his company is, of course, welcomed.

I found Zayne’s vision of the destruction of the settlements on Serroco interesting and telling, as more insight was provided into the mind of the Mandalorian collective. I was a little surprised with the ruthlessness of the Mandalorian military in its devastating use of nuclear attacks to prove its point, and force the Republic to engage with it on its terms. I also enjoyed the part when Zayne, like a true Old Testament prophet, was attempting to warn Admiral Krath of the impending doom, and Krath, like a true Pharisee, not heading the warnings.

I love it when the prophet of doom is vindicated.

Lastly, I found the story line of Jarael and Camper a little dull. I only read through those parts hoping to get back to the conflict of Zayne and the five Jedi Masters. The inclusion of the giant space worms at the end of the story was pretty cool though. I look forward to seeing that little bit of the story re-tied into the larger narrative.

I have picked up the project once more. I just need to dedicate some time to myself more often, and do what I love to do.

For my next post I’ll be moving on to KOTOR volume four, “Daze of Hate, Knights of Suffering”, and until then my friends, may the force be with you.