Thursday, November 18, 2010

1032 BBY: Knight Errant: Influx

After a successful run with the Knights of the Old Republic comic series, JJM has taken another kick at the comic medium, and has given Star Wars fans a new series that further explores the wide wide world of Star Wars. Set a generation before the events of the Bane trilogy, Knight Errant tells the story of Kerra Holt, and newly minted Jedi Knight bent on challenging the evils of the universe.

The first narrative in this new story arc is Influx, a short story written by JJM which is available at Hyperspace. It tells the story of Kerra’s first mission into Sith space where she accompanies the titans of the Jedi Order on a mission to disrupt the war machine of Daiman –a Sith Lord who believes he is the creator of the universe.

What caught my notice in this particular piece was the readiness of the Jedi to kill, the mention of Chancellor Genarra, and the addition to this story – the Knight Errant Essential Atlas Gazetteer, written by Dan Wallace, Jason Fry, and JJM.

Firstly, what grabbed my attention at the beginning of this story was the readiness of the Jedi to cut down their enemies. When Holt and Treece’s plans for subterfuge had gone awry they immediately turned to their lightsabers to deal with the situation. Initially, the Jedi did try to deal with the Sith in a humane manner, as is shown by Kerra Holt’s attempted mind trick, but when her trick didn’t work, it was straight to the Jedi handing out death sentences against the Sith. The Jedi’s action can still be defendable in that when the mind trick failed the Sith immediately set upon them with the intent to kill, but when the situation took a turn for the worse, where were the Jedi’s temperance? Did any of them think that perhaps what they were doing was wrong, or perhaps there was another avenue to explore before it went straight to killing?

I know Jedi try their best to hold up the ideal but it seems that the Jedi in this story are too comfortable with the notion of bringing their lightsabers in to bear. Did the Jedi on this mission explore every avenue to avoid a death filled outcome, or did convenience (it is simply better to kill them rather than tie them up) – not their moral imperatives – guide their actions?
As I read this I wondered why there wasn’t a back-up plan should the mind-trick fail? Even more, why wasn’t the mind-trick attempted by Master Treece, one presumably more versed in such a passive and usually effective tactic? Wouldn’t the Jedi want to avoid the needless loss of life, I wondered? But I think this was the point which I had missed. After I read the story I realized that I wasn’t dealing with Jedi I as fan of the movies was familiar with. Nor was I dealing with Jedi who took to heart a philosophy of non-violence proffered by luminaries like Master Yoda. I quickly realized I was dealing with a different type of Jedi in this story – I was dealing with Jedi hardened by war, Jedi who have to look past moral imperatives and righteous absolutes in order to get the job done and restore peace in the galaxy. In short – Jedi who believe that ‘the ends justify the means’.

If this was my first dance with JJM, I’d label him as a poor writer and say he doesn’t know what it means to be a Jedi, and point to this opening scene. But this isn’t my first dance with JJM, and I know better. I learned my lesson with the whole Rohland/Demigol story-line. JJM understands exactly what it means to be a Jedi, and I think this story, Influx, is setting up the overall theme of the Knight Errant arc - that a Jedi – in the purest understanding of the word - is not one who cuts corners or only takes the easy way out, as it seems the first group of Jedi we met in this story did. I’ve come to realize JJM knows what he’s doing, and I think he’s going to show his audience what being a morally ambiguous Jedi leads to, not only for the individual Knight (possibly Kerra), but possibly for the Order as a whole as well.

With that being said though, I don’t want to label Kerra with the “morally ambiguous” label, as we’ve only been introduced to her and it is my hope that she emulates the classical traits of a hero. But I was a little shocked at her callous consideration of the slain crew chief: “Hair dripping, the girl knelt over the dead crew chief's body. "'Little missy?' Is that how Sith swear these days?” There is no remorse in her words. She is irritated that she was insulted by a Sith. She is not kneeling over the body to show repentance for her actions – to look at the face of a fellow being and consider the gravity of her choices. Kerra, it seems, is already hardened by war.
Miller sets up this ‘act first and consider your actions second’ attitude amongst the Jedi in describing for us how they are being trained during this time period. As he explains of Kerra’s training, she never had time for ‘tradition’ on her path to Knighthood: “Dorivan liked tradition, but Kerra never had time for the trappings” – in this instance Kerra sounds like Bane’s adversaries when the future Dark Lord was at the academy. Bane’s adversaries never had time for tradition. Instead they wanted to fast-track their skills at the feet of a Sith Lord. Unlike Bane who spent the time researching and discovering his Sith heritage. I think this introduction to our new Star Wars heroine is interesting, as it seems like her actions and her training was quicker, easier, and more seductive. It seems she was trained to get immediate results and to dismiss the purpose of the journey involved in training and learning and growing as a Knight.

Continuing in this line of thought, JJM writes: “trying to learn the skills the Jedi could teach her as quickly as possible – it was the better path” or is it? JJM continues: “A lot of the regular ways of doing things had changed by necessity in recent times. With Knights needed at the front, there simply weren't enough teachers to go around; Padawans tended to apprentice for short periods under whoever was available.” I think maybe that JJM is showing that this ‘learning as quickly as possible because we’re at war’ theme is how all Jedi are behaving in this period, and maybe JJM is going to show us exactly how difficult it is to be a Jedi, and how difficult it is to carry the moral ideals that such a title and responsibility holds.

Moving on to my next point, I thought the mention of chancellor Genarra – a female Jedi chancellor – very cool. Again, this ties in to the Bane trilogy and the character of Farfalla. It was assumed that after the Russan Reformations that Farfalla would naturally take the role of chancellor of the Republic, but in that particular text it mentioned that the role had gone to a non-Jedi, breaking with four-hundred years of tradition. We are lead to believe in the Bane trilogy that this break was surprising, and in my post regarding that text I spilled much ink on the notion of Jedi chancellors. I also looked into the history of chancellors of the Republic and was shocked to find that one of the Republic’s greatest chancellors was a Hutt. Needless to say, I was fairly excited when Genarra was mentioned. Firstly because I think this is the first time in Star Wars history that there is mention of a female chancellor, and secondly, this mention shed light on the topic of chancellorship and further flushed out some of the history of this role. I wonder how old she is, and if maybe she’s another older woman portrayed in a positive light, like the older woman who appeared in the Exar Kun timeline (for a further explanation of what I’m talking about here see my post on the Kun timeline).

I also thought it interesting that in talking about the chancellor, Dorivan referenced the Jedi role of consular as an uncommon choice among the recruits of the day. Dorivan brings this up as he asks Kerra if she would follow that particular path of Jedi wisdom.

Taking into account the role of a Jedi counselor, a counselor is one who: “sought to perfect the art of diplomacy and mediation, hoping to calm a tense situation or mend hurt feelings through civil discourse, reasoning, and parley, rather than drawing their lightsabers and cutting down an attacker” (definition of Jedi counselor on wookieepedia) it’s no wonder that this particular form of Jedi mastery is nowhere to be found. Who needs a bunch of reasoned diplomats in a time of war? It seems that in 1032 BBY most Jedi recruits pursue the role of Jedi Guardian – the warriors of the Jedi Order.

As it is, I enjoyed the first story of this particular narrative, and I’m now looking forward to picking up my copies of the Knight Errant comic at my local comic shop this weekend.

But the Knight Errant material available on Hyperspace does not end there. Last week we were treated to a supplementary piece of material that further flushed out the backstory of Influx: the Knight Errant Essential Atlas Gazetteer. This, however, isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with material in the style of the Essential Atlas. My first encounter with this particular style of Star Wars material came in the collection of Xim stories from last year. The text I engaged with at that time was a piece titled Xim and the Tion Cluster. There, Fry delineated the galactic history of the Tion cluster and how the Pirate Prince Xim affected historic events in that particular space in the galaxy. Likewise, in this particular piece, Fry, Wallace, and Miller give a picture of the area of space Holt and the Jedi strike team are heading to, along with a preface written by Master Treece to chancellor Genarra about the history of the Sith in that region.

What I love about Fry and Wallace’s work in these bits of Star Wars chronology are what Plaristes refers to as their ‘throw away lines’. Take for example their excerpt on the planet Sarrassia: “The religious war that has devastated Sarrassia since the rule of Chancellor Am-Ris is reportedly at an end under the rule of Lord Bactra, who has kept the Grumani Hierophants in check and barred Spumani Crusaders from pursuing their typically sanguinary quests.” This piece of text is absolutely pregnant with Star Wars history. Where does one even begin to engage with this? With an investigation into chancellor Am-Ris? With Lord Bactra? With the Grumani Hierophants? Or perhaps maybe with the Spumani Crusaders? What’s a lover of Star Wars history to do when faced with such extreme sub-text?

I also enjoyed this particular bit because it reminded me of our own real-world events. Attempting to stop the sectarian violence ravaging Sarrassia, Lord Bactra placed the planet under his dictator thumb, subduing needless conflict which interfered with his own plans of dominion. In this line I couldn’t help but think of Saddam Hussein, and how during his reign he managed to keep the bloodshed amongst the Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims to a minimum. That’s not to say he didn’t exact some bloodshed of his own, but he did manage to quell the sectarian violence in Iraq. Hussein – a minor Sith Lord indeed.

The last bit of the Gazetteer was by far my most favourite. The Children of Mani post-script was completely awesome to a theology academic like me. I’ve placed a special note on this bit of information, as I hope to use this passage and its implications in my own Star Wars writing eventually.

I look forward to examining the Essential Atlas when I get to in, and with regards to the Star Wars Chronology Project, it will be the last source I engage with.

On a personal note, it might be a while before I post again. My wife is seven months pregnant with our second child (another boy) and unfortunately this pregnancy has been hard on her. Her doctor has placed her on bed rest which means all household duties are now my sole responsibility. This, as you can imagine, has made my life very busy. I try to complete all my daily tasks with joy in my heart, but these last few weeks have become very wearisome for me. I still try to find pockets of time to continue with my Star Wars quest, but in doing so, I’m taking away precious time from other tasks I should be fulfilling. But still, if I didn’t have this little project of mine I’d fear my life would be totally devoid of “me” time. As it is, I’m not sure when I’ll post again.

With that being said however, my next post (whenever I’m able to get to it) will be on the Knight Errant comic material. As I said earlier I’m heading to the comic shop this weekend and I’ve placed myself on a monthly subscription. I’ll engage with as many issues as I can, and then move on in the project to Tales #17, The Apprentice. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. Congratulations on your second child! You're not thinking of naming him Xim or Ulic, are you? (Zayne's not too bad, though.)
    About the Knight Errant comic, would it make more sense to wait until each story arc (presumably five issues or so) is finished to review it?
    Also, I thought I remembered you said you had a copy of Dan Wallace's The Jedi Path. If so, that would be the next chronological item you could cover (and as is typical for Dan, it's outstanding).

  2. Yeah, I'll be going over Jedi Path when I'm done with the Knight Errant stuff. On my drive home tonight I was going over the post in my head and I couldn't shake the feeling that I had missed something. Then the light went off in my head and I remembered Dan's book.

    Xim or Ulic?...Classic! That'd be awesome. But Nah, we're keeping it simple and biblical.

  3. Are you planning to write a post about the Old Republic's Cinematic Trailers (Hope and Deceived)? They are in the same group as Timeline Trailers, they are part of the game's merchandise but not part of the game itself.

  4. Though I didn't deal with the cinematic trailer Deceived directly, I did talk about it in my post on Threat of Peace.

    I haven't dealt with the Hope trailer (which was awesome) because during that time period I wasn't sure exactly how to engage with it, as it didn't have an actual in-universe date. I think as of now I'll leave it be, though I probably should have dealt the trailers more directly.

    Both trailers blew me away, and I’ve watched them both several times. My favourite between the two is the Deceived trailer.

    As fans we can only hope that the developers at TOR will keep producing these awesome bits of cinema.

  5. Yes, they were both very awesome, especially Deceived. For Hope there still isn't a date mentioned, only that it's before Deceived (so they were told in non-chronological order, like any self-respecting Star Wars story :P).

    I'm hoping that they produce these more as well. Longer narratives would be good but already one can only guess how much effort, time and money it must take to make these few minutes of awesomeness.

  6. Non-chronological order is defiantly the modus operandi of Star Wars story-telling.

    I had no idea the Hope trailer was chronologically before the Deceived trailer. Neat. Knowing this I think the Deceived trailer has more impact to it now.

  7. Yeah, I think "Hope" tells the story of how Darth Malgus ended up wearing that thing on his jaw that we see in "Deceived," so that he's a Malak lookalike.