I need to take a deep breath before tackling Dark Horse’s newest Star Wars omnibus, the much-awaited volume that collects more chapters of the Knights of the Old Republic run that set the stage for the events of the critically-acclaimed video game (which is probably my favorite RPG of all-time). There are few things I love more than a Star Wars comic book. KOTOR’s predecessor, Tales of the Jedi, is easily one of the best stories ever told in the galaxy far, far away. There are few tales more tragic than that of Ulic Qel-Droma’s fall to the dark side. It leaves me wondering why no one’s ever asked Kevin J. Anderson to write one of the movies. My point being that a lot of the stuff you see in these beautiful panels is sometimes better than the actual movies (except Empire Strikes Back, of course).
So when I dug my teeth into Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 2, it was with super high expectations/standards. Volume 1 was a thrill ride filled with the incredible action-sequences and pacing of the best Star Wars stories. We were introduced to the very likable Zayne Carrick, a Jedi padawan framed for the murder of his entire class on Telos IV, and the group of criminal/fugitive friends that tag along with him as he evades galactic persecution. Really, writer John Jackson Miller took a page out of the classic George Lucas handbook of storytelling (nod to Joseph Campbell) and dished out a tour de force about another unassuming teenager getting his life torn apart by forces beyond his control. Not to mention that little Mandalorian threat in the Outer Rim. Thus began this epic coming-of-age tale full of lightsabers, punchy dialogue, and betrayal.
Volume 2 does not disappoint.
We pick up where we left: Miller writes up a web of lies and a Mexican standoff on board the Arkanian Legacy in the Omonoth system, where greedy space mogul Adasca is harvesting huge weaponized space slugs known as exogorths that he plans to sell to the highest bidder. Like a meeting of the five families, all the players are under one roof. We have Mandalore, fallen Republic admiral Saul Karath, the murderous Jedi Master Lucien, the Mandalorian deserter Rohlan Dyre, and, of course, Zayne Carrick, who’s not directly involved but can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Camper, “mad” scientist, and his companion, Jarael, are also thrown in the mix with a much more personal grudge against Adasca than the rest of the cast.
But it’s not all about space politics. As you would expect, KOTOR has a darker agenda behind the veil: the events leading up to the fall of countless Jedi to the dark side in order to defeat the Mandalorians. One thing Star Wars always examines is the hero’s sacrifice. Just how much is too much?
Although Revan, the famous Jedi mercenary who takes center stage in the first Knights of the Old Republic games, isn’t the central character of this series, his tale can be followed through the fall of all the Jedi in this series, primarily Lucien’s, who believes that he must strike down his former padawan, Zayne, in order to prevent the Jedi from falling into darkness. This, of course, is very much the paradox we saw in many of the films, especially in the Prequel Trilogy – only presented in a much less melodramatic way.
The ultimate fall of the Jedi in this series isn’t romantic. The ends that justify the means in this tale are justice and survival. Bloody war-torn terrain replaces a trip to the stars. There is a lot less youthful energy, and a lot more war cries. Defeating the Mandalorian threats will ultimately lead to the spark that ignites the Jedi Civil War, an even bloodier conflict that nearly destroyed the entire Order.
Few writers have the command that Miller has on such an epic scale. But you read every story, every subplot, every little drop of tragicomic dialogue, as an intimate moment within the universe.
To anyone who hasn’t started collecting these omnibuses, there is no better time than the present. The story just got soooo good. Swallow these pages who like an exogorth and wait for the culminating volume due out in April 2014.