Friday, October 26, 2012

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: War review

    Zayne Carrick is my second favorite Jedi Knight. If you haven't heard of him, he's not in the movies or even books. Instead, Zayne Carrick is the star of a comic book based of a video game he's not even the star of.


    These extremely humble beginnings are appropriate for Zayne, however, because he's the antithesis of your usual Star Wars hero. Not because he's gritty, dark, or angsty. No, in fact, he is a return to the kind of goofy Farm Boy nobility that went out of style circa mid-90s. Zayne is a gentle, kind, and somewhat silly soul who is lacking the kind of earth-quaking force powers we've come to expect from our protagonists.

    Zayne Carrick doesn't need to be a redeemed Sith Lord, an edgy antihero, or even a Jedi Knight raised from birth. He's just a guy who wants to do good in the galaxy and flunked out of Force training (under extremely unpleasant circumstances). For fifty issues, fans followed the adventures of Zayne Carrick during the Pre-Knights of the Old Republic video game timeline and witnessed him trying to do good despite constant temptations to be the bad guy.

    The cancellation of Knights of the Old Republic is one of my least favorite moments in comics. So when I heard they were going to revive the series I was very excited, less so when I found out life would be taking me away from the comic book shop for almost a year. Oh well, I finally got my hands on the trade and just finished it moments ago. Knights of the Old Republic: War is a five-issue self-contained story containing the next chapter of Zayne Carrick's story.

    War is an interesting title for a Zayne Carrick story because the character is a pacifist. In fact, really, I'm not sure if he's ever deliberately killed anyone. Accidents have a way of disposing of Zayne's enemies and he's even further than Luke Skywalker along the peaceful spectrum. The comic book surprised me by showing this is the central conflict of Zayne Carrick. He hates war, has no interest in fighting war, but is drafted into the Republic's forces.

    The comic book series also introduces the Mandalorian Knights. This is a concept that's tailor made for abuse, combining two of the most beloved icons in Star Wars. John Jackson Miller nicely avoids this sort of fanboyism by showing how such a union turned out to be a giant cluster****. The Mandalorians don't trust Jedi sorcery and the converted Jedi Knights adopt viewpoints that don't really mesh with the culture. I love Mandalorians but consider their philosophy horrifying so watching this failure of an idea self-destruct is wonderfully entertaining.

    I also appreciated Zayne Carrick dealing with one of the unspoken elements of the Old Republic that is consistently portrayed but rarely commented on--the rampant nepotism. The Old Republic's senators pass down their seats and privileges to their children while the Navy has ruling families stretching back thousands of years.

    Here, Zayne is forced to deal with a military officer who has no credentials whatsoever but a prominent family willing to pull favors for him. Given his past history with Lucien Draay, the Jedi version, it's fascinating to watch Zayne deal with a man he genuinely dislikes.

    I question the continuity of one element; the statement the Old Republic didn't have an army but only made use of planetary militias. This is something that makes sense in the 1000 year period before The Phantom Menace but is strange to see in the Revan era. Given we see the Old Republic make use of armies in, well, Star Wars: The Old Republic, it seems a little strange. Oh well, it was just a little hiccup that didn't ruin my enjoyment of things.

    If there's one thing I didn't like about the book, it's the general lack of Zayne's supporting cast. Jarael and Griff are two characters every bit as important as Zayne in terms of making the Knights of the Old Republic comic formula work. Still, this is a very personal story about Zayne's morality and their absence doesn't hurt the book too much. I just hope we get to see more of them in the future.

    The ending of the book is something that I am curious about since the future of the Old Republic era is filled with darkness. Zayne Carrick is capable of finding humanity in the Mandalorians and others but the future of his adventures is the Sith. In the face of the Dark Side, pacifism isn't really going to do much good (though Darth Vader shows only the Emperor is beyond redemption). It might be an interesting story to see Zayne Carrick finally decide he has to kill someone to protect others.

    I'm looking forward to it.


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