June 27, 2006

Random Comic Review: Star Wars Revamp

With the surprisingly successful debut of Star Wars: Legacy last week –it took me three shops to find it – Dark Horse’s revamp of the Star Wars comic franchise is in full swing. The first, Knights of the Old Republic is very near the end of the first arc; Rebellion is halfway through; and Legacy is off to a very strong start sales-wise. How do they work as actual comics? Rather mixed, I think.

Knights of the Old Republic is a prequel to the successful video game franchise of the same name. Taking place about 8 years prior to the first game, KotOR is set at the beginning of the Mandalorian War. Following the somewhat inept Padawan Zayne Carrick, KotOR the comic hews pretty closely to the formula set by KotOR the game series. Accused of murdering his fellow Padawans, Zayne starts off alone, finding allies along the way that include an Arkanian woman with something to hide and a seriously weird droid. Other than Zayne’s name and sex already being chosen, this could be jumping out of my XBOX or PC.

Beyond following the formula of the games, writer John Jackson Miller has also captured the voice of the games well. This series has fun moments –at times almost zany- despite the seriousness of the main plot. Brian Ching contributes some of his best work on pencils. The look is clean, less sketchy than some of his previous SW work. Superstar artist Travis Charest supplies the covers, which is less of a plus than what you might think. While striking, none of Charest’s covers seem to have anything to do with the book.

Not everything is perfect with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. While I think most of the game’s fans will appreciate the similarities, those who aren’t might see this as even more of a marketing gimmick than most Star Wars comics. The series hasn’t moved particularly quickly either, but no worse than most of today’s decompressed comics. This is the most enjoyable series of the three, well worth the price of admission.

Lastly, I’m pretty sure my SW geek card would be revoked if I didn’t hit on the big rumor regarding this series. The implication throughout the series is that Zayne will eventually become someone very, very important. The most reasonable bet is that he –due to his oft-mentioned ability to form quick bonds- will eventually be the Jedi Exile from the second KotOR game. Or, due to the nasty premonition of his Master, he could end up as Darth Nihilus. It certainly seems that Miller has gone to an awful lot of trouble to lay such hints, but I’m not convinced.

Rebellion is a fill-in-the-blank series that spans between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The series is only 3 issues old and already seems a bit schizophrenic. The initial solicitations made it seem that the series would revolve around Janek “Tank” Sunber, a childhood friend of Luke’s first named in A New Hope but subsequently ignored until his reintroduction in the Empire series. The #0 and #1 issues were about Sunber, but subsequent issues have been fairly Luke-centric

Writer Rob Williams has a good handle on the SW mythos, but seems to struggle finding the balance of this series, or even the point. There are some interesting –if not earth shatteringly original- ideas here, like the childhood friends on opposite sides, or Luke’s transformation into naïve farmboy to war hero, but it seems Williams can’t quite find what the thrust of the series is. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A diffuse series covering the time period more than characters might work, but Rebellion hasn’t quite found footing yet.

The art by Brandon Badeaux is detailed and labor-intensive. At times figures and faces don’t quite look right, but his layouts are clean. Between Ching on KotOR and Badeaux here, along with veteran Jan Duursema on Legacy, DH has come up with a very distinct look for each of the three series.

Legacy, judging from purely anecdotal evidence, is the big hit of the revamp. And why shouldn’t it be? Set 130 years after the Battle of Yavin, this series features a new Empire, new Sith, and new Skywalkers. The Galactic Alliance of the post –NJO period has fallen, and a new -if more benign- Empire has replaced it. The Jedi continue to serve the Force, and not necessarily the Empire. This is left to the Imperial Knights, fully trained Jedi who act much like the old Imperial Guard. The resurgent Sith Order, led by Darth Krayt, shatters this relative calm. Krayt, who looks to be wearing some version of Yuuzhan Vong armor, has abandoned the Rule of Two and leads several Sith Lords.

Much of the pull of this series comes from the newest Skywalker. Cade, presumably Luke’s great-(or even great-great) grandson, is a willful and reckless Padawan who goes underground after the Sith reveal themselves. He eventually –we think, much of this info comes from the preview issue- finds himself a pirate and smuggler. The preview issue gave info about Cade as an adult, but the actual first issue backtracks to when he’s a teenager. A bit confusing, but only one issue in we should give the benefit of the doubt.

So why doesn’t this issue work as much as I want it too?

Legacy seems a hodge-podge of older SW ideas, with very little new. Cade is kinda like Anakin, but then he becomes a smuggler like Han Solo. And we get an old, beat-up ship and a Wookie to boot. Much of what made this series interesting also seems derivative. We have a new Empire led by a Sith Lord bent on destroying the Jedi, we have the burned-out smuggler with a secret heart of gold… it just seems somewhat stale.

Despite that, I fully expect this series to be worth it. Ostrander and Duursema have produced the best of the SW comics in the past, and the sheer amount of stuff they’ve put out; well, you would think we have some keepers.

Posted by Frinklin at June 27, 2006 10:07 PM | TrackBack
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