Knights of the Old Republic #22
Knights of Suffering Part 1
Story: John Jackson Miller
Art: Dustin Weaver
Inking: Dan Parsons
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Colin Wilson
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (01/20/2008)
Zayne Carrick returns to Taris after receiving a message from The Gryph. The Jedi fugitive meets up with the Hidden Beks swoop gang and their leader Gadon Thek, and is reunited with his friend whom he thought dead. The gang plan to join the resistance against the Mandalorian invaders by using the bounty on Zayne as a bargaining chip. But a major discovery inside the gang's base offers an alternative, and it is as an ally that Zayne rides with them to meet with the resistance. But when they arrive, Zayne meets with someone else from his past who is not so happy to see him.
The action starts with the Moomo Williwaw arriving on Taris. Thanks to Rohlan being in one of the cockpits (with Dob Moomo, Squint and Slyssk in the other), the Mandalorian patrols riding Basilisk war droids let the ship pass through, altough they instruct them to go to the orbital staging area in the polar region. That's where the ship undoubtedly goes, since we don't see it or its passengers for the rest of the issue. One of the crew gets off though: Zayne still wears Rohlan's red Neo-Crusader armor, and using the armor's jetpack he jumps off the ship and heads directly down to the surface. This sequence feels much like the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin jumps off the airspeeder while in pursuit of the bounty hunter Zam Wesell. Zayne falls past buidlings, skyways and vehicle traffic to land smack in the middle of a Mandalorian raid (which is no coincidence, since the Mandalorian invaders probably occupy most of the upper levels). One Mandalorian warrior signals the disguised Zayne to come help him, but he slips away in a dark alley.
Zayne passes a doorway, which is guarded by a Mark II assault droid. But the familiarity with the first KotOR video game doesn't end there: after dispatching the droid, Zayne is greeted at blaster point by a members of the Hidden Beks swoop gang. I felt I was back on the Taris level of the game with so many familiar characters, as they don't look much different than their 7 years older versions. These include the gang's leader Gadon Thek (before he lost his eyes), Brejik (future leader of the rival Black Vulkars gang), Thek's Twi'lek bodyguard Zaerdra and Griff Vao. Recognizing that the intruder is using a lightsaber, Thek calls forth someone whom Zayne actually knows: the Beks' new honorary member Marn Hierogryph along with his associate Del Moomo.
But the reunion is short as Gryph has to pretend that Zayne is Del's bounty. Regular readers will remember that after the Padawan Massacre for which Zayne is blamed, the Jedi Masters were recalled to Coruscant and Taris was left in disarray. There were riots in the streets and when the Mandalorians invaded, the inhabitants of Taris were not able to organize on time to fight back. Turns out that the general populace blame Zayne for all of this, so it is expected that some members of the Hidden Beks would be interested in capturing him. That comes up later, but at this point it would not help The Gryph's status with the gang members to show his friendship with the Jedi fugitive. When the group arrive at the Hidden Beks' base called "The Pit" (Yo, Joe!), Gadon Thek has a conversation with Zayne and reveals that the local Constable's family has been missing for weeks (as mentioned in issue #6) and that she blames the swoop gang for the disappearance. The gang leader then tells Zayne that he intends to collect the bounty on him in order to ingratiate the Beks with the resistance and eventually join with them. Despite this, Thek lets Zayne roam free but without his lightsaber, confident that the Jedi wouldn't be able to get out of their base.
Later, Zayne and his friend have a chance to be alone and The Gryph explains his current job to his "henchman": The Snivvian was hired by industrialist zillionaire Jervo Thalien, the head of Lhosan Industries, to locate his friend Senator Gorravus who is leading the resistance in Taris' lower city. The Gryph hired the Hidden Beks to help him get in contact with the resistance, but so far they have been unsuccesful due to interference by the Constable. The Gryph reveals the whole scheme of how he put himself in this position, and also that as payment Thalien will have his and Zayne's bounties and charges dropped. Zayne is very impressed by his friend, and then meets another familiar but more important character from the game: Griff Vao's sister Mission. The young Twi'lek drags Zayne away and they spy on her brother feeding his "pet" in secret. At this point the discovery is interrupted by the restless Brejik who decides to collect the bounty on Zayne for himself, but will settle for the reward to kill the Jedi. The effort is squashed by the large Ithorian Del Moomo who claims Zayne as his own captive (which he believes to be the case). Afterwards, Mission, Zayne and The Gryph discover that the large cylindrical vat contains something more important than a familiar animal: Griff and Brejik were hiding the Constable's two young sons who have been missing for weeks. The group informs Gadon Thek who is very unhappy to learn that the Constable's suspicions about his swoop gang are proven true.
But instead of being angry, Thek sees this discovery as an opportunity to bargain with the resistance. No longer needing him as a bargaining chip, he offers Zayne to join them as they ride to the resistance's location. The Hidden Beks then ride their swoops across the Lower City, attacking Mandalorians as they go. When they enter the abandonned factory to meet up with members of the resistance, Zayne finds among them another long-lost acquaintance: His old flame Shel Jelavan. The last time Zayne saw her (in issue #6), it was after his surrender to answer for the charges of killing his fellow Jedi students, including Shel's brother Shad. Turns out that she still blames him for Shad's death, and is being encouraged to kill him by another member of the resistance, the Togruta Jedi Master Raana Tey.
This issue has a lot of dialogue, all of it interesting of course thanks to Miller's imaginative writing. There are the usual funny moments, such as Griff Vao cruising Zaerdra, some confusion over Griff and The Gryph's names, and the fascinated Mission staring at Zayne during his whole conversation with his The Gryph. Plus the whole involvement of the Hidden Beks and several cameos by characters from the game makes it even more fun to read. The issue has no letter page, but has the usual text page. This one is another installment of "The Admiral's List: The Official Communiqué from the Republic Navy" and it shows the aftermath of the last story arc. It reports the death of Lord Adasca (but blaming it on a Mandalorian raid) and that Admiral Karath has returned safely to Coruscant.
My favorite KotOR artist is back. I love all the characters from the game, and they are rendered very faithfuly, down to the exact same colors (kudos to Atiyeh for nailing Zaerdra's lekku which cover the entire blue spectrum.) The scenes in the streets of Taris are made even more lively with all the action in the background (and sometimes foreground) of Mandalorians capturing civilians. It's an amazing combination of art and colors. I only have one gripe: The Gryph looks more and more like one of the gorillas from Planet of the Apes and less like an actual Snivvian. The nose is fine, but the mouth is not wide enough and the eyes are too simian-like. this is what a Snivvian looks like. There are 4 of them from the movies (Takeel, Zutton, Wiorkettle and Geezum), plus Zutmore from The Star Wars Holiday Special. It seems like Weaver's Gryph is based more on Ching's design than on the costumes from the movies. Being a huge fan of Star Wars aliens though, I'm happy to see a main character who's a Snivvian. I just wish he would look a bit more like one.
This one is more dialogue-oriented, but it quickly sets up the action for the next two issues.
Rating: 7.5 / 10 Recommended