Knights of the Old Republic #25
Vector Part 1 (of 12)
Story: John Jackson Miller
Art: Scott Hepburn
Inking: Joe Pimentel
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Travis Charest
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (02/02/2008)
Fleeing from a herd of hungry Rakghouls in the Undercity of Taris, Zayne and Gryph meet with a mysterious Jedi woman named Celeste Morne who was sent by the Jedi Covenant to find an ancient Sith artifact called the Muur Talisman. After she saves them, they decide to follow Celeste against her wishes. They find the talisman in the hands of a group of Mandalorian warriors who have been excavating ancient underground buildings searching for it. The three unlikely companions then go after the Mandalorians back toward the surface in an effort to reclaim the artifact.
This is it, although it doesn't seem that long ago that it was announced: the first installment of the much-hyped Star Wars crossover that will span all four regular comic series over a year, taking place at four different eras of the Expanded Universe. Although it is too early to know what will link these series together, this issue offers a possible clue: the Muur talisman. It is an ancient artifact which was coveted by the Sith Lords of the Tales of the Jedi: Golden Age of the Sith period and has something to do with manipulating life. Revenge of the Sith revealed that Darth Plagueis was able to manipulate life and is rumored to have something to do with Anakin Skywalker's birth... coincidence?
The story starts some time (actually one month according to the writer) after last issue's climactic events. During the memorial service for Raana Tey on Coruscant, the remaining three seers of the Jedi Covenant are subjected to a vision of the future (or is it the past?) In it, Q'anilia, Xamar and Feln are overtaken on a devastated Taris by an army of Rakghouls which seem to be controlled by two mysterious figures. One is an armored humanoid wearing a beetle-like medallion, and the other is a cowled Human. Both are carrying lightsabers and they look like they might be Sith Lords. Then the Jedi see another figure next to them who first appears as their nemesis Zayne Carrick, but then morphs into some powerful characters from the future of Star Wars history. Of course the Jedi don't know who they are, but we recognize Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Cade Skywalker. At this point, the three seers are shaken out of their vision by the non-seer Jedi leader of the Covenant, Lucien Draay. They reveal to him that they saw the ancient Muur talisman and Zayne Carrick on Taris. This is enough information for Lucien to investigate, but even though they are all eager to avenge their fallen comrade they have been assigned to separate missions of their own. So Lucien proposes to use one of the Covenant's numerous "shadow" agents, Jedi who no longer officially exist and whose existence is unknown to the Jedi Council. He reveals that one of them just reported in and is perfect for an assignment like this.
The next scene reveals the "shadow"'s identity: she is a young Human Jedi named Celeste Morne. Celeste is exploring the Undercity of Taris when she encounters Constable Noana Sowrs being pursued by Rakghouls. When we last saw the Constable, she was with the Resistance when the Mandalorians led by Cassus Fett attacked their hidden base. The actual attack was never shown, but after Celeste dispatched the "raks", Soars explains what happens. Here I though Miller stuck a nice balance between giving expository dialogue so the reader knows what happened, while not mentioning any names since the person who is told (Celeste) would not know the people involved. Readers familiar with the series will know that she sent her children (Nahk and Tallie) with an Ithorian (Del Moomo) whom she hired to take them and a young woman (Shel) to his ship in orbit (the Moomo Williwaw) and fly them to her husband in Republic space. They would also know that Jarael, Rohlan, Alek and Dob Moomo were aboard the ship. New readers will not get the references, yet they will be able to understand what happened. But then sadly Celeste notices that the constable had been bitten, and kills her while she is transforming into a Rakghoul. At least the constable died knowing her children were off Taris, safe from the Mandalorian invaders.
But there are more Rakghouls around, and a sudden explosion attracts them to two figures who were hiding from them: Zayne and Gryph. So Celeste has to again rescue some people from the monsters, which she easily slices to bits. Then more revelations of what they have been up to, even though Celeste would not necessarily care. After the attack against the Resistance, the duo has been hanging out with Outcasts in one of their villages (players of the first game will remember one of those) but were kicked out because of a dangerous mistake on Gryph's part. Constable Sewrs revealed earlier that the Moomo Williwaw only had room for one more person, so we can only assume that Zayne and Gryph volunteered, along with Senator Goravvus, to stay behind in order for the constable's kids to leave Taris. The spot was filled by Shel, Zayne's girlfriend whom he also wanted to see safely off planet. But they mention to Celeste that they are waiting for their friends to come back and pick them up, and even though she is not interested they decide to tag along.
After two more underground explosions which they thought were the result of Mandalorian attacks on the upper levels, Celeste determines that they sound more like excavation blasts. Another boom! from below opens up the floor beneath their feet, and the three companions fall to an even deeper level of the Undercity. They wake up some time later inside a storage room that leads to a circular chamber where they spy a group of Mandalorian warriors. Their leader Pulsipher (Demagol's assistant from issue #10) reports that he found his objective, which Celeste recognizes as the Muur Talisman, and then the Mandalorians fly up using their jetpacks. I find it strange though that the Mandalorians don't wait for the two sentries who went to investigate the noise in the storage room, and whom Celeste quietly killed. She takes one of the fallen warriors' jetpack and follows the Mandalorians to complete her mission, with Zayne and Gryph close behind using the other jetpack.
Although it's off to a great start, I was a bit disapointed that the Mandalorians' ambush of the Resistance and the fate of the survivors are only explained with dialogue, and everything happened off-panel between issues. I'm sure this is done in an effort to make the story more accessible to new readers, but it's kind of a cop-out for followers of the series. But I can appreciate the accomplishment, which must have been a tough balancing act. Although it's hard for me to be sure since I know them so well, but it seems too that there is an attempt to pique the curiosity and incite readers to find out more about those cool characters. We only see Zayne and Gryph, but the banter between the two betrays a long-time friendship that makes them interesting. And the Jedi Covenant might seem like important characters too with their visions. For the more hardcore fans, there are a few references to the Tales of the Jedi series, with mentions of Naga Sadow (who searched for the Muur Talisman), the Epistle of Marka Ragnos (destroyed by Celeste), the amulet of Jori Daragon and the Eye of Horak-mul (both retrieved by Celeste). Inside joke about Horak-mul: he was missing one eye... But overall, I am very impressed as always with Miller's talent, even though he had to follow a set format and adhere to specific criteria with this story. Speaking of which, these pre-determined goals are mentioned by assistant editor Dave Marshall at the beginning of the letters page.
Although there is no doubt Scott Hepburn is a talented artist, as seen in his great composition and framing of panels, I must admit I am not a big fan. I have some mixed feelings about the artwork, as there are some good aspects to it, but also some not-so-good ones. Aside from the armored Mandalorians and the difformed Rakghouls, I think the characters look too cartoony and they tend to have big noses. Gryph has never looked more like a miniature gorilla, and Zayne vaguely reminds me of a Hobbit. Celeste Morne has a very cool costume design, but her hugely exaggerated ponytail and weirdly-angled face make her look unrealistic. But the most disappointing characters have to be Vader, Luke and Cade on page 4. They are much better looking on the amazing cover by Travis Charest. However I do love the poses in which characters are captured, and all the costume and background details. My favorite is the computer screen displaying several Jedi "shadows" on page 7. Some of them are incredibly-designed, and Hepburn has gone all-out in the creativity department. It's also a good thing that ever-reliable Atiyeh is there to provide amazing colors. One coloring remark: Celeste's yellow lightsaber reveals her to possibly be a Jedi Sentinel. On a more positive note, I really dig that Mandalorian Rakghoul in an Echo Base-like tunnel on Dustin Weaver's cover for next issue...
PREVIEWS & STUFF
Although the art is a bit disappointing, and the story jumps ahead too fast from last issue, it's still a very well-written and intriguing turn of events. Plus it's part 1 of Vector, so why miss it?
Rating: 7 / 10 Recommended