The Force Unleashed TPB
Writer: Haden Blackman
Artists: Brian Ching (p.1-24, 41, 56, 94-120), Bong Dazo, Wayne Nichols (p.61-78)
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Dustin Weaver
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (10/14/2008)
The story of Darth Vader's secret apprentice Starkiller and his mission to recruit the Emperor's enemis and form the Rebel Alliance.
This one-shot graphic novel adapts the video game of the same name, "the next chapter in the saga of Star Wars". Like the game, this book has been delayed from its original April 2nd release date. Having played the game (on Xbox 360) and read the novel by Sean Williams, I am not a huge fan of the storyline to start with but I will try not to dwell on the plot but instead focus on the medium itself and compare it to the game and novel. However, some of my opinions of the story might inevitably show through in some places. The comic was the first thing I've read, before the novel and before the game itself, so I had to re-read it after I finished the others. What's different with this adaptation is that it is told in flashback and mostly from PROXY's point-of-view. It is also the only medium which gives a date to the end of the story, which is 2 years before the Battle of Yavin and mentions 2 period spans of 6 months.
It starts out with Juno Eclipse and Bail Organa in the Rogue Shadow landing on Corellia where PROXY was dispatched by Darth Vader at the end of the story. They want to chronicle the birth of the Rebel Alliance and count on the droid's memory to have survived. When they activate PROXY, he starts to tell the story from the beginning, where the game and novel start off. The story is only interrupted a few times when the narration comes back to the present with Juno and Organa, mostly when it reaches a part that PROXY could not possibly have known. Telling the story from one character's point of view sometimes requires some creative license in order to explain how or why the character was privy to something he wasnt' supposed to. The novel had a lot of that, with most scenes where Starkiller wasn't present related to him via a Force vision, or Juno spying private scenes though hacking security cameras. In this adaptation, it means that PROXY finds himself in unlikely places, like the secret mission given to Starkiller by Vader himself aboard the Executor being constructed in the Scarl system. Once we get past that, the meeting with Juno is pretty straightforward (except for Starkiller defeating PROXY "disguised" as Obi-Wan with Force lightning) as they first meet and then fly off to Nar Shaddaa aboard the Rogue Shadow.
Probably because we just saw PROXY use his hologram disguise trick with Obi-Wan, and then with Juno as he read off her file to Starkiller, the description for their first objective, Jedi General Rahm Kota, is told as part of the narration to Bail Organa. This is a good way to show the scenes of Kota attacking the TIE fighter base that none of the characters could have witnessed while the droid relates what he knows of the General. He also narrates through the whole mission which is shown over three pages until Starkiller reaches his target. What PROXY knows of the battle could only have been related to him through his Master, but it happens pretty much as in the other sources.
The whole mission to kill Master Kazdan Paratus on Raxus Prime is completely skipped over (not to mention the trials in the ruins of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant). Instead, Vader orders Starkiller to kill Shaak Ti for his next mission, so the story skips ahead to the Rogue Shadow arriving on Felucia. After a scene between Shaak and her apprentice Maris Brood (creative license), the mission is again very summarized, as is expected of an adaptation. The difference is Starkiller fights a bull rancor, as opposed to regulars rancors in the game, and the fight with Shaak Ti is done mostly with her controlling a gigantic Sarlacc. But the result is the same, Shaak Ti dies and it's another succesful mission for Vader's apprentice.
Then a crucial scene happens. When Starkiller goes to report to his Master on the Executor, he learns that Emperor himself has followed him there, so Vader has to kill his apprentice to prove his loyalty. The Sith Lord stabs him through the back with his lightsaber and then throws him outside a viewport in the void of space! Again, PROXY could not possibly know the details of his master's apparent death, but he does know Starkiller was killed and brought back to life 6 months later aboard the science vessel Empirical. He also knows what his next mission was as Vader spoke to him via a hologram projected over PROXY. Starkiller is to rally an army of rebels and dissidents in order to distract the Emperor and his spies so Vader and his apprentice can attack him (this whole premise makes absolutely no sense, but I promised I wouldn't review the plot). What is then a whole level in the game is here skipped over as PROXY leads Starkiller to the Rogue Shadow, after he picks up Juno along the way. They then escape as the Empirical heads to the sun's surface, thanks to some reprogramming by PROXY.
Starkiller lets Juno believe that he willfully wants to leave the Empire behind and oppose them with an amry of rebels. But is it true, or is he only following his orders? In any case, he figures that the best place to start is to track down Rahm Kota, whom he knows survived their battle over Nar Shaddaa (a detail he neglected to mention to Vader). Reverting back to the "present" Juno reveals that it took them 6 months to track down the now-blinded Jedi, following rumors and persuading informants to Cloud City on Bespin. Kota joins them, and after fighting off Ugnaughts and a Shadow Guard they leave for Kashyyyk. Kota reveals that he has a contact in the Senate who shares their opinions of the Emperor, but first they would have to stop on Kashyyyk and rescue the Senator's daughter. The mission to Kashyyyk (an entire level in the game) is even more condensed; it only takes one page this time for Starkiller to kills tons of stormtroopers, defeat Captain Ozzik Sturn in his heavily-armed AT-ST and destroy a Skyhook. You only know these details if you've played the game or read the novel, because those events they are not even hinted at here. What is detailed is what precedes and follows them. The sequence where Starkiller discovers his father's hut and has the vision of Vader killing him is there, as is the rescue of Princess Leia.
But even though Leia is safe, Kota reveals that Bail Organa has not been heard from ever since he went to Felucia to recruit the help of Master Shaak Ti. Of course, Kota doesn't know that Starkiller killed her, or that the fellow who took him off Cloud City is even Starkiller for that matter. But this means that the next mission is to go find the Senator and return for another mission on Felucia (very creative from the writer to re-use the same world twice.) Unbeknownst to Starkiller, Shaak Ti had an apprentice, and now without guidance she turned to the Dark Side changing the whole environment around her. This time, the story skips right to the confrontation with Maris Brood and he per bull rancor. He defeats her, and to prove that he is a good person to Organa (and maybe to himself), Starkiller lets Maris go to deal with her remorse on her own. Reunited with Kota, Bail is easily convinced to join Starkiller's Rebellion. The Senator has friends who have spoken out against the Empror as well, but they won't be so easily convinced. The solution? Destroy a suitable Imperial target to show them the Empire is not invulnerable, a perfect for another mission).
The quickest way to find such a target is for Starkiller to contact his Master one more time. At this point, the reader/player as well as Juno are not supposed to know if Starkiller is still loyal to Vader or if he's actually fighting back against the Empire. This scene is supposed to show that he is still following orders, but he is conflicted about it. The target in question is a Star Destroyer construction facility above Raxus Prime (yet another re-used world). As in the other sources, Starkiller manages to redirect an ore cannon and destroy the shipyard, but one Star Destroyer falls in orbit and heads straight for him. Kota then instructs Starkiller to use the Force to move the incoming ship into the cannon and destroy both, which he manages to do.
Senator Organa's contacts are convinced, and this leads right into a secret meeting in a snowy mountain on Corellia. Organa brought his Senators Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis, and along with Leia (via holonet transmission), Starkiller, Juno and Kota they officially declare the formation of a Rebel Alliance. This scene is pretty cool as it fits in with the backstory of the Rebellion that has been established since West End Games' Rebel Alliance Sourcebook in 1990. What isn't cool and doesn't fit is everything that follows. Vader somehow learned of convenient meeting of the Emperor's worst enemies, and arrives aboard his completed Executor (wait, isn't it supposed to be constructed at Fondor after the Battle of Yavin?) to capture them. After all that's happened, Starkiller is still somehow surprised when Vader attacks him and reveals that this whole Rebellion thing was Palpatine's idea int he first place. Vader badly injures his apprentice but PROXY comes to the rescues, getting destroyed in the process and thus ending his part of the narration.
Juno takes over and details her rescue of Starkiller and how he used the Force to meditate in order to find the location of the captured Senators. He narrows it down to a small area of space called the Outer Rim (!?!). After "scouring" the Outer Rim aboard the Rogue Shadow, the pair somehow manage to find the Death Star aboard which the Emperor and Vader are holding their captives (who are still alive despite being at the mercy of those they vowed to destroy.) Starkiller infiltrates the space station and reaches the Emperor's observation dome where he has one final confrontation with his former Master. After badly injuring Vader, Starkiller next turns to Palpatine whom he blames for everything that's happened to him in his life. Of course he cannot beat Palpatine, but he allows Kota and the Senators to escape aboard the I>Rogue Shadow which was waiting just outside.
The flashback catches up to the present at this point, and now with PROXY in tow Organa and Juno go to meet the other Alliance members on Kashyyyk to finish the Declaration of Rebellion. Leia is there in person this time, and she chooses Starkiller's family crest as the symbol of the Alliance. Kota reveals to Juno that he suspected her and Starkiller to be the same ones who attacked the TIE fighter construction yard and killed 2 other Jedi Masters (one off-screen in the comic). He also reveals to her that he sensed Starkiller's love for Juno and that his sacrifice will inspire the Rebel Alliance even more.
It goes without saying that I find the whole plot totally ridiculous. The Emperor creating the Rebellion on purpose? Vader wasting years of his time to train an apprentice he would betray? The founders of the Alliance captured aboard the Death Star? Not to mention continuity mistakes like the too-early appearance of the Executor. The list goes on and on. As far as the comic adaptation goes, it would have deserved a better treatment. At 126 pages, it would have benefitted from having a few more ages to bring it to the length of a 6-issue mini-series. But I understand the complications into adapting such an epic story into such a short medium, and the plotting is mostly well done. It's also a bonus that it was written by the creator and writer of the game as well, since no one else is as familiar with the story.
If I felt the story didn't get the coverage it deserved, it's almost the same in the art department. Even though the comic has three different pencillers, their styles are too different to be consistent. The most average of the trio has to be Brian Ching who penned the majority of the work: he produced the first pages (right to the end of the General Kota/TIE factory mission) and picks up again after PROXY is killed on Corellia and carries on to the end. Ching also handled the few intermissions of the "present time" narration of PROXY relating his story to Juno and Organa. I've never been a big fan of his, but he does have his own unique style mostly recognizable from the weird eyes he draws. And Mr. Ching certainly seems to love to draw Force Lightning.
Wayne Nichols' style is more realistic and reminds me of one of my favorites Dutin Weaver. Nichols handles mostly the Cloud City and Kashyyyk scenes and seems to have studied the concepts of the game because the environments look exactly the same.
Bong Dazo is my least favorite, his style being almost goofy. His characters have big round eyes, and he has trouble with half-profiles and character poses (check out that weird Vader pose on page 50).
The coloring is excellent, as usual with Mr. Atiyeh. I simply love all the different color tones for each world and environment, and the effects for the saber blades and the hyperspace lines are shockingly good. He does an amazing job with any artists he works with.
A good comic book adaptation of a video game with a mediocre story, with average artwork. Recommended if you don't have time to read the novel and/or play the game.
Rating: 6.5 / 10