The Great Prequel Re-Read, part three

Hey everybody,
We’re on part three of the Great Prequel Re-Read, already! This is well and truly a Summer of Star Wars! We’re firmly in the Republic run of comics now, as well, and after some fairly random and almost throwaway adventures, things begin to pick up the pace a bit with Republic #19, the first issue of the Twilight storyline. No, it’s got nothing to do with vampires. It’s the introduction proper to Quinlan Vos, the Jedi Knight who has lost his memory!

This is going to be a bit of a weird blog of two halves, as I’m going all the way from #19 to #45. The tale of Quinlan and Aayla is told across three arcs, which are interspersed with some other stories. But we’ll tackle Quinlan first.

Twilight begins with Quinlan Vos waking up in a burning building, with no memory of how he got there, or indeed of who he is. He is rescued by Vilmarh Grahk, and the two are pursued through the streets of Nar Shaddaa as others attempt to kill him – it turns out, all for a bet. Quinlan seems to be the subject of a weird kind of Squid Games, where numerous beings have bet on when he will die. Villie only rescues him so that Quinlan will die when Villie bet he would; when that goes wrong, Villie makes another bet that Quinlan will survive to get off-world, but Quinlan is more concerned with finding out why he has lost his memory. He discovers that he can glean images from objects through psychokinesis, and realises that he is a Jedi Knight with a missing padawan.

The story then fills in some of his backstory, with varying degrees of info-dump and also genuine clue-tracking, which is really interesting. Quinlan travels to his home planet of Kiffu, where he learns from his aunt, Sheyf Tinte, that he and Aayla were tracking down a drug trafficking ring, the drug being an illegal synthesis of glitterstim and ryll that, evidently, wipes a person’s memory. On Ryloth, Quinlan discovers that Pol Secura is involved, the uncle of his erstwhile padawan, and has been feeding Aayla the spice to keep her quiet. When Quinlan gives in to his rage and kills Pol, Aayla flees in terror. Quinlan follows the conspiracy to Coruscant, where he unmasks the Senator Chom Frey Kaa who was behind the scheme, and then submits to the Council for re-training.

The next arc, Infinity’s End, is not worth the re-read, so I’ve skipped over it and gone straight to the next Ostrander instalment, Darkness. We begin in orbit over Kiffex, the prison planet, where Aayla Secura crash-lands and discovers a temple with the Anzati Dark Jedi Volfe Kaarko imprisoned in a stasis field. She releases him, and the feral Anzati who have been worshipping at the temple begin co-ordinated strikes against the Kiffar Guardians’ outposts. Sheyf Tinte requests that Quinlan Vos come to investigate, and despite the fact he has been through such an ordeal recently, the Council agrees, secretly dispatching Quinlan’s former Master, Tholme, to watch over him. On the prison planet, they meet Villie once again, and Tholme fills in some more blanks for Quinlan – he has a darkness within him that stems from the fact he psychokinetically witnessed his parents’ deaths by Anzati when Tinte gave him a clan emblem to help with the investigation. Quinlan has previously overcome his fear of the Anzati when he became a Jedi Knight, but since his memories were wiped, he has lost this experience, so must face it again.

Tholme, Quinlan and Villie join forces with the Jedi watchman for the sector, T’ra Saa, and lead an assault on Kaarko’s temple. Kaarko forces Quinlan and Aayla to duel, but Quinlan is able to redeem his former padawan. Kaarko and Quinlan then duel, and while Quinlan almost gives in to his fear, he is able to overcome the Dark Jedi once and for all. Aayla is re-apprenticed to Tholme while Quinlan continues his journey of rediscovery of the Jedi way.

I’d forgotten just how much I like Darkness. There is a lot of history there, and it really sets up a lot of the later Republic stuff with the Anzati stuff. It’s interesting, as well, to learn more of Quinlan’s past, and seeing just how ruthless and, well, nasty, Sheyf Tinte can be!

Finally, we come to Rite of Passage. Tholme and Aayla are on Ryloth to investigate Ro Fenn, part of the ruling council when Pol Secura was killed. By Twi’lek tradition, Fenn must walk out into the Bright Lands, the inhospitable sun-baked part of Ryloth, to die. Ro Fenn is discussing the possibility of escaping his fate with Villie, while Aayla spies on them. She learns that Fenn intends to kidnap Nat Secura, the prime heir of the Secura clan, to blackmail his father Lon Secura into allowing him to live. Tholme is unable to rescue Nat before two Morgukai warriors kidnap him. Tholme stows away aboard their ship, and Aayla follows him to Ord Mantell, where the trail goes cold – but she does find Quinlan.

The two find Villie in a casino, and he eventually tells them of a Morgukai base on Kintan, the Nikto homeworld. Meanwhile, it transpires that Kh’ariss Fenn, the exiled son of Ro Fenn, is behind the kidnap of Nat Secura, and he in turn is being aided from the shadows by Count Dooku. Kh’ariss returns to Ryloth and demands all the ruling councils be dissolved, and instead installing himself as leader of a united Ryloth. Lon Secura almost capitulates, but Villie arrives with news from Quinlan that Nat is safe, so the Fenns are imprisoned, Kh’ariss flees but Ro is forced to walk into the Bright Lands. On Kintan, Aayla and Quinlan face off against the Morgukai warriors and are able to rescue both Tholme and Nat, and together they return the Twi’lek hostage to his father. Aayla is granted the rank of Jedi Knight, and Quinlan that of Master.

I really like this one. Unlike Darkness, which I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it, I’ve always had a real affection for Rite of Passage – it was new when I started to properly get into the comics (I know, I was a late bloomer!) and it has one of the first appearances outside of episode two for Count Dooku – the comic ran from May to September 2002. Things have begun to feel a lot more joined-up now, and I really love it! These three stories, although particularly the latter two, help to set up a lot of interesting storylines for later in the Clone Wars comics, particularly around the Anzati and the Morgukai. I don’t know why I like the Nikto as a species so much, maybe it’s to do with my love for Return of the Jedi, but having a serious warrior sect like this is just fascinating, and I feel like Ostrander and Duursema have made the universe so much more richer for giving us all of this stuff.

The second batch of stories that intermingle with the “big three”. The Hunt for Aurra Sing is something of a direct sequel to Outlander, really, as we see the Jedi assassin kill some Jedi on Coruscant itself, but leaving a padawan alive, prompting the Council to send Ki-Adi-Mundi to bring her in. The Dark Woman wishes to do so, as we learn she was Sing’s former Master, but the Council think she’s too close to the assassin, and deny her request. However, fate intervenes as some Quarren businessmen enlist Sing’s services in hunting The Dark Woman. Sing is given the co-ordinates of an unsettled planet where she is to be found. En route, Sing crosses paths with Ki and shoots him down – the Jedi is rescued by Senator Tikkes, who is also travelling to the unsettled world, and so everybody meets up just as a meteor storm begins. Sing is unable to kill her former mentor, but when she is confronted by A’Sharad Hett, the young Jedi padawan defeats her but at the cost of skirting too close to the Dark Side. A’Sharad asks to be released from his apprenticeship, but in the chaos of the meteor shower, Aurra Sing escapes.

The Stark Hyperspace War is a flashback tale, told by Tholme, Plo Koon and Mace Windu to Aayla Secura, of a war fourteen years prior to the Invasion of Naboo. After an explosion on Thyferra, bacta production ground to a halt and shipping prices skyrocketed. Iaco Stark, a smuggler and pirate, formed the Stark Commercial Combine to tackle the predations of the Trade Federation, and conflicts regularly broke out in the Outer Rim. Senator Valorum attempted to meet with Stark for a peaceful solution, while Senator Ranulph Tarkin (to distinguish him from his more famous cousin, Wilhuff) argued for the creation of a Republic military. Tarkin forced Nute Gunray to tell him where the summit was to be held, whereupon he intended to arrive in force with his prototype Republic Navy, however Stark had anticipated this and unleashed a hyperspace virus on the back of Gunray’s signal, which scrambled the navicomputers of all Republic ships. With no bacta and no hyperspace-worthy ships, crisis ensued. Plo Koon was able to use his telepathy to read Stark’s mind, providing the Jedi with valuable insight and allowing them to ultimately end the conflict.

It’s a bit daft, this one, I’m not gonna lie. Somewhere in there, there’s a good story, and I like the idea that the bacta shortage was manufactured for profit, but led to a war where the wounded now have scars because of it, etc. We’ve already encountered the conflict in Cloak of Deception, as well, which makes it all feel like one narrative for the universe. However, I think this story could have benefited from more than just four issues. Never mind!

Finally, there are a couple of shorter stories to fill out things. The Devaronian Version is a two-parter that re-tells the story of the Yinchorri conflict from Villie’s point of view, with some hilarious fabrications being told – Villie’s name for Darth Sidious is “Bobo”, who hires Villie to start the war so that he can steal the “secret treasure of the Jedi”, which causes the Jedi Council to break down into tears and fights. He also explains that he was running a scam with Quinlan Vos, and wasn’t the Jedi’s lapdog, as many in the Outer Rim have been suggesting.

Heart of Fire is a tiny, three-page comic that was originally published in Dark Horse Extra, that gives a bit of follow-up on the Jedi padawan Aurra Sing nearly kills during the opening of The Hunt for Aurra Sing, Xiaan Amersu. She meets up with Quinlan Vos in a meditation garden within the Jedi Temple, and offers him a stone called a heart of fire, which he had given to Aayla Secura, and she had passed to Xiaan. These stones retain memories of their owners, and by giving it back to Quinlan, he is able to literally re-live experiences with Aayla rather than read about them as if they are just stories. It’s a very short tale, but goes fairly deep into Quinlan’s suffering following his loss of memory – you get the feeling that it might be a neat story hook, but actually, there is more to the whole thing for him. The story evidently takes place sometime before Darkness, because he is still searching for his former padawan at this moment in time.

So there we have it! I think this is the longest stretch of comics in my Prequel re-read; there are more to come during the Clone Wars, of course, but we’ve got a few more novels peppered in there, so it should be interesting! Up next is Outbound Flight, a novel that I’ve only actually read once, when it first came out. I think there are many ties to the new Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy within that book, weirdly – as if Zahn had left a lot of threads hanging that he could then pick up in a few years’ time. Anyway, stay tuned for that!

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